INTERMEDIARIES TO ALLAH
There is no contradiction in asking Allah both with or without an intermediary, although in reality there are always several kinds of intermediary present, beginning with one’s own state, obedience, belief, acts, sincerity, etc. Only those with deficient knowledge or imperfect belief imagine that the person who asks Allah through an intermediary has associated another to his worship of Allah. The Prophet explained this to the Companions once and for all when he said to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq: “Help is not sought with me (i.e. in reality), help is sought with Allah.” He did not say to Abu Bakr: “Asking me is forbidden and constitutes association to Allah.” What he said meant that the Prophet is not the source of help but only the most effective intermediary to obtain help from Allah.
The meaning of the hadith is elucidated by the Qur’anic verses: “You did not throw when you threw, but Allah threw” (8:17) and: “Those who swear allegiance unto thee swear allegiance only unto Allah” (48:10). Further, the Prophet said, “I did not bear you but Allah bore you.” Thus the meaning of the hadith “Help is not sought with me” is:
(Even if I am the one ostensibly being asked
for help,) I am not the one being asked for help,
in reality Allah Himself is being asked.
The hadith “Help is not sought with me” must therefore be interpreted in the light of the fact that asking for help applies to whoever the help comes from including in respect to causation and acquisition (i.e. secondary causes); this is what the Arabic means and the Shari`a permits. This meaning is supported by the hadith in Bukhari (Kitab al-tawhid) touching on intercession on the Day of Resurrection, in which people sought help from Adam, then Musa, then Muhammad, on him be Allah’s blessings and peace, and the latter replies: “I can do it.”
It is essential to understand that it is not, in reality, the Prophet who is the ultimate object of supplication, nor is he the one who grants it, but he is the best means of forwarding it to Allah and for its being granted by Allah. This is clear in the Prophet’s prayer to Allah, in his words, “through Your Prophet and the Prophets before me” and “through those who ask” in the following two hadiths:
On the authority of Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him: He relates that the Messenger of Allah said: “The one who leaves his house for prayer and then says: O Allah, I ask you by the right of those who ask you and I beseech you by the right of those who walk this path unto you that my going forth bespeak not of levity, pride nor vainglory nor done for the sake of repute. I have gone forth in the warding off your anger and for the seeking of your pleasure. I ask you, therefore, to grant me refuge from Hellfire and to forgive me my sins, for no one forgives sins but yourself. Allah will accept for his sake and seventy thousand angels will seek his forgiveness.”
It is related in Musnad Ahmad 3:21, Ibn Majah (Masajid), al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib 1:179, Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih, Ibn al-Sani, and Abu Nu`aym. Ghazali mentions it in the Ihya and `Iraqi said: “It is hasan.” Nawawi mentions only Ibn al-Sani’s two chains in the Adhkar and says they are da`if (weak). However, Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani says it is hasan in al-Amali al-masriyya (#54) and also in the Takhrij of Nawawi’s book, explaining that the latter neglected Abu Sa`id al-Khudri’s narration and omitted to mention Ibn Majah’s. See Imam Kawthari’s remarks on this hadith below.
The Prophet also said on the authority of Anas ibn Malik: “O Allah, grant forgiveness to my mother, Fatima Bint Asad, and make vast for her the place of her going in [i.e. her grave] by the right of thy Prophet and that of those Prophets who came before me” and so on until the end of the hadith.
Tabarani relates it in al-Kabir and al-Awsat. Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim declare it sound. The “Fatima” referred to here is the mother of Sayyidina `Ali who raised the Prophet. Ibn Abi Shayba on the authority of Jabir relates a similar narrative. Similar also is what Ibn `Abd al-Barr on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and Abu Nu`aym in his Hilya on the authority of Anas Ibn Malik relate, as al-hafiz al-Suyuti mentioned in the Jami` al-Kabir. Haythami says in Majma` al-zawa’id: “Tabarani’s chain contains Rawh ibn Salah who has some weakness but Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim declared him trustworthy. The rest of its sub-narrators are the men of sound hadith.” Imam al-Kawthari says about this hadith in his Maqalat (p. 410): “It provides textual evidence whereby there is no difference between the living and the dead in the context of tawassul, and this is explicit tawassul through the Prophets, while the hadith of Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, O Allah, I ask You by the right of those who ask You, constitutes tawassul through the generality of Muslims, both the living and the dead.”
The Prophet used to say after the two rak`at of the dawn prayer: “O Allah, Lord of Jibril, of Israfil, of Mika’il, and Lord of Muhammad the Prophet: I seek refuge in You from the Fire…”
Nawawi mentions in the Adhkar that it was narrated by Ibn al-Sani, and Ibn Hajar graded it hasan or fair as mentioned by Ibn `Allan in his Commentary on the Adhkar (Vol. 2 p. 139). Shaykh Muhammad ibn `Alawi al-Maliki said: “The specific mention of the above in his du`a is understood as tawassul, as if he were saying: “O Allah, I ask You and I seek as means to You Jibril, Israfil, Mika’il, and Muhammad the Prophet. Ibn `Allan referred to this in his commentary.”
IMAM SHAWKANI’S FATWA ON TAWASSUL
AND HIS DENUNCIATION OF WAHHABIS
Imam Shawkani said in his treatise entitled al-Durr al-nadid fi ikhlas kalimat al-tawhid:
There is no harm in tawassul through any one of the Prophets or Friends of Allah or scholars of knowledge… One who comes to the grave as a visitor (za’iran) and invokes Allah alone, using as his means the dead person in the grave, is as one who says: “O Allah, I am asking that you cure me from such-and-such, and I use as a means to You whatever this righteous servant of Yours possesses for worshipping You and striving for Your sake and learning and teaching purely and sincerely for You.” Such as this, there is no hesitation in declaring that it is permitted…
Shawkani’s denunciation of Wahhabis
He also says in al-Durr al-nadid:
Regarding what those who forbid tawassul to Allah through the Prophets and the saints cite to support their position, such as Allah’s sayings:
- “We only worship them in order that they may bring us nearer” (39:3)
- “Do not call on any other god with Allah, or you will be among those who will be punished” (26:213)
- “Say: Call on those besides Him whom ye fancy; they have no power to remove your trouble from you or to change them. Those unto whom they cry seek for themselves the means of approach to their Lord, which of them shall be the nearest; they hope for His mercy and fear His wrath: for the wrath of thy Lord is something to take heed of” (17:57)
These verses are irrelevant. Rather: they support exactly the reverse of what the objectors to tawassul claim, since the verses are related to another issue. To wit: the verse “We only worship them in order that they may bring us nearer” explicitly states that they worship them for that purpose, whereas the one who makes tawassul through a scholar, for example, never worships him, but knows that he has a special distinction (maziyya) before Allah for being a carrier of knowledge; and that is why he uses him as a means.
Similarly irrelevant to the issue is Allah’s saying: “Do not call on any other god with Allah.” This verse forbids that one should call upon another together with Allah, as if saying: “O Allah and O So-and-so.” However, the one who makes tawassul through a scholar, for example, never calls upon other than Allah. He only seeks a means to Him through the excellent works that one of His servants achieved, just as the three men in the cave who were blocked by the rock used their good works as a means to have their petition answered.
[Sahih Bukhari, English translation Volume 8, Book 73, Number 5: Narrated Ibn `Umar: Allah’s Apostle said, “While three persons were traveling, they were overtaken by rain and they took shelter in a cave in a mountain. A big rock fell from the mountain over the mouth of the cave and blocked it. They said to each other: Think of such righteous deeds which you did for Allah’s sake only, and invoke Allah by mentioning those deeds so that Allah may relieve you from your difficulty. One of them said: O Allah! I had my parents who were very old and I had small children for whose sake I used to work as a shepherd. When I returned to them at night and milked the sheep, I used to start giving the milk to my parents first before giving to my children. And one day I went far away in search of a grazing place for my sheep, and didn’t return home till late at night and found that my parents had slept. I milked my livestock as usual and brought the milk vessel and stood at their heads, and I disliked to wake them up from their sleep, and I also disliked to give the milk to my children before my parents though my children were crying from hunger at my feet. So this state of mine and theirs continued till the day dawned. O Allah! If you considered that I had done that only for seeking Your pleasure, then please let there be an opening through which we can see the sky. So Allah made for them an opening through which they could see the sky. Then the second person said: O Allah! I had a female cousin whom I loved as much as a passionate man loves a woman. I tried to seduce her but she refused till I paid her one-hundred dinars So I worked hard till I collected one hundred dinars and went to her with that But when I sat in between her legs (to have sexual intercourse with her), she said: O Allah’s slave! Be afraid of Allah! Do not deflower me except legally (by marriage contract). So I left her alone. O Allah! If you considered that I had done that only for seeking Your pleasure then please let the rock move a little to have a wider opening. So Allah shifted that rock to make the opening wider for them. And the last person said: O Allah! I employed a laborer for wages equal to a faraq (a certain measure) of rice, and when he had finished his job he demanded his wages, but when I presented his due to him, he gave it up and refused to take it. Then I kept on sowing that rice for him (several times) until I managed to buy, with the price of the yield, some cows and their shepherd. Later on the laborer came to me an said: Be afraid of Allah, and do not be unjust to me an give me my due. I said to him: Go and take those cows and their shepherd. So he took them and went away. If You considered that I had done that for seeking Your pleasure, then please remove the remaining part of the rock. And so Allah delivered them.”]
Similarly irrelevant to the issue is Allah’s saying: “Those unto whom they cry…” for it refers to people who call upon those who cannot fulfill their request, at the same time not calling upon Allah Who can; whereas one who makes tawassul through a scholar, for example, never called except upon Allah, and none other besides Him.
The above shows the reader that these objectors to tawassul are bringing forth evidence that is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Even more irrelevant is their citing of the verse:
- “The Day when no soul shall have power to do anything for another: for the Command, that Day, will be all with Allah.” (82:19)
for that noble verse contains nothing more than the fact that Allah alone decides everything on the Day of Judgment, and that none other will have any say at that time. However, the maker of tawassul through one of the Prophets or one of the scholars, never believes that the one through whom he makes tawassul is in partnership with Allah on the Day of Judgment! Whoever believes such a thing in relation to a Prophet or non-Prophet is in manifest error.
Equally irrelevant is their objection to tawassul by citing the verses:
- “Not for you is the decision in the least” (3:128)
- “Say: I have no power over over good or harm to myself except as Allah wills” (7:188)
for these two verses are explicit in that the Prophet has no say in Allah’s decision and that he has no power to benefit or harm himself in the least, let alone someone else: but there is nothing in those two verses to prevent tawassul through him or any other of the Prophets or Friends of Allah or scholars.
Allah has given His Prophet the Exalted Station (al-maqam al-mahmud) — the station of the Great Intercession (al-shafa`a al-`uzma), and He has instructed creation to ask for that station for him and to request his intercession, and He said to him: “Ask and you shall be granted what you asked! Intercede and you shall be granted what you interceded for!” And in His Book He has made this dependence on the fact that there is no intercession except by His leave, and that none shall possess it except those whom He pleases…
Equally irrelevant is their adducing as proof against tawassul:
- “And admonish your nearest kinsmen” (26:214)
whereupon the Prophet said: “O So-and-so son of So-and-so, I do not have any guarantee on your behalf from Allah; and O So-and-so daughter of So-and-so, I do not have any guarantee on your behalf from Allah.” For in the preceding there is nothing other than the plain declaration that he cannot benefit anyone for whom Allah has decreed harm, nor harm anyone for whom Allah has decreed benefit, and that he does not have any guarantee from Allah from any of his close relatives, let alone others. This is known to every Muslim. There is nothing in it, however, that prohibits making tawassul to Allah through the Prophet, for tawassul is a request from the One Who holds power to grant and deny all requests. The petitioner who makes tawassul only desires to place, at the front of his petition, what may be a cause for the granting of his petition by the One Who alone gives and withholds, the Owner of the Day of Judgment.
SHAYKH SALIH AL-NA`MAN’S FATWA ON TAWASSUL
The following legal opinion on tawassul was given by Shaykh Salih al-Na`man, the Secretary of the Section of Ifta’ and Religious Education at the Ministry of Religious Endowments (wizarat al-awqaf) of the Syrian Arab Republic in the city of Hama on March 22, 1980. It is reproduced in full in the 1992 Waqf Ikhlas reprint of Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan’s section of his history of Islam al-Futuhat al-islamiyya on the Wahhabi sect entitled Fitnat al-wahhabiyya.
Text of the fatwa:
“Praise belongs to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. Blessings and Peace on our Master Muhammad and on his Family and all his Companions.
“From the slave who is poor and in need of Him, the Secretary of Legal Opinions in the city of Hama (Syria) and the Preacher in the Madfan Mosque, to the brother who asked a question, Sayyid `Ashiq al-Rahman in Wilayatullah Abad in India: Warm greetings and blessings. To proceed: You have asked a question on a legal issue, and this answer is given after some delay because I was away in the Hijaz.
“You asked about al-tawassul ilallah ta`ala bi al-anbiya’ wa al-mursalin — seeking/using means to Allah the Exalted with/through/by means of the Prophets and the Messengers — and about hukmu man tawassal, the law’s position with regard to the person who makes tawassul. This is the answer:
“Praise belongs to Allah the Exalted! Seeking or using means (al-tawassul) to Allah through his Prophet or the Prophets or the Righteous (al-salihin) or with the deeds (a`mal) that are done purely for His glorious countenance: There is no legal prohibition against it, because Allah the Exalted said: “Seek ye the means to Him” (5:35) and “Had they but come to thee when they had wronged themselves, and asked Allah forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-Returning, Merciful” (4:64) and because the Companions — may Allah be well pleased with them — used to seek a means through Allah’s Messenger, as narrated concerning the blind man who used Allah’s Messenger as a means (to obtain his request) and his eyes were opened.
“The Community has reached consensus on the fact that tawassul is permissible as long as one’s belief is sound (idha sahhat al-`aqida), and the consensus of the Community constitutes a legal proof (ijma` al-umma hujjatun shar`iyya); as the Prophet said: “My Community shall not agree on an error.” As for the claim of some extremists (ghulat) of the Wahhabiyya whereby the law’s position with regard to the person who makes tawassul is that it is shirk (worshipping other than Allah together with Him): there is no proof for such a claim either legally or rationally, because the person who makes tawassul does not contravene the Prophet’s order: “If you ask, ask Allah, and if you seek help, seek help from Allah.” Rather, he is asking Him through one beloved to Him in order that his supplication be answered, and this is what our Glorious and Majestic Lord likes from us. How then can we judge that he is committing shirk when he is not a mushrik (one who commits shirk). Such an act the law considers abominable and our religion declares itself innocent of it, since it has been said: “Whoever declares a believer to be an disbeliever has committed disbelief.”
“Our master Usama ibn Zayd killed a mushrik after the latter had said: “There is no god but Allah” (la ilaha illallah). When news of this reached Allah’s Messenger he condemned our master Usama in the strongest terms and he said to him: “How can you kill him after he said la ilaha illallah?” He replied: “But he said it with the sword hanging over his head?” The Prophet said again: “How can you kill him after he said la ilaha illallah?” He replied: “O Messenger of Allah, he said it in dissimulation (taqiyyatan)?” The Prophet said: “Did you split his heart open (to see)?” and he did not cease to reprove him until Usama wished that he had not entered Islam until after he had killed that man so that he might have been forgiven all his past sins through belief.
“From this and other narrations we conclude that some of the Wahhabis today may be guilty of hastening to accuse others of disbelief (takfir), as they have done in the past with hundreds of thousands in the Hijaz whom they massacred even as they were saying la ilaha illallah, and as the Kharijis have done in the time of our Master `Ali — may Allah ennoble his countenance.
“In short, tawassul is not prohibited, rather it is legally commendable (mustahsanu shar`an), and it is not permitted to cast the label of shirk on the believer. This is what will be found in the established books of Islamic law. And Allah knows best.”
6 Jumada I 1400
22 March 1980
Signature of the Secretary of Fatwas in Hama
Seal of the Ministry of Religious Endowments
District of the Muhafazat of Hama, Syria