Isti’anah: Seeking help
AMONG the acts of worship is Al-Isti’anah, which means to seek assistance. Whether in religious or worldly affairs, whether big or small things, we must seek help in all our affairs and in all conditions from Allah. Allah says:
“Seek help in Allah and be patient…” (Qur’an, 7:128)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Guard the limits set by Allah and Allah shall protect you. If you ask, ask of Allah, and if you seek help, seek help from Allah.” (Hadith authenticated by Al-Albani in Dhilal Al-Jannah)
So seeking help is an act of worship, and it actually precedes (other) acts of worship we do. Because when a Muslim asks Allah to assist him, he recognizes that he can neither do any act of worship nor leave any sin except with Allah’s assistance. It is for this reason they say that this verse is the essence of Al-Fatihah:
“You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).” (Qur’an, 1:5)
If we understand this, then we should (also) recognize that seeking help is of different types. If a creature has the ability to assist, i.e. if it is something that he can do then there is no harm in asking. For example a person who is drowning turns to someone who is (present) there and is able to assist him by saying “save me” or “help me.”
There is no wrong in this as the individual being asked has the ability to do so. However, if it is something which is beyond his control and is something that only Allah can do, then to seek help from someone other than Allah (regarding that) will be Shirk (associating partners with Allah). For example, a person asks someone other than Allah for forgiveness of sins or guidance or removing some harm that only Allah is able to. These are acts of Shirk.
– Extracts from the Sheikh’s lecture “Enter into Islam wholeheartedly” published by Albaseerah.org.