Tawassul in Islam – Verdict of the Sunnah
Tags: Ahle Sunnah, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Holy Quran, Intercession, Sahaabah, Sunnah, Visiting graves (Ziyaarat), Waseelah
We have already seen the concept of Waseelah and Tawassul finding explicit mention in the Holy Quran to the extent that in Surah Maaedah (5): Verse 35 Allah has exhorted the believers to adopt a Waseelah to acquire divine proximity.
It is time to turn to the Sunnah for more proof on Tawassul. Although a single verse of the Quran should prove sufficient to establish Tawassul as an Islamic concept, we want to leave no stone unturned in putting the matter beyond doubt.
The concept of Waseelah and توسل can be traced in traditions. For the sake of brevity, we will mention a few instances here.
1) Hazrat Adam (a.s.) resorts to Tawassul
a) When Hazrat Adam (a.s.) disobeyed his Lord and incurred His Anger he resorted to Tawassul like this:
O Allah forgive my mistake with the Waseelah of Muhammad.
Allah asked the Prophet Adam how he knew about Muhammad.
Adam replied: When you created me, I lifted my head and saw: (لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله) written on the throne. Therefore I knew that Muhammad must be of a very high stature, else you would not have written his name along with Your Name.
Allah said: I have forgiven you. He will be the last Messenger and from your progeny. I have created you because of him.
b) The second narration is when Allah created the sky and the earth. He wrote Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.a.) name on the Pillars of the Throne and on the Doors of Paradise and on the leaves of the trees in Paradise. It was written that Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) would be the last Prophet.
In addition to these narrations, there are several more proofs for taking the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as Waseelah in prayers and for seeking forgiveness.
(Fataawa of Ibne Taymiyya vol 2 pg 150, Tarikh-e-Ibne Kathir in Story of Adam)
Apart from Ibne Taymiyya, other Sunni scholars have also documented these narrations viz. Suyuti, Bayhaqi and Tabarani.
2) Prediction and instruction of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Ayesha narrates that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) predicted about the Khawaarij:
They (Khawaarij) are the worst of the creatures who shall be put to sword by the best of creation and the most proximate of mediums (waseelah) towards Allah. (Sharhe Nahj al-Balaaghah vol 2 pg 247)
In this tradition – Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) is referred to as the Waseelah towards Allah.
3) Conduct of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Abu Hurairah says: The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed about Adam (a.s.) and his seeking medium (refer above under Tafseer of Surah Baqarah (2: 37)):
Allah addressed Adam (a.s.):
O Adam, these (progeny of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)) are my chosen ones. Whenever you have a need, make them your medium (towards me).
Prophet (s.a.w.a.) continued:
We are the Arks of Deliverance, anyone who embarks on them is saved and anyone who defies them is destroyed. Anyone who has a need before Allah must make us Ahle Bait (a.s.) as his medium.
(Faraaed al-Simtain vol 1 pg 34 tradition 1)
4) Sermon of Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.)
The daughter of the noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.) says in her sermon
I praise Allah the One through Whose Greatness and Light everyone in the heavens and the earth seeks medium for proximity and we are the medium of proximity to Allah among His Creation.’ (Sharhe Nahj al-Balaaghah vol 1 pg 211)
5) Umar resorts to Tawassul
a) Ibne Hajar al-Asqalaani (exp 852 A.H.) records in Fath al-Baari fi Sharh al-Bukhari vol 2, pg 412:
It has been narrated by reliable chain of narrators that during the time of the second caliph – Umar b. Khattaab there was a drought and famine.
Bilal b. Haaris who was a companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) approached the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and pleaded:
Your nation is being destroyed, seek rains of mercy from the Lord of the World.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) appeared in his dream and said: Rains will soon pour
b) As recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari on the authority of Anas:
At the time of drought Umar b. Khattaab used to request Abbas b. Abdul Muttalib to invoke Allah for rain.
Umar himself would supplicate:
O Allah! We used to ask our Prophet to invoke You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke You for rain. O Allah! Bless us with rain.
And so it would rain.
(Sahih al-Bukhari vol 2, book 17, trad 123)
Umar was a caliph of the Muslims and among the foremost Salaf. He resorts to Tawassul of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). As a matter of fact Umar takes the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as a Waseelah through the Waseelah of Abbas b. Abdul Muttalib. The aforementioned narrations show that not only was Tawassul a recommended practice during the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime, it was recommended even after his (s.a.w.a.) demise.
6) Residents of Medina resort to Tawassul
Masoodi documents in Muruj al-Zahab:
In the 53rd year of Hijrah, Ziyaad b. Abeeh the ruler of Iraq wrote to Muawiyah:
All of Iraq lies under the control of my right hand whereas my left hand is empty (indicating towards the rule of other countries).
Muawiyah entrusted him with the rule of Hijaz (area covering Medina and Mecca).
When the inhabitants of Medina heard this, all of them – adults as well as children entered the mosque of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) wailing and praying for three days and sought his mediation with Allah because they were aware of the oppression and tyranny wrought by Ziyaad.
As a result of this Tawassul, Ziyaad died after three days.
(Muruj al-Zahab vol 3 pg 32)
7) Hakim Nishapuri resorts to Tawassul
It is recorded in Faraaed al-Simtain that Hakim Nishapuri – renowned Sunni scholar and author of Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain mentions his seeking intercession though Imam Ali b. Moosa al-Reza (a.s.) thus:
Allah endowed me with the recognition of the sacred shrine of Imam Ali b. Moosa (a.s.) …As an example I quote from my experience – for a long time I was afflicted with such a pain in my foot that I could move only slightly and that too with great difficulty.
In this condition I went for the Ziyaarah of the grave of Imam Ali b. Moosa al-Reza (a.s.) and remained there for the night. The following morning there were no signs of the pain in my foot and I returned safely to Nishapur.
(Faraaed al-Simtain vol 2 pg 22)
8) Ibne Hibbaan resorts to Tawassul
Ibn Hibban, who according to many Sunni scholars ranks as the most reliable scholar after Bukhari and Muslim has documented his visitation (Ziyaarah) to the tomb of Imam Ali b. Moosa al-Reza (a.s.) in Mashshad, Iran, in his Sahih-e-Ibn Hibban:
I have done ziyaarah of his tomb many times, during my stay at Tus. Whenever I got into any difficulty I went to the grave of Imam Ali b. Moosa al-Reza (a.s.) and asked Allah for the fulfillment of my need. Every time I was answered and my difficulty was removed. This is such a reality that I found it to be true no matter how many times I did it. May Allah grant us death in the true love for Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his blessed Ahle Bait.
(Ibn Abi Haatim al-Raazi, Kitab al-Theqah, vol. 8 pg 457, tradition 14,411)
9) Mansoor-e-Dawaaneqee ordered to do Tawassul through the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Qazi Ayyaaz b. Moosa the renowned Sunni scholar of Marrakech, Morroco, records: Mansoor-e-Dawaaneqee (or Haroon Rashid according to other narrations) asked Imam Malik (one of the leaders of jurisprudence of Ahle Tasannun) in a debate that took place in Masjid-e-Nabawi:
While supplicating, should I stand facing the Qiblah or should I face the burial place of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?
Imam Malik: Why are you turning your face away from your father the Holy Prophet (s.aw.a.)? He is your intercessor and the intercessor of your forefather Adam (a.s.). Rather, turn towards the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) and seek intercession through him.
(Kitab al-Shifa, Chapter Ziyaarah al-Nabi by Qazi Ayyaz)
10) Tawassul through the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his childhood
Supplications were made with the Waseelah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) even before his prophethood, while he was still a child. This is hardly surprising as we have already seen the Tawassul of Hazrat Adam (a.s.) thousands of years before the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birth.
Ibn Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab Najdi states – When Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) was a child, Mecca witnessed a rain deficit for an extended period of time. The Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) uncle Abu Talib (a.s.) prayed for rain through the Waseelah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
(Mukhtasar Seerat al-Rasool by Ibne Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab al-Najdi)
It is notable that Abu Talib (a.s.) is the one praying through the Waseelah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) which belies the claims of the skeptics that he was a disbeliever in Islam and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Rather the skeptics are the disbelievers in Islam and Prophet (s.a.w.a.) because they deny Tawassul through the medium of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), who was the saviour of past prophets like Hazrat Adam (a.s.).
11) Blind man regains eyesight with Tawassul
Ibne Taymiyyah records that Usman b. Hunaif narrates that a blind person came to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and requested him (s.a.w.a.): Pray to Allah that He bestows me with sight.
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.): Perform ablution, offer two units prayers and then supplicate to Allah thus:
O Allah, I ask You through the Waseelah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Allah resored his sight.
(Al-Tawasul by Ibne Taymiyyah pg 80 sourced from Tirmizi, Ibn Maajah, Hakim Nishapuri, Imam Bukhari in Tareekh, Musnad-e-Ahmad Ibne Hanbal and Tabarani)
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself recommends Tawassul to the blind man while he (s.a.w.a.) could just as easily have prayed for the blind man himself which incidentally would also have been tantamount to Tawassul.
Skeptics justify this by claiming that Tawassul of this nature in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime was permitted but is prohibited after his demise. The claim is groundless. Are they claiming that Tawassul was abrogated after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise? Let them advance a verse from the Quran which abrogates Tawassul if they are truthful in their claims.
12) Waseelah of companions
Not just the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), even righteous companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were Waseelah for the people in times of distress.
Ibn Kathir, Ibn Abdul Birr, Ibn Saad, Ibn Athir record: Whenever there was a famine in Rome, the Romans would supplicate through the Waseelah of Abu Ayyub Ansari (r.a.).
When supplication was made through the Waseelah of Abu Ayyub Ansari (r.a.) it did rain.
(Tareekh-e-Ibne Kathir, Tabaqaat-e-Ibne Saad, Usd al-Ghaabah, Istiaab)