Intercession In The Light Of Holy Qur’an

The word intercession has come in Holy Qur’an thirty times which itself shows the importance of the subject. Some verses refute and some recommend it so, by going through only one category will not suffice the discussion. We have seen that because of the above mentioned reason, people have not been able to grasp the right concept. As some verses explain the others. As the Holy Prophet (S) says:

اِنَّ الْقُرْآنَ يَصْدُقُ بَعْضُه بَعْضًا.

“Surely, some verse of Holy Qur’an attests the other.”1

Ameerul Momenin, ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) said:

وَ يَنْطُقُ بَعْضُه بَعْضٍ وَ يُشْهِدُ عَلى بَعْضِه

“Some verse of Holy Qur’an speaks with the help of other verses and some testifies the other.”2

In Holy Qur’an there are seven different types of verses regarding intercession and its explanation.

First Category Of Verses Of Intercession

The verse which totally refute the intercession:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَنفِقُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لاَّ بَيْعٌ فِيهِ وَلاَ خُلَّةٌ وَلاَ شَفَاعَةٌ وَالْكَافِرُونَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ.

“O you who believe! spend out of what We have given you before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, neither any friendship nor intercession, and the unbelievers — they are the unjust.” (Surah Baqarah, 2:254.)

(1) The sentence وَ لاَ شَفَاعَةٌ is the proof against those who completely refuse the intercession which will be explained thus:

It is not right to base your opinion because since in other verses of Qur’an the proof of intercession is found. E.g. Ayatul Kursi

...مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ...

“…who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission?...” (Surah Baqarah, 2: 255.)

(2) It is not the negation of intercession but the false intercession. For e.g. وَلاَ خُلَّةٌ (neither friendship nor relation will count). It is the friendship of the believers but not for the disbelievers. It is evident from the other verses that only friendship of the believers will be useful on the day of judgement and not with the unbelievers. For e.g.

اَلْاَخِلاَّءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْصٍ عَدُوٌ اِلاَّ الْمُتَّقِيْنَ ...

“The friends shall on that day be enemies one to another, except those who guard (against evil).” (Surah Zukhruf, 43 :67)

(3) The word انفق ‘those who pay zakat’ and it is so important that those who deny this payment are termed as unbelievers.

وَالكافِرُوْنَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُوْنَ.

There is no question of intercession with the unbelievers. Therefore, the negation of first part stating that there will be no intercession is meant for those who deny payment of zakat.

Second Category Of Verses Of Intercession

It is based on those verses which is regarding the believers of the Jews about intercession those two verses from:

وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْماً لاَّ تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئاً وَلاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلاَ يُؤْخَذُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ.

“And be on your guard against a day when one soul shall not avail another in the least, neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped.”(Surah Baqarah, 2 :48)

وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْماً لاَّ تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئاً وَلاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلاَ تَنفَعُهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ.

“And be on your guard against a day when no soul shall avail another in the least neither shall any compensation be accepted from it, nor shall intercession profit it, nor shall they be helped.” (Surah Baqarah, 2:123)

It is evident from the presiding and proceeding of the about two verses that Lord addresses the Jews negating their stand of intercession by which they took pried over other tribes and religion, therefore, Almighty addresses them to convince the Muslims of their going astray, thus affirm the truth of Islam.

Jews who take pride of being the progeny of Prophet Yaqub (a.s.) and are thus free from committing any sins, as they say that our forefathers are capable of barring the burden of our sins, thus intercession is for us. Even the Christians are on the same line as evident from the Qur’anic verse:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَى نَحْنُ أَبْنَاء اللهِ وَأَحِبَّاؤُهُ

And the Jews and the Christians say: We are the sons of Allah and His beloved ones. (Surah Maidah, 5:18)

The tradition says that they consider themselves the owner of Heaven and thus nobody can enter it. Qur’an has stated in:

وَقَالُواْ لَن يَدْخُلَ الْجَنَّةَ إِلاَّ مَن كَانَ هُوداً أَوْ نَصَارَى

“And they say: None shall enter the garden (or paradise) except he who is a Jew or a Christian….” (Surah Baqarah, 2:111)

In many places the Qur’an has expressed clearly their wrong and adamant behaviour and declared that Heaven is not the estate of Jews and Christians. Qur’an further states thus:

تِلْكَ أَمَانِيُّهُمْ قُلْ هَاتُواْ بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ بَلَى مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ للهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ فَلَهُ أَجْرُهُ عِندَ رَبِّهِ وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

“And they say: None shall enter the garden (or paradise) except he who is a Jew or a Christian. These are their vain desires. Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful. Yes! Whoever submits himself entirely to Allah and he is the doer of good (to others) he has his reward from his Lord, and there is no fear for him nor shall he grieve.” (Surah Baqarah, 2:111 & 112)

It is quiet clear from the above verses in which intercession is refuted is that intercession which the Jews and Christian believe.

Third Category Of Verses Of Intercession

These are that verses in which it is stated that there will be no intercession for unbelievers and also those who intercede for them will not be accepted, there are three ayats:

يَقُولُ الَّذِينَ نَسُوهُ مِن قَبْلُ قَدْ جَاءتْ رُسُلُ رَبِّنَا بِالْحَقِّ فَهَل لَّنَا مِن شُفَعَاء فَيَشْفَعُواْ لَنَا أَوْ نُرَدُّ فَنَعْمَلَ غَيْرَ الَّذِي كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ قَدْ خَسِرُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُم مَّا كَانُواْ يَفْتَرُونَ

“Do they wait for aught but its final sequel? On the day when its final sequel comes about, those who neglected it before will say: Indeed the apostles of our Lord brought the truth; are there for us then any intercessors so that they should intercede on our behalf? Or could we be sent back so that we should do (deeds) other than those which we did? Indeed they have lost their souls and that which they forged has gone away from them.” (Surah Aaraaf, 7:73)

إِذْ نُسَوِّيكُم بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ وَمَا أَضَلَّنَا إِلاَّ الْمُجْرِمُونَ فَمَا لَنَا مِن شَافِعِينَ وَلاَ صَدِيقٍ حَمِيمٍ.

“When we made you equal to the Lord of the worlds; and none but the guilty led us astray; so we have no intercessors, nor a true friend; …” (Surah Shurah, 26: 98-101)

وَكُنَّا نُكَذِّبُ بِيَوْمِ الدِّينِ حَتَّى أَتَانَا الْيَقِينُ فَمَا تَنفَعُهُمْ شَفَاعَةُ الشَّافِعِينَ

“And we used to call the Day of Judgment a lie; till death overtook us. So the intercession of intercessors shall not avail them.” (Surah Muddassir, 74:46-48)

It goes without saying that unbelievers have no effect of faith in them on the strength of which they can do intercession. When there is no relation between them and the Almighty then how can they have relation with the prophets? And how can they expect intercession? And even those who have relation are themselves in hell. Thus all the exegesis (مفسّر) are unanimous that these verses clearly state that there will be no intercession for disbelievers.

Fourth Category Of Verses Of Intercession

These verses relate intercession of their idols. In the history of illiterate Arabs we find that they prepaid idols of wood and stone and mettles, and they used to worship them so that idols would be pleased with them and may intercede for them. Qur’an has ridiculed them on many occasions, as lifeless things cannot intercede since they have no شعور in them.

Verses in support are:

وَمَا نَرَى مَعَكُمْ شُفَعَاءكُمُ الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ أَنَّهُمْ فِيكُمْ شُرَكَاء لَقَد تَّقَطَّعَ بَيْنَكُمْ وَضَلَّ عَنكُم مَّا كُنتُمْ تَزْعُمُونَ

“And certainly you have come to Us alone as We created you at first, and you have left behind your backs the things which We gave you, and We do not see with you your intercessors about whom you asserted that they were (Allah’s) associates in respect to you; certainly the ties between you are now cut off and what you asserted is gone from you.” (Surah Anaam, 6: 94)

وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللهِ مَا لاَ يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَـؤُلاء شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللهِ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللهَ بِمَا لاَ يَعْلَمُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلاَ فِي الأَرْضِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

“And they serve beside Allah what can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Do you (presume to) inform Allah of what He knows not in the heavens and the earth? Glory be to Him, and supremely exalted is He above what they set up (with Him).(Surah Yunus, 10:18)

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُم مِّن شُرَكَائِهِمْ شُفَعَاء وَكَانُوا بِشُرَكَائِهِمْ كَافِرِينَ.

“And they shall not have any intercessors from among their gods they have joined with God, and they shall be deniers of their associate-gods.”(Surah Rom, 30:13)

أَ أَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً إِن يُرِدْنِ الرَّحْمَن بِضُرٍّ لاَّ تُغْنِ عَنِّي شَفَاعَتُهُمْ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يُنقِذُونِ.

“What! Shall I take besides Him gods whose intercession, If the Beneficent God should desire to afflict me with a harm, shall not avail me aught, nor shall they be able to deliver me?” (Surah Yaasin 36: 23)

Exegesis says that these words are uttered by Habib Najjar defending the prophets.

Fifth Category Of Verses Of Intercession

Lord said that only He is authorised and there is no other to recompense.

وَأَنذِرْ بِهِ الَّذِينَ يَخَافُونَ أَن يُحْشَرُواْ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ لَيْسَ لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ وَلِيٌّ وَلاَ شَفِيعٌ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ.

“And warn with it those who fear that they shall be gathered to their Lord — there is no guardian for them, nor any intercessor besides Him — that they may guard (against evil).” (Surah Anaam, 6:51)

وَذَرِ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُواْ دِينَهُمْ لَعِبًا وَلَهْوًا وَغَرَّتْهُمُ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا وَذَكِّرْ بِهِ أَن تُبْسَلَ نَفْسٌ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ لَيْسَ لَهَا مِن دُونِ اللهِ وَلِيٌّ وَلاَ شَفِيعٌ...

“And leave those who have taken their religion for a play and an idle sport, and whom this world’s life has deceived, and remind (them) thereby lest a soul should be given up to destruction for what it has earned; it shall not have besides Allah any guardian nor an intercessor…” (Surah Anaam, 6:70)

اللهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ مَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ شَفِيعٍ أَفَلاَ تَتَذَكَّرُونَ

“Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six periods and He mounted the throne (of authority); you have not besides Him any guardian or any intercessor, will you not then mind?” (Surah Sajdah, 32:4)

قُل للهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا لَّهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

“Say: Allah’s is the intercession altogether; His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you shall be brought back.” (Surah Zumar, 39: 44)

Irresponsible person may deduce that only Lord can intercede and believe that the prophets, saints and righteous people can intercede is false, their only reply is to refer to the preceding verses.

أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ شُفَعَاء قُلْ أَوَلَوْ كَانُوا لَا يَمْلِكُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَعْقِلُونَ

“Or have they taken intercessors besides Allah? Say: What! Even though they did not ever have control over anything, nor do they understand.” (Surah Zumar, 39: 43)

Sixth Category Of Verses Of Intercession

These verses lay stress on the Supreme Powers acceptant. On the day of resurrection the total control and status will be His.

...مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ...

“…who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission?” (Surah Baqarah, 2:255)

...مَا مِن شَفِيعٍ إِلاَّ مِن بَعْدِ...

“…there is no intercessor except after His permission…” (Surah Yunus, 10:3)

لَا يَمْلِكُونَ الشَّفَاعَةَ إِلَّا مَنِ اتَّخَذَ عِندَ الرَّحْمَنِ عَهْدًا.

“They shall not control intercession, save he who has made a covenant with the Beneficent God.” (Surah Maryam, 19:87)

يَوْمَئِذٍ لاَّ تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلاَّ مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَنُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلاً.

“On that day shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent God allows and whose word He is pleased with.” (Surah Ta Ha, 20:109)

وَلاَ تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ عِندَهُ إِلاَّ لِمَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ

“And intercession will not avail aught with Him save of him whom He permits.” (Surah Sabah, 34:23)

وَلاَ يَمْلِكُ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ الشَّفَاعَةَ إِلاَّ مَن شَهِدَ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

“And those whom they call upon besides Him have no authority for intercession, but he who bears witness of the truth and they know (him).” (Surah Zukhruf, 43:86)

Seemingly the question arises that with few conditions right to intercede other than Almighty is possible and this does not negate the other verses where only Almighty has the right to intercede. Is it possible that some verses of the Qur’an oppose the other verses?

Answer to this question is that there is no difference between the two verses, as it can be seen that the verses in which the intercession other Almighty is mentioned is only with the condition with His permission only. If it is mentioned that anybody other than Almighty can intercede than this question may arise but it is not so, as none i.e. other can intercede without His permission, and the power of all things lies in His hands. (As mentioned in the earlier verses) وَ لِلهِ الشَّبَاعَةُ جَمِيْعًا and Lord has given the permission to the prophets to intercede on behalf of their Ummat, so that they may intercede for their sins which is their right.

Seventh Category Of Verses On Intercession

In these verses not only the existence of the intercessor are mentioned but also their attributes and specialties:

وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَنُ وَلَدًا سُبْحَانَهُ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُّكْرَمُونَ لاَ يَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُم بِأَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُونَ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلاَ يَشْفَعُونَ إِلاَّ لِمَنِ ارْتَضَى وَهُم مِّنْ خَشْيَتِهِ مُشْفِقُونَ

“And they say: The Beneficent God has taken to Himself a son. Glory be to Him. Nay! They are honoured servants. They do not precede Him in speech and (only) according to His commandment do they act. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves and for fear of Him they tremble.” (Surah Ambiya, 21:26-28)

وَكَم مِّن مَّلَكٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ لاَ تُغْنِي شَفَاعَتُهُمْ شَيْئًا إِلاَّ مِن بَعْدِ أَن يَأْذَنَ اللهُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيَرْضَى

“And how many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession does not avail at all except after Allah has given permission to whom He pleases and chooses.” (Surah Najm, 53:26)

الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَيُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا...

“Those who bear the power and those around Him celebrate the praise of their Lord and believe in Him and ask repentance for those who believe.” (Surah Momeen, 40:7)

As you have seen in above verses Angels and those who are near to Him seek repentance for believers, the idea of intercession is nothing but the same, that Lord may forgive and envelopes them in His bounty.

  • 1. Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 41, pg. 59, Chap. 106, Tr. No. 1.
  • 2. Nahjul Balaghah, sermon 129.