Intercession – Tawassul

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

Intercession – Tawassul

Intercession – Tawassul

Is it true, as some people say, that tawassul or “seeking means” through the Prophet and the awliya’ such as seeking their intercession is not necessary nor a priority in Islam, because Allah said that He is near and answers whoever calls Him directly?
What about the statement in al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ according to the `Aqeedah of the Salaf whereby among the “ten actions that negate Islam” is “relying on an intermediary between oneself and Allah when seeking intercession”?
What about those who compare tawassul and asking intercession to the Christian worship of Jesus and the saints, those who reject tabarruk bi al-athar — getting blessings from the Prophet’s relics — as being outside Islam, and those who put limitations on invoking salawat — blessings and peace — on the Prophet?
And what about Albani’s claims that tawassul is not through the person of the Prophet even after his time, but through his du`a and only in his lifetime?

Table of Content

Introduction

The Proofs for Intercession (Shafa`a) in Islam

What is the meaning of Intercession?

Proof-texts of intercession in the Qur’an and Hadith

  1. Linguistic definitions
  2. Statement of the Doctrine of Intercession in Islam and the Obligations of Belief Therein
  3. Proofs of intercession and mediation in the Qur’an
  4. Proofs of intercession/mediation in the Hadith
  5. Overview of the events of the Last Day at the stage of intercession

Seeking means (tawassul) through the Prophet

Tawassul through the Awliya’

Intermediaries to Allah are integral to true belief

Shaykh Salih al-Na`man’s fatwa on Tawassul

Fatwa of Shaykh Suhayl al-Zabibi

Fatwa of Mustafa ibn Ahmad al-Hasan al-Shatti al-Hanbali al-Athari al-Dimashqi (1856-1929 C.E)

Repudation of those who compare asking intercession to the Christian worship of Jesus and the saints

Darud Taj: Invocation of blessing upon the Prophet known as “Invocation of the Crown”

Other Invocations of blessings and Peace Upon the Prophet

Answers to those who reject getting blessings from the Prophet’s relics (Tabarruk bi al-athar) as being outside Islam

  1. Basics
  2. The Companions’ Seeking of Blessings With the Prophet’s Person and His Relics
    1. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s hair and nails
    2. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s sweat
    3. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s saliva and ablution water
    4. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s cup
    5. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s minbar
    6. Tabarruk with money the Prophet gave away
    7. Tabarruk with the Prophet’ s staffs
    8. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s shirt
    9. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s musallas or places of prayer
    10. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s grave
    11. Tabarruk with the Prophet’s jubba (robe or cloak)
    12. Tabarruk with spots and people the Prophet had touched
    13. Tabarruk with the soil and vegetation of Madina
    14. Tabarruk with his Holy Hand and Feet
    15. Tabarruk From His Blessed Skin
    16. Tabarruk with places the Prophet visited
    17. The Prophet’s sandals

Introduction

Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, and Blessings and Peace of Allah upon His Prophet and Messenger Muhammad, his Family and all his Companions. There is not one single act of worship in Islam that is not a tawassul (seeking means to Allah), therefore it is inadmissible to say that tawassul is not an integral and central part of Islam.

Tawassul is the very heart of Islam, and the shahada contains a declaration of belief in tawassul: for one cannot be a Muslim unless one recognizes the messengership and prophethood of Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him, and of all Prophets, although the goal is Allah alone Who said: “I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me” (51:56). Therefore this is seeking an obligatory means to an obligatory end. The pillars of Islam similarly all consist in actions which are a means of intercession before Allah for their doer.

Intercession is the greatest means as it will be only through intercession that the people of the fire will enter Paradise, and Allah even called Himself “Intercessor” in the verse: “You have not, beside Him, a protecting friend or mediator” (32:4) and in the long hadith narrated by Muslim whereby the Prophet said:

Allah will say: “The angels have interceded. The Prophets have interceded. The believers have interceded. There does not remain except the Most Merciful of the merciful ones.”

The Prophet also called the Qur’an an intercessor, declared that people were intercessors, and gave as an example the intercession of children for the parents who lost them in their infancy. We ask for the intercession of the dead person every time we pray janaza, when we say: allahumma la tuhrimna ajrahum which means “O Allah, do not prevent their benefit from reaching us.” Allah declares that the best people are the Prophets, then those who are absolutely truthful (siddiqin) and these are the great saints, then the martyrs (shuhada), then the righteous (salihin), and the Prophet declared that every person will be making intercession on the Day of resurrection, but with an order of priority among them, just as Allah gives precedence in this world to those who are closest to Him. All this is a great blessing of Allah to the worlds and the reason why we are greatly blessed on this earth despite our sins. For the earth is never empty of the true worshippers and there is still someone left saying “Allah.” If you realize this, you will never harbor doubts about Muslims availing themselves of the blessings and guidance that Allah sends to them in the persons of the anbiya’ and awliya’.

Nor do we believe that the friendship with Allah established in nubuwwa and wilaya stops with death. We strenuously reject the heresy of those who claim that the Prophet is dead and gone after delivering his message. Hasha, wa ta`ala Allahu `amma yasifun. He is alive and fed, our greetings reach him, our actions are shown to him, he intercedes for us, and the dust of his grave is the most blessed spot on earth for which no show of love and honor is too great. No-one who has love in their heart approaches it without adab. It is the responsibility of every Muslim to ascertain what is correct from what is wrong, and tawassul is correct, recommended, and one of the greatest means of drawing close to Allah, first and foremost through the Prophet. This is the position of the overwhelming majority of the scholars until our own times except for a handful of dissenters.

Tawassul is not a luxury for the rich, and its validity is not determined by circumstance, analogy, or personal feelings but by solid, known legal proofs and the practice of the righteous early generations. It is not a matter of procedure and scholarship but one of sound belief. Dislike for asking for the Prophet’s help displays arrogance with Allah’s greatest mercy, dislike for the Prophet, pride, and a diseased heart. May Allah protect us from it at all times, especially in our time which is the time of fear of declaring love for our Prophet and that of rampant disaffection towards him. As for tawassul with the saints, no-one can claim that they know Allah better than the Prophet, and no-one can claim that they know the Prophet better than the Friends of Allah. What then is the status of one who would stop seeking their company and asking for their help and guidance?

THE PROOFS FOR INTERCESSION (SHAFA`A) IN ISLAM

In Islam every action of a believer is an intercessor, and the Prophet has told us that the Qur’an also will intercede for us on the Day of resurrection, while he himself is the greatest intercessor other than Allah. According to Shari`a even the involuntary good action of the greatest apostate intercedes for him and profits him, as established by what is related in Bukhari whereby Abu Lahab freed his slave Thawbiyya on the day the Prophet was born and that subsequently his punishment in the grave is diminished every Monday. Scholars have quoted this hadith to highlight the importance of praising the Prophet in that even non-believers benefit from the intercession of their own actions that denote his praise — even unintentional. Two examples of such scholars are the hafiz of Syria and supporter of Ibn Taymiyya, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Qaysi, known as Nasir al-Din al-Dimashqi (777-842) in his several books on the praiseworthiness of Mawlid, among them Jami` al-athar fi mawlid al-nabi al-mukhtar (The compendium of reports concerning the birth of the Chosen Prophet), al-Lafz al-ra’iq fi mawlid khayr al-khala’iq (The shining expressions for the birth of the Best of Creation) and Mawrid al-sadi bi mawlid al-nabi al-hadi (The continuous spring: the birth of the Guiding Prophet) and the hafiz Shams al-Din al-Jazari in his book `Urf al-ta`rif bi al-mawlid al-sharif (The beneficient communication of the Noble Birth of the Prophet).

Another principle of that hadith is that the benefit of intercession takes place before Resurrection.

Whether persons other than the Prophet are intercessors as well the answer is: yes, since the Prophet has explicitly declared it in many sound hadiths which quote below, among them the following:

More people than the collective tribes of Banu Tamim shall enter Paradise due to the intercession of one man from my Community.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah, is it other than you?” He said: “Other than me.”

The belief in the Prophet’s intercession and that of other than he is obligatory in Islam. It is stated clearly in the `Aqida tahawiyya of Imam al-Tahawi, in Ghazali’s al-Iqtisad and the chapter on `aqida in his Ihya’, in the works of al-Ash`ari, and even in the `Aqida wasitiyya of Ibn Taymiyya. These intercessors are a mercy from Allah and it is an obligation and an order for mankind to seek out Allah’s mercy.

The seeking of intercession has two effects: one is immediate, in increasing the faith of the person and availing him all sorts of benefits in the world; the other is delayed until Resurrection.

About the statement in al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ whereby among the “ten actions that negate Islam” is “relying on an intermediary between oneself and Allah when seeking intercession” then the speciousness of the statement is obvious, since the meaning of intercessis intermediary. How can one at the same time seek an intermediary and refrain from relying on him? This would not be the act of a believer but of a duplicitous person. Besides language and logic it is clear in the hadith of the Great Intercession that the people seek intercessors among the Prophets until they come to the Seal of Prophets seeking to rely upon him for intercession, and he confirms to them that he is able to fulfill their request. This is one of the matters which the Prophet boasted about in the hadith “I have been given five things…” What then is the import of reducing it to an “action that negates Islam” other than to reduce the status of the Prophet himself and of his intercession?

Allah has created intercession as He has created everything else: out of mercy; He also said: “My Mercy encompasses all things” (7:156). No doubt His greatest Mercy is the Prophet, concerning whom He said “We did not send you save as a Mercy to the Worlds” (21:107). Belief in the Prophet’s intercession is tied into the witnessing to the truth he brought and the recognition by the believers of his right as Allah’s greatest mercy. The angels intercede according to Qur’an, yet the Prophet is nearer to Allah than the nearest among them. No-one will speak on the Day of Judgment except those who have permission, and it has come in authentic hadith that Allah gave permission to the Prophet. The Prophet will not be saying “I and Myself” but will be saying: ummati, ummati “My Community!” and that is intercession which, unless it is reliable, cannot be hoped for nor looked forward to. Is this not what “Salafis” try to suggest?

Intercession in no way diminishes the fact that everything is under Allah’s sovereignty. However, Allah created secondary causes and means, and He has said: “Seek the means to Allah.” Intercession is but one of those means and not the smallest. The fact that the Prophet said that to utter la ilaha illallah from the heart guaranteed his intercession, implies that there is immense good in his intercession, for what would we wish for in addition to the benefit brought by uttering the kalima, if such addition were not to be prized immensely?

That is why sincere love of the Prophet and of pious people is of a tremendous benefit, as one hopes thereby to be loved back, and the Prophet said to the Arab who had prepared nothing for the Final Hour other than love for Allah and His Prophet: yuhshar al-mar’ ma` man ahabb, “One is raised in the company of those he loves,” and the Companions who were present said this was the happiest day of their lives for hearing this promise. All this implies reliance, and contradicts the assertion of the book al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ whereby “relying on an intermediary between oneself and Allah when seeking intercession negates Islam.”

The asking of intercession from the intercessor, as the asking of du`a from a pious Muslim, in no way implies that the person who asks believes any good can come apart from Allah. In effect he is asking Allah, but he is using the means that Allah put at his disposal, including the intercession of those who may be closer than him to Allah. To refuse to believe that other than us may be closer than us to Allah is the sin of Iblis.

Imam Ghazali said in the section on doctrine of his Ihya’:

It is obligatory to believe in the intercession of first the prophets, then religious scholars, then martyrs, then other believers, the intercession of each one commensurate with his rank and position with Allah Most High.

The Shi`i scholar al-Tabata’i wrote the following on the meaning of intercession in his Commentary on Qur’an:

What is the meaning of Intercession?

al-shafa`a (intercession) is derived from al-shaf` which means “even” as opposed to odd, since the interceder adds his own recommendation to the plea of the petitioner; in this way the number of pleaders becomes even, and the weak plea of the petitioner is strengthened by the prestige of the intercessor. We are accustomed in our social and communal life to seek others’ intercession and help for fulf1lling our needs.

We resort to it to get an advantage or to ward off a disadvantage. Here we are not talking about an advantage or a disadvantage, a benefit or a harm that is caused by natural causes, like hunger and thirst, heat or cold, illness or health; because in such cases we get what we want through natural remedies, like eating and drinking, wearing clothes, getting treatment and so on. What we are talking here about is the benefit and harm, punishment and reward resulting from the social laws made by civil authorities.

From the nature of the relationship of mastership-and-servitude, and for that matter, between every ruler and ruled, rise some commandments, orders and prohibitions; one who follows and obeys them is praised and rewarded, and the one who disobeys is condemned and punished; that reward or punishment may be either material or spiritual. When a master orders his servant to do or not to do a thing, and the servant obeys him he gets its reward; and if he disobeyes he is punished. Whenever a rule is made, the punishment for its infringement is laid down too. This is the foundation which all authorities are built upon.

When a man wants to get a material or spiritual benefit but is not suitably qualified for it; or when he desires to ward off a harm which is coming to him because of his disobedience, but has no shield to protect himself, then comes the time for intercession.

In other words, when he wants to get a reward without doing his task, or to save himself from punishment without performing his duty, then he looks for someone to intercede on his behalf. But intercession is effective only if the person for whom one intercedes is otherwise qualified to get the reward and has already established a relationship with the authority. If an ignorant person desires appointment to a prestigious academic post, no intercession can do him any good; nor can it avail in case of a rebellious traitor who shows no remorse for his misdeeds and does not submit to the lawful authorities. It clearly shows that intercession works as a supplement to the cause; it is not an independent cause.

The effect of an intercessor’s words depends on one or the other factor which may have some influence upon the concerned authority; in other words, intercession must have a solid ground to stand upon. The intercessor endeavours to find a way to the heart of the authority concerned, in order that the said authority may give the reward to, or waive the punishment of, the person who is the subject of intercession. An intercessor does not ask the master to nullify his mastership or to release the servant from his servitude; nor does he plead with him to refrain from laying down rules and regulations for his servants or to abrogate his commandments (either generally or especially in that one case), in order to save the wrong-doer from the due consequences; nor does he ask him to discard the canon of reward and punishment, (either generally or in that particular case). In short, intercession can interfere with neither the institution of mastership and servantship nor the master’s authority to lay down the rules; nor can it effect the system of reward and punishment. These three factors are beyond the jurisdiction of intercession.

What an intercessor does is this: He accepts the inviolability of the above mentioned three aspects. Then he looks at one or more of the following factors and builds his intercession on that basis:

He appeals to such attributes of the master as give rise to forgiveness, e.g., his nobility, magnanimity and generosity.

He draws attention to such characteristics of the servant as justify mercy and pardon, e.g., his wretchedness, poverty, low status and misery.

He puts at stake his own prestige and honour in the eyes of the master.

Thus, the import of intercession is like this: I cannot and do not say that you should forget your mastership over your servant or abrogate your commandment or nullify the sysof reward and punishment. What I ask of you is to forgive this defaulting servant of yours because you are magnanimous and generous, and because no harm would come to you if you forgive his sins; and/or because your servant is a wretched creature of low status and steeped in misery; and it is befitting of a master like you to ignore the faults of a slave like him; and/or because you have bestowed on me a high prestige, and I implore you to forgive and pardon him in honour of my intercession.

The intercessor, in this way, bestows precedence on the factors of forgiveness and pardon over those of legislation and recompense. He removes the case from the latter’s jurisdiction putting it under former’s influence. As a result of this shift, the consequences of legislation (reward and punishment) do not remain applicable. The effect of intercession is, therefore, based on shifting the case from the jurisdiction of reward and punishment to that of pardon and forgiveness; it is not a confrontation between one cause (divine legislation) and the other (intercession).

By now it should be clear that intercession too is one of the causes; it is the intermediate cause that connects a distant cause to its desired effect.

Allah is the ultimate Cause. This causality shows itself in two ways:

First: In creation: Every cause begins from Him and ends up to Him; He is the first and the final Cause. He is the real Creator and Originator. All other causes are mere channels to carry His boundless mercy and limitless bounty to His creatures.

Second: In legislation: He, in His mercy, established a contact with His creatures; He laid down the religion, sent down His commandments, and prescribed suitable reward and appropriate punishment for His obedient and disobedient servants; He sent prophets and apostles to bring us good tidings and to warn us of the consequences of transgression. The prophets and apostles conveyed to us His message in the best possible way. Thus His proof over us was complete: “and the word of your Lord has been accomplished with truth and justice, there is none to change His words” (6:115).

Both aspects of causality of Allah may be, and in fact are, related to intercession:

  1. Intercession in creation: Quite obviously the intermediary causes of creation are the conduits that bring the divine mercy, life, sustenance and other bounties to the creatures; and as such they are intercessors between the Creator and the created. Some Qur’anic verses too are based on this very theme: whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission (2:255); Surely your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six periods, and He is firmly established on throne, regulating the affair; there is no intercessor except after His permission (10:3).

    Intercession in the sphere of creation is only the intermediation of causes between the Creator and the created thing and effect in bringing it into being and regulating its affairs.

  2. Intercession in legislation: Intercession, as analysed earlier, is effective in this sphere too. It is in this context that Allah says: On-that day shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent God allows and whose word He is pleased with (20:109); And intercession will not avail aught with Him save of him whom He permits (34:23); And how many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession does not avail at all except after Allah has given permission to whom He pleases and chooses (53:26); … and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves … (21:28); And those whom they call upon besides Him have no authority for intercession, but he who bears witness of the truth and they know (him) (43:86).

These verses clearly affirm intercessory role for various servants of Allah, both men and angels, with divine permission and pleasure. It means that Allah has given them some power and authority in this matter, and to Him belongs all the kingdom and all the affairs. Those intercessors may appeal to Allah’s mercy, forgiveness and other relevant attributes to cover and protect a servant who otherwise would have desened punishment because of his sins and transgressions. That intercession would transfer his case from the general law of recompense to the special domain of grace and mercy. (It has already been explained that the effect of intercession is based on shifting a case from the former’s to the latter’s jurisdiction; it is not a confrontation between one law and the other.) Allah clearly says: … so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones (25:70).

Allah has the power to change one type of deed into other, in the same way as He may render an act null and void. He says: “And We will proceed to what they have done of deeds, so We shall render them as scattered floating dust” (25:23); … “so He rendered their deeds null” (47:9); “If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden, We will expiate from you your sins” (4:31); “Surely Allah does not forgive that any thing should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases” (4:48).

The last quoted verse is certainly about the cases other than true belief and repentance, because with belief and repentance even polytheism is forgiven, like any other sin. Also Allah may nurture a small deed to make it greater than the original: “These shall be granted their reward twice” (28:54); “Whoever brings a good deed, he shall have ten like it” (6:160). Likewise, He may treat a nonexistent deed as existing: “And (as for) those who believe and their offsping follow them in faith, We will unite with them their offspring and We will not diminish to them aught of their work; every man is responsible for what he has done” (52:21) .

To make a long story short, Allah does what He please, and decrees as He wills. Of course, He does so pursuant to His servants’ interest, and in accordance with an intermediary cause, and intercession of the intercessors (e.g., the Prophets, the Friends of Allah and those who are nearer to Him) is one of those causes, and certainly no rashness or injustice is entailed therein. It should have been clear by now that intercession, in its true sense, belongs to Allah only; all His attributes are intermediaries between Him and His creatures and are the channels through which His grace, mercy and decrees pass to the creatures; He is the real and all-encompassing intercessor: “Say: Allah’s is the intercession altogether” (39:44); … “you have not besides Him any guardian or any intercessor” (32:4); … “there is no guardian for them nor any intercessor besides Him” (6: 51). Intercessors other than Allah only get that right by His permission, by His authority.

In short, intercession with Him is a confirmed reality in all cases where it does not go against the divine glory and honour.

Proof-texts of intercession in the Qur’an and Hadith

  1. Linguistic definitions

    Shafa`a is the Arabic noun for intercession or mediation or asking forgiveness from Allah for someone else. The word is used also in laying a petition before a king, interceding for a debtor, and in judicial procedure:

    “Whoso makes a righteous intercession shall partake of the good that ensues therefrom, and whoso makes an evil intercession will bear the consequence thereof” (4:85);

    “He who by his intercession invalidates one of Allah’s hudud (laws concerning transgressions) is challenging (tahadda) Allah” (Bukhari, Anbiya’ ch. 54).

    He who makes intercession is called sh®fi` and shaf`.

  2. Statement of the Doctrine of Intercession in Islam and the Obligations of Belief Therein

    Hujjat al-Islam Imam Ghazali said:

    It is obligatory to believe in the intercession of first the prophets, then religious scholars, then martyrs, then other believers, the intercession of each one commensurate with his rank and position with Allah MHigh.

    [Cf. “Allah Himself is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning too are witness” (3:18) and “Whoso obey Allah and the Messenger, they are with those unto whom Allas has shown favor, of the Prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they!” (4:69).]

    Any believer remaining in hell without intercessor shall be taken out of it by the favor of Allah, no one who believes remaining in it forever, and anyone with an atom’s weight of faith in his heart will eventually depart from it.

  3. Proofs of intercession and mediation in the Qur’an

In the Holy Qur’an intercession is:

  1. negated in relation to the unbelievers,
  2. established categorically as belonging to Allah,
  3. further defined as generally permitted for others than Allah by His permission,
  4. further specified as permitted for the angels on behalf of whomever Allah wills,
  5. explicitly attributed to the Prophet in his lifetime,
  6. alluded to in reference to the Prophet in the afterlife, and
  7. alluded to in reference to the generality of the prophets and the believers in the afterlife.

3.a) The Day of Judgment is described as a day on which no intercession will be accepted from the Children of Israel (2:48) or the unbelievers generally speaking (2:254), or the idolaters (10:18, 74:48):

- 2:48: “And guard yourselves against a day when no soul will avail

another, nor intercession be accepted from it”;

- 2:254: “O believers, spend of that wherewith We have provided you before a day come when there will be no trafficking, nor friendship, nor intercession. The disbelievers, they are the wrong-doers.”

- 10:19: “They worship beside Allah that which neither hurteth them nor profiteth them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah.”

- 74:48: “The mediation of no mediators will avail them then.”

3.b) In absolute terms intercession belongs to Allah alone:

- 39:43-44: “Or choose they intercessors other than Allah? Say: What! Even though they have power over nothing and have no intelligence? Say: the intercession belongs to Allah.”

3.c) A further definition that “Intercession belongs to Allah” is that intercession is actually permitted to others than Allah but only by His permission:

- 2:255: “Who should intercede with him, except by his permission?”

- 10:4: “There is no intercessor save after His permission.”

- 19:87: “They will have no power of intercession, save him who has made a covenant with his Lord.”

- 43:86: “And those unto whom they cry instead of Him possess no power of intercession, except him who beareth witness unto the truth knowingly.”

3.d) Angels are permitted to intercede for whomever Allah wills, specifically among the believers:

- 21:26-28: “And they say: the Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son… Nay, but honored slaves [angels]… and they cannot intercede except for him whom He accepteth, and they quake for awe of Him.”

- 40:7: “Those who bear the Throne, and all who are round about it… ask forgiveness for those who believe.”

- 42:5: “The angels hymn the praise of their Lord and ask forgiveness for those on the earth.”

3.e) The intercession of the Prophet in his lifetime is explicitly and frequently established:

- 3:159: “Pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs.”

- 4:64: “And if, when they had wronged themselves, they had but come unto thee and asked forgiveness of Allah, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah forgiving, merciful.”

- 4:106-107: “And ask forgiveness of Allah (for others). Allah is ever forgiving, merciful. And plead not on behalf of those who deceive themselves.”

- 8:33: “But Allah would not punish them while thou wast with them, nor will He punish them while they seek forgiveness.”

- 9:80, 84: “Ask forgiveness for them (the hypocrites) or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them… And never pray for one of them who dieth, nor stand by his grave.”

- 9:103: “Pray for them. Lo! thy prayer is an assuagement for them.”

- 9:113: “It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire.”

- 24:62: “If they ask thy leave for some affair of theirs, give leave to whom thou wilt of them, and ask for them forgiveness of Allah.”

- 47:19: “Know that there is no god save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women.”

- 60:12: “Accept their [believing women’s] allegience and ask Allah to forgive them.”

- 63:5-6: “And when it is said unto them: Come! the messenger of Allah will ask forgiveness for you! they [the hypocrites] avert their faces and thou seest them turning away, disdainful. Whether thou ask forgiveness for them or ask not forgiveness for them, Allah will not forgive them.”

3.f) The intercession and mediation of the Prophet on the Day of

Judgment has been established by the consensus of scholars (ijma`) and is an article of belief in Islam as stated in section (2). The Mu`tazili heresy rejected it, as they held that the man who enters the Fire will remain there forever. The consensus of scholars is based on the principle of permission (see the verses in section (3.c) above), on the allusive verses in the present section, and on the more explicit hadiths quoted further below:

- 17:79: “It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a Praised Station.”

- 93:5: “And verily thy Lord will give unto thee so that thou wilt be content.”

3.g) The intercession of the generality of the prophets as well as the believers has similarly been established by the verses of sections (3.c) and (3.e) above, i.e. based on permission, and also because prophets have made a covenant with their Lord (33:7, 3:81) and do bear witness unto the truth knowingly. The latter is true also of the elite of the believers (3:18: “Allah, the angels, and the men of learning”). There are also the following verses concerning the prophets’ intercession in their lifetime:

- 12:97-98: “And they said: O our father! Ask forgiveness of our sins for us for lo! we were sinful. And he [Jacob] said: I shall ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. He is the forgiving, the merciful.”

- 19:47: “He [Abraham] said: Peace unto thee. I shall ask forgiveness of my Lord for thee.”

- 61:4: “Abraham promised his father: I will ask forgiveness for thee, though I owe nothing for thee from Allah.”

There are also the following verses concerning the believers’ intercession in their lifetime:

- 9:113: “It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hellfire.”

- 59:10: “And those who came after them say: Our Lord! forgive us and forgive our believing brothers who lived before us.”

4. Proofs of intercession/mediation in the Hadith

In the hadith the power of intercession is emphasized as given:

  1. to the Prophet exclusively of other prophets;
  2. to special members of the Prophet’s Community, such as saints and scholars;
  3. to the common believers of the Prophet’s Community.

4.a) Intercession of the Prophet:

  1. In his lifetime for those who passed away:
    • All the authentic traditions concerning the Prophet’s prayer and takbir over the graves of the believers.
    • Muslim [jana’iz]: Abu Hurayra narrates that a dark-complexioned woman or young man used to sweep the mosque. When that person died, no-one told the Prophet until he enquired about it and then went to pray over the grave. He remarked: “Verily, these graves are full of darkness for their dwellers. Verily, Allah Mighty and Glorious illumines them for their occupants by reason of my prayer for them.”
    • Muslim [jana’iz]: `Awf ibn Malik said that after he heard the words of the Prophet’s prayer over a dead person, he earnestly desired that he were that dead person.
    • Muslim [jana’iz]: Muhammad ibn Qays narrates from `A’isha that the Prophet on every night that he was with her used to quietly get dressed and leave at the end of the night, and she once followed him surreptitiously until he reached Baqi` [the graveyard of the believers] where he prayed for the dead. Later he told her that Jibril had come to him and said: “Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi` and beg forgiveness for them.”
  2. In the afterlife
    • al-Daraqutni, al-Dulabi, al-Bayhaqi, Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-`Uqayli, Ibn `Adi, Tabarani, and Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih, all through various chains going back to Musa ibn Hilal al-`Abdi from `Ubayd Allah Ibn `Umar, both from Nafi`, From Ibn `Umar: “Whoever visits my grave, my intercession will be guaranteed for him.”

      Although declaring all the chains of this hadith imperfect (layyina), Dhahabi nevertheless said that they strengthened each other and declared the chain jayyid (good) as narrated, in Mizan al-i`tidal, vol. 4, p. 226: “Huwa salih al-hadith” which means: “He (Musa ibn Hilal) is good in his narrations.” That is: the hadith is hasan. Sakhawi confirmed him in the Maqasid al-hasana, while al-Subki declared it sahih according to Samhudi in Sa`adat al-darayn 1:77. Ibn `Adi said in al-Kamil fi al-Du`afa” (6:2350): “He (Musa ibn Hilal) is most likely acceptable; other people have called him “unknown” and this is not true… He is one of the shuyukhs of Imam Ahmad and most of them are trustworthy.” Even Albani declared him thabit al-riwaya (of established reliability) in his Irwa’ (4:338). About `Ubayd Allah ibn `Umar al-`Umari:

      Dhahabi calls him saduq hasan al-hadith [truthful, of fair narrations] in al-Mughni 1:348;

      Sakhawi says of him salih al-hadith [of sound narrations] in al-Tuhfa al-latifa 3:366;

      Ibn Ma`in said to Darimi about him: salih thiqa [sound and reliable] in al-Kamil 4:1459.

      This is one of the proof-texts adduced by the ulama of Islam to derive the obligation or recommendation of visiting the Prophet’s grave and seeking him as wasila (intermediary/means). See the chapter on visiting the Prophet’s grave in Nawawi’s book al-Adhkar and in Qadi Iyad’s book al-Shifa. Sakhawi said in al-Qawl al-badi` (p. 160):

      The emphasis and encouragement on visiting his noble grave is mentioned in numerous hadiths, and it would suffice to show this if there was only the hadith whereby the truthful and God-confirmed Prophet promises that his intercession among other things becomes obligatory for whoever visits him, and the Imams are in complete agreement from the time directly after his passing until our own time that this is among the best acts of drawing near to Allah.

      Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said in his commentary on Nawawi’s Idah fi manasik al-hajj:

      Ibn Khuzayma narrated it in his Sahih but mentioned its weakness. Ibn al-Kharrat and Taqi al-Subki declared it sound (sahih). Daraqutni and Tabarani also narrate it with the wording: “Whoever visits me with no other need than visiting me, it is my duty to be his intercessor on the Day of judgment” One version has: “It is Allah’s duty that I be his intercessor on the Day of Judgment.” Ibn al-Subki declared it sound.

      The comment of the Saudi author Bin Baz whereby “The ahadith that concern the desirability of visiting the grave of the Prophet are all weak, indeed forged” (kulluha da`ifa bal mawdu`a) in the 1993 edition of Fath al-Bari (3:387) is insignificant.

    • Muslim: “Whoever repeats after the words of the mu’adhdhin, my intercession will be guaranteed for him.”
    • Tirmidhi (hasan gharib) and Ibn Hibban: “Those closest to me in the hereafter are those who invoked blessings upon me the most (in dunya).”
    • Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad: “My intercession is for those people of my Community who commit major sins.” Ibn hajar in Fath al-Bari specified the following meaning of this hadith: “He did not restrict this to those who repented.”
    • Muslim: `Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As narrated that the Prophet recited the prayer of Ibrahim: “My Lord! Lo! They have led many of mankind astray. But whoso followeth me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeyeth me — Still Thou art Forgiving, Merciful” (14:36). Then he recited the saying of `Isa: “If Thou punish them, lo! they are Thy slaves, and if Thou forgive them (lo! they are Thy slaves)” (5:118). Then he raised his hands and said: “My Community, my Community!” and he wept. Allah said: “O Jibril, go to Muhammad and ask him what causes him to weep.” When Jibril came and asked him he told him, upon which Jibril returned and told Allah — Who knows better than him — and He said: “O Jibril, go to Muhammad and tell him: We shall make thee glad concerning thy Community and We shall not displease you.” (A reference to 93:5)
    • Tirmidhi (hasan sahih) and Ibn Maja: Abu ibn Ka`b narrated that the Prophet said: “On the Day of Judgment I shall be the Imam of prophets and their spokesman and the owner of their intercession and I say this without pride.” (A reference to 4:41)
    • Tirmidhi (hasan gharib): From Anas, similar to the one before but applying to all people not only to Prophets.
    • Tirmidhi (hasan gharib sahih): Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet said: “I shall stand before my Lord Glorious and Mighty and I shall be adorned with a garment from the garments of Paradise, after which I shall stand to the right of the Throne where none of creation will stand except myself.”
    • Tirmidhi (gharib): Ibn `Abbas narrates: “Some people close to the Prophet came and waited for him. When he came out he approached them and heard them saying: What a wonder it is that Allah Almighty and Glorious took one of His creation as His intimate Friend — Ibrahim — while another one said: What is more wonderful than His speech to Musa, to whom He spoke directly! Yet another one said: And `Isa is Allah’s word and His spirit, while another one said: Adam was chosen by Allah. The Prophet said: I heard your words, and everything you said is indeed true, and I myself am the Beloved of Allah (habibullah) and I say this without pride, and I carry the flag of glory on the Day of Judgment and am the first intercessor and the first whose intercession is accepted, and the first to stir the circles of Paradise so that Allah will open it for me and I shall enter it together with the poor among my Community, and I say this without pride. I am the most honored of the First and the Last and I say this without pride.”
    • Bukhari and Muslim: Jabir narrated that the Prophet said: “I have been given five things which no prophet was given before me:

      I was made victor over my enemies through fear struck in their heart;

      I was permitted to take the booty of war;

      The whole earth was made a place of prostration for me and its soil ritually pure, so when the time to pray comes upon anyone of my Community, let him pray there and then;

      I was given shafa`a (intercession/mediation with Allah);

      Every prophet was sent to his people in particular and I was sent to all peoples.

    • Tirmidhi (hasan) and Ibn Maja: Abu Sa`id al-Khudri narrated that the Prophet said: “I am the leader of human beings and I say this without pride. I am the first whom the earth will give up when it cleaves, and the first intercessor and the first whose intercession is accepted. I hold the flag of glory in my hand, and under it comes Adam and everyone else.”
    • Bukhari and Muslim: Anas and Abu Hurayra respectively narrate that the Prophet said: “Every prophet has a request that is fulfilled, and I want to reserve my request of intercession for my Community for the Day of Judgment.”
    • Ahmad and Tabarani (hasan): Burayda narrates that the Prophet said: “Verily I shall intercede on the Day of Judgment for more men than there are stones and clods of mud on the earth.”
    • Bukhari and Muslim: Abu Hurayra narrates a long hadith wherein the Prophet intercedes and his intercession is accepted when all other prophets are powerless to intercede. In al-Hasan’s version in Bukhari, the Prophet intercedes and is accepted four times:

      For those who have a grain of faith in their heart;

      For those who have a mustard seed of faith in their heart;

      For those who have less than that of faith in their heart;

      For those who ever said: la ilaha illallah.

4.b) Intercession of special members of the Prophet’s Community:

  1. In their lifetime for the living
    • Bukhari [Istisqa’]: Annas narrated: Whenever drought threatened them, `Umar ibn al-Khattab used to ask Allah for rain through the mediation of al-`Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib. He [`Umar] used to say: “O Allah! We used to ask you through the means of our Prophet and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask You through the means of our Prophet’s uncle, so bless us with rain.” And it would rain.
  2. In the afterlife
    • Tirmidhi (hasan), Ibn Maja, and al-Hakim: Abu Umama narrated that the Prophet said: “More men will enter Paradise through the intercession of a certain man than there are people in the tribes of Rabi`ah and Mudar,” and that the elders considered that this was `Uthman ibn `Affan.
    • Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), Ibn Maja, and al-Hakim (sahih): Abu Abi al-Jad`a narrated that the Prophet said: “More men will enter Paradise through the intercession of one man than there are people in the tribe of Banu Tamim.” They asked him: “Other than you?” He said: “Other than me,” and it was said Uways al-Qarani was meant.

4.c) Intercession of the common believers among the Prophet’s Community:

  1. In their lifetime for those who passed away
    • Muslim [jana’iz]: `A’ishah reports the Prophet as saying: “If a company of Muslims numbering one hundred pray over a dead person, all of them interceding for him, their intercession for him will be accepted.”
    • Muslim [jana’iz]: Ibn `Abbas said: “I have heard the Prophet say: If any Muslim dies and forty men who associate nothing with Allah stand over his body in prayer, Allah will accept them as intercessors for him.”
    • Ahmad [4:79, 4:100] and others: In many traditions the number of acceptable intercessors in the funeral prayer is reduced to three rows of men, even if the number is under forty. Nawawi says the scholars of usul al-fiqh adduce these traditions also.
  2. In the afterlife
    • Tirmidhi (hasan), al-Bazzar: Abu Sa`id al-Khudri and Anas respectively narrate that the Prophet said: “One will be told: Stand, O So-and-so, and make intercession, and he will stand and make intercession for his tribe and his family and for one man or two men or more according to his works.”
    • The du`a that is recited in the funeral prayer of a non-adult:

      Allah, make him/her our forerunner, and make him for us a reward and a treasure, make him one who will intercede (shafi`an) and whose intercession is accepted (mushaffa`an).

      In this du`a we are clearly asking for intercession from a person who has passed away, in fact in this one we are asking for intercession from a child who has not done any deeds in this world at all. A version of it mentioning intercession is in Nawawi’s Adhkar, Chapter of the du`as over the dead, and it is translated in Nuh Keller’s Reliance in the section on Funerals.

      In fact every janaza prayer contains a request for the intercession of the deceased in the phrase: wa la tahrimna ajrahu which means: “and do not prevent his reward from reaching us.”

      Bukhari related that the Prophet also said: “He whose three children died before the age of puberty, they will shield him from the Hell-Fire, or will make him enter Paradise.”

5. Overview of the events of the Last Day at the stage of intercession

The following is quoted from Dr. Muhammad Abul Quasem’s book Salvation of the Soul and Islamic Devotions:

Islamic [belief] is that for salvation intercession will take place at two stages: on the Day of Judgment and after the sinners’ entry into hell.

On the Day of Judgment it will take place first before the divine questioning; it is the Prophet Muhammad who will intercede first for the forgiveness of his community. Accepting this intercession, Allah will grant him permission to take to Paradise through its right gate (al-bab al-ayman) built for them especially, all those people of his community who are entitled to it without giving an acount of their actions.

Then when, following the weighing of actions in the Balance the verdict of damnation will be passed to numerous groups of believers who commit major sins, intercessors, including all prophets, will intercede for the forgiveness of many of them. The Prophet said: “My intercession is for those people of my Community who commit major sins.” Allah out of mercy will accept… and save a large number of sinners. This salvation is free from damnation.

The second stage of intercession is after the sinners being like coal as a result of constant burning in Hell-fire for a long time. When they are suffering thus, intercessors will pray to Allah for the rescue of many of them. The result of this will be divine forgiveness of them before the end of their redemptive punishment. This is salvation after damnation.

Who will intercede in the Hereafter? Not only the angels and all prophets, but also those believers who have high status with Allah, such as saints, sufis, religious scholars, and other pious men [and women], will be able to intercede for others.”

May Allah send blessings and peace upon the Intercessor Brought Near to Him, our Master Muhammad, and upon his Family and Companions, and may He grant us his Prophet’s intercession on the Day of Reckoning.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions


© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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