The Difference between Wasilah & Waswilah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

As explained by Shaykh Abdul bin Ghafoor Abdul Raheem, there is a subtle difference betweenالوسيلة , al-wasilah, and الوصيلة, al-waswilah.  The difference betweenالوسيلة , al-wasilah; and الوصيلة, al-waswilah, can be understood by examining their roots.  The first literally refers to a means to something.  For example, a good deed, is aوسيلة , wasilah, by which one reaches for God, a means through which they try to come “close” to Him.  The verb for وسيلة, wasilah, is توسّل, tawassul.

As for الوصيلة, al-waswilah, it relates toوصل , waswal, and means “to connect”.  For example, a person who does good to his relatives and maintains family connections is referred to as aواصل , waswil; or واصلة, wasilah.  One who extends her hair by “connecting” it to false hair is also referred to as a واصلة, wasilah.  We can see here the common denominator in both cases is the act of connecting.

As for الوصيلة, al-waswilah; that occurs in the Qur’an here:

سُوۡرَةُ المَائدة
مَا جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ مِنۢ بَحِيرَةٍ۬ وَلَا سَآٮِٕبَةٍ۬ وَلَا وَصِيلَةٍ۬ وَلَا حَامٍ۬‌ۙ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ يَفۡتَرُونَ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ ٱلۡكَذِبَ‌ۖ وَأَكۡثَرُهُمۡ لَا يَعۡقِلُونَ (١٠٣)

It was not Allah Who instituted (superstitions like those of) a slit-ear she-camel, or a she-camel let loose for free pasture, or idol sacrifices for twin-births in animals, or stallion-camels freed from work; it is blasphemers who invent a lie against Allah, but most of them lack wisdom. (Surah al-Ma’idah:103)

Here, the usage is technical.  It refers to a certain type of cattle that the pre-Islamic Arabs used to set free, their milk or meat is not consumed, for the sake of their idols.  It is variously explained: a she-camel, or an ewe, let loose to water and pasture after having given birth to seven females consecutively.  If the seventh were a pair, a male or female, they were also set free.  Sometimes, it is also explained as a she camel that has given birth to four pairs of females.  The common meaning element that links the technical usage to its literary origin.  In all cases here, “connection” giving birth to one after the other.


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