Wahhabism: Understanding the Roots and Role Models of Islamic Extremism

Tawassul and Tabarruk

Nuh Keller, an orthodox Sunni scholar, defines tawassul as “supplicating Allah by means of an intermediary, whether it be a living person, dead person, a good deed, or a name or attribute of Allah Most High”. I remember doing tawassul in 1989 at Imam Abu Hanifah’s tomb, the noble and renowned Islamic scholar whose ijtihad the majority of Sunni Muslims follow. Although I had not studied much about Islam and the practices of tawassul at that time, I had been told by trustworthy Muslims that using pious individuals as intermediaries when asking Allah for something was a blessed opportunity that I couldn’t afford to miss.  I had also visited the tomb of the great sufi and saint Abdul-Qadir Jilani and performed tawassul over there.  An example of tawassul is: “Oh Allah, I ask you to cure my illness by means of the noble status of Imam Abu Hanifah (s).”

When doing tawassul, the source of blessings (barakah) when asking Allah through an intermediary is Allah – not the intermediary.  The intermediary is simply a means to ask Allah for things. Although it is not necessary for a Muslim to use a pious intermediary when asking Allah, it is recommended because it was a practice of Prophet Muhammad (s), the Companions (ra), and of the great scholars of Islam (ra). It is not only prophets and saints (in their graves) that are used as means to asking Allah. A Muslim can also ask Allah through relics (tabarruk) that belonged to pious people, and may even use amulets with verses on the Qur’an on them as a means of asking God for protection from evil. It is not the means that provides protection, but Allah.

Wahhabis reject a type of tawassul accepted by orthodox Sunni Muslims

Although Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Wahhabis believe that tawassul by one’s good deeds, a name or attribute of God, or intercession by someone who is alive and present is permissible, Wahhabis accuse Sunnis (and Shi’ites) of committing shirk (attributing partners in worship to God) when doing tawassul through an intermediary who is not alive or present (in the worldly life). That is, to a Wahhabi, tawassul through an intermediary who has died and is in his grave is ugly blasphemy. This is critical to know because this is the primary reason why Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab and the Al-Sa`ud ‎ criminals that collaborated with him massacred many Muslims in the Arabian peninsula.  Muslims had been doing this form of tawassul for over 1,000 years but the Wahhabis believed it was blasphemy that had to be exterminated by the sword.  What Wahhabis were doing in actuality was massacring orthodox Sunni Muslims, even though they foolishly believed they were fighting against evil blasphemors that didn’t deserve to live.  Wahhabis were not following the footsteps of the pious Salaf, but the footsteps of Ibn Taymiyyah who a couple of hundred years before them denounced that particular form of tawassul as sinful. Wahhabis today forbid Muslims from doing tawassul through Prophet Muhammad, and have enforced strict rules around his grave in Medina, Saudi Arabia. It is for this reason that Wahhabis forbid Muslims from visiting the graves of pious Muslims, and have destroyed markings on graves to prevent Muslims from knowing the specific spots where saints are buried. Yet, it is interesting to note the hypocritical nature of the Wahhabis when they had refused the demolishing of the grave of Ibn Taymiyah  in Damascus, Syria to make way for a road. Somehow, this is not “polytheism” to them, but it is “polytheism” for the majority of the Islamic community.

The flawed Wahhabi understanding of tawassul: confusing the means with the Giver

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