Explaining Some Ahadits on Intercession

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following are some ahadits and their explanation about intercession, tawaswswul.  This also addresses some of the verses usually cited to deny it.

Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) wrote, in Tahdzib at-Tahdzib, that Imam Hakim (r.a.) said that he heard Imam Abu ‘Ali an-Nishaburi (r.a.) say, “I was in extreme depression, then I saw Prophet (s.a.w.) in my dream.  He said, ‘Go to grave of Yahya ibn Yahya, recite istighfar and ask for help through his intercession.  Your problem will be solved.’  I did that and my problem was solved in the morning.”  Here, Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) showed that visiting the tombs of the awliya’ and seeking their intercession is a meritorious and approved act.

Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) wrote, in his Majmu’, in the section describing the hajj, in the chapter “Visiting the Grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.)”: “The one visiting should stand by facing the face of Prophet (s.a.w.) and make him a means and seek his wasilah as shafa’at towards the Lord.”

Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) wrote that Imam Abu Ishaq al-Qarshi (r.a.) narrated that there was a man with them in Madina.  Whenever he used to see any bad deed which he was not capable of stopping with his hand, he used to go to the grave of Prophet (s.a.w.) and say, “O the inhabitants of qabr and our helpers, please look towards our state.”

Imam ibn Hibban (r.a.) related, in Kitab ats-Tsiqat, his own account of going to Imam ar-Ridha’s (r.a.) grave, performing tawaswswul through him and stated that “Whenever I was afflicted with a problem during my stay in Tus, I would visit the grave of ‘Ali ibn Musa and ask Allah (s.w.t.) to Relieve me of that problem and it would be Answered and the problem Alleviated.  And this is something I did, and found to work, many times.”

Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.) recorded, in al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir, that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “When you lose your means of transport in a jungle, you should call, ‘O creatures of Allah!  Help me, recover my transport!  O creatures of Allah!  Help me, recover my transport!’  There are many of Allah’s creatures on this earth.  They will help you recover it.”  This is also recorded by Imam Abu Ya‘la (r.a.), in his Musnad; Imam ibn as-Sunni (r.a.), in ‘Amal al-Yawm wa al-Laylah; Imam al-Haytsami (r.a.), in Majma‘ az-Zawa’id; and Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.), in al-Mathalib al-‘Aliyah.

Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) narrated, “I heard the Prophet (s.a.w.) say, ‘By the One in Whose Hand is Abu al-Qasim's soul, ‘Isa ibn Maryam shall descend as a just and wise ruler.  He shall destroy the cross, slay the swine, eradicate discord and grudges, and money shall be offered to him but he will not accept it.  Then he shall stand at my grave and say, ‘Ya Muhammad!’ and I will answer him.’”  Imam Abu Ya’la (r.a.) related it with a swahih chain in his Musnad.  Imam al-Haytsami (r.a.) said in Majma’ az-Zawa'id in the chapter entitled, ‘’Isa ibn Maryam's Descent’, “Its sub-narrators are the men of swahih ahadits.”

Imam ash-Shawkani (r.a.) wrote, “Regarding what those who forbid tawaswswul to Allah through the prophets and the saint cite to support their position, such as Allah’s Sayings:

… “We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah …” (Surah az-Zumar:3)

So, call not on any other god with Allah, or thou wilt be among those under the Penalty. (Surah ash-Shu’ara:213)

Say: “Call on those ― besides Him ― whom ye fancy: they have neither the power to remove your troubles from you nor to change them.”  Those whom they call upon do desire (for themselves) means of access to their Lord, - even those who are nearest: they hope for His Mercy and fear His Wrath: for the Wrath of thy Lord is something to take heed of. (Surah al-Isra’:56-57)

These verses are irrelevant; they support exactly the reverse of what the objectors to tawaswswul claim, since the verses are related to another issue.  Surah az-Zumar:3 explicitly states that they worship them for that purpose, whereas the one who makes tawaswswul through one of the pious, for example, never worships him, but knows that he has a privilege, maziyyah, before Allah (s.w.t.) for being a carrier of knowledge; and that is why he uses him as a means.  Similarly, irrelevant to the issue is Surah ash-Shu’ara:213.  This verse forbids calling upon another together with Allah (s.w.t.).  However, the one who makes tawaswswul through a saint, for example, never calls upon other than Allah (s.w.t.).  He only seeks a means to Him through the excellent works that one of His servants achieved, just as the three men in the cave who were blocked by the rock used their good works as a means to have their petition answered.  Similarly, irrelevant to the issue is Surah al-Isra’:56-57, for it refers to people who call upon those who cannot fulfill their request, at the same time not calling upon Allah (s.w.t.) Who can; whereas one who makes tawaswswul through the pious, never calls upon other than Allah (s.w.t.).

Objectors to tawaswswul are, in fact, bringing forth dala’il that are irrelevant to the issue at hand.  Even more irrelevant is their citing of the following verse:

(It will be) the Day when no soul shall have power (to do) aught for another: for the Command, that Day, will be (wholly) with Allah. (Surah al-Infithar:19)

This verse says that Allah (s.w.t.) Alone decides everything on the Day of Judgment, and that none other will have any say at that time.  However, the one who performs tawaswswul through one of the prophets, or one of the pious, never believes that the one through whom he makes tawaswswul is in partnership with Allah (s.w.t.) on the Day of Judgment.  As Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) said, we do not confuse the means and the Giver.

The deniers of tawaswswul also cite the following:

Not for thee, (but for Allah) is the decision: whether He turn in Mercy to them or Punish them; for they are indeed wrong-doers. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:128)

Say: "I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah Willeth.  If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith." (Surah al-A'araf:188)

These two verses State Explicitly that even the Prophet (s.a.w.) has no say in Allah’s (s.w.t.) Decision and that he has no power to benefit or harm himself in the least, let alone someone else; there is nothing in them that denies tawaswswul through the Prophet (s.a.w.) or of the pious.  Allah (s.w.t.) Bestowed upon His Prophet (s.a.w.) the Exalted Station, maqam al-mahmud, which is the station of the Great Intercession, Shafa’ah al-‘Uzhmah, and He has Commanded Creation to seek intercession through the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) maqam.

Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) said, in Tafsir Ruh al-Ma’ani, that whenever anyone is in some difficulty, he should ask the pious souls that have passed away.  He said that there is no doubt that any person visiting their tombs gets spiritual help plus benefit from them.  And many times, when their wasilah is presented in the Court of Allah (s.w.t.), the difficulties are Removed.

Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.), in Shu’ayb al-Iman, recorded that Shaykh ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) said “I heard my father say, ‘I performed hajj five times; thrice on foot and twice riding,’ or he said, ‘thrice riding and twice on foot.’  ‘Once when I was on foot, I lost my way; I started to exclaim, ‘O Allah’s servants, show me the way.’  I kept on repeating this until I came back on track.’”

In al-Furqan bayna Awliya’ ar-Rahman wa Awliya’ ash-Shaythan, Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) wrote about the incident when ‘Umar (r.a.), helped the Muslim army in Iraq.  When ‘Umar ibn al-Khaththab (r.a.) sent out an army, he appointed Sariyah ibn Zunaym (r.a.) as their commander.  While ‘Umar (r.a.) was delivering the khuthbah in Madina, he started shouting, “O Sariyah, the mountain!” thrice.

A month later, a messenger from the army came and ‘Umar (r.a.) questioned him concerning the campaign.  He said, “O Commander of the Faithful!  We met with the enemy and they had almost defeated us.  Then a voice warned us, ‘O Sariyah, the mountain!’  So we put our backs against the mountain and Allah vanquished them.”  This story is well known and there are versions with greater detail.

It is recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari, as narrated by Anas (r.a.), “Whenever drought threatened them, ‘Umar ibn al-Khaththab, used to ask ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muththalib to invoke Allah for rain.  He used to say, ‘O Allah!  We used to ask our Prophet to invoke You for rain, and You would Bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke You for rain.  O Allah!  Bless us with rain.’  And so it would rain.”

Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.), in Fath al-Bari, wrote, “The episode involving ‘Abbas makes it clear that to seek intercession from the virtuous, the pious and members of the Prophet’s family is a desirable act.  In addition, this event proves the high status of ‘Abbas as well as reveals ‘Umar’s respect for him and the acknowledgement of his status.”

Imam Muhammad al-Mardawi (r.a.), as recorded in Kitab al-Inswaf, commenting on the theological position of Imam Ahmad (r.a.) and the Hanbali madzhab, said, “The correct position of the madzhab is that it is permissible in one’s du’a to use as one’s means of a pious person, and it is said that it is desirable.  Imam Ahmad said to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi, ‘Let him use the Prophet (s.a.w.) as a means in his supplication to Allah (s.w.t.).’” This is also cited in Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) Majmu’ al-Fatawa.

Imam adz-Dzahabi (r.a.) wrote, in his Siyar al-A’alam an-Nubala’, that once, there was a drought in Samarqand.  People tried their best; some performed swalat al-istisqa’ but still it did not rain.  A renowned saint, known as Swalih (q.s.), went to the qadhi and suggested they go to the maqam of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) in Khartank and ask for his intercession.  The qadhi agreed, and much of the town, including its important personages, went to the maqam.  He qadhi lead the du’a, and people started to cry near the grave and started to make him a wasilah.  Allah (s.w.t.) immediately Granted their du’a and the rains came.  The people stayed in Khartank for about seven days; none of them wanted to return to Samarqand although the distance between Samarqand and Khartank was only 3 miles.

Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) wrote, in his Diwan, “The family of the Prophet, they are my means in this life and the next.  Through them, I hope to be Given my records in my right hand on the Day of Judgement.”

Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) wrote, in his al-Wafa bi Ahwal li al-Muswthafa’, that Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Minqari (r.a.) said, “I was with ath-Thabarani and Abu ash-Shaykh in the Prophet’s Mosque, in some difficulty.  We became very hungry.  That day and the next, we did not eat.  When it was time for ‘isha’, I went to the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) grave and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, we are hungry, we are hungry.’  Then I left.

Abu ash-Shaykh said to me, ‘Sit.  Either there will be food for us, or death.’  I slept and Abu ash-Shaykh slept.  ath-Thabarani stayed awake, researching something.  Then an ‘Alawi [a descendant of ‘Ali (k.w.)] came knocking at the door with two boys, each one carrying a palm-leaf basket filled with food.  We sat up and ate.  We thought that the children would take back the remainder but they left everything behind.  When we finished, the ‘Alawi said, ‘O people, did you complain to the Prophet?  I saw him in my sleep and he ordered me to bring something to you.’”

Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) wrote, in his Qa’idah al-Jalilah fi at-Tawaswswul wa al-Wasilah, that Imam ibn Abi Dunya (r.a.) recorded in his book, Mujabi ad-Du‘a’, that a person came over to see Shaykh ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Sa‘id ibn Abjar (r.a.), in pain.  Shaykh ‘Abd al-Malik (r.a.) pressed his belly and told him that he was suffering from an incurable disease.  The man asked him, “What is it?”  Shaykh ‘Abd al-Malik (r.a.) replied that it was a kind of ulcer that grows inside the belly and ultimately kills the man.  It is said that the patient turned round and then he said, “Allah!  Allah!  Allah is my Lord.  I regard no one as His rival or partner.  O Allah!  I beseech You and submit myself to You through the mediation of Your Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), the merciful prophet.  O Muhammad!  Through your means I submit myself to your and my Lord that He should have Mercy on me in my state.”

It is said that Shaykh ‘Abd al-Malik (r.a.) pressed his belly again and said, “You are cured; you are no longer suffering from any illness.”

Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), after recording the incident in his book, commented, “I say that this and other forms of supplication have been taken from our pious predecessors.”

Abu Ayyub al-Answari (q.s.) was one of the great companions.  He took part in the battle of Constantinople.  Near the enemy border, he fell ill.  As the illness grew worse, he dictated his will as follows: “When I die, take my dead body with you.  When you line up against the enemy, bury me in your feet.”  The Muslims buried him at the foot of the fort.  People soon came to know the blessings emanating from the grave.  Whatever they prayed for at the grave was immediately Granted.

This is recorded in Imam ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s (r.a.) al-Istiyy’ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Aswhab, where he wrote, “And Abu Ayyub’s grave lies near the ramparts of the fort and everybody knows it.”  He further wrote, “When people pray for rain there, it starts raining.”

Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) described his own experience at the maqam of Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.): “I derive blessing from the Imam Abu Hanifah and I visit his grave every day.  When I face a problem, I offer two rak’ah of prayer and visit his grave and I pray to Allah to Solve my problem.  And I have not even left the place that my problem is solved.”  Khathib al-Baghdadi (r.a.) related the incident with a sound chain of transmission, in his Tarikh al-Baghdadi.  Imam ibn Hajr al-Haytsami (r.a.) recorded this, in al-Khayrat al-Hisan fi Manaqib al-Imam al-A‘azham Abu Hanifah; Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawtsari (r.a.), in Maqalat; and Imam ibn ‘Abidin ash-Shami (r.a.), in Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala Durr al-Mukhtar.

In the incident involving Imam Malik (r.a.), once, the Umayyad caliph, Abu Ja‘far Manswur, visited Madina and he asked Imam Malik (r.a.), “While supplicating, should I turn my face to the qiblah, or should I turn my face to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.),” since they were in opposite directions.

Imam Malik (r.a.) replied, “Why do you turn your face from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), when he is the source of mediation for you and for your ancestor Adam (a.s.) on the Day of Judgement?  Rather you should turn towards the Prophet (s.a.w.) and seek his intercession so that he intercedes for you before Allah on the Day of Judgement.  Allah has Declared:

We Sent not a Messenger but to be obeyed, in accordance with the Will of Allah.  If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah’s Forgiveness and the Messenger had asked Forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. (Surah an-Nisa’:64)”

Qadhi ‘Iyadh (r.a.) narrated this in his ash-Shifa’ with a sound chain of transmission.  It has also been related by Imam as-Subki (r.a.), in Shifa’ as-Siqam fi Ziyarat Khayr al-Anam; Imam as-Samhudi (r.a.), in Khulaswat al-Wafa’; Imam al-Qasthalani (r.a.), in al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah; Imam ibn Jama‘ah (r.a.), in Hidayat as-Salik; and Imam ibn Hajr al-Haytsami (r.a.), in al-Jawhar al-Munazhzham.

In his manaqib of awliya’, Swifat as-Swafwah, he wrote about Shaykh Ibrahim ibn Ishaq al-Harabi (q.s.): “And his grave is open to everyone.  People receive Blessing from it.”  He has also described Adam’s (a.s.) intermediation through the Prophet (s.a.w.) in the first chapter of his al-Wafa bi Ahwal al-Muswthafa.

Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) in his books, al-Iswabah fi Tamyiz asw-Swahabah, and Fath al-Bari, narrated the incident of the man who visited the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) grave for rain through his mediation.

Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.) related the tradition of Adam’s (a.s.) intermediation in ad-Durr al-Mantsur, and al-Khaswa’isw al-Kubra.  Additionally, he narrated it in ar-Riyadh al-Aniqah fi Sharh Asma’ Khayr al-Khaliqah, where he expounded on its soundness by endorsing the opinion of Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.).

Imam al-Qasthalani (r.a.), in al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah, in referencing the intercession of the different categories of awliya’, said, “When ordinary people fall into trouble, first of all, the akhyar supplicate for them, then turn by turn the nobility, abdal, the abrar and the nuqaba.  If their supplication is granted, well and good.  Otherwise, the saint of the highest rank, ghawts, supplicates for them, and before he winds it up, his prayer is Granted.”

Imam ibn Hajr al-Haytsami (r.a.) recorded, in his Fatawa al-Haditsiyyah, the experience of Shaykh Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qurayshi (q.s.) that Allah’s (s.w.t.) friends help people after death just as they helped them in life, and the value of their benefit is not in the least reduced.  Shaykh Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qurayshi (q.s.) said, “A severe drought had enveloped Egypt in its grip and the people’s distress caused by hunger and thirst remained unrelieved in spite of their prayers and supplications.  So I journeyed towards Syria, when I reached near the tomb of Allah’s Friend [Ibrahim (a.s.)].  He met me on the way and I said to him, ‘O Messenger of Allah!  I have come as a guest.  You should show your hospitality in the form of a supplication for the natives of Egypt.’  He prayed for them, so Allah Drove their famine away from them.”

This face-to-face meeting with Ibrahim (a.s.) is affirmed.  Imam Yafi‘i (r.a.) said, “The statement made by Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qurayshi that he had a face-to-face meeting with the Friend is based on truth.  Only an ignorant person can deny it who is unaware of the mode of living and status of the saints because these people observe the earth and the heavens and see the prophets in their living condition.”

Additionally, Imam ibn Hajr al-Haytsami (r.a.) also penned al-Jawhar al-Munazhzham on intermediation.  In it, he said intermediation through the Prophet (s.a.w.) is hasan.  Aside from these, there are thousands more of our pious predecessors who have affirmed the truth of wasilah from ahadits.


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