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Friday, November 16, 2012

Technical meaning of tawassul (توسل)

tawassul (توسل) carries multiple meanings. It is used in the sense of need, inclination, stature and nearness; three of these senses are consistent with its technical usage:

1. Highest station

Wasīlah is the highest station in Paradise, which is reserved for the intercessor – the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) – on the Day of Judgement. It is usual for Muslims to pray, after the call to prayer, that Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) may obtain this station. It is related to Bukhārī that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself persuaded his followers to offer the following prayer:
Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said as reported by Jābir bin ‘Abdullāh: Anyone who prays after the call to prayer, “O Lord, in exchange for this complete invitation and standing prayer, make Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) a source of intermediation and superiority and appoint him to the highest station in Paradise as promised by You,” my intercession for him on the Day of Judgement will be obligatory.[11]
In this supplication (du‘ā’), al-wasīlah means ‘a spot which is a special grade of excellence in Paradise,’ this is also the highest station reserved for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). Whenever we invoke the mediation of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), we have in mind this specific place in Paradise.

2. Proximity to Allah

The nearness to Allah is in itself a source of intermediation. When a creature comes close to Allah through the perfection of his faith, obedience to His rules and prescriptions, observance of forms of worship, following the sunnah and avoiding sins, this nearness to Allah in itself becomes a source of intermediation. Similarly those who work with sincerity of intention acquire close access to Allah and are elevated to the stature of His favourites. Their sincerity and affiliation keep them steadily glued to the right path and serve as an mediation to counter the tricks of the devil. According to Allah Himself, Satan has sworn to lead the believers astray:
(Satan) said, “I swear by Your honour that I will mislead all of them.”[12]
But he will never be able to mislead those who have attained nearness to Allah.

3. Source of intermediation

All objects, which are a means to attain the nearness of Allah, also serve as sources of intermediation whether they are related to individuals or deeds. The Qur’ān has made it permissible to seek the means of approach, and what is permitted cannot be waived without proper shar‘ī argument or convincing proof. The Qur’ān says:
O believers! Fear Allah and seek means (of approach to) His (presence and to His nearness and accessibility).[13]
This verse does not stress any specific application and includes both acts and individuals. The same verse acts as an explicit justification of intermediation.
Shāh Ismā‘īl Dihlawī interprets the Qur’ānic verse as the direction provided by the spiritual guide:
People who are in search of the true conduct mean by wasīlah a kind of guide. Search for the guide should necessarily precede the hard struggle that is required for the attainment of true success, and Allah has prescribed this method for the seekers of the true path. Therefore, without the direction of the guide, its acquisition is almost impossible.[14]

[11]. Bukhārī, as-Sahīh, b. of adhān (the call to prayer) ch.8 (1:222#589); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of adhān (2:27); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (3:354); Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (2:94; 8:399); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (1:410); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (2:283-4#420); Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of salāt (prayer) ch.4 (1:216#659).
[12]. Qur’ān (Sād) 38:82.
[13]. Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah) 5:35.
[14]. Ismā‘īl Dihlawī, Sirāt mustaqīm (p.58).