All of us are well acquainted with the term shafa’a. When the discussion of crime, sin and guilt of a person is brought up and someone else intercedes and mediates for him in order to save him from death and execution or imprisonment and detention, we say so and so has done shafa'a for him.
The word of shafa'a has been taken from the root word شفعwhich means ‘even’ as against وترwhich means ‘odd’. The reason that the mediation of a person for saving a sinner is known as shafa'a is that the status and position of the one doing shafa'a and his effective powers get attached (and become even) with the factors of salvation which is present in the person receiving the shafa'a (even though it may be a little). Both these, with the help of one another become the cause of release of the sinful person.
The shafa'a of the beloved ones of Allah for the sinners is apparently this that because of their proximity and position which they have before Allah, (of course by the will of Allah and under special norms which have general and not personal aspects) they can mediate for the criminals and the sinners and through (invocation), and pleadings ask God to forgive their crimes and sins. Of course, shafa'a and its acceptance depends on a series of conditions of which some are related to the sinful person and some to the circumstances of shafa'a of sins.
Shafa'a in other words is the help of the beloved ones of Allah (by His will) to the one who in spite of being sinful has not disconnected his spiritual relation with Allah and the beloved ones of Allah. Moreover, this standard should always be safeguarded.
According to one of the meanings, shafa'a is: One inferior person who has the aptitude for leaping forward and progressing seeks help from a superior person in the form of one lawful order. However the person seeking help should not, from the viewpoint of spiritual perfections, fall to such extent that he loses the power of advancing and the possibility of changing into a pious man.
Right from the time of the Holy Prophet (s) till the later periods it had been the practise of the Muslims to seek shafa'a from the true intercessors. They were always asking in their lifetime or in their death and such shafa'a had never been objected by any of the Islamic scholars on any ground or Islamic principles.
It was only in the 7th century A.H. that Ibn Taymiyya with his special way of thinking, opposed this and many other lasting customs and traditions that were in vogue among the Muslims. Three centuries after him, Muhammad bin ’Abd al-Wahhab once again raised the flag of opposition and enlivened Ibn Taymiyya's school of thought with much more vigor.
One of the point of differences of the Wahhabis with the other Islamic sects is that although they have accepted shafa'a as an Islamic principle (like the other muslims) and say that on the Day of qiyama the intercessors will intercede for the sinners and in this matter the Holy Prophet (s) will play a greater role, yet they say that no one has the right to seek shafa'a from them in this world. In this matter they have gone to such an extreme that narrating the text of their sayings will be the source of spiritual discomfort. In short, they say:
The Holy Prophet (s), the other Prophets, the angels and the beloved ones of Allah have the right of doing shafa'a on the Day of Judgement but one should ask for shafa'a from the Master of shafa'a and the One who gives permission for that i.e. Allah and say:
اللهم شفع نبينا محمد فينا يوم القيامة أو اللهم شفع فينا عبادك الصالحين أو ملائكتك أو نحو ذلك مما يُطلب من الله
لا منهم فلا يٌقال يا رسول الله أو يا وليَّ الله أسألك الشفاعة أو غيرها مما لا يقدر عليه إلا الله فإذا طلبت ذلك في
أيام البرزخ كان في اقسام الشرك.
“O God, make the Holy Prophet (s) and your virtuous servants and the Angels as our intercessors on the Day of Judgement.” However we are not having the right to say, “O Prophet of Allah” or “O wali of Allah we ask you to seek shafa'a for us. This is because shafa'a is something which no one is capable of doing except Allah. Asking such a thing from the Holy Prophet (s) who is living in barzakh will be a kind of polytheism (shirk)." 1
The Wahhabis have, with a series of notions, forbidden the seeking of shafa'a from the true intercessors and have labelled the one who does so as a polytheist and his action as polytheism.
Before looking into their reasoning, we shall discuss the matter from the viewpoint of Qur’an, sunnah and the practise of the Muslims in this regard. After that, we will examine their reasoning.
Our reasoning for the permissibility of seeking intercession (shafa'a) is a combination of two matters which by proving them, the matter of intercession will become clear. These two matters are:
(1) Asking for shafa'a is the same as asking for du'a.
(2) Requesting for du'a from some worthy person is a recommended (mustahab) order.
The intercession of the Holy Prophet (s) and other true intercessors is nothing but du'a and eulogy before Allah owing to the proximity and the position which they have before Allah. It is due to their du'a that Allah bestows His mercy and Grace upon the sinners and forgives them. Asking for du'a from one believer (what if it is asked from the Holy Prophet) is an approved affair and none amongst the Islamic scholars whether Wahhabis or Non-Wahhabis have doubt in its authenticity.
Of course it cannot be said that the reality of shafa'a in all the stations of mahshar is this very du'a before Allah. But one can say that one of its clear meanings is du'a and the one who says:
يا وجيهاً عند الله اشفع لنا عند الله
“O the one who has a position before Allah intercede for us from Allah.” denotes the same meaning.
Nizamuddin al-Naysaburi while interpreting the verse
من يشفع شفاعة سيّئة يكن له كفل منها
“And whoever joins himself (to another) in an evil cause shall have the responsibility of it. (Nisa 4:85)”
It is narrated from Muqatil as such:
الشفاعة إلى الله إنما هى الدعوة لمُسلم
“The reality of shafa'a is performing du'a for the Muslims.”
It is also narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) that anyone who performs du'a for his Muslim brother will be accepted and an angel will cry out: “The same shall be for you too.”
Ibn Taymiyya is one of those who believe’s that the request for du'a from a living person is correct. Therefore asking for shafa'a is not confined to the Holy Prophet (s) but one can make such a request from any believer who possesses value and esteem before Allah.
Al-Fakhruddin al-Razi is one of those who have interpreted shafa'a as du'a and eulogy before Allah. In interpreting the verse:
لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا وَسِعْتَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ رَحْمَةً
“And ask protection for those who believe: Our Lord! Thou embracest all things in mercy. (Ghafir 40:7)”
He says: “This verse shows that the shafa'a performed by the carriers of ‘arsh (Throne) is only in connection with the sinners.” 2
Similarly, the shafa'a of the Holy Prophet (s) and other Prophets with regards to the same group (i.e. the sinners) is the same because Allah commands as such:
واستغفر لذنبك وللمؤمنين والمؤمنات
“And, ask protection for your fault and for the believing men and the believing women. (Muhammad 47:19)” 3
And Nuh ('a) sought forgiveness for himself, his parents, those who had faith in him and all the believers who are to come till qiyama and in this way he has fulfilled his mission of shafa'a. 4
This description from al-Fakhr al-Razi bears witness that he has presented shafa'a to be the same as du'a of the intercessor for the sinner and has reckoned the request for shafa'a to be the same as request for du'a.
In the Islamic traditions (hadiths), there are clear indications that the ‘Dua’ of one Muslim for another Muslims is ‘Shafa'at’.
Ibn 'Abbas narrates from the Holy Prophet (s) as such:
ما من رجل مسلم يموت فيقول على جنازته اربعون رجلاً لا يُشركون بالله شيئاً إلا شفعهم الله فيه
“If one Muslim dies and forty men who are not polytheist, recite salat over his dead body, then Allah will accept their shafa'a which was done in his favour.” 5
In this tradition, the person reciting the du'a is introduced as an intercessor. Now, if someone in his life-time requests forty of his loyal friends to be present after his death and perform salat and du'a upon his dead body he has in reality sought shafa'a from them and has prepared the premises of shafa'a of the servants of Allah.
In Sahih al-Bukhari there is a chapter entitled as:
إذا استشفعوا إلى الإمام ليستسقى لهم لم يرُدهم
“When the people would ask their Imam to intercede (do shafa'a) and plead before Allah to descend rain, he (i.e. the Imam) would not reject their demands.”
Also, there is a chapter entitled as:
إذا إستشفع المُشركون بالمسلمين عند القحط
“Occasions when the polytheists demanded shafa'a from Muslims at times of famine.” 6
Narration of these two chapters is evidence that request for shafa'a is the same as request for du'a and it should not be interpreted in another way.
Till here, one pillar of reasoning has been clarified and that is, the reality of seeking shafa'a is nothing but requesting du'a. Now we should engage ourselves in describing the second pillar of reasoning and that is asking from one brother-in-faith (what if it is asking the awliya Allah) is a desirable and recommended action.
The verses of Qur’an bear witness that when the Prophet's seek forgiveness for the people it is very effective and beneficial such as the following verses:
واستغفر لذنبك وللمؤمنين
“And ask protection for your fault and for the believers. (Muhammad 47:19)”
وصلِ عليهم إن صلاتك سكن لهم
“And pray for them, surely your prayer is a relief to them. (Tauba 9:103)”
If the du'a of Prophet has such benefit for man then what is the harm if one requests him to pray as such for him? On the other hand, request for du'a is nothing but request for shafa'a.
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذْ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّهَ تَوَّابًا رَحِيمًا
“And had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Apostle had (also) asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful. (Nisa 4:64)”
By جاؤك (they come to you) it means that they would come and ask the Prophet (s) to pray and seek forgiveness. If it means something else then their coming will be useless and in vain. Moreover, the honour of meeting the Prophet (s) and asking him to pray is itself a witness of the spiritual transformation which prepares the ground for acceptance of prayers. The Holy Qur’an narrates from the sons of Ya'qub ('a) that they requested their father to seek forgiveness for them and Ya'qub ('a) too accepted their request and acted upon his promise.
قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ
قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكُمْ رَبِّي
“They said: O our father! ask forgiveness of our faults for us, surely we were sinners. He said: I will ask for you forgiveness from my Lord. (Yusuf 12:97)”
All these verses show that requesting the Prophet (s) and other virtuous ones to perform du'a which is the same as requesting shafa'a, is not having the least objection from the viewpoint of Islamic standards. For the sake of brevity, we have not narrated the traditions regarding request of du'a from the virtuous ones.
The famous traditionist, al-Tirmidhi and the writer of one of the Sihah of the Ahl al-Sunnah narrates from Anas as such:
سألت النبيّ أن يشفع لي يوم القيامة فقال أنا فاعل قلت فأين أطلبك فقال على الصراط
(Anas says): “I requested the Holy Prophet (s) to ask shafa'a for me on the day of Judgement and he accepted and said, “I shall request your shafa'a. I asked: “Where should I find you? The Prophet said: "Find me near Sirat (bridge over Hell)." 7
With his mild disposition, Anas requests for shafa'a from the Holy Prophet (s) and he too accepts it and gives him glad tidings. Sawad bin Qarib was one of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (s). In the contents of one of his poems, he seeks intercession from the Prophet (s) and says:
فكن لي شفيعاً يوم لا ذو شفاعة بمُغنٍ قتيلاً عن سواد بن قارب
"O' the honourable Prophet! you be my intercessor on the Day of Judgment, the day when the shafa'a of no one will be useful and beneficial to Sawad bin Qarib." 8
Before the Holy Prophet's (s) birth, a person by the name of Tubba' from the tribe of al-Himyar had heard that soon a Prophet was going to be appointed by God in the Arab territory. Before dying, he wrote one letter and requested his near ones that if the day came when such a prophet was sent, then they should hand over his letter to him. In this letter, he had written as such:
وإن لم أدركك فاشفع لي يوم القيامة ولا تُنسِني
“Though my age was not loyal and I died before seeing you, ask my shafa'a on the Day of qiyama and do not forget me.”
When the letter was handed to the Holy Prophet (s) he said thrice:
مرحباً بتبع الأخ الصالح
“Congratulations to Tubba', my pious brother.” 9
If request for shafa'a was polytheism then Holy Prophet (s) would never have addressed him as his brother and would not have thrice congratulated him.
Last section of traditions indicated that seeking shafa'a from the true intercessors in their lifetime is absolutely correct.
Now, we shall mention two traditions that show that the companions of the Holy Prophet (s) used to seek shafa'a from him even after his demise.
(1) Ibn 'Abbas says: When Amir al-mu'minin ('a) finished giving ghusl (ablution) and kafan (shroud) to the Holy Prophet (s), he uncovered the face (of the Prophet) and said:
بأبي أنت وأمي طبت حياً وطبت ميتاً...واذكرنا عند ربك
“May my mother and father be sacrificed; you are chaste and pure in life and in death. Remember us near your Lord." 10
(2) When the Holy Prophet (s) passed away, Abu Bakr uncovered his face and kissed him and said:
“May my father and mother be sacrificed; you are chaste and pure in life and death. Remember and think of us near your Lord.” 11
The aforesaid traditions show that seeking shafa'a of the intercessor makes no difference whether the intercessor is alive or dead. Thus, by paying attention to these verses, traditions and the continuing custom of the Muslims in all the ages, the matter of seeking shafa'a becomes self-evident and one should never be in slightest doubt with regards to its integrity. Moreover, the companions of the Holy Prophet (s) were requesting the Holy Prophet (s) to pray for them even after his demise and if request for du'a (prayers) after his demise is correct, then request for shafa'a too which is one kind of request for du'a is proper and correct. 12
In the previous chapter, we became acquainted with the permissibility of seeking shafa’a with logical reasons. Now it is time to learn about the reasoning of the opponents with regards to such request for shafa’a. The group of opposition have prohibited seeking of shafa’a with their particular way of thinking which we shall now discuss in brief.
By shirk they mean shirk in 'ibada and present seeking of shafa’a to be 'ibada of the intercessor. In chapter 9 we had discussed in detail about 'ibada and have clarified that requesting and asking someone and or seeking shafa’a will be counted as 'ibada only when we believe the other person to be الهGod, رب(Lord) and the one who is managing the world or is the source and master of divine affairs. If it is not as such then any kind of request and asking any kind of respect and honour will never be counted as 'ibada.
The one who seeks shafa’a from the true intercessors before Allah (where Allah has permitted them to do shafa’a) consider them as an intimate and chosen servants of Allah where they are neither God nor the divine affairs such as forgiveness and shafa’a have been transferred to them so that they are able to wilfully and without the permission of Allah, do shafa’a and forgive whomsoever they wish.
Within the framework of ‘Permission of Allah’, these divine people can seek forgiveness and mercy for those particular people who still have spiritual relation with God and their spiritual connection with the divine intercessors has not yet been discontinued. And such a request from someone who does not reckon the intercessor to be more than an intimate servant can never be considered as 'ibada.
Of course we remind you that if such a request (of intercession) to the intercessor who is dead amounts to 'ibada then the same request to a living intercessor too should be counted as 'ibada.
However, in the previous discussion we pointed out that Qur’an and traditions command the Muslims to approach the Holy Prophet (s) and request him to seek forgiveness for themselves. And such a request is nothing but seeking shafa’a from him in his life-time and it is impossible that one action which is polytheism in one period turns into a monotheistic action in another period.
To elaborate further, they say: Shafa’a is the act of God and in better terms, is the right of God and asking others about something which is related to His action will amount to 'ibada of that person. They speak the same about asking for shifa’ (cure) of the sick and other similar things from the beloved ones of God and say: Such kinds of requests are requests for the Acts of God and naturally it will be like doing his 'ibada.
By paying attention to the previous discussions, the reply to this reasoning becomes absolutely clear and it is as such: None amongst the Muslims have differences in this general rule and universal measure and all agree that asking others about the actions of Allah will be counted as 'ibada and involves the belief in divinity and Lordship. But the main point of our discussion is: What is meant by ‘action’ of God? The Wahhabi writers during these three centuries have not explained the standard for the ‘acts’ or ‘action’ of God without which the reasoning will be brought to naught.
In the discussion about the definition and limitation of 'ibada we reminded you that in many verses of Qur’an, the actions which are specific to God have also been attributed to other than Him. For example, giving death which is a specific action of God as mentioned in Sura al-Mu'minun verse 85.
وهو الذي يُحيى ويُميت
"He is one who gives life and Death" is also attributed to (someone) other than Him as mentioned in another verse as such:
حتى إذا جاء أحدكم الموت توَّفته رُسلنا
“Until when death comes to one of you, our messengers cause him to die. (An’am 6:61)”
Until the time death overtakes one of them, our messengers take away their souls. It is not only this action (i.e. ‘giving death’) that is specifically the action of God and is attributed to (someone) other than Him but in fact. a portion of the actions of God and those things which should be asked only from God have been permitted to be asked from someone other than Him.
For example: Qur’an commands the Muslims to say day and night (only from Thee do we seek help) but at the same time in another verse it commands us to seek help from (something) other than Him like salat and patience, As verse says:
وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
“And seek assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones. (Baqarah 2:45)”
If we wish to narrate those verses which are specific to Allah, but are attributed to other than Him, then our discussion will lengthen. 13 What is necessary is to solve the controversy through Qur’anic insight and acquire the actual meaning of Qur’an and it is as such:
Each of these affairs irrespective of our request has two forms:
(1) A ‘doer’ performs an action without relying on a creature, without acquiring power from any position and without obtaining the will of anybody, For example, he gives death to a living creature or helps a creature.
(2) A ‘doer’ performs the same action by relying on a superior being, by acquiring power from a higher position and obtaining His permission. The first affair is the affair of God and the second a human or non-divine affair. This is a general yardstick for distinguishing the divine action from the non-divine ones.
The divine actions such as giving life, death, cure, sustenance etc, are invariably those actions for which the doer is needless of anything in performing them.
On the other hand, a non-divine action is that action which the doer has to depend on a superior and higher creature than him and without His Power and Will, is not able to perform that action.
By paying attention to this principle, it becomes clear that the shafa’a which is the special right of Allah is different from that shafa’a which is sought from the virtuous people.
Allah is needless from all angles in these actions whereas the virtuous one put them into operation only under the light of His wise Will and Permission.
Whenever shafa’a is sought from the awliya Allah in the first sense, then in such a case, the divine action is asked from someone other than God and such an asking will be reckoned as 'ibada.
However if shafa’a is sought from them in the second sense i.e. a limited and permitted shafa’a which is in the form of one acquired right, then in such a case, a non-divine action is asked from them.
By paying attention to this yardstick, the fists of the fallacious writers of Wahhabis will open up and it becomes clear that such kind of requests, most common being request for shafa’a and others such as shifa' (cure) and the like of it takes place under two forms and no virtuous monotheist will request such an action in the first form and no one, no matter how little Islamic knowledge he possesses, will ever reckon them to be the ones managing this world or the ones in charge of the system of creation.
Moreover, they do not (even) reckon them to be such creatures to whom God has entrusted His position and His actions and do not imagine that in the actions of shafa’a and fulfilment of needs they are unlimited and unconditional.
In short, asking for a limited and authorised shafa’a is the action of a man from man himself and is not asking for the Acts of God from someone other than Him.
We shall speak about the ‘action of God’ and its special features in the near future.
The second reasoning which the Wahhabis give for the prohibition of shafa’a is this that God has labelled the idol-worshippers of Hijaz as polytheists because of their seeking of shafa’a from the idols; their crying and wailing before them and their request (to them) to act as mediators, The following verse bears testimony to this:
وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنْفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ
“And they serve beside Allah what can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. (Yunus 11:18)”
Therefore, any kind of shafa’a from other than God will be polytheism and worshipping of the intercessor.
Firstly, this verse is never an indication of what they say and if the Qur’an calls them as polytheists it is not because they were seeking shafa’a from the idols but because of worshipping them and finally reaching the stage of seeking shafa’a from them.
If seeking shafa’a from the idols did really amount to their worship then, in addition to the sentence ويعبدون there was no reason to bring the sentence:
ويقولون هؤلاء شفعاؤنا
That these two sentences have come in a parataxis form in this verse shows that the matter of 'ibada (worship) of the idols was different from the matter of seeking shafa’a from them, Worshipping of the idols is the sign of polytheism and dualism and seeking shafa’a from the stones and wood is reckoned to be a foolish act, devoid of any logic or reason.
This verse never shows that seeking shafa’a from the idols amounts to worshipping them so that we may say that seeking shafa’a from the true beloved ones of Allah is the sign of worshipping them.
Secondly, even if we assume that the reason of their polytheism was due to their seeking of shafa’a' from the idols yet, there exists a vast difference between their seeking of shafa’a and the seeking of shafa’a of the Muslims. They reckoned the idols to be the masters of shafa’a and the absolute authorities in the matters related to shafa’a and ‘forgiveness of sins’. Perhaps God has discharged Himself from these affairs and has entrusted them to the idols.
Such a shafa’a will naturally be (like) worshipping them because they were seeking shafa’a in them by having belief in their divinity, lordship and their being the source of divine affairs. On the other hand, a Muslim seeks shafa’a and requests for du'a from the beloved ones of Allah as one esteemed and honourable one (of Allah) and as one authorized servant of Allah in the matter of shafa’a. Thus considering these two forms as one and the same is far from justice and realism.
The third reason which the Wahhabis give for the prohibition of the matter of seeking shafa’a from the divine leaders is this that by specific decree of Qur’an, we should not, in the position of du'a, call anyone other than Allah. And asking for shafa’a from other than God is one kind of asking (for fulfilment of needs).
The Holy Qur’an says:
فلا تدعوا مع الله أحداً
“Then do not call anyone with Allah (Jinn 72:8)”
If on the one hand it is said that calling someone other than Allah is forbidden and on the other hand the matter of shafa’a of the awliya Allah has been established, then the way of concluding is to say that we should seek shafa’a of the divine leaders from God and not from themselves.
The proof that such callings is 'ibada and worship is the following verse of Qur’an:
ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
“Call upon Me, I will answer you; surely those who are too proud for My service shall soon enter hell abased. (Ghafir 40:60)”
Attention is required in the beginning of the verse; the word and in the end the word has come which shows that ‘calling’ and worship give one and the same meaning. In the books of tradition too, we find as such:
الدعاء مُخ العبادة
“Du'a is the brain of 'ibada (worship).”
Firstly, the verse which has prohibited دعوت (calling) of someone other than God in the sentence فلا تدعوا does not refer to absolute calling and requesting. Instead, this prohibition (of دعوت) refers to the prohibition of worshipping someone other than God; the reason being the preceding verse which says وأن المساجد لله. This sentence shows that by دعوت (in this verse) is meant some specific دعوت which is accompanied by worship and a rising which is mixed with unlimited humility and lowliness in front of the one whom they consider as God of the Universe, Lord of the worlds and the absolute authority in creation. 14
And such a bond does not exist in the matter of seeking shafa’a from someone in whom Allah has bestowed such a right to give shafa’a by His will.
Secondly, what has been prohibited in the verse is ‘calling someone along with Allah’ and ‘considering him at His level’, as the word of مع الله is a clear evidence to this fast. If someone requests the Holy Prophet (s) to pray for him, that Allah may forgive his sins or fulfil his needs, than he has not called anyone along with Allah. Rather, the reality of this calling is nothing but the calling of Allah.
If asking for fulfilment of needs from the idols is introduced as polytheism in some of verses, it is because they reckoned them to be the small gods, the authorities in all or some of the divine affairs and the ones who are powerful enough to fulfil their needs. Therefore the Qur’an criticizes such ideas and says:
وَالَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ نَصْرَكُمْ وَلَا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَنْصُرُونَ
“And those whom you call upon besides Him are not able to help you, nor can they help themselves. (Araf 7:197)”
The Qur’an also says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ عِبَادٌ أَمْثَالُكُمْ
“Surely those whom you call on besides Allah are in a state of subjugation like yourselves. (Araf 7:194)”
In short, the polytheists imagined the idols to be small gods and believed them to be absolute possessors of divine actions. However, asking ‘shafa’a and du'a from someone whom God has granted such a right and position is devoid of such stipulations.
Thirdly, calling is having a much wider and comprehensive meaning and is occasionally used metaphorically in 'ibada (worship) such as the verse of أدعوني استجب لكم إن الذين يستكبرون and the tradition الدعاء مع العبادة. However, such partial usages in metaphorical form is no reason that we always interpret دعوت in the meaning of worship and condemn the request for fulfilment of need and du'a from someone (in a reasonable manner) as polytheism.
Moreover, the actual meaning of دعوت is ‘to call’ which sometimes takes the shape of Ibadat and mainly gives the meaning of calling others (and not 'ibada).
Later, we shall have a chapter on the meaning of دعوت in Qur’an and will prove that every دعوت (calling) and pleading is not accompanied with 'ibada and worship.
The following verse shows that shafa’a is the right of Allah and as such, what meaning can we derive other than this?
أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ شُفَعَاءَ ۚ قُلْ أَوَلَوْ كَانُوا لَا يَمْلِكُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَعْقِلُونَ
قُلْ لِلَّهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا
“Or have they taken intercessors besides Allah? Say: what! even though they did not ever have control over anything, nor do they understand. Say: Allah's is the intercession altogether. (Zumar 39:43)”
The sentence لِلَّهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًاdoes not mean that only God gives shafa’a and that no one else is having the right of shafa’a. This is because undoubtedly, God never asks anyone to do shafa’a for someone else. Rather, it means that God is the original Owner of shafa’a and not the idols; since the one who possesses wisdom and ownership of all things becomes the owner of shafa’a and not the idols whom they worship which are devoid of both these qualifications. As Qur’an says:
قُل أولوا كانوا لا يملكون شيئاً
Therefore, the pivot of discussion of this verse is that God is the Owner of shafa’a and not the idols and in whomsoever He sees worth and merit, He gives the right of shafa’a (and not to the idols). Therefore, this verse has no relation with the topic of our discussion because the Muslims consider only God as the Owner of shafa’a and not the beloved ones of God. They believe that only those who are having His permission can do shafa’a and not everybody. They also believe that by the decree of verses and traditions, God has authorised the Holy Prophet (s) to do shafa’a. Thus, they seek shafa’a from him as one authorized person (and not as the Owner of shafa’a). As such, what is the relation between the discussion and the contents of this verse?
Their last reasoning is that seeking shafa’a from the awliya Allah is (like) seeking fulfilment of needs from the dead who are lacking the hearing sense. The Holy Qur’an explains the dead to be unworthy. As it says:
إِنَّكَ لَا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَلَا تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا وَلَّوْا مُدْبِرِينَ
“Surely you do not make the dead to hear, and you do not make the deaf to hear the call when they go back retreating. (Naml 27:80)”
In this verse, the Holy Qur’an likens the polytheists to the dead and informs us that just as the dead are not capable of understanding, in the same manner; it is not possible for you to make this group to understand. If the dead were capable of speaking and hearing, then it was not proper to compare the dead-hearted polytheists to the group of dead people.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُسْمِعُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ وَمَا أَنْتَ بِمُسْمِعٍ مَنْ فِي الْقُبُورِ
“Surely Allah makes whom He pleases hear, and you cannot make those hear who are in the graves. (Fatir 35:22)”
The analysis of this verse is the same as the analysis of the previous verse. Thus, seeking shafa’a from a person is like seeking (something) from an inanimate object.
This group always finds fault with the other sects of Islam through the door of shirk (polytheism) and as supporters of monotheism, they seek to label others as kafir (unbelievers) But, in this analysis, they have changed the form of this discussion and have presented the matter of uselessness of paying attention to the awliya. However, they are completely unaware that:
The awliya Allah by the blessings of rational 15 and narrative 16 reasoning, are alive and living. The objective of this verse is not to prove that the bodies which have been laid to rest are not capable of understanding and anybody from which the soul has been detached, is unable to perceive and understand and turns into an inanimate object.
However, it should be known that what we address is not the hidden body inside the grave but the pure and living spirits which are living with barzakhi bodies in the world of barzakh and are, as per the Qur’an, alive. We seek shafa’a from these spirits and not the concealed bodies in the soil.
If the dead and the hidden bodies inside the soil are not capable of understanding, it does not mean that the spirits (and their good influence) which according to Qur’an are alive and receiving their sustenance in another world are incapable of understanding.
If we say salutations or seek shafa’a and or speak to them, our attention is directed to those holy and living spirits and not the hidden bodies inside the soil. If we go for ziyara (visit) of their graves, houses or place of living, it is because we wish by this way, to prepare ourselves for establishing a spiritual relationship with them. Even if we become aware that their bodies have changed to soil (though the Islamic traditions prove contrary to that) still we will seek of reach such instances so that in this way, we prepare for our relationship with these pure spirits.