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Friday, November 16, 2012

True sense of the concept of intermediation (توسل)

Some people are reluctant to pray through the mediation of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) on account of lack of knowledge. They think that praying through mediation is incompatible with praying directly to Allah. This attitude is grounded in a misunderstanding of the Qur’ānic verses, which enjoin upon the believers to pray directly to Allah and to eschew associating partners with Him. As a result of misinterpretation they believe that to approach Allah through an intermediary amounts to a denial of divine unity. This conception is based on ignorance and misunderstanding and we should try to correct it. To approach Allah while praying, through a prophet or a messenger, a holy person or a pious deed, is neither a denial of the oneness of Allah nor is it inconsistent with an unmediated appeal to Him.
In spite of the intermediation, we pray to Allah directly and not to the intermediary. One commits the act of denying Allah only when he, in opposition to Him, regards someone else as the arbitrator of profit and loss, as the absolute power and as the granter of prayers. But the situation here does not warrant any such development. The prayer is submitted only to Allah, and while appealing to Him to grant these needs and desires, the mediation of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), a saintly person or a pious deed is cited because they enjoy Allah’s love and favour and, therefore, He has greater regard for them than for other creatures. So such form of intermediation not only makes the words of prayer more effective but also raises its chances of acceptance by Allah. Now his prayer is not a simple prayer, it is rather a blend of his request and divine love. The urgency of his need combines with Allah’s magnanimity and acquires a holier complexion. It should be noted that the grant of prayers is not contingent on mediation but it definitely expedites their fulfilment. The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself instructed his companions to pray through his mediation as we come to know through a tradition narrated by ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) taught a blind man to pray:
O Allah, I appeal to You, and submit to You through the mediation of the merciful Prophet Muhammad. O Muhammad, through your mediation I submit myself to my Lord to have my need granted. O Allah, acknowledge his intercession in my favour.[5]
‘Umar used to pray for rain through the mediation of the Prophet’s uncle ‘Abbās as is attributed to Anas.[6] Once when Medina was in the grip of a severe drought, ‘Ā’ishah asked some of the Companions and residents of the city to visit the holy Prophet’s grave, and on account of his blessings, it rained in buckets.[7]
In short, this blessed act has been popular and prevalent from the days of Adam (عليه السلام) and other prophets to the period of the holy prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), the Companions and the Successors and right down to the present-day Muslims. Now some people, hopelessly deficient in a correct understanding of dīn, are raising unfounded objections against its efficacy, and treating it as a challenge to the uniqueness of Allah. Therefore, it is imperative that the injunctions of Shariah should be understood in their true essence and perspective so that we do not distort them for lack of knowledge and understanding.

[5]. Ibn Mājah transmitted it in his Sunan, b. of iqāmat-us-salāt was-sunnah fīhā (establishing prayer and its sunnahs), ch.189 (1:441#1385) and declared it sahīh (sound); Tirmidhī in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of da‘awāt (supplications), ch.119 (5:569#3578) and graded it hasan (fair) sahīh (sound) gharīb (unfamiliar or rare); Ahmad bin Hambal in his Musnad (4:138); and Hākim in al-Mustadrak (1:313,519,526-7) and Dhahabī also declared it sahīh (sound). Bukhārī narrated it in at-Tārīkh-ul-kabīr (6:209-10); Nasā’ī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (pp.417-8#658-60); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh (2:225-6#1219); Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:166-7); Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.202#622); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (pp.123,125); Nawawī, al-Adhkār (p.83); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:558-9); Ibn-ul-Athīr, Asad-ul-ghābah (3:571); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (1:473-4); Yūsuf Mizzī, Tuhfat-ul-ashrāf bi-ma‘rifat-il-atrāf (7:236#9760); Suyūtī, Khasā’is-ul-kubrā (2:201); Qastallānī, al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:594); Zurqānī in his Commentary (12:221-2); Ibn Hajar Haythamī, al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam (p.61); and Shawkānī in Tuhfat-udh-dhākirīn (pp.194-5).
[6]. Bukhārī narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of istisqā’ (to invoke Allah for rain at the time of drought) ch.3 (1:342-3#964), and b. of fadā’il-us-sahābah (the virtues of the Companions) ch.11 (3:1360#3507); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (7:110-1#2861); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh (2:337-8#1421); Hākim, al-Mustadrak (3:334); Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr, al-Istī‘āb fī ma‘rifat-il-ashāb (3:97); Bayhaqī in as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (3:352) and Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:147); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (4:409#1165); Nawawī, al-Adhkār (p.80); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.128); Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (2:494); Qastallānī, al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:277); Zurqānī in his Commentary (11:151-3); Shawkānī, Tuhfat-udh-dhākirīn (p.58); and Muhammad Zāhid Kawtharī in his Maqālāt (p.380).
[7]. Dārimī narrated it in ch.15 of the muqaddimah (introduction) to his Sunan (1:43#93); Ibn-ul-Jawzī, al-Wafā’ bi-ahwāl-il-Mustafā (2:801); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.128); Qastallānī, al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:276); and Zurqānī in his Commentary (11:150).

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