Jama'at al-Tableegh and its founder al-Sheikh Mohammed Ilyas
What is your opinion on the Jama'at al-Tableegh founded by sheikh Mohammed Ilyas? He addressed a letter to his sect in which he said: "If Allah does not desire someone to do a certain act, then even the prophets would not be able to do it even if they exert their utmost effort. And if Allah desires the weak, like you, to do what the prophets were unable to do, then you will do it. Therefore, you must do what is demanded of you and do not heed your weakness." In another letter he said: "We bring glad tidings and a true promise to the people of the last age that the reward of each one of them is like the reward of fifty of the companions of the prophet [pbuh]."
Has he therefore wronged Allah Almighty by indicating that Allah sent prophets who were unqualified to convey His Message? But Allah says:
Allah knows best where to place His messages [Al-An'am, 124]
Allah chooses messengers from among the angels and from among men [Al-Hajj, 75].
If the prophets were indeed qualified to convey the message of Allah and Allah did not wish that they carry out the work with which they were entrusted, then this is a deficiency of the Divine will. Sheikh Mohammed Ilyas wants his sect to do what the prophets were unable to, [basically] diminishing the rights of the prophets, peace and blessings be upon them, and sender, Allah Almighty!
The second letter likewise diminishes the rights of the prophets and slanders them and this contravenes the belief of Muslims. What is your opinion on this matter?
Students of knowledge must distance themselves from the methodologies of those who accuse others of disbelief and the movements of those who accuse others of introducing innovations in religion, immorality and misguidance that have become so prevalent at present. They must also observe the ethics of disagreement with their fellow Muslims and must not allow that such differences to become a pretext for accusing them with deviating from Islam. This is among the excesses due to disagreement and which the prophet maintained was one of the characteristics of hypocrisy. 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him narrated that the prophet said: "Whosoever has (the following) four traits is a hypocrite and whosoever has just one possesses one of the characteristics of hypocrisy until he gives it up: If he is entrusted, he proves to be treacherous, if he makes a promise he breaks it, if he makes a covenant he proves to be deceitful, and if he quarrels he behaves impudently in an insulting manner [Bukhari and Muslim].
There is a difference between those who contravene the methods of da'wa [En. calling to the way of Allah] and between accusing a fellow Muslim of immorality, deviating from the path of Allah and sometimes even disbelief as is the case with many of today's sects. The former is plausible and acceptable and arises from the diversity in human nature while Allah forbids the latter:
Do not quarrel with one another, or you may lose heart and your spirit may desert you [Al-Anfal, 46].
The prophet [pbuh] warned against accusing a fellow Muslim of disbelief and said; "There is none who accuses his fellow Muslim of immorality and unbelief but would carry its sin [if were otherwise]" [Reported by Bukahri from a narration by Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him].
"If a person accuses his fellow Muslim with unbelief, one of the two deserves the name" [Reported by Muslim from a narration by 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both].
The principle in interpreting the words and actions of another Muslim is that they must be construed as not contravening the principle of Tawheed [En. Monotheism]; it is impermissible to initiate accusations of unbelief or shirk [En. Associating partners with Allah] since the religion of a Muslim is strong evidence for his belief in Allah. This is a general principle which Muslims must implement. On this issue, imam Malik said: "If there are 99 reasons that justify that the actions of a Muslim entail unbelief, and at the same time there is only one reason that justifyies that he is a Muslim, then we must say that he is a Muslim because of that single reason." A Muslim believes that 'Isa, may the blessings of Allah be upon him, resurrects the dead with the permission and power of Allah. A Christian on the other hand believes that 'Isa resurrected the dead through his own power and that he is God, the son of God, or one of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, if we hear a Muslim say, "I believe that 'Isa resurrected the dead" and a Christian make the same statement, we must not think that the Muslim has become a Christian, but must construe the statement in an appropriate manner due to his affiliation to Islam and the doctrine of Tawheed. A Muslim likewise believes that a person must worship Allah alone while a mushrik believes in the permissibility of worshipping other than Allah Almighty. If we see among the actions of a Muslim what may be construed to entail shirk or otherwise, we must then construe his actions as being in line with Islam and under its rubric. This is because the belief of a person whose Islam has been ascertained with proof, cannot be removed by doubt and conjecture. If this concerns the general public of Muslims, what then of the person whose belief is not only known to be firm, but has been established through previous actions, calling to the way of Allah, urging Muslims to adhere to their religion and to the way of their prophet, peace and blessings be upon him?!
The words of sheikh Mohammed Ilyas mentioned in the question fall under what we have mentioned above. The statement he is reported to have said: "If Allah does not desire someone to do a certain act, then even the prophets would not be able to do it even if they exert their utmost efforts" is consistent with the Islamic creed that nothing ever happens in the universe except with the will of Allah. Allah says:
But you will only wish to do so if od wills—God is all knowing, all wise [Al-Insan, 30].
The rest of the statement, "And if Allah desires the weak, like you, to do what the prophets were unable to, then you will do it. Therefore, you must do what is demanded of you and do not heed your weakness", this is likewise construed according to the rational probability that comes under the Divine Power and not according to hear say. Even if we assume that it is true, this does not necessarily mean that such a person is better than the prophets because virtue does not necessarily mean preference. In the same vein, the jihad of the companions of the prophet is a virtue that was not accorded to other prophets. In spite of this, the prophets are better than the companions. Sheikh Mohammed Ilyas did not say that a person whom Allah permits to do what he did not permit the prophets is better than them. How can his words be interpreted as disparaging the prophets and questioning the wisdom of Allah in His choice of prophets? These statements are refuted for the following reasons:
1- The person who reported these words did not say that the duties that Allah did not allow the prophets to do are the same as those He entrusted to them.
2- Even if it were thus, and the duties that Allah did not allow the prophets to do are the same as those He entrusted to them, this does not depreciate the Divine will or the [status] of the prophets. There is a difference between universal will and the legitimate will. Allah may command a person to do something but does not will it to happen for a certain wisdom only He knows. To illustrate this point, let us use the example of Adam. Allah commanded Adam, peace be upon him, to abstain from eating from the prohibited tree. But Adam disobeyed and ate from it. He commanded Abraham, peace be upon him, to slaughter his son but did not will allow it to happen. Not differentiating between the universal will and the legitimate will is the position of the Mu'tazila—it is an innovation that contravenes the Qur`an, sunnah, and the consensus of the pious predecessors from among the Muslim community.
3- Allah Almighty is not obligated to do anything, but does what He wills and decrees what He wants. It is impermissible for anyone to declare that if the prophets had not done something then Allah will not let anyone else succeed in doing it, while it is not necessarily a rational or legitimate impossibility.
4- It is out of impudence and disrespect to accuse the prophets of being unqualified to convey the message of Allah for failing to do some of the things which they were commanded to do. The accomplished scholars maintain that the prophets were either experiencing extenuating circumstances or that the command of Allah was not obligatory in their regard.
Sheikh Mohammed Ilyas' other statement: "We bring glad tidings and a true promise to the people of the last age that the reward of each one of them is like the reward of fifty of the companions of the prophet [pbuh]" is consistent with the words of the prophet [pbuh] as stated in an authentic hadith. Abu Umayya al-Sha'bani, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "I approached abu al-Khashni, may Allah be pleased with him, and said, 'What do you make of this verse?' He said, 'Which verse?' I said, 'the words of Allah 'You who believe, you are responsible for your own souls; if anyone else goes astray it will not harm you as long as you follow the guidance [Al-Ma`ida, 105].' He said, 'By Allah! I asked an expert on it—I asked the messenger of Allah [pbuh] and he said, 'Follow the command to do what is right and the command to forsake what is evil even if you see a miser being obeyed, people following their own inclinations, or that the life of this world leading where it would, and every person taking pride in his own opinion. You must be responsible for your own soul and do not mind others because you will experience days in which patience is like holding hot coal—when the reward of good deeds equals the reward of 50 men making the same [good] deeds as you.' Someone said, 'O messenger of Allah! The reward of 50 of us or of them?' The prophet answered, 'No, 50 of you' " [Reported by abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi. Al-Tirmidhi declared it fair and ibn Habban declared it authentic. This hadith has many chains of transmission]. How then can the latter statement be misconstrued and Sheikh Ilyas accused of disparaging the prophets being disrespectsful to them and violating the Muslim creed when it is consistent with the words of the prophet [pbuh]!
Those who love to argue must be beware of criticizing the words of the prophet [pbuh] without comprehension or even being aware of it. There is no doubt that increasing one's reward does not necessitate absolute preference. Companionship of the prophet is an unparalleled virtue and comparing between the rewards of acts is by weighing equal deeds. Companionship of the prophet is unparalleled—its virtue is like no other.
Muslims must fear Allah Almighty concerning their fellow Muslims. Their different opinions must not lead to disputes or hurling accusations of unbelief and immorality and disobedience. It is impermissible for a Muslim to occupy himself with revealing the weaknesses of a fellow Muslim and fishing for the faults of others. This is warless jihad, the reason behind division among Muslims and a waste of efforts. Such conduct would preoccupy us from building our societies and uniting our community.
'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him said; "The prophet [pbuh] ascended the pulpit and said in a loud voice, 'O you who have proclaim your faith with your tongues but not with your hearts! Do not hurt Muslims and insult them nor reveal their weaknesses. Whosoever reveals the weakness of a fellow Muslim, Allah will reveal his own weaknesses, And whosoever Allah reveals his weaknesses, he will expose him even if he were at the center of the his house.' "
We ask Allah Almighty Muslims adhere to the Quran and sunna and the proper understanding of religion and knowledge. Amen.
Allah Almighty knows best.