The specific tawassul through the Prophet is a request in acknowledgement of his standing as the chief intercessor for the Community before Allah, and it is a request for Allah's blessing as effected by Allah in the person of His Prophet and His saints -- not as effected by the latter without Allah, which is the belief those who oppose tawassul falsely impute to those who make tawassul. Allah has said of His Holy Prophet, Peace be upon him:
He is anxious about what you do, and merciful with the believers. (9:128)
If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful (4:64)
And if they had had patience till thou camest forth unto them, it had been better for them. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (49:5)
If only they had been content with what Allah and His Apostle gave them, and had said, "Sufficient unto us is Allah! Allah and His Apostle will soon give us of His bounty: to Allah do we turn our hopes!" (9:59)
They swear by Allah to you (Muslims) in order to please you: But it is more fitting that they should please Allah and His Apostle, if they are Believers. (9:62)
Allah has mentioned all this about His Prophet because it is through His Prophet that He Himself has shown His greatest mercy and most comprehensive forgiveness, and it is by coming to the Prophet that the believers seek to obtain these from Allah. This is clear evidence, both now as it was then, that the mediation of the Prophet -- for that is the meaning of intercession -- can be sought to obtain forgiveness from Allah. The first hadith Imam Ahmad related from Anas ibn Malik in his Musnad Anas is: "The whole Community of the people of Madina used to take the hand of the Prophet and rush to obtain their need with it."
The Mufti of Mecca at the time of the spread of the Wahhabi heresy, al-Sayyid Ahmad Ibn Zayni Dahlan (d. 1304) said in Khulasat al-kalam:
Tawassul (using means), tashaffu` (using intercession), and istighatha (asking help) all have the same meaning, and the only meaning they have in the hearts of the believers is that of tabarruk (using blessings) with the mention of Allah's beloved ones, since it is established that He grants His mercy to all His servants for the sake of His beloved ones, and this is the case whether they are alive or dead, because in either case the actual effecting agent and true executor is Allah Himself, and these beloved ones are only ordinary causes for Hmercy. Like any other secondary causes, they have no effective power of influence in themselves.
The early and late Imams of the Community have said clearly and unequivocally that tawassul through the Prophet is highly desirable and recommended for every person. Following are some of their words to this effect.
Imam Malik was asked the following question by the Caliph Abu Ja`far al-Mansur: "Shall I face the qibla with my back towards the grave of the Messenger of Allah when makind du`a (after salams)?" He replied:
"How could you turn your face away from him when he is the means (wasila) of your and your father Adam's forgiveness to Allah on the Day of Resurrection? Nay, face him and ask for his intercession (istashfi` bihi) so that Allah will grant it to you as He said: "If they had only, when they were wronging themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful (4:64).""
It is cited by al-Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa (2:92-93) with a sound (sahih) chain, and also cited by Samhudi in Khulasat al-Wafa, Subki in Shifa' al-siqam, Qastallani in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya, Ibn Jama`a in Hidayat al-salik, and Haytami in al-Jawhar al-munazzam and Tuhfat al-zuwwar. See also Ibn `Abd al-Hadi in al-Sarim al-munki p. 244. Ibn Jama`a says in Hidayat al-salik (3:1381): "It is related by the two hafiz Ibn Bashkuwal and al-Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa' after him, and no attention is paid to the words of those who claim that it is forged purely on the basis of his idle desires."
The words "he is the means (wasilat) of your and your father Adam's forgiveness to Allah" are confirmed by the verses whereby the Prophet is witness over all communities and people including their Prophets (2:143, 3:81, 4:41, 33:7) as well as the sound hadith of his intercession over all prophets on behalf of all believers in Sahih al-Bukhari (Kitab al-tawhid). Furthermore, it is also established from the verse "And Adam received words from his Lord and He relented towards him" (2:37) that Adam has been forgiven.
Imam Ahmad made tawassul through the Prophet a part of every du`a according to the following report: `Ala' al-Din al-Mardawi said in his book al-Insaf fi ma`rifat al-rajih min al-khilaf `ala madhhab al-Imam al-mubajjal Ahmad ibn Hanbal (3:456):
The correct position of the [Hanbali] madhhab is that it is permissible in one's supplication (du`a) to use as means a pious person, and it is said that it is desirable (mustahabb). Imam Ahmad said to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi: yatawassalu bi al-nabi fi du`a'ih -- "Let him use the Prophet as a means in his supplication to Allah."
The same report is found in Imam Ahmad's Manasik as narrated by his student Abu Bakr al-Marwazi.
Similarly the lengthy wording of the tawassul according to the Hanbali madhhab as established by the hafiz Ibn `Aqil in his Tadhkira was cited fully by Imam Kawthari in his appendix to Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki's al-Sayf al-saqil included in Kawthari's edition of the latter.
The Prophet said on the authority of `Umar: "When Adam committed his mistake he said: O my Lord, I am asking you to forgive me for the sake of Muhammad. Allah said: O Adam, and how do you know about Muhammad whom I have not yet created? Adam replied, O my Lord, after You created me with your hand and breathed into me of Your Spirit, I raised my head and saw written on the heights of the Throne:
I understood that You would not place next to Your Name but the Most Beloved One of Your creation. Allah said: O Adam, I have forgiven you, and were it not for Muhammad I would not have created you."
It was transmitted through many chains and was cited by Bayhaqi (in Dala'il al-nibuwwa), Abu Nu`aym (in Dala'il al-nibuwwa), al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (2:615), al-Tabarani in his Saghir (2:82, 207) with another chain containing sub-narrators unknown to Haythami as he stated in Majma` al-zawa'id (8:253), and Ibn `Asakir on the authority of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, and most of these narrations were copied in Qastallani's al-mawahib al-laduniyya (and al-Zarqani's Commentary 2:62).
As for Albani's rejection of Qari's use of Daylami in support of the hadith with the words: "I do not hesitate to declare it weak on the basis that Daylami is alone in citing it" (Silsila da`ifa #282), it shows an unwarranted wholesale rejection of Daylami in lieu of a discussion of the hadith itself, whereas the Imam of hadith Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani did rely on hadith narrated by Daylami, as is shown by hadith #33 of his Arba`un fi rad` al-mujrim `an sabb al-muslim, although Daylami is alone in citing it!
and it became calm." al-Dhahabi said: "Its chain contains `Amr ibn Aws and it is not known who he is."
Imam Shawkani said in his commentary on al-Jazari's (d. 833) `Iddat al-hisn al-hasin entitled Tuhfat al-dhakirin bi `iddat al-hisn al-hasin (Beirut ed. 1970), p. 37: "He [al-Jazari] said: Let him make tawassul to Allah with His Prophets and the salihin or saints (in his du`a). I say: And exemplifying tawassul with the Prophets is the hadith extracted by Tirmidhi et al. (of the blind man saying: O Allah, I ask You and turn to You by means of Muhammad the Prophet of Mercy) [see below]... as for tawassul with the saints, among its examples is the hadith, established as sound, of the Companions' tawassul asking Allah for rain by means of al-`Abbas the Prophet's uncle, and `Umar said: "O Allah, we use as means to You the uncle of our Prophet etc. [see below]." We cite further below Shawkani's complete and detailed stand on tawassul from his treatise al-Durr al-nadir.
A blind man came to the Prophet and said: "Invoke Allah for me that he help me." He replied: "If you wish I will delay this, and it would be better for you, and if you wish I will invoke Allah the Exalted (for you)." He said: "Then invoke him." The Prophet said to him: idhhab fa tawadda', wa salli rak`atayn thumma qul -- "Go and make an ablution, pray two rak`at, then say: "O Allah, I am asking you (as'aluka) and turning to you (atawajjahu ilayka) with your Prophet Muhammad (bi nabiyyika Muhammad), the Prophet of mercy; O Muhammad (ya Muhammad), I am turning with you to my Lord regarding my present need / I am asking my Lord with your intercession concerning the return of my sight (inni atawajjahu bika ila rabbi fi hajati hadhih -- another version has: inni astashfi`u bika `ala rabbi fi raddi basari) so that He will fulfill my need; O Allah, allow him to intercede (with you) for me (allahumma shaffi`hu fiyya)."
It is related by Ahmad (4:138 #17246-17247), Tirmidhi (hasan sahih gharib -- Da`awat Ch. 119), Ibn Majah (Book of Iqamat al-salat wa al-sunnat, Ch. on Salat al-hajat #1385), Nasa'i (`Amal al-yawm wa al-laylat p. 417-418 #658-660), al-Hakim (1:313, 1:526), Tabarani in al-Kabir, and rigorously authenticated as sound (sahih) by nearly fifteen hadith masters including Ibn Hajar, Dhahabi, Shawkani, and Ibn Taymiyya.
The above invocation was also used after the Prophet's lifetime, as is proven by the sound (sahih) hadith authenticated by Bayhaqi, Abu Nu`aym in the Ma`rifa, Mundhiri (Targhib 1:473-474), Haythami, and Tabarani in the Kabir (9:17-18) and the Saghir (1:184/201-202) on the authority of `Uthman ibn Hunayf's nephew Abu Imama ibn Sahl ibn Hunayf: A man would come to `Uthman ibn `Affan for a certain need, but the latter would not pay him any attention nor look into his need, upon which he complained of his condition to `Uthman ibn Hunayf who told him: "Go and make ablution, then go to the mosque and pray two rak`at, then say (this du`a)," and he mentioned the invocation of the blind man, "then go (to `Uthman again)." The man went, did as he was told, then came to `Uthman's door, upon which the door-attendant came, took him by the hand, and brought him to `Uthman who sat him with him on top of the carpet, and said: "Tell me what your need is." After this the man went out, met `Uthman ibn Hunayf again, and said to him: "May Allah reward you! Previously he would not look into my need nor pay any attention to me, until you spoke to him." He replied: "I did not speak to him, but I saw the Prophet when a blind man came to him complaining of his failing eyesight," and he mentioned to him the substance of the previous narration.
It is narrated that `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, would pray to Allah for rain during times of drought through the means, the honor and intercession of the uncle of the Prophet, `Abbas ibn `Abd Muttalib by using this supplication, "O Our Lord! Previously, when we had a drought, we used to come to You by means and intercession of Your Prophet. Now we are requesting intercession through the uncle of the Prophet to grant us rain." And it was granted. Bukhari relates it. `Umar added, after making this supplication: "He (al-`Abbas), by Allah, is the means to Allah" (hadha wallahi al-wasilatu ilallahi `azza wa jall). Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates it in al-Isti`ab bi ma`rifat al-ashab.
The scholars have explained that `Umar sought the means of al-`Abbas rather than the Prophet in order to show and acknowledge the status of the Prophet's uncle among the people and, more generally, of the Ahl al-Bayt or direct relatives of the Prophet. Al-Kawthari in his Maqalat (p. 411) cites Ibn `Abd al-Barr's commentary in al-Isti`ab that `Umar used al-`Abbas in response to Ka`b's words: "O Commander of the believers, the Bani Isra`il in such circumstances used to pray for rain by means of the relatives of Prophets." It is not, as some ignorant explainers of the hadith have fancied, because the Prophet's means is no longer available that `Umar used al-`Abbas as a wasila. The hadith of `Uthman ibn Hunayf and the words of Imam Malik to al-Mansur show that the Prophet continued to be sought by the Companions and the Followers as a wasila or means of blessing and benefit even after he left this life. Following is some more evidence to this effect.
Al-Darimi in the Chapter 15 of the Muqaddima (Introduction) to his Sunan (Vol. 1 p. 43) entitled: "Allah's generosity to His Prophet after his death," relates from Aws ibn `Abd Allah: "The people of Madina complained to `A'isha of the severe drought that they were suffering. She said: "Go to the Prophet's grave and open a window towards the sky so that there will be no roof between him and the sky." They did so, after which they were watered with such rain that vegetation grew and the camels got fat."
Al-muhaddith al-Samhudi wrote in Wafa' al-wafa' (Vol. 2 p. 549): "al-Zayn al-Miraghi said: "Know that it is the Sunna of the people of Madina to this day to open a window at the bottom of the dome of the Prophet's room, that is, of the blessed green dome, on the side of the qibla." I say: And in our time, they open the door facing the noble face (the grave) in the space surrounding the room and they gather there."
al-Bayhaqi relates with a sound (sahih) chain: "It is related from Malik al-Dar, `Umar's treasurer, that the people suffered a drought during the successorship of `Umar, whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah, ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished," after which the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: "Go to `Umar and give him my greeting, then tell him that they will be watered. Tell him: You must be clever, you must be clever!" The man went and told `Umar. The latter said: "O my Lord, I spare no effort except in what escapes my power!" Ibn Kathir cites it thus from Bayhaqi in al-Bidaya wa al-nihaya and says: isnaduhu sahih; Ibn Abi Shayba cites it in his Musannaf with a sound (sahih) chain as confirmed by Ibn Hajar who says: rawa Ibn Abi Shayba bi isnadin sahih and cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari. He identifies Malik al-Dar as `Umar's treasurer (khazin `umar) and says that the man who visited and saw the Prophet in his dream is identified as the Companion Bilal ibn al-Harith, and he counts this hadith among the reasons for Bukhari's naming of the chapter "The people's request to their leader for rain if they suffer drought." He also mentions it in al-Isaba, where he says that Ibn Abi Khaythama cited it.
The legal inference here is not from the dream, because although the dream of seeing the Prophet is truthful, a dream cannot be used to establish a ruling (hukm) due to the possibility that the person who saw it makes an error in its wording. Rather, the inference from this hadith is based on the action of the Companion Bilal ibn al-Harith. The fact that Bilal came to the grave of the Prophet, called out to him, and asked him to ask for rain is a proof that these actions are permitted. These actions fall under the rubric of asking the Prophet for help (istighatha), seeking him as a means (tawassul), and using his intermediary (tashaffu`), and none of the Companions reprimanded him, and therefore it was understood that such actions are among the greatest acts of drawing near to Allah.
In his edition of Ibn Hajar, the Wahhabi scholar Ibn Baz rejects the hadith as a valid source for seeking rain through the Prophet, and brazenly condemns the act of the Companion who came to the grave, calling it munkar (aberrant) and wasila ila al-shirk (a means to associating partners to Allah). We seek protection from Allah from ignorance and error.
The Prophet said: "My life is a great good for you, you will relate about me and it will be related to you, and my death is a great good for you, your actions will be presented to me (in my grave) and if I see goodness I will praise Allah, and if see other than that I will ask forgiveness of Him for you."
Haythami says in Majma` al-zawa'id (9:24 #91): "Al-Bazzar relates it and its sub-narrators are all the men of sound hadith." Qadi `Iyad cites it in al-Shifa (1:56 of the Amman edition). Suyuti said in his Manahil al-safa fi takhrij ahadith al-shifa (Beirut 1988/1408) p. 31 (#8): "Ibn Abi Usama cites it in his Musnad from the hadith of Bakr ibn `Abd Allah al-Muzani, and al-Bazzar from the hadith of Ibn Mas`ud with a sound (sahih) chain." It is cited in Shaykh al-Islam al-Taqi al-Subki's Shifa' al-siqam fi ziyarat khayr al-anam (The healing of the sick concerning the visit of the Best of Creation), where he mentions that Bakr ibn Abd Allah al-Muzani reported it, and Ibn al-Jawzi mentions it through Bakr and then again through Anas ibn Malik in the penultimate chapter of the penultimate section of al-Wafa, both huffaz without giving the isnad. However, Ibn al-Jawzi specifies in the introduction of his book that he only included sound traditions in it. He also mentions the version through Aws ibn Aws: "The actions of human beings are shown to me every Thursday on the night of (i.e. preceding) Friday." See also Fath al-Bari 10:415, al-Mundhiri's al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib 3:343, and Musnad Ahmad 4:484.
The former Grand Mufti of Egypt Shaykh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhluf wrote in his Fatawa shar`iyya (Cairo: Dar al-i`tisam, 1405/1985, 1:91-92):
The hadith means that the Prophet is a great good for his Community during his life, because Allah the Exalted has preserved the Community, through the secret of the Prophet's presence, from misguidance and confusion and disagreement, and He has guided the prople through the Prophet to the manifest truth; and that after Allah took back the Prophet, our connection to the latter's goodness continues uncut, and the extension of his goodness endures, overshadowing us. The deeds of the Community are shown to him every day, and he glorifies Allah for the goodness that he finds, while he asks for His forgiveness for the small sins, and the alleviation of His punishment for the grave ones: and this is a tremendous good for us. There is therefore "goodness for the Community in his life, and in his death, goodness for the Community."
Moreover, as has been established in the hadith, the Prophet is alive in his grave with a special "isthmus-life" (hayat barzakhiyya khassa) stronger than the lives of the martyrs which the Qur'an spoke about in more than one verse. The nature of these two kinds of life cannot be known except by their Bestower, the Glorious, the Exalted. He is able to do all things. His showing the Community's deeds to the Prophet as an honorific gift for him and his Community is entirely possible rationally and documented in the reports. There is no leeway for its denial. And Allah guides to His light whomever He pleases. And Allah knows best.
We cite more hadiths on tawassul in section c) below.
Al-`Utbi said: "As I was sitting by the grave of the Prophet, a Beduin Arab came and said: "Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah! I have heard Allah saying: "If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful" (4:64), so I have come to you asking forgiveness for my sin, seeking your intercession with my Lord." Then he began to recite poetry:
O best of those whose bones are buried in the deep earth,
And from whose fragrance the depth
and the height have become sweet,
May I be the ransom for a grave which thou inhabit,
And in which are found purity, bounty and munificence!
Then he left, and I dozed and saw the Prophet in my sleep. He said to me: "O `Utbi, run after the Beduin and give him glad tidings that Allah has forgiven him.""
A report graded mashhur (established and well-known) and related by Nawawi, Adhkar, Mecca ed. p. 253-254, al-Majmu` 8:217, and al-Idah fi manasik al-hajj, chapters on visiting the grave of the Prophet; Ibn Jama`a, Hidayat al-salik 3:1384; Ibn `Aqil, al-Tadhkira; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 3:556-557; al-Qurtubi, Tafsir of 4:64 in Ahkam al-Qur'an 5:265; Samhudi, Khulasat al-Wafa p. 121 (from Nawawi); Dahlan, Khulasat al-Kalam 2:247; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir 2:306, and al-Bidayat wa al-nihayat 1:180; Abu al-Faraj ibn Qudama, al-Sharh al-kabir 3:495; al-Bahuti al-Hanbali, Kashshaf al-qina` 5:30; Taqi al-Din al-Subki, Shifa' al-siqam p. 52; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muthir al-gharam al-sakin ila ashraf al-amakin p. 490; al-Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-iman #4178; Ibn `Asakir, Mukhtasar tarikh Dimashq 2:408; Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, al-Jawhar al-munazzam [commentary on Nawawi's Idah]; Ibn al-Najjar, Akhbar al-Madina p. 147. A similar report is cited through Sufyan ibn `Uyayna (Shafi`i's shaykh), and through Abu Sa`id al-Sam`ani on the authority of `Ali.
Al-`Utbi's account of the Arab's tawassul for forgiveness at the Prophet's grave is famous: It is found in many books on the subject of ziyara (visiting the Prophet's grave in Madina) or manasik (rites of pilgrimage) by the many scholars of the Four Schools, none of whom have rejected it or declared it weak. See, for example, the translations of Ibn al-Jawzi, Nawawi, and Ibn Jama`a in the last section of this book. Those of the contemporary "Salafi" scholars who choose to contest this report of its established grade of mashhur, do not measure up to the reliability of a single one of the sources named above. As for the "Salafis'" recourse to the isolated opinions of Ibn Taymiyya or Ibn `Abd al-Hadi who have cast aspersions on the authenticity of the report, in the words of Ibn Jama`a: no attention is paid to it.
The sources also relate the report of Ibn Abi Fudayk, one of the early scholars of Madina and one of Shafi`i's shaykhs, who said: "I heard one of the authorities whom I have met say: "It has reached us that whoever stands at the Prophet's grave and recites: "Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet..." (33:56) and then says: "May Allah bless you, O Muhammad" (sallallahu `alayka ya Muhammad) seventy times, an angel will call him saying: May Allah bless you, O So-and-so; none of your needs will be left unfulfilled."" Ibn Jama`a related it in Hidayat al-salik 3:1382-1383, Ibn al-Jawzi in Muthir al-gharam p. 487, Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa', and Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman (#4169).
The muhaddith al-Samhudi and others also relate the account of the Arab who sought the Prophet's means at his grave:
Al-Asma`i said: I saw a beduin stand at the Prophet's grave and say: "O Allah, here is Your Beloved, and I am Your servant, and Satan is Your enemy. If You forgive me, Your Beloved will be happy, Your servant will attain victory, and Your enemy will be angry. If You do not forgive me, Your Beloved will be sad, Your enemy will be satisfied, and Your servant will be destroyed. But You are more noble, O my Lord, than to allow Your Beloved to be sad, Your enemy to be satisfied, and Your servant to be destroyed. O Allah, the highborn Arabs, if one of their leaders die, release one of their slaves over his grave in his honor, and this is the leader of the worlds: therefore release me over his grave, O Most Merciful of the Merciful!" al-Asma`i said: "I said to him: O brother of the Arabs! Allah has surely forgiven you and released you for the beauty of this request."
Al-hafiz Ibn al-Jawzi relates in Kitab al-Wafa (p. 818 #1536): (Al-Hafiz) Abu Bakr al-Minqari said: "I was with (al-Hafiz) al-Tabarani and (al-Hafiz) Abu al-Shaykh in the Mosque of the Prophet and we were in a predicament. We became very hungry. That day and the next we didn't eat. When it was time for `isha, I came to the Prophet's grave and I said: "O Messenger of Allah, we are hungry, we are hungry!" (ya rasullallah al-ju` al-ju`) Then I left. Abu al-Shaykh said to me: "Sit. Either there will be food for us, or death." I slept and Abu al-Shaykh slept. Al-Tabarani stayed awake, researching something. Then a `Alawi (descendant of `Ali) came knocking at the door with two boys, each one carrying a palm-leaf basket filled with food. We sat up and ate. We thought that the children would take back the remainder but they left everything behind. When we finished the `Alawi said: "O people, did you complain to the Prophet? I saw him in my sleep and he ordered me to bring something to you.""
Imam Bukhari said that he wrote his biographical book on the subnarrators of authentic hadith al-Tarikh al-kabir [The Great History] by the Prophet's graveside, under the light of the moon. It is related by Ibn al-Jawzi in Sifat al-safwa (4:147) and al-Subki in Tabaqat al-shafi`iyya al-kubra (2:216).
Musnad Ahmad,Imam Ahmad's compilation of 30,000 mostly sound narrations from the Prophet, was held in such high reverence that it was read in the sixth century by a society of devout hadith scholars from cover to cover in fifty-six sittings before the grave of the Prophet in Madina. Where is such devotion to the Prophet today?
Ibn Hajar said in Sulayman ibn Sunayd ibn Nashwan's biographical notice in his al-Durar al-kamina that he performed forty pilgrimages. On the fortieth he was seized by fatigue and fell asleep by the side of the Noble Grave. Thereupon he saw the Prophet who told him: "O So-and-so, how many times have you come, and you have received nothing from me? Give me your hand." He gave him his hand, and the Prophet wrote upon it something against fever after which, if ever he suffered from it, he would be cured by Allah's permission. This invocation is: "I have sought refuge with a Master who never judges unjustly nor leads to other than victory: go out, O fever, from this body, nor does pain of any sort follow this." Ajluni mentions it in Kashf al-khafa (#1175).
Finally, this is Shaykh al-Islam al-hafiz Taqi al-Din al-Subki's invocation of tawassul through the Prophet. It is taken from his Fatwas, Vol. 1 p. 274, at the beginning of the fatwa entitled "The Descent of Tranquility and Peace on the Nightlights of Madina" (tanazzul al-sakina `ala qanadil al-madina).
al-hamdu lillahi al-ladhi as`adana bi nabiyyihi sall
`alayhi wa sallama sa`adatan la tabid
wa ashhadu an la ilaha illallahu wahdahu la sharika lahu
wa ashhadu anna muhammadan `abduhu wa rasuluhu al-hadi ila
kulli amrin rashid
sallallahu `alayhi wa `ala alihi salatan taliqu bi jalalihi
la tazalu ta`lu wa tazid
wa sallama tasliman kathiran ila yawm al-mazid
wa ba`d fa inna Allaha ya`lamu anna kulla khayrin ana fihi
wa manna `alayya bihi fa huwa bi sababi al-nabi sallallahu
`alayhi wa sallam wa iltija'i ilayh
wa i`timadi fi tawassuli ila Allahi fi kulli umuri `alayh
fa huwa wasilati ila Allahi fi al-dunya wa al-akhira
wa kam lahu `alayya min ni`amin batinatin wa zahira.
To Allah belongs all praise, Who has blessed us with his Prophet,
blessings and peace be upon him, with an endless felicity.
I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah alone without
partner, the protecting Friend, the Glorious.
I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, the
guide to every upright matter.
May Allah send blessings and peace upon him in a manner befitting
His majesty, with a blessing rising ever higher and increasing
And a superabundant greeting of peace until the Day of the
increase (Day of judgment).
To proceed: Verily Allah knows that every goodness in my life
which He has bestowed upon me is on account of the Prophet
and that my recourse is to him
And my reliance is upon him in seeking a means to Allah in
every matter of mine.
Verily he is my means to Allah in this world and the next.
And the gifts of Allah I owe to him are too many to count,
both the hidden and the visible.
This is the language of Ahl al-Sunna. Those whose hearts are clean of the "Salafi" heresy embrace this language and accept it. Those in whose hearts there is a disease find fault with it. And praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
Following is a short description of Subki's stature as an Imam in Islam, based on Nuh Keller's biographical notice in the Reliance of the Traveller:
Abu al-Hasan Taqi al-Din al-Subki (683-756 / 1284-1355) is the son and father of illustrious scholars and jurists all of the Shafi`i school. He was a hadith master (hafiz), Koranic exegete, and Islamic judge who was described by Ibn Hajar Haythami as "the mujtahid Imam whose imamate, greatness, and having reached the level of ijtihad (competence for independent legal reasoning) are agreed upon," by Dhahabi as "the most learned, eloquent, and wise in judgment of all the shaykhs of the age," and by Sakhawi as "one of those who are named Shaykh al-Islam" along with his son Taj al-Din. Suyuti says of him: "He authored more than 150 works, his writings displaying his profound knowledge of hadith and other fields and his magisterial command of the Islamic sciences. He educated the foremost scholars of the time, was a painstaking, accurate, and penetrating researcher, and a brilliant debater in the disciplines. No previous scholar attained to his achievements in Sacred Law, of masterful inferences, subtleties in detail, and carefully worked-out methodological principles." Salah al-Din Safadi said of him: "People say that no one like him has appeared since Ghazali, though in my opinion they do him an injustice thereby, for to my mind he does not resemble anyone less than Sufyan al-Thawri." With his vast erudition, he was at the same time a godfearing ascetic in his personal life who was devoted to worship and tasawwuf, though vigilant and uncompromising in matters of religion and ready to assail any innovation or departure from the tenets of the faith of Ahl al-Sunna.
The evidence for tawassul through the awliya' or saints is also abundant, and it suffices that Allah strictly warns all believers to keep company with them when He says: "O believers! Be wary of Allah, and keep company with the truthful!" (9:119) and He enjoins the followership of those who have turned to Him in true and complete repentence (31:15). The Prophet said to al-Firasi, concerning asking from people: "If you absolutely must ask from people, then ask from the righteous ones" (in kunta la budda sa'ilan fas'al al-salihin). There is no doubt that the visit of pious persons is a Sunna in Islam for that very purpose, as shown by the chapters to that effect entitled Bab ziyarat al-salihin in the books of etiquette and invocations.
Some people think that if a duaa from a
holy man is answered while he is alive then he cannot help you if he is dead. As if the
holy man or sheihk or saint is the origin of the help. But it is always Allah who is the
source of the baraka and never a human being. So to think that Allah can only give when
that saint is alive and when he is dead, Allah does not give anymore, Is to say that the
source *is* the person and not Allah in the first place! But in reality it is Allah who is
giving help in both cases: life or death.
As for the objections of some "Salafis" today that it is not permissible to seek the blessings of saints after their death, they are based on the false belief that Allah's influence through the saints is in need for the saints' biological life to be effective, and this is absurd! As we said before, Allah's gift to the saints is independent from their being alive or dead, since in either case the real power always belongs to Allah, and the saints are only a secondary cause with no effective power in itself. Moreover, the views of the early and late Imams and scholars quoted below concerning the permissibility of tawassul through the pious, also confirm that the objections of "Salafis" to tawassul through the saints after their passing from this life do not stand up to scrutiny.
It is obligatory for Muslims to believe that the abdal or Substitute-saints exist -- so called because, as the Prophet said, "None of them dies except Allah substitutes another in his place" -- and that they are among the religious leaders of the Community concerning whom there is no doubt among Muslims. No less than Ibn Taymiyya writes at the end of his `Aqida wasitiyya:
The true adherents of Islam in its pristine purity are Ahl al-Sunnat wal-Jama`a. In their ranks the truthful saints (siddiqin), the martyrs, and the righteous are to be found. Among them are the great men of guidance and illumination, of recorded integrity and celebrated virtue. The Substitutes (abdal) and the Imams of religion are to be found among them and the Muslims are in full accord concerning tguidance. These are the Victorious Group about whom the Prophet said: "A group within my Community manifestly continues to be in the truth. Neither those who oppose them nor those who abandon them can do them harm, from now on until the Day of Resurrection."
The Prophet emphasized in many authentic narrations the benefit brought to all creation through the intercession of Allah's saints and their standing with Him. Suyuti in his fatwa on the abdal in his Hawi li al-fatawi provided many examples of this type of universal intercession from which we quote the following:
... The people of Syria were mentioned in front of `Ali ibn Abi Talib while he was in Iraq, and they said: "Curse them, O Commander of the Believers." He replied: "No, I heard the Messenger of Allah say: "The Substitutes (al-abdal) are in Syria and they are forty men, every time one of them dies, Allah substitutes another in his place. By means of them Allah brings down the rain, gives (Muslims) victory over their enemies, and averts punishment from the people of Syria.""
al-Haythami said: "The men in its chains are all those of the sahih except for Sharih ibn `Ubayd, and he is trustworthy (thiqa)."
`Ali said: "Do not curse the people of Syria, for among them are the Substitutes (al-abdal), but curse their injustice."
Note that any religious knowledge unattainable through ijtihad and authentically conveyed from one of the Companions is considered a hadith by the experts of that science.
Anas said: The Prophet said: "The earth will never lack forty men similar to the Friend of the Merciful [Prophet Ibrahim], and through them people [Muslims] receive rain and are given victory (over their enemies). None of them dies except Allah substitutes another in his place." Qatada said: "We do not doubt that al-Hasan [al-Basri] is one of them."
Ibn Hibban narrates it in al-Tarikh through Abu Hurayra as: "The earth will never lack forty men similar to Ibrahim the Friend of the Merciful, and through you (Muslims) are helped, receive your sustenance, and receive rain."
The Prophet said: "The Substitutes in this Community are thirty like Ibrahim the Friend of the Merciful. Every time one of them dies, Allah substitutes another one in his place."
Hakim Tirmidhi cites it in Nawadir al-usul and Ahmad's student al-Khallal in his Karamat al-awliya'. Haythami said its men are those of the sahih except `Abd al-Wahid, who was declared trustworthy by al-`Ijli and Abu Zar`a [as well as Yahya ibn Ma`in].
Umm Salama the wife of the Prophet said: "Disagreement will occur at the death of a Caliph and a man of the people of Madina will come forth flying to Mecca. Some of the people of Mecca will come to him, bring him out against his will and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam. An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Syria but will be swallowed up in the desert between Mecca and Madina, and when the people see that, the Substitutes (abdal) of Syria and the best people (`asaba) of Iraq will come to him and swear allegiance to him..."
Wahb ibn Munabbih said: I saw the Prophet in my sleep, so I said: "Ya Rasulallah, where are the Substitutes (budala') of your Community?" So he gestured with his hand towards Syria. I said: "Ya Rasulallah, aren't there any in Iraq?" He said: "Yes, Muhammad ibn Wasi`, Hassan ibn Abi Sinan, and Malik ibn Dinar, who walks among the people similarly to Abu Dharr in his time."
Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said in his book al-Khayrat al-hisan fi manaqib al-imam Abi Hanifa al-Na`man, chapter 35:
When Imam al-Shafi`i was in Baghdad, he would visit the grave of Imam Abu Hanifa, give him salam, and then ask Allah for the fulfillment of his need through his means (yatawassal ilallah ta`ala bihi fi qada' hajatihi).
Imam Kawthari mentioned in his Maqalat (p. 412) that the hafiz al-Khatib al-Baghdadi mentions Shafi`i's tawassul through Abu Hanifa in the beginning of his Tarikh Baghdad with a sound chain.
Haytami also said in many places in his book al-Sawa`iq al-muhriqa li ahl al-dalal wa al-zandaqa: "Imam Shafi`i made tawassul through the Family of the Prophet [Ahl al-bayt] when he said:
Al al-nabi dhari`ati wa hum ilayhi wasilati
arju bihim u`ta ghadan bi yadi al-yamini sahifati
The Family of the Prophet are my means and my
intermediary to him. Through them I hope to be
given my record with the right hand tomorrow.
al-Khatib relates that al-hafiz Abu Nu`aym said: considered it incumbent upon all Muslims to invoke Allah for Abu Hanifa in their prayer due to his preservation of the Prophet's Sunan and fiqh for them. This is explained by the fact that among Abu Hanifa's merits that are exclusive to him is his standing as the first in Islam to have compiled a book of fiqh.
Al-Hafiz Abu `Ali al-Ghassani relates in Ibn al-Subki's Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya 2:234: Abu al-Fath Nasr ibn al-Hasan al-Sakani al-Samarqandi came to us in 464 and said: "We had a drought in Samarqand some years ago. The people made the istisqa' prayer but they did not get rain. A saintly man named al-Salah came to the judge and said to him: "I have an opinion I would like to show you. My opinion is that you come out followed by the people and that you all go to the grave of Imam Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari and make istisqa' (prayer for rain) there. Perhaps Allah will give us rain." The judge said: "What a good opinion you have." He came out and the people followed him, and he prayed for rain in front of them at the grave while people wept and sought the intercession of the one that was in it. Allah sent such heavy rain that those who were in Khartenk (where this took place, 3 miles away from Samarqand) could not reach Samarqand for seven days because of the rain's abundance."
The late mufti of Lebanon al-Shahid al-Shaykh Hasan Khalid said in his fatwa on tawassul on September 16, 1980 (Reprinted in the Waqf Ikhlas offset reprint of Sayyid Ahmad ibn Zayni Dahlan's book Fitnat al-wahhabiyya 1992):
Tawassul was declared permissible in our own time by the Mufti of the world, our Shaykh the savant Abu al-Yusr `Abidin. We went with him to Nawa, a place in Hawran wherein is buried the Shaykh Muhyiddin al-Nawawi. When we arrived at his grave, our Shaykh Abu al-Yusr ordered us to ask Allah the Exalted for our need in front of him and said to us: "The du`a (invocation) at his grave is answered."
Ibn al-Jawzi in his biographies of the awliya entitled Sifat al-safwa lists many of those at whose graves tabarruk (seeking blessing) and tawassul is recommended. Among them:
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari: "al-Waqidi said: It has reached us that the Eastern Romans visit his grave and seek rain through his intercession when they suffer from droughts." 1:243. Mujahid said: "People would uncover the space above his grave and it would rain."
Ma`ruf al-Karkhi (d. 200H): "His grave can be seen in Baghdad, and one seeks blessings with it. Al-hafiz Ibrahim al-Harbi (d. 285H) -- Imam Ahmad's companion -- used to say: "Ma`ruf's grave is proven medicine."" 2:214 Ibn al-Jawzi adds: "We ourselves go to Ibrahim al-Harbi's grave and seek blessings with it." 2:410
Al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi also relates Ibrahim al-Harbi's saying about Ma`ruf al-Karkhi: "Ma`ruf's grave is proven medicine." Siyar a`lam al-nubala' 9:343.
Abu al-Hasan al-Daraqutni said: "We used to seek blessings from Abu al-Fath al-Qawasi's grave." 2:471.
Abu al-Qasim al-Wa`iz: "His grave can be sin Ahmad ibn Hanbal's cemetary and it is sought for blessings." [Notice on `Abd al-Samad ibn `Umar ibn Muhammad ibn Ishaq] 2:482.
Al-Hafiz Abu al-Qasim Ibn `Asakir says in Musnad Abi `Uwana (1:430): "Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn `Umar al-Saffar said to me that the grave of Abu `Uwana in Isfarayin [near Naysabur] is a Place of visitation for the whole world (mazar al-`alam) and a Place for obtaining blessing for the entire creation (mutabarrak al-khalq)."
Al-hafiz Diya' al-Din al-Maqdisi al-Hanbali said in his book al-Hikayat al-manthura (Zahiriyya ms. 98, an autograph) that he heard the hafiz `Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi al-Hanbali say that something like an abcess appeared on his upper arm for which there was found no medicine. He came to Ahmad ibn Hanbal's grave and applied his arm against it, after which he found himself healed. Imam Kawthari said that he read this account in Diya' al-Din's own handwriting: Maqalat al-Kawthari (Riyadh and Beirut: Dar al-ahnaf, 1414/1993) p. 407, 412.
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, but he explained to him that by the Prophet is but the most effective intermediary to asking 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 hell fire and to forgive me my sins. For no one forgive 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`eed 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 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 `Allab 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."
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, Syria 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" 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," 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
The following fatwa on tawassul was given by Shaykh Abu Sulayman Suhayl al-Zabibi the Imam of the Mosque of Najjarin in Damascus. It is reproduced in full in the 1992 Waqf Ikhlas reprint of Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan's section of his history of Islam already cited.
Text of fatwa:
"In the Name of Allah the Merciful the Beneficent, and Blessings and Peace upon our Master Muhammad and upon his Excellent and Pure Family and all those who follow them with excellence until the Day of judgment.
"To proceed, you have sent us a letter in which you ask the fatwa concerning belief in tawassul through the Prophets and Messengers, Blessings and Salutations be upon them, and the text of your question is: Is the person who believes in this (tawassul) a mushrik (one who worships other than Allah together with Him) or a kafir (disbeliever), and is his worship -- such as salat, zakat, hajj, and sawm -- sound or void (sahiha am fasida)? And you have asked for an exposition from the Glorious Book because it is the first source of legislation, and from the True Sunna because it holds the second rank in the derivation of proofs after the Noble Qur'an, and from the Consensus (ijma`) and the sayings of the pious early generations, may Allah be well pleased with them, because they are closer than us to the full understanding of Allah's Book and the Sunna of His Messenger.
"This is the answer which I give while asking Allah's help and His power and might:
Belief (i`tiqad) in tawassul through the Prophets and Messengers, Blessings and Peace be upon them, and through the Righteous Friends of Allah (al-awliya' al-salihin) upon whose goodness, righteousness, uprightness, and friendship with Allah there is general agreement, is true belief, not disbelief, and I consider it permissible, not forbidden; and
The person seeking such as the above as a means to Allah in order that his need be fulfilled is a believer and one who declares the oneness of Allah, not one who worships other than Allah together with Him, and all his acts of worship are sound.
"Among the proofs for this from Qur'an: Allah the Blessed and the Exalted said: "O ye who believe, fear Allah and seek ye the means to Him" in sura al-ma'ida verse 34 juz' 4. Some of the scholars of Islam have derived from this verse a proof for the legality of seeking help and a means to Allah through the righteous ones among His servants, and of considering them a means between Allah the Almighty and His servants for the fulfillment of needs provided that the person making tawassul believes that the effective doer (al-fa``al) is Allah and none other. If one thinks otherwise, he has committed disbelief, may Allah the Exalted protect us!
"Also among the proofs from Qur'an for tawassul is the saying of Allah the the Blessed and the Exalted: "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" from sura al-Nisa' verse 63 juz' 5. Ibn Kathir said in explanation of this verse: "Allah the Exalted advises those who disobey and those who sin, when they commit their mistakes and disobedience, to come to Allah's Messenger and seek Allah's forgiveness in his presence and ask him (the Prophet) to forgive them. If they do this, Allah relents towards them, grants them mercy, and forgives them. And this is why He said: "They would have found Allah Oft-Returning, Merciful."
"Ibn Kathir continues: "A large number of the scholars, among whom is Shaykh Abu Mansur al-Sabbagh in his book al-Shamil, have mentioned the well-known account related by al-`Utbi who said: "As I was sitting by the grave of the Prophet, a Beduin Arab came and said: "Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah! I heard that Allah said: "If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful," so I have come to you asking forgiveness for my sin, seeking your intercession with my Lord (mustashfi`an bika ila rabbi)." Then he began to recite poetry:
O best of those whose bones are buried in the deep earth,
And from whose fragrance the depth and the height have become sweet,
May my life be the ransom for a grave which thou inhabit,
And in which are found purity and bounty and munificence!
"Then he left, and I dozed and saw the Prophet in my sleep. He said to me: O `Utbi, run after the Beduin and give him glad tidings that Allah has forgiven him."" This is the end of Ibn Kathir's discourse."
"Here now is the proof from the noble hadith. The following hadith was extracted by the fmasters of hadith among the imams: Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih (whose rank approximates that of Sahih Muslim), al-Nasa'i in his book `Amal
al-yawm wa al-layla, al-Tirmidhi in his Jami` and he said of it:
hasan sahih gharib, that is, with respect to the fact that only Abu Ja`far `Umayr ibn Yazid al-Khutami al-Madani thumma al-Basri narrates it, and he is thiqa (trustworthy) according to Nasa'i and Ibn Ma`in, therefore the fact that it is gharib does not jeopardize its rank of sahih. Ibn Majah also narrated it and confirmed Abu Ishaq [Ibn Rahawayh] who declared it sahih, and so did al-Hakim in his Mustadrak who said: "It is sound according to the criterion of Bukhari and Muslim," and Dhahabi confirmed him.
"From `Uthman ibn Hunayf: He was with the Prophet at the time a blind man came to him complaining of his lack of eyesight... [Hadith of the blind man follows.] This is a sound hadith in which the Prophet explicitly orders those who have a certain need to make tawassul and call him in his absence -- both in his life and after his death. This is precisely what the Companions understood from him, as his order to any given person in the Community is directed to all the Community in every time as long as there is no proof that it is specific to an individual. What then if there is proof to the contrary -- i.e. that it is not specific to an individual? For Tabarani related in his Mu`jam al-kabir and Mu`jam al-saghir that a man in need used to try to visit `Uthman ibn `Affan frequently... [Hadith of the man in need follows.] Tabarani said the hadith was sound and Bayhaqi narrated it in Dala'il al-nubuwwa with a good chain."
Abu Sulayman Suhayl al-Zabibi
Imam of Masjid al-Najjarin
From the 1994 Waqf Ikhlas offset reprint of Shatti's al-Nuqul al-shar`iyya fi al-radd `ala al-wahhabiyya (The Legal Proof-Texts Concerning the Reply to the Wahhabi Sect)
1. Fa istaghathahu al-ladhi min shi`atihi (28:15) "The man of
his [Moses'] own people appealed to him [P: asked him for help] against his foe."
2. Wa law annahum idh zalamu anfusahum ja'uka fa istaghfarullah... (4:64) "If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee [Muhammad] and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them [P:
and asked forgiveness of the messenger], they would have found
Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful."
If a Wahhabi says: "This is specific to him (the Prophet) being alive," we say: There is unanimity and the clearest evidences about the Prophet being alive in his honored grave.
The rule of this noble verse is applicable now and any time Allah will. This is why you see that all scholars recommend reading this verse when visiting his honored grave. This fact cannot be hidden from anybody who studied the sayings of the scholars in this respect. There is no need to detail it again. Anyone who claims a contrary interpretation has to bring evidence to that effect. And how will he get such evidence when many other verses teach the believers to seek shelter with the Prophet?
Among such verses are: al-nabiyyu awla bil mu'minina min anfusihim (33:6) "The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and his wives are (as) their mothers," and wa ma arsalnaka illa rahmatan lil `alamin "We did not send you except as a Mercy to the worlds. This is exactly what was understood by the father of humanity, Adam, from the juxtaposition of the name of the Prophet to Almighty Allah's name. Adam understood that the Prophet is the intermediary and the means to Him. So he sought intercession through him to his Lord in order to be forgiven. And he was forgiven as has been established.
As for the verses and ahadith which have been put forward by the Wahhabis such as the following: ud`uni astajib lakum (40:60) "Call on [P: pray unto] me; I will answer [P: hear] your prayer"; fa firru ila Allah (51:50) "Therefore flee unto Allah"; wa in yamsask Allahu bi durrin fa la kashifa lahu illa hu (6:17, 10:107) "If Allah touch thee with affliction, none can remove it [P: relieve therefrom] but He", "If Allah do touch thee with hurt, there is none can remove it but He"; wa nahnu aqrabu ilayhi min habl al-warid (50:16) "For We are nearer to him than his jugular vein"; Hadith: idha ista`anta fa ista`in billah "If you ask for help, then ask help from Allah" etc.: These verses do not support the Wahhabis' claim that it is prohibited to use the means of prophets and the pious. This is very clear. Those who agree among Muslims about the permissibility and recommendability of seeking the prophets and pious ones as means never meant to suppose any effective power as originating in them. They never believed such a belief at all! Rather, all Muslims believe that Allah Almighty is the doer of His own free deliberation, and He alone is the giver and taker of existence, of benefit, and harm. This is one of the basic beliefs in Islam. The scholars never considered seeking the means of prophets and the pious ones as consisting in mimman ittakhadha min dunillahi andadan or "taking equals other than Allah" as the Wahhabis have claimed.
And how dare they use for evidence to support their school of thought verses like: wa la ya'murukum an tattakhidhu al-mala'ikata wal-nabiyyina arbaban (3:80) "[P:] And He commanded you not that ye should take the angels and the Prophets
for lords" and the like! This is a clear manipulation of the meaning of the verse and a use of something out of its proper place. For if you mention the specious argument of those who forbid using an intermediary, namely that they see the common people often requesting from the pious ones, whether living or dead, what should properly be requested only from Allah Almighty: and that is open to question in our opinion and not a proven fact as Ibn Taymiyya overtly mispresents it with in many of his books and treatises. For he discusses something to that effect in relation to the hadith of the blind man when he begins with the words: "Concerning this [tawassul] there is the hadith of the blind man..." This is a summation of his opposition to the issue at hand: "And they find that the common people say to the saint (wali): "Do such-and-such for me," and these words that they use suggest an influence on their part which properly belongs only to Allah Almighty."
I answer: These confusing expressions must be interpreted figuratively, and the proof for its having to be taken figuratively is that they originate in the mouth of a pure monotheist (muwahhid). Therefore, if the common person is asked of the soundness of his belief in what he is saying, he will answer that Allah alone is the Most Effective Doer (al-fa`al) without partner; and that he asks of those great ones who are honored by Allah and brought near Him because they mean by that to use them as their intermediaries to reach their goal which is Allah Almighty. The reason that they have recourse to the pious ones is that the latter have been placed high by Allah Himself and He is the One who holds them in such consideration and they obtain what they desire from Him, as He Himself has said.
We concede that it is good to recommend to the common people that they observe the path of good manners towards Allah Almighty in masking their requests; indeed it is a part of ordering the good and forbidding the reprehensible. However, it is not correct for us to forbid them from seeking means and using help in absolute terms. How can that be done when Allah Almighty said: "The man of his [Moses'] own people appealed to him against his foe" (28:15)?
As for the heinous comparison, from near or far, of Muslims making tawassul through the Prophet to the Christian worship of Jesus, or Muslims making tawassul through awliya to the Christian worship of saints, we ask Allah to reform those who make such comparand stray so widely from the right path in their views as to forget, by ignorance or design, that Muslims are strict monotheists who worship Allah alone and use the blessings of particular acts, times, places, and persons to benefit them, not as objects of worship. If you persist in not seeing the difference between taking one as an object of worship on the one hand, and using one as a means to obtain blessings on the other, we ask Allah from protection from such misguidance, for persistance in making analogies between the doctrines of Muslims and Christians in disregard of their fundamental disparity is a characteristic of the enemies of Islam.
One deviant sect in particular among these enemies of tawassul are the bukhala' or misers who wish to curtail sending "too much blessings and peace" on the Prophet on the pretense that it would foster worship of the Prophet. They claim -- and what a detestable claim -- that "Praising him too much would be like ascribing a partner to Allah." Subhan Allah! The Prophet explicitly declared their status in the hadith when he said: "The miser (bakhil) is he before whom my name is mentioned and he does not invoke blessings ane peace upon me."
"Verily, Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O believers! Invoke blessings upon him, and utmost greetings." (33:56)
The bukhala' have declared their opposition to Allah Himself, since Allah Himself is sending his salat on the Prophet. If Allah does something, can anyone compete with Him in that? If not, and if He gives the order nevertheless to do the same, then how can that that same thing ever be "too much"? Even one salat of Allah on His Prophet is more than all the salawat jinn and mankind can ever make, even if they made it forever. For that reason, our salat on the Prophet can never be enough, nor does it consist of anything at all on our part, but is only our asking more salat from Allah on him: Allahuma salli `ala Muhammad, i.e. "O Allah, we beg You to send Your salat on Your Prophet."
It is beyond us how anyone can dare say that there is too much praise for the Prophet when his very name is the Praised One. The scholars have even said that Allah has cut the name of the Prophet from His Own Name, as we shall explain insha ALlah in the section on the Prophet's Names. Suffice it to say here that the names of Muhammad, Ahmad, and Mahmud: "Praised One, Most Praised, and Praiseworthy," were never given to any one person before or after him. And Allah said, as read by al-Baydawi in his Commentary:
What differentiates the Muslims from the Jews? The Jews say la ilaha illallah but they never like to say Musa rasulullah. They are stingy in love for their Prophet. Christians similarly refuse to say `Isa rasulullah although for other reasons. Both groups refuse to say Muhammadun rasulullah and that is where we differ. You cannot be Muslim without the latter, even if you are a believer in God. This makes the second part of the shahada a requirement for entering Islam, and thus belief in the Prophet is a means for salvation from error and punishment. Allah never accepts anyone to come to Him saying "I love You directly": instead they must obey the order "If you indeed love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you" (3:31). Therefore love of Allah can only proceed from love of the Prophet and its sign is to praise him an invoke blessings upon him often, as he requested in the hadith akthiru al-salat `alayya ("Send much blessings upon me") which we cite below.
The scholars have explained that Allah's salawat or sending of blessings stands for rahma -- mercy--, while the believers' salawat or invocation of blessings stands for du`a -- supplication. This verse on the salawat of Allah and His angels is absolute in sense and unrestricted with respect to quantity and time. In other words Allah and His angels send blessings, peace, mercy, honor, gifts, and salutations upon the Prophet at all times and with boundless abundance. Allah orders the believers to invoke blessings upon him similarly, that is: incessantly, as far as they are able.
Furthermore, since the best remembrance is la ilaha illallah, a Muslim does not remember Allah except he also remembers the Prophet since he says directly after it: muhammadun rasulullah. This is established by Allah's saying: "Remember Me and I shall remember you" (2:152) as elucidated by the hadith: "Whoever invokes blessings upon me once, Allah sends ten blessings upon him." In this connection al-hafiz Sakhawi said:
Just as in the testimony of faith (shahada) Allah has placed His Messenger's blessed name next to His own sacred name and has said that he who obeys the Prophet obeys Him and he who loves the Prophet loves Him, in the same manner He has related our invoking blessings upon the Prophet to His own blessings upon us. Therefore just as Allah said about His remembrance: Remember Me and I will remember you, likewise is His assurance: Allah sends ten blessings on the one who invokes a single blessing on the Holy Prophet, as it is established in the sound hadith.
Sakhawi mentions on the same page al-Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi's similar explanation of the verse: "Whoso brings a good deed shall have ten the like of it" (6:160) as referring to the good deed of invoking blessings on the Prophet, in the light of the aforementioned hadith.
Anyone who dares claim that there is a limitation in quantity, quality, timeliness, or in any other aspect of invoking blessings and peace upon the Prophet has erred and strayed from the Qur'an, the Sunna, and the Religion of Islam. Be warned, O Muslims who love your Prophet -- and every Muslim loves his Prophet -- about the dissemination of such false advice in your midst, which typifies the logic of those who cannot differentiate between worship and respect and are remiss in both, and typifies the hatred of non-Muslims for the central symbol of the Religion of Muslims -- Blessings and Peace upon him. Diminishing one's praise of the Prophet on the pretense that "it would foster his worship" is to imitate Iblis, who refused to prostrate to Adam on the claim that he only worships Allah.
Such are those who desire to extinguish Allah's light, but Allah will perfect His light in spite of them. None but non-Muslims cringe at the enthusiasm of the believers in invoking blessings on their Prophet. Such enthusiasm proceeds directly from the Prophet's own joy when he received news from heaven of the immense mercy granted his Community for invoking blessings upon him:
Sahl ibn Sa`d narrates: Allah's Messenger came out and met Abu Talha. The latter rose and went to him saying: "My father and mother be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of Allah! I see joy and delight in your countenance?" The Prophet said: "Yes, for Gabriel has just come to me saying: O Muhammad, whoever among your Community invokes blessings upon you once, Allah records for Him ten meritorious deeds, erases from his register ten evil deeds, and raises him ten degrees because of it." al-Sakhawi said: "Our shaykh (Ibn Hajar) graded it hasan without doubt."
Another extremely important reason why one must incessantly invoke blessings on the Prophet is that it is established in the hadith that "the du`a or invocation of the believer is suspended between heaven and earth as long as the invocation of blessings and peace upon your Prophet does not accompany it." Tirmidhi narrates this hadith from `Umar in the section of his Sunan entitled Sifat al-salat `ala al-nabi, and al-Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi comments it thus:
The chain of men who narrate this is sound and both Malik and Muslim have cited it though not Bukhari. Such an utterance on the part of `Umar can only be a Prophetic legislation because it is not subject to opinion. It is strengthened by Muslim's narration of the Prophet's words: "If you hear the mu'adhdhin, repeat his words after him then invoke blessings upon me... then ask Allah to grant me al-wasila..."
It is established that invoking blessings on the Prophet is especially meritorious on Friday according tthe following hadith:
"Invoke blessings upon me abundantly on Friday because is is a day that is (particularly) witnessed and the angels witness it (abundantly). As soon as a person invokes blessings on me his invocation is shown to me until he ends it." Abu al-Darda' said: "Even after (your) death?" The Prophet replied: "Verily, Allah has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of Prophets."
The Prophet explicitly confirmed that the believer gains by invoking blessings and peace upon him without restriction even he ceases all other forms of du`a. This is established in the following hadith:
Ubayy ibn Ka`b said: "After one third of the night the Prophet used to get up. One such time he said: O People! Remember Allah! The rajifa [first blow of the Trumpet] is upon us! The radifa [second blow of the Trumpet] follows it. Death has come." Ubayy said: ya rasulallah inni ukthiru al-salata `alayka fa kam aj`al laka min salati "O Messenger of Allah, I make much salawat upon you as a habit. How much of my prayer should I devote to you?" The Prophet said: "As much as you like." Ubayy said: "A quarter?" The Prophet said: "As you like, but if you add to that it will be better for you." Ubayy then mentioned a third, then a half, then two thirds, and always the Prophet answered: "As you like, but if you add to that it will be better for you." Finally Ubayy said: ya rasulallah inni uridu an aj`ala salati kullaha lak "O Messenger of Allah, I want to devote my entire prayer (i.e. du`a) to you." Whereupon the Prophet said: "Then you will be freed from care and your sins will be forgiven." (Another version has: "Then Allah will suffice you in the matter of your worldly life and your hereafter.")
The scholars of Islam have contributed many commentaries on this important hadith, of which we cite the following from Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami's Fatawa hadithiyya and from al-hafiz al-Sakhawi's al-Qawl al-badi`:
[Haytami:] It is understood from the wording of these narrations that the meaning of the word salat in the expression: "I shall devote my salat to you" is du`a' -- invocation... Then the meaning is: "There is a time in which I make du`a on behalf of myself: how much of that should I devote to you?" If this is established firmly, then consider what the Shaykh al-Islam al-hafiz Ibn Hajar said as reported from him by his student al-hafiz al-Sakhawi who particularly commended this saying of his: "This hadith constitutes a tremendous principle of the Religion for whoever makes du`a after his recitation and says: O Allah, grant our Master Allah's Messenger the reward of this worship."
[Sakhawi:] Salat in this hadith means invocation (du`a') and habitual devotion (wird) in the following sense: "There is a time in which I make du`a on behalf of myself: how much of that should I devote to you?" The Prophet did not consider that he should place a limit for him in this respect in order not to close the gate of superabundance for him. Accordingly he persisted in giving Ubayy the choice at the same time as he stressed for him surplus in invocation until Ubayy said: "I shall devote my entire prayer to you." That is: I shall invoke blessings upon you instead of asking anything for myself. Whereupon the Prophet said: "Then you will be freed from care," that is: do not worry either for your Religion or for your worldly need, because invoking blessings on me includes both remembrance of Allah and rendering honor to the Prophet; and the sense of this is an indication to Ubayy that he is actually invoking for himself, as confirmed by the Prophet's report on behalf of his Lord: "Whoever is occupied from beseeching Me because of remembering Me, I shall grant him the best of what I grant those who beseech." Know then that if you make most of your worship consist in invoking blessings upon your Prophet, Allah will suffice you in the matter of your worldly life and your hereafter.
However, according to the party of the bukhala -- the mean and miserly -- to follow the Prophet's advice in this matter "would foster his worship"! How far is this "Salafi" opinion from the Qur'an and the Sunna! In 1,400 years of sending salawat on the Prophet far more abundantly than in our age, we have never witnessed what they claim; how then do they want us to fear its occurrence now? And have they forgotten that the Prophet specifically said: "Those closest to me in the hereafter are those who invoked blessings upon me the most (in dunya)" and "No people sit at length without mentioning Allah and invoking bleeeings on His Prophet except they will incur dissatisfaction from Allah (or: dissatisfaction on the Day of resurrection): if He likes He will punish them and if He likes He will forgive them"? Rather, they are intent on hindering Muslims from expressing love for their Prophet through invoking blessings upon him, celebrating his birth, reading his life, and encouraging each other towards knowing him and loving him more than their own parents and children. For this is the great characteristic of this Community which its enemies wish to eradicate: we know our Prophet; we keep his status high; we prefer his Sunna to all other lifestyles; and we cherish his love among us more dearly than our own lives and properties.
Following is a list of the principal benefits obtained by invoking blessings on the Prophet as compiled by the hafiz al-Sakhawi in his book devoted to the topic, entitled: al-Qawl al-badi` fi al-salat `ala al-habib al-shafi` (The Radiant Discourse Concerning the Invocation of Blessings on the Beloved Intercessor):
Among the rewards of one who performs salat upon Allah's Messenger are the following:
In sum, it is among the most blessed, most meritorious, most useful of deeds in Religion and in the life of the world, and carries desirable rewards other than all this for those who are clever and eager to acquire the deeds which constitute treasures for them, and harvest the most flourishing ang glowing of hopes. They do this by focusing on the deed that includes all these tremendous merits, noble qualities, manifold and all-encompassing benefits which are not found together in any other. Nor do they characterize any other human action or speech except this: sallahu `alayhi wa sallama tasliman kathiran -- May Allah bless him and greet him abundantly.