Tawassul and wasilah literally mean to make a request or supplicate through a means. It is permissible for one to request Allah Ta’ala to accept his du’a through the medium of some deeds or the rank of certain individuals as this may be closer to acceptance.
There are various forms of tawassul/wasilah:
1. To make tawassul to Almighty Allah that He accepts one’s du’a due to one having performed a certain good deed. This is permissible and unanimously accepted. It is supported by the Hadith of Sahih Bukhari in which three people were trapped in a cave. Each of them made du’a to Allah Ta’ala to move the obstructing rock and they requested Allah Ta’ala to accept their du’as because of some good deed that each of them had done.
2. To make tawassul with the names and attributes of Almighty Allah: This is also permissible and is supported by the following verse, ‘And Allah has beautiful names, so call unto Him through them.’ (Surah A’araf v.180). Example: If someone says, ‘Oh Allah, I ask you through your attributes and beautiful names to grant my specific wish.’
3. To make tawassul to Allah Ta’ala through the rank and position of certain individuals, alive or deceased, in the sight of Almighty Allah This includes the Prophets (‘alaihimus salam), the martyrs and any other pious servant of Allah. For example: If one says, ‘Oh Allah, I beseech you to accept my du’a due to the status of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in Your eyes.’ This form of tawassul is also permissible according to the vast majority of the ‘Ulama (scholars) and it has in fact remained part of their practice.
4. Some scholars even mention a fourth type of tawassul, where a person requests some living pious servant of Allah to make du’a for him: This is also unanimously accepted.
The only type of tawassul that is disputed by some people, is the third one, where one makes tawassul through individuals that are alive or deceased by saying, ‘O Allah, I beseech you to accept my du’a due to the status that Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam (or some other pious person) holds in Your eyes.’ The first opposition against this form of tawassul only surfaced during the 7th century of Islam. (Shifa al Siqam)
Hafiz Sakhawi (rahimahbullah) writes in his acclaimed book: Qawlul Badee’: “Whoever pleads to Allah Ta’ala via the rank of Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and uses his salutations upon Rasulullah (sallallahu ’alayhi wasallam) as his wasilah (intermediary) is definitely granted his wish. Several Scholars have written dedicated books on this topic…”
He writes further: “The number of people whose du’as were accepted after their tawassul through the rank of Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) actually adds to the amount of miracles of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam)”
(Qawlul Badee’, pg.464)
There are numerous proofs that support the permissibility of tawassul through individuals. The following are some of these substantiations:
1. Sayyiduna ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf (radiyallahu ‘anhu) narrates that once a blind person came to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and said, ‘Oh Rasulullah! Ask Allah to cure me.’ Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied, ‘If you wish I will make du’a or else you could be patient and this is better for you.’ The man said, O Messenger of Allah! ‘Make du’a instead’, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) then commanded him to make wudu properly and then recite the following du’a, ‘Oh Allah, verily, I ask of you and I turn to you through your prophet, the prophet of mercy, O Muhammad, verily, I have turned to my Lord through you so that my need be fulfilled. Oh Allah, accept his intercession on my behalf.’
(Musnad Ahmad vol.4 pg.138; Sunan Tirmidhi; Sunan Ibn Majah; Mustadrak Hakim and others)
Imams Tirmidhi, Ibn Khuzaymah and Hakim have classified this Hadith as authentic. The words, ‘I turn to you through your prophet’ clearly prove tawassul through the position of a person. Rasulullah also told him that he should make the same supplication whenever he needed to. (Raddul Muhkamul Matin pg.145)
2. Sayyiduna ‘Uthman Ibn Hunayf (radiyallahu ‘anhu) taught this du’a to someone after the demise of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). That person’s need was also fulfilled.
Abu Umama Ibn Sahl Ibn Hunayf (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that a person requested Sayyiduna ‘Uthman Ibn Affan (radiyallahu ‘anhu) to fulfill his need. Sayyiduna ‘Uthman (radiyallahu ‘anhu) did not attend to him. The person complained to Sayyiduna ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf (radiyallahu ‘anhu) about his plight. Sayyiduna ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf told him to make wudu, go to the masjid, offer two rakats of salah and recite the following du’a: ‘O Allah, verily I ask you and I turn to you through our prophet, the prophet of mercy (Rasulullah sallallahu’alayhi wasallam). O Muhammad! Verily, I have turned to our Lord through you so that He may fulfill my need.’
The person then went to Sayyiduna ‘Uthman ibn Affan radiyallahu ‘anhu who then immediately fulfilled his need and told him to return whenever he had any need in the future.
(Mu’jamus Sagheer vol.1 pg.184; Mu’jamul Kabir vol.9 pg.17; Dala’il Al-Nubuwwa of Imam Bayhaqi vol.6 pg.167-168)
Imam Tabrani has mentioned that this Hadith is authentic. (Mu’jamus Saghir vol.1 pg.184). Allama Mahmud Zahid Al-Kawthari has also classified the chains of Bayhaqi to be sahih (authentic). (Maqalat al-Kawthari pg.391). For a detailed analysis refer to Raddul Muhkamul Matin of Shaykh ‘Abdullah Siddiqui al-Ghumari pgs.141-157; Raf’ al-Manara of Shaykh Mahmud Sa’eed Mamduh pgs.125-131.
3. Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that when the mother of Sayyiduna ‘Ali (radiyallahu ‘anhu) passed away (Fatima bint Asad – radiyallahu ‘anha), Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) made the following du’a before burying her:
‘O Allah, The One who gives life and death, and Who is living and will never die, forgive my mother Fatima bint Asad (radiyallahu ‘anha) and make her proofs known to her, i.e. make the answering of Munkar and Nakir easy, and make her grave spacious for her. (I ask you) through the right of your prophet and all the prophet’s before me, for verily You are Most Merciful.’
(Mu’jamul Awsat vol.1 pg.152; Hilya vol.3 pg.121)
In this narration the words:‘Bi haqqi nabiyyika’ (through the right of your prophet) comprehensively establish Tawassul.
This narration is classified as authentic according to the standards of Imam Ibn Hibban and Hakim. (Raf’ Al-Manarah pg.147; Maqalat Al-Kawthari). Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami (rahimahullah) states that its chain of narrators is good. (Refer to his footnotes on Al-Manasik of Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) pg.500)
4. It is reported in the Hadith that when a person leaves his home for the Masjid, the following du’a is should be recited, ‘Allahummah inni as aluka bi haqqis sa ilina alayka, wa bi haqqi mamshaya haza…’ (Translation: Oh Allah, I ask you through the right of those who ask you and through the right of the act of my walking…)
In this narration, tawassul through people is established with the words: ‘…through the right of those who asks” and tawassul through one’s deeds is supported by the second part.
This Hadith is recorded in Sunan Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad (vol.3 pg.21), Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba and others.
The following Muhaddithun have regarded it as authentic: Imam Ibn Khuzaymah (Kitabut Tawhid pg.17), Hafiz Abdul Ghani al-Maqdisi (al-Nasihah), Hafiz Abul-Hasan al-Maqdisi – teacher of Allama Mundhiri (refer Targhib vol.3 pg.273), Allamah al-Iraqi – Ustadh of Hafiz Ibn Hajar (Takhrij al-Ihya), Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (Nata’ij al-Afkar vol.1 pg.272), Hafiz Dimyati (Al-Matjar al-Rabih). These are six great Muhaddithin that have accepted this Hadith to be authentic. Therefore there remains no doubt at all concerning its acceptability.
The following two proofs illustrate to us the practice of the Sahabah (radiyallahu ‘anhum) as well.
5. Sayyiduna Malik al-Dar, the treasurer of food during the time of Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu), reports that once the people had been experiencing a drought in the era of Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu), a man went to the grave of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and said, ‘O Rasulullah, ask for rain on behalf of your ummah, for verily, they are being destroyed.’ Thereafter this person was instructed in a dream to go to Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) and tell him that, ‘the rains will soon come and say to him, Be intelligent’, When ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) was informed of this, he began to cry and he said, ‘O My Lord, I will only leave out what I am unable to do.’
(Musannaf ibn Abi Shaybah vol.12 pg.31-32; Dala’il Al-nubuwwah of Imam al-Bayhaqi vol.7 pg.47).
Hafiz Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah) has stated that the chain of narrators is ‘good and strong’ (Musnad al-Faruq vol.1 pg.223). Hafiz Ibn Hajar has also indicated to its authenticity in Fath al-Bari.
6. Abul-Jawzaa – Aws ibn ‘Abdullah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that once, the people of Madinah were experiencing a severe drought. They complained to Sayyidatuna ‘Aaishah (radiyallahu ‘anha). She advised them that they should make a hole in the tomb of the roof of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) so that the grave is exposed to the skies. He says, ‘When they made a hole, heavy rains came down which then caused the crops also to grow.’
(Sunan Darimi vol.1 pg.56)
7. Imam Hakim and others have narrated on the authority of Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu) that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, ‘When Adam (‘alaihis salam) ate from the forbidden tree, he said, ‘O My Lord, I ask you through the right of Muhammad that you forgive me.’ The words used were, ‘Bi haqqi Muhammad’ Allah Ta’ala accepted Adam’s (‘alaihis salam) repentance.
(Al-Mustadrak vol.2 pg.615; Dala’il Al-Nubuwwah of Imam al-Bayhaqi vol.5 pg.489; al-Mu’jam al-Saghir of Imam al-Tabrani vol.2 pg.82)
The status of this narration has been extensively disputed by the various Muhaddithin. Some have accepted it to be authentic and others rejected it. However, there is another narration that supports this narration recorded by Imam Abul-Hasan ibn Bishran (rahimahullah) on the authority of Sayyidatuna Maysarah (radiyallahu ‘anha). The chain of narrators for this Hadith is totally different from the previous one. And in fact, Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) has stated concerning a different version of this narration which has the very same chain of narrators, that this chain of narrators is strong. (al-Radd al-Muhkam al-Matin pgs.138-139; al-Ahadeeth Al-Muntaqah pg.14, both of Shaykh ‘Abdullah Siddiqui al-Ghumari). These narrations have all proven beyond a shadow of doubt that this form of tawassul is permissible and was widely practiced as well.
Hereunder follows a list of some of the many illustrious ‘Ulama of the past who had practiced upon tawassul through the rank of the pious, deceased or alive:
1. Imam Hasan ibn Ibrahim al-Hallal (rahimahullah) has stated that whenever he had any urgent need, he would go to the grave of Imam Musa ibn Ja’far (rahimahullah) and make tawassul through him. Allah Ta’ala would fulfill his need. (Refer Tarikh Baghdad)
2. Imam Shafi’i (rahimahullah) would make tawassul at the grave of Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah). (Tarikh Baghdad). Allama al-Kawthari has classified this incident as authentic. (Maqalat al-Kawthari pg.381)
3. Allamah Tajuddin al-Subki (rahimahullah) has mentioned that the people would go to the grave of Imam Ibn Furak (rahimahullah), the teacher of Imam al-Bayhaqi (rahimahullah) and make du’a and their du’as would get accepted.
4. Hafiz Al-Zarkashi (rahimahullah) has made tawassul in the introduction to his commentary to Sahih Bukhari entitled, ‘al-Tanqih’.
5. Hafiz Taqiuddin al-Subki (rahimahullah), the father of Tajuddin al-Subki (rahimahullah), has approved of this firm of tawassul and he has written a detailed treatise on this topic. (See his book: Shifa al-Siqam pgs.293-318)
6. Allamah Nawawi (rahimahullah) has mentioned that from among the etiquettes of visiting the grave of Rasulullah one should make tawassul through Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) to Allah Ta’ala so that he accepts his du’as. Thereafter, Allamah Nawawi states, ‘…and one of the best things that one could do is what has been related by Allamah al-Mawardi (rahimahullah), al-Qadi Abu Tib (rahimahullah) and all our ‘Ulama and they have all regarded it as commendable, and that is the incident of Imam al-‘Utbi (rahimahullah) that he said, ‘I was once seated by the grave side of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), when a Bedouin came and said, ‘Peace be upon you, oh, Messenger of Allah. O Messenger of Allah, I have heard Almighty Allah say in the Qur’an “And if they, when they had been unjust to themselves, had come to you (Muhammad) and begged Allah’s forgiveness and the messenger had begged forgiveness for them, indeed they would have found Allah All-Forgiving. Most Merciful. (Surah Nisa:64) hence, I have come to you in a state that I seek forgiveness of my sins by seeking your intercession by my Lord’, thereafter he recited a few couplets and departed. Imam al-Utabi (rahimahullah) states, ‘I then fell asleep and I saw Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) instructing me by the words, ‘O ‘Utbi, go to that Bedouin and give him the glad tidings that Almighty Allah has forgiven him.’
(Refer al-Majmu’ vol.8 pg.456 and Manasik Imam Nawawi pg.498-499 Maktabah Salafiyyah). This incident has been related by many ‘Ulama in their respective compilations. Some of them are: Hafiz Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir, Allamah Abu Muhammad ibn Qudamah in Al-Mughni vol.3 pg.556, Imam Abul Faraj in Sharhul Kabir, vol.3 pg.495, etc.
7. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahimahullah) has also encouraged making Tawassul through Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in one’s duas. (Fatawa ibn Taimiyyah vol.1 pg.140, Also see Mafahim pg.137)
8. Hafiz Shamsuddeen Al-Sakhawi (rahimahullah), the grand student of Hafiz Ibn Hajr Al-‘Asqalani (rahimahullah) made tawassul on many occasions through Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in his books, see for example Al-Tuhfatul-Latifah vol.1 pg.3, 17; al-Ibtihaj bi Adhkar al-Musafir al-Haajj.
9. Allamah Muhammad Ibnul Jazri (rahimahullah) the famous muhaddith and master of qira’at has mentioned that from amongst the adab (etiquettes) of du’a is that one makes tawassul with the ambiya and the pious ones.(Al-Hisnul Hasin)
10. Al-Shawkani (rahimahullah) has also permitted tawassul. (Tuhfat al-Dhakirin pg.50)
These are ten ‘Ulama of different fields (i.e. some are fuqaha, some muhaddithin and some are qurra’). All have either practiced on tawassul or at least permitted it. And the list could go on. (Refer to Maqalat al-Kawthari pg.378-397). After contemplating on all that was mentioned above, any person with sound intelligence would believe without a shadow of doubt in the permissibility of this form of tawassul.
More so when one realizes that this remained the practice of the ummah for centuries. Allama Taqiuddeen Al-Subki (rahimahullah) and other muhaddithin have stated that Hafiz Ibn-Taimiyyah (rahimahullah) – who passed away in the year 728 Hijri – was the first to refute the permissibility of this form of tawassul (Shifa Al-Siqam pg.293) In fact, Abu-Abdillah Al-Tilmisani Al-Maliki (rahimahullah) (a renown scholar of the 7th century) has written a book highlighting how this remained the practice of the entire ummah since its existence. (Refer Maqalat al-Kawthari pg.397)
Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the above permissibility is in regard to one who asks Allah Ta’ala for a particular need and in doing so, he uses some honourable personality as his wasilah (means) without thinking or believing that the person is being supplicated to or that he will fulfil his need. Yes, if one asks directly from the deceased and he believes that the Ambiya and the pious (rahimahumullah) independently possess the power to provide, then this would be shirk (polytheism) as he is now ascribing partners to Allah in the quality of ‘Providing’.
Many contemporaries have mixed both these forms up;
a) asking directly from the deceased and,
b) asking Allah Alone, through the medium of some deceased) and have passed one ruling of Shirk for both forms.
This is clearly a gross oversight on their path.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.