Tawassul (seeking intercession) is prohibited in principle unless proven otherwise
Fatwa No: 17593

  • Fatwa Date:2-5-2011 - Jumaadaa Al-Oula 29, 1432
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Question

What is the ruling on making Tawassul through the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam? Why has it been permitted by all scholars except those from Saudi Arabia?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.

 

Scholars hold different opinions on making Tawassul through the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Most scholars who have addressed this issue, including Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him believed it to be permissible. However, the Hanafi scholars, Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him and others say it is prohibited.

Advocates for the first opinion refer to evidence from the Quran and Sunnah (Prophetic tradition). Some of them like As-Subki the Shaafi’i scholar  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him even claim that this kind of Tawassul has been declared permissible by all scholars.  Their evidence from the Quran includes the verse (which means): {O you who have believed, fear Allaah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him and strive in His cause that you may succeed.} [Quran 5: 35]

They also present evidence from the Sunnah, including the Hadeeth (narration) that was narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari where ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him asked Allaah The Almighty for rain by means of Al-‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him. Another Hadeeth cited is the one where Aadam  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention made Tawassul through the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in addition to the Hadeeth where the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ordered us to make Tawassul through his status, which is great in the sight of Allaah The Almighty. 

Those in favor of prohibiting this kind of Tawassul refuted the previously mentioned evidence. Firstly, they said that the noble verse does not have this meaning. In other words the “means” here refers to acts of obedience that must be performed and misdeeds that must be avoided to bring a person closer to Allaah The Almighty, as mentioned by Al-'Uloosi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him.

Some people consider this verse evidence of the permissibility of seeking relief or benefit from the righteous or as a means of communicating with Allaah The Almighty for the fulfillment of their wishes. They may, for instance, swear by one of the righteous  people to fulfill their wish, or supplicate Allaah The Almighty through a righteous person, who is either absent or dead, claiming that they are only seeking a means of getting closer to Allaah The Almighty. They claim, furthermore, that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ordered us to seek relief from the righteous dead during times of calamity and this is, of course, far from the truth.

In his commentary on the previously mentioned verse, Ibn Katheer  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that Allaah The Almighty commands his servants to fear Him and this fear, when coupled with obedience, is the act of refraining from what it is unlawful and prohibited.

This part of the verse is followed with {and seek the means [of nearness] to Him}, which was interpreted by Ibn ‘Abbaas, Mujaahid, Abu Waa’il, Al-Hasan, Qataadah, ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Katheer, As-Suddi, Ibn Zayd and others  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them as seeking nearness to Allaah The Almighty. Ibn Zayd  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him also supported his opinion with the verse (which means): {Those whom they invoke seek means of access to their Lord.} [Quran 17: 57] Thus, scholars of Tafseer (exegesis) agree unanimously on what was stated by the previously mentioned Imaams, which proves that this verse cannot be evidence for the permissibility of this kind of Tawassul.

With regards to their evidence from the Sunnah, it can be refuted in two ways:

They referred to authentic Hadeeths but not to their intended meaning. First, there is the Hadeeth of ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him where it was mentioned that he made Tawassul through Al-‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him after the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, had died. [Al-Bukhari] In fact, this Hadeeth is evidence against this because Tawassul here was made through the supplication of a living righteous man who was present, not through his person. Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him elaborated on this point by mentioning that Tawassul was made through the supplication and intercession of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, not through his person. This is why when the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, died, the Companions made Tawassul through the supplication of his uncle Al-‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him.

Had it been permissible to make Tawassul through the person of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, it would have been preferable to make it through the person of Al-‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him. Thus, refraining from making Tawassul through the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, after his death is the best proof that what was done in his life becomes impossible after his death. However, this kind of Tawassul must not be mistaken for the Sharee‘ah-approved Tawassul, which refers to a person’s belief in the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and obedience of his commands. As a matter of fact, Tawassul through the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, could be one of three things:

1. Making Tawassul through obedience to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which is essential for having perfect faith.

2. Making Tawassul through the supplication and intercession of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which was permissible during his life and will be permissible on the day of Judgment.

3. Making Tawassul though his person, i.e. swearing by his person to Allaah The Almighty when seeking the fulfillment of a supplication. This kind of Tawassul was never practiced by the Companions, either when praying for rain; during the life of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam,  or after his death; at his grave or at anyone else’s grave. Moreover, it was not reported in any of the Companions’ famous supplications. Instead it was only reported in weak Hadeeths or on the authority of those who were unreliable, as we will mention later on, Allaah willing. In this regard Abu Haneefah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him and scholars from the same school of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) stated that this kind of Tawassul is impermissible, citing the prohibition on supplicating Allaah The Almighty via the creation or His Prophets.

The second Hadeeth that was referred to was that of the blind man, but again it does not support their opinion. In this Hadeeth the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, gave the blind man the choice: either let him supplicate Allaah on his behalf to recover or to have patience, which would be better for him. However, the blind man asked for the supplication of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. [At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa’i and Ahmad].

As a matter of fact, those who believe in the permissibility of this kind of Tawassul have built their stance on weak Hadeeths, like the Hadeeth where Aadam (Adam)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention made Tawassul through the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This subject was clarified in Fatwa ">11669. They also referred to a fabricated Hadeeth that includes a Prophetic order to make Tawassul through his status, which is highly regarded by Allaah The Almighty, as clarified. Another weak Hadeeth referred to was the one where the Companions complained to ‘Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her about the drought. It was mentioned that she ordered them to make a hole in the grave of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to prevent anything that might hinder his supplication from rising to heaven and when they did, the rain started falling as clarified

It is obvious that the evidence cited by those who permit making Tawassul through the person of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, or others was either based on a meaning that was not intended or a weak narration and thus cannot be used as a valid argument. This is in addition to the important fact that the Companions never did it. 

In fact, Tawassul is an act of worship that is prohibited in principle, unless proven to be otherwise by Sharee‘ah-acceptable evidence, for the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, mentioned that whoever introduces an innovation in religion, will have it rejected [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] Moreover, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, mentioned that the words of the Quran are the best words, and his Sunnah is the best guidance, and most evil affairs are innovations introduced in religion, and every religious innovation is an error. [Muslim]

Thus the argument of those who believe in the permissibility of this kind of Tawassul has been invalidated, and their claim that there is a consensus among scholars has been refuted.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that there is a clear difference between this kind of Tawassul and Istighaathah (asking for relief), which is identified as Shirk (polytheism) and prohibited according to the consensus of scholars. The former means supplicating Allaah The Almighty by means of the virtue and the status of His creatures, whereas the latter means resorting to creatures and asking them for relief, which is clearly Shirk. Unfortunately, many people fail to distinguish between the two,

This confusion, actually, adds to the opinion of those who are against this kind of Tawassul, along with the previously mentioned evidence, because permitting this serves as a means that may lead to Shirk itself. In other words, if this kind of Tawassul is declared permissible, it may cause people to think that supplicating the dead and asking them for relief is permissible as well, but the Sharee‘ah is mainly concerned with guarding Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) and blocking all the ways that may lead to Shirk.

Allaah Knows best.

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