Some brothers say: Asking alive people (parents, teachers, doctors or anybody else) to help us is not Shirk. However asking prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his Ahl-ul-Bayt or other great Martyrs for help is Shirk because they are dead. For example you can see this question on Islam.SE.

My question: We should count Martyrs as dead or alive, while Quran very strongly orders us not to count them as dead?

I accept they are not biologically and legally alive, but does it mean they aren't aware of us and we are not allowed to call them while Allah says they are alive? For instance angels are not also biologically or legally alive, but they are aware of us and can do many things under permission of Allah.

enter image description here

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. Al Imran 169

enter image description here

And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah , "They are dead." Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not. Al Baqarah 154


3 Answers 3


To answer this question we should first know what the definition of being alive and animate is. As you can e.g. read here, scientifically, the properties of life are counted as being capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole, although no unique definition is also accepted by all the scholars as e.g. viruses and theoretically possible man-made non-organic life forms insinuate some difficulties for providing a general definition of life. But does Islam provide any definition for life? Motion, growth, development, reproduction, maintenance of homeostasis, are all of these properties necessary in the Islamic point of view? The answer is simply NO! Because life in its highest and purest form is that Allah announces it for Himself:

هُوَ الْحَيُّ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَادْعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ ۗ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

He is the Living, there is no god but He, therefore call on Him, being sincere to Him in obedience; (all) praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. [40:65]

And neither motion, nor growth and development, and nor reproduction, none holds about Allah. Being alive about Allah may instead be accounted for with such properties as being ultimately conscious and possessing the ultimate will. Allah being the All Seeing and the All hearing and the All knowing --without having eyes through which to see, or ears by which to hear, or brain and mind by which to think or understand or recognize-- and being the Omnipotent all can be a description of Him being the Alive. Now one can define Islamically the life as having such properties as consciousness and being impelling (having a will and a power to apply it, causing in some effects, so having the power to choice can also be considered as a property of life). Using such a definition now life can be introduced as a graded property, in contrast to a 0/1 property, that is, one can say if something is more alive than another thing: anything that is more conscious and impelling will be now considered as more alive. And Allah knows best if other properties are also required for a more comprehensive definition of life, but for the present discussion this much should suffice.

Before to continue I strongly recommend you to read this answer and probably also this one. In these answers you will find some info about the life after death-from-Dunya. As far as I have understood (and Allah knows best) we have been given one universe created which is covered with different covering layers, our current life in Dunya being at the uppermost (say, outer) layer of this real universe, being ornamented with decorations that make it appear as an illusion, sometimes even in exact contradiction with what the reality is (e.g. eating a delicious food bought from the usurped wealth of an orphan although may appear as delicious and pleasing as sensed by our Dunya senses but is indeed a fire going down to stomach according to Qur’an reporting the reality, also another example is backbiting). Everyone now knows that things like color and smells or temperature none exist in the reality, while we sense our universe now through such concepts and therefore such senses are the means for us to see the illusion defined for us. Our universe will be Dunya only if is perceived and experienced through such lame and lying senses. Based on these clarifications now you can simply define the life in Dunya! And Allah says it as:

اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ

Know that this world's life is only sport and play and gaiety and boasting among yourselves, and a vying in the multiplication of wealth and children, like the rain, whose causing the vegetation to grow, pleases the husbandmen, then it withers away so that you will see it become yellow, then it becomes dried up and broken down; and in the hereafter is a severe chastisement and (also) forgiveness from Allah and (His) pleasure; and this world's life is naught but means of deception. [57:20]

Yes, Dunya (our current for of life) is nothing but an illusion, we have been given some artificial (i.e. non-intrinsic) senses and a bunch of desires and an intellectual power that we are told on that we can only rely with confidence. Now we are asked to prefer what intellect orders us over desires, whenever there is a conflict between them that we have no choice other than to satisfy one if the benefit of the other. And this brings to us the requirement for a concept called religion. With such an understanding you can easily interpret many verse of Qur’an that describes people as death or alive, deaf or hearing, blind or seeing, conscious or drunk and etc. People may be alive in the sense we usually use the word "alive" but still be death as they are indeed death, and people may be death in the sense that we usually use the word "death" but still be alive as they are indeed alive.

Based on the above considerations we can easily conclude that everything is alive in reality:

وَمَا هَـٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَهْوٌ وَلَعِبٌ ۚ وَإِنَّ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ لَهِيَ الْحَيَوَانُ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ

And this life of the world is nothing but a sport and a play; and as for the next abode [the reality of this universe], that most surely is the life-- did they but know! [29:64]

And the only death in reality is what has not been created yet. Examples for things being alive is even stones and etc.:

تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا

The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving. [17:44]

And this is why Muslims are told e.g. to use Onyx finger rings, you can think why Onyx is preferred over the other stones but the answer has been already given in Ahadeeth.

However, something that is recognized as alive in one level of this universe may be considered as death in another level. Stones are death with respect to our Dunya eyes and ears but are alive if covers are lifted from our eyes and ears.

Now what about the persons? When they die from Dunya, are they death indeed? No, they have just given another creation:

نَحْنُ قَدَّرْنَا بَيْنَكُمُ الْمَوْتَ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ / عَلَىٰ أَن نُّبَدِّلَ أَمْثَالَكُمْ وَنُنشِئَكُمْ فِي مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ / وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُولَىٰ فَلَوْلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

We have ordained death among you and We are not to be overcome, / In order that We may bring in your place the likes of you and make you grow into what you know not. / And certainly you know the first growth, why do you not then mind? [56:60,61,62]

According to Ahadeeth:

from: جامع الأخبار(للشعيري)، ص: 171,172

رُوِيَ عَنْ يُونُسَ بْنِ ظَبْيَانَ أَنَّهُ قَالَ كُنْتُ عِنْدَ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع جَالِساً فَقَالَ ع مَا يَقُولُ النَّاسُ فِي أَرْوَاحِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ قُلْتُ يَقُولُونَ فِي حَوَاصِلِ طَيْرٍ خُضْرٍ فِي قَنَادِيلَ تَحْتَ الْعَرْشِ فَقَالَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ الْمُؤْمِنُ أَكْرَمُ عَلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ أَنْ يَجْعَلَ رُوحَهُ فِي حَوْصَلَةِ طَائِرٍ خَضِرٍ يَا يُونُسُ الْمُؤْمِنُ إِذَا قَبَضَهُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى صَيَّرَ رُوحَهُ فِي قَالَبٍ كَقَالَبِهِ فِي الدُّنْيَا فَيَأْكُلُونَ وَ يَشْرَبُونَ- فَإِذَا قَدِمَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْقَادِمُ عَرَفُوهُ بِتِلْكَ الصُّورَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ فِي الدُّنْيَا

Quoted from Imam Sadiq --peace be upon him-- that he asked from Yunus Ibn Dhabyan: "what do people say about the spirits of the believers who have passed away?" He answered: "they tell they live in the bodies of green birds who have their nests in chandeliers hung from the throne of the Almighty.[see Sahih Muslim, book 020, hadith 4651]" Imam peace be upon him said: "Glorious is Allah, the believera are of higher ranks in the view of Allah for Him to put their souls in the bodies of the green birds o Yunus! But the believer when their souls are taken off their bodies they will be sent to bodies similar to their bodies in Dunya, so they would eat and drink, and when someone comes to them will recognize their faces as their faces in Dunya"

وَ فِي رِوَايَةٍ أُخْرَى رُوِيَ عَنْ أَبِي بَصِيرٍ أَنَّهُ قَالَ سَأَلْتُ أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع عَنْ أَرْوَاحِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فَقَالَ فِي الْجَنَّةِ عَلَى صُورَةِ أَبْدَانِهِمْ لَوْ رَأَيْتَهُ لَقُلْتَ فُلَاناً ‏

In another Hadeeth Imam Sadiq --peace be upon him-- was asked about the souls of the believers and answered in Heavens they are with bodies similar in appearance to their own bodies [in Dunya], if you saw them you would have recognized them.

وَ لَقَدْ حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي عَنْ جَدِّي عَنْ أَبِيهِ ع أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ص قَالَ مَنْ رَآنِي فِي مَنَامِهِ فَقَدْ رَآنِي لِأَنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَا يَتَمَثَّلُ فِي صُورَتِي وَ لَا فِي صُورَةِ أَحَدٍ مِنْ أَوْصِيَائِي وَ لَا فِي صُورَةِ أَحَدٍ مِنْ شِيعَتِهِمْ وَ أَنَّ الرُّؤْيَا الصَّادِقَةَ جُزْءٌ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ جُزْءاً مِنَ النُّبُوَّة

It is quoted from the apostle of Allah --peace be upon him and his household-- that he said: "whoever that visted me in his dream so he has visited me, since Satan never appears like me or any of my successors [12 Imam] or any of their followers, and verily the honest dreams are one part from seventy parts of prophethood"

And if Martyrs are bolded in those two verses that you have cited in your question that shows they have reached a level of "being alive" which will not be reached usually by ordinary people.

According to the following Hadeeth from the most authentic source of Sunni brothers, even the death of the atheists who were killed during the war with the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his household-- were hearing and even hearing better than us:

Narrated by Ibn 'Umar, the Prophet looked at the people of the well (the well in which the bodies of the pagans killed in the Battle of Badr were thrown) and said, "Have you found true what your Lord promised you?" Somebody said to him, "You are addressing dead people." He replied, "You do not hear better than they but they cannot reply." [Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 452]

And it is not any strange, look how Allah talks with the nonbelievers at the Judgment day:

وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْوَعِيدِ / وَجَاءَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّعَهَا سَائِقٌ وَشَهِيدٌ / لَّقَدْ كُنتَ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَـٰذَا فَكَشَفْنَا عَنكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ

And the trumpet shall be blown; that is the day of the threatening. / And every soul shall come, with it a driver and a witness. / Certainly you were heedless of it, but now We have removed from you your veil, so your sight today is sharp. [50:20,21,22]

So that if someone is allowed he would still be able to see and hear after his death, even better than he could while was alive in Dunya. However, now mention these verse:

وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَن ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ/ قَالَ رَبِّ لِمَ حَشَرْتَنِي أَعْمَىٰ وَقَدْ كُنتُ بَصِيرًا / قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا ۖ وَكَذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنسَىٰ / وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي مَنْ أَسْرَفَ وَلَمْ يُؤْمِن بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ ۚ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَشَدُّ وَأَبْقَىٰ

And whoever turns away from My reminder, his shall be a straitened life, and We will raise him on the day of resurrection, blind. / He shall say: My Lord! why hast Thou raised me blind and I was a seeing one indeed? / He will say: Even so, Our communications came to you but you neglected them; even thus shall you be forsaken this day. / And thus do We recompense him who is extravagant and does not believe in the communications of his Lord, and certainly the chastisement of the hereafter is severer and more [20:124-127]

Which describes if someone is seeing in Dunya but doesn't need his sight ability then he might be raised in the Hereafter as blind, and the same is true about those who have given the hearing ability but they do not use this gift to understand the signs of Allah, they are indeed blind and deaf although they have the ability to recognize the shapes and the colors:

مَثَلُ الْفَرِيقَيْنِ كَالْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْأَصَمِّ وَالْبَصِيرِ وَالسَّمِيعِ ۚ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

The likeness of the two parties is as the blind and the deaf and the seeing and the hearing: are they equal in condition? Will you not then mind? [11:24]

أَفَمَن يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ أَعْمَىٰ ۚ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

Is he then who knows that what has been revealed to you from your Lord is the truth like him who is blind? Only those possessed of understanding will mind [13:19]

وَمَن كَانَ فِي هَـٰذِهِ أَعْمَىٰ فَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ أَعْمَىٰ وَأَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا

And whoever is blind in this, he shall (also) be blind in the hereafter; and more erring from the way. [17:72]

وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَسْتَمِعُونَ إِلَيْكَ ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ وَلَوْ كَانُوا لَا يَعْقِلُونَ

And there are those of them who hear you, but can you make the deaf to hear though they will not understand? [10:42]

And this clarifies the real meaning Allah was to mean by the verse [27:80]:

إِنَّكَ لَا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَلَا تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا وَلَّوْا مُدْبِرِينَ

Surely you do not make the dead to hear, and you do not make the deaf to hear the call when they go back retreating.

This verse has nothing to do with death and deaf as we may call someone death and deaf, but the true death and the true deaf. It is a very popular slang that someone who is asleep you can wake him up, but someone who pretends to be asleep you will never make him wake up!

About the martyrs, they are experiencing the best levels of life, they can be aware of us, see us and hear us. Even if someone stick to the appearance of the verses of Qur'aan may note that Allah reports this as what follows:

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ أَمْوَاتًا ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ / فَرِحِينَ بِمَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ وَيَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِالَّذِينَ لَمْ يَلْحَقُوا بِهِم مِّنْ خَلْفِهِمْ أَلَّا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

And reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord; / Rejoicing in what Allah has given them out of His grace and they rejoice for the sake of those who, (being left) behind them, have not yet joined them, that they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. [3:169,170]

you may like to think how do they give such good tidings to those who have not yet passed away? Where do they know from who is behind them (following their way to Allah)? Of course you will have no way other than to accept Martyrs can be aware of all of us, can hear us and see all of us, they are not absent from us, if Allah would let them so. Therefore, calling them (not worshiping them or preserving any power for them BESIDE Allah) will be no Shirk at all.

We can even go further and discuss the level of the martyrs being alive to that extent that the martyrs can even affect Dunya in the sense an alive person (in our usual terminology) can affect this life. I grab your attention to those bodies of the martyrs which are fresh after centuries that has been passed from them being buried. Examples for this is never small. In Iran we have experienced it quite many times. Their cells are alive but how? Their blood is fresh but how? No, martyrs are truly alive, many times more alive than me and you and others in this website are alive, although their way of being alive is somewhat different so that the rules of religion about them is different. Even note that the martyrs need no Qusl before being buried, that's because they have not died even if their bodies have been cut in pieces or exploded. And last but by no means least, martyrs have not yet experienced death so that they must return to this life BEFORE the Ressurection, this is called Rij3ah (رجعت) and although is not limited to the martyrs (according to Qur'an) but anyway is a certain point if the Shia perspective of Islam.

I tried my best to resolve the misinterpretations between Sunni and Shia Muslims, so that there comes a day in which no Sunni brother will call his Shia brother a Mushrik or Kafir.

UPDATE. this question is also a good reason in my opinion why assuming the holy Prophet and his household --peace be upon them all-- being able to hear whom talking with them is not very strange and of course not Shirk.

  • @Ali, writing is far easier for me than editing and deleting! But always feel free to edit any part you want ;)
    – owari
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:36
  • @Ali, sorry, not to mean to behave against your wish, but I just felt that the provided answer was yet incomplete, so that found no other choice than to expand it with more evidences from Qur'aan and Hadeeth.
    – owari
    Jan 20, 2013 at 12:38
  • Brother it's fine, still structured answers under different headlines is better.
    – Ali
    Jan 20, 2013 at 13:28

From our point of view, living people, Al-Shuhada الشهداء are dead. Their hearts stopped beating. They don't move, don't talk, don't do what living human do. They are alive, but not here with us. They are in form of life we don't understand or meant to understand. This doesn’t mean that they are aware us or we should call them.

There are no special rules in sharia for Al-Shuhada except the way they being buried. Otherwise, all the things applied on someone died normally, such as inheritance and their women can get married after their death, applied on someone died as Shaheed.

As far as asking Al-Shuhada, Allah is telling us in many ayats in Qur'an to not asking or invoke someone other than him, neither prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, Al-Shuhada nor anyone else.

وَأَنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدْعُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ أَحَدًا

"And the places of worship are for Allah (alone): so invoke not anyone along with Allah;

وَأَنَّهُ لَمَّا قَامَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ يَدْعُوهُ كَادُوا يَكُونُونَ عَلَيْهِ لِبَدًا

"Yet when the Devotee of Allah stands forth to invoke Him, they just make round him a dense crowd."

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَدْعُو رَبِّي وَلَا أُشْرِكُ بِهِ أَحَدًا

Say: "I do no more than invoke my Lord, and I join not with Him any (false god)."

قُلْ إِنِّي لَا أَمْلِكُ لَكُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا رَشَدًا

Say: "It is not in my power to cause you harm, or to bring you to right conduct."

Al-Jinn ayats 18-21

  • 1
    @Ali see the second paragraph. They are legally, from a shari'ee perspective, dead; you inherit them, do iddah, etc. like any dead person.
    – ashes999
    Jan 19, 2013 at 2:41
  • I accept they are not biologically and legally alive, but does it mean they aren't aware of us and we are not allowed to call them while Allah says they are alive?
    – Ali
    Jan 20, 2013 at 3:21
  • 2
    @Ali Being aware or not, we don't know since there is no proof. Regarding calling them, the ayah above cleared that we must not call any one, no exception, but Allah.
    – user974
    Jan 20, 2013 at 3:44

Before addressing the main answer, it is necessary to mention the life of purgatory and death: Man does not perish by death, that is, death is not nothingness and destruction, but is like a bridge that transports man from this world to another world. If we want to give a weak example, we can compare it to a rocket that leaves part of its body while passing through the atmosphere and continues its path with the rest of its body. Of course, there are differences between these that are beyond the scope of this article. Is. At the time of death, man loses his worldly body and worldly life and continues his purgatory life with another body. Therefore, purgatory life is common to all human beings - martyrs and non-martyrs. Righteous people in purgatory are pampered and bad people are tormented. But what is the point of the martyrs who are introduced alive? Martyrs differ from others in the quality of enjoying divine blessings in purgatory and the degree of purgatory life. That is, they have a higher level of life and better and more blessings than others, and according to the Qur'an, they enjoy sustenance at the Lord, and this verse indicates their high position in purgatory. Of course, in order to benefit from this position, conditions are necessary that will come in place. With the above explanation, the answer to the question of death and separation of the soul becomes clear. The soul is not in the form of the body to die by separating from that human being, but the body is controlled by the soul and the soul is related to this body. When the soul dies, it cuts off its connection with this body and communicates with the purgatory body. But why do not we see the martyrs who are alive? It was said that the survival of a martyr means enjoying a high position in purgatory. But purgatory life cannot be understood by the human senses; Because the human sense is incapable of understanding the transcendence of material and physical life, and may even consider it perdition. The idea of a purgatory life, and at a higher stage a heartfelt belief in it, depends on the understanding of his soul. Our souls are incapable of perceiving other worlds due to belonging to this world and being bound by it, but if man can develop his soul so much that he can have perception without this body, he can perceive other worlds and with the beings of those worlds. To communicate. Of course, these perceptions and visions are not done with the external eye, but with the filthy eye and other perceptual powers; Because our eyes can only see earthly beings. So it can be cited in a Qur'an that they are martyrs Source: Verse 149 Al-Imran

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .