ATTRIBUTING ASSOCIATES TO ALLAH IN WORSHIP
We have indicated earlier the first occurrence in which people placed humans or other objects in positions to share with Allah His sole right to be worshipped. Such practice unfortunately continues to the present; this is polytheism which is of two kinds. The first is greater idolatry which is committed by Muslims by performing deeds, such as slaughtering in the names of other persons or deities than Allah, or by adoring others in any form that will make them dearer than, or even equal to Allah the Almighty. The second is idolatry of a lesser degree which makes one's faith inferior, and which may sometimes place one outside of the Islamic faith. This applies to those taking oaths in the name of other persons or deities than Allah, or uttering words like, "by the life of so and so, or by the sun, moon or stars, etc."
Such polytheism has developed among people because they have distanced themselves from the Book of Allah and the Prophet's traditions. They are determined to imitate their ancestors even though they have strayed from the right path of Allah. They exalt some of the dead saints or pious people to the extent of worship. For example, they build shrines on these deceased saints' graves. All of this happens because such people are not aware of the facts of their religion, Islam. As Umar ibn AI-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) stated, "The bonds of Islam will indeed breakdown, one after the other, if one who has grown up in Islam has not known about the pre-Islamic paganism." Many people are misled due to circulation of various doubts of stories and heresies which they inadvertently consider as authentic evidences to justify their deeds. Some of these doubts are similar to those previously raised by idolaters of past people and generations. Here are some examples of such doubts and suspicions FIRST
: A common suspicion of past and contemporary people is that they have inherited these practices from their ancestors. About them, Allah the Almighty said, "Just in the same way, whenever We sent a Warner (i.e. a messenger who calls to the worship of Allah the Almighty) before you to any people, the wealthy ones among them said, "We found our fathers following a certain religion, and we will certainly follow in their footsteps." (38)
Those who cannot produce any proof for their plea resort to this type of invalid argument. That, of course, is reasonable. How can they be sure that their ancestors were right ? Then again, why should they blindly follow their ancestors' footsteps ? Allah Almighty said, "When it is said to them, follow what Allah has revealed, they say, No! We shall follow the way of our fathers. What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance"(39) Also, "Even if their fathers knew nothing and were astray?" (41) To follow the footsteps of fathers is commendable if they were on the right path. Concerning Joseph (peace be upon him), Allah, the Almighty said "And I follow the ways of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob : Never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah; that comes of the grace of Allah to us and to mankind, yet most men are ungrateful." (41) Allah also said, "And those who believe and whose families follow them in faith, to tiem shall We join their families." (42)
Suspicion was always raised by people in answer to the call of Prophets. The people replied to the call of Noah (peace be upon him), as we notice in the Holy Quran "We sent Noah to his people; he said, "O my people worship Allah, you have no other god but Him. Will you not fear Him ? The unbelievers among his people said, "He is no more than a man like yourselves; his wish is to assert his superiority over you If Allah had wished to send messengers, He could have sent down angels. Never did we hear such a thing as he says among our ancestors of old." (43)
The unbelievers wanted to take the practice of their ancestors against the commands of Allah which were presented to them by their Prophets (peace be upon them). As Allah the Almighty stated in the Holy Quran : The people of Saleh said, "Do you forbid us the worship of what our fathers worshipped?" (44) The people of Shu'aib said, as Allah pointed out in the Holy Quran "Does your religion of prayers command you that we leave whatever our forefathers used to worship?" (45) The people of Abraham, after they were silenced by argument, said, as stated in the Holy Quran "...We worship idols and we remain constantly in attendance on them. (Abraham) said, ‘Do they listen to you when you call on them or they do you good or harm?’ They said, Nay, but we found our fathers doing." (46) Pharoah said to Moses, as Allah demonstrated in the Holy Quran : "... What then is the condition of previous generations." (47)
Who were before you and did the same thing by following the footprints of their parents. Look what happened to them.Thus, unbelievers have been opposing the truth with weak and foolish arguments. SECOND
: A suspicion raised by the pagans of Quraish and others to justify their deeds of idolatry was the issue of divine predestination. Allah the Almighty said in the Holy Quran: "Those who give partners to Allah will say' If Allah had wished, we should not have given partners to Him, nor would our fathers, nor should we have had any taboos." (48)
In another verse, Allah the Almighty stated in the Holy Quran "The worshippers of false gods say' If Allah had so willed we should not have worshipped aught but Him, neither we nor our fathers, nor should we have prescribed prohibition other than His." (49)
Again in another verse, Allah the Almighty stated in the Holy Quran: "They say : If it had been the will of Allah, Most Gracious, we should not have worshipped such deities." (50)
Concerning the above verse (51) and concerning the predestination of man, Al-Hafiz Ibn Kathir, the well known scholar explained in his commentary of the Holy Quran, that Allah the Almighty detailed the suspicions of pagans. Commenting on their plea that Allah knows what they are doing, thus, they are predestined and have no control over their actions and that since Allah is capable of inspiring them with faith and preventmg them from associating partners with Him, but He did not do so, which indicated that Allah was pleased with their actions, Ibn Kathir said, "This is an invalid argument because if Allah had so willed, He would not have passed His wrath on them; He would also not have destroyed them or warned them of the severest punishment through His messengers who were sent to those particular people. Allah the Almighty said in the Holy Quran : "Do you have any knowledge that Allah is pleased with what you are doing ? If so (then you produce it) why are you hiding it ? You show it to Us. You are only following conjecture. This is only your imagination telling you those things (you are just telling lies)."
Ibn Kathir said (52) that the pagans' plea, that if Allah disliked what they were doing then He would have punished them and would not have enabled them to do so, was refuted as Allah said in the Holy Quran: "Our Messengers duty is only to convey the message clearly." The following verse of the Holy Quran presents some facts regarding that topic. He, the Almighty stated in the Holy Quran : "We assuredly sent among every people an apostle, (with the command) "Serve Allah and eschew evil" of the people (i.e. the refusing pagans) were some whom Allah guided and some on whom error were inevitably (established). So travel through the earth and see what was the end of those who denied the truth." (53)
So, it is evident that Allah the Almighty has conveyed to every people His disapproval of their deeds of idolatry through His apostles. All Prophets called their people to worship Allah Alone and to avoid evil.
When idolatry appeared among mankind with the people of Noah (peace be upon him ) , he came to his people with a clear message . Thereafter , Messengers of Allah continuously were sent until they ended with the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). His message was universalised for all jinn and mankind throughout the world and will last until the Day of Judgement. Allah the Almighty said in the Holy Quran: "Not an apostle did We send before you without this inspiration sent by Us to him : that there is no god but I, therefore worship and serve Me." (54) The Holy Quran also stated, "And question you Our apostle whom We sent before you. Did We appoint any deities other than Allah, Most Gracious, to be worshipped?" (55)
Moreover, the Holy Quran also stated : "We assuredly sent amongst every people an apostle (with the command) Serve Allah and eschew evil." (56)
How could it be, after all this that a pagan could dare to say, "If Allah willed we should not have adored anything except Him."! It is clear that Allah did not will it so because He forbade it through His Messengers. Their setting up partners to Him does not mean that they were predestined to it. Allah had given them freewill and they, themselves, chose to follow evil despite warnings by Allah and His Messengers of the severest punishment With these arguments, pagans do not mean to apologize because they think they are doing good, and that they are adoring deities to "draw them close to Allah." (57) Indeed their arguments are not meant for an excuse, but they are trying to prove that what they have been doing was legitimate, and that Allah was pleased with it. Allah the Almighty therefore refuted their arguments by saying that if it were so, then why did He send Messengers to convey His disapproval to them, and why were they then punished for it. THIRD
: A suspicion raised by pagans is that by merely uttering the testimony (There is no god but Allah), one is entitled to enter Paradise, even if he held others as equal to Allah and acted in aversion to the articles of faith. They argue so in the light of a Hadith (saying by the Holy Prophet) that "one who utters the testimony of faith, (There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah) is protected from the fires of hell." The reply to this suspicion is that the above saying of the Prophet refers to the person who uttered the testimony of faith without acting contrary to it until his death - the person who uttered it whole-heartedly and honestly, and rejected worshipping anything except Allah throughout his life will then be saved from the fires of hell." The Hadith narrated by Atban, states: "Allah has protected from the fire those who said" (There is no god but Allah) seeking only the pleasure of Allah" (58)
A Hadith narrated in the collection of Muslim stated, "A person who utters", (There is no god but Allah), and rejected deities, his wealth and blood become inviolable, and he is rewarded by Allah". (59)
In this Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) put forth two conditions for the protection of wealth and. blood : pronouncing (There is no god but Allah) and rejecting deities. The mere utterance of words is not enough, but it has to be substantiated by acting upon it. Pronouncement of (There is no god but Allah) will lead the believer to enter Paradise and be rescued from the fires of hell provided that all conditions of faith have been fulfilled and he has not acted in contradiction to them. AI-Hassan ( Allah's mercy be upon him ) was told that people who pronounced (There is no god but Allah) will enter Paradise. He said, whoever uttered: (There is no god Allah), and fulfilled its conditions, will enter Paradise. Wahb ibn Munabbih was asked Is "(There is no god but Allah) the key to Paradise?" He replied, "Yes indeed it is, but every key has teeth. So, if you bring the key with its teeth, Paradise will be opened for you; otherwise, it will not." Thus, we understand that the mere utterance of: (There is no god but Allah) is not enough to enter Paradise, particularly when we act contrarily by invoking the dead pious men or saints for instance, and failing to reject deities other than Allah the Almighty. FOURTH
: Pagans also claimed that no idolatry will take place among the people of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as long as they say 'There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah", and what they do in connection to the cult of the saints is not idolatry. First of all, it is wrong to assume that no idolatry will take place among the people of Muhammad. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that similarities to Jews and Christians will appear in the deeds of his people. We know that they have also adored their popes and monks the same as deities. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, "You will follow the ways of those who passed before you exactly in the same manner. Even if they enter the hole of a lizard, you will also enter it." They (his companions) said: "O, Messenger of Allah, do you mean Jews and Christians ?" He said, "Then, who else?" (60)
So the Prophet PBUH has informed us that among his people will be those who follow the previous people in their dogmas, manners and general characteristics. As idolatry was present in previous nations, it will also be found among people today. This has already happened, for we still hear of people adoring graves of pious men and saints in different manners and sacrifices are offered to them. The Prophet PBUH had also warned us that the Day of Resurrection would not come until a group from among his people joined idolaters and worshipped deities. (61)
Today, a number of false groups and destructive ideologies have emerged and led people out of the bounds of Islam. FIFTH
: They also argue on the basis of a Hadith which says, 'Certainly Satan has despaired from being adored by prayer holders in the Arabian Peninsula." Though the Hadith is sound, drawing a conclusion that idolatry would be impossible in the Arabian Peninsula would be incorrect. Ibn Rajab (Allah's mercy be upon him) said : "It means that Satan has despaired from the entire people falling into idolatry." The same interpretation has been given by Ibn Kathir in the meaning of the following Quranic verse : Today, the unbelievers have despaired at averting you from your religion." Grammatically, the Arabic verb for despair is in a transitive form which, in Arabic, demonstrates that Satan's despairing isa result of his own assumption, based on incorrect knowledge. Moreover, such an interpretation is contradicting the previously mentioned Prophetic traditions and also it is in contradiction in reality because we know that many Arabs turned away from Islam just after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). SIXTH
: Regarding the pagans' attachment to the issue of intercession, such claimers say, "We do not want virtuous people and saints to provide for our needs, but we want them to intercede with Allah for us because they are pious people and they have an honourable status with Allah the Almighty. Such people add that intercession is proven by a verse in the Holy Quran and the Prophetic traditions. In fact, this is the same argument presented earlier by the pagans in trying to justify their adherence to their deities. About them, Allah the Almighty has said in the Holy Quran "Those who take as protectors other than Allah, say we only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah." (62)
Furthermore, the Holy Quran has discussed the situation of such claimers as in the verse "They serve, besides Allah, things that neither hurt them nor profit them. And they say : these are our intercessors with Allah." (63)
Although intercession is authentic and valid, it is an attribute of Allah alone as He stated in the Holy Quran "Say : To Allah belongs exclusively (the right to grant) intercession. To Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth." (65)
Therefore, intercession should be sought from Allah alone, and not from the graves of the pious dead and saints. Allah the Almighty has informed us about the two essential conditions for granting intercession. One concerns the intercessor. Allah has said in the Holy Quran "Who is there who can intercede in His presence except as He permits." (65) The second condition is that intercession may only be sought for a person who is a true believer who has never set up partners with Allah and with whom Allah is pleased. Allah has said in the Holy Quran "And they offer no intercession except for those who are acceptable." (66)
Also, He the Almighty has stated in the Holy Quran "No matter how many the angels are in the heavens, their intercession will avail nothing except after Allah has given leave for whom He pleases and that he is acceptable to Him." (67)
Moreover, Allah the Almighty has so stated in the Holy Quran "On that Day shafl no intercession avail except for those for whom permission has been granted by ( Allah ) Most Gracious and whose word is acceptable to Him." (68)
It is clear from the above verses that Allah has not granted the right of intercession in His presence to any one from among the angels, prophets or deities because it is His exclusive right, and it can be solicited only for Him. Allah the Almighty has said in the Holy Quran "To Allah belongs exclusively (the right to grant) intercession " (69)
Allah alone grants permission for intercession. Without His permission, no one will dare come forward to intercede in His presence. The matter is not like what happens among our people in that intercessors may approach even if they have no permission, and their intercession may be accepted against one's will if the intercessor is an influential person and can prevail. But such can-not be the case with Allah because Allah is under pressure from no one. Everyone seeks His pleasure, so one cannot present anything against Allah's rules. Man's knowledge does not comprehend everything about Allah's creatures, and, thus, he is not allowed to interfere. Allah's knowledge about His people is comprehensive and all inclusive. Therefore, He does not need anyone to inform Him about anything or recommend to Him what to do. In fact, the reality of intercession with Allah is that Allah wants to forgive certain lapses of His true servants. So, Allah grants this forgiveness through prayers by those who have permission to intercede as an honour. SEVENTH
: Another suspicion concerns the status of virtuous people and saints whom Allah has raised in dignity. Allah has said in the Holy Quran "Behold! Verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, or shall they grieve. Those who believe and constantly guard against evil. For them are glad tidings in this life and the hereafter." (70) Thus, to be devoted to the items and ask their blessings is, in fact, an expression of love for them. Similarly, because of their exalted rank, one may seek to become nearer to Allah.
In order to clarify these suspicions, we should know that all believers are the friends of Allah. Their friendship with Allah the Almighty will depend on the strength of their belief and their good deeds, but to specifically designate an individual as Allah's friend requires evidence from the Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions. If such a case is supported by Quranic proofs, then it may be accepted ; without such proofs no one can be designated as such with certainty. Hopefully, every true believer will be a friend of Allah. If a particular individual, upon support of Quranic proofs, is from among lah's friends, then his status should not be exaggerated to excess. Such acts may lead to idolatry and, therefore, are prohibited. Good people should be imitated in deed and action, but exaggeration of their status may lead to a deification as it did in the case of the people of Noah. Allah, and the Prophet, warned about excessive exaltation of virtuous people in several verses. Allah said in the Holy Quran "Say : O people of the Book (i.e. Jews and Chris-tians) exceed not the proper bounds in your religion." (71)
Also, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said "Do not exalt me as Christians did with Mary's son. Verily, I am a human, so call be servant of Allah and His prophet." (72) In addition, Guardian Lord said in the Holy Quran "Invoke Me, I will answer your call." (73) Also he said, "When My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me." (74)
He, he Almighty also said in the Holy Quran "Call on your Lord with humility and in private." (75) And "Call on your Lord with devotion" (76)
All of the above verses from the Holy Quran emphasize invocation of Allah directly without any mediation. Virtuous people and saints, them-selves, need the mercy of Allah. Allah has said in the Holy Quran "Those whom they call upon, do desire for themselves means of access to their Lord. Even those who are nearest, they hope for His mercy and fear His wrath." (77)
In the interpretation of the above verse, Ibn Abbas has said that the prophet had asserted that they adored angels, Christ and Azra. The above verse was revealed as refutation to the Jews' and Christians' false thinking. This verse emphasized that angels, who were adored by people, would themselves seek access to Allah, desire His mercy and fear His wrath. Such a creature can certainly never be invoked with Allah. (78) Ibn Taimiyah (may Allah's mercy be upon him) said that the above verse concerns all those who are taken as deities and who are themselves adorers and worshippers of Allah whether they are from among the angels, jinn or humans. This verse is addressed to all people who invoke anyone or anything which, by itself, seeks access to Allah, desires His mercy and fears His wrath. The context of this verse also includes those who invoke deceased saints or someone who is not present from the apostles or saints in the same context as those who call upon angels or jinns.(79) EIGHTH
: From the following verses, the idolaters deduce the permissibility of seeking mediators between themselves and Allah. The Almighty stated in the Holy Quran "O you who believe, do your duty to Allah and seek the means of approach to Him." (80) He the Almighty also stated in the Holy Quran "Those whom they call upon, do desire for themselves means of access to their Lord. Even those who are nearest.." (81) In fact, these verses mean that one can have access to Allah by good deeds, and not through mediation of Prophets or saints as they erroneously understand. One action is permitted, while the other is prohibited. Permissible cases include
1. Seeking access to Allah by his beautiful names. Allah the Almighty has said, "The most beautiful names belong to Allah. So call on Him by them." (82) Muslims may ask Allah by His own names and attributes to fulfil one's needs.
2. Seeking access to Allah by showing one's need and desire for Him. As prophet Job (Allah's peace be on him) said, "Truly distress has seized me. But You are the most merciful of those who are merciful." (83) And as Zakariya (Allah's peace be on him) said, "O my Lord! Infirm indeed are my bones and the hair of my head is glistening. But never am I unblessed, my Lord, in my prayer to You." (84) And as Zun-nun the Prophet (peace be upon him) exclaimed, "No god but You, glory to You. I was indeed wrong." (85)
3. Seeking access to Allah with good deeds as Allah has said, "Our Lord! we have heard the call of one calling us to faith, Believe you in the Lord, and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and blot out from us our iniquities." (86) This is also illustrated in the Hadith regarding the three individuals who were trapped by a rock. They invoked Allah by their good deeds and were released. (87)
This is the sort of mediation mentioned in the above verses concerning seeking access to Allah by good deeds.
4. Seeking access to Allah by the prayer of living pious people, i.e., you might visit a pious man and ask him to pray Allah on your behalf. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said to some of his companions , "O, my brother, remember me when you pray to Allah." (88) The companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with him) also used to request the Prophet (peace be upon him) to pray Allah for them. Similarly, they used to request prayers from each other.
As for the invocation of a medium, which is prohibited, it means seeking favour from the dead pious men or saints or invoking the living for one's needs. It is forbidden because this may eventually lead to greater idolatry. For instance, to say, "O Allah I invoke you by the name of so-and-so (dead or living)," or to say, "O, Allah provide me for my need by the virtue of so-and-so (dead or living)" is forbidden. Adoring that medium or offering sacrifices to him is undoubtedly idolatrous as in the case of slaughtering an animal for a saint, making offerings to his shrine or invoking him for help or assistance in any form. We pray Allah to enlighten the Muslims in their religion, support them against their enemies and guide them to the right path. NINTH
: A contention of the idolaters is also indicated through their attachment to some controversial Prophetic traditions. They assume that these traditions provide evidence for legitimacy of their wrong-doings. They quote one Hadith from the book of Tirmidhi, (89) narrated by Uthman ibn Hanif. He related that a blind man came to the Prophet and asked him to pray Allah to cure him The Prophet told him, "If you wish, I will pray for you, but if you have patience, that will be better for you." The blind man insisted that the Prophet pray for him, so the Prophet asked him to make ablution properly and to say the following prayer : "O, Allah, I invoke You through Your Apostle, Muhammad, the Apostle of mercy, whom I approached to pray to my Guardian-Lord to fulfill my need. O, Allah, accept his mediation for me."
According to the book of Tirmidhi, this Hadith is good and correct, but we do not know of its narration except through Abu Jafar who is other than AI-Khatmi. However, even if the Hadith is correct, it is not a point of argument in this discussion because the blind man requested the Prophet to pray for him. He then invoked Allah with his own prayer in the presence of the Prophet, which is permissible. One is allowed to request a living person to pray for him.
There is no indication of invoking the dead or others for mediation, which we stress at this point is forbidden. In the case of the blind man, he was asked by the Prophet to pray Allah to accept the prophet's intercession for him in praying Allah for a cure. Therefore, this Hadith does not prove permissibility of mediation or invoking the dead or other saints, which is the focus of this discussion. They (the idolaters) also make inference from a false and fabricated Hadith which says, "The prophet (peace be upon him) said, 'Seek access to Allah with my rank, because my rank with Allah is highly exalted" This Hadith is fabricated and is a lie against the prophet (peace be upon him) as confirmed by Ibn Taimiyah (Allah's mercy be on him). (90) TENTH
The claimers of such permission of intercession also depend on tales and dreams. They say that so-and-so, for instance, came to the shrine of so-and-so and saw something in a dream. One of their famous dreams is that Atabi said, "I was sitting by the grave of the Prophet when a Bedoum came and said Peace of Allah be on you, O Apostle of Allah. Then he added, Allah has said in the Holy Quran, "If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto you and asked Allah's forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful." (91) I have therefore come to you to request your mediation with my Guardian-Lord for granting me forgiveness. Then he read his composition as follows
The best and the greatest of men is buried in this ground, the hills and plains of which have come pleasant and sweet. My soul be sacrificed for the grave you are dwelling in. It contains purity, nobility and generosity. Atabi continued to tell us about what happened after the bedoum had gone back. He said, "I fell asleep and saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) in my dream saying to me, "O Atabi, follow the Bedouin and convey to him the good news that Allah has granted him forgiveness."
In the first place, tales and dreams do not stand as evidence for matters pertaining to ideology commands and decrees of Allah require authoritative evidence from divine sources. Secondly, the meaning of the above verse from the Holy Quran concerns one who came to the Holy Prophet during his life time and not after his death. It is evident here that no one of the companions of the Prophet or the true followers in later generations ever came to the Prophet's grave to request his mediation for forgiveness. If such visits to the Prophet's grave had been permissible, then the companions of the Prophet would have indeed done so due to their diligence in following his commands. ELEVENTH
: The idolators also argue that. certain persons received fulfillment of their desires (it certain shrines, or through the virtue of certain pious men or saints. In fact even if we assume that some people could have their needs fulfilled through rheans of idolatry, this would not lead us to conclude that such things have become permissible. That one's wish was granted at the time that he invoked a certain pious person may be purely coincidental; since we know that all that comes to us is a result of Allah's will alone. A mere coincidence, if any, does not make things forbidden by Allah the Almighty permissible. Clearly, idolators do not have any evidence to justify their wrong doings. Allah has said in the Holy Quran "If any one invokes, besides Allah, any other god, he has no authority therefore." (92)
So, idolaters have no evidence or proof, while the Oneness of Allah is based up on absolute proofs and very clear evidence. Allah the Almighty has said in the Holy Quran "Is there a doubt about Allah, the creator of the heavens and the earth." (93)
He the Almighty has also said in the Holy Quran "O, you people, adore your Guardian-Lord who created you and those who came before you that you may have a chance to learn righteousness. Who had made the earth your couch and the heavens your canopy, and sent down rains from the heavens and brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance. Then set not up rivals unto Allah when you know the truth." (94) TWELFTH
: Extremist mystics and their followers say that idolatry is the love of the worldly life and the yearning to attain its pleasure. In fact, with such argument, they intend to hide their own greater idolatry which is reflected in their veneration of graves and the cults of their saints. As far as the yearning for material life is concerned, it is rewardable as lg as it is within the limits which have been set by Allah and it is encouraged for the purpose of obtaining sustenance to continue in the worship of Allah the Almighty. To continue Insha Allah