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Monday 27th of May 2024
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Ahl-al-Bayt (`A.S.): Its Meaning and Origin

The term "ahl" signifies the members of a household of a man, including his fellow tribesmen, kin, relatives, wife (or wives), children, and all those who share a family background, religion, housing, city, and country with him. "Ahl" and "al" are both the same term with the exception that "al" is exclusively used for human beings and should come before the family name, but such a condition is not existent in the case of "ahl". "Bayt" refers to habitation and dwelling, including tents and buildings both.
The "ahl-al-bayt" of any person refers to his family members and all those who live in his house (c.f. "Mufradat al-Qur'an" by Raghib Isfahani; "Qamus" by Firoozabadi; "Majm`a al-Bahrayn".
The term "ahl-al-bayt" (people of the house) has been repeated twice in the Holy Qur'an:
1. "... the mercy of Allah and his blessing are on you, O people of the house, ... (11:73)" This verse refers to the people of the House of Ibrahim (s) (c.f. "Kashf al-Asrar wa `Uddat al-Abrar", 416/4 and other interpretations).
2. "... Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to purify you a (thorough) purifying (33:33)".
This verse, known as the "Tathir verse", refers to the Members of the Household of the Holy Prophet (s). The Imamiyyah scholars of hadith and fiqh, as well as some Sunni `Ulama, consider the "ahl-al-bayt" cited in the "tathir verse" to include exclusively Muhammad(S.A.W.), `Ali(A.S.), Fatimah(A.S.), Hasan(A.S.), and Husayn(A.S.).
They do not consider the Holy Prophet's other offspring, wives, sons of paternal uncles, and dwellers of his house as the Messenger's "ahl-al-bayt". They base their argument on the genuine and authentic traditions narrated by the companions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) recorded in the Sunni and Shi`i sources.
Under the following headings, this article will delve into some of the said traditions and refer to some features of the "ahl-al-bayt" as narrated by the Sunnis:
1. Kisa' tradition;
2. Mubahalah tradition;
3. Mawaddat al-Qurba tradition;
4. Safinah tradition;
5. Other traditions.
1. Kisa' Tradition
A. Jalaluddin `Abdul-Rahman bin Abi Bakr Suyuti (d 911 A.H.) in his commentary "Al-Dur al-Manthur", 198/5-199, Muhammad ibn `Isa Tirmidhi (3 279 A.H.) the author of "Jami' Sahih", Hakim Nishaburi (d 405 A.H.) in "Al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn", Ahmad ibn Husayn Bayhaqi (d 458 A.H.) in "Sunan" (all three of whom have considered the Kisa' tradition as authentic), Muhammad ibn Jarir Tabari (d 315 A.H.), Ibn Munzir Muhammad ibn Ibrahim (d 319 A.H.), Ibn Mardawayh Isfahani, and Ahmad ibn Musa (d 410 A.H.) have quoted Ummu Salamah, the wife of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) as saying that the verse
"... Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to purify you a thorough purifying (33:33)"
was revealed in her house. At that time, `Ali(A.S.), Fatimah(A.S.), Hasan(A.S.), and Husayn(A.S.) were in her house. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) spread his cloak over them and stated:
"These are the members of my Household, and Allah has purified them of all (sins and faults and uncleanness)."
B. Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, the Hanbali Imam, (d 241 A.H.), in "Musnad" 229/2 quotes Ummu Salamah as saying:
"The Holy Prophet (s) was in my house. Fatimah (`a) came to her father holding a stone bowl filled with "harirah" (type of food made up of flour, milk, and vegetable oil). The Holy Prophet (s) stated: Invite your husband and two sons to come as well." `Ali, Hasan, and Husayn also came there and all sat down to eat "harirah". Then, the Holy Prophet (s) was sitting on a cloak in his resting place and I was reciting the prayer in the chamber. At this time, Almighty Allah revealed the verse "Allah only desires to ...". The Holy Prophet (s) covered `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn (peace be upon them all) with the cloak and then stretched his hand toward the sky and said: "Allah! These are the Members of my Household, so purify them of all uncleanness'. Ummu Salamah said: "I asked him: "Am I also with you?" He stated: "You are on good and virtue" (but did not say that you are a member of my Household)'."
This tradition has also been narrated by Ahmad ibn Muhammad Tahawi (d 321 A.H.) in "Mushkil al-Athar" 332 and 334; Wahidi in "Asbab al-Nuzul" 268 and Muhib Tabari (d 694 A.H.) in "Zakhair al-`Uqba" 23 have related this tradition. In continuation of this tradition, Tabari has written that the Prophet (s) stated:
"I am a friend of whosoever is friends with them and an enemy of whosoever is an enemy of them."
The said tradition of similar statements have been recorded in "Manaqib" by Ibn Hanbal, 44, the microfilm copy of the book is available in the Parliament Library. Tabari remarked: "This tradition has been narrated from Umma Salamah by Ibn al-Qubabi in "Mu'jam" and Siyuti in "Al-Dur al-Mnthur" under the title of the "tathir verse", as well as by Ibn Jarir, Ibn Munzir, Ibn Mardawayh, Ibn Abi Hatam and Ibn Tabrani."
C- Khatib Baghdadi, Ahmad bin `Ali, (d 463 A.H.) in "The History of Baghdad" 278/10, has quoted Abu Saeed Khidri S`ad bin Malik (d 74 A.H.) as saying that after the revelation of the "tathir verse", the Holy Prophet (s) summoned `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn (peace be upon them all) and covered them with the cloak he had on and said:
"These are the members of my Household, and Allah has purified them (of every wrong and sin)."
The same tradition has been narrated from Ummu Salamah by Muhammad ibn Jarir Tabari in "Jam`a al-Bayan" 7/22.
D- In "Sahih Muslim" (narrated by Sayyid Murtada Firoozabadi in "Fadail al-Khamsah min Sihah al-Sitah" 214/1), Safiyah, the daughter of Shayba, has narrated `Aishah, the wife of the Holy Prophet (s), as saying: "One morning, the Messenger of Allah left the house with a cloak made of black material and bearing the design of a camel's saddle. Hasan ibn `Ali entered the place, and the Prophet (s) covered him with the cloak. Then came Husayn, Fatimah, and `Ali one after another, and all of them were also covered by the cloak. The Prophet (s) then stated:
"... Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to purify you a (thorough) purifying."
This tradition has been narrated by Hakim Nishaburi in "Al-Mustadark" 14/3; Bayhaqi in "Sunan" 149/2; Tabari in the "Jami al-Bayan" Siyuti in "al-Durri al-Manthur" under the title of the "tathir verse". In addition, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, Ibn Abi Hatam have narrated it from `Aishah. Zamakhshari in "Kashshaf" and Fakhr Razi in "Tafsir Kabir" have also related this tradition. It seems that the recorders of traditions are unanimous about the authenticity of this tradition ("Fadail al-Khamsah" 224/1).
E- In the "Jami al-Bayan" Muhammad bin Jarir Tabari has quoted Shahr bin Hushab Ash'air (d 100 A.H.) as saying:
"When Ummu Salamah heard news of the martyrdom of Husayn bin `Ali (`a), she cursed the people of Iraq and said: `May Allah kill the people of Iraq who deceived him and left him alone. May Allah curse them. Verily, I saw Fatimah while bringing a stone bowl of sweet paste for the Holy Prophet (s). The Holy Prophet (s) stated: `Where is your cousin?' She said: `At home.' The Prophet (s) said: `Go bring him here with his two sons.' Fatimah returned while holding the hands of Hasan and Husayn. `Ali also followed them, and they came to the Holy Prophet (s). The Holy Prophet (s) embraced Hasan and Husayn and made `Ali sit on his right and Fatimah on left. He then the cloak as the carpet on which we slept in Medina and placed it over Fatimah, `Ali, Hasan, and Husayn. He held the two sides of the cloak with his left hand. He raised his right hand toward the sky addressing Almighty Allah by saying: `O Allah, purify them of any uncleanness . O Allah, these are the members of my Household. Purify and cleanse them of any vice, wrong, and sin,' (He repeated this twice). I asked: `O Messenger! Am I also a member of your Household?' He said: `You come under the cloak.' I also went under the cloak, but only after the Prophet (s) finished his prayer for his cousin, his two sons, and Fatimah (peace be upon them all)."
This tradition has been related by Ahmad bin Muhammad ibn Hanbal in "Musnad" 292/6: Tahwi in "Mushkil al-Athar" 335/1; and Muhib Tabari in "Zakhair al-`Uqba" 22/1. The Kisa' tradition which has been narrated in different forms by the Shias and the Sunnis is very sacred for the entire Imamiyyah, especially the Shia of Iran, the Indian subcontinent, Iraq, and Yemen. It is recited in "rawdah" sessions (mourning ceremony) to have the wishes fulfilled and problems removed. Some narration provide more details on this tradition. Some say that Jibraeel and Mikaeel were also among the disciples of the Kisa' or were present there. A divine revelation was descended on the Holy Prophet (s) to the effect that the world and whatever is in it is indebted to these five pure ones.
2. Mubahalah Tradition
Sixty chiefs and `Ulama of Najran, headed by Sayyid, Aqib, and Usquf (religious personalities) of the region in the 10th year A.H. came to Medina to clarify their religious and political stance vis-a-vis Islam which had spread over the Arab peninsula and to engage in discussions with the Messenger (s) of Allah to realize the essence and truth of Islam. After lengthy discussions which have been presented in details in Ibn Husham's "Sirah" 573/1, no agreement was reached on the position and standing of Jesus. The Christians of Najran believed in the divinity of Jesus and considered him as the son of God. This is while, based on the explicit wording of the Holy Qur'an (3:59), the Messenger (s) of Allah considered him as a prophet and the servant of God. At the end of the discussions, the Prophet (s) suggested that the two sides engage in "mubahalah", in other words, to invoke divine malediction for the lying side. The following verse was descended in this regard:
"But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars." (3:61)
] The 10th (and some say the 24th) of Dhul-Hijjah was chosen for "mubahalah". The Messenger (s) of Allah ordered that in a field outside Medina a thin black "aba" (men's loose sleeveless cloak open in front) be used as a shade between two trees. The Christian chiefs and dignitaries of Najran stood in orderly ranks on one side of the field, on the other side, the Prophet, together with `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn came from the direction of Medina to the shade. Along this path, the Prophet (s), holding the hand of `Ali (`a), Hasan and Husayn walked in front with Fatimah behind them (c.f. "Majm`a al-Bayan".
Interpretation of the Mubahalah Verse). With such simplicity and grandeur, they reached the shade and stood below the "aba". The Holy Prophet (s) recited the "tathir verse" and addressed the "ahl-al-bayt" by saying: "I will invoke malediction for them and you say `amin'." Seeing such glory and grandeur, the Najran chiefs lost their self-confidence and felt that they were very puny and could not stand against Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Household. They, therefore, accepted to pay "jaziyyah" and offered to give in to peace. On behalf of the Holy Prophet (s), the commander of the Faithful, `Ali (`a), signed a peace treaty with the Christians. The Christians were to annually offer twelve thousand exquisite clothes, a thousand mithqal of gold, and some other items to remain Christians under the umbrella of Islam. On the basis of the "mubahalah verse", Sunni interpreters such as Zamakhshari, Baydawi, Imam Fakhr Razi and others regard `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn (peace be upon them all) superior to all other people and argue that Hassan and Husayn are the sons of the Messenger (s) of Allah. The term "anfusina" in the "mubahalah verse" proves the unity of the heart and soul of Prophet Muhammad and `Ali. The Holy Prophet (s) stated:
"`Ali is of me and I am of `Ali." ("Fadail al-Khamsah" 343/1).
The "mubahalah tradition" has been recounted in different books of "sirah" and history with various wordings. These include those of Tirmidhi ("Sahih" 166/2) which quotes S`ad ibn Abi Waqqas as follows:
"When the mubahalah verse was recited, the Holy Prophet (s) summoned `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn and said: `O Allah, these are the Members of my Household."
This tradition has been narrated by Hakim Nishaburi in "Al-Mustadrak" 150/3 and Bayhaqi in "Sunan" 63/7. Hakim regards this tradition as authentic.
3. Mawaddat al-Qurba Tradition
Based on the consensus of the exegesists ("Jam`a al-Bayan" Tabari 16/25, 17; "Hilyat al-Awlia" 251/3; "Al-Mustadrak" 172/3; "Usd al-Ghabah" 367/5; "Al-Sawa'iq al-Muharaqah" 101), the following verse has been revealed about the members of the Household of the Holy Prophet (s):
"...Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives ..." (42:23)
The term "Al-Qurba" in this verse, based on the traditions narrated from the Holy Prophet (s), embraces only `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn and no one else. The tradition from Ibn `Abbas' has it that when the "mawaddat al-qurba" verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) was asked:
"O messenger, who are your near relatives who should be loved?"
He stated:
"`Ali, Fatimah, and their sons."
This tradition has been narrated by Muhib Tabari in "Zakhair al-`Uqba" 25/1; Ibn Hanbal in "Manaqib" 110; Mo'min Shabilenji "Nural-Absar" 101; and Zamakhshari in "Kashshaf" as annotation to the said verse. In the "Tafsir al-Kabir", Fakhr Razi has related the said narration from "Kashshaf" and has said that based on this verse, `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn should be revered and sanctified. He has also cited lines of verse from the Shafii' Imam, Muhammad bin Idris Shafii' (d 240 A.H.) in this regard. A line of it is as follows:
"If love for the members of the Household of the Holy Prophet is heresy, then the world should stand witness that I am a heretic."
4. Safinah Tradition
The virtues of the "ahl al-bayt" have been amply mentioned in the authenticated and Tawatur traditions narratted by both Shia and Sunni `Ulama. Using different words and phrases, these traditions have asked people to love the "ahl al-bayt" and follow thier teachings. For instance, the Holy Prophet (s) has compared his "ahl al-bayt" to Noah's ark. Whoever loves and follows them will attain salvation and whoever violates their sanctity will drown. The servant of the Holy Prophet (s), Anas bin Malik (d 93 A.H.), has been related as quoting the Prophet (s) as saying:
"The example of the members of my Household among you is like the example of Noah's ark. Whoever boards it will attain salvation and whoever does not board it will drown."
This tradition has been narrated by Hakim Nishaburi in "Al-Mustadrak" 343/2; Khatib in "Tarikh Baghdad" 91/12; and other great recorders of traditions ("al-Ghadir" 300/2-301). In this regard, Imam Shafii' has said the following:
"When I saw different schools of thought directing people toward the seas of ignorance and deviation, I boarded the ark of salvation in the Name of Allah. This arc is verily crystallized in the "ahl al-bayt" of the Seal of the Prophets, Mustafa (s)."
Among very famous traditions in which the "ahl al-bayt" have been resembled to the ark of salvation, reference can be made to the famous "Ishbah tradition" which has been narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) by Abu Hurayrah `Abdul-Rahman bin Sakhar (d 59 A.H.). "When Almighty Allah created Adam, the father of mankind, and breathed His spirit into him, Adam looked to the right hand side of the empyrean. There he saw five figures in the form of silhouettes engaged in prostration and genuflection. He asked:
"God, have you created any one from the dust before me?"
God replied:
"No."
Adam said,
"So who are these five figures which I see resembling my own shape and form?"
God answered,
"These are five of your offspring. If it were not for them, I would have not created you. They are five people whose names are derived from My Own. If it were not for them, I would have not created paradise or hell, the heavens and the earth, the skies and the lands, the angels, the human beings and the jinn. I am "Mahmud" and this Muhammad. I am "Aala" and this is `Ali. I am "Fatir" and this is Fatimah, I am "Ihsan" and this is Hasan. I am "Muhsin" and this is Husayn. By My Glory, whoever bears even an atom's weight of grudge against them will be cast into hell. O Adam! They are My chosen ones. For them, I will save or cast others to perdition. If you want anything from me, you should resort to these five people."
The Holy Prophet (s) said:
"We serve as the ark of salvation. Whoever holds fast to this ark will reach salvation and whoever deviates from it will be cast into perdition. Whoever wants Allah to grant him something should resort to the `ahl al-bayt'."
This tradition has been narrated by Shaykh al-Islam Hamu'i in the first chapter of "Fara'id al-Samtayn" and Khatib Khwarazmi in "Manaqib" 252 (c.f. "al-Ghadir" 300/2). The Ashbah tradition has been narrated by `Allamah Amini in another part of the al-Ghadir" (301/7) quoting Abul-Fath Muhammad bin `Ali al-Natanzi in "Alfaz".
5. Other Traditions About the Virtues and Characteristics of the "Ahl al-Bayt"
A- In the interpretation of the verse
"And enjoin prayer on your household ..." (20:132),
Jalaluddin Siyuti in "al-Durr al-Manthur", has related Ibn Mardawayh, Ibn `Aker, and in al-Najjar as quoting Abu Saeed Khidri as saying that after this verse was revealed, for eight months, the Prophet went to the house of `Ali every morning at the time of morning prayers and read this verse:
"... Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to purify you a (thorough) purifying (33:33)."
("Al-Durr al-Manthur" 198/5 and 199; "Fadail al-Khamsah"; 226/1).
Another tradition has it that from the fortieth day after the consummation of the marriage of `Ali (`a) and Fatimah (`a), the Prophet (s) every morning went to their house and said:
"Peace be upon you, O members of the House and the mercy and blessings of Allah. I will fight with whoever fights with you and I will be reconciled with whoever is reconciled with you."
He then recited the "tathir verse". Ibn `Abdul-Bar in "al-isti`ab" 598/2; Abu Dawud Tialisi in "Sahih" 274/8; and Firoozabadi in "Fadail al-Khamsah" 236/1 have put at forty the number of mornings when the Prophet (s) went to the house of `Ali (`a) and Fatimah (`a). In the "Jami al-Bayan" interpretation, Tabari has said that this was done for seven months. Siyuëi (in "Al-Durr al-Manthur", 199) has quoted Ibn `Abbas as saying that after the verse
"And enjoin prayer on your household ..." (20:132)
was revealed, the Holy Prophet (s) for nine months went to the house of `Ali (`a) five times a day at the time of daily prayers and called on the members of the house to keep up the prayer. Each time, he recited the "tathir verse". This is possible because the Holy Prophet's house was close to that of `Ali (`a). Its door opened inside the mosque. So whenever the Messenger (s) of Allah wanted to go to the mosque, he had to pass the house of `Ali (`a) and Fatimah(a).
B- In "Al-Mustadrak alal-Sahihayn", Hakim Nishaburi quotes `Abdullah bin Ja'afar bin Talib as saying that when the Messenger (s) of Allah looked to the blessings coming down, he said,
"Call on them."
Safiyeh said,
"O Messenger of Allah, whom should we call upon?"
He replied,
"The members of my Household: `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn."
They were called upon. Then the Prophet (s) placed his cloak over them and raised both hands and said,
"O Allah, these are the members of my Household. Peace be upon Muhammad and upon the Household of Muhammad."
Almighty Allah revealed the verse,
"... Allah only desires to keep away ... (33:33).
" Hakim Nishaburi said this tradition is an authenticated tradition. The Holy Prophet (s) taught them to send greetings upon his household ("`Ayan al-Shi`ah" 358/1; "Fadail al-Khamsah" 227/1; "Al-Mustadrak" 147/3). Ibn Jurir and Ibn Abi Hatam have quoted Qutadah as saying that in relation to the verse,
"... Allah only desires to keep away ... (33:33)",
the Prophet (s) stated,
"These are the members of my Household, and Allah has purified them of any uncleanness and granted them His mercy. We serve as the tree of prophethood, the pillar of mission, the place of passage of angels, the house of mercy, and the wealth of knowledge" ("Al-Durr al-Manthur", 198/5-199).
C- In "Al-Mustadrak al-Sahihayn", Hakim Nishaburi has quoted this authentic tradition from Ibn `Abbas: The Holy Prophet (s) stated,
"Love Allah who gives you food out of his bounty and love me for His love and love the members of my Household because of love for me."
He also relates this tradition which he considers authentic from Abu S`ad Khidri:
"Whoever shows animosity toward us the members of the Household will be cast into the fire." ("A'yan al-Shi`a", 315/1).
D- Hakim Nishaburi in "Al-Mustadrak", 149/3 and Ibn Hajar in "Sawaiq", 140 have related Ibn `Abbas as quoting the Prophet (s) as saying:
"The stars are the source of the earth and the members of my Household are the source of the "ummah" (people)."
Another tradition refers to the same:
"The stars are the refuge for the dwellers of the heavens and my "ahl al-bayt" are the refuge for the "ummah" ("Kanz al-A'mal fi Sunan al-Aqwal wal-Af`al" 116/6).
Another tradition has said:
"the stars are the refuge for the dwellers of the skies. So if the stars are destroyed, the dwellers of the skies will also be destroyed. The members of my Household are the refuge for the dwellers of the earth. If they are destroyed, the dwellers of the earth also be destroyed"
(Muhib Tabari in "Zakhair al-`Uqba", 17/1 and `Ali bin Sultan Muhammad Qari in "Mirqat al-Mafatih" 610/5, Egypt, 1339 A.H.). Some Sunni `Ulama regard the "tathir verse" pertinent to all kin and relatives of the Holy Prophet (s) including the wives, children, the Bani Hashim and Bani`Adul-Mutallib (Ash'ari in "Maqalat al-Islamin", 9). Based on a tradition narrated from Saeed bin Jubayer, Bukhari, Ibn Abi Hatam, Ibn `Aker, and Ibn Mardawayh have said that this verse has been revealed about the wives of the Prophet (s) and believe that they are the members of the Household of the Messenger (s) of Allah ("Fath al-Qadir", 27/4, Egypt 1350 A.H.).
In addition to the wives of the Holy Prophet (s), Qurtabi and Ibn Kathir consider `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn (peace be upon them all) as members of the Household to whom the "tathir verse" applies. But Tirmidhi, Ibn Jurir, Ibn Manzar, Hakim Nishaburi, and Bayhaqi who are all Sunni `Ulama have referred to the authentic tradition of Ummu Salamah and have thus considered the "tathir verse" applicable to `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn (peace be upon them all).
The Shias have mentioned several reasons and proofs that the "ahl al-bayt" of the Holy Prophet (s) are exclusively `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn to whom the "tathir verse" applies. The most important of these reasons and proofs are:
1. Based on an authentic tradition narrated from Ummu Salamah and Abu Saeed Khidri, the "tathir verse" has been revealed about the Holy Prophet (s), `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn (peace be upon all).
2. In the Kisa' tradition, it has been stipulated that after placing `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn (peace be upon all) under his cloak, the Prophet (s) said: "O Allah, these are the members of my Household." This means that no one else apart from these is viewed as the "ahl al-bayt".
3. In response to Ummu Salama who asked whether she was also a member of the Household, the Prophet (s) said: "You have your own place, you are virtuous." He said no more than this. If Ummu Salama, in whose house the "tathir verse" was revealed, is not a member of the Household of the Holy Prophet (s), the verse will surely not apply to the Messenger's other wives.
4. Some traditions state that based on a request from Ummu Salamah, the Prophet (s) allowed her to come under the cloak but did so after saying, "Allah these are the members of my Household" and reciting the "tathir verse".
5. `Akramah Bariri (d 105 A.H.) and Urwat bin Zubayr (d 93 A.H.) are among the people who have related that the "tathir verse" has been exclusively revealed about the wives of the Prophet (s). Of course, Akramah subscribe to Khawarij ("Al-`a'lam" Zarkali, 42/5) and Urwat ("`Ayan al-Shi`ah", 309/1). Also the pronoun in the said verse is masculine not feminine. Such a narration cannot contrdict the famous tradition related by `Aishah, Ummu Salamah, and Abu Saeed Khidri, who have considered the "ahl al-bayt" to be exclusively five people. They have said that the verses coming before and after the "tathir verse" are related to the wives of the Prophet (s), so this verse should also be relevant to them.
Qur'anic verses are not classified based on the order of their revelation or contents. In addition, Zayd bin Arqam who has related the authenticated Thaqalayn tradition, has stated that the wives of the Holy Prophet (s) are not regarded as the members of his Household). He was asked:
"Aren't the wives of the Holy Prophet (s) considered as the members of the Household?"
He replied:
"The wives of the Prophet reside in the Prophet's house but the Prophet's "ahl al-bayt" are those to whom the grant of "sadaqah" is religiously unlawful."
Another tradition has it that Zayd was asked to name the members of the Household of the Holy Prophet (s). He was asked whether the Prophet's wives were among his
"ahl al-bayt".
He replied:
"No, a wife lives with a husband for a while and then might be divorced and go back to her parents."
6. After citing the "tathir verse", `Ali Qari in the "Annotation to Qazi Ayaz's Shifa" (as related in "`Ayan al-Shi`ah", 309/1) has mentioned that according to a tradition narrated by Ibn `Abbas, the Prophet's "ahl al-bayt" include his wives as well. According to Abu Saeed Khidri and some followers, the "ahl al-bayt" include `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn (peace be upon all). He says:
"There is no problem if we gather these traditions together and consider both groups to be members of the Household of the Holy Prophet (s). But It would go against the Shia idea that the "tathir verse" applies only to `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn and that they are immaculate . Even the fact that they regard the consensus of Imamiyyah `Ulama as proof to the veracity of thiswould be rejected. Abu Saeed Khidri's tradition only shows that these four are members of the Prophet's Household and does not indicate that no one else is among the "ahl al-bayt".
But Akramah's traditions explicitly quotes Ibn `Abbas as saying that verily the "ahl al-bayt" refers to the wives of the Prophet. On the other hand, Khidir's tradition says that the Prophet said:
"Only these (i.e. `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn) are the Members of my Household."
This indicates exclusive membership. How then can these two traditions be combined? For this reason, the Imamiyyah `Ulama have consensus on following the traditions of the immaculate Imams (peace be upon them all) and the distinguished disciples to the effect that the "ahl al-bayt" of the Prophet (s) are only the five people known as the "Al-e-Aba" and "Ashab Kisa'"."Al-Ghadir" and its Relevance to Islamic Unity
Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari
The distinguished book entitled "al-Ghadir" has raised a huge wave in the world of Islam. Islamic thinkers shed light on the book in different perspectives; in literature, history, theology, tradition, tafsir, and sociology. From the social perspective we can deal with the Islamic unity. In this review the Islamic unity has been dealt with from a social point of view.
Contemporary Muslim thinkers and reformists are of the view that unity and solidarity of Muslims are the most imperative Islamic exigencies at the present juncture when the enemies have made extensive inroads upon the Islamic community and have tried to resort to different ways and means to spread the old differences and create new ones. We are aware that Islamic unity and fraternity is the focus of attention of the Holy Legislator of Islam and is actually the major objective pursued by this Divine religion as firmed by the Qur'an, the "Sunnah", and the history of Islam.
For this reason, some people have been faced with this question: Wouldn't the compilation and publication of a book such as "al-Ghadir" which deals with the oldest issue of differences among the Muslims- create a barrier in the way of the sublime and lofty objective of the Islamic unity? To answer this question, it is necessary first to elucidate the essence of this issue, that is, the Islamic unity, and then proceed to examine the role of the magnum opus entitled "al-Ghadir" and its eminent compiler 'Allamah Amini in bringing about Islamic unity.
Islamic Unity
What is meant by the Islamic unity? Does it mean that one Islamic school of thought should be unanimously followed and others be set aside? Or does it mean that the commonalties of all Islamic schools of thought should be taken up and their differences be put away to make up a new denomination which is not completely the same as the previous ones? Or does it mean that Islamic unity is in no way related to the unity of the different schools of Fiqh (jurisprudence) but signifies the unity of the Muslims and the unity of the followers of different schools of Fiqh, with their different religious ideas and views, vis-a-vis the aliens?
To give an illogical and impractical meaning to the issue of the Islamic unity, the opponents of the issue have called it to be the formation of a single Madhhab, so as to defeat it in the very first step. Without doubt, by the term Islamic unity, the intellectual Islamic 'Ulama' (scholars) do not mean that all denominations should give in to one denomination or that the commonalties should be taken up and the different views and ideas be set aside, as these are neither rational and logical nor favorable and practical. By the Islamic unity these scholars mean that all Muslims should unite in one line against their common enemies.
These scholars slate that Muslims have many things in common, which can serve as the foundations of a firm unity. All Muslims worship the One Almighty and believe in the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet (s). The Qur'an is the Book of all Muslims and Ka'abah is their "qiblah" (direction of prayer). They go to "hajj" pilgrimage with each other and perform the "hajj" rites and rituals like one another. They say the daily prayers and fast like each other. They establish families and engage in transactions like one another. They have similar ways of bringing up their children and burying their dead. Apart from minor affairs, they share similarities in all the aforementioned cases. Muslims also share one kind of world view, one common culture, and one grand, glorious, and long-standing civilization.
Unity in the world view, in culture, in the civilization, in insight and disposition, in religious beliefs, in acts of worship and prayers, in social rites and customs can well turn the Muslim into a unified nation to serve as a massive and dominant power before which the big global powers would have to bow down. This is especially true in view of the stress laid by Islam on this principle. According to the explicit wording of the Qur'an, the Muslims are brothers, and special rights and duties link them together. So, why shouldn't the Muslims use all these extensive facilities accorded to them as the blessing of Islam?
This group of 'Ulama' are of the view that there is no need for the Muslims to make any compromise on the primary or secondary principles of their religion for the sake of Islamic unity. Also it is not necessary for the Muslims to avoid engaging in discussions and reasons and writing books on primary and secondary principles about which they have differences. The only consideration for Islamic unity in this case is that the Muslims- in order to avoid the emergence or accentuation of vengeance - preserve their possession, avoid insulting and accusing each other and uttering fabrications, abandon ridiculing the logic of one another, and finally abstain from hurting one another and going beyond the borders of logic and reasoning. In fact, they should, at least, observe the limits which Islam has set forth for inviting non-Muslims to embrace it:
"Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner... "(16: 125)
Some people are of the view that those schools of fiqh, such as, Shafi'i and Hanafi which have no differences in principle should establish brotherhood and stand in one line. They believe that denominations which have differences in the principles can in no way be brothers. This group view the religious principles as an interconnected set as termed by scholars of Usul, as an interrelated and interdependent set; any damage to one principle harms all principles. As a result, those who believe in this principle are of the view that when, for instance, the principle of "imamah" is damaged and victimized, unity and fraternity will bear no meaning and for this reason the Shi'ah and the Sunnis cannot shake hands as two Muslim brothers and be in the same rank, no matter who their enemy is.
The first group answers this group by saying: "There is no reason for us to consider the principles as an interrelated set and follow the principle of "all or none". Imam 'Ali ('a) chose a very logical and reasonable approach. He left no stone unturned to retrieve his right. He used everything within his power to restore the principle of "imamah", but he never adhered to the motto of "all or none". 'Ali ('a) did not rise up for his right, and that was not compulsory. On the contrary, it was a calculated and chosen approach. He did not fear death. Why didn't he rise up? There could have been nothing above martyrdom. Being killed for the cause of the Almighty was his ultimate desire. He was more intimate with martyrdom than a child is with his mother's breast. But in his sound calculations, Imam 'All ('a) had reached the conclusion that under the existing conditions it was to the interest of Islam to foster collaboration and cooperation among the Muslims and give up revolt. He repeatedly stressed this point.
In one of his letters (No.62 "Nahj al Balaghah") to Malik al-Ashtar, he wrote the following:
"First I pulled back my hand until I realized that a group of people converted from Islam and invited the people toward annihilating the religion of Muhammad(s). So I feared that if I did not rush to help Islam and the Muslims, I would see gaps or destruction which calamity would be far worse than the several-day-long demise of caliphate."
In the six-man council, after appointment of 'Uthman by 'Abdul-Rahman ibn 'Awf, 'Ali ('a) set forth his objection as well as his readiness for collaboration as follows:"
You well know that I am more deserving than others for caliphate. But now by Allah, so long as the affairs of the Muslims are in order and my rivals suffice with setting me aside and only I am alone subjected to oppression, I will not oppose (the move) and will give in (to it)." (From Sermon 72, "Nahj al- Balaghah").
These indicate that in this issue 'Ali ('a) condemned the principle of "all or none". There is no need to further elaborate the approach taken by 'Ali ('a) toward this issue. There are ample historical proofs and reasons in this regard.
'Allamah Amini
Now it is time to see to which group the eminent 'Allamah, Ayatullah Amini - the distinguished compiler of the "al-Ghadir" - belonged and how he thought. Did he approve of the unity of the Muslims only within the light of Shi'ism? Or did he consider Islamic fraternity to be broader? Did he believe that Islam which is embraced by uttering the "shahadatayn" (the Muslim creed) would willy-nilly create some rights for the Muslims and that the brotherhood and fraternity set forth in the Qur'an exists among all Muslims?
'Allamah Amini personally considered this point - i.e. the need to elucidate his viewpoint on this subject and elaborate whether "al-Ghadir" has a positive or a negative role in (the establishment of) Islamic unity. In order not to be subject to abuse by his opponent - be they among the pros and cons - he has repeatedly explained and elucidated his views.
'Allamah Amini supported Islamic unity and viewed an open mind and clear insight. On different occasions, he set forth this matter in various volumes of the "al-Ghadir'. Reference will be made to some of them below: In the preface to volume I, he briefly mentions the role of "al-Ghadir" in the world of Islam. He states: "And we consider all this as service to religion, sublimation of the word of the truth, and restoration of the Islamic 'ummah' (community)."
In volume 3 (page 77), after quoting the fabrications of Ibn Taymiyah, Alusi, and Qasimi to the effect that Shi 'ism is hostile to some of the Ahl al-Bayt (the Household of the Prophet) such as Zayd bin 'Ali bin al-Huseyn, he notes the following under the title of "Criticism and Correction": "These fabrications and accusations sow the seeds of corruption, stir hostilities among the 'ummah', create discord among the Islamic community, divide the 'ummah', and clash with the public interests of the Muslims. Again in volume 3 (page 268), he quotes the accusation leveled on the Shi'ahs by Sayyid Muhammad Rashid Rida to the effect that "Shi'ahs are pleased with any defeat incurred by Muslims, so much as they celebrated the victory of the Russians over the Muslims." Then he says:
"These falsehoods are fabricated by persons like Sayyid Muhammad Rashid Rida. The Shi'ahs of Iran and Iraq against whom this accusation is leveled, as well as the orientalists, tourists, envoys of Islamic countries, and those who traveled and still travel to Iran and Iraq, have no information about this trend. Shi'ahs, without exception, respect the lives, blood, reputation, and property of the Muslims be they Shi'ahs or Sunnis. Whenever a calamity has befallen the Islamic community anywhere, in any region, and for any sects, the Shi'ahs have shared their sorrow. The Shi'ahs have never been confined to the Shi'ah world, the (concept of) Islamic brotherhood which has been set forth in the Qur'an and the 'sunnah' (the Prophet's sayings and actions), and in this respect, no discrimination has been made between the Shi'ahs and the Sunnis."
Also at the close of volume 3, he criticizes several books penned by the ancients such as "Iqd al-Farid" by Ibn Abd al-Rabbih, "al-Intisar" by Abu al-Husayn Khayyat al-Mu'tazili, "al Farq bayn al-Firaq" by Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi, "al-Fasl" by Ibn Hazm al-Andulusi, "al-Milal wa al-Nihal" by Muhammad ibn Abdul-Karim al-Shahristani "Minhaj al-Sunnah" by Ibn Taymiah and "al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah" by Ibn Kathir and several by the later writers such as "Tarikh al-Umam al-Islamiyyah" by Shaykh Muhammad Khizri, "Fajr al Islam" by Ahmad Amin, "al-Jawlat fi Rubu al-Sharq al-Adna" by Muhammad Thabit al-Mesri, "al-Sira Bayn al-Islam wa al-Wathaniyah" by Qasimi, and "al- Washi'ah" by Musa Jarallah.
Then he states the following: "By quoting and criticizing these books, we aim at warning and awakening the Islamic 'ummah' (to the fact) that these books create the greatest danger for the Islamic community, they destabilize the Islamic unity and scatter the Muslim lines. In fact nothing can disrupt the ranks of the Muslims, destroy their unity, and tear their Islamic fraternity more severely than these books."
'Allamah Amini, in the preface to volume 5, under title of "Nazariyah Karimah" on the occasion of a plaque of honor forwarded from Egypt for "al-Ghadir", clearly sets forth his view on this issue and leaves no room for any doubt. He remarks: "People are free to express views and ideas on religion. These (views and ideas) will never tear apart the bond of Islamic brotherhood to which the holy Qur'an has referred by stating that 'surely the believers are brethren'; even though academic discussion and theological and religious debates reach a peak.
This has been the style of the predecessors, and of the 'sahaba' and the 'tabi'un', at the head of them. "Notwithstanding all the differences that we have in the primary and secondary principles, we, the compilers and writers in nooks and corners of the world of Islam, share a common point and that is belief in the Almighty and His Prophet. A single spirit and one (form of) sentiment exists in all our bodies, and that is the spirit of Islam and the term 'ikhlas," "We, the Muslim compilers, all live under the banner of truth and carry out our duties under the guidance of the Qur'an and the Prophetic Mission of the Holy Prophet (s). The message of all of us is 'Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam ... (3:18)' and the slogan of all of us is 'There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.' Indeed, we are (the members of) the party of Allah and the supporters of his religion. In the preface to volume 8, under the title of "al-Ghadir Yowahhad al-Sufuf fil-Mila al-Islami",
'Allamah Amini directly makes researches into the role of "Al- Ghadir" in (the establishment of) Islamic unity. In this discussion, this great scholar categorically rejects the accusations leveled by those who said: 'Al-Ghadir' causes greater discord among the Muslims. He proves that, on the contrary, "Al-Ghadir" removes many misunderstandings and brings the Muslims closer to one another. Then he brings evidence by mentioning the confessions of the non-Shi'i Islamic scholars. At the close, he quotes the letter of Shaykh Muhammad Saeed Dahduh written in this connection. To avoid prolongation of this article, we will not quote and translate the entire statements of 'Allamah Amini in explaining the positive role of "al-Ghadir" in (establishing) Islamic unity, since what has already been mentioned sufficiently proves this fact.
The positive role of "al-Ghadir" is established by the facts that it firstly clarifies the proven logic of the Shi'ahs and proves that the inclination of Muslims to Shi'ism - notwithstanding the poisonous publicity of some people - is not due to political, ethnic, or other trends and considerations. It also verifies that a powerful logic based on the Qur'an and the "sunnah" has given rise to this tendency. Secondly, it reflects that some accusations leveled on Shi'ism - which have made other Muslims distanced from the Shi'ah- are totally baseless and false. Examples of these accusations are the notion that the Shi'ites prefer the non-Muslims to the non- Shi'i Muslims, rejoice at the defeat of non-Shi'ite Muslims at the hands of non-Muslims, and other accusations such as the idea that instead of going to hajj pilgrimage, the Shi'ahs go on pilgrimage to shrines of the Imams, or have particular rites in prayers and in temporary marriage. Thirdly, it introduces to the world of Islam the eminent Commander of the faithful 'Ali ('a) who is the most oppressed and the least praised grand Islamic personality and who could be the leader of all Muslims, as well as his pure offspring.
Other Comments on "al-Ghadir"
Many unbiased non-Shia Muslims interpret the "al-Ghadir" in the same way that has already been mentioned. Muhammad Abdul-Ghani Hasan al-Mesri, in his foreword on "al-Ghadir", which has been published in the preface to volume I, second edition, states: "I call on the Almighty to make your limpid brook (in Arabic, 'Ghadir' means brook) the cause of peace and cordiality between the Shia and Sunni brothers to cooperate with one another in building the Islamic "ummah."
'Adil Ghadban, the managing editor of the Egyptian magazine entitled "al-Kitab", said the following in the preface to volume 3: "This book clarifies the Shi'ite logic. The Sunnis can correctly learn about the Shi'i through this book. Correct recognition of the Shi'ahs brings the views of the Shi'ahs and the Sunnis closer, and they can make a unified rank".
In his foreword to the "al-Ghadir" which was published in the preface to volume 4, Dr. Muhammad Ghallab, professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Religious Studies al-Azhar University said: "I got hold of your book at a very opportune time, because right now I am busy collecting and compiling a book on the lives of the Muslims from various perspectives. Therefore, I am highly avid for obtaining sound information about 'Imamiyah' Shi'ism. Your book will help me. And I will not make mistakes about the Shi'ahs as others have".
In this foreword published in the preface to volume 4 of the "al-Ghadir", Dr. 'Abdul-Rahman Kiali Halabi says the following after referring to the decline of the Muslims in the present age and the factors which can lead to the Muslims' salvation, one of which is the sound recognition of the successor of the Holy Prophet (s):
"The book entitled "al-Ghadir" and its rich content deserves to be known by every Muslim to learn how historians have been negligent and see where the truth lies. Through this means, we should compensate for the past, and by striving to foster the unity of the Muslims, we should try to gain the due rewards". These were the views of 'Allamah Amini about the important social issues of our age and such were his sound reflections in the world of Islam. Peace be upon him. Tawassul
Dr. 'Abd al-Karim Bi-Azar Shirazi
"O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek an approach unto Him..."
(Holy Qur'an 5:35)
Over the last few centuries, the Muslims have been wracked by severe discord and hostility over the issue of tawassul (beseeching or supplicating) to Prophet Muhammad (s), the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), the Saints and the Pious, to the extent that those who reject this concept have accused its supporters of shirk or polytheism, while the upholders of tawassul have charged its opponents with enmity and aversion towards the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Household ('a).
The result has led to increasing bigotry on both sides to the benefit of their common enemies who have increased their domination of Muslim lands. This article is an attempt to examine and critically study the issue of tawassul.
Definition of Tawassul
The lexical meaning of tawassul is 'nearness' or a 'means' through which to reach a certain goal. For instance, when it is said wa wassala ila Allah, it means to perform a certain act for gaining proximity to God. Accordingly wasil here means being 'desirous of God'.[1]
According to the prominent Sunni scholar, Sayyid Muhammad Alusi al-Baghdadi, wasilah is a means of imploring in order to gain nearness to God through good deeds and abstaining from sins. For example when it is said "wasala ila kadha," it means a thing through which nearness is gained.
As is clear from the wordings of ayah 35 of Surah al-Ma'idah, which we quoted at the beginning of the article, "fear Allah" is a commandment to abstain from sin, while "seek an approach unto Him" is an order to perform worship and acts of devotion.[2]
Both Raghib Isfahani and 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i opine that al-wasilah means to reach a certain goal through desire, inclination or willingness, and in fact wasilah towards God means observance of His path with knowledge and worship through adherence to the Shari'ah. In other words wasilah is a means of communication and spiritual link between mankind and God.
According to a narration al-wasilah is a position in paradise which is reserved for only one person, and Prophet Muhammad (s) has asked the ummah to pray that this status be granted to him.[3]
a) Tawassul to the Prophet and Saints during their Lifetime
In the opinion of the founder of the Wahhabi sect, Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, and other like-minded 'ulama' of the past, it is permissible to seek help from fellow humans, as during wars and other affairs, if the person or the group who is being asked or entreated has the power and ability to help.[4]
Alusi believes that appealing to people, making them a wasilah or means and requesting them to supplicate to God is permissible without the least doubt, provided that the one who is being requested is alive, whether or not the one who is petitioned is superior than the petitioner, since the Prophet (s) used to say to some of his companions: "O brother do not forget us in your supplications to Allah."
However, Alusi is of the opinion that if the one who is being petitioned is not alive, it is not permissible to request him for supplication. But Alusi adds that it is permissible to supplicate at the shrine of the Prophet (s), since the companions of the Prophet (s) used to stand beside his shrine and supplicate with face towards the Qiblah.
b) Tawassul to the Prophet after his Death
The 'ulama' are divided whether or not it is permissible after the death of the Prophet (s) to make him the means of supplication with such phrases as Allahumma inni asaluka bi-Nabiyyika (O Allah! I beseech You through Your Prophet), or bi-jahi Nabiyyika (by the dignity of Your Prophet), or still bi-Haqqi Nabiyyika (for the sake of Your Prophet). We come across three different opinions in this regard.
1. Opinion on Permissibility
All jurists including Imami, Shafi'i, Maliki, and later-day Hanafi scholars as well as others such as the Hanbalis, are unanimous on the permissibility of this way of supplication, whether it was in the lifetime of the Prophet (s), or whether it is after his passing away.[5]
The Abbasid caliph, Mansur al-Dawaniqi, once asked Malik ibn Anas the founder of the Maliki School of jurisprudence whether he should turn towards the shrine of the Prophet (s) or face the Qiblah for supplication? Malik answered him:
Why do you want to turn away from the Prophet (s) when he (Prophet Muhammad (s)) is the wasilah (means) for you and for your father Adam, towards Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Turn to him (the Prophet) and seek his intercession (shafa'at).[6]
The Sunni scholar al-Nawawi in describing the manners and etiquette of making
pilgrimage to the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s), writes:
The pilgrim should face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s), make him a means (tawassul) towards reaching God and seek his wasilah as intercession (shafa'at), in the same manner as the Bedouin who visited the Prophet's shrine and standing beside it said: Peace unto you O Messenger of Allah, I have heard Allah has said:
...Had they, when they had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would certainly have found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful. (Holy Qur'an 4: 64).
Therefore, I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and seeking your intercession with Allah.[7]
Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, defining the manner of pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet (s), writes in the book al-Mughni:
Stand beside the tomb of the Prophet (s), and say: I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and to seek your intercession with Allah. [8]
The Shafi'ite scholar Ghazzali has allotted a special section in his book Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din concerning the manners of pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet (s) in order to repent and seek forgiveness from Allah. He writes:
The Prophet should be made the means (wasilah) and the intercessor (shafi'), and with face turned towards the tomb, the pilgrim should implore Allah for the sake and position of the Prophet with the words: "O Allah, indeed You have said, Had they, who had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would have certainly found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful (Holy Qur'an 4:64);
O Allah, surely we have heard Your words and we obey Your command, by coming to Your Prophet to seek his intercession with You for our sins; how burdensome and heavy (are sins) on our backs! We repent of slipperiness, we confess our wrongs and our faults, accept our repentance for his sake, make Your Prophet intercessor for us, and exalt us for the sake of his position and his rights with You."
Al-Ghazzali adds:
It is recommended the pilgrim should go daily to the Baqi' Cemetery and after saluting the Prophet (s), make pilgrimage to the tombs of (Imam) Hasan ibn 'Ali, (Imam) 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, (Imam) Muhammad ibn 'Ali and (Imam) Ja'far ibn Muhammad (Allah be pleased with them), and also perform the Salat in the Mosque of Fatimah (Allah be pleased with her).[9]
2. Opinion on Aversion
The jurist Abu Yusuf relates from his teacher Abu Hanifah that it is not right for anyone to call Allah except through (the Names and Attributes) Allah, since He says: "And to Allah belong the beautiful Names, so call on Him thereby." (Holy Qur'an 7:180).
Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Shaybani also feel averse in invoking God by means (tawassul) of the Prophet and his position, on the assumption that the creatures have no right on the Almighty Creator, and He showers His mercy on whomever He likes.
Ibn 'Abidin, however, says in this regard: True, the creatures have no right whatsoever upon the Creator, but the Creator through His favours has given rights to mankind. On this basis, he relates a hadith concerning the manners of supplication and tawassul:
Allahumma inni asaluka bi-haqqi al-sa'ilina 'alayk (O Allah! I beseech you for the rights that seekers have upon You). [10]
Except for this narration of Ibn 'Abidin, we find no opinion or view from either Abu Hanifah or his friend Abu Yusuf in the books of Hanafi scholars concerning tawassul to God through the wasilah (means) of the Prophet (s).[11]
Opinion of Contemporary Hanafi Scholars on Permissibility
Here, we will study the legal opinions (fatawa) of contemporary Hanafi scholars on permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet (s).
Alusi al-Baghdadi quotes Ibn 'Abd al-Salam as saying that it is permissible to invoke Allah for the sake of the Prophet (s), since Prophet Muhammad (s) is the leader of the children of Adam. Alusi bases his reasoning on the hadith (hasan and sahih) related by both Tirmidhi and Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the authority of 'Uthman bin Hunayf, which says that:
Once when a blind man asked the Prophet (s) to pray to Allah to grant him eyesight, he was told to make wudu' and recite the following supplication:
O Allah! I request you and I have turned to you through Your Prophet, the Prophet of Mercy; O Messenger of Allah! I have turned to you as a means towards My God for fulfilment of this wish of mine; O Allah! Accept his (Prophet's) intercession (shafa'at) for me.
Alusi thus believes that there is no objection in making tawassul to God by means of the dignity (jah) and prime position of the Prophet (s), whether it is in his lifetime or after his death, since dignity here refers to an attribute which is one of the attributes of Almighty Allah. Alusi also says that tawassul by means of dignity of a person other than the Prophet (s) is also permissible, provided that the one who is being considered a wasilah has a station and position of dignity in the sight of Allah.[12]
The famous Sunni scholar of India, Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri in his book al-Muhannad 'ala al-Mufannid has collected the fatawa or legal opinions of 75 leading Sunni scholars from different parts of the Islamic world on the permissibility of tawassul to the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s). He writes:
In our opinion and that of our teachers, pilgrimage to the shrine of the Master of Messengers (my soul be sacrificed for him) is the most exalted of proximities, the most important of blessings, and the greatest of means (wasilah) for attaining lofty ranks. It could be said that it is an enjoinment almost to the degree of obligations, even if it requires the trouble of a journey to perform it and there is no other option other than to make efforts with life and wealth.
Tawassul to the Prophets, saints, pious persons, martyrs and the righteous during supplications, whether in their lifetime or after their death, is permissible in the following manner:
Allahumma inni atawassalu ilayka bi-fulan an tujiba da'wati wa taqdia hajati (O Allah! I beseech you by means of so and so a person, accept my supplication and grant my request).[13]
Tawassul in the View of Prominent Imami 'Ulama'
According to such prominent Imami 'ulama' as Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Tusi, Shaykh Amin al-Islam Tabrisi, 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i, Imam Sayyid Ruhullah Khumayni and others, wasilah means faith, love and reverence for the Prophet (s) and obedience to him.
'Allamah Tabataba'i writes in his monumental exegesis on the Holy Qur'an that the word al-wasilah or 'approach' as used in the Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him" (5:35) confirms the reality of worship and means turning submissively and supplicatingly to God, with knowledge and practice serving as the requisite instrument for this connection.[14]
Furthermore, elaborating on the narration found in the Tafsir of 'Ali bin Ibrahim Qummi that the Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him" means seeking Allah's proximity through the Infallible Imam ('a), 'Allamah Tabataba'i, says that this refers to obedience or adhering to the path of the Imam ('a) in order to reach Allah.[15]
It is evident that the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) who are considered the practical models of divine law and the finest exemplars of morals and etiquette, are the wasilah, since it is through obedience to them and adherence to their path that one can attain proximity to God. Likewise, as stated by prominent Imami or Shi'ah jurists, the laws of the Shari'ah are the wasilah, on the basis of adherence to which, proximity of Almighty Allah is attained. Accordingly, some prominent Imami jurisprudents like Shaykh Hurr al-'Amili, Ayatullah Abu al-Hasan Isfahani and Imam Khumayni have used the title wasilah for their jurisprudential treatises such as Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, Wasilah al-Najat and Tahrir al-Wasilah, respectively. Wasilah al-Najat or the 'Means of Salvation' is the title of over 40 scientific treatises written by Shi'ah 'ulama'.[16]
Thus, as ascertained by Imami scholars, the Prophet (s) is the wasilah towards God for Muslims since he is the best exemplar and is in fact the 'Practical Qur'an'. So also is the Prophet's (s) infallible progeny ('a), who along with the Book of Allah (Holy Qur'an), is the immortal legacy of the Prophet and continuation of his path as borne out by the Hadith al-Thaqalayn which is unanimously confirmed by both Shi'ah and Sunni 'ulama'. Muslims, through the wasilah of these two, hold fast to divine laws and strive to attain Allah's proximity, since good deeds, obedience and adherence to the Qur'an, the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt ('a) are the basis of shafa'at. This is better explained by 'Allamah Tabataba'i in his exegesis:
Persons who lack any ability to attain the required perfection are like the illiterate who wants to become the doyen of scholars merely through recommendation, since he neither has any basic learning nor has he the required connection with the one who could intercede. Or they could be compared to a slave who is disobedient to his master, but without coming out of this state of insubordination and disobedience wants to be forgiven through intercession (shafa'at). In none of these two cases intercession is beneficial, since shafa'at is the wasilah or means for accomplishment of a cause and is not a cause in itself to make him a doyen of scholars in the first case, and in the second case to avail forgiveness from the master in the state of disobedience.[17]
Therefore, as it has been clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, if a person does not fulfil his obligations and adherence to the path of the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a), he will not be considered worthy of shafa'at, even if the Prophet (s) were to intercede on his behalf.
"Alike it is for them whether you seek forgiveness for them or seek not forgiveness for them; Never will God forgive them..." (63:6)
3. Opinion on Non-Permissibility of Tawassul
In the opinion of Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and later Hanbali scholars tawassul to the person of the Prophet (s) himself is not permissible. Tawassul has three concepts, of which two are deemed correct, and according to Ibn Taymiyyah, whoever rejects these two concepts of tawassul is either an infidel or an apostate.
1) Tawassul to the Prophet (s) to reach God is indicative of faith and love for the Prophet (s). For example, when it is said Allahumma asaluka bi-Nabiyyika Muhammad (O Allah! I beseech you for the sake of your Prophet, Muhammad (s)), it means I seek from You on the basis of the faith and love which I have for Your Prophet.
The Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him", is a means of approaching Allah by obedience to Him and His Messenger, as it is said: Whoever obeys the Prophet has indeed obeyed Allah.
This concept of tawassul is permissible in the opinion of all 'ulama'. Ibn Taymiyyah has considered it a pious act and has supported his views by citing reports from certain companions of the Prophets, the first generation of Muslims (tabi'in) and jurists such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.[18]
2) The concept of tawassul as supplication or intercession (shafa'at) of the Prophet, like the supplication of the second caliph, which reads: "O Allah! Whenever drought afflicted us we made tawassul to You through our Prophet (tawassalna ilayka bi-Nabiyyina), and now we make tawassul to You through the uncle of our Prophet,
Send down rain for us."
3) The concept of tawassul as making an oath or invoking Allah by the right of the Prophet (s). According to Ibn Taymiyyah this form of tawassul was neither done during the lifetime of the Prophet nor after him by his companions. In this regard contemporary scholars opposed to tawassul have quoted Abu Hanifah as saying: Do not say asaluka bi-haqqi anbiya'ika (I invoke You by the right of Your Prophets). [19]
Rejection of Ibn Taymiyyah's Opinion
1. The claim that the companions of the Prophet (s) never supplicated in this manner is the understanding and deduction of Ibn Taymiyyah. How do we know that when the second caliph says "we make tawassul to You through our Prophet" does not mean "for the right of our Prophet (bi-haqqi nabiyyina)", or is not addressed to the Prophet himself? Most Sunni 'ulama' have given the latter meaning and from the wording of the sentence itself the Prophet is being called upon.
2. Suppose none of the companions had made tawassul by the right of any of the divine Prophets, it does not mean tawassul is Haram even if some of the companions were to explicitly prohibit such an act. The opinion of the companions of the Prophet (s) is not binding on the Muslim ummah, except perhaps for a few jurisprudents, unless it is related from Prophet Muhammad (s) himself.
Justification of the Salafiyyah on Non-Permissibility of Tawassul
Ibn Taymiyyah in Qa'idah Jalilah, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in Kashf al-Shubahat and Muhammad Rashid Rida in Tafsir al-Manar, opine that although during the life of Prophet Muhammad (s), his companions would address him for their needs, after his death they never approached his tomb for their needs. They even forbade those who intended to supplicate beside the Prophet's (s) tomb
Critique
It is interesting to note that a review and analysis of these opinions brings out different historical facts. First of all, the predecessors, whether the companions or the first and second generation of Muslims, never denied tawassul to the Prophet (s), either during his lifetime or after his passing away. It has been mentioned in the narrations of the Ahl al-Sunnah even the first created man, Adam, implored Allah for forgiveness through tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) with the words: "O Allah! for the sake of Muhammad (s) I beseech you to forgive my faults." [20]
Secondly, prominent Sunni scholars such as Bayhaqi and Ibn Abi Shaybah as well as Ahmad bin Zayni Dahlan in his Khulasah al-Kalam, have cited a sahih (authentic) hadith, that during the caliphate of 'Umar ibn Khattab when a severe famine occurred, Bilal bin Harth approached the Prophet's (s) tomb and said: "O Messenger of Allah, pray to God to send rains for your ummah, since we are all facing annihilation." The Prophet then appeared in Bilal's dream and gave him the tidings of rains.
Similarly during the caliphate of 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, a needy person approached the Caliph and told him of his needs. 'Uthman asked him to make wudu, offer prayer in the mosque and then supplicate in the following manner:
O Lord! through the wasilah of our Prophet Muhammad (s), the Messenger of Mercy, I turn my face to You. O Muhammad (s)! through your wasilah I am facing Your Lord and I request you to grant me my wish. The person attained his goal. [21]
Tamassuk in the Opinion of Abu Hanifah
Ibn Taymiyyah says that taking an oath or invoking by virtue of the creatures is haram according to the creed (madhhab) of Abu Hanifah. [22]
Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi sect, also opines that istidlal (rational proof) and tamassuk (bond, holding fast) are matters of doubt or anxiety because of two aspects. Abu Yusuf quoting his teacher Abu Hanifah says: "It is not right for someone to call upon Allah through any other means than Allah. He (Abu Hanifah) was averse to saying bi-haqqi fulan (by the right of so and so)".
Critique
First, Abu Hanifah has approached this issue with aversion and a purely personal opinion, as is clear from the inclusion of istidlal and tamassuk in Bab al-Karahah of Abu al-Hasan Qaduri's Sharh Karkhi. Abu Yusuf quoting his teacher Abu Hanifah says:
It is not right for someone to call upon God through any other means than God. He was averse to saying for the sake of so and so.
Secondly, a closer look at Abu Hanifah's reasoning reveals that he himself has tried to resort to rational argumentation in this regard when he says: "Since the creatures have no rights on the Creator."[23]
However, Abu Hanifah's analogy falls short of clear proofs, and does not mean the total negation of any right, since God Himself has considered the right of the Prophets and that of the righteous believers as binding upon Him, as is clear from the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
Ultimately We deliver Our Apostles and those who believe, even so it is binding upon Us that We deliver the believers. (10:103)
The Hanafis such as Ibn 'Abidin accept this right, but they say that the creatures have no obligatory right on the Creator. [24]
This viewpoint, even if it is considered general, is confined to the followers of Abu Hanifah and cannot be imposed on all schools of Islam.
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 18 of Surah al-Jinn
Another reason put forward by the Salafiyyah such as Muhammad Rashid Rida on non-permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet after his death is that any wasilah for proximity to God should be a thing which God has determined for mankind such as faith, action and supplication. It was in the middle ages that tawassul to the person of the Prophets and pious men became widespread and they were considered wasa'il ila Allah (means to Allah) by people who would invoke God by their names and would supplicate to them at their tombs for their needs, when supplication is a form of worship as God says in the Holy Qur'an:
"So call you not anyone with Allah." (72:18)
"Surely, those whom you call other than Allah are subservient (to Allah) like unto your own selves..." (7:194)
Critique
In answer to this objection it should be said that every supplication is not a form of worship or even the spirit of worship, since the root of du'a' (supplication) is da'wat, a word which along with its derivatives occurs frequently in the Holy Qur'an. For instance, "...let us call (nad'u) our sons... (3:61)" and "Make you not the addressing (du'a') of the Prophet among you like your addressing one another..." (24:63)
As could be discerned, in most of the 'Ayas the word du'a' means to call or address. Accordingly neither every nida' (call) is du'a' nor every du'a' is 'ibadat (worship). In other words du'a' (supplication) becomes 'ibadat when the rules of worship such as servitude and submissiveness to Allah are observed with acknowledgement of the over lordship of the Almighty Creator. What connection does this have with tawassul and tabarruk to the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) and requesting them for help and succour?
Thus, the narration al-du'a' huwa al-'ibadah (supplication is among the acts of worship), does not necessarily mean that every supplication is a form of worship. [25]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayahs 13-14 of Surah al-Fatir
The Salafiyyah also resort to the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an as part of their attempt to discourage tawassul:
...And those whom you call upon other than Him, own not (even) a straw. If you call on them they shall hear not your call; and even if they hear they shall answer you not; and on the Day of Judgement they will deny your associating them (with Allah); and none can (ever) inform you as the All-Aware. (35:13,14)
Critique
This Ayah refers to the polytheists who worship idols instead of the One and Only God and supplicate to these man-made objects in their hour of need. Allah says here that these idols do not own even a straw, so how can they grant anything to those who worship and prostrate before them? No matter how fervently these idols are called upon, they do not listen since they are inanimate objects, and suppose even if they were to listen, they cannot answer since they do not have the tongues.[26]
As is crystal clear for any discerning person, it has no connection whatsoever concerning tawassul to the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) or saints.
First and foremost, it is a gross mistake to place those who seek tawassul in the same category as the polytheists, since idolaters seek their needs from idols and not from the Almighty Creator. But those who make tawassul beseech Allah for their needs and regard Prophet Muhammad (s) as a wasilah or means for the acceptance of their supplications, since he is the Messenger of Allah. To quote Rashid Rida himself, those who seek tawassul are like guests who approach the host for some of their needs, and at times request the members of the household or friends of the hosts who have been appointed to serve the guests, since they consider everything to be the favour of the host.[27]
Secondly, it is a manifest error to equate with idols the Prophet (s) who has been sent by Allah as a divine sign and is called Habib-Allah (Friend of God) by all Muslims. Even Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab maintains that Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his grave and his life in the intermediary world (barzakh) is superior to the life of the martyrs, since he hears the voices of those who send blessings upon him.[28]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 194 of Surah al-A'raf
The fifth reason that the Salafiyyah such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad Rashid Rida have cited as non-permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet (s) after his death, is the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
"Surely, those whom you call other than Allah are subservient (to Allah) like unto your own selves..." (7:194)
Critique
All exegetes of the Holy Qur'an have unanimously stated that this Ayah refers to the idol-worshippers who associate man-made objects with God in creation and in administering the affairs of the world. In contrast, tawassul is made by those who never regard the Prophets as partners of Allah in creation and in running world affairs, and neither do they worship the Last Prophet (s), since every day several times they bear testimony that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the servant and Messenger of Allah (ash-hadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhu wa rasuluh). As the Holy Qur'an says, Prophet Muhammad (s) has been sent as mercy to the entire creation (21:107) and is a means of acceptance of supplications, so it is natural for us to request him to supplicate and intercede (shafa'at) with Allah for us.
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 3 of Surah al-Zumar
The Chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh 'Abd al-'Aziz bin Baz, in his exchange of letters with Iran's Ayatullah Muhammad Wa'iz-Zadeh Khurasani, has remarked:
The polytheists also testified to the Oneness of Allah but as the Holy Qur'an states, they tried to justify their worshipping of idols by saying: "...we worship them not but (in order) that they make us near to God..." (39:3). This is similar to the actions of those who make tawassul to those in the graves in order to seek proximity to Allah. [29]
Critique
'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i responding to such a reasoning says that according to the books of religions and the testimony of idol-worshippers, hundreds of millions of whom live in India, China and Japan, idolatry is based on the theory that the creation of the universe and even the deities which are worshipped, have as their source the same Almighty God, but since He is beyond comprehension there is no other choice but to worship some of His closest servants such as angels, genies and saints so that they make intercession (shafa'at) and people may reach the proximity of God through them. In the opinion of the polytheists, angels are like the builder to whom the owner of the house has entrusted the building and hence intercession (shafa'at) is according to His discretion.
But, adds 'Allamah Tabataba'i, in the Holy Qur'an tawassul to the Prophets is in the manner of an intermediary and is not something independent, and for this reason it has not been considered as shirk or polytheism. Similarly, the polytheists have been reproached in the Holy Qur'an not because of seeking intercession (shafa'at) but because of worshipping other than God.[30]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 10 of Surah Yunus
Shaykh Bin Baz in his answers to Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh has also cited the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an as another instance of non-permissibility of tawassul, saying that in his opinion Muslims who uphold tawassul to the Prophet (s) are like idolaters who seek intercession from objects which are of no use:
"And they worship beside Allah which can neither hurt them nor profit them, and they say: these are our intercessors with Allah..." (10:18)
Critique
First, this Ayah has no connection with Muslims since they do not worship any thing or object except Allah.
Secondly, as said earlier, addressing the Prophet is not meant to worship him but to request him for supplication and intercession.
Thirdly, it is a matter of surprise to compare the Prophet to those whom the Holy Qur'an says "can neither hurt them nor profit them," since the fact cannot be denied that obedience to the Prophet is to the benefit of Muslims and disobedience to him, whether during his lifetime or after his death, is certainly detrimental to them. Similarly, the supplication and intercession of the Prophet for those who are eligible, whether in worldly life or in the Hereafter, is profitable for the Muslims as unanimously confirmed by the 'ulama'.
Fourthly, it is a grave error to equate the belief of the Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the intercessor, with the belief of the polytheists "these (idols) are our intercessors with Allah," since God has explicitly rejected their claim as lies.
"...those who take guardians besides Him, (say) we worship them not but (in order) that they make us near to Allah; surely Allah will judge between them about what they differ; surely Allah does not guide the one who is a liar and an ingrate." (39:3)
As is clear from the wordings of the Holy Qur'an the polytheists who make such claims are liars. They are not conscious of God, neither do they worship Him or prostrate to Him nor have they any faith in their Unseen Creator:
"And when it is said to them prostrate you in obeisance to the Rahman (the Beneficent God), they say: Who is Rahman? Shall we prostrate in obeisance unto what you bid us? And it (only) adds to their flight (from the truth)." (25:60)
Non-Permissibility of Tawassul to the Dead
Another claim put forward by the Salafiyyah is that, on the basis of evidences tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) during his lifetime is acceptable but after his death there is lack of evidence to support the view that tawassul was ever made to him.[31]
Critique
The contemporary Sunni scholar Dr. Ramadan Buti of the University of Damascus, rejects this viewpoint of the Wahhabiyyah sect. He says tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) and things pertaining to him is permissible, whether during his lifetime or after his death, since things or items related to him are not necessarily linked to his lifetime such as tabarruk (sacred relics) or tawassul, as is confirmed by Sahih al-Bukhari, Chapter on the hair of the Prophet.
No Muslim would ever attribute to other than the One and Only God the effect of anything related to the person of the Prophet (s) during his life or after his death. If a person were to hold the opposite view that this effect is independent in itself, he would be considered an infidel. Accordingly, the tabarruk of the Prophet (s) and tawassul to him and to things related to him, does not mean attributing the blessed effect to his personal influence independent of God, but is an indication of the fact that as the Last Divine-Sent Messenger he is the 'Best of Creation' and is the 'Mercy of Allah' for the entire creation. Therefore tawassul to him is a means of gaining proximity to Allah and His infinite Mercy for mankind. It was in this sense that the companions sought tawassul to the Prophet and things related to him. Likewise, it is recommended to seek intercession (shafa'at) through the pious persons such as the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) of the Prophet (s).
Sunni authorities including Shawkani, Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, San'ani and others are unanimous on this issue as was made clear concerning the request for rain. In view of these facts, Dr. Buti calls it a strange confusion by the Wahhabiyyah to make difference between the lifetime of the Prophet and after his death.[32]
To quote Professor Hasan bin 'Ali al-Saqqaf, polytheism (shirk) is polytheism either in this world or in the next, whether or not the person through whom people are seeking tawassul to God, is alive. But, he adds, without the least doubt tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) is supported by the general rules of permissibility, and includes both his lifetime and after his death as well as in the Hereafter.[33]
Tawassul to the Dead is Addressing the Non-Existent
Muhammad bin 'Abd al-Wahhab writes: Tawassul to a person who is alive has no objection, but tawassul to the dead is to address the non-existent and is an absurd, ugly and despised act.
Critique
This statement is a clear violation of Allah's words in the Holy Qur'an:
"Reckon not those who are slain in the way of Allah, to be dead; Nay! They are alive and are being sustained by their Lord." (3:169)
2. It is also in contradiction to the saying of Prophet Muhammad (s) as recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and all other authoritative (Sihah) Sunni works. After the Battle of Badr the Prophet (s) stood near the well of the same name and addressed the dead with ayah 46 of Surah al-A'raf. When some of his companions objected that how could the dead hear him, the Prophet (s) replied: "You are not more hearing than them."[34]
3. It is in opposition to the statements of Islamic intellectuals such as al-Ghazzali who writes in Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din: "Some people think death as extinction and state of non-existent, and those who hold such beliefs have no faith and actually mean to deny Allah and the Hereafter."
Hafiz al-Nawawi in al-Majmu' fi Sharh al-Muhadhdhab which says that while standing beside the tombs of Prophets, especially the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s), it is recommended to request them to supplicate to God for our needs, since they are alive and as the Holy Qur'an says: "are being sustained by their Lord." (3:169)[35]
Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri who states his fatwa and that of 75 'ulama' of different Islamic lands as follows: In our view, Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his holy tomb and his life is similar to worldly life but without its duties. 'Allamah Jalal al-Din Suyuti writes in his book Anba' al-Azkiya' bi-Hayat al-Anbiya' on the authority of Shaykh Taqi al-Din Subki that the proof of the life of Prophets and martyrs in their graves is the prayer offered by Prophet Moses in his own tomb as mentioned in a hadith. In this regard Shaykh Shams al-Islam Muhammad Qasim has written a booklet titled Ab-i Hayat.[36]
4. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in answer to Shaykh Ja'far Najafi said that seeking help from the dead is an absurd act. But how could this be called shirk since there is no connection between absurdity and polytheism? And if tawassul with fellow humans is considered shirk, then how could the difference between tawassul to the living and tawassul to the dead, be ascertained?
5. Here Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab has contradicted his own opinion, since as we saw earlier in this article he believed that Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his tomb and said that this state of life of the Prophet (s) is superior than the life of the martyrs. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab also said that the Prophet (s) hears the voice of those who send blessings on him.[37]
6. Farid Wajdi mentions in his encyclopaedia:
In our era God has opened two of the windows of knowledge for us and the proof of this two windows confirms beyond an iota of doubt that man has a soul which without the need of the physical body can lead its own independent life.[38 ]
From the 19th century onwards the science of spiritism or contacts with the souls of the departed has been discovered and developed upon by the world's researchers after precise study and experiments in this regard. In the US and Europe, the summoning of the souls of the departed is part of the world of science.[39]
The information which modern scientists have discovered after witnessing the summoning of souls, is yet another instance of the fact that the human being has an independent soul outside the physical body that does not perish with death. The connection of the souls of the departed with the living is the finest proof of the independence and immortality of the soul, and most of its capability concerning many works is with the permission of Almighty God.[40]
The souls of the righteous and pious persons which have been released from the mortal world have acquired superior perception and consciousness and in their ascendant journey are free of the limits of time and space. They penetrate with ease the skies and the depths of the oceans to observe the grandeur of God's creation.
Blocking of Means (Sadd-i Dhara'i')
Some of the Wahhabi 'ulama' such as Dr. Muhammad bin Sa'd Suway'ir who is one of the deputies of Shaykh Bin Baz, say that tawassul and tabarruk are permissible for 'ulama' who are cognizant of the essence of faith, but this is forbidden for the common people, who are prone to drift towards polytheism and who might gradually start believing in the personal influence of the Prophet and saints in the granting of boons and prevention of the detrimental things. Therefore, it is obligatory to stop them from tawassul and tabarruk in the name of Blocking of Means.
Critique
Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh rejecting the Wahhabi theory against tawassul says:
When the permissibility or recommendation for this act has been confirmed with rational proof, it is not permissible to prohibit tawassul for such unfounded fears that the ignorant might give it the colour of polytheism. If such was the case, the Prophet (s) himself would have prohibited people as a precaution from seeking blessing, visiting the graves or kissing the sacred black stone (Hajar al-Aswad) at the holy Ka'bah. On the contrary, judicious measures for checking possible deviation is for the 'ulama' to exercise greater control.[41]
Takfir of Shi'ah for Tawassul
Ibn Taymiyyah, despite his extreme and biased approach for prohibiting tawassul, has admitted:
This is a controversial issue and to accuse of heresy those who make tawassul is haram and is a sinful act, since no one has said that a person making tawassul to the Prophet (s) after his death is a kafir. This is an ambiguous issue and there are no certain proofs in this regard. Kufr is confirmed when a person rejects any of the tenets of faith deliberately and being fully aware. Therefore, those who accuse a person of heresy for making tawassul deserve the most severe punishment.[42]
It is unfortunate that the blind prejudice which the colonial powers had skilfully exploited to create differences among Sunni Muslims as a result of the Wahhabiyyah opposition to the issue of tawassul, has been widened to sow discord between Sunni and Shi'ah Muslims and to label the Shi'ah as kafir (infidel) or mushrik (polytheist) on the allegation that they seek their requests from other than God. To quote Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh, those who do not permit tawassul and tabarruk are only a fraction of a minority among the 'ulama' of the Muslim world, and despite their efforts over the past seven centuries, have not been able to convince the upholders of tawassul.[43]
Thus, as should be clear, according to the statement of Ibn Taymiyyah the issue of tawassul is a moral one and does not concern the principles of faith, since a kafir is the one who rejects any of the tenets of Islam.
Extreme Form of Tawassul among the Ahl al-Sunnah
It is a common sight in many countries to see the Ahl al-Sunnah approach the graves of pious persons to pray and supplicate for their needs. In Egypt, Iraq and Turkey, and many other lands --India, Pakistan, Syria, Central Asia, North Africa-- it is an accepted practice by the masses to visit the tombs of saints and holy personages to make tawassul and seek blessings. Dr. Mustafa Mahmud writes that people in Egypt flock to the tomb of Rifa'i and Ibrahim Dasuqi and cry loudly with such phrases as: Madad Ya Rifa'i (help me O Rifa'i), Shifa' bi-Yadika Ya Sayyidi Ibrahim Dasuqi (In your hands lie the remedy, O my Lord Ibrahim Dasuqi).[44]
The Egyptians also visit the tomb of Shafi'i, the founder of the Shafi'ite sect, for tawassul, while in Baghdad, the Hanafis do the same at the tomb of Abu Hanifah. In Turkey, the people seek their needs at the tomb of the Prophet's eminent companion Abu Ayyub Ansari. It is also a habit among people in Egypt and other places to send written petitions to the tomb of Shafi'i, and wail and cry at the graves of pious persons for things which none except the Almighty God has the power to grant.
When Wahhabi 'ulama' come across such scenes among the Ahl al-Sunnah they brand these Muslims as polytheists and follow the same assumption against the Shi'ah, concerning whom they have little or no information, and sometimes go to extreme by labelling them apostates who should be killed.
Purity of Monotheism in Shi'ah Supplications
The prayers and acts of worship among the Shi'ah have the purest form of monotheism derived from the guidelines of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt ('a). For instance, Shi'ah do not put their forehead during prostration on carpet, cloth, plastic or synthetic material, since Imam Ja'far al-sadiq ('a) has said:
Worldly people are slaves of victuals and clothing, hence it is not right for a person who is in the act of offering his prayer to Allah to place his forehead on the deity of the worshippers of the world.[45]
Likewise, Shi'ah Muslims recite the supplications taught by the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt ('a) in which all requests are directed to Almighty Allah. The Infallible Imams ('a) have also dissuaded people from being distracted by external appearances and losing sight of the reality and substance of the supplications.
Shi'ah 'ulama' have strived to preserve the path of the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt ('a). Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi was averse to prostration being made on a clay tablet having the outlines of a dome or structure. In their jurisprudential manuals, both Ayatullah Burujirdi and Imam Khumayni have the following to say concerning prostration at holy shrines:
It is haram to prostrate to anyone except Allah. If the act of prostration in front of the shrines of the Infallible Imams ('a) is a form of thanksgiving to God, there is no objection, otherwise it is haram. [46]
A Glance at the Supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a)
As acknowledged by the prominent Sunni scholar Mahmud Alusi in his exegesis on the Holy Qur'an, in none of the supplications that have been taught by the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), there is tawassul to the person of the Prophet.[47]
If we go through the books of supplications of the Shi'ah such as Mafatih al-Jinan, we find that all supplications of the Infallible Imams ('a) are directed solely at God, and all addresses begin with Allahumma, Ya Allah, Ya Rabb, and other attributes of God such as Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Dhu al-Jalal wa al-Ikram, etc.
Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, writing on the famous Du'a' Tawassul which is directed at the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a), says:
The purpose of tawassul to the pious believers is that they are being requested to supplicate to Allah to deliver the person in need from his affliction, since the supplication of these saintly figures is accepted by Allah.[48]
The Du'a' Tawassul which is found in Mafatih al-Jinan is the same supplication of tawassul which all Sunni narrators of hadith unanimously regard as sahih (authentic) and relate that the Prophet taught it to a blind man who recovered his eyesight by reciting it.[49]
Conclusion
Therefore, in conclusion we can state with authority the following points, since tawassul is an accepted principle in the life of a sincere and God-fearing Muslim, and whatever disputes that have been fanned are due to bigotry and lack of proper understanding of Islam:
Controversy over the issue of tawassul is not a matter of discord between Shi'ah and Sunni Muslims, but it is a difference of opinion between the Salafiyyah sect and the rest of Muslims.
Most of the differences of the Salafiyyah Wahhabis are with the extremist Sufis who believe in reincarnation, and with the Sunni masses who often make emotional tawassul at graves and seek their needs from the departed such as Abu Hanifah (and 'Abd al-Qadir Gilani) in Baghdad, Shafi'i, Rifa'i, Dasuqi and others in Egypt, Idris in Morocco and Abu Ayyub Ansari in Turkey - as well as Khawajah Mu'in al-Din Chishti and numerous others in India, and Data Ganj Bakhsh and Sufi saints in Pakistan.
In fact, the Salafiyyah and the Wahhabis have the least differences with Shi'ah Muslims since Shi'ah recite the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) which contain the purest form of monotheism. However, because of their non-familiarity with the Shi'ah they accuse them of polytheism and in their ignorance brand them infidels.
In all the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) the addressee is Almighty Allah alone, even in the famous Du'a' Tawassul, which the Sunnis say with unanimity was taught by Prophet Muhammad (s) to a blind person who subsequently regained his eyesight.
Du'a' tawassul, where devotion is expressed to the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt ('a), is not exclusively meant for the Shi'ah but was widely popular among the Sunnis until Ibn Taymiyyah and later Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab came on the scene with their weird interpretation. For instance, the poetical composition of tawassul to the 14 Infallibles found in the works of prominent poets of the Ahl al-Sunnah such as the Persian poet Shaykh Sa'di and the Sufi Khalid Naqhsbandi -- as well as the famous Spanish Muslim gnostic and philosopher Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi.
As part of their misinformation campaign against tawassul, the Salafiyyah attempt to exploit certain Ayahs of the Holy Qur'an which refer to the polytheists who worship idols instead of the One and Only God and who seek their wants from these lifeless man-made objects. However, it is clear that equating those who seek tawassul to the Prophet (s) with the polytheists and infidels is an erroneous idea, since tawassul-seekers, unlike the idolators, address the Almighty Creator and seek their needs from Him by making the Prophet (s) a wasilah for acceptance of prayer. On the other hand, the idols have no connection with God and are nothing more than inanimate objects made by man, while Prophet Muhammad (s) is the manifest sign of Allah, the Messenger of Allah and Mercy to the creation. Allah has also given him power, both in this world and in the next, to supplicate and intercede for his true followers. The Wahhabi contention of the period of Barzakh of the Prophet (s) lacks any rational explanation and is against the view of the 'ulama' of all other sects of the Ahl al-Sunnah.
Those who wish to make the Prophet (s) the intercessor without being obedient to the Holy Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), have been likened by Shi'ah 'ulama' such as 'Allamah Tabataba'i, to a wishful person who wants to become the sage of the age without learning or studying anything.
Notes:
[1]. Refer to the Arabic lexicons Lisan al-'Arab, Asas al-Balaghah and Tartib al-Qamus al-Muhit for meaning of wasala.
[2]. Alusi, Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, p. 124-128.
[3]. Tabrisi, Majma' al-Bayan, vol. 6, p. 86; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 289.
[4]. Nida'-i Wahdat, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's treatise to Shaykh Ja'far Najafi.
[5]. Sharh al-Mawahib, vol. 8, p. 304; al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274; Ibn 'Abidin, vol. 5, p.254; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah, vol. 1, p. 266 and vol. 5, 318; Fath al-Qadir, vol. 8, p. 297, 298 and al-Futuhat al-Rabbaniyyah 'ala al-Azkar al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 5, p. 36.
[6]. Sharh al-Mawahib, vol. 8, p. 304-5; Wafa' al-Wafad, vol. 4, p. 1371; al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 148; and Sharh Ibn al-Hasan 'ala al-Risalah al-Qirwani, vol. 12, p. 478).
[7]. Al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274; Fayd al-Qadir, vol. 2, p. 134; I'anah al-Talibiyyin, p. 315.
[8]. Al-Mughni ma' al-Sharh, vol. 3, p. 588; al-Sharh al-Kabir ma' al-Mughni, vol. 3, p. 494.
[9]. Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali', Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din, vol. 1, pp. 258-261.
[10]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah, section 14, p. 160.
[11]. Ibid.
[12]. Tafsir Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, 128.
[13]. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, 'Aqa'id Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah fi radd al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Bid'ah, translated into Persian by 'Abd al-Rahman Sarbazi, p. 86.
[14]. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, vol. 6, p. 328-332.
[15]. Ibid.
[16]. Refer to Shaykh Aqa Buzurg Tehrani, al-Dhari'ah ila Tasanif al-Shi'ah, vol. 25, p. 69-92.
[17]. Tafsir al-Mizan, vol. 11, p. 15 (Dar al-'Alami print, Beirut).
[18]. Ibn Taymiyyah, Qa'idah Jalilah fi al-Tawassul wa al-Wasilah, pp. 63, 64 & 95, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah.
[19]. Muhammad Rashid Rida, al-Manar, vol. 6, pp. 369-377.
[20]. Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-Nabuwwah, vol. 5, p. 489 (Dar al-Kitab al-'Ilmiyyah print, Beirut), cited from al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 24; al-Mustadrak, vol. 2, p. 615, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Fatawa, vol. 1, p. 150, Jalal al-Din Suyuti, Tafsir Durr al-Manthur, vol. 1, pp. 142-149 (Dar al-Fikr print, Beirut, 1983).
Translator's note: Suyuti is more elaborate when on p. 147, he says Adam supplicated to Allah by the right of Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (Allahumma bi-haqqi Muhammad wa Al-i Muhammad) He further quotes the Prophet (s) on the authority of 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas as saying that the words taught to Adam by God to seek forgiveness were: By the right of Muhammad, and 'Ali, and Fatimah, and Hasan and Husayn).
[21]. Al-Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-saghir, vol. 1, p. 183, (Maktabah al-Salafiyyah print) cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 24.
[22]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 7, p. 263; Qa'idah Jalilah, p. 51.
[23]. 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Nida' Wahdat, pp. 260-261.
[24]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 14, p. 160.
[25]. Manawi, al-Fayd, vol. 3, p. 540; Hasan bin 'Ali Saqqaf, al-Tandid bi-man Addada al-Tawhid, pp. 30-40.
[26]. Tafsir al-Jalalayn; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, vol. 2, 270
[27]. Tafsir al-Manar, vol. 1, p. 59.
[28]. Ibn ''Abd al-Wahhab, Risalah Kashf al-Shubahat, cited in al-Rasul Yad'ukum, p. 295.
[29]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn al-Ustadh Muhammad Wa'iz-Zadeh Khurasani wa al-Ustadh 'Abd al-'Aziz bin 'Abdullah bin Baz, pp. 32-33.
[30]. 'Allamah Tabataba'i, Majmu'ah-yi Maqalat, pp. 313-317.
[31]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p. 41.
[32]. Dr Buti, Ramadan, Fiqh al-Sunnah, tenth edition, p. 355.
[33]. Hasan bin 'Ali al-Saqqaf, al-Ta'liq 'ala Risalatayn, Risalah at-Taqrib Quarterly, No. 17, 1418 AH, p. 69.
[34]. Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 14, p. 111, Dar Ihya' al-Turath, Beirut; Sahih al-Muslim, chapter 51, pp. 76-77; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 26 & vol. 2, pp. 31 & 131; Musnad Tiyalisi, hadith 403.
[35]. Al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274, chapter on manners of pilgrimage.
[36]. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, 'Aqa'id Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah fi radd al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Bid'ah, translated into Persian by 'Abd al-Rahman Sarbazi, pp. 82-88.
[37]. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, Risalah Kashf al-Shubahat, cited in al-Rasul Yad'ukum, p. 295.
[38]. Da'irah al-Ma'arif Qarn al-'Ishrin (20th Century Encyclopaedia), under the topic of 'Ruh' (Soul), vol. 14, p. 365.
[39]. Refer for details to Leone Danny's "World After Death", pp. 78-82.
[40]. Dr. Bi-Azar Shirazi, 'Abd al-Karim, Gozashteh va Ayandeh-ye Jahan, pp. 96-101.
[41]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p. 17.
[42]. Majmu'ah Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, vol. 1, p. 106, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 14, pp. 163-164.
[43]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, pp. 17-18.
[44]. Mustafa Mahmud, Asrar al-Qur'an, Dar al-Ma'arif, second edition, p. 77.
[45]. Shaykh Hurr al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, vol. 3, p. 591.
[46]. Ayatullah Burujirdi, Tawdih al-Masa'il, p. 172; Imam Khumayni, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 1, p. 150, and also in Risalah-ye Novin, vol. 1, p. 148.
[47]. Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, p. 128.
[48]. Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Risalah dar Kitab wa Sunnat, Majmu'ah Maqalat, Kitab Nida'-e Wahdat, Tehran, Chehel-Sutun Publishers, p. 259.
[49]. Sunan Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 569, Matba'ah al-Halabi, Egypt, cited in al-Mausu'ahThe Scholarly Jihad of the Holy Imams(A.S.)
Dr. 'Abd al-Karim Bi-Azar Shirazi
"O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek an approach unto Him..."
(Holy Qur'an 5:35)
Over the last few centuries, the Muslims have been wracked by severe discord and hostility over the issue of tawassul (beseeching or supplicating) to Prophet Muhammad (s), the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), the Saints and the Pious, to the extent that those who reject this concept have accused its supporters of shirk or polytheism, while the upholders of tawassul have charged its opponents with enmity and aversion towards the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Household ('a).
The result has led to increasing bigotry on both sides to the benefit of their common enemies who have increased their domination of Muslim lands. This article is an attempt to examine and critically study the issue of tawassul.
Definition of Tawassul
The lexical meaning of tawassul is 'nearness' or a 'means' through which to reach a certain goal. For instance, when it is said wa wassala ila Allah, it means to perform a certain act for gaining proximity to God. Accordingly wasil here means being 'desirous of God'.[1]
According to the prominent Sunni scholar, Sayyid Muhammad Alusi al-Baghdadi, wasilah is a means of imploring in order to gain nearness to God through good deeds and abstaining from sins. For example when it is said "wasala ila kadha," it means a thing through which nearness is gained.
As is clear from the wordings of ayah 35 of Surah al-Ma'idah, which we quoted at the beginning of the article, "fear Allah" is a commandment to abstain from sin, while "seek an approach unto Him" is an order to perform worship and acts of devotion.[2]
Both Raghib Isfahani and 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i opine that al-wasilah means to reach a certain goal through desire, inclination or willingness, and in fact wasilah towards God means observance of His path with knowledge and worship through adherence to the Shari'ah. In other words wasilah is a means of communication and spiritual link between mankind and God.
According to a narration al-wasilah is a position in paradise which is reserved for only one person, and Prophet Muhammad (s) has asked the ummah to pray that this status be granted to him.[3]
a) Tawassul to the Prophet and Saints during their Lifetime
In the opinion of the founder of the Wahhabi sect, Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, and other like-minded 'ulama' of the past, it is permissible to seek help from fellow humans, as during wars and other affairs, if the person or the group who is being asked or entreated has the power and ability to help.[4]
Alusi believes that appealing to people, making them a wasilah or means and requesting them to supplicate to God is permissible without the least doubt, provided that the one who is being requested is alive, whether or not the one who is petitioned is superior than the petitioner, since the Prophet (s) used to say to some of his companions: "O brother do not forget us in your supplications to Allah."
However, Alusi is of the opinion that if the one who is being petitioned is not alive, it is not permissible to request him for supplication. But Alusi adds that it is permissible to supplicate at the shrine of the Prophet (s), since the companions of the Prophet (s) used to stand beside his shrine and supplicate with face towards the Qiblah.
b) Tawassul to the Prophet after his Death
The 'ulama' are divided whether or not it is permissible after the death of the Prophet (s) to make him the means of supplication with such phrases as Allahumma inni asaluka bi-Nabiyyika (O Allah! I beseech You through Your Prophet), or bi-jahi Nabiyyika (by the dignity of Your Prophet), or still bi-Haqqi Nabiyyika (for the sake of Your Prophet). We come across three different opinions in this regard.
1. Opinion on Permissibility
All jurists including Imami, Shafi'i, Maliki, and later-day Hanafi scholars as well as others such as the Hanbalis, are unanimous on the permissibility of this way of supplication, whether it was in the lifetime of the Prophet (s), or whether it is after his passing away.[5]
The Abbasid caliph, Mansur al-Dawaniqi, once asked Malik ibn Anas the founder of the Maliki School of jurisprudence whether he should turn towards the shrine of the Prophet (s) or face the Qiblah for supplication? Malik answered him:
Why do you want to turn away from the Prophet (s) when he (Prophet Muhammad (s)) is the wasilah (means) for you and for your father Adam, towards Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Turn to him (the Prophet) and seek his intercession (shafa'at).[6]
The Sunni scholar al-Nawawi in describing the manners and etiquette of making
pilgrimage to the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s), writes:
The pilgrim should face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s), make him a means (tawassul) towards reaching God and seek his wasilah as intercession (shafa'at), in the same manner as the Bedouin who visited the Prophet's shrine and standing beside it said: Peace unto you O Messenger of Allah, I have heard Allah has said:
...Had they, when they had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would certainly have found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful. (Holy Qur'an 4: 64).
Therefore, I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and seeking your intercession with Allah.[7]
Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, defining the manner of pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet (s), writes in the book al-Mughni:
Stand beside the tomb of the Prophet (s), and say: I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and to seek your intercession with Allah. [8]
The Shafi'ite scholar Ghazzali has allotted a special section in his book Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din concerning the manners of pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet (s) in order to repent and seek forgiveness from Allah. He writes:
The Prophet should be made the means (wasilah) and the intercessor (shafi'), and with face turned towards the tomb, the pilgrim should implore Allah for the sake and position of the Prophet with the words: "O Allah, indeed You have said, Had they, who had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would have certainly found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful (Holy Qur'an 4:64);
O Allah, surely we have heard Your words and we obey Your command, by coming to Your Prophet to seek his intercession with You for our sins; how burdensome and heavy (are sins) on our backs! We repent of slipperiness, we confess our wrongs and our faults, accept our repentance for his sake, make Your Prophet intercessor for us, and exalt us for the sake of his position and his rights with You."
Al-Ghazzali adds:
It is recommended the pilgrim should go daily to the Baqi' Cemetery and after saluting the Prophet (s), make pilgrimage to the tombs of (Imam) Hasan ibn 'Ali, (Imam) 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, (Imam) Muhammad ibn 'Ali and (Imam) Ja'far ibn Muhammad (Allah be pleased with them), and also perform the Salat in the Mosque of Fatimah (Allah be pleased with her).[9]
2. Opinion on Aversion
The jurist Abu Yusuf relates from his teacher Abu Hanifah that it is not right for anyone to call Allah except through (the Names and Attributes) Allah, since He says: "And to Allah belong the beautiful Names, so call on Him thereby." (Holy Qur'an 7:180).
Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Shaybani also feel averse in invoking God by means (tawassul) of the Prophet and his position, on the assumption that the creatures have no right on the Almighty Creator, and He showers His mercy on whomever He likes.
Ibn 'Abidin, however, says in this regard: True, the creatures have no right whatsoever upon the Creator, but the Creator through His favours has given rights to mankind. On this basis, he relates a hadith concerning the manners of supplication and tawassul:
Allahumma inni asaluka bi-haqqi al-sa'ilina 'alayk (O Allah! I beseech you for the rights that seekers have upon You). [10]
Except for this narration of Ibn 'Abidin, we find no opinion or view from either Abu Hanifah or his friend Abu Yusuf in the books of Hanafi scholars concerning tawassul to God through the wasilah (means) of the Prophet (s).[11]
Opinion of Contemporary Hanafi Scholars on Permissibility
Here, we will study the legal opinions (fatawa) of contemporary Hanafi scholars on permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet (s).
Alusi al-Baghdadi quotes Ibn 'Abd al-Salam as saying that it is permissible to invoke Allah for the sake of the Prophet (s), since Prophet Muhammad (s) is the leader of the children of Adam. Alusi bases his reasoning on the hadith (hasan and sahih) related by both Tirmidhi and Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the authority of 'Uthman bin Hunayf, which says that:
Once when a blind man asked the Prophet (s) to pray to Allah to grant him eyesight, he was told to make wudu' and recite the following supplication:
O Allah! I request you and I have turned to you through Your Prophet, the Prophet of Mercy; O Messenger of Allah! I have turned to you as a means towards My God for fulfilment of this wish of mine; O Allah! Accept his (Prophet's) intercession (shafa'at) for me.
Alusi thus believes that there is no objection in making tawassul to God by means of the dignity (jah) and prime position of the Prophet (s), whether it is in his lifetime or after his death, since dignity here refers to an attribute which is one of the attributes of Almighty Allah. Alusi also says that tawassul by means of dignity of a person other than the Prophet (s) is also permissible, provided that the one who is being considered a wasilah has a station and position of dignity in the sight of Allah.[12]
The famous Sunni scholar of India, Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri in his book al-Muhannad 'ala al-Mufannid has collected the fatawa or legal opinions of 75 leading Sunni scholars from different parts of the Islamic world on the permissibility of tawassul to the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s). He writes:
In our opinion and that of our teachers, pilgrimage to the shrine of the Master of Messengers (my soul be sacrificed for him) is the most exalted of proximities, the most important of blessings, and the greatest of means (wasilah) for attaining lofty ranks. It could be said that it is an enjoinment almost to the degree of obligations, even if it requires the trouble of a journey to perform it and there is no other option other than to make efforts with life and wealth.
Tawassul to the Prophets, saints, pious persons, martyrs and the righteous during supplications, whether in their lifetime or after their death, is permissible in the following manner:
Allahumma inni atawassalu ilayka bi-fulan an tujiba da'wati wa taqdia hajati (O Allah! I beseech you by means of so and so a person, accept my supplication and grant my request).[13]
Tawassul in the View of Prominent Imami 'Ulama'
According to such prominent Imami 'ulama' as Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Tusi, Shaykh Amin al-Islam Tabrisi, 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i, Imam Sayyid Ruhullah Khumayni and others, wasilah means faith, love and reverence for the Prophet (s) and obedience to him.
'Allamah Tabataba'i writes in his monumental exegesis on the Holy Qur'an that the word al-wasilah or 'approach' as used in the Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him" (5:35) confirms the reality of worship and means turning submissively and supplicatingly to God, with knowledge and practice serving as the requisite instrument for this connection.[14]
Furthermore, elaborating on the narration found in the Tafsir of 'Ali bin Ibrahim Qummi that the Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him" means seeking Allah's proximity through the Infallible Imam ('a), 'Allamah Tabataba'i, says that this refers to obedience or adhering to the path of the Imam ('a) in order to reach Allah.[15]
It is evident that the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) who are considered the practical models of divine law and the finest exemplars of morals and etiquette, are the wasilah, since it is through obedience to them and adherence to their path that one can attain proximity to God. Likewise, as stated by prominent Imami or Shi'ah jurists, the laws of the Shari'ah are the wasilah, on the basis of adherence to which, proximity of Almighty Allah is attained. Accordingly, some prominent Imami jurisprudents like Shaykh Hurr al-'Amili, Ayatullah Abu al-Hasan Isfahani and Imam Khumayni have used the title wasilah for their jurisprudential treatises such as Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, Wasilah al-Najat and Tahrir al-Wasilah, respectively. Wasilah al-Najat or the 'Means of Salvation' is the title of over 40 scientific treatises written by Shi'ah 'ulama'.[16]
Thus, as ascertained by Imami scholars, the Prophet (s) is the wasilah towards God for Muslims since he is the best exemplar and is in fact the 'Practical Qur'an'. So also is the Prophet's (s) infallible progeny ('a), who along with the Book of Allah (Holy Qur'an), is the immortal legacy of the Prophet and continuation of his path as borne out by the Hadith al-Thaqalayn which is unanimously confirmed by both Shi'ah and Sunni 'ulama'. Muslims, through the wasilah of these two, hold fast to divine laws and strive to attain Allah's proximity, since good deeds, obedience and adherence to the Qur'an, the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt ('a) are the basis of shafa'at. This is better explained by 'Allamah Tabataba'i in his exegesis:
Persons who lack any ability to attain the required perfection are like the illiterate who wants to become the doyen of scholars merely through recommendation, since he neither has any basic learning nor has he the required connection with the one who could intercede. Or they could be compared to a slave who is disobedient to his master, but without coming out of this state of insubordination and disobedience wants to be forgiven through intercession (shafa'at). In none of these two cases intercession is beneficial, since shafa'at is the wasilah or means for accomplishment of a cause and is not a cause in itself to make him a doyen of scholars in the first case, and in the second case to avail forgiveness from the master in the state of disobedience.[17]
Therefore, as it has been clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, if a person does not fulfil his obligations and adherence to the path of the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a), he will not be considered worthy of shafa'at, even if the Prophet (s) were to intercede on his behalf.
"Alike it is for them whether you seek forgiveness for them or seek not forgiveness for them; Never will God forgive them..." (63:6)
3. Opinion on Non-Permissibility of Tawassul
In the opinion of Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and later Hanbali scholars tawassul to the person of the Prophet (s) himself is not permissible. Tawassul has three concepts, of which two are deemed correct, and according to Ibn Taymiyyah, whoever rejects these two concepts of tawassul is either an infidel or an apostate.
1) Tawassul to the Prophet (s) to reach God is indicative of faith and love for the Prophet (s). For example, when it is said Allahumma asaluka bi-Nabiyyika Muhammad (O Allah! I beseech you for the sake of your Prophet, Muhammad (s)), it means I seek from You on the basis of the faith and love which I have for Your Prophet.
The Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him", is a means of approaching Allah by obedience to Him and His Messenger, as it is said: Whoever obeys the Prophet has indeed obeyed Allah.
This concept of tawassul is permissible in the opinion of all 'ulama'. Ibn Taymiyyah has considered it a pious act and has supported his views by citing reports from certain companions of the Prophets, the first generation of Muslims (tabi'in) and jurists such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.[18]
2) The concept of tawassul as supplication or intercession (shafa'at) of the Prophet, like the supplication of the second caliph, which reads: "O Allah! Whenever drought afflicted us we made tawassul to You through our Prophet (tawassalna ilayka bi-Nabiyyina), and now we make tawassul to You through the uncle of our Prophet,
Send down rain for us."
3) The concept of tawassul as making an oath or invoking Allah by the right of the Prophet (s). According to Ibn Taymiyyah this form of tawassul was neither done during the lifetime of the Prophet nor after him by his companions. In this regard contemporary scholars opposed to tawassul have quoted Abu Hanifah as saying: Do not say asaluka bi-haqqi anbiya'ika (I invoke You by the right of Your Prophets). [19]
Rejection of Ibn Taymiyyah's Opinion
1. The claim that the companions of the Prophet (s) never supplicated in this manner is the understanding and deduction of Ibn Taymiyyah. How do we know that when the second caliph says "we make tawassul to You through our Prophet" does not mean "for the right of our Prophet (bi-haqqi nabiyyina)", or is not addressed to the Prophet himself? Most Sunni 'ulama' have given the latter meaning and from the wording of the sentence itself the Prophet is being called upon.
2. Suppose none of the companions had made tawassul by the right of any of the divine Prophets, it does not mean tawassul is Haram even if some of the companions were to explicitly prohibit such an act. The opinion of the companions of the Prophet (s) is not binding on the Muslim ummah, except perhaps for a few jurisprudents, unless it is related from Prophet Muhammad (s) himself.
Justification of the Salafiyyah on Non-Permissibility of Tawassul
Ibn Taymiyyah in Qa'idah Jalilah, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in Kashf al-Shubahat and Muhammad Rashid Rida in Tafsir al-Manar, opine that although during the life of Prophet Muhammad (s), his companions would address him for their needs, after his death they never approached his tomb for their needs. They even forbade those who intended to supplicate beside the Prophet's (s) tomb
Critique
It is interesting to note that a review and analysis of these opinions brings out different historical facts. First of all, the predecessors, whether the companions or the first and second generation of Muslims, never denied tawassul to the Prophet (s), either during his lifetime or after his passing away. It has been mentioned in the narrations of the Ahl al-Sunnah even the first created man, Adam, implored Allah for forgiveness through tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) with the words: "O Allah! for the sake of Muhammad (s) I beseech you to forgive my faults." [20]
Secondly, prominent Sunni scholars such as Bayhaqi and Ibn Abi Shaybah as well as Ahmad bin Zayni Dahlan in his Khulasah al-Kalam, have cited a sahih (authentic) hadith, that during the caliphate of 'Umar ibn Khattab when a severe famine occurred, Bilal bin Harth approached the Prophet's (s) tomb and said: "O Messenger of Allah, pray to God to send rains for your ummah, since we are all facing annihilation." The Prophet then appeared in Bilal's dream and gave him the tidings of rains.
Similarly during the caliphate of 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, a needy person approached the Caliph and told him of his needs. 'Uthman asked him to make wudu, offer prayer in the mosque and then supplicate in the following manner:
O Lord! through the wasilah of our Prophet Muhammad (s), the Messenger of Mercy, I turn my face to You. O Muhammad (s)! through your wasilah I am facing Your Lord and I request you to grant me my wish. The person attained his goal. [21]
Tamassuk in the Opinion of Abu Hanifah
Ibn Taymiyyah says that taking an oath or invoking by virtue of the creatures is haram according to the creed (madhhab) of Abu Hanifah. [22]
Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi sect, also opines that istidlal (rational proof) and tamassuk (bond, holding fast) are matters of doubt or anxiety because of two aspects. Abu Yusuf quoting his teacher Abu Hanifah says: "It is not right for someone to call upon Allah through any other means than Allah. He (Abu Hanifah) was averse to saying bi-haqqi fulan (by the right of so and so)".
Critique
First, Abu Hanifah has approached this issue with aversion and a purely personal opinion, as is clear from the inclusion of istidlal and tamassuk in Bab al-Karahah of Abu al-Hasan Qaduri's Sharh Karkhi. Abu Yusuf quoting his teacher Abu Hanifah says:
It is not right for someone to call upon God through any other means than God. He was averse to saying for the sake of so and so.
Secondly, a closer look at Abu Hanifah's reasoning reveals that he himself has tried to resort to rational argumentation in this regard when he says: "Since the creatures have no rights on the Creator."[23]
However, Abu Hanifah's analogy falls short of clear proofs, and does not mean the total negation of any right, since God Himself has considered the right of the Prophets and that of the righteous believers as binding upon Him, as is clear from the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
Ultimately We deliver Our Apostles and those who believe, even so it is binding upon Us that We deliver the believers. (10:103)
The Hanafis such as Ibn 'Abidin accept this right, but they say that the creatures have no obligatory right on the Creator. [24]
This viewpoint, even if it is considered general, is confined to the followers of Abu Hanifah and cannot be imposed on all schools of Islam.
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 18 of Surah al-Jinn
Another reason put forward by the Salafiyyah such as Muhammad Rashid Rida on non-permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet after his death is that any wasilah for proximity to God should be a thing which God has determined for mankind such as faith, action and supplication. It was in the middle ages that tawassul to the person of the Prophets and pious men became widespread and they were considered wasa'il ila Allah (means to Allah) by people who would invoke God by their names and would supplicate to them at their tombs for their needs, when supplication is a form of worship as God says in the Holy Qur'an:
"So call you not anyone with Allah." (72:18)
"Surely, those whom you call other than Allah are subservient (to Allah) like unto your own selves..." (7:194)
Critique
In answer to this objection it should be said that every supplication is not a form of worship or even the spirit of worship, since the root of du'a' (supplication) is da'wat, a word which along with its derivatives occurs frequently in the Holy Qur'an. For instance, "...let us call (nad'u) our sons... (3:61)" and "Make you not the addressing (du'a') of the Prophet among you like your addressing one another..." (24:63)
As could be discerned, in most of the 'Ayas the word du'a' means to call or address. Accordingly neither every nida' (call) is du'a' nor every du'a' is 'ibadat (worship). In other words du'a' (supplication) becomes 'ibadat when the rules of worship such as servitude and submissiveness to Allah are observed with acknowledgement of the over lordship of the Almighty Creator. What connection does this have with tawassul and tabarruk to the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) and requesting them for help and succour?
Thus, the narration al-du'a' huwa al-'ibadah (supplication is among the acts of worship), does not necessarily mean that every supplication is a form of worship. [25]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayahs 13-14 of Surah al-Fatir
The Salafiyyah also resort to the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an as part of their attempt to discourage tawassul:
...And those whom you call upon other than Him, own not (even) a straw. If you call on them they shall hear not your call; and even if they hear they shall answer you not; and on the Day of Judgement they will deny your associating them (with Allah); and none can (ever) inform you as the All-Aware. (35:13,14)
Critique
This Ayah refers to the polytheists who worship idols instead of the One and Only God and supplicate to these man-made objects in their hour of need. Allah says here that these idols do not own even a straw, so how can they grant anything to those who worship and prostrate before them? No matter how fervently these idols are called upon, they do not listen since they are inanimate objects, and suppose even if they were to listen, they cannot answer since they do not have the tongues.[26]
As is crystal clear for any discerning person, it has no connection whatsoever concerning tawassul to the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) or saints.
First and foremost, it is a gross mistake to place those who seek tawassul in the same category as the polytheists, since idolaters seek their needs from idols and not from the Almighty Creator. But those who make tawassul beseech Allah for their needs and regard Prophet Muhammad (s) as a wasilah or means for the acceptance of their supplications, since he is the Messenger of Allah. To quote Rashid Rida himself, those who seek tawassul are like guests who approach the host for some of their needs, and at times request the members of the household or friends of the hosts who have been appointed to serve the guests, since they consider everything to be the favour of the host.[27]
Secondly, it is a manifest error to equate with idols the Prophet (s) who has been sent by Allah as a divine sign and is called Habib-Allah (Friend of God) by all Muslims. Even Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab maintains that Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his grave and his life in the intermediary world (barzakh) is superior to the life of the martyrs, since he hears the voices of those who send blessings upon him.[28]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 194 of Surah al-A'raf
The fifth reason that the Salafiyyah such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad Rashid Rida have cited as non-permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet (s) after his death, is the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
"Surely, those whom you call other than Allah are subservient (to Allah) like unto your own selves..." (7:194)
Critique
All exegetes of the Holy Qur'an have unanimously stated that this Ayah refers to the idol-worshippers who associate man-made objects with God in creation and in administering the affairs of the world. In contrast, tawassul is made by those who never regard the Prophets as partners of Allah in creation and in running world affairs, and neither do they worship the Last Prophet (s), since every day several times they bear testimony that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the servant and Messenger of Allah (ash-hadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhu wa rasuluh). As the Holy Qur'an says, Prophet Muhammad (s) has been sent as mercy to the entire creation (21:107) and is a means of acceptance of supplications, so it is natural for us to request him to supplicate and intercede (shafa'at) with Allah for us.
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 3 of Surah al-Zumar
The Chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh 'Abd al-'Aziz bin Baz, in his exchange of letters with Iran's Ayatullah Muhammad Wa'iz-Zadeh Khurasani, has remarked:
The polytheists also testified to the Oneness of Allah but as the Holy Qur'an states, they tried to justify their worshipping of idols by saying: "...we worship them not but (in order) that they make us near to God..." (39:3). This is similar to the actions of those who make tawassul to those in the graves in order to seek proximity to Allah. [29]
Critique
'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i responding to such a reasoning says that according to the books of religions and the testimony of idol-worshippers, hundreds of millions of whom live in India, China and Japan, idolatry is based on the theory that the creation of the universe and even the deities which are worshipped, have as their source the same Almighty God, but since He is beyond comprehension there is no other choice but to worship some of His closest servants such as angels, genies and saints so that they make intercession (shafa'at) and people may reach the proximity of God through them. In the opinion of the polytheists, angels are like the builder to whom the owner of the house has entrusted the building and hence intercession (shafa'at) is according to His discretion.
But, adds 'Allamah Tabataba'i, in the Holy Qur'an tawassul to the Prophets is in the manner of an intermediary and is not something independent, and for this reason it has not been considered as shirk or polytheism. Similarly, the polytheists have been reproached in the Holy Qur'an not because of seeking intercession (shafa'at) but because of worshipping other than God.[30]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 10 of Surah Yunus
Shaykh Bin Baz in his answers to Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh has also cited the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an as another instance of non-permissibility of tawassul, saying that in his opinion Muslims who uphold tawassul to the Prophet (s) are like idolaters who seek intercession from objects which are of no use:
"And they worship beside Allah which can neither hurt them nor profit them, and they say: these are our intercessors with Allah..." (10:18)
Critique
First, this Ayah has no connection with Muslims since they do not worship any thing or object except Allah.
Secondly, as said earlier, addressing the Prophet is not meant to worship him but to request him for supplication and intercession.
Thirdly, it is a matter of surprise to compare the Prophet to those whom the Holy Qur'an says "can neither hurt them nor profit them," since the fact cannot be denied that obedience to the Prophet is to the benefit of Muslims and disobedience to him, whether during his lifetime or after his death, is certainly detrimental to them. Similarly, the supplication and intercession of the Prophet for those who are eligible, whether in worldly life or in the Hereafter, is profitable for the Muslims as unanimously confirmed by the 'ulama'.
Fourthly, it is a grave error to equate the belief of the Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the intercessor, with the belief of the polytheists "these (idols) are our intercessors with Allah," since God has explicitly rejected their claim as lies.
"...those who take guardians besides Him, (say) we worship them not but (in order) that they make us near to Allah; surely Allah will judge between them about what they differ; surely Allah does not guide the one who is a liar and an ingrate." (39:3)
As is clear from the wordings of the Holy Qur'an the polytheists who make such claims are liars. They are not conscious of God, neither do they worship Him or prostrate to Him nor have they any faith in their Unseen Creator:
"And when it is said to them prostrate you in obeisance to the Rahman (the Beneficent God), they say: Who is Rahman? Shall we prostrate in obeisance unto what you bid us? And it (only) adds to their flight (from the truth)." (25:60)
Non-Permissibility of Tawassul to the Dead
Another claim put forward by the Salafiyyah is that, on the basis of evidences tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) during his lifetime is acceptable but after his death there is lack of evidence to support the view that tawassul was ever made to him.[31]
Critique
The contemporary Sunni scholar Dr. Ramadan Buti of the University of Damascus, rejects this viewpoint of the Wahhabiyyah sect. He says tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) and things pertaining to him is permissible, whether during his lifetime or after his death, since things or items related to him are not necessarily linked to his lifetime such as tabarruk (sacred relics) or tawassul, as is confirmed by Sahih al-Bukhari, Chapter on the hair of the Prophet.
No Muslim would ever attribute to other than the One and Only God the effect of anything related to the person of the Prophet (s) during his life or after his death. If a person were to hold the opposite view that this effect is independent in itself, he would be considered an infidel. Accordingly, the tabarruk of the Prophet (s) and tawassul to him and to things related to him, does not mean attributing the blessed effect to his personal influence independent of God, but is an indication of the fact that as the Last Divine-Sent Messenger he is the 'Best of Creation' and is the 'Mercy of Allah' for the entire creation. Therefore tawassul to him is a means of gaining proximity to Allah and His infinite Mercy for mankind. It was in this sense that the companions sought tawassul to the Prophet and things related to him. Likewise, it is recommended to seek intercession (shafa'at) through the pious persons such as the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) of the Prophet (s).
Sunni authorities including Shawkani, Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, San'ani and others are unanimous on this issue as was made clear concerning the request for rain. In view of these facts, Dr. Buti calls it a strange confusion by the Wahhabiyyah to make difference between the lifetime of the Prophet and after his death.[32]
To quote Professor Hasan bin 'Ali al-Saqqaf, polytheism (shirk) is polytheism either in this world or in the next, whether or not the person through whom people are seeking tawassul to God, is alive. But, he adds, without the least doubt tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) is supported by the general rules of permissibility, and includes both his lifetime and after his death as well as in the Hereafter.[33]
Tawassul to the Dead is Addressing the Non-Existent
Muhammad bin 'Abd al-Wahhab writes: Tawassul to a person who is alive has no objection, but tawassul to the dead is to address the non-existent and is an absurd, ugly and despised act.
Critique
This statement is a clear violation of Allah's words in the Holy Qur'an:
"Reckon not those who are slain in the way of Allah, to be dead; Nay! They are alive and are being sustained by their Lord." (3:169)
2. It is also in contradiction to the saying of Prophet Muhammad (s) as recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and all other authoritative (Sihah) Sunni works. After the Battle of Badr the Prophet (s) stood near the well of the same name and addressed the dead with ayah 46 of Surah al-A'raf. When some of his companions objected that how could the dead hear him, the Prophet (s) replied: "You are not more hearing than them."[34]
3. It is in opposition to the statements of Islamic intellectuals such as al-Ghazzali who writes in Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din: "Some people think death as extinction and state of non-existent, and those who hold such beliefs have no faith and actually mean to deny Allah and the Hereafter."
Hafiz al-Nawawi in al-Majmu' fi Sharh al-Muhadhdhab which says that while standing beside the tombs of Prophets, especially the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s), it is recommended to request them to supplicate to God for our needs, since they are alive and as the Holy Qur'an says: "are being sustained by their Lord." (3:169)[35]
Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri who states his fatwa and that of 75 'ulama' of different Islamic lands as follows: In our view, Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his holy tomb and his life is similar to worldly life but without its duties. 'Allamah Jalal al-Din Suyuti writes in his book Anba' al-Azkiya' bi-Hayat al-Anbiya' on the authority of Shaykh Taqi al-Din Subki that the proof of the life of Prophets and martyrs in their graves is the prayer offered by Prophet Moses in his own tomb as mentioned in a hadith. In this regard Shaykh Shams al-Islam Muhammad Qasim has written a booklet titled Ab-i Hayat.[36]
4. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in answer to Shaykh Ja'far Najafi said that seeking help from the dead is an absurd act. But how could this be called shirk since there is no connection between absurdity and polytheism? And if tawassul with fellow humans is considered shirk, then how could the difference between tawassul to the living and tawassul to the dead, be ascertained?
5. Here Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab has contradicted his own opinion, since as we saw earlier in this article he believed that Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his tomb and said that this state of life of the Prophet (s) is superior than the life of the martyrs. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab also said that the Prophet (s) hears the voice of those who send blessings on him.[37]
6. Farid Wajdi mentions in his encyclopaedia:
In our era God has opened two of the windows of knowledge for us and the proof of this two windows confirms beyond an iota of doubt that man has a soul which without the need of the physical body can lead its own independent life.[38 ]
From the 19th century onwards the science of spiritism or contacts with the souls of the departed has been discovered and developed upon by the world's researchers after precise study and experiments in this regard. In the US and Europe, the summoning of the souls of the departed is part of the world of science.[39]
The information which modern scientists have discovered after witnessing the summoning of souls, is yet another instance of the fact that the human being has an independent soul outside the physical body that does not perish with death. The connection of the souls of the departed with the living is the finest proof of the independence and immortality of the soul, and most of its capability concerning many works is with the permission of Almighty God.[40]
The souls of the righteous and pious persons which have been released from the mortal world have acquired superior perception and consciousness and in their ascendant journey are free of the limits of time and space. They penetrate with ease the skies and the depths of the oceans to observe the grandeur of God's creation.
Blocking of Means (Sadd-i Dhara'i')
Some of the Wahhabi 'ulama' such as Dr. Muhammad bin Sa'd Suway'ir who is one of the deputies of Shaykh Bin Baz, say that tawassul and tabarruk are permissible for 'ulama' who are cognizant of the essence of faith, but this is forbidden for the common people, who are prone to drift towards polytheism and who might gradually start believing in the personal influence of the Prophet and saints in the granting of boons and prevention of the detrimental things. Therefore, it is obligatory to stop them from tawassul and tabarruk in the name of Blocking of Means.
Critique
Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh rejecting the Wahhabi theory against tawassul says:
When the permissibility or recommendation for this act has been confirmed with rational proof, it is not permissible to prohibit tawassul for such unfounded fears that the ignorant might give it the colour of polytheism. If such was the case, the Prophet (s) himself would have prohibited people as a precaution from seeking blessing, visiting the graves or kissing the sacred black stone (Hajar al-Aswad) at the holy Ka'bah. On the contrary, judicious measures for checking possible deviation is for the 'ulama' to exercise greater control.[41]
Takfir of Shi'ah for Tawassul
Ibn Taymiyyah, despite his extreme and biased approach for prohibiting tawassul, has admitted:
This is a controversial issue and to accuse of heresy those who make tawassul is haram and is a sinful act, since no one has said that a person making tawassul to the Prophet (s) after his death is a kafir. This is an ambiguous issue and there are no certain proofs in this regard. Kufr is confirmed when a person rejects any of the tenets of faith deliberately and being fully aware. Therefore, those who accuse a person of heresy for making tawassul deserve the most severe punishment.[42]
It is unfortunate that the blind prejudice which the colonial powers had skilfully exploited to create differences among Sunni Muslims as a result of the Wahhabiyyah opposition to the issue of tawassul, has been widened to sow discord between Sunni and Shi'ah Muslims and to label the Shi'ah as kafir (infidel) or mushrik (polytheist) on the allegation that they seek their requests from other than God. To quote Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh, those who do not permit tawassul and tabarruk are only a fraction of a minority among the 'ulama' of the Muslim world, and despite their efforts over the past seven centuries, have not been able to convince the upholders of tawassul.[43]
Thus, as should be clear, according to the statement of Ibn Taymiyyah the issue of tawassul is a moral one and does not concern the principles of faith, since a kafir is the one who rejects any of the tenets of Islam.
Extreme Form of Tawassul among the Ahl al-Sunnah
It is a common sight in many countries to see the Ahl al-Sunnah approach the graves of pious persons to pray and supplicate for their needs. In Egypt, Iraq and Turkey, and many other lands --India, Pakistan, Syria, Central Asia, North Africa-- it is an accepted practice by the masses to visit the tombs of saints and holy personages to make tawassul and seek blessings. Dr. Mustafa Mahmud writes that people in Egypt flock to the tomb of Rifa'i and Ibrahim Dasuqi and cry loudly with such phrases as: Madad Ya Rifa'i (help me O Rifa'i), Shifa' bi-Yadika Ya Sayyidi Ibrahim Dasuqi (In your hands lie the remedy, O my Lord Ibrahim Dasuqi).[44]
The Egyptians also visit the tomb of Shafi'i, the founder of the Shafi'ite sect, for tawassul, while in Baghdad, the Hanafis do the same at the tomb of Abu Hanifah. In Turkey, the people seek their needs at the tomb of the Prophet's eminent companion Abu Ayyub Ansari. It is also a habit among people in Egypt and other places to send written petitions to the tomb of Shafi'i, and wail and cry at the graves of pious persons for things which none except the Almighty God has the power to grant.
When Wahhabi 'ulama' come across such scenes among the Ahl al-Sunnah they brand these Muslims as polytheists and follow the same assumption against the Shi'ah, concerning whom they have little or no information, and sometimes go to extreme by labelling them apostates who should be killed.
Purity of Monotheism in Shi'ah Supplications
The prayers and acts of worship among the Shi'ah have the purest form of monotheism derived from the guidelines of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt ('a). For instance, Shi'ah do not put their forehead during prostration on carpet, cloth, plastic or synthetic material, since Imam Ja'far al-sadiq ('a) has said:
Worldly people are slaves of victuals and clothing, hence it is not right for a person who is in the act of offering his prayer to Allah to place his forehead on the deity of the worshippers of the world.[45]
Likewise, Shi'ah Muslims recite the supplications taught by the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt ('a) in which all requests are directed to Almighty Allah. The Infallible Imams ('a) have also dissuaded people from being distracted by external appearances and losing sight of the reality and substance of the supplications.
Shi'ah 'ulama' have strived to preserve the path of the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt ('a). Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi was averse to prostration being made on a clay tablet having the outlines of a dome or structure. In their jurisprudential manuals, both Ayatullah Burujirdi and Imam Khumayni have the following to say concerning prostration at holy shrines:
It is haram to prostrate to anyone except Allah. If the act of prostration in front of the shrines of the Infallible Imams ('a) is a form of thanksgiving to God, there is no objection, otherwise it is haram. [46]
A Glance at the Supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a)
As acknowledged by the prominent Sunni scholar Mahmud Alusi in his exegesis on the Holy Qur'an, in none of the supplications that have been taught by the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), there is tawassul to the person of the Prophet.[47]
If we go through the books of supplications of the Shi'ah such as Mafatih al-Jinan, we find that all supplications of the Infallible Imams ('a) are directed solely at God, and all addresses begin with Allahumma, Ya Allah, Ya Rabb, and other attributes of God such as Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Dhu al-Jalal wa al-Ikram, etc.
Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, writing on the famous Du'a' Tawassul which is directed at the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a), says:
The purpose of tawassul to the pious believers is that they are being requested to supplicate to Allah to deliver the person in need from his affliction, since the supplication of these saintly figures is accepted by Allah.[48]
The Du'a' Tawassul which is found in Mafatih al-Jinan is the same supplication of tawassul which all Sunni narrators of hadith unanimously regard as sahih (authentic) and relate that the Prophet taught it to a blind man who recovered his eyesight by reciting it.[49]
Conclusion
Therefore, in conclusion we can state with authority the following points, since tawassul is an accepted principle in the life of a sincere and God-fearing Muslim, and whatever disputes that have been fanned are due to bigotry and lack of proper understanding of Islam:
Controversy over the issue of tawassul is not a matter of discord between Shi'ah and Sunni Muslims, but it is a difference of opinion between the Salafiyyah sect and the rest of Muslims.
Most of the differences of the Salafiyyah Wahhabis are with the extremist Sufis who believe in reincarnation, and with the Sunni masses who often make emotional tawassul at graves and seek their needs from the departed such as Abu Hanifah (and 'Abd al-Qadir Gilani) in Baghdad, Shafi'i, Rifa'i, Dasuqi and others in Egypt, Idris in Morocco and Abu Ayyub Ansari in Turkey - as well as Khawajah Mu'in al-Din Chishti and numerous others in India, and Data Ganj Bakhsh and Sufi saints in Pakistan.
In fact, the Salafiyyah and the Wahhabis have the least differences with Shi'ah Muslims since Shi'ah recite the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) which contain the purest form of monotheism. However, because of their non-familiarity with the Shi'ah they accuse them of polytheism and in their ignorance brand them infidels.
In all the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) the addressee is Almighty Allah alone, even in the famous Du'a' Tawassul, which the Sunnis say with unanimity was taught by Prophet Muhammad (s) to a blind person who subsequently regained his eyesight.
Du'a' tawassul, where devotion is expressed to the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt ('a), is not exclusively meant for the Shi'ah but was widely popular among the Sunnis until Ibn Taymiyyah and later Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab came on the scene with their weird interpretation. For instance, the poetical composition of tawassul to the 14 Infallibles found in the works of prominent poets of the Ahl al-Sunnah such as the Persian poet Shaykh Sa'di and the Sufi Khalid Naqhsbandi -- as well as the famous Spanish Muslim gnostic and philosopher Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi.
As part of their misinformation campaign against tawassul, the Salafiyyah attempt to exploit certain Ayahs of the Holy Qur'an which refer to the polytheists who worship idols instead of the One and Only God and who seek their wants from these lifeless man-made objects. However, it is clear that equating those who seek tawassul to the Prophet (s) with the polytheists and infidels is an erroneous idea, since tawassul-seekers, unlike the idolators, address the Almighty Creator and seek their needs from Him by making the Prophet (s) a wasilah for acceptance of prayer. On the other hand, the idols have no connection with God and are nothing more than inanimate objects made by man, while Prophet Muhammad (s) is the manifest sign of Allah, the Messenger of Allah and Mercy to the creation. Allah has also given him power, both in this world and in the next, to supplicate and intercede for his true followers. The Wahhabi contention of the period of Barzakh of the Prophet (s) lacks any rational explanation and is against the view of the 'ulama' of all other sects of the Ahl al-Sunnah.
Those who wish to make the Prophet (s) the intercessor without being obedient to the Holy Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), have been likened by Shi'ah 'ulama' such as 'Allamah Tabataba'i, to a wishful person who wants to become the sage of the age without learning or studying anything.
Notes:
[1]. Refer to the Arabic lexicons Lisan al-'Arab, Asas al-Balaghah and Tartib al-Qamus al-Muhit for meaning of wasala.
[2]. Alusi, Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, p. 124-128.
[3]. Tabrisi, Majma' al-Bayan, vol. 6, p. 86; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 289.
[4]. Nida'-i Wahdat, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's treatise to Shaykh Ja'far Najafi.
[5]. Sharh al-Mawahib, vol. 8, p. 304; al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274; Ibn 'Abidin, vol. 5, p.254; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah, vol. 1, p. 266 and vol. 5, 318; Fath al-Qadir, vol. 8, p. 297, 298 and al-Futuhat al-Rabbaniyyah 'ala al-Azkar al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 5, p. 36.
[6]. Sharh al-Mawahib, vol. 8, p. 304-5; Wafa' al-Wafad, vol. 4, p. 1371; al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 148; and Sharh Ibn al-Hasan 'ala al-Risalah al-Qirwani, vol. 12, p. 478).
[7]. Al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274; Fayd al-Qadir, vol. 2, p. 134; I'anah al-Talibiyyin, p. 315.
[8]. Al-Mughni ma' al-Sharh, vol. 3, p. 588; al-Sharh al-Kabir ma' al-Mughni, vol. 3, p. 494.
[9]. Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali', Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din, vol. 1, pp. 258-261.
[10]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah, section 14, p. 160.
[11]. Ibid.
[12]. Tafsir Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, 128.
[13]. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, 'Aqa'id Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah fi radd al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Bid'ah, translated into Persian by 'Abd al-Rahman Sarbazi, p. 86.
[14]. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, vol. 6, p. 328-332.
[15]. Ibid.
[16]. Refer to Shaykh Aqa Buzurg Tehrani, al-Dhari'ah ila Tasanif al-Shi'ah, vol. 25, p. 69-92.
[17]. Tafsir al-Mizan, vol. 11, p. 15 (Dar al-'Alami print, Beirut).
[18]. Ibn Taymiyyah, Qa'idah Jalilah fi al-Tawassul wa al-Wasilah, pp. 63, 64 & 95, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah.
[19]. Muhammad Rashid Rida, al-Manar, vol. 6, pp. 369-377.
[20]. Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-Nabuwwah, vol. 5, p. 489 (Dar al-Kitab al-'Ilmiyyah print, Beirut), cited from al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 24; al-Mustadrak, vol. 2, p. 615, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Fatawa, vol. 1, p. 150, Jalal al-Din Suyuti, Tafsir Durr al-Manthur, vol. 1, pp. 142-149 (Dar al-Fikr print, Beirut, 1983).
Translator's note: Suyuti is more elaborate when on p. 147, he says Adam supplicated to Allah by the right of Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (Allahumma bi-haqqi Muhammad wa Al-i Muhammad) He further quotes the Prophet (s) on the authority of 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas as saying that the words taught to Adam by God to seek forgiveness were: By the right of Muhammad, and 'Ali, and Fatimah, and Hasan and Husayn).
[21]. Al-Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-saghir, vol. 1, p. 183, (Maktabah al-Salafiyyah print) cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 24.
[22]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 7, p. 263; Qa'idah Jalilah, p. 51.
[23]. 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Nida' Wahdat, pp. 260-261.
[24]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 14, p. 160.
[25]. Manawi, al-Fayd, vol. 3, p. 540; Hasan bin 'Ali Saqqaf, al-Tandid bi-man Addada al-Tawhid, pp. 30-40.
[26]. Tafsir al-Jalalayn; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, vol. 2, 270
[27]. Tafsir al-Manar, vol. 1, p. 59.
[28]. Ibn ''Abd al-Wahhab, Risalah Kashf al-Shubahat, cited in al-Rasul Yad'ukum, p. 295.
[29]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn al-Ustadh Muhammad Wa'iz-Zadeh Khurasani wa al-Ustadh 'Abd al-'Aziz bin 'Abdullah bin Baz, pp. 32-33.
[30]. 'Allamah Tabataba'i, Majmu'ah-yi Maqalat, pp. 313-317.
[31]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p. 41.
[32]. Dr Buti, Ramadan, Fiqh al-Sunnah, tenth edition, p. 355.
[33]. Hasan bin 'Ali al-Saqqaf, al-Ta'liq 'ala Risalatayn, Risalah at-Taqrib Quarterly, No. 17, 1418 AH, p. 69.
[34]. Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 14, p. 111, Dar Ihya' al-Turath, Beirut; Sahih al-Muslim, chapter 51, pp. 76-77; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 26 & vol. 2, pp. 31 & 131; Musnad Tiyalisi, hadith 403.
[35]. Al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274, chapter on manners of pilgrimage.
[36]. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, 'Aqa'id Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah fi radd al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Bid'ah, translated into Persian by 'Abd al-Rahman Sarbazi, pp. 82-88.
[37]. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, Risalah Kashf al-Shubahat, cited in al-Rasul Yad'ukum, p. 295.
[38]. Da'irah al-Ma'arif Qarn al-'Ishrin (20th Century Encyclopaedia), under the topic of 'Ruh' (Soul), vol. 14, p. 365.
[39]. Refer for details to Leone Danny's "World After Death", pp. 78-82.
[40]. Dr. Bi-Azar Shirazi, 'Abd al-Karim, Gozashteh va Ayandeh-ye Jahan, pp. 96-101.
[41]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p. 17.
[42]. Majmu'ah Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, vol. 1, p. 106, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 14, pp. 163-164.
[43]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, pp. 17-18.
[44]. Mustafa Mahmud, Asrar al-Qur'an, Dar al-Ma'arif, second edition, p. 77.
[45]. Shaykh Hurr al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, vol. 3, p. 591.
[46]. Ayatullah Burujirdi, Tawdih al-Masa'il, p. 172; Imam Khumayni, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 1, p. 150, and also in Risalah-ye Novin, vol. 1, p. 148.
[47]. Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, p. 128.
[48]. Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Risalah dar Kitab wa Sunnat, Majmu'ah Maqalat, Kitab Nida'-e Wahdat, Tehran, Chehel-Sutun Publishers, p. 259.
[49]. Sunan Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 569, Matba'ah al-Halabi, Egypt, cited in al-Mausu'ahThe Scholarly Jihad of the Holy Imams(A.S.)
Dr. 'Abd al-Karim Bi-Azar Shirazi
"O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek an approach unto Him..."
(Holy Qur'an 5:35)
Over the last few centuries, the Muslims have been wracked by severe discord and hostility over the issue of tawassul (beseeching or supplicating) to Prophet Muhammad (s), the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), the Saints and the Pious, to the extent that those who reject this concept have accused its supporters of shirk or polytheism, while the upholders of tawassul have charged its opponents with enmity and aversion towards the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Household ('a).
The result has led to increasing bigotry on both sides to the benefit of their common enemies who have increased their domination of Muslim lands. This article is an attempt to examine and critically study the issue of tawassul.
Definition of Tawassul
The lexical meaning of tawassul is 'nearness' or a 'means' through which to reach a certain goal. For instance, when it is said wa wassala ila Allah, it means to perform a certain act for gaining proximity to God. Accordingly wasil here means being 'desirous of God'.[1]
According to the prominent Sunni scholar, Sayyid Muhammad Alusi al-Baghdadi, wasilah is a means of imploring in order to gain nearness to God through good deeds and abstaining from sins. For example when it is said "wasala ila kadha," it means a thing through which nearness is gained.
As is clear from the wordings of ayah 35 of Surah al-Ma'idah, which we quoted at the beginning of the article, "fear Allah" is a commandment to abstain from sin, while "seek an approach unto Him" is an order to perform worship and acts of devotion.[2]
Both Raghib Isfahani and 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i opine that al-wasilah means to reach a certain goal through desire, inclination or willingness, and in fact wasilah towards God means observance of His path with knowledge and worship through adherence to the Shari'ah. In other words wasilah is a means of communication and spiritual link between mankind and God.
According to a narration al-wasilah is a position in paradise which is reserved for only one person, and Prophet Muhammad (s) has asked the ummah to pray that this status be granted to him.[3]
a) Tawassul to the Prophet and Saints during their Lifetime
In the opinion of the founder of the Wahhabi sect, Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, and other like-minded 'ulama' of the past, it is permissible to seek help from fellow humans, as during wars and other affairs, if the person or the group who is being asked or entreated has the power and ability to help.[4]
Alusi believes that appealing to people, making them a wasilah or means and requesting them to supplicate to God is permissible without the least doubt, provided that the one who is being requested is alive, whether or not the one who is petitioned is superior than the petitioner, since the Prophet (s) used to say to some of his companions: "O brother do not forget us in your supplications to Allah."
However, Alusi is of the opinion that if the one who is being petitioned is not alive, it is not permissible to request him for supplication. But Alusi adds that it is permissible to supplicate at the shrine of the Prophet (s), since the companions of the Prophet (s) used to stand beside his shrine and supplicate with face towards the Qiblah.
b) Tawassul to the Prophet after his Death
The 'ulama' are divided whether or not it is permissible after the death of the Prophet (s) to make him the means of supplication with such phrases as Allahumma inni asaluka bi-Nabiyyika (O Allah! I beseech You through Your Prophet), or bi-jahi Nabiyyika (by the dignity of Your Prophet), or still bi-Haqqi Nabiyyika (for the sake of Your Prophet). We come across three different opinions in this regard.
1. Opinion on Permissibility
All jurists including Imami, Shafi'i, Maliki, and later-day Hanafi scholars as well as others such as the Hanbalis, are unanimous on the permissibility of this way of supplication, whether it was in the lifetime of the Prophet (s), or whether it is after his passing away.[5]
The Abbasid caliph, Mansur al-Dawaniqi, once asked Malik ibn Anas the founder of the Maliki School of jurisprudence whether he should turn towards the shrine of the Prophet (s) or face the Qiblah for supplication? Malik answered him:
Why do you want to turn away from the Prophet (s) when he (Prophet Muhammad (s)) is the wasilah (means) for you and for your father Adam, towards Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Turn to him (the Prophet) and seek his intercession (shafa'at).[6]
The Sunni scholar al-Nawawi in describing the manners and etiquette of making
pilgrimage to the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s), writes:
The pilgrim should face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s), make him a means (tawassul) towards reaching God and seek his wasilah as intercession (shafa'at), in the same manner as the Bedouin who visited the Prophet's shrine and standing beside it said: Peace unto you O Messenger of Allah, I have heard Allah has said:
...Had they, when they had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would certainly have found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful. (Holy Qur'an 4: 64).
Therefore, I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and seeking your intercession with Allah.[7]
Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, defining the manner of pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet (s), writes in the book al-Mughni:
Stand beside the tomb of the Prophet (s), and say: I have come to you for forgiveness of my sins and to seek your intercession with Allah. [8]
The Shafi'ite scholar Ghazzali has allotted a special section in his book Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din concerning the manners of pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet (s) in order to repent and seek forgiveness from Allah. He writes:
The Prophet should be made the means (wasilah) and the intercessor (shafi'), and with face turned towards the tomb, the pilgrim should implore Allah for the sake and position of the Prophet with the words: "O Allah, indeed You have said, Had they, who had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah's forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would have certainly found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful (Holy Qur'an 4:64);
O Allah, surely we have heard Your words and we obey Your command, by coming to Your Prophet to seek his intercession with You for our sins; how burdensome and heavy (are sins) on our backs! We repent of slipperiness, we confess our wrongs and our faults, accept our repentance for his sake, make Your Prophet intercessor for us, and exalt us for the sake of his position and his rights with You."
Al-Ghazzali adds:
It is recommended the pilgrim should go daily to the Baqi' Cemetery and after saluting the Prophet (s), make pilgrimage to the tombs of (Imam) Hasan ibn 'Ali, (Imam) 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, (Imam) Muhammad ibn 'Ali and (Imam) Ja'far ibn Muhammad (Allah be pleased with them), and also perform the Salat in the Mosque of Fatimah (Allah be pleased with her).[9]
2. Opinion on Aversion
The jurist Abu Yusuf relates from his teacher Abu Hanifah that it is not right for anyone to call Allah except through (the Names and Attributes) Allah, since He says: "And to Allah belong the beautiful Names, so call on Him thereby." (Holy Qur'an 7:180).
Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Shaybani also feel averse in invoking God by means (tawassul) of the Prophet and his position, on the assumption that the creatures have no right on the Almighty Creator, and He showers His mercy on whomever He likes.
Ibn 'Abidin, however, says in this regard: True, the creatures have no right whatsoever upon the Creator, but the Creator through His favours has given rights to mankind. On this basis, he relates a hadith concerning the manners of supplication and tawassul:
Allahumma inni asaluka bi-haqqi al-sa'ilina 'alayk (O Allah! I beseech you for the rights that seekers have upon You). [10]
Except for this narration of Ibn 'Abidin, we find no opinion or view from either Abu Hanifah or his friend Abu Yusuf in the books of Hanafi scholars concerning tawassul to God through the wasilah (means) of the Prophet (s).[11]
Opinion of Contemporary Hanafi Scholars on Permissibility
Here, we will study the legal opinions (fatawa) of contemporary Hanafi scholars on permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet (s).
Alusi al-Baghdadi quotes Ibn 'Abd al-Salam as saying that it is permissible to invoke Allah for the sake of the Prophet (s), since Prophet Muhammad (s) is the leader of the children of Adam. Alusi bases his reasoning on the hadith (hasan and sahih) related by both Tirmidhi and Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the authority of 'Uthman bin Hunayf, which says that:
Once when a blind man asked the Prophet (s) to pray to Allah to grant him eyesight, he was told to make wudu' and recite the following supplication:
O Allah! I request you and I have turned to you through Your Prophet, the Prophet of Mercy; O Messenger of Allah! I have turned to you as a means towards My God for fulfilment of this wish of mine; O Allah! Accept his (Prophet's) intercession (shafa'at) for me.
Alusi thus believes that there is no objection in making tawassul to God by means of the dignity (jah) and prime position of the Prophet (s), whether it is in his lifetime or after his death, since dignity here refers to an attribute which is one of the attributes of Almighty Allah. Alusi also says that tawassul by means of dignity of a person other than the Prophet (s) is also permissible, provided that the one who is being considered a wasilah has a station and position of dignity in the sight of Allah.[12]
The famous Sunni scholar of India, Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri in his book al-Muhannad 'ala al-Mufannid has collected the fatawa or legal opinions of 75 leading Sunni scholars from different parts of the Islamic world on the permissibility of tawassul to the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s). He writes:
In our opinion and that of our teachers, pilgrimage to the shrine of the Master of Messengers (my soul be sacrificed for him) is the most exalted of proximities, the most important of blessings, and the greatest of means (wasilah) for attaining lofty ranks. It could be said that it is an enjoinment almost to the degree of obligations, even if it requires the trouble of a journey to perform it and there is no other option other than to make efforts with life and wealth.
Tawassul to the Prophets, saints, pious persons, martyrs and the righteous during supplications, whether in their lifetime or after their death, is permissible in the following manner:
Allahumma inni atawassalu ilayka bi-fulan an tujiba da'wati wa taqdia hajati (O Allah! I beseech you by means of so and so a person, accept my supplication and grant my request).[13]
Tawassul in the View of Prominent Imami 'Ulama'
According to such prominent Imami 'ulama' as Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Tusi, Shaykh Amin al-Islam Tabrisi, 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i, Imam Sayyid Ruhullah Khumayni and others, wasilah means faith, love and reverence for the Prophet (s) and obedience to him.
'Allamah Tabataba'i writes in his monumental exegesis on the Holy Qur'an that the word al-wasilah or 'approach' as used in the Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him" (5:35) confirms the reality of worship and means turning submissively and supplicatingly to God, with knowledge and practice serving as the requisite instrument for this connection.[14]
Furthermore, elaborating on the narration found in the Tafsir of 'Ali bin Ibrahim Qummi that the Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him" means seeking Allah's proximity through the Infallible Imam ('a), 'Allamah Tabataba'i, says that this refers to obedience or adhering to the path of the Imam ('a) in order to reach Allah.[15]
It is evident that the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) who are considered the practical models of divine law and the finest exemplars of morals and etiquette, are the wasilah, since it is through obedience to them and adherence to their path that one can attain proximity to God. Likewise, as stated by prominent Imami or Shi'ah jurists, the laws of the Shari'ah are the wasilah, on the basis of adherence to which, proximity of Almighty Allah is attained. Accordingly, some prominent Imami jurisprudents like Shaykh Hurr al-'Amili, Ayatullah Abu al-Hasan Isfahani and Imam Khumayni have used the title wasilah for their jurisprudential treatises such as Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, Wasilah al-Najat and Tahrir al-Wasilah, respectively. Wasilah al-Najat or the 'Means of Salvation' is the title of over 40 scientific treatises written by Shi'ah 'ulama'.[16]
Thus, as ascertained by Imami scholars, the Prophet (s) is the wasilah towards God for Muslims since he is the best exemplar and is in fact the 'Practical Qur'an'. So also is the Prophet's (s) infallible progeny ('a), who along with the Book of Allah (Holy Qur'an), is the immortal legacy of the Prophet and continuation of his path as borne out by the Hadith al-Thaqalayn which is unanimously confirmed by both Shi'ah and Sunni 'ulama'. Muslims, through the wasilah of these two, hold fast to divine laws and strive to attain Allah's proximity, since good deeds, obedience and adherence to the Qur'an, the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt ('a) are the basis of shafa'at. This is better explained by 'Allamah Tabataba'i in his exegesis:
Persons who lack any ability to attain the required perfection are like the illiterate who wants to become the doyen of scholars merely through recommendation, since he neither has any basic learning nor has he the required connection with the one who could intercede. Or they could be compared to a slave who is disobedient to his master, but without coming out of this state of insubordination and disobedience wants to be forgiven through intercession (shafa'at). In none of these two cases intercession is beneficial, since shafa'at is the wasilah or means for accomplishment of a cause and is not a cause in itself to make him a doyen of scholars in the first case, and in the second case to avail forgiveness from the master in the state of disobedience.[17]
Therefore, as it has been clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, if a person does not fulfil his obligations and adherence to the path of the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a), he will not be considered worthy of shafa'at, even if the Prophet (s) were to intercede on his behalf.
"Alike it is for them whether you seek forgiveness for them or seek not forgiveness for them; Never will God forgive them..." (63:6)
3. Opinion on Non-Permissibility of Tawassul
In the opinion of Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and later Hanbali scholars tawassul to the person of the Prophet (s) himself is not permissible. Tawassul has three concepts, of which two are deemed correct, and according to Ibn Taymiyyah, whoever rejects these two concepts of tawassul is either an infidel or an apostate.
1) Tawassul to the Prophet (s) to reach God is indicative of faith and love for the Prophet (s). For example, when it is said Allahumma asaluka bi-Nabiyyika Muhammad (O Allah! I beseech you for the sake of your Prophet, Muhammad (s)), it means I seek from You on the basis of the faith and love which I have for Your Prophet.
The Ayah "and seek an approach unto Him", is a means of approaching Allah by obedience to Him and His Messenger, as it is said: Whoever obeys the Prophet has indeed obeyed Allah.
This concept of tawassul is permissible in the opinion of all 'ulama'. Ibn Taymiyyah has considered it a pious act and has supported his views by citing reports from certain companions of the Prophets, the first generation of Muslims (tabi'in) and jurists such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.[18]
2) The concept of tawassul as supplication or intercession (shafa'at) of the Prophet, like the supplication of the second caliph, which reads: "O Allah! Whenever drought afflicted us we made tawassul to You through our Prophet (tawassalna ilayka bi-Nabiyyina), and now we make tawassul to You through the uncle of our Prophet,
Send down rain for us."
3) The concept of tawassul as making an oath or invoking Allah by the right of the Prophet (s). According to Ibn Taymiyyah this form of tawassul was neither done during the lifetime of the Prophet nor after him by his companions. In this regard contemporary scholars opposed to tawassul have quoted Abu Hanifah as saying: Do not say asaluka bi-haqqi anbiya'ika (I invoke You by the right of Your Prophets). [19]
Rejection of Ibn Taymiyyah's Opinion
1. The claim that the companions of the Prophet (s) never supplicated in this manner is the understanding and deduction of Ibn Taymiyyah. How do we know that when the second caliph says "we make tawassul to You through our Prophet" does not mean "for the right of our Prophet (bi-haqqi nabiyyina)", or is not addressed to the Prophet himself? Most Sunni 'ulama' have given the latter meaning and from the wording of the sentence itself the Prophet is being called upon.
2. Suppose none of the companions had made tawassul by the right of any of the divine Prophets, it does not mean tawassul is Haram even if some of the companions were to explicitly prohibit such an act. The opinion of the companions of the Prophet (s) is not binding on the Muslim ummah, except perhaps for a few jurisprudents, unless it is related from Prophet Muhammad (s) himself.
Justification of the Salafiyyah on Non-Permissibility of Tawassul
Ibn Taymiyyah in Qa'idah Jalilah, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in Kashf al-Shubahat and Muhammad Rashid Rida in Tafsir al-Manar, opine that although during the life of Prophet Muhammad (s), his companions would address him for their needs, after his death they never approached his tomb for their needs. They even forbade those who intended to supplicate beside the Prophet's (s) tomb
Critique
It is interesting to note that a review and analysis of these opinions brings out different historical facts. First of all, the predecessors, whether the companions or the first and second generation of Muslims, never denied tawassul to the Prophet (s), either during his lifetime or after his passing away. It has been mentioned in the narrations of the Ahl al-Sunnah even the first created man, Adam, implored Allah for forgiveness through tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) with the words: "O Allah! for the sake of Muhammad (s) I beseech you to forgive my faults." [20]
Secondly, prominent Sunni scholars such as Bayhaqi and Ibn Abi Shaybah as well as Ahmad bin Zayni Dahlan in his Khulasah al-Kalam, have cited a sahih (authentic) hadith, that during the caliphate of 'Umar ibn Khattab when a severe famine occurred, Bilal bin Harth approached the Prophet's (s) tomb and said: "O Messenger of Allah, pray to God to send rains for your ummah, since we are all facing annihilation." The Prophet then appeared in Bilal's dream and gave him the tidings of rains.
Similarly during the caliphate of 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, a needy person approached the Caliph and told him of his needs. 'Uthman asked him to make wudu, offer prayer in the mosque and then supplicate in the following manner:
O Lord! through the wasilah of our Prophet Muhammad (s), the Messenger of Mercy, I turn my face to You. O Muhammad (s)! through your wasilah I am facing Your Lord and I request you to grant me my wish. The person attained his goal. [21]
Tamassuk in the Opinion of Abu Hanifah
Ibn Taymiyyah says that taking an oath or invoking by virtue of the creatures is haram according to the creed (madhhab) of Abu Hanifah. [22]
Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi sect, also opines that istidlal (rational proof) and tamassuk (bond, holding fast) are matters of doubt or anxiety because of two aspects. Abu Yusuf quoting his teacher Abu Hanifah says: "It is not right for someone to call upon Allah through any other means than Allah. He (Abu Hanifah) was averse to saying bi-haqqi fulan (by the right of so and so)".
Critique
First, Abu Hanifah has approached this issue with aversion and a purely personal opinion, as is clear from the inclusion of istidlal and tamassuk in Bab al-Karahah of Abu al-Hasan Qaduri's Sharh Karkhi. Abu Yusuf quoting his teacher Abu Hanifah says:
It is not right for someone to call upon God through any other means than God. He was averse to saying for the sake of so and so.
Secondly, a closer look at Abu Hanifah's reasoning reveals that he himself has tried to resort to rational argumentation in this regard when he says: "Since the creatures have no rights on the Creator."[23]
However, Abu Hanifah's analogy falls short of clear proofs, and does not mean the total negation of any right, since God Himself has considered the right of the Prophets and that of the righteous believers as binding upon Him, as is clear from the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
Ultimately We deliver Our Apostles and those who believe, even so it is binding upon Us that We deliver the believers. (10:103)
The Hanafis such as Ibn 'Abidin accept this right, but they say that the creatures have no obligatory right on the Creator. [24]
This viewpoint, even if it is considered general, is confined to the followers of Abu Hanifah and cannot be imposed on all schools of Islam.
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 18 of Surah al-Jinn
Another reason put forward by the Salafiyyah such as Muhammad Rashid Rida on non-permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet after his death is that any wasilah for proximity to God should be a thing which God has determined for mankind such as faith, action and supplication. It was in the middle ages that tawassul to the person of the Prophets and pious men became widespread and they were considered wasa'il ila Allah (means to Allah) by people who would invoke God by their names and would supplicate to them at their tombs for their needs, when supplication is a form of worship as God says in the Holy Qur'an:
"So call you not anyone with Allah." (72:18)
"Surely, those whom you call other than Allah are subservient (to Allah) like unto your own selves..." (7:194)
Critique
In answer to this objection it should be said that every supplication is not a form of worship or even the spirit of worship, since the root of du'a' (supplication) is da'wat, a word which along with its derivatives occurs frequently in the Holy Qur'an. For instance, "...let us call (nad'u) our sons... (3:61)" and "Make you not the addressing (du'a') of the Prophet among you like your addressing one another..." (24:63)
As could be discerned, in most of the 'Ayas the word du'a' means to call or address. Accordingly neither every nida' (call) is du'a' nor every du'a' is 'ibadat (worship). In other words du'a' (supplication) becomes 'ibadat when the rules of worship such as servitude and submissiveness to Allah are observed with acknowledgement of the over lordship of the Almighty Creator. What connection does this have with tawassul and tabarruk to the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) and requesting them for help and succour?
Thus, the narration al-du'a' huwa al-'ibadah (supplication is among the acts of worship), does not necessarily mean that every supplication is a form of worship. [25]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayahs 13-14 of Surah al-Fatir
The Salafiyyah also resort to the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an as part of their attempt to discourage tawassul:
...And those whom you call upon other than Him, own not (even) a straw. If you call on them they shall hear not your call; and even if they hear they shall answer you not; and on the Day of Judgement they will deny your associating them (with Allah); and none can (ever) inform you as the All-Aware. (35:13,14)
Critique
This Ayah refers to the polytheists who worship idols instead of the One and Only God and supplicate to these man-made objects in their hour of need. Allah says here that these idols do not own even a straw, so how can they grant anything to those who worship and prostrate before them? No matter how fervently these idols are called upon, they do not listen since they are inanimate objects, and suppose even if they were to listen, they cannot answer since they do not have the tongues.[26]
As is crystal clear for any discerning person, it has no connection whatsoever concerning tawassul to the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a) or saints.
First and foremost, it is a gross mistake to place those who seek tawassul in the same category as the polytheists, since idolaters seek their needs from idols and not from the Almighty Creator. But those who make tawassul beseech Allah for their needs and regard Prophet Muhammad (s) as a wasilah or means for the acceptance of their supplications, since he is the Messenger of Allah. To quote Rashid Rida himself, those who seek tawassul are like guests who approach the host for some of their needs, and at times request the members of the household or friends of the hosts who have been appointed to serve the guests, since they consider everything to be the favour of the host.[27]
Secondly, it is a manifest error to equate with idols the Prophet (s) who has been sent by Allah as a divine sign and is called Habib-Allah (Friend of God) by all Muslims. Even Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab maintains that Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his grave and his life in the intermediary world (barzakh) is superior to the life of the martyrs, since he hears the voices of those who send blessings upon him.[28]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 194 of Surah al-A'raf
The fifth reason that the Salafiyyah such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad Rashid Rida have cited as non-permissibility of tawassul to the Prophet (s) after his death, is the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an:
"Surely, those whom you call other than Allah are subservient (to Allah) like unto your own selves..." (7:194)
Critique
All exegetes of the Holy Qur'an have unanimously stated that this Ayah refers to the idol-worshippers who associate man-made objects with God in creation and in administering the affairs of the world. In contrast, tawassul is made by those who never regard the Prophets as partners of Allah in creation and in running world affairs, and neither do they worship the Last Prophet (s), since every day several times they bear testimony that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the servant and Messenger of Allah (ash-hadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhu wa rasuluh). As the Holy Qur'an says, Prophet Muhammad (s) has been sent as mercy to the entire creation (21:107) and is a means of acceptance of supplications, so it is natural for us to request him to supplicate and intercede (shafa'at) with Allah for us.
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 3 of Surah al-Zumar
The Chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh 'Abd al-'Aziz bin Baz, in his exchange of letters with Iran's Ayatullah Muhammad Wa'iz-Zadeh Khurasani, has remarked:
The polytheists also testified to the Oneness of Allah but as the Holy Qur'an states, they tried to justify their worshipping of idols by saying: "...we worship them not but (in order) that they make us near to God..." (39:3). This is similar to the actions of those who make tawassul to those in the graves in order to seek proximity to Allah. [29]
Critique
'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i responding to such a reasoning says that according to the books of religions and the testimony of idol-worshippers, hundreds of millions of whom live in India, China and Japan, idolatry is based on the theory that the creation of the universe and even the deities which are worshipped, have as their source the same Almighty God, but since He is beyond comprehension there is no other choice but to worship some of His closest servants such as angels, genies and saints so that they make intercession (shafa'at) and people may reach the proximity of God through them. In the opinion of the polytheists, angels are like the builder to whom the owner of the house has entrusted the building and hence intercession (shafa'at) is according to His discretion.
But, adds 'Allamah Tabataba'i, in the Holy Qur'an tawassul to the Prophets is in the manner of an intermediary and is not something independent, and for this reason it has not been considered as shirk or polytheism. Similarly, the polytheists have been reproached in the Holy Qur'an not because of seeking intercession (shafa'at) but because of worshipping other than God.[30]
Salafiyyah Interpretation of Ayah 10 of Surah Yunus
Shaykh Bin Baz in his answers to Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh has also cited the following Ayah of the Holy Qur'an as another instance of non-permissibility of tawassul, saying that in his opinion Muslims who uphold tawassul to the Prophet (s) are like idolaters who seek intercession from objects which are of no use:
"And they worship beside Allah which can neither hurt them nor profit them, and they say: these are our intercessors with Allah..." (10:18)
Critique
First, this Ayah has no connection with Muslims since they do not worship any thing or object except Allah.
Secondly, as said earlier, addressing the Prophet is not meant to worship him but to request him for supplication and intercession.
Thirdly, it is a matter of surprise to compare the Prophet to those whom the Holy Qur'an says "can neither hurt them nor profit them," since the fact cannot be denied that obedience to the Prophet is to the benefit of Muslims and disobedience to him, whether during his lifetime or after his death, is certainly detrimental to them. Similarly, the supplication and intercession of the Prophet for those who are eligible, whether in worldly life or in the Hereafter, is profitable for the Muslims as unanimously confirmed by the 'ulama'.
Fourthly, it is a grave error to equate the belief of the Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the intercessor, with the belief of the polytheists "these (idols) are our intercessors with Allah," since God has explicitly rejected their claim as lies.
"...those who take guardians besides Him, (say) we worship them not but (in order) that they make us near to Allah; surely Allah will judge between them about what they differ; surely Allah does not guide the one who is a liar and an ingrate." (39:3)
As is clear from the wordings of the Holy Qur'an the polytheists who make such claims are liars. They are not conscious of God, neither do they worship Him or prostrate to Him nor have they any faith in their Unseen Creator:
"And when it is said to them prostrate you in obeisance to the Rahman (the Beneficent God), they say: Who is Rahman? Shall we prostrate in obeisance unto what you bid us? And it (only) adds to their flight (from the truth)." (25:60)
Non-Permissibility of Tawassul to the Dead
Another claim put forward by the Salafiyyah is that, on the basis of evidences tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) during his lifetime is acceptable but after his death there is lack of evidence to support the view that tawassul was ever made to him.[31]
Critique
The contemporary Sunni scholar Dr. Ramadan Buti of the University of Damascus, rejects this viewpoint of the Wahhabiyyah sect. He says tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) and things pertaining to him is permissible, whether during his lifetime or after his death, since things or items related to him are not necessarily linked to his lifetime such as tabarruk (sacred relics) or tawassul, as is confirmed by Sahih al-Bukhari, Chapter on the hair of the Prophet.
No Muslim would ever attribute to other than the One and Only God the effect of anything related to the person of the Prophet (s) during his life or after his death. If a person were to hold the opposite view that this effect is independent in itself, he would be considered an infidel. Accordingly, the tabarruk of the Prophet (s) and tawassul to him and to things related to him, does not mean attributing the blessed effect to his personal influence independent of God, but is an indication of the fact that as the Last Divine-Sent Messenger he is the 'Best of Creation' and is the 'Mercy of Allah' for the entire creation. Therefore tawassul to him is a means of gaining proximity to Allah and His infinite Mercy for mankind. It was in this sense that the companions sought tawassul to the Prophet and things related to him. Likewise, it is recommended to seek intercession (shafa'at) through the pious persons such as the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) of the Prophet (s).
Sunni authorities including Shawkani, Ibn Qudamah Hanbali, San'ani and others are unanimous on this issue as was made clear concerning the request for rain. In view of these facts, Dr. Buti calls it a strange confusion by the Wahhabiyyah to make difference between the lifetime of the Prophet and after his death.[32]
To quote Professor Hasan bin 'Ali al-Saqqaf, polytheism (shirk) is polytheism either in this world or in the next, whether or not the person through whom people are seeking tawassul to God, is alive. But, he adds, without the least doubt tawassul to Prophet Muhammad (s) is supported by the general rules of permissibility, and includes both his lifetime and after his death as well as in the Hereafter.[33]
Tawassul to the Dead is Addressing the Non-Existent
Muhammad bin 'Abd al-Wahhab writes: Tawassul to a person who is alive has no objection, but tawassul to the dead is to address the non-existent and is an absurd, ugly and despised act.
Critique
This statement is a clear violation of Allah's words in the Holy Qur'an:
"Reckon not those who are slain in the way of Allah, to be dead; Nay! They are alive and are being sustained by their Lord." (3:169)
2. It is also in contradiction to the saying of Prophet Muhammad (s) as recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and all other authoritative (Sihah) Sunni works. After the Battle of Badr the Prophet (s) stood near the well of the same name and addressed the dead with ayah 46 of Surah al-A'raf. When some of his companions objected that how could the dead hear him, the Prophet (s) replied: "You are not more hearing than them."[34]
3. It is in opposition to the statements of Islamic intellectuals such as al-Ghazzali who writes in Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din: "Some people think death as extinction and state of non-existent, and those who hold such beliefs have no faith and actually mean to deny Allah and the Hereafter."
Hafiz al-Nawawi in al-Majmu' fi Sharh al-Muhadhdhab which says that while standing beside the tombs of Prophets, especially the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (s), it is recommended to request them to supplicate to God for our needs, since they are alive and as the Holy Qur'an says: "are being sustained by their Lord." (3:169)[35]
Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri who states his fatwa and that of 75 'ulama' of different Islamic lands as follows: In our view, Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his holy tomb and his life is similar to worldly life but without its duties. 'Allamah Jalal al-Din Suyuti writes in his book Anba' al-Azkiya' bi-Hayat al-Anbiya' on the authority of Shaykh Taqi al-Din Subki that the proof of the life of Prophets and martyrs in their graves is the prayer offered by Prophet Moses in his own tomb as mentioned in a hadith. In this regard Shaykh Shams al-Islam Muhammad Qasim has written a booklet titled Ab-i Hayat.[36]
4. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in answer to Shaykh Ja'far Najafi said that seeking help from the dead is an absurd act. But how could this be called shirk since there is no connection between absurdity and polytheism? And if tawassul with fellow humans is considered shirk, then how could the difference between tawassul to the living and tawassul to the dead, be ascertained?
5. Here Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab has contradicted his own opinion, since as we saw earlier in this article he believed that Prophet Muhammad (s) is alive in his tomb and said that this state of life of the Prophet (s) is superior than the life of the martyrs. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab also said that the Prophet (s) hears the voice of those who send blessings on him.[37]
6. Farid Wajdi mentions in his encyclopaedia:
In our era God has opened two of the windows of knowledge for us and the proof of this two windows confirms beyond an iota of doubt that man has a soul which without the need of the physical body can lead its own independent life.[38 ]
From the 19th century onwards the science of spiritism or contacts with the souls of the departed has been discovered and developed upon by the world's researchers after precise study and experiments in this regard. In the US and Europe, the summoning of the souls of the departed is part of the world of science.[39]
The information which modern scientists have discovered after witnessing the summoning of souls, is yet another instance of the fact that the human being has an independent soul outside the physical body that does not perish with death. The connection of the souls of the departed with the living is the finest proof of the independence and immortality of the soul, and most of its capability concerning many works is with the permission of Almighty God.[40]
The souls of the righteous and pious persons which have been released from the mortal world have acquired superior perception and consciousness and in their ascendant journey are free of the limits of time and space. They penetrate with ease the skies and the depths of the oceans to observe the grandeur of God's creation.
Blocking of Means (Sadd-i Dhara'i')
Some of the Wahhabi 'ulama' such as Dr. Muhammad bin Sa'd Suway'ir who is one of the deputies of Shaykh Bin Baz, say that tawassul and tabarruk are permissible for 'ulama' who are cognizant of the essence of faith, but this is forbidden for the common people, who are prone to drift towards polytheism and who might gradually start believing in the personal influence of the Prophet and saints in the granting of boons and prevention of the detrimental things. Therefore, it is obligatory to stop them from tawassul and tabarruk in the name of Blocking of Means.
Critique
Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh rejecting the Wahhabi theory against tawassul says:
When the permissibility or recommendation for this act has been confirmed with rational proof, it is not permissible to prohibit tawassul for such unfounded fears that the ignorant might give it the colour of polytheism. If such was the case, the Prophet (s) himself would have prohibited people as a precaution from seeking blessing, visiting the graves or kissing the sacred black stone (Hajar al-Aswad) at the holy Ka'bah. On the contrary, judicious measures for checking possible deviation is for the 'ulama' to exercise greater control.[41]
Takfir of Shi'ah for Tawassul
Ibn Taymiyyah, despite his extreme and biased approach for prohibiting tawassul, has admitted:
This is a controversial issue and to accuse of heresy those who make tawassul is haram and is a sinful act, since no one has said that a person making tawassul to the Prophet (s) after his death is a kafir. This is an ambiguous issue and there are no certain proofs in this regard. Kufr is confirmed when a person rejects any of the tenets of faith deliberately and being fully aware. Therefore, those who accuse a person of heresy for making tawassul deserve the most severe punishment.[42]
It is unfortunate that the blind prejudice which the colonial powers had skilfully exploited to create differences among Sunni Muslims as a result of the Wahhabiyyah opposition to the issue of tawassul, has been widened to sow discord between Sunni and Shi'ah Muslims and to label the Shi'ah as kafir (infidel) or mushrik (polytheist) on the allegation that they seek their requests from other than God. To quote Ayatullah Wa'iz-Zadeh, those who do not permit tawassul and tabarruk are only a fraction of a minority among the 'ulama' of the Muslim world, and despite their efforts over the past seven centuries, have not been able to convince the upholders of tawassul.[43]
Thus, as should be clear, according to the statement of Ibn Taymiyyah the issue of tawassul is a moral one and does not concern the principles of faith, since a kafir is the one who rejects any of the tenets of Islam.
Extreme Form of Tawassul among the Ahl al-Sunnah
It is a common sight in many countries to see the Ahl al-Sunnah approach the graves of pious persons to pray and supplicate for their needs. In Egypt, Iraq and Turkey, and many other lands --India, Pakistan, Syria, Central Asia, North Africa-- it is an accepted practice by the masses to visit the tombs of saints and holy personages to make tawassul and seek blessings. Dr. Mustafa Mahmud writes that people in Egypt flock to the tomb of Rifa'i and Ibrahim Dasuqi and cry loudly with such phrases as: Madad Ya Rifa'i (help me O Rifa'i), Shifa' bi-Yadika Ya Sayyidi Ibrahim Dasuqi (In your hands lie the remedy, O my Lord Ibrahim Dasuqi).[44]
The Egyptians also visit the tomb of Shafi'i, the founder of the Shafi'ite sect, for tawassul, while in Baghdad, the Hanafis do the same at the tomb of Abu Hanifah. In Turkey, the people seek their needs at the tomb of the Prophet's eminent companion Abu Ayyub Ansari. It is also a habit among people in Egypt and other places to send written petitions to the tomb of Shafi'i, and wail and cry at the graves of pious persons for things which none except the Almighty God has the power to grant.
When Wahhabi 'ulama' come across such scenes among the Ahl al-Sunnah they brand these Muslims as polytheists and follow the same assumption against the Shi'ah, concerning whom they have little or no information, and sometimes go to extreme by labelling them apostates who should be killed.
Purity of Monotheism in Shi'ah Supplications
The prayers and acts of worship among the Shi'ah have the purest form of monotheism derived from the guidelines of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt ('a). For instance, Shi'ah do not put their forehead during prostration on carpet, cloth, plastic or synthetic material, since Imam Ja'far al-sadiq ('a) has said:
Worldly people are slaves of victuals and clothing, hence it is not right for a person who is in the act of offering his prayer to Allah to place his forehead on the deity of the worshippers of the world.[45]
Likewise, Shi'ah Muslims recite the supplications taught by the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt ('a) in which all requests are directed to Almighty Allah. The Infallible Imams ('a) have also dissuaded people from being distracted by external appearances and losing sight of the reality and substance of the supplications.
Shi'ah 'ulama' have strived to preserve the path of the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt ('a). Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi was averse to prostration being made on a clay tablet having the outlines of a dome or structure. In their jurisprudential manuals, both Ayatullah Burujirdi and Imam Khumayni have the following to say concerning prostration at holy shrines:
It is haram to prostrate to anyone except Allah. If the act of prostration in front of the shrines of the Infallible Imams ('a) is a form of thanksgiving to God, there is no objection, otherwise it is haram. [46]
A Glance at the Supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a)
As acknowledged by the prominent Sunni scholar Mahmud Alusi in his exegesis on the Holy Qur'an, in none of the supplications that have been taught by the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), there is tawassul to the person of the Prophet.[47]
If we go through the books of supplications of the Shi'ah such as Mafatih al-Jinan, we find that all supplications of the Infallible Imams ('a) are directed solely at God, and all addresses begin with Allahumma, Ya Allah, Ya Rabb, and other attributes of God such as Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Dhu al-Jalal wa al-Ikram, etc.
Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, writing on the famous Du'a' Tawassul which is directed at the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams ('a), says:
The purpose of tawassul to the pious believers is that they are being requested to supplicate to Allah to deliver the person in need from his affliction, since the supplication of these saintly figures is accepted by Allah.[48]
The Du'a' Tawassul which is found in Mafatih al-Jinan is the same supplication of tawassul which all Sunni narrators of hadith unanimously regard as sahih (authentic) and relate that the Prophet taught it to a blind man who recovered his eyesight by reciting it.[49]
Conclusion
Therefore, in conclusion we can state with authority the following points, since tawassul is an accepted principle in the life of a sincere and God-fearing Muslim, and whatever disputes that have been fanned are due to bigotry and lack of proper understanding of Islam:
Controversy over the issue of tawassul is not a matter of discord between Shi'ah and Sunni Muslims, but it is a difference of opinion between the Salafiyyah sect and the rest of Muslims.
Most of the differences of the Salafiyyah Wahhabis are with the extremist Sufis who believe in reincarnation, and with the Sunni masses who often make emotional tawassul at graves and seek their needs from the departed such as Abu Hanifah (and 'Abd al-Qadir Gilani) in Baghdad, Shafi'i, Rifa'i, Dasuqi and others in Egypt, Idris in Morocco and Abu Ayyub Ansari in Turkey - as well as Khawajah Mu'in al-Din Chishti and numerous others in India, and Data Ganj Bakhsh and Sufi saints in Pakistan.
In fact, the Salafiyyah and the Wahhabis have the least differences with Shi'ah Muslims since Shi'ah recite the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) which contain the purest form of monotheism. However, because of their non-familiarity with the Shi'ah they accuse them of polytheism and in their ignorance brand them infidels.
In all the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) the addressee is Almighty Allah alone, even in the famous Du'a' Tawassul, which the Sunnis say with unanimity was taught by Prophet Muhammad (s) to a blind person who subsequently regained his eyesight.
Du'a' tawassul, where devotion is expressed to the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt ('a), is not exclusively meant for the Shi'ah but was widely popular among the Sunnis until Ibn Taymiyyah and later Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab came on the scene with their weird interpretation. For instance, the poetical composition of tawassul to the 14 Infallibles found in the works of prominent poets of the Ahl al-Sunnah such as the Persian poet Shaykh Sa'di and the Sufi Khalid Naqhsbandi -- as well as the famous Spanish Muslim gnostic and philosopher Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi.
As part of their misinformation campaign against tawassul, the Salafiyyah attempt to exploit certain Ayahs of the Holy Qur'an which refer to the polytheists who worship idols instead of the One and Only God and who seek their wants from these lifeless man-made objects. However, it is clear that equating those who seek tawassul to the Prophet (s) with the polytheists and infidels is an erroneous idea, since tawassul-seekers, unlike the idolators, address the Almighty Creator and seek their needs from Him by making the Prophet (s) a wasilah for acceptance of prayer. On the other hand, the idols have no connection with God and are nothing more than inanimate objects made by man, while Prophet Muhammad (s) is the manifest sign of Allah, the Messenger of Allah and Mercy to the creation. Allah has also given him power, both in this world and in the next, to supplicate and intercede for his true followers. The Wahhabi contention of the period of Barzakh of the Prophet (s) lacks any rational explanation and is against the view of the 'ulama' of all other sects of the Ahl al-Sunnah.
Those who wish to make the Prophet (s) the intercessor without being obedient to the Holy Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), have been likened by Shi'ah 'ulama' such as 'Allamah Tabataba'i, to a wishful person who wants to become the sage of the age without learning or studying anything.
Notes:
[1]. Refer to the Arabic lexicons Lisan al-'Arab, Asas al-Balaghah and Tartib al-Qamus al-Muhit for meaning of wasala.
[2]. Alusi, Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, p. 124-128.
[3]. Tabrisi, Majma' al-Bayan, vol. 6, p. 86; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 289.
[4]. Nida'-i Wahdat, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's treatise to Shaykh Ja'far Najafi.
[5]. Sharh al-Mawahib, vol. 8, p. 304; al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274; Ibn 'Abidin, vol. 5, p.254; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah, vol. 1, p. 266 and vol. 5, 318; Fath al-Qadir, vol. 8, p. 297, 298 and al-Futuhat al-Rabbaniyyah 'ala al-Azkar al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 5, p. 36.
[6]. Sharh al-Mawahib, vol. 8, p. 304-5; Wafa' al-Wafad, vol. 4, p. 1371; al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 148; and Sharh Ibn al-Hasan 'ala al-Risalah al-Qirwani, vol. 12, p. 478).
[7]. Al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274; Fayd al-Qadir, vol. 2, p. 134; I'anah al-Talibiyyin, p. 315.
[8]. Al-Mughni ma' al-Sharh, vol. 3, p. 588; al-Sharh al-Kabir ma' al-Mughni, vol. 3, p. 494.
[9]. Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali', Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din, vol. 1, pp. 258-261.
[10]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah, section 14, p. 160.
[11]. Ibid.
[12]. Tafsir Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, 128.
[13]. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, 'Aqa'id Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah fi radd al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Bid'ah, translated into Persian by 'Abd al-Rahman Sarbazi, p. 86.
[14]. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, vol. 6, p. 328-332.
[15]. Ibid.
[16]. Refer to Shaykh Aqa Buzurg Tehrani, al-Dhari'ah ila Tasanif al-Shi'ah, vol. 25, p. 69-92.
[17]. Tafsir al-Mizan, vol. 11, p. 15 (Dar al-'Alami print, Beirut).
[18]. Ibn Taymiyyah, Qa'idah Jalilah fi al-Tawassul wa al-Wasilah, pp. 63, 64 & 95, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah.
[19]. Muhammad Rashid Rida, al-Manar, vol. 6, pp. 369-377.
[20]. Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-Nabuwwah, vol. 5, p. 489 (Dar al-Kitab al-'Ilmiyyah print, Beirut), cited from al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 24; al-Mustadrak, vol. 2, p. 615, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Fatawa, vol. 1, p. 150, Jalal al-Din Suyuti, Tafsir Durr al-Manthur, vol. 1, pp. 142-149 (Dar al-Fikr print, Beirut, 1983).
Translator's note: Suyuti is more elaborate when on p. 147, he says Adam supplicated to Allah by the right of Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (Allahumma bi-haqqi Muhammad wa Al-i Muhammad) He further quotes the Prophet (s) on the authority of 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas as saying that the words taught to Adam by God to seek forgiveness were: By the right of Muhammad, and 'Ali, and Fatimah, and Hasan and Husayn).
[21]. Al-Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-saghir, vol. 1, p. 183, (Maktabah al-Salafiyyah print) cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 24.
[22]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 7, p. 263; Qa'idah Jalilah, p. 51.
[23]. 'Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Nida' Wahdat, pp. 260-261.
[24]. Al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 14, p. 160.
[25]. Manawi, al-Fayd, vol. 3, p. 540; Hasan bin 'Ali Saqqaf, al-Tandid bi-man Addada al-Tawhid, pp. 30-40.
[26]. Tafsir al-Jalalayn; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, vol. 2, 270
[27]. Tafsir al-Manar, vol. 1, p. 59.
[28]. Ibn ''Abd al-Wahhab, Risalah Kashf al-Shubahat, cited in al-Rasul Yad'ukum, p. 295.
[29]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn al-Ustadh Muhammad Wa'iz-Zadeh Khurasani wa al-Ustadh 'Abd al-'Aziz bin 'Abdullah bin Baz, pp. 32-33.
[30]. 'Allamah Tabataba'i, Majmu'ah-yi Maqalat, pp. 313-317.
[31]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p. 41.
[32]. Dr Buti, Ramadan, Fiqh al-Sunnah, tenth edition, p. 355.
[33]. Hasan bin 'Ali al-Saqqaf, al-Ta'liq 'ala Risalatayn, Risalah at-Taqrib Quarterly, No. 17, 1418 AH, p. 69.
[34]. Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 14, p. 111, Dar Ihya' al-Turath, Beirut; Sahih al-Muslim, chapter 51, pp. 76-77; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 26 & vol. 2, pp. 31 & 131; Musnad Tiyalisi, hadith 403.
[35]. Al-Majmu', vol. 8, p. 274, chapter on manners of pilgrimage.
[36]. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, 'Aqa'id Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah fi radd al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Bid'ah, translated into Persian by 'Abd al-Rahman Sarbazi, pp. 82-88.
[37]. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, Risalah Kashf al-Shubahat, cited in al-Rasul Yad'ukum, p. 295.
[38]. Da'irah al-Ma'arif Qarn al-'Ishrin (20th Century Encyclopaedia), under the topic of 'Ruh' (Soul), vol. 14, p. 365.
[39]. Refer for details to Leone Danny's "World After Death", pp. 78-82.
[40]. Dr. Bi-Azar Shirazi, 'Abd al-Karim, Gozashteh va Ayandeh-ye Jahan, pp. 96-101.
[41]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, p. 17.
[42]. Majmu'ah Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, vol. 1, p. 106, as cited in al-Mausu'ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 14, pp. 163-164.
[43]. Risalatan Bayn al-Shaykhayn, pp. 17-18.
[44]. Mustafa Mahmud, Asrar al-Qur'an, Dar al-Ma'arif, second edition, p. 77.
[45]. Shaykh Hurr al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, vol. 3, p. 591.
[46]. Ayatullah Burujirdi, Tawdih al-Masa'il, p. 172; Imam Khumayni, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 1, p. 150, and also in Risalah-ye Novin, vol. 1, p. 148.
[47]. Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 6, p. 128.
[48]. Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Musawi, Risalah dar Kitab wa Sunnat, Majmu'ah Maqalat, Kitab Nida'-e Wahdat, Tehran, Chehel-Sutun Publishers, p. 259.
[49]. Sunan Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 569, Matba'ah al-Halabi, Egypt, cited in al-Mausu'ah

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