By Ammar Awais – Hiba magazine’s team writer
Cyclone Biparjoy had recently threatened to hit Karachi and other parts of Sindh before it subsided. Categorized as an ‘extremely severe’ storm with wind speed of over 125 kilometres per hour, the cyclone had the potential to cause massive damage in Karachi – home to approximately 20 million people.
This is not the first time in recent past that a potentially devastating storm has narrowly missed Karachi. The city was largely spared from cyclones such as Phet (2010), Nilofar (2014), and Tauktae (2021), with little to no loss of life reported. From a scientific perspective, various factors such as weather patterns, atmospheric conditions, and topography determine the path of a cyclone. This fact, however, has not prevented the rise of myths about Karachi being ‘protected’ from deadly storms and other disasters by its patron ‘saints’.
Indeed, reports and interviews affirming the faith of many Karachiites in the supernatural powers of their revered saints – buried centuries ago – to protect the city have dominated electronic media. Videos of residents claiming that their city cannot be harmed by Biparjoy because it is protected by Abdullah Shah Ghazi have gone viral on social media too. His devotees have claimed that he controls the storms and that the sea fears him. In fact, even a serving Federal Minister was recently reported to have declared regarding Biparjoy in the National Assembly, ‘We have faith that Abdullah Shah Ghazi will save us.’
Such claims undoubtedly amount to Shirk – the association of partners with Allah (swt) – which is the greatest sin in Islam. This is because a deceased person, no matter how pious he or she may have been, is incapable of influencing our lives in any way – let alone protect us from storms. Allah (swt) alone has control over natural phenomena, and to attribute this divine trait to a saint is equivalent to taking them as a partner besides Allah (swt).
Allah (swt) makes it clear in the Quran that He is our only Helper and Protector: “Indeed, to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; He gives life and causes death. And you have not besides Allah any protector or any helper.” (At-Taubah 9:116)
He further says: “Do you not know that to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and [that] you have not besides Allah any protector or any helper?” (Al-Baqarah 2:107)
In fact, the statement: “You have not besides Allah any protector or helper” is repeated in at least two other verses of the Quran as well (Ash-Shura 42:31 and Al-Ankabut 29:22).
Seeking help or protection through ‘manifest means’ – that is, with someone who is alive and capable of assisting us – is permitted and even necessary at times. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself sought the customary tribal protection through his uncle Abu Talib – and later, through Mutim Ibn Adi – when his life was in danger in Makkah. However, invoking a deceased person for help or protection, or believing that they are capable of providing it, is Shirk, and a clear violation of the testament reiterated several times each day while addressing Allah during Salat: ‘It is You we worship and You we ask for help.’ (Al-Fatihah 1:5) None of the Prophet’s ﷺ companions ever invoked him for anything, or believed that he could influence their lives, after his demise.
From a historical perspective, claims that Karachi cannot be harmed by a storm as it is under the protection of saints are blatantly incorrect. Indeed, Karachi has been severely damaged, with thousands of its residents killed or left homeless, due to storms in modern history. In 1965, for example, Cyclone 013A killed around 10,000 people in Karachi while a similar number was made homeless due to a cyclone in 1944. Hence, there is an element of both ignorance and arrogance in declarations that the city is ‘protected’ and cannot be harmed by natural disasters.
When it comes to man-made calamities, such as terrorist attacks, Karachi has perhaps had more than its share of tragedies. In 2010, for instance, two suicide bombers struck the very shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Clifton, killing at least 8 people and injuring over 60.
This should cause us to reflect, with due respect to the deceased saint: The deceased cannot protect the alive no matter how pious they may be because Allah (swt) has not granted His creation the power to do so.
Hence if someone is incapable of guarding their own shrine and the devotees that visit it seeking his blessings, how can he be expected to protect an entire city and avert harm from millions of its residents?
It is unfortunate that our understanding of Islam, in certain aspects, extends little beyond hearsay and invented tales. In fact, our situation somewhat resembles that of the Makkan polytheists at the Prophet’s ﷺ time who – like us – acknowledged the existence of Allah (swt) but relied on other beings to bless, help, and protect them, declaring, “These are our intercessors with Allah.” (Yunus 10:18)
We need to return to the Quran and authentic Hadith – and realize that Allah (swt) is our sole Protector who diverted the Biparjoy away from Karachi, and who directs the storms and commands the seas as He pleases according to His Divine Knowledge and Wisdom.