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Friday, November 16, 2012

Kinds of tawassul (توسل)

tawassul (توسل) may be divided into the following kinds:
  1. at-Tawassul lid-du‘ā’
  2. at-Tawassul fid-du‘ā’
  3. at-Tawassul bid-du‘ā’
  4. at-Tawassul bin-nidā’
  5. at-Tawassul bil-a‘māl-is-sālihah
  6. at-Tawassul bi-āthār-is-sālihīn

1. at-Tawassul lid-du‘ā’

This (kind of intermediation) seeks nearness of Allah through a source approved by Shariah.

2. at-Tawassul fid-du‘ā’

When a need or worry is submitted to Allah for its relief, the help of an intermediary is sought to fulfil the need or remove the worry.

Difference between the two

The first kind of intermediation is a means of drawing near to Allah while the second kind of intermediation serves to fulfil the need of an individual or to eliminate a specific anxiety.

Kinds of tawassul fid-du‘ā’

This kind of intermediation is further divided into two kinds:
  1. Intermediation through words, and
  2. Intermediation without words.

1. Intermediation through words

In this form of intermediation, the name of the intermediary is mentioned (for the acceptance of a prayer and the fulfilment of a need and) to acquire the close access to Allah.
During prayer to Allah, reference to a good deed or a saintly person serves as a kind of intermediation for the acceptance of that prayer. The petitioner does not need to specify the name of the intermediary, a mere reference to him is enough as is endorsed by Bukhārī, which is summarized below:
“During journey, the entrance of the cave closed on them. All the three were virtuous men, one of them prayed to Allah by referring to his kindly treatment of his parents. The second man prayed by suggesting how he had managed to escape committing a sin though it was the easiest thing for him to do. The third man talked about how he had guarded the wages of a labourer for many years and paid him the money after a lapse of considerable time and then prayed. Their prayers were accepted as Allah removed the heavy stone that had closed the entrance of the cave.”

2. Intermediation without words

When a good deed or a sacred place serves as a means of approach at the time of prayer to attain the nearness of Allah, this deed or place is endeared to Him. Even though these are not given a strictly verbal form, they automatically serve as a source of intermediation.
It is also known as intermediation through action. It eliminates the use of the words during prayer. The petitioner either prays in the company of a saintly person or prays at a sacred place or he places a hallowed object in front of him and then prays to Allah for a favourable reception of his prayer.
The first instance of intermediation through action is attested by Zakariyyā’s prayer at Maryam’s place of worship, as it is stated by the Qur’ān:
At this place (Maryam’s place of worship) Zakariyyā prayed to his Lord. He besought, “O my Master, bless me with children who are of sound moral character. There is no doubt that You hear our petitions.”[15]
In this verse, Allah has pinpointed the blessed act of Zakariyyā (عليه السلام). When he observed out-of-season fruit and other prized objects at Maryam’s place who was being groomed by him as a trainee, he chose that particular spot for the submission of his prayer. Allah responded positively to his plea and he was blessed with Yahyā (عليه السلام) especially at a time when it was almost impossible for his wife to conceive a child.
The second example is that of Yūsuf (عليه السلام) dispatching his shirt to his father Ya‘qūb (عليه السلام) for the restoration of his eyesight through the mediation of the shirt. Besides good deeds of the prophets and the righteous people, the relics associated with these personages can also act as instruments of intermediation, a topic that is proposed to be dealt with at length in the course of the book.

3. at-Tawassul bid-du‘ā’

In this kind of intermediation a person who is very close to Allah is requested to pray for the petitioner in order to relieve him of the worries and troubles that have turned his life into sheer torture. When this saintly person raises his hands in prayer, Allah, out of His infinite mercy, does not turn down his request, but acknowledges it as a proof of the fact that He holds His loyal servants so dear. Allah says:
And remember when you said, “O Mūsā, surely we will not remain content with only one kind of food (manna and quail), pray, then, to your Lord for us that He may bring forth for us of what the earth grows – of its herbs, and its cucumbers and its wheat and its lentils and its onions.”[16]
In this verse, the words fad‘u lanā rabbaka (pray, then, to your Lord for us), are the source of intermediation. The followers of Mūsā (عليه السلام) are clearly asking him to pray for them to Allah. Since here tawassul (توسل) is being relied upon through Mūsā’s prayer, this act is known as tawassul bid-du‘ā’.

4. at-Tawassul bin-nidā’

The petitioner himself submits his request to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and uses him as a means in his supplication to seek Allah’s help. When he processes his petition through the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), it becomes a source of intermediation for Allah’s help. Ibn Kathīr says that on the occasion of the battle of Yamāmah, yā Muhammadāh (O Muhammad, help us), was the battle cry of the Muslims. He adds that during the war, Khālid bin Walīd picked up the flag, and passing through the army positions, set out towards the mountain of Musaylimah, the Liar. He waited there for him to turn up so that he could kill him. Then he returned and, standing between the two armies, he shouted:
“I am the son of Walīd. I am the son of ‘Āmir and Zayd.” And then he raised the battle cry current among the Muslims which was “yā Muhammadāh” (O Muhammad, help us).[17]
In this tradition the Muslims are relying on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as a source of intermediation, and the Muslims who are committing this act are the Companions themselves. Thus to use the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as an intermediary was a practice of the Companions. Similarly, it is narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:
Undoubtedly, there are some of Allah’s angels on the earth who are in addition to the guardian angels. They note down each leaf that falls down from a tree. If anyone of you is being tortured in the jungle, you should cry, “O servants of Allah, help me.”[18]
Here, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself and in his own words instructs the Muslims to adopt intermediation as a means of seeking Allah’s help through His angels. He is advising us not to delink ourselves from those who not only believe in Allah but also practice their belief. In case there is no human figure to come to your rescue, you should pray to Allah through the mediation of the angels. Allah will command them to come to your help and fulfil your need. This universe is not a meaningless vacuum as many atheists in their ignorance tend to assume; it is filled with flights of angels though they remain invisible to the naked eye and whenever human beings under duress invoke the help of Allah, the angels practically demonstrate the merciful presence of Allah by meeting human exigencies. Thus the words falyunād a‘īnū ‘ibādallāh are a clear proof that intermediation through the Prophet’s intervention is permissible.
On the Day of Judgement, when the first and the last among the Muslims are in distress on account of the gruelling heat and judgement is yet to be pronounced, they will all rally round the prophets including the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and in their supplication to Allah will ask for their help. The tradition cited in different books bears testimony to the propriety and efficacy of this kind of intermediation. If this is permissible on the Day of Judgement, this should be equally permissible during our stay in this world. This reflects the kind-heartedness and benevolence of the prophets that the believers can depend on their mediation as a means of approach to the infinite mercy of Allah, whether we are on the earth or in the Hereafter.
The text of the tradition is as follows:
Narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Umar that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said, “A person constantly begs from other people till he on the Day of Judgement has no flesh on his face.” He added, “The sun will come closer to the people on the Day of Judgement. It will be so close that half of one’s ear will be drenched in sweat. In this condition, people will first seek the mediation of Adam, then of Mūsā and finally of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).” And ‘Abdullāh – the sub-narrator –added, “Layth narrated to me that Ibn Abū Ja‘far had narrated: He (the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)) will intercede with Allah to judge amongst the people. Then he will leave here until he will hold the arc of the gate of Paradise. On that day, Allah will make him ascend the glorious station and all the people present there will sing his praises.[19]

[15]. Qur’ān (Āl-i-‘Imrān) 3:38.
[16]. Qur’ān (al-Baqarah) 2:61.
[17]. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (5:30).
[18]. Haythamī narrates it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:132) and says that its men are trustworthy.
[19]. Bukhārī, as-Sahīh, b. of zakat (obligatory charity) ch.51 (2:536-7#1405); Tabarānī transmitted it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (9:331#8720); and Haythamī cited it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:371).