Hadith of calling invisible helpers (istighatha)
by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad
A`udhu billahi min ash-shaytan ir-rajeem
Bismillahi ‘r-Rahmani ‘r-Raheem:
The hadith of calling for invisible helpers in the wilderness has several wordings narrated through various chains that strengthen one another and bring it at the very least to the rank of “fair due to its corroborants and witness-chains” (Hasan li-Ghayrih), and one of those chains is actually fair in itself:
● From the Tabi`i Aban b. Salih, from Mujahid, from Ibn `Abbas, from the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace):
Truly Allah has angels on earth, other than the recording angels, who write down whatever tree-leaf falls. Therefore, when any of you gets injured in his leg in a deserted land let him call out: Help, servants of Allah! (a`inu `ibad Allah)
إِنَّ للهِ مَلَائِكَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ سِوَى الحَفَظَةِ يَكْتُبُونَ مَا يَسْقُطُ مِنْ وَرَقِ الشَّجَرِ فَإِذَا أَصَابَ أَحَدَكُمْ عَرْجَةٌ بِأَرْضٍ فَلَاةٍ فَلْيُنَادِ أَعِينُوا عِبَادَ اللهِ.
al-Bazzar narrated it in his Musnad (11:181 §4922=al-Haythami, Kashf al-Astar 4:33-34 §3128) adding: “We do not know it to be narrated from the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) with this wording other than with this chain” through trustworthy narrators according to al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa’id (10:132), and Ibn Hajar declared its chain “fair” (hasan) though – in confirmation of al-Bazzar – “extremely singular”
(gharib jiddan) in Nata’ij al-Afkar as stated by Ibn `Allan in al-Futuhat al-Ilahiyya (5:150-151), while in his Mukhtasar Musnad al-Bazzar (2:419-420 §2128) he simply states: “It is a fair chain” (huwa isnadun hasan) and narrates it as “Ya `ibad Allah! Aghithu!”
يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ أَغِيثُوا.
Ibn Abi Shayba in the Musannaf (Salafiyya Bombay 2nd ed. 10:390=`Awwama ed. 15:345 §30339) and al-Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-Iman (Zaghlul ed. 1:183 §167 and 6:128 §7697) narrate it as a saying of Ibn `Abbas with the variant wordings (in the manuscripts): “Servants of Allah, help us! or: aid us! May Allah grant you mercy.”
عِبَادَ اللهِ أَغِيثُوا / أَغِيثُونَا – أَوْ – أَعِينُوا /أَعِينُونَا رَحِمَكُمُ اللهُ.
In either case it has the status of a Prophetic hadith as stated by Shaykh Muhammad `Awwama, because Ibn `Abbas could not be saying this from his own reasoning.
● from Ibn Mas`ud, from the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace):
When the animal of any one of you breaks loose in a desert land let him just call out: Servants of Allah, hold [it] for me! Servants of Allah, hold [it] for me! (`ibad Allah uhbusu `ibad Allah uhbusu). For Allah has someone present in the land who will hold it for you all.”
إِذَا انْفَلَتَتْ دَابَّةُ أَحَدِكُمْ بِأَرْضِ فَلاةٍ فَلْيُنَادِ يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ احْبِسُوا عَلَيَّ يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ احْبِسُوا عَلَيَّ فَإِنَّ لِلهِ فِي الأَرْضِ حَاضِرًا سَيَحْبِسُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ.
Narrated by al-Tabarani in al-Mu`jam al-Kabir (10:267 §10518) in the above wording, Abu Ya`la in his Musnad (9:177 §5269) in the following wording, without the words “for me” and “for you all”:
إِذَا انْفَلَتَتْ دَابَّةُ أَحَدِكُمْ بِأَرْضٍ فَلاَةٍ فَلْيُنَادِ يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ ، احْبِسُوا يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ احْبِسُوا فَإِنَّ لِلهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فِي الأَرْضِ حَاضِرًا سَيَحْبِسُهُ
and, through the latter, Ibn al-Sunni in `Amal al-Yawm wal-Layla (`Uyun ed. p. 239-240 §508=Barni ed. p. 303-304 §508), all of them through Ma`ruf b. Hassan al-Samarqandi who is weak as stated by al-Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab (3:416), al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa’id (10:132) and al-Busiri in Ithaf al-Khiyara (7:500), or, worse, munkar al-hadith according to Ibn `Adi. Furthermore, Ibn `Allan in al-Futuhat al-Ilahiyya
(5:150-151) said that Ibn Hajar said in Nata’ij al-Afkar that the chain was missing a link between Ibn Burayda and Ibn Mas`ud; however, Ibn al-Sunni narrates it as “Ibn Burayda, from his father, from Ibn Mas`ud” and Allah knows best.
● From `Utba b. Ghazwan, from the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace):
When anyone loses something or needs help in a deserted land let him say: O servants of Allah, help me! O servants of Allah, help me! (ya `ibad Allah, aghithuni, ya `ibad Allah, aghithuni). For Allah has servants we do not see.” That was certainly tried and tested (wa qad jurriba dhalik).
إِذَا أَضَلَّ أَحَدُكُمْ شَيْئًا أَوْ أَرَادَ أَحَدُكُمْ عَوْنًا وَهُوَ بِأَرْضٍ لَيْسَ بِهَا أَنِيسٌ فَلْيَقُلْ يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ أَغِيثُونِي يَا عِبَادَ اللهِ أَغِيثُونِي فَإِنَّ لِلهِ عِبَادًا لا نَرَاهُمْ وَقَدْ جُرِّبَ ذَلِكَ.
Narrated by al-Tabarani. Al-Haythami said in Majma` al-Zawa’id (10:132):
al-Tabarani narrated it and its narrators were declared trustworthy although there is some weakness in one [or two] of them. Furthermore, Yazid b. `Ali did not meet `Utba.” So it is broken-chained. The narrators with some weakness in them are `Abd al-Rahman b. Sharik b. `Abd Allah and his father. The words “That was certainly tried and tested” are probably by al-Tabarani according to Ibn Hajar, cf Ibn `Allan, Futuhat (5:150).
● From the Tabi`i Aban b. Salih, from the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace):
When someone’s animal or camel runs away in a desert land where he cannot see anyone, let him say: Come to my aid, servants of Allah (a`inuni `ibad Allah), for truly he will be helped.
إِذَا نَفَرَتْ دَابَّةُ أَحَدِكُمْ أَوْ بَعِيرُهُ بِفَلَاةٍ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ لَا يَرَى بِهَا أَحَداً فَلْيَقُلْ أَعِينُونِي عِبَادَ اللهِ فَإِنَّهُ سَيُعَانُ.
Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf (Bombay Salafiyya 2nd ed. 10:424-425 §9868=Luhaydan 2004 ed. 10:179-180 §30316=`Awwama ed. 15:384-385 §30438). This is a mursal chain missing the Companion-reporter, moreover there is ambiguous transmission terminology (`an`ana) between Muhammad b. Ishaq and Aban b. Salih so there might be an additional gap there also.
● Benefit: al-Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab (6:128 §7697) said that Imam al-Hakim told him that al-Tabarani told him that `Abd Allah b. Ahmad narrated to him that he heard his father Imam Ahmad say: “I went on pilgrimage five times, two of them riding a mount and three of them on foot. In one of the latter three I lost my way so I started saying: ‘Servants of Allah, show me the way!’ and I kept saying it until I saw the way before me.”
● Another benefit: al-Nawawi said in the Adhkar after he mentioned the hadith of Ibn Mas`ud: “One of my major scholarly teachers recounted to me how one day his animal – I think he said a mule – broke loose, and he knew this hadith, so he said it, then Allah stopped the animal on the spot until they reached it. I myself was with a group once and one of our animals broke loose and they were unable to catch it, so I said it and it stopped on the spot without anything other than this speech.”
● Another benefit: Al-Suyuti included all these reports in his Encyclopedia of the Hadiths pertaining to the angels entitled al-Haba’ik fi Akhbar al-Mala’ik. Ibn `Allan said in the Futuhat (5:151):
[al-Qari] said in al-Hirz [al-Thamin]: ‘What is meant by them [the Servants of Allah] is the angels, or the Muslim jinn, or the men of the unseen world who are named al-Abdal. Benefit: One of the Sufis said: When you cannot find something of yours, say: Ya Jami` al-nasi li-yawmin la rayba fih! Inna Allaha la yukhlifu al-mi`ad. I tried it and I found it useful to find the lost property quickly.’ And he reported the same from one of his teachers.”
Hajj Gibril Haddad