|Ahl as Sunnah vs the "Salafi" Movement - Tawassul (Using means): Evidence for its Permissibility|
|Radd al Salafiyya - Refutations|
|Written by Al-Shaykh Jamil Effendi al-Siqdi al-Zahawi|
10: Tawassul (Using means): Evidence for its Permissibility
Before plunging into this chapter let us clarify one thing pertaining to what one means by seeking help with the prophets and pious persons and imploring God by means of them. First, they are means and causes to obtain what is intended. Second, God is the true agent of the favor or miracle which comes at their hand, not they themselves, just as true doctrine asserts in the case of other actions: for the knife does not cut by itself but the cutter is God the Exalted, although the agent is the knife in the domain of the customary connection of events. Be that as it may, it is God who creates the cutting.
Al-Subki, al-Qastallani in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya, al-Samhudi in Tarikh al-Madina, and al-Haythami in al-Jawhar al-munazzam said that seeking help with the Prophet and other prophets and pious persons, is only a means of imploring God for the sake of their dignity and honor (bi jahihim). The one doing the asking seeks from the One asked that He assign him aid (ghawth) on behalf of the one higher than him. For the one being asked in reality is God. The Prophet is but the intermediary means (wasita) between the one asking for help and the One asked in reality. Hence, the help is strictly from Him in its creation (khalqan) and being (ijadan), while the help from the Prophet is strictly in respect to secondary causation (tasabbuban) and acquisition from God (kasban).
The most prominent among the scholars of Islam have acknowledged the permissibility of istighatha and tawassul with the Prophet, peace be upon him.ft1 Its permissibility is not contravened by the report of Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, whereby when he said "Rise! [plural], We will seek help with the Messenger of God from this hypocrite," the Prophet said:
"Innahu la yustaghathu bi innama yustaghathu billah"
"Help is not sought with me, it is sought only with God."
Since Ibn Luhay`a is part of its chain of transmission, the discussion of it is well-known.ft1
Were we to suppose that the hadith is sound, it would be of the like of the Qur'anic verse, "You did not throw when you threw, but God threw" (8:17)ft1 and the Prophet said, "I did not bear you but God bore you."ft1 Thus the meaning of the hadith "Help is not sought with me" is:
"(Even if I am the one ostensibly being asked
for help,) I am not the one being asked for help,
in reality God Himself is being asked."
In sum, the term istighatha or "asking for help" applies to whomever the help comes from including in respect to causation and acquisition;ft1 this is what the Arabic means and the Shari`a permits. The hadith "Help is not sought with me" must be interpreted in the light of this. This meaning is supported by the hadith in Sahih al-Bukharift1 touching on intercession on the Day of Resurrection. Such was the help people sought from Adam, then Ibrahim, then Musa, then `Isa, then Muhammad, on him and them be God's blessings and peace.
Now we have come to the point of setting forth the permissibility of tawassul and adducing evidence for it. We find in the Qur'an:
"O ye who believe! Be wary of God and seek al-wasila
-- the means to approach Him" (5:35).
Ibn `Abbas said that al-wasila signifies whatever means one employs to draw close to God. The Wahhabis claim that "means" refers exclusively to actions and this is pure arbitrariness. The manifest and apparent sense (zahir) of the text refers to persons (dhawat) not actions. For God says: ittaqu Allah (Fear God) which conveys the sense of wariness in doing whatever God has ordered and relinquishing whatever He has forbidden. If we interpret "seek the means" in terms of actions, then the order of "seeking the means" would consist in an emphasis (ta'kid) of the command: "Be wary of God." This is different than if "seeking the means" is interpreted to refer to persons. For then the command of taqwa is to actually lay a basis (ta'sis) for one's action and this is better than emphasis.ft1
Again, God says:
"Those unto whom they cry seek for themselves
the means of approach to their Lord, which of
them shall be the nearest" (17:57).
Ibn `Abbas said they are Jesus and his mother, Azrael and the angels. And the commentary on this verse is that the unbelievers worship prophets and angels because they regard them as their lords. Thus God says to them, "Those whom you worship are imploring God by who is nearer. How, then, do you make them lords when they are servants in need of their Lord and imploring Him by One who is higher in rank than they are?"
God also said:
"If they had only, when they were unjust to
themselves, come unto thee and asked God's
forgiveness, and then the Messenger had asked
forgiveness for them, they would have found
God indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful" (4:64).
God has linked their seeking of forgiveness from Him with seeking forgiveness from the Prophet. So in this verse from the Qur'an we have clear evidence of imploring God by means of the Prophet and acceptance of the one that implores Him in this fashion. We understand this also from the statement: "They would have found God Oft-returning, Most Merciful."
Asking forgiveness for his community, you should know, is not tied to his being alive and the hadiths cited shortly indicate this. One cannot say that the verses cited among a definite group of people have no general applicability; for even if they are cited among a definite group while the Prophet was alive, they maintain a general relevance by the generality of the cause occasioning their utterance. So the verses take in whomever satisfies such a description whether he be alive or dead.ft1
Another evidence is the Qur'anic verse: "Now the man of his own people appealed to him [Musa] against his foe" (28:15). Here God attributes a request for help to a creature who is asking someone other than Himself. This is sufficient evidence for the permissibility for asking someone other than God for help.
If someone objects and says that the help being sought in these texts is from someone alive and who has power over his actions, the reply is that attributing the power to him if it is held to issue from him in a fashion independent of Divine assistance is the same as kufr, that is disbelief. And if it is only God's power to be a cause and means, then there is no difference between living and dead. Thus the recipient, alive or dead, possesses the miracle as a token of respect and honor. If the seeking of aid is not related to God literally and to someone else figuratively, the seeking of help is forbidden in either case. From this you know the secret of the Prophet's formal rejection of seeking help from himself when Abu Bakr al-Siddiq said: "Rise! We will ask the Messenger of God for help from this hypocrite" and the Messenger of God said to him: "Help is not sought from me. Help is sought from God" despite the fact that the Prophet was then alive and had power over his actions. He only intended to deny the seeking of help from him literally and in reality. For he wanted to teach his Community that help only can be sought, in reality, from God.
We find another evidence for tawassul in the Qur'anic verse:
"They do not possess intercession save those
who have made a covenant with their Lord" (19:87).
Some of the commentators on Qur'an say that the "covenant" (al-`ahd) is the phrase: "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." The meaning of the verse would be: "Intercessors will not intercede except for those who say: There is no god but God," that is, the believers, like what we find where the Qur'an says: "They only intercede for one who is accepted" (21:28). However, the resulting meaning: they do not possess intercession for anyone except those who made a covenant etc. is far-fetched and somewhat constrained.
The best commentary of God's statement "They do not possess" is "They do not obtain." Then, the expression of the exception "save those who..." is admissible without implying something in addition, and the meaning is asserted: "He does not possess intercession except the one who says: There is no god but God." That is, only the believers intercede. This is like the verse "And those unto whom they call instead of Him possess no power of intercession except him who bears witness to the Truth" (43:86). The bearing witness to the Truth is the phrase: "There is no god but God."
Since what is meant by imploring God with the prophets, the saints, and the pious and by asking them for help is a request for their intercession, and since God has related that they possess intercession, then who can prevent anyone from seeking by permission of God what they possess by permission of God? Thus, it is permissible to ask from them that they give you what God has given to them. The only thing forbidden is asking intercession from idols which do not possess anything at all.
Another evidence is narrated by Ibn Majah with a sound chain of transmission on the authority of Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, may God be pleased with him. He relates that the Messenger of God said: "The one who leaves his house for prayer and then says: "O God, I ask thee by the right of those who ask you and I beseech thee by the right of those who walk this path unto thee, as my going forth bespeak not of levity, pride nor vainglory, nor is done for the sake of repute. I have gone forth solely in the warding off your anger and for the seeking of your pleasure. I ask you, therefore, to grant me refuge from hell fire and to forgive me my sins. For no one forgive sins but yourself." God will look kindly upon him and seventy thousand angels will seek his forgiveness."ft1
In this manner did the Prophet make tawassul when he said "I ask thee by the right of those who ask you," that is, by every believing servant. Moreover, he commanded his Companions to use this prayer when they made du`a and to make tawassul just as he made tawassul. The Pious Ancestors (al-Salaf) of our faith among the Companions' Successors and their Successors continued to use this prayer upon their going out to prayer and no one disavowed them for it.
Among further evidences for the permissibility of tawassul is the occasion when the Prophet said on the authority of Anas ibn Malik: "O God, grant forgiveness to my mother, Fatima Bint Asad, and make vast for her the place of her going inft1 by right of thy Prophet and that of those prophets who came before me" and so on until the end of the hadith. Al-Tabarani relates it in al-Kabir. Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim declare it sound. The "Fatima" referred to here is the mother of Sayyidina `Ali who raised the Prophet. Ibn Abi Shayba on the authority of Jabir relates a similar narrative. Similar also is what Ibn `Abd Al-Barr on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and Abu Nu`aym in his Hilya on the authority of Anas Ibn Malik relate, as al-Hafiz al-Suyuti mentioned in the Jami` al-Kabir.ft1
Also found as evidence: al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasa'i, al-Bayhaqi, and al-Tabarani relate with a sound chain that a blind man came to the Prophet and said: "Pray to God that He relieve me." The Prophet said: "If you wish I will pray, and if you wish you may be patient, and that is better." Then he prayed for him and commanded him to make ablution and do his ablution well and utter this prayer: "O God, I ask you and I address You by Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy. O Muhammad, I address by you my Lord in my need. O God, accept his intercession on my behalf." Then he returned and gained his sight. Al-Bukhari produces this hadith in his Ta'rikh (Biographical History), Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak with a sound chain of transmission. Suyuti in al-Jami' al-Kabir and al-Saghir mentioned it also. It is therefore established that the Prophet commanded the blind man to invoke him and implore God by means of him to accomplish his need.
The Wahhabis may claim that this is only in the life of the Prophet and that it does not provide evidence for the permissibility of imploring God by means of him after death. We answer that this prayer has been used by the Companions and the Successors also after the repose of the Prophet to accomplish their needs. The evidence for this is what al-Tabarani and al-Bayhaqi have related, namely, that a man visited `Uthman ibn `Affan, may God be pleased with him, during the time when he was Caliph, concerning a certain need he had but the noble Commander of the Faithful did not look immediately into it. The man complained to `Uthman Ibn Hunayf who said to him: "Go and make ablution, then go to the mosque and pray in the following manner: "O God, I ask you and address you by your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy. O Muhammad, I address my Lord by you to accomplish my need." Then mention your need." So the man went away and did precisely as he was told and came back to the door of `Uthman ibn `Affan. Then the doorkeeper came to him, took his hand, brought him into the presence of `Uthman and made him to sit down with him. `Uthman said: "Tell me what you need" and he mentioned his need and it was fulfilled. Then the Caliph said to him: "Whatever need you have, mention it to me." When the man went out of his presence he met Ibn Hunayf and said: "May God reward you with good for he would have not looked into my need until you spoke to him for me." But Ibn Hunayf said: "By God I did not speak to him, but I witnessed God's Messenger when the blind man came to him and complained about losing his sight."ft1
Such an act constitutes tawassul and he called upon him after the death of the Prophet on the grounds that the Prophet is living in his grave and his rank is above the rank of the Martyrs whom God has expressly said that they are living, being provided for, with their Lord.
Another evidence for tawassul is what al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Abi Shayba relate with a sound chain of transmission that a drought afflicted the people during the caliphate of `Umar, may God be pleased with him, and Bilal Ibn al-Harth came to the grave of the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of God, ask for rain for your community, for they are being destroyed." Then the Messenger of God came to him in a dream and said to him that they would have water. This evidence of ours is not in the vision of the Prophet. Even if his vision is true, the legal rulings of the Shari`a are not established by dreams, where there is room to cast doubt on the words or perspicuity of the dreamer. The evidence we are citing lies in the action of one of the Companions while that Companion was awake. That is Bilal Ibn al-Harth who came to the grave of the Prophet and called on him and made a request of him to provide his community with rain.ft1
Again, we find evidence in the Sahih of Bukhari from a narration of Anas Ibn Malik from `Umar Ibn al-Khattab in the time when he was Caliph asking for rain by means of al-`Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, when there was a drought in the Year of "Ramada" (the Year of Destruction in 17 A.H.), then they received rain. And in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya of the savant al-Qastallani we find that when `Umar asked `Abbas for rain, he said: "O people, the Messenger of God used to see in al-`Abbas what as son sees in a father," whereupon they followed the Prophet's model in his behavior with al-`Abbas and took the latter as a means to God.
There is no difference in the tawassul or imploring by naming prophets and other pious persons and them being alive or dead because in neither state do they differ in anything whatsoever. In either state, producing an effect on states of affairs is not up to them. Creation, bringing into existence, producing an effect on states of affairs: all of this belongs to God alone, who has no partner in this or anything else. As for the one who believes that producing effects belongs only to the living, it is up to them to differentiate between imploring God for the sake of the living or imploring God for the sake of the dead. For our part we say that God is the Creator of all things regardless, and "God has created you and all you do" (37:96). The Wahhabis who make a great show of their defense of monotheism and permit using only living persons as a means have made themselves fall into the sin of associating a partner with God (shirk) insofar as they believe, in their ignorance, that living beings have an effect upon things when in reality no one produces an effect except God.
Using as means (tawassul), or using as intermediary (tashaffu`), or asking for help (istighatha) a single person: the upshot of all this is the same, the aim of it being only to get blessings (tabarruk) by mentioning the names of beloved servants of God for whose sake God may grant mercy to creation, be they living or dead. The actual author of existence is God alone, they are only customary causes (asbab `adiyya), they produce no effect on their own.