In the last chapter we saw the Wasilah that Allah uses to reach His creation. We will now examine the different types of Wasilah used by the creatures to reach the Creator and refer to this as the Upward Wasilah.
There are several broad types of Upward Wasilah:
Here we beseech Allah and seek His nearness by His Own status, His Grandeur, His Majesty and everything to do with His Own Self. This is a direct communication and communion with the Almighty.
اَاللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي اَسْألُكَ بِاسْمِكَ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيِم
O Allah! I beseech You by Your Name In the Name of Allah the most Beneficent The most Merciful.
اَاللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي اَسْألُكَ بِاسْمِكَ العَظِيم آلْآعَزِّ آلْآ جَلِّ آلْآكْرَم
O Allah! I beseech You through Your Name, the great, the most great, the most majestic, the most magnificent and the most noble.
One’s deeds and actions can become the means of attaining nearness to Allah and beseeching His favors. These verses refer to Taqwa as a means to achieve nearness to Allah.
• Surah Al Hujrat:
إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
“Surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware” (49:13)
• Surah Al-Baqarah:
وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
“And seek assistance (of Allah) through patience and prayer and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones”. (2:45)
The Holy Qur’an is filled with verses to this effect. In the Nahjul Balagha1, Imam Ali (‘a) says:
“The best means by which the seeker of means can attach himself to Allah (SWT) is:
a. To have faith in Him and His prophet (S)
b. To struggle in His way (Jihad), for it is a protection for Islam
c. Establishing prayers for it is the basis of Islam
d. Giving Zakat, for it is an obligation
e. Fast of the Holy month of Ramadhan for it is a shield against punishment
f. Pilgrimage to Hajj and Umra as it removes poverty and wipes out sins
g. Maintaining relations (sile rahm) as it increases property and life
h. Giving charity in public (openly) for it protects against horrifying death
i. Giving charity secretly for it clears the sins
Certain places, although built by human beings, become the means to attaining nearness to Allah (SWT) because of their special significance, status and position in front of Allah in Surah Al-Tawbah:
إِنَّمَا يَعْمُرُ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَلَمْ يَخْشَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ فَعَسَىٰ أُولَٰئِكَ أَنْ يَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُهْتَدِينَ
“The mosques of Allah shall be visited by such as believe in Allah and the last day”. (9:18)
لَا تَقُمْ فِيهِ أَبَدًا لَمَسْجِدٌ أُسِّسَ عَلَى التَّقْوَىٰ مِنْ أَوَّلِ يَوْمٍ أَحَقُّ أَنْ تَقُومَ فِيهِ فِيهِ رِجَالٌ يُحِبُّونَ أَنْ يَتَطَهَّرُوا وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُطَّهِّرِينَ
“Certainly a Mosque founded on piety from the very first day is more deserving that you should stand in it; in it are men who love that they should be purified; and Allah loves those who purify themselves”(9:108)
Mosques have a special position in Islam. Although human beings build them by their own desire and choice of dimension and architecture, Allah (SWT) calls them His house and praying one unit of prayer in a mosque is superior to praying several units at home.
Amongst the mosques, Masjid ul-Haraam in Makkah occupies a special position and the reward of praying one unit of prayer in Masjidul Haraam is much more than praying in an ordinary mosque. After Masjidul Haraam comes Masjidun Nabii in Medina, Masjidul Kufa, Baytul Muqaddas, Juma mosque of a city, and then the local mosque.
According to the Grand Ayatullah As-Seestani in his Risala (Ruling No:904)
“Saying one’s prayers in the shrines of the Holy Imams is recommended (mustahab) and indeed even better than offering prayer in a mosque. For instance, reward of offering prayers in the shrine of Imam Ali (a.s) is equal to 200,000 prayers.”
Praying per se is one of the means to achieve nearness to Allah but praying in the mosque (and in congregation) carries more weight and makes the process of attaining nearness easier and faster.
The Holy Prophet (S) said:
“Verily, when one of His servants establishes a prayer in congregation and asks Him something which He does not grant, Allah will be ashamed until He fulfils it”
From Imam Ali bin Musa (‘a) we learn
“The excellence of the congregational prayer, comparing to solitary prayer is one rakat to two thousand rakats”
So both, praying in the mosque and in congregation become the means of attaining nearness to Allah (SWT). Different mosques take one closer to Allah (SWT) by different degrees. In Masjidul Haraam, one gets far greater spiritual proximity to Allah than in an ordinary mosque which in turn is far superior to ones own home.
The question is why do such places become Wasilah for us to reach Allah (SWT)?
Allah (SWT) is everywhere, all the time. He is not confined to certain places such that we get closer to Him when we go to these places. Why can one not attain the same proximity to Him wherever he may be?
The following points provide the answer:
i. There are special and specific signs of Allah (SWT) placed in such places e.g. the Kaba, Maqame Ibrahim, Hajarul Aswad, mounts of Safa and Marwa etc.
ii. People of special significance and who have attained very close proximity to Allah (SWT) are buried there e.g. Masjidun Nabii, Mas- jidul Kufa etc. It is by the virtue of these people that the ordinary place becomes transformed into a special mosque with special status in front of Allah (SWT). Thus the presence of such people makes the Wasilah stronger!
iii. Special angels go to and from these places continuously.
All this creates a highly charged, highly elevated spiritual environment so much so that the spiritual level of one who enters such a place is raised many fold and hence one gets closer to the Lord. The apparently lifeless place becomes a Wasilah to reach Allah (SWT).
Certain objects have special significance in Islam, and when used make one’s ibaadat worthier and attain higher status in front of Allah. Examples include wearing white clothes while praying, applying attar, wearing silver ring on the right hand, brushing one’s teeth, combing hair and beard and etc. The use of these objects with the correct intention brings one closer to Allah (SWT).
Most people have absolutely no objection with these types of Tawassul and preach actively in favor of them. The objection starts with the next type.
Here one applies the Tawassul of another human being to approach Allah.
We can further subdivide this type of Wasilah into 3 categories:
A. Beseeching Allah (SWT) by the name or status of a particular person e.g.:
اَللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي اَسْألُكَ بِاسْمِكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ
O Allah! I beseech you by the name of your Prophet (S)
اَللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي بِحَق فاطمة وأبيها وبعلها وبنيها
O Allah! I beseech you by the status of Fatimah and her father and her husband and her children (‘a)
B. Asking somebody else to pray for you.
This includes supplicating to the Prophet (S) or one of the Aimma (‘a) to pray to Allah on ones behalf. Here the supplication is made to a person to pray to Allah and to present ones problem and needs to Allah. In other words, that person becomes the Wasilah to reach Allah. This is done in recognition of the person or people’s special status he / they hold in front of Allah (SWT). For example in Dua Tawassul we say
إِنَّا تَوَجَّهْنَا وَسْتَشْفَعْنَا وَتَوَسَّلْنَا بِكَ إلَى اللهِ وَقَدَّمْنَاكَ بَين يَدَيْ حَاجَاتِناَ
“We turn towards you, seek your intercession and advocacy (Wasilah) Before Allah. We put before you our open need O! The one who is very close to Allah, intercede for us in front of Allah.” (Dua Tawassul)
C. Asking for help from a person directly.
This is the most contentious issue of all. One is not asking Allah (SWT) directly or indirectly rather he is asking another person to fulfill his needs.
Strictly speaking this is not Tawassul; it is Istighasah i.e. calling for help or aid.
1. Calling out to Hazrat Abbas (‘a) when faced with difficulties
O the one who relieves stress in the name of Husayn (‘a), relieve my stress in the name of Husayn (‘a)
3. Or saying:
“O Ali help (me)” or
یَا مُحَمَّد یَاعَلِيْ إكْفِياني فَاَنَّكُما كافِيانِي، وَانْصُراني فَاَنَّكُما ناصِرانِ
- O Muhammad, O’ Ali! Be sufficient for me for you (both) are sufficient and help me for you (both) are helpers.
یَا مَوْلاَنَا یَا صَاحِبَ الزَّمَان الغَوْثَ اَدْرِکْنِي
- O’ our master, O’ Master of the Time, I am calling for help, help me!
Those against Tawassul object to this type of Wasilah, arguing that it is “shirk” to invoke help from other than Allah (SWT). This class of Tawassul and Istighatha requires a separate and in depth discussion as it is the most polemical issue in the whole discussion. It will therefore be treated independently in the following chapter.
- 1. Imam Ali (as), Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 109: