Intercession – Tawassul

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:

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