Tawassul to the beloved ones of Allah is a matter which is in vogue amongst the Muslims of the world and from the day the Islamic Shari’ah was conveyed through the Holy Prophet (S) its legality was also declared by the way of Islamic traditions.
It was only in the 8th century A.H. that tawassul was rejected by Ibn Taymiyyah and two centuries later Muhammad ibn ’Abd Al-Wahhab intensified this objection. Tawassul was introduced to be unlawful and heresy and occasionally was labelled as worshipping the awliya’ and it is needless to mention that worshipping other than God amounts to polytheism and is forbidden.
We shall later on have a separate discussion regarding the meaning of worship ('ibadah) and we shall remind you that tawassul to the divine leaders on the one hand will be counted as worship and polytheism and on the other hand will be considered as desirable and mustahab having no sign of worship. However, we shall not discuss them here. What is important to know is that tawassul to the Awliya’ Allah is done in two ways:
1. Tawassul to themselves. For example, we say:
اللهم إني أتوسل إليك بنبيك محمد (صلى الله عليه وأله) ان تقي حاجتي
“O Lord I take recourse to your Messenger Muhammad (S) in order that you fulfil my wish.”
2. Tawassul to their position and reverence before Allah and their rights.
Like we say:
اللهم إني أتوسل إليك بجاه محمد (صلى الله عليه وأله) وحُرمته وحقِّه ان تقضي حاجتي
“O Lord I take their position and their respect which they have before Thee as the means for my need to be fulfilled by Thee.”
From the viewpoint of the Wahhabis, both these types are declared to be forbidden whereas the Islamic traditions and the practice of the Muslims bear witness contrary to the views of the Wahhabis and recommend tawassul of both these types.
At first, we shall mention the Islamic traditions one by one and then state the practice of the Muslims. By paying attention to both these reasonings, the matter of heresy and unlawfulness will automatically cease to exist.
But, whether tawassul to divine leaders amounts to their worship or not will be discussed in the section of ‘meaning of worship’ and that section will be the most insightful part of our discussion.
There are many traditions mentioned in the traditional and historical books which bear testimony to the correctness and verity of the matter of tawassul to the divine leaders themselves and their position. Here, we mention a part of those traditions:
First Tradition - Tradition of ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf1
إن رجلاً ضريراً اتى إلى النبي (صلى الله عليه وأله) فقال ادعُ الله ان يُعافينى فقال إن شئت دعوت وإن شئت صبرت وهو خير قال فادعه ، فامره أن يتوضأ فيُحسن وضوه ويُصلّي ركعتين ويدعو بهذا الدعاء: اللهم إني أسالك ، وأتوجه بك إلى ربي في حاجتي لتقضي ، اللهم شفعه في. قال ابن حنيف فوالله ما تفرقا وطال بنا الحديث حتى دخل علينا كان لم يكُن به ضُرّ.
“A blind person approached the Holy Prophet (S) and said: ‘Request Allah to cure me.’ The Holy Prophet (S) replied: ‘If you wish so I will pray for you but be patient for that is much better.’ The blind man asked the Holy Prophet (S) to pray for him. The Holy Prophet (S) ordered him to take proper Wuzu and then recite two Raka't (units) of salat and this ‘Dua’: O’ Lord! I request from Thee; I pay attention to Thee through (the channel) of your prophet Muhammad, Your blessed prophet. O Muhammad, I turn to my Lord for the fulfilment of my need through you so that my need is answered.
O Lord, accept his intercession for me….”
The authenticity and verity of the reference needs no word from us. Even the leader of the Wahhabis i.e. Ibn Taymiyyah has declared its reference to be correct and has said that by Abu Ja'far whose name has come in the Sanad of the tradition means Abu Ja'far Al-Khutami and he is a reliable man.2
Al-Rifa'i, a contemporary Wahhabi writer who strives to cast down the credibility of the traditions on tawassul, says with regard to this tradition as such:
لا شك إن هذا الحديث صحيح ومشهور وقد ثبت فيه بلا شك
“Undoubtedly this tradition is correct and well-known."3
In the book of Al-Tawassul, Al-Rafa'i says: “This tradition has been mentioned by Al-Nasa'i, Al-Bayhaqi4, Al-Tabarani5, Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Hakim in his Al-Mustadrak6 and two recent writers have inserted the sentence اللهم شفعني فيه instead of وشفعه فيه.7
Zayni Dahlan writes in Khulasat Al-Kalam that: “This tradition has been narrated - with reliable chains of narration - by Al-Bukhari, Ibn Majah, Al-Hakim in his Al-Mustadrak and Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti8 in his Al-Jami.”
The writer narrates this tradition from the following references:
1. Sunan Ibn Majah, vol 1, page 441 from the publications of Dar Ihya Al-Kutub Al-'Arabiyya, (ed. by Muhammad Fu'ad 'Abd Al-Baqi), tradition no. 1385.
Ibn Majah narrates from Abu Ishaq:
هذا حديث صحيح
‘This tradition is correct.’
Thereafter he adds:
"Al-Tirmidhi has narrated this tradition in the book of Abwaab-ul-Adeeya and said
هذا حديث حق صحيح غريب
‘This tradition is truly correct and Gharib.’
2. Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal vol. 4, page 138. He has narrated this tradition in three ways from the Musnad of ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf printed from Al-Maktab Al-Islami, Mo'assassa Dar Sadir, Beirut.
3. Al-Mustadrak of Al-Hakim vol. 1, page 313 printed from Hyderabad. After narrating the tradition, he says:
هذا حديث صحيح على شرك الشيخين ولم يُخرجاه
“This tradition is correct according to the criteria set by the Sheikhayn and they have not narrated it.”
4. Al-Jami' Al-Saghir written by Al-Suyuti narrated from Al-Tirmidhi and Mustadrak of Hakim, page 59.
5. Talkhis Al-Mustadrak9 written by Al-Dhahabi (died in 748 A.H.) which is printed below Al-Mustadrak.
6. Al-Taj Al-Jami' vol. 1, page 286. This book is the collection of the traditions of the five books of Sihah except Ibn Majah.
Therefore it is needless to speak and discuss about the reference of this tradition.
You hand over this tradition to someone who is acquainted with Arabic language and a person whose mind is completely free from the controversies of the Wahhabis in the matter of tawassul and ask him what the Holy Prophet (S) has commanded him in the du'a which he taught the blind man and how he guided him as to how one's ‘Du’as’ are easily answered! He will immediately reply: “The Holy Prophet (S) has taught him to consider the blessed Prophet as a channel and to seek tawassul from him and ask God to fulfil his wish. This matter can easily be understood from the following sentences:
.A اللهم إني اسئلك وأتوجه إليك بنبيك
“O Lord, I ask Thee and turn towards Thee through the channel of your Prophet.”
The word نبيك is pertaining to the previous two words اسئلك and اتوجه إليك
In clearer terms, he asks from God through the channel of ‘Nabi’ and also turns to God through him. Moreover by ‘Nabi’ is meant Nabi himself and not the ‘Du’a’ of Nabi; to imagine that it means the du'a of Nabi is deficient of any reason.
Anyone who predetermines the word of du'a has no reason other than pre-judgement since, the one who commends such a word and does not think tawassul to people to be correct forcibly strives to predetermine the word of ‘Du’a’ so that nobody opposes his idea and eventually he may say: “It means tawassul to the ‘Du’a’ of the Prophet (S) and not the Prophet himself and tawassul to the ‘Du’a’ of someone is proper.
.Bمحمد نبي الرحمة
In order to clarify that asking God for the sake of the Prophet and paying attention to Him through His channel is the right purpose, the word of نبيك is mentioned along with the sentence محمد نبي الرحمة which clarifies the fact much better and makes the meaning more apparent.
C. The sentence يا محمد اني أتوجه بك إلى ربي shows that he (i.e. the blind man) is referring to Prophet Muhammad himself and not his du'a.
D. The sentence وشفعه فيّ means: O God, make him as my intercessor and accept his intercession towards me. In all of these sentences what is said and explained is the very personality of the Holy Prophet (S) and his great position and there is no talk of the du'a of the Holy Prophet.
With this explanation all the five objections which the Wahhabi writer Al-Rifa'i has mentioned in the book Al-Tawassul ila Haqiqat Al-Tawassul is done away with and we have brought the details of the objections and their reply in our book, Al-Tawassul. Interested readers can refer to them on pages 147 to 153.
'Atiyya Al-'Awfi narrates from Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudri that the Holy Prophet (S) said: “Anyone who leaves his house for salat and recites in this state the following du'a, he will meet the mercy of Allah and one thousand angels will seek forgiveness for him.”10
اللهم إني أسئلك بحق السائلين عليك وأسئلك بحق ممشاي هذا فإني لم اخرُج اشراً ولا بطراً ولا رياء ولا سُمعة وخرجت إتقاء سخطك وابتغاء مرضاتك فاسئلك ان تعيذني من النار وان تغفر لي ذنوبي إنه لا يغفر الذنوب إلا أنت.
“O God I ask Thee by the right of the questioners and by the honor of the steps which I take in Thy direction, I have not left the house for the purpose of disobedience or recreation or hypocrisy. I have left for keeping away from Thy anger and achieving Thy satisfaction. I ask Thee to keep me away from the Fire and forgive my sins for nobody forgives the sins except Thee.”
This tradition clearly bears testimony to the fact that man, while asking God for his need to be fulfilled can take the position and status of a pious person as his channel and the reasoning of this tradition brings to light our objective.11
After disobedience of Allah, Adam (a) in the light of the words which were manifested from God, repented as Qur’an says:
فَتَلَقَّىٰ آدَمُ مِنْ رَبِّهِ كَلِمَاتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
Then Adam received (some) words from his lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:37)
Regarding the interpretation of كلمات (words) which has come down in this verse, a group of commentators and traditionists, by relying on the following tradition are having a view, which by paying attention to its text will become clear for us.
Al-Tabarani in Al-Mu'jam Al-Saghir, Al-Hakim Nishapuri in Al-Mustadrak, Abu Nu'aym Al-Isfahani12 and Al-Bayhaqi in the book of Dala’il Al-Nubuwwah13, Ibn ‘Asakir Al-Shami in his Al-Ta'rikh, Al-Suyuti in Al-Durr Al-Manthur and Al-Alusi in Ruh Al-Ma'ani14 have narrated from ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab that the Holy Prophet (S) has said: 15
لما اذنب ادم الذي اذنبه رفع رأسه إلى السماء فقال اسئلك بحق محمد إلا غفرت لي فأوحى الله إليه ومن مُحمد؟ فقال تبارك اسمك ، لما خلقت رفعت رأسى إلى غرشك فإذا فيه مكتوب لا إله إلا الله ومحمد رسول الله فقلت إنه ليس أحد اعظم عندك قدراً: ممن جعلت اسمه مع اسمك فاوحى إليه إنه اخر النبيين من ذريتك ولولا هو لما خلقتك.
“When Adam committed the sin he raised his head towards the sky and said (O God) I ask Thee by the right of Muhammad that You forgive me. God revealed to him: “Who is Muhammad?” Adam replied: When You created me, I raised my head towards the ‘Arsh’ (Throne) and I saw that on it was written “There is no God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. I said to myself that Muhammad must be His greatest creature that Allah has kept His name besides his own name. At this moment, it was revealed to him that Muhammad was the last of the Prophets from his Progeny and if it was not for Muhammad, God would have not created him. “
1. In the Holy Qur’an, the word كلمة or words كلمات are applied to personalities contrary to what is common amongst us. For example:
أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُبَشِّرُكَ بِيَحْيَىٰ مُصَدِّقًا بِكَلِمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ
That Allah gives you the good news of Yahya verifying a Word from Allah...(Holy Qur’an, Surah Aale Imran, 3:39)
يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ مِنْهُ اسْمُهُ الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ
O Maryam, surely Allah gives you good news with a Word from him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Maryam. (Holy Qur’an, Surah Aale Imran, 3:45)
إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ
The Messiah, Isa son of Maryam is only an Apostle of Allah and His Word… (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Nisa:171)
قُلْ لَوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ
Say: If the sea were ink for the words of my Lord. (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Kahf, 18:109)
وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ
With seven more seas to increase it, the words of Allah would not come to an end. (Holy Qur’an, Surah Luqman, 31:27)
Considering that the word of كلمات has come in the verse under our discussion, we can say that by كلمات is meant the same noble personalities to whom tawassul is sought and in the aforesaid tradition, only the name of Muhammad is mentioned from amongst the names of those personalities. Therefore, in Shia traditions, this reality is narrated in two ways. Sometimes كلمات is interpreted as a name of these holy personalities and sometimes it refers to their sparkling light. Here are both the interpretations:
إن أدم راى مكتوباً على العرش اسماء معظمة مكرمة فسأل عنها فقيل له هذه اسماء اجل الخلق منزلة عند الله تعالى والأسماء محمد وعليّ وفاطمة والحسن والحسين ، فتوسَّل ادم عليه السلام إلى ربه في قبول توبته ورفع منزلته
“Adam saw the names which were written in ‘Arsh (throne) and did tawassul to them. It was told to him that these names were the most honorable creatures of Allah and they were Muhammad, 'Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn. Adam repented by doing tawassul to them.” 16
Another Shia tradition mentions that Adam saw the sparkling light of these five personalities. For knowing this tradition, please refer to Tafsir Al-Burhan.17
2. By referring to the historical and traditional books it becomes clear that tawassul of Adam (a) to the Holy Prophet (S) was one famous and well-known matter. As, Imam Malik told Mansur Al-Dawaniqi in the shrine of the Holy Prophet (S) as such:
هو وسيلتك ووسيلة ابيك أدم
“He (Holy Prophet) is your channel and your father, Adam's channel.” 18
The Islamic poets have put this reality into a form of verse:
به قد اجاب الله ادم دعا ونجى في بطن السفينة نوح قوم بهم عفرت خطيئة ادم وهم الوسيلة والنجوم الطُلع
“On account of him, Allah accepted the ‘Dua’ of Adam and saved Noah inside the ship. They are such people through whom Adam's sin was pardoned and they are those who are the channels to Allah and the sparkling stars.”19
Fourth Tradition: Tawassul Of Prophet (S) By The Right Of Prophet (S) And By The Rights Of Previous Prophets
لما ماتت فاطمة بنت أسد ، دخل عليها رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وأله) فجلس عند رأسها ، فقال رحمك الله يا أمي بعد أمي ثم دعا رسول اله (صلى الله عليه وأله) اسمامة بن زيد ، وابا أيُوب الأنصارى وعمر بن الخطاب وغُلاماً اسود ، يحفرون ، فحفروا قبرها ، فلما بلغوا الحد ، حفر رسول الله بيده واخرج تُرابه ، فلما فرغ دخل رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وأله) فاضطجع فيه ، ثم قال: الله الذي يُحيى ويُميت وهو حيُّ لا يموت إغفر لأمي فاطمة بنت اسد ووسّع عليها مدخلها بحق نبيك الدين من قلبي
“When Fatima, daughter of Asad passed away and the Holy Prophet (S) was informed about her death he came and sat beside her and said: ‘O my mother after my mother, may God have mercy upon you. Then he asked Usama, Abu Ayyub, ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab and a black slave to prepare one grave. When the grave was ready the Holy Prophet (S) made a niche in the side of the grave and buried her with his own hands and then recited this ‘Dua’: 'O Allah the One who gives Life and Death: the One who is All-Living and never dies, Have mercy on Fatima daughter of Asad and make her abode vast by the right of your Prophet and the Prophets who came before me.’”
The writer of Khulasat Al-kalam says:
رواه الطبراني في الكبير والأوسط وابن حبان والحاكم وصحّحوه
“This tradition is narrated by Al-Tabarani (in his Al-Mu'jam), Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim and they have confirmed its authenticity.”20
Sayyid Ahmad ibn Zayni Dahlan writes in the book Al-Durar Al-Saniyya fi Al-Radd 'ala Al-Wahhabiyyah as such:
روى ابن أبي شيبة عن جابر مثل ذلك ، وكذا روى مثله ابن عبد البر عن ابن عباس ، ورواه ابو نعيم في حلية الأولياء عن أنس ، ذكل ذلك كُله الحافظ جلال الدين السُيوطي في الجامع الكبير.
“The famous traditionist Ibn Abi Shayba has narrated this tradition from Jabir. Ibn 'Abd Al-Barr and Abu Nu'aym too have narrated this tradition from Ibn 'Abbas and Anas respectively. Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti has brought all these matters in Al-Jami' Al-Kabir.”21
The writer narrates this tradition in the afore-mentioned form from two books that some of them contain the supplication related to our discussion while others do not.
1. Hilyat Al-Awliya’ (Abu Nu'aym Al-Isfahani), vol. 3, page 121.
2. Wafa' Al-Wafa' (Al-Samhudi) vol. 3, page 899.
Some of the Islamic traditionists have narrated that an Arab accompanied with some villagers approached the Holy Prophet (S) and said:
لقد اتيناك وما لنا بعير يط229 لنا ولا صبيُ يعظ 230
“We have come to you while we are neither having a camel with us to groan nor a child to sleep.”
Thereafter he recited these poems
أتيناك والعذراء تُمى لبانُها وقد شُغلت أم الصبيّ عن الطفل
ولا شئ مما تأكل الناس عندنا سوى الحنظل العامي والعلهز الفسل
وليس لنا إلا إليك فرارُنا واين فرار الناس إلا إلى الرُسل
“We have come to you while blood drops from the bosom of the horses; the mother has been restrained from her baby. We are not having anything with ourselves for people to eat except for bitter leaves which they eat in the year of famine and some bad food from wool and blood. We are having no alternative but to seek shelter in you, and in whom can people seek shelter except the Prophets.”
فقال رسول الله يجرر حتى صعد المنبر ، فرفغ يديه: اللهم إسقنا غيثاً مُغيثاً...فما ردّ النبي يديه حتى ألقت السماء...ثم قال لله درابي طالب لو كان حياً لقرَّت عيناه ، من يُنشدنا قوله؟ فقال عليُ بن أبي طالب ، وقال وكأنك تُريد يا رسول الله قوله:
وَ أَبْيَضُ يُسْتَسْقَى اَلْغَمَامُ بِوَجْهِه ثِمَالُ اَلْيَتَامَى عِصْمَةٌ لِلْأَرَامِلِ
يَطُوفُ بِهِ اَلْهَلاَكُ مِنْ آلِ هَاشِمٍ فَهُمْ عِنْدَهُ فِي نِعْمَةٍ وَ فَوَاضِلَ
The Holy Prophet (S) said:
فأنشد عليّ ابياناً من القصيدة والرسول يستغفر لأبي طالب على المنبر ، ثم قام رجل من كنانة وأنشد .لك الحمد والحمد ممن شكر سُقينا بوجه النبي المطر
“‘Yes, my objective was the same as you have recited.’ Then Ali (a) read a portion of his elegy and the Holy Prophet (S) asked blessings for Abu Talib on top of the pulpit.’ After this a man from the tribe of Bani Kinana stood up and recited some lines where the first line meant as follows: “All the praise is for You. O Allah; praise from Your worthy slaves. By resorting to the Holy Prophet (S), we have become satiated by the rainfall.”
Numerous references have been narrated for this portion but the writer has narrated from the following documents:
a. 'Umdat Al-Qari fi Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 7, page 31 written by Badr Al-Din Mahmud bin Ahmad Al-'Ayni22 (d. 855 A.H.) printed by Idara Al-Taba'a Al-Muniriyya.
b. Sharh Nahj Al-Balagha by Ibn Abi Al-Hadid, vol. 14, page 80.
c. Al-Sira Al-Halabiyya by 'Ali bin Burhan Al-Din Al-Halabi23, vol. 3, page 263.
d. Al-Hujjah 'ala Al-Dhahib ila Takfir Abi Talib, written by Shams Al-Din Abi 'Ali Fakhar bin Ma'ad (d. 630 A.H.), printed in Najaf, 'Alawi press, page 79.
e. Sira Zayni Dahlan in the margin of Al-Sira Al-Halabiyya, vol. 1, page 81.
إن سواد بن قارب رضي الله ، انشد لرسول الله قصيدته اليئ فيها التوسل ويقول: وأشهد أن الله لا رب غيره وأنك مأمون على كل غائب وأنك أدنى المرسلين وسيلة إلى الله يابن الأكرمين الأطائب فمُرنا بما يأتيك يا خير مُرسل وإن كان فيما فيه شيب الذوائب وكن لي شفيعاً يوم لا ذو شفاعة بمُغنٍ قتيلاً عن سواد بن قارب
“I bear witness that there is no God except Allah. You (O Prophet) are trustworthy upon every hidden thing from the senses. From amongst the Prophets you are the nearest channel towards Allah. O the son of the honorable and noble! you command us whatever you receive. O, the most righteous Apostle! Although acting upon your commands causes the hair on the head to turn white, you be my intercessor on the Day when the intercession of the intercessors will be useless for Sawad bin Qaa'reb even to the extent of string of dates.”24
Till here we were able to mention some of the traditions of tawassul which have come in the historical and traditional books of Ahl Al-Sunnah.
However, in the traditions of Shi’a leaders, the matter of tawassul to holy personalities is so clear and obvious that it can be witnessed in most of their ‘Du’as’ (supplications).
Should we learn Islamic teachings and instructions from Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn ’Abd Al-Wahhab or acquire them from the Household of the Messengership and the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S) who by the order of Hadith Al-Thaqalayn, are (The Lesser Weight) and witness to Qur’an. Amongst the numerous ‘Du’as’ that have come in Al-Sahifa Al-'Alawiyya25 or in du'a 'Arafa or in Al-Sahifa Al-Sajjadiyya, we shall content ourselves with only one of them which is most suitable in connection with the previous tradition.
اللهم إنا نتوجه إليك في هذه العشية التي فرضتها وعظمتها بمُحمد نبيك ورسولك وخيرتك من خلقك
“O Lord at such a moment that You have made it obligatory and honorable upon me, I turn towards You by Muhammad, Your Prophet, Your Messenger and Your best of those created by You.”26
The practice of the Muslims during the time of the Holy Prophet (S) and also after him was that they were always seeking ‘tabarruk’ to the Awliya’ Allah themselves as well as to their position and status. Now we shall mention some of them here:
1. Ibn Al-'Athir 'Izz Al-Din 'Ali bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Karim Al-Jazari (died in 630 A.H.) writes in the book Usd Al-Ghabah fi Ma'rifat Al-Sahaba as such:
واستسقى عمر بن الخطاب بالعباس عام الرمادة لما إشتد القحط فسقاهم الله تعالى به واخصبت الأرض فقال عمر هذا: والله الوسيلة إلى الله والمكان منه وقال حسان:
سال الإمام وق نتابع جدبنا فسقى الغمام بغرة العباس
عمّ النبي وصنو والده الذي ورث النبي بذالك دون الناس
أحيا الإله به البلاد فأصبحت مخضرة الأجناب بعد اليأس
ولما سُقى الناس طفقوا يتمسحون بالعباس ويقولون هنيئاً لك ساقي الحرمين
“In the year when famine reached its peak, ‘Umar requested for rain through the channel of Abbas. God satiated them through him and every place became green. Thereafter ‘Umar faced the people and said: ‘I swear by Allah that Al-‘Abbas is our channel towards Allah and he is having a high station before Allah.’
Hassan ibn Thabit recited a poem in his honor and said: ‘When famine had severely engulfed the entire area, the Leader requested for rain.’ Thereafter the clouds in the sky, through the brightness of Al-‘Abbas satiated the people. Al-‘Abbas who is the Uncle of the Prophet (S) and alike the father of the Prophet (S) has inherited such a position and status from him. Almighty Allah enlivened the places through him and every spot began to be filled with greenery after despair and disappointment. When it rained, people everywhere started seeking tabarruk by touching the body of Al-‘Abbas and they said: Bravo O Saqi (cupbearer) of the two holy sanctuaries.”27
Observation of the period of history, an example of which has also been mentioned in Sahih Al-Bukhari, shows that one of the means of tawassul was through the honorable personalities who were embodiment of nearness (to God) and meritorious and possessed virtues that make them suitable for tawassul. What an elegant manner to express this is to say:
هذا والله الوسيلة إلى الله والمكان منه
‘This is by God a means for seeking nearness to God and at His House.’
2. Al-Qastallani (d. 923 AH), who was a contemporary to Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti, writes in his book Al-Mawahib Al-Ladunniyyah bil-manha Al-Muhammadiyyah fil Seerat Al-Nabawiyyah that has been printed in Egypt that:
إن عمر لنا استسقى بالعباس قال يا أيها الناس إن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وأله) كان يرى للعباس ما يرى الولد للولد فاقتدوا به في عمه واتخذوه وسيلة إلى الله تعالى ففيه التصريح بالتوسل وبهذا يبطُل قول من منع التوسُل مُطلقاً بالإحياء والأموات وقول من منع ذلك بغير النبي.
“When ‘Umar requested for rain through Abbas he said: 'O people! The Holy Prophet (S) used to look at Abbas from a father's angle. You follow him and take him as your channel towards Allah.'" This action nullifies the notion and thought of those who have completely prohibited tawassul or have prohibited it for personalities other than Holy Prophet (S).”28
3. When Mansur asked the grand Mufti of Medina, Malik bin Anas, whether he should face the qibla and recite du'a or face the Holy Prophet (S), the latter replied:
لِم تصرف وجهك عنه وهو وسيلتك ووسيلة أبيك أدم (عليه السلام) إلى الله يوم القيامة بل استقبله واستشفع به فيشفعك الله قال الله تعالى ولو أنهم إذ طلموا أنفسهم.
“Why do you turn your face away from him? He is your means and your father, Adam's channel on the Day of Judgement. You resort to him and take him as your intercessor as Almighty Allah accepts his intercession. Allah declares (in Quran) that if those who do injustice upon themselves..."29
إن النبي دريعتي هم إليه وسيلتي
ارجوا بهم أعطى غداً بيدى اليمين صحيفتي
“The Household of the Holy Prophet (S) is my channel towards Allah and it is through their means that I have hope that my book of deeds will be given in my right hand."33
By taking into consideration these testimonies and words, one can claim that the Holy Prophet (S) and the outstanding personalities are one kind of channel which Qur’an has ordered for that as:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَابْتَغُوا إِلَيْهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ
O you who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means of nearness to Him. (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Maida, 5:35)
And وسيلة (means, channel) is not confined to observance of the wajib (obligatory) and haram (prohibited) acts. Instead, even the mustahab (recommended) acts such as tawassul to Prophets is a وسيلة (channel) too. Can we find fault with so many scholars in understanding the meaning of وسيلة while they are the authorities in (passing) judgement and the protectors of traditions and are reckoned to be the Islamic scholars!
Those who do not give importance to these kinds of specifications and testimonies and think of their justification and interpretation are those who because of their prejudice do not intend to reap the benefits of these testimonies and evidences. For presenting an example of their prejudice and discrimination, we bring here a matter which Al-Bukhari has narrated about this historical event and hence see with the vision of reality, how the curtain of prejudice has brought about deviation and chaos in this matter. We have replied to them in the book of Al-Tawassul page 135 to 140.
5. Al-Bukhari narrates in his Al-Sahih as such:
إن عمر بن الخطاب كان إذ قُحطوا إستسقى بالعباس بن عبد المُطلب رضي الله عنه ، وقال اللهم كُنا نتوسل إليك بنبينا فتُسقينا وإنا نتوسل إليك بعمّ نبيينا فاسقنا قال فيُسقون.
“During the period of famine, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab would take resort to Al-'Abbas bin 'Abd Al-Muttalib and say: ‘O God! previously we were taking resort to Your Prophet and You were sending Your mercy on us; Now we take resort to Your Prophet's uncle send Your mercy on us.' At this moment it started to rain and everything got satiated.”34
There is nothing to be said about the authenticity and consensus regarding this tradition. Even Al-Rifa'i who, under various pretexts, rejects the reliable traditions on tawassul has admitted the authenticity of this tradition and says:
إن هذا الحديث صحيحُ... فإن صحَّ هذا الجواز شرعاً فنحن مِن أسبق الناس إلى الأخذ به والعمل بمُقتضاه
“Certainly this tradition is correct….If the purpose of the tradition is a proof upon the correctness of tawassul to people then we are the first people to take the step to accept that purpose and act upon it.”35
By paying attention to the sentences of the Caliph himself which he narrates to Al-'Abbas about tawassul and especially when he swears by Allah
هذا والله الوسيلة إلى الله والمكان منه
“This is by God a means for seeking nearness to God and at His House.”36
It becomes clear that the reality of tawassul in this case is tawassul to the self or to the position and status of Al-'Abbas before God.
In this regard, Muhammad bin Nu'man Al-Maliki (d. 683 A.H.)37 narrates in his book Misbah Al-Zalam fi Al-Mustaghithin bi Khayr Al-An’am fi Al-Yaqzah wa Al-Manam the manner of tawassul of ‘Umar to Al-'Abbas as such:
اللهم إنا نستقيك بعمِّ نبيك (صلى الله عليه وأله) ونستشفع إليك بشيبته فسُقوا وفي ذلك يقول عباس بن عتبة بن أبي لهب:
بعمِّي سقى الله الحجاز وأهله عشية يستسقي بشيبته عمر
"O God we ask for rain through the channel of thy Prophet's uncle and we take his authority and previous record in Islam as our intercessor. At this moment, the mercy of Allah showered upon everyone. 'Abbas ibn 'Utba ibn Abi Lahab recited a poem in this regard and said: 'By the blessings of my Uncle, the land of Hijaz and its inhabitants got satiated. And at sunset, ‘Umar did tawassul to his (Al-Abbas’s) virtuousness.'"38
In the same way, Hassan bin Thabit too recited a poem regarding this matter:
فسقى الغمام بغُرة العباس
“The cloud satiated (everything) due to the sparkling face of Abbas.”
Ibn Hajar Al-'Asqalani says in the book of Fath Al-Bari fi Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari:
Al-Abbas in his du'a said:
وقد توجه القوم بي إليك لمكاني من نبيك
“The people resorted to me because of the bond of relationship which I have with Thy Prophet.”39
As the respected readers have observed, there is no place of doubt that the aim was tawassul to the position and status of Abbas and we are aware that from ancient times there is a saying that:
تعليق الحُكم بالوصف مشعر بالعلية
“Anytime, a judgement is derived from a topic, its content will be a testimony against the topic (and) a testimony upon the proof of judgement.”
That is to say, if the Holy Qur’an says:
وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ
…Securing the necessities of life for the women is a matter concerning those whose wives bear children for them… (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:233)
It is a judgement due to expression of the reason of judgement and since women bring children for the men, their expenses in daily life should naturally be met by the men.
If we say: A learned man and a scholar should be respected, it is because of his knowledge and wisdom.
Therefore, if ‘Umar says إنا نتوسل إليك بعمِّ نبيّك he wishes to indicate the reason for doing tawassul to Al-'Abbas. In other words, from among so many people, why should we do tawassul to him? As Al-'Abbas himself said:
لمكاني من نبيك
“Because of my status in relation to your Prophet.”
Taking into consideration these reasonings, we can decisively say that the Muslims in the beginning of Islam were doing ‘tawassul’ to the righteous and virtuous personalities.
6. Poem of Safiyyah in grief of the Holy Prophet (S):
Safiyyah, daughter of Abd Al-Muttalib and aunt of the Holy Prophet (S) recited a poem in grief of the Holy Prophet (S). Two of its lines are:
ألا يا رسول الله أنت رجاؤنا وكُنت بنا براً ولم تك جافياً
وكنت بنا براً رؤوفاً نبينا ليبكِ عليك القوم من كان باكيا
“O Prophet of God you are our hope. You were a righteous person and never did you oppress anyone. You were good and kind to us; O our Prophet, amongst your nation whosoever (claims to be) in grief should shed tears for you.”40
This part of the poem which was presented in the presence of the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) and which has been narrated by the historians informs us of the following points:
Firstly, conversation with the spirits or so to speak, the address to the Holy Prophet (S) after his demise was an action which was permitted and was a common practice.
As she said:ألا يا رسول الله which is against the views of the Wahhabis, this kind of conversation is neither polytheism nor useless.
Secondly, by the decree of the sentence أنت رجاؤنا the Holy Prophet (S) was the hope of the Islamic society in all the conditions. Even after his demise, his relation with us is not disconnected. Here we shall mention some of the valuable writings of the great Sunni authors regarding ‘tawassul’ towards the Holy Prophet (S).
Referring to following books will clarify the position of Islamic scholars on this matter and will manifest the fact that the matter of tawassul, contrary to the views of the Wahhabis, was a practice in vogue amongst the Muslims:
1. Ibn Al-Jawzi (died in 597 A.H.)41 has written a book by the name of Al-Wafa bi Ahwal Al-Mustafa, and has earmarked one chapter for tawassul to the Holy Prophet (S) and another chapter for ‘seeking shifa from his grave’.
2. Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa bin Nu'man Al-Mazali Al-Marakishi (d. 683 A.H.) has written a book by the name of Misbah Al-Zalam fi Al-Mustaghithin bi Khayr Al-An’am fi Al-Yaqzah wa Al-Manam and Sayyid Nur Al-Din Al-Samhudi has narrated a lot from him in his book Wafa' Al-Wafa' in the chapter of ‘Tawassul to the Holy Prophet (S)’.
3. Ibn Dawud Al-Maliki Al-Shadhili (d. 732 A.H.) has brought in his book Al-Bayan wa Al-Ikhtisar the tawassul of scholars and pious people to the Holy Prophet (S) in difficulties and hardships.
4. Taqi Al-Din Al-Subki (d. 756 A.H.) has analyzed this matter in his book Shifa Al-Siqam pages 120 to 133.
5. Sayyid Nur Al-Din Al-Samhudi (d. 911 A.H.) has discussed this matter and brought testimonies to it in his book Wafa Al-Wafa', vol. 2, pages 413 to 419.
6. Abu Al-'Abbas Al-Qastallani (d. 932 A.H.) in his book Al-Mawahib Al-Ladunniyyah.
7. Abu 'Abdullah Al-Zurqani Al-Maliki (d. 1122 A.H.) in his book Sharh Al-Mawahib Al-Ladunniyyah vol. 8, page 317.
8. Al-Khalidi Al-Baghdadi (d. 1299 A.H.) author of Sulh Al-'Ikhwan. Apart from this, he has written a risalah (treatise) in reply to Sayyid Mahmud Al-'Alusi Baghdadi about tawassul to the Holy Prophet (S) and has been printed in the year 1306 A.H.
9. Al-'Adawi Al-Hamzawi (d. 1303 A.H.)42 has discussed about tawassul in the book of Kanz Al-Matalib, page 198.
10. Al-'Azami Al-Shafi'i Al-Quda'i', author of Furqan Al-Qur'an. This book has been printed along with the book Al-'Asma wa Al-Sifat of Al-Bayhaqi in 140 pages.
By referring to these books some of which have presented the facts and most prominent amongst them being Sulh Al-'Ikhwan and Furqan Al-Qur'an, one can know what was the practice of the Muslims in every period concerning tawassul to the Holy Prophet (S) and will reveal the exaggerations of Ibn Taymiyyah and followers of his deviated ideology of Wahhabism.
In the end, we shall once more remind you of what Qur’an says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَابْتَغُوا إِلَيْهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ وَجَاهِدُوا فِي سَبِيلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means of nearness to Him and strive hard in His way that you may be successful. (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Maida, 5:35)
This verse in general orders to seek tawassul but what exactly is tawassul is not mentioned in this very verse.
There is no doubt that performing the religious duties is a channel (for tawassul) but it is not confined to this meaning only. Instead by paying attention to the short history of tawassul to the awliya’ Allah, it will become clear that this action itself is one of the channels. Moreover, this matter will fully become clear by referring to the conversation of Imam Malik with Mansur and also the incident of the second Caliph requesting for rain by doing tawassul to Al-'Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet (S).
- 1. ʿUthman ibn Hunayf Al-Awsi Al-Ansari was a companion of the Prophet (S) and during the caliphate of Imam Ali (a) he was the governor of Basrah until a while before the Battle of Jamal.
- 2. In Al-Musnad of Ahmad, Abu Ja'far has come with the word of Khutami although in Sunan Ibn Majah Abu Ja'far has come independently.
- 3. Al-Tawassul ila haqiqat Al-tawassul Al-mashru` wa-Al-mamnu’, page 158. Written by Muhammad Nasib Al-Rifa`i Al-Salafi.
- 4. Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Husayn Al-Bayhaqi (994 -1066 A.D.) was Sunni Shafi’i scholar and hadith expert from Khurasan, Iran. His most famous book Sunan Al-Kubra lil Bayhaqi, commonly known as Sunan Al-Bayhaqi is a collection of over 200,000 ahadith (traditions).
- 5. Abu’l-Qawsim Sulayman Al-Tabarani (874 -971 A.D.) was a Sunni Hanbali hadith scholar from Syria who travelled extensively and died in Isfahan, Iran. His most famous work is collection of ahadith (traditions) Al-Muʿjam Al-Kabir in which he excluded the traditions reported by Abu Hurayra.
- 6. Al-Mustadrak alaa Al-Sahihain.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Al-Suyuti (1445-1505 A.D.) was a great Egyptian Sunni Shafi'i Ash’ari scholar, juristic expert and teacher. He was a prolific writer on wide range of topics of Islamic theology. His famous works include Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, Tarikh Al Khulafa, Dur Al-Manthur, Khasais Al-Kubra, Khasais Al-Sughra, Jami Al-Kabir and Jami Al-Saghir.
- 9. is an abridged version of Al-Mustadrak alaa Al-Sahihain written by Al-Dhahabi.
- 10. قبل الله بوجهه واستفغر له ألف ملك Sunan of Hafiz Muhammad Ibn Abi Abullah Ibn Majah Al-Qazwini (824-887 A.D.) which is one of the six canonical collections of Sunni hadith books called Sihah. vol. 1, pp. 261-262 chapter of ‘Mosques’ Egyptian edition. Sunan Ibn Majah has 1,500 chapters and about 4,000 ahadith (traditions). Ibn Majah was Shafi'i scholar. Also refer to Al-Musnad Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal vol. 3, hadith no. 21.
- 11. The command which has come in the verse of ولا تقربا هذا الشجرة (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:35) is not an authoritative command. Instead, it is an order in the guided sense or so to say an advisory aspect and opposition to such a command will not result in punishment and chastisement. Its result will be that the person will only be faced with the effect of the state of the action itself. If a doctor orders his patient suffering from cold not to eat sour things and muskmelon, opposing his command will have no result other than intensification of his cold. In the Holy Qur’an many verses testify that the divine prohibition was of a guided nature resulting in nothing but expulsion from heaven which is reckoned to be the effect of state of the action itself. Please refer to verses 118 and 119 of Surah Taha (20) and the book of ‘Correct Tafsir of difficult verses of Qur’an’ (Tafsir Al-Sahih Ayatul Mushkilah Al-Qur’an) the tenth matter from pages 73 to 82.
- 12. Abu Nu`aym Al-Isfahani (948 – 1038 A.D.) was a Persian Sunni Shafi’i scholar expert in ahadith (traditions) and Islamic history. His most famous books are Dala’il Al-Nubuwwah and Hilyat Al-Awliya’'.
- 13. These two scholars have written books with similar names. Al-Bayhaqi: Dala'il Al-Nubuwwah Wa ma'rifat Ahwal Sahib Al-Shari'ah. Al-Isfahani: Dala’il Al-Nubuwwah.
- 14. Mustadrak Al-Hakim, vol. 2, page 61; Ruh Al-Ma'ani vol. 1, page 217; Al-Durr Al-Manthur, vol. 1, p. 59 narrated from Al-Tabarani, Abu Nu'aym Al-Isfahani and Al-Bayhaqi.
- 15. The text of the hadith is taken from Al-Durr Al-Manthur and differs slightly from the text of Al-Hakim in his Al-Mustadrak although both are same in their contents.
- 16. Majma' Al-Bayan, vol. 1, p. 89; Tafsir Al-Burhan, vol.1, pp. 86-88; hadiths: 2, 5, 11, 12, 14 and 27.
- 17. Tafsir Al-Burhan, vol. 1, p. 87 ahadith no.13, 15 and 16.
- 18. Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan writes in the both Al-Durar Al-Saniyya, p. 10 that Al-Qadi 'Iyad has narrated this incident with correct reference. Imam Al-Subki in his book Shifa Al-Saqam, Al-Samhudi in Wafa' Al-Wafa', and Al-Qastallani in Al-Mawahib Al-Ladunniyya. Ibn Hajar said in Al-Jawhar Al-Munazzam that this incident has been narrated with correct references. Al-'Allama Al-Zurqani writes in Sharh Al-Mawahib that Ibn Fahd has narrated this with a good (hasan) chain of narration and Al-Qadi 'Iyad has narrated it with an authentic (sahih) chain of narration. The text of the conversation of Al-Mansur with Imam Malik will be mentioned later in the text.
- 19. Kashf Al-'Irtiyab, pp. 307, 308.
- 20. Kashf Al-'Irtiyab, page 312 narrated from Khulasat Al-Kalam.
- 21. Al-Durar Al-Saniyya, page 8.
- 22. He was a Sunni Hanafi scholar, born in Turkey in 1361 A.D. He extensively travelled to acquire religious knowledge and finally settled in Egypt and was also appointed as Qadi. He died in Cairo in 1453 A.D.
- 23. Popularly known as Al-Halabi (1460 – 1549 A.D.) was a Sunni Hanafi scholar born in Halab, Syria. He then travelled to Cairo and finally settled in Istanbul, spending over 40 years during Ottoman Empire.
- 24. Al-Durar Al-Saniyyah fi Al-Radd 'ala Al-Wahhabiyyah, page 27 written by Sheikh Zayni Dahlan and Al-Tawassul ila Haqiqat Al-Tawassul, page 300.
- 25. Al-Sahifat Al-'Alawiyya, ad'iya (prayers) of Amir Al-mu'minin which Al-Sheikh 'Abdallah Samahiji has collected. Available online at: http://www.duas.org/alaviya/
- 26. Mafatih Al-Jinan, du'a 'Arafa. Available online at: http://www.duas.org/zilhajj/arfday.htm
- 27. Usd Al-Ghabah, vol. 3 p. 111. Egyptian edition.
- 28. Al-Mawahib Al-Ladunniyya, vol. 3, p. 380 Egyptian edition and in Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani, Fath Al-Bari, vol. 2, p. 413 (Lebanon print). Also reported in Sharh Al-Mawahib by Al-Zurqani (1055 A.H. - 1122 A.H.).
- 29. Wafa' Al-Wafa', vol. 2, page 1376.
- 30. Shibab Al-Din Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hajar Al-Haytami Al-Makki (1503 – 1566 A.D.) popularly known as Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami was a famous Egyptian Sunni Shafi’i scholar and muhaddith. His famous book Al-Jawhar Al-Munazzam fi Ziyarati'l Qabr Al-Mukarram discusses in detail about ziyarath grave of of Prophets and Awliya’ Allah.
- 31. Qazi Nurullah Shustari (1542 -1610 A.D.) also known as Shaheed-e-Salis (third martyr) was an eminent Iranian Shia scholar and jurist of the Mughal period. He served as the Qazi-ul-Quzaa (chief justice) during the reign of King Akbar. He was martyred by flogging at the age of 70 years during the reign of King Jahangir. He was author of several famous books including Ahqaq-ul-Haq and Majalis Al-Mu'minin.
- 32. Al-Sawarim Al-Muhriqah fi Jawab Al-Sawa’iq Al-Muhriqah.
- 33. Al-Sawa’iq Al-Muhriqah, page 178 (Cairo print).
- 34. Sahih Al-Bukhari, chapter of Salat Al-'Istisqa, vol. 2, page 32.
- 35. Although, it was worthy to say إن هذا التاريخ صحيح because technically, tradition is that which must be narrated from the Holy Prophet (S) and our discussion too is about historical events and we reminded you previously of the traditions of tawassul.
- 36. Usd Al-Ghabah, vol. 3, page 111.
- 37. Muhammad bin Musa bin Nu'man Al-Mazali Al-Maliki (d. 683 A.H./1284 A.D.) was a Sunni Maliki Ash’ari scholar from Morocco. He was expert in ahadith (traditions) and jurisprudence.
- 38. Wafa' Al-Wafa', vol. 3, page 375 narrated from Misbah Al-Zalam.
- 39. Fath Al-Bari, vol. 2, page 413 (print of Dar Al-Ma'rifa Lebanon).
- 40. Dhakha'ir Al-'Uqba fi Manaqib Dhawi'l Qurba, page 252 (print of Maktab Al-Quds, Cairo) written by Al-Hafiz Muhibb Al-Din Al-Tabari (615 - 694 A.H.), Sunni Shafi’i scholar from Mecca; and Majma' Al-Zawa'id, vol. 9, page 36, (2nd edition) written by Al-Hafiz Nur Al-Din Al-Haytami (1335 – 1404 A.D.) Sunni Shafi’i scholar from Cairo. Let it not remain unsaid that the sentence of أنت رجاؤنا in the first line has appeared as كنت وجاؤنا in the aforesaid book.
- 41. ʿAbd Al-Rahman bin ʿAli Al-Jawzi (1116 -1201 A.D.) was a famous Sunni Hanbali scholar of Baghdad. He was expert in history, jurisprudence and ahadith (traditions).
- 42. Sheikh Hasan Al-‘Adawi Al-Hamzawi (1221 - 1303 AH.) was Egyptian Sunni Shsfi’i scholar, expert in ahadith (traditions) and Islamic historian. He wrote famous books Irshad Al-Murid fi Al-Tawhid, Al-Nafahat Al-Nabawiyya, Al-Nur Al-Sary ‘ala Al-Bukhari.