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(as translated by Shakir)
[72:18] And that the mosques are Allah's, therefore call not upon any one with Allah:
[72:19] And that when the servant of Allah stood up calling upon Him, they wellnigh crowded him (to death).
[72:20] Say: I only call upon my Lord, and I do not associate any one with Him.
[72:21] Say: I do not control for you evil or good.
[72:22] Say: Surely no one can protect me against Allah, nor can I find besides Him any place of refuge:
[72:23] (It is) only a delivering (of communications) from Allah and His messages; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger surely he shall have the fire of hell to abide therein for a long time.

In Surat al-Fatihah, we as Muslims regularly recite iyyaka nasta'een, translated as "You [i.e. God] alone we ask for help..." In addition, all of the verses in the Qura'n where du'a is asked is addressed to Allah alone (e.g. rabbi zid ni 'ilma in Surat Ta-Ha).

As such, it seems rather clear to me that invocation is to be for God alone, and that calling upon others is a form of shirk.

I find that amongst modern Shi'a (I can't comment on historical Shi'ism) and Barelvi Sufis there are many who seem to go against this idea. Using the Shi'a as an example, many of them directly invoke Ali for help (e.g. "Ya Ali madad"), which to me is no different than a Christian saying "Jesus is our Savior".

How can such behaviour be justified Islamically?

Please do not confuse the focus of this question with that of wasilah, as the issue of wasilah IS DIFFERENT than direct invocation to other then ALLAH swt. The Qur'an does command to seek a LEGAL wasilah (i.e through good deeds and following Sunnah and naufil of the prophet pbuh)

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Due to this Hadith it is obviously clear that if a person needed any help he must return to God, not to anybody else, even Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). And this is an order, not optional.

عن عبد الله بن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال : كنت خلف النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال لي : يا غلام إني أعلمك كلمات : احفظ الله يحفظك ، احفظ الله تجده تجاهك ، **إذا سألت فاسأل الله** ، وإذا استعنت فاستعن بالله ، واعلم أن الأمة لو اجتمعت على أن ينفعوك بشيء ، لم ينفعوك إلا بشيء قد كتبه الله لك ، وإن اجتمعوا على أن يضروك بشيء ، لم يضروك إلا بشيء قد كتبه الله عليك ، رفعت الأقلام وجفت الصحف . رواه الترمذي ، وقال : حديث حسن صحيح .
Young man, (the Prophet said to Abdullah ibn al-Abbas) hear some words of advice: Be mindful of God and God will protect you. Be mindful of God and you will find Him before you. **If you ask, ask of God**; if you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if all the people were to gather together to give you the benefit of anything, it would be something that God had already prescribed for you, and that if they gathered together to harm you with anything, this would only be as God had already ordained.

Even if Sunni Muslims said Ya Omar, it is wrong, or Madad Ya Rasul'Allah either. Only Ya Rab, Ya Allah, Ya Karim, etc... concerning names of God are accepted.

However going to a doctor is not a Shirk, because, if you aren't asking the Dr. to heal you, you are making the causes then ask God to heal you. The same story happened with the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) when he saw a man leaving his camel and going, he was saying: "I trust in God", so the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Tie her and trust." So each person must make the causes then trust God, and ask him. A person going to an exam must study first then ask God to lead him.

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1. Is asking help from other people always Shirk?

Definitely not. Many times we ask our parents, our teachers, our friends and other people - when we are faced a problem - and they help us. Islam tells us to help the other people and this is not Shirk.

2. So when asking help from other people can be Shirk?

When we believe they are doing something for us independent of Allah. Even if we feel that we are doing something just by our power and knowledge, not by help from Allah, this would be Shirk.

Following Ayah teaches us to remember Allah in everything that we ourselves or other people do:

enter image description here

And you did not kill them, but it was Allah who killed them. And you threw not, [O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allah who threw that He might test the believers with a good test. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. - Al Anfal 17

3. Can we also ask other people some help for our hereafter (life after death)?

Yes. There are clear examples in Quran. As @owari said, sons of prophet Ya'qub asked their father to ask their forgiveness from Allah (after they did wrong with their brother Yusuf):

enter image description here

They said, "O our father, ask for us forgiveness of our sins; indeed, we have been sinners." Yusuf 97

And what Ya'qub - prophet of Allah - replied? He did NOT say: "This is Shirk, go and ask your forgiveness directly from Allah". But he replied:

enter image description here

He said, "I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful." Yusuf 98

4. The above example was about Ya'qub. Is there any example from Islam?

Yes. Quran orders Muslism to go to prophet to ask their forgiveness from Allah: enter image description here

And We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah. And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. Al Nisa 64

5. And finally, is help from other people limited to our Earth life?

No, it will continue even after our death. An example is when we ask Allah forgiveness of other Muslism that are already dead, for sure we are helping them for their hereafter.

A brilliant example is a nice narration from prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that is installed in Majid an-Nabawi in Madinah:

النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏:‏ ‏ "‏ شَفَاعَتِي لأَهْلِ الْكَبَائِرِ مِنْ أُمَّتِي ‏"‏

The Prophet (PBUH) said: My intercession will be for those of my people who have committed major sins. Sunan Abi Dawud 4739, Jami at-Tirmidhi 2435, and also 2436.

enter image description here

5. Conclusions

Shirk is more related to what we believe, rather than what we do. If we go to Doctor and believe he is treating us by his own knowledge independently from Allah, it would be Shirk. If we ask somebody else to help us and still believe he is doing so under permission from Allah, it is not Shirk. So we can not easily judge about the other people, because we are not aware of their beliefs.

And in reply to the brothers who tell: It is accepted to ask help from alive people and it will be Shirk to ask from dead people: According to Quran we should never think Martyrs are dead. You can refer to this question.

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I don't believe the answer above is the case that @aliabbas asked. Because sayyidna Yakub was alive at that point, and he asked God for his children. However if you said YaAli... (whatever request) Imam Ali is dead and can't ask God for you, or even can't complete your request. That's the difference. Hope it makes sense. –  Zeina Jan 18 '13 at 14:14
    
@Zeina و لا تحسبن الذین قتلوا فی سبیل الله امواتا بل احیا عند ربهم یرزقون And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision, –  Ali Jan 18 '13 at 16:50
    
@Zeina You may see this question: islam.stackexchange.com/questions/7056/are-martyrs-dead –  Ali Jan 18 '13 at 17:04
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There are four questions you can always use to find out wither calling X, other than Allah, is shirk or not:

  1. Is what you invoked is a human? Asking help from "things" is absolutely shirk.
  2. Is he/she alive? Asking anything from a dead person is shirk, even profit Mohammad صلى الله عليه وسلم himself. A dead person cannot help him/herself, how would he/she help you?
  3. Is he present? An absent person cannot help, how would he/she know?
  4. Can he/she help you in something a human can do? You cannot ask someone for something only Allah can do.

If the answer of any of these question is no, this is an absolutist shirk.

يُولِجُ اللَّيْلَ فِي النَّهَارِ وَيُولِجُ النَّهَارَ فِي اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ مَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْ قِطْمِيرٍ

He merges Night into Day, and He merges Day into Night, and He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law): each one runs its course for a term appointed. Such is Allah your Lord: to Him belongs all Dominion. And those whom ye invoke besides Him have not the least power.

إِنْ تَدْعُوهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُوا دُعَاءَكُمْ وَلَوْ سَمِعُوا مَا اسْتَجَابُوا لَكُمْ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُونَ بِشِرْكِكُمْ ۚ وَلَا يُنَبِّئُكَ مِثْلُ خَبِيرٍ

If ye invoke them, they will not listen to your call, and if they were to listen they cannot answer your (prayer). On the Day of Judgement they will reject your "Partnership." And none, (O man!) can tell thee (the Truth) like the One Who is acquainted with all things.

Fatir ayats 13-14

وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَحْيَاءُ وَلَا الْأَمْوَاتُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُسْمِعُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ وَمَا أَنْتَ بِمُسْمِعٍ مَنْ فِي الْقُبُورِ

Nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead. Allah can make any that He wills to hear; but thou canst not make those to hear who are (buried) in graves.

Fatir ayah 22

أَمَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنْبَتْنَا بِهِ حَدَائِقَ ذَاتَ بَهْجَةٍ مَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُنْبِتُوا شَجَرَهَا ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُونَ

Or who has created the heaven and the earth, and who sends you down rain from the sky? Yea, with it We cause to grow well-planted orchards full of beauty and delight: it is not in your power to cause the growth of the trees in them. (Can there be another) god besides Allah? Nay they are a people who swerve from justice.

أَمَّنْ جَعَلَ الْأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَجَعَلَ خِلَالَهَا أَنْهَارًا وَجَعَلَ لَهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ حَاجِزًا ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Or, who has made the earth firm to live in; made rivers in its midst; set thereon mountains immovable; and made a separating bar between the two bodies of flowing water? (Can there be another) god besides Allah? Nay most of them know not.

أَمَّنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

Or, who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth? (Can there be another) god besides Allah? Little it is that ye heed!

أَمَّنْ يَهْدِيكُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَمَنْ يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ بُشْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَحْمَتِهِ ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ تَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

Or, who guides you through the depths of darkness on land and sea, and who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His mercy? (Can there be another) god besides Allah? High is Allah above what they associate with Him!

أَمَّنْ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ ۚ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

Or who originates Creation, then repeats it, and who gives you sustenance from heaven and earth? (Can there be another) god besides Allah? Say "Bring forth your argument, if ye are telling the truth!"

قُلْ لَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۚ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ

Say: None in the heavens or on earth, except Allah, knows what is hidden: nor can they perceive when they shall be raised up (for Judgment).

An-Naml ayats 60-65

قُلِ ادْعُوا الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ فَلَا يَمْلِكُونَ كَشْفَ الضُّرِّ عَنْكُمْ وَلَا تَحْوِيلًا

Say: "Call on those― besides Him― whom ye fancy: they have neither the power to remove your troubles from you nor to change them."

Al-Isra ayah 56

وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنْ يَدْعُو مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَنْ لَا يَسْتَجِيبُ لَهُ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَهُمْ عَنْ دُعَائِهِمْ غَافِلُونَ

And who is more astray than one who invokes, besides Allah, such as will not answer him to the Day of Judgement, and who (in fact) are unconscious of their call (to them)?

وَإِذَا حُشِرَ النَّاسُ كَانُوا لَهُمْ أَعْدَاءً وَكَانُوا بِعِبَادَتِهِمْ كَافِرِينَ

And when mankind are gathered together (at the Resurrection), they will be hostile to them and reject their worship (altogether)!

Al-Ahqaf ayats 5-6

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