Islamic Concept of Intermediation (Tawassul)

Rejection of Objections against Tawassul

In the last chapter I have made reference to only a few verses out of hundreds of Qur’anic verses to explain the concept of tawassul (توسل), which have helped in removing the film of confusion and misconception that had enveloped it over decades of prejudiced and semi-scholarly fumbling. If we reflect on these divine injunctions in the light of a correct understanding of the spirit of our religion, we will not only be able to grasp the crux of Islamic faith but this will also automatically serve to clarify a number of misunderstandings that have gathered round the concept. It will sort out the grain from the chaff, differentiating people with correct and balanced understanding from those whose interpretation is askew and exclusive. In this chapter I shall attempt to answer the baseless objections which have been levelled against the validity of tawassul (توسل) as a religious concept and establish its true meaning in the light of the reasoning furnished by the Qur’an and the hadith. Therefore, this chapter is divided into two sections. In the first section, correct meanings of the Qur’anic verses are given which are made a basis of arguments against tawassul (توسل) through flagrant misinterpretation. In the second section, a correct assessment shall emerge as a result of the form of intermediation followed by the prophets and the saints, particularly in response to an objection, but strictly in the light of the reasoning provided by Shariah.

Section One :

Rectification of doubts and errors

First objection: tawassul (توسل) is not valid through another person

Some people deny the valid status of intermediation through the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) by suggesting that it is not an act performed by the petitioner himself. It is invalid because it is not based on a personal act. These people believe that only a personal good deed can act as a source of intermediation. They cite the following Qur’anic verses to justify the invalidity of intermediation through another person:

Each man gets what he strives for.[1]

And anyone who bears a burden shall not bear the burden of another man.[2]

It is rewarded for whatever good it earned and it is punished for whatever sin it earned.[3]

Correct Stand on tawassul (توسل) through another person

This is based on the valid premise that in addition to the petitioner, another’s act can also serve as a source of intermediation. The Qur’anic verses which are marshalled as arguments against the reality of intermediation are all related to deeds and the reward or punishment for those deeds. They are not related to prayer, the acceptance of prayer and struggle to attain the nearness of Allah by seeking means of approach to Him. In the case of intermediation, a beloved object or a sacred person is offered as a means for the fulfilment of one’s need. But these Qur’anic verses are not even marginally concerned with the theme of intermediation. Therefore, to quote them as a justification for the irrelevance of intermediation is both a logical and a semantic error. Besides, their transposition from one context to the other also leads to their contextual distortion, which amounts to disrespect and sacrilege. In fact, to fit a Qur’anic verse into a preconceived slot is the height of perversity and is not becoming of any well-meaning Muslim.

The verse mentioned first simply means that whatever man receives is a consequence of what he has done. It is a reward or punishment for his actions, it does not involve any other person as it revolves around the acts of a single individual. No other individual, whether he is a relative or a stranger, is associated with these acts. Their commission and their consequences, whether they are favourable or unfavourable, exclusively apply to the individual concerned. While, in a discussion of intermediation, the act and its implications of reward and punishment do not come into the picture at all: it is only related to prayer; and at the time of prayer seeking someone else for its acceptance constitutes an act of intermediation.

Similarly, the second mentioned verse relates to the burden of sin. It highlights the theme of accountability. It means that we all bear burdens but these burdens are our own. They relate to our own selves, to our own errors, and to our own sins, and we cannot bear the burden of others. They are accountable for their sins while we are accountable for our sins. The two kinds of burden are not interchangeable; they are mutually exclusive. Thus the Qur’anic verse transparently applies the process of accountability, which will be based on a comprehensive evaluation of our acts. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the act of intermediation. Therefore, to spin it out unnecessarily and to fit it into the straitjacket of intermediation with which it is not even remotely related, is to disfigure its application, which comes close to a form of heresy.

The third verse relates to commission and consequence. This brief explanation makes it clear that all these Qur’anic verses, from the thematic as well as the semantic point of view, are extraneous to the discussion of intermediation. The following tradition is an irrefutable argument in support of the act of intermediation:

It is attributed to Abū Hurayrah that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: When a person dies, his acts are disconnected but three acts are not disconnected: continuing charity, knowledge that benefits mankind and pious children who pray for him.[4]

From the point of view of the tradition, even death cannot terminate these three human acts and man will continue to receive their reward and recompense even after his death:

  1. The first of these acts is the continuing act of charity. For example, someone constructs a mosque or an educational institution or a road or hospital; or finances a campaign or an organization for the dissemination and resurgence of Islamic faith; or funds a struggle for the welfare of the poor and the needy, he will continue to receive their reward as long as they survive.
  2. Similarly, beneficial knowledge. For example, a scholar teaches someone and he continues to teach others, or he writes a book on religion or some branch of knowledge or does research for any useful work for Allah’s pleasure. As long as his ideas are transmitted to mankind through his pupils and work, and human beings benefit from them or that book remains a part of the syllabi of various universities in the world and the people find it positively rewarding, he will continue to reap the reward of his efforts.
  3. There is an agreement on the continuing act of charity, and beneficial knowledge that they can act as sources of intermediation but the tradition also refers to pious children. They can also serve as an act of continuing charity for their parents. Their good deeds are a source of benefit to the parents even after death. As a matter of fact, the acts of the pious children constitute an act performed by someone else but they serve as a source of intermediation for the parents.

It should be noted here that good deeds are being performed by the children but they are serving as a means of salvation for the parents after their death. This example proves that the act of one man benefits another man. The act of continuing charity was his personal act, which will continue to benefit him as long as the act continues. Similarly, through his knowledge and research, he disseminated virtue and guidance. This was also his personal act and he will continue to receive its reward, both in this world and the next. But the good deeds of his children are not his deeds, and yet he is garnering their reward. Those pious deeds are now serving as the means of the parents’ redemption. Thus, this tradition proves the fact that one’s own good deeds are not the only means of intermediation but the deeds of others can also play this role and benefit the other person.

Second objection: Good deeds of one’s children are not deeds of others

Those who cling to the principle that only one’s own acts are the valid means and the acts of others are invalid as means, interpret the tradition in a different sense altogether. They say that a good child is surely his son and shares his lineage, but it is the upbringing of his father that has turned him into a pious person. Therefore, whatever the son does will be directly considered his own act. Whatever good deeds he performs will automatically benefit his father and, therefore, they will be regarded his own unmediated deeds. And they cite the following tradition as a clinching argument for their interpretation:

Whosoever sets a good precedent in Islam, there is a reward for him for this (act of goodness) and the reward of that also who acted after him according to its subsequence.[5]

Correct view

This is in fact a misinterpretation of the tradition. This is their modus operandi in understanding the import of traditions. They twist their meanings out of shape and focus on the sense that suits their fallacious point of view. It is their normal practice to decontextualize the traditions and dress them in robes tailored by their whims and runaway fancies. Thus the meanings they draw out of the traditions are absolutely unrelated to their themes. If the reader or the listener is mentally alert, he/she will at once come to know the reality of the situation, but a common reader or listener is generally flustered by these misinterpretations.

This is part of their conscious design to mislead the credulous people. The common man, on account of his ignorance and lack of understanding, is easily swayed by their highly capricious, rather malicious, explanations, and treats them as correct interpretations of the Qur’anic verses. In such a state of affairs he will remain a victim of ambiguity or uncertainty unless he turns for clarification to a religious scholar who is gifted with both vision and knowledge to interpret them correctly and in the right spirit in which they were revealed. Allah says:

So you should ask people of knowledge if you yourselves do not know (about something).[6]

It is not being discussed in this tradition whether the good deeds of the children are also the good deeds of the parents or not. What is being discussed is the clear and untwisted fact that the good deeds of the children not only benefit themselves but they also benefit their parents although these have not been performed by them. It makes it further clear that after the death of the parents, children will perform good deeds for their personal benefit alone (which of course is the motive behind these deeds). But their parents will also receive a share of the reward which logically ensues from the commission of good deeds. Similarly, a number of Qur’anic verses are cited by these malevolent scholars to reject the concept of intermediation and to bring home to the gullible people that it is not permissible in Islam. One of these verses is as follows:

And (O beloved,) when My servants ask you about Me, (tell them,) “I am Near. I answer the caller whenever he calls Me. So they should obey and have (firm) faith in Me so that they may find the (right path).”[7]

To draw the inference from this Qur’anic verse that to call anyone except Allah is improper as Allah Himself hears the call and acknowledges it with His blessing, is quite incorrect. The correct position is that it is Allah Alone Who listens to people’s prayers and grants them; it is He Alone Who fulfils our needs. But it is also quite proper to process these prayers through some prophet or saint to expedite their acceptance as it has been debated in the last chapter at length.

The following Qur’anic verses are also offered as argument against the validity of intermediation and intercession:

And fear the day when no soul shall serve as a substitute for another soul, nor shall intercession (of a person) be accepted for it (who does not have Allah’s permission), nor shall any money (as ransom) be taken from it, nor shall (against Allah’s will) they be helped.[8]

You should keep in mind that all the Qur’anic verses, which are supposed to deny the relevance of intercession are meant only for the non-believers and hypocrites who are the fuel of the hell. These are not meant for the believers, as the theme of intercession is relevant only to them. The non-believers are not even marginally concerned with them because the fact of intercession is, first of all, related to belief. And if one is deprived of this precious asset either through perversity or as a result of some divine curse, or if someone possesses it but it fluctuates like the flame of a flickering candle or it is wobbly as jelly, intercession will have no value for him. Therefore, intercession is being devalued or negated for the non-believers. The implication is, and there is sound logic behind it, that when these non-believers do not subscribe even to the basic values of Islam, how can they be expected to appreciate the phenomena like intercession and intermediation. Therefore, the value of intercession is directly based on the value of faith. Since the non-believers reject the faith, it is only logical for them to reject intercession. But the believers accept faith as well as what is derived from it. Thus, on the Day of Judgement, the prophets and the righteous will intercede for their followers, the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) will be appointed to the highest station to make intercession a reality and the non-believers will be wailing and crying in an agony of repentance, ignorance and missed opportunities. As it is stated:

So (today) we have no intercessor nor any bosom friend.[9]

They have no one who will intercede on their behalf, nor anyone who can put in a word of recommendation for them. They are friendless on a day when the need for a friend is agonizingly felt. They are stranded and completely alienated. All they can do is cry and wail. Their cries are a proof of the fact of intercession on the Day of Judgement. If there were no intercession, the non-believers would not have cried; on the other hand, they would have exulted in the baseless expectations of the believers, their cries would have been replaced by fits of ridicule and sarcasm. Thus their moaning and wailing proves the truth of intercession through this Qur’anic verse. It means all the promised and positive things will be there, but the non-believers will look only wistfully at them, as they will be inaccessible to them. Only the believers will benefit from them.

Therefore, to apply the Qur’anic verses to the believers, which were actually revealed for the non-believers and were meant to be applied to them is both improper and perverse. Our sense of propriety demands that we should distinguish between believers and non-believers because it is this basic distinction that decides the division and distribution of rewards and punishments. Therefore, these verses cannot be made as the basis of arguments against the reality of intercession. If intercession is not allowed to the non-believers as a favour and a concession, it does not follow that it is also disallowed to the believers. Thus intercession is a fact but it is exclusively reserved for the believers.

Need for a correct understanding of Qur’anic verses

It is extremely vital to clearly grasp the meanings of Qur’anic verses, especially those which deal with delicate problems. To determine their context and then to explain their genesis and application within these contextual bounds results in a sound interpretation of these verses as well as a clarification of the niggling issues they are revealed to explicate. To fix these bounds of sanity is even more relevant in the present sectarian and polemical environment where each sect tries to browbeat the other sect, and does not hesitate to twist the meaning of a Qur’anic verse out of shape to make his opponent lick the dust. In their sectarian frenzy they do not seem to realize that they are doing a great disservice to their faith. In most cases, their egotistical concerns drive out religious concerns and they bend and twirl the meanings of these verses to pamper their bloated selves. Therefore, in such a situation it is necessary to determine the contextual and semantic range and relevance of a Qur’anic verse. In this regard the collective consensus of sound religious scholars and exegetes should be kept in mind, and any interpretation that strays too far from the text or highlights only marginal issues as a purely innovative exercise, should either be discarded altogether or downplayed to minimize its significance. Such interpretations, posing to be modernistic, are generally inspired by malicious motives to strike at the solid moorings of our faith. Therefore, all such interpretations should be discouraged and one way to discourage them is to be indifferent to them. In this way, the Muslims will learn to follow the correct interpretation and gradually this attitude will moderate the unnecessary tensions that exist between various sects.

Third objection: To attain nearness to Allah, tawassul (توسل) is invalid as worship of anyone except Allah is invalid

One objection against tawassul (توسل) is based on the following reasoning:

The non-believers used to say, while worshipping the idols, that they worshipped them to attain nearness to Allah. Just as worshipping idols in order to be close to Allah is an invalid act, similarly if someone relies on an intermediary to be near to Him, it will also be regarded as invalid. In support of their argument, they offer the following Qur’anic verse:

We worship them merely because they may bring us near to Allah.[10]

This holy verse makes it clear that the non-believers worshipped the idols to attain nearness to Allah; they did not treat them as the creator. It only served as a means of accessibility to Allah but Allah rejected this form of intermediation.

Reply: Worship of non-Allah cannot be proved by the argument for intermediation

The fact is that the Qur’anic verse neither denies nor rejects intermediation. This kind of reasoning against the validity of intermediation is based on sheer ignorance and prejudice. This Qur’anic verse is specifically revealed to reject the worship of anyone except Allah, and no form of reasoning can convert the illegal nature of such an act into a legal injunction. The non-believers worshipped the idols but Islam declared it illegal and equated it with disbelief. When Islam condemned their worship of idols as forbidden, they argued in favour of the sanity of their traditional practice. Instead of accepting their worship of idols as an illegal act as declared by Islam, they started looking for lame justifications, i.e. they did not worship the idols as the creator but they worshipped them to acquire nearness to Allah. They used the idols only as a form of intermediation and their target was only to come close to Allah.

The Qur’anic verse rejects this argument. Even if someone worships non-Allah as a means to come closer to Allah, it is treated by Islam as a kind of disbelief and a forbidden act and no argument can make it valid.

Now the question arises why did the non-believers rely on mediation to legalize their illegal acts? It is an established fact that the one, who is arguing, is arguing on the basis of the beliefs and convictions of his addressee. In his discussion he brings forward an argument which is not only acceptable to his opponent but is also a part of his belief. Relying on this argument, he tries to argue with him so that he may accept the legality of his act on the basis of his argument. On the contrary, if he knows that idol worship is a form of disbelief for the addressee and he has a similar attitude towards all forms of intermediation, in that case, the non-believer would never have relied on idolatry and intermediation as justifications for their idolatrous practice. Therefore, for the non-believers to argue for the legality of their illegal acts on the basis of intermediation is an ugly attempt to legalize the forbidden act of idol worship. They were well aware of the fact that the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and the Companions regarded it as valid practice. If they had known that Islam treated intermediation as an invalid act, they would never have argued with the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and the Companions on its basis to justify their idolatry. Thus the very fact of their reliance on intermediation for the vindication of their idol worship clearly proves that intermediation is a legal act in Islam.

But Allah rejected their argument. Even though the form of intermediation practised by them was popular and valid, it could not transform disbelief into a legal act as all forms of disbelief are strictly forbidden. Thus even an argument based on the noble concept of intermediation cannot purify idolatry from the virus of disbelief. Thus disbelief is disbelief, and even if it takes a billion somersaults, and changes colours like a chameleon, it will remain disbelief. Allah refused to accept the argument in its favour. As the holy Qur'an states:

Surely Allah does not forgive that a partner be associated with Him but a smaller (sin whatever it is,) He forgives for whomsoever He pleases.[11]

He forgives every sin except the sin of associating partners with Him. The commission of this kind of sin is an act, which is unacceptable and unpardonable under all circumstances. Thus the gist of the holy verse is that Allah rejects disbelief, no matter what robes it is dressed in or what language it is phrased in; He does not reject intermediation because it is an absolutely valid act in Islam.

First similitude

Suppose a son is giving shoe beating to his mother. The father catches hold of him and asks him why is he beating up his mother. The son says he would never have done it, as he knows it is an uncivilized act, but he has done it because she was hurling filthy abuses at him. His argument is based on the psychology of his father. He knows that his father is allergic to filthy abuses, and he thought that an argument based on filthy abuses would cool down his father’s boiling anger and he would say to him, “Well, son, you have done the right thing. A person who pours out filthy abuses at others must be given such lesson.” But, instead, he gave him a few slaps and said to him, “There is no doubt that hurling abuses is bad, but after all, she is your mother and you have no right to beat her.” Thus his argument based on abuse was rejected. But the rejection of the argument does not imply that throwing abuses at others is a valid act. It does not justify the act of shoe beating. Similarly, the argument based on its defence is also discarded.

In the same way when the non-believers and infidels were asked, “Why do you worship the idols?” They replied, “We worship them as a form of intermediation, we do not regard them as the creator or as worthy of worship in themselves.” But their argument that justified the worship of non-Allah as a form of intermediation was refuted. Thus their argument in favour of intermediation cannot justify their idol worship.

Second similitude

An impure object cannot be made pure by giving an argument based on a pure object, nor can a forbidden act be legalized by simply fabricating an argument for its justification. Suppose someone says that he drinks. When someone asks him why does he drink and he replies that he drinks to dilute his grief. He can be told that there are countless ways to relieve one’s grief or the intensity of one’s sorrow. Drinking, which is a forbidden act, is not the only way; for example, he may stroll in a garden, do some exercise, inhale the cool morning breeze, remember Allah, concentrate on prayer, in short, he has a wide range of valid choices on hand to find solace for his grief.

Now as far as the argument of finding relief for one’s grief is concerned, it is quite valid but how can it validate the act of drinking? One finds it difficult to swallow the inference. The argument does not mellow the evil act of drinking, the argument based on relief cannot legalize it. Similarly, the argument of the non-believers was fallacious to justify their idolatry. Since idolatry is essentially an un-Islamic act, it could not be justified by any means, not even by an argument grounded in intermediation, which is otherwise an Islamic act.

As far as soliciting nearness to Allah is concerned, there are numerous valid means to achieve it. Idol worship is not a valid means. It is forbidden, as it is a form of disbelief. Therefore, only valid means must be employed to attain the nearness and pleasure of Allah. Idolatry is not a means of His nearness; it is rather the cause of His punishment.

Fourth objection: Prophets and saints were themselves in search of mediation

One objection that flows from their slick tongues as coffee from a press-button percolator is that those who are close to Allah, and on whom we tend to rely as intermediaries, are themselves in search of a means to gain close access to Allah. Since they themselves are looking for support, how can they be expected to support others? On the basis of this reasoning, they declare that reliance on the prophets and the saints as intermediaries is invalid. And to validate their invalid viewpoint they rely on the following Qur’anic verse by misrepresenting its essence:

Those, whom they worship (that is, the angels, jinn, ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and ‘Uzayr (عليه السلام) etc., - they make their portraits and statues and worship them), they (themselves) seek nearness to their Lord, through those who among them are the nearest (to Allah’s presence).[12]

Proof for the justification of tawassul (توسل) in the holy verse

This Qur’anic verse furnishes a strong argument in favour of intermediation. To infer from it that the prophets and the righteous are themselves in search of mediation to have access to Allah and, therefore, they cannot serve as means of nearness to Him is invalid. The question arises if they themselves are pious and, therefore, near to Allah on account of their piety, then what other means are they seeking to possess what they already possess. The answer is provided by the Qur’an itself. Ayyuhum aqrab are the people who are nearer to Allah and the prophets and the righteous rely on them as intermediaries. This shows that intermediation is a graded process. There are those who are the nearest to Allah and there are those who are less near, while still there are others – who are on the periphery. Thus there are different grades of nearness and the process of drawing near to Allah is infinite. Those who are the closest to Him are trying to be still closer and those who are closer to these are trying to be closer to the ones who are the closest to Him. Thus, if intermediation is being practised by Him on intimates, how can it be declared invalid for the common man?

Section Two :

tawassul (توسل) through the prophets and the righteous (In fact tawassul (توسل) through virtuous deeds)

Objection

Those who are against intermediation through the prophets, the righteous and the saints, argue that it is their deeds that particularize them and, therefore, serve as a source of intermediation for them. How can an intermediatee whose own salvation depends on his good deeds serve as a means of redemption for another man? Therefore, only good deeds serve as the basis of intermediation, not the personalities of the righteous people.

Answer

I do not consider this stand as valid. We rely on the prophets, the righteous and the saints and offer them as a means of access to Allah on account of our limitless love and devotion for them. The choice of means is justified only by the presence of love. It is also an established fact that to love those who are near and dear to Allah is in itself a virtuous act and this is obviously an argument which cannot be rebutted by any other argument, no matter how subtle or elaborate or tantalizing it may be.

1. Love of Allah’s favourites as a form of mediation

The petitioner is acting for himself because he loves those whom Allah loves. He is in fact saying: ‘O Lord, I love Your friend, the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and I love the orthodox Caliphs, the Companions, the Successors and their followers, the saints and the righteous. I offer this love to You as the source of intermediation so that You grant my prayer and fulfil my need.’ It means love of Allah’s favoured ones becomes a means of the prayer’s acceptance. There is no doubt that love of Allah’s favourites is not only the fulfilment of a divine command but is also a great virtuous deed. It is narrated by Abū Hurayrah:

Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: When Allah loves some person, He sends for Jibrīl and commands him: Verily, I love such and such person; you should also love him, so Jibrīl loves him as well. Then Jibrīl proclaims in the heavens that Allah loves such and such person; you should also love him. Then the residents of the heavens love him as well. Then his love is sent down to the earth (the world).[13]

First of all, Allah elevated His Own obedient servant to the status of His beloved, then He commanded Jibrīl and all other angels that they should love His servant. The angels, following the divine command, also made him their beloved. In this all the heavenly creatures shared the divine love for His beloved servant. But the matter does not end here. Allah descended this love for His servant down on this earth and then created a niche for the love and popularity of His servant in every heart and every creature fell in love with him. It follows that to love those who are loved by Allah is a divine command. From this point of view this act of loving is in itself a virtuous act in which Allah is not only Himself involved but He has also involved His angels as well as the creatures of the earth. When this act is endorsed not only by the practice of the prophets but also a popular act performed by the creatures of the earth and the heavens, then what could be a better virtuous act in favour of the petitioner.

2. Reciprocal nearness of lover and beloved on the Day of Judgement

True love is that virtuous act which draws the lover increasingly closer to the beloved. It is narrated by Anas bin Mālik:

A person called on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and said to him: O Messenger of Allah, when is the Hour (the Day of Judgement)? The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) stood up for prayer. After performing the prayer he said: where is the person who had asked about the Hour? That person replied: O Messenger of Allah, I am here. He said: what preparation have you made for that (Hour)? He submitted: O Messenger of Allah, I have offered neither many prayers nor kept many fasts, but I know that much that I love Allah and His Messenger. On hearing this, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) commented that (on the Day of Judgement) a person will be with him whom he loves and you will be judged along with him. It is reported that, after accepting Islam, this made the Muslims happier than anything else had made them in the past.[14]

This tradition proves that whereas prayer, fast, zakat and hajj are virtuous acts and their performance entitles a man to a set of rewards, similarly love is also an act of virtue, which results in nearness to his beloved. The words of the tradition themselves endorse love as a virtuous act. When the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) asked the petitioner: what preparation have you made for the Day of Judgement? He replied: ‘O Messenger of Allah! My acts do not include big-ticket deeds like prayer and fast, but the act of loving Allah and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is one of my deeds.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) replied that as each act has a reward, similarly the act of loving has also a reward. A person will be judged along with the man he loves and you will be judged on the Day of Judgement along with the man you love. It means that this man, simply on account of his love for the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), will be judged with him. He will be in the Prophet’s company and this is a promise made by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself and this is Allah’s promise as well. Besides, this promise is not restrictive; it has a general application; it applies to the Companions, the Successors, their followers, even the entire Muslim community.

Love of Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is an act, which not only earns the lover a number of blessings through the agency of his beloved on this earth but also brings him closer to his beloved in the next world. Since the word hubb (love) here is used in a generic sense, it equally applies to all forms and grades of love. Its litmus test is sincerity as insincere love is a travesty of true love and, therefore, not only repulsively hideous but also morally revolting. This comment is vindicated by the words of Anas bin Mālik that after accepting Islam, he had never found the Muslims happier than he found them on hearing this explanation.

This tradition conclusively proves that the love of Allah’s favoured people serves as a source of intermediation for divine blessings. And when the servant prays to Allah, he, in fact, is saying: My Master, the love I have for Your beloved Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and the love I have for the Companions, the Successors and the righteous on account of You, I offer this act of love as mediation to You and request You to grant my such and such need for their sake. The servant’s love for Allah’s favoured ones is an act that enjoys Allah’s blessings and this very act becomes a source of intermediation for the servant.

3. Love for Allah’s lovers is the cause of divine love

The servant, following the divine commands, performs all kinds of worship: he offers prayer, keeps fast, performs hajj and pays zakat. In short, he fulfils all his obligations. These acts have a twofold significance. On the one hand, he is implementing the divine commands; on the other hand, he earns the reward for these acts. The range and scope of these rewards include a place in Paradise for him. But the highest and the most cherished prize is the pleasure of Allah. To secure this prize, he spends every moment of his life in doing things which please Allah. And he does not restrict his remembrance of Allah only to a specific schedule or timetable but it straddles his entire life. No matter where he is, or what he is doing, he never forgets the Lord. The focus of his love or enmity is Allah Alone. The following tradition is about such lovers of Allah:

It is narrated by Mu‘ādh bin Jabal that he heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) saying:

Allah the Exalted and Almighty said: My love has been made obligatory for those two persons who love each other on My count and spend time together for My sake, and see each other for My sake and give money to each other generously for My sake.[15]

Allah states in this tradition: those of My servants who love one another on My count, and also love those who love one another for My sake, then My love for them becomes mandatory and obligatory. I own them as my beloveds. Their object is not any ulterior gain. They spend time together in search of My pleasure. They spend money because they want only to please Me and not to display their riches and they call on each other, not out of any personal or selfish motive, but only out of their love for Me. Such are the people who deserve My love and uncounted blessings. Now a petitioner loves the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), members of the Prophet’s family, the Companions, the saints and the righteous people simply because the basis of his love is the love of Allah. By loving these people, he himself in return is loved by Allah. Thus all these forms are various links in the chain of love which is ultimately the love of Allah, and these expressions and acts of love eventually draw him closer to Allah and he acquires a favoured status. Thus the petitioner’s act of love is regarded by Allah as a virtuous as well as a favourite act and it is graded higher than the other virtuous acts mainly because in this act the Lord Himself is one of the participants and it is uncertain whether the other acts will find divine acceptance or not. But love of the saints and the favourites of Allah is an act which transforms the petitioner into Allah’s beloved. In this way its acceptance is guaranteed.

4. Love for the sake of Allah results in higher grades

Love of the servants of Allah brings one not only nearer to Him but also helps him in securing higher grades.

It is narrated by ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Among Allah’s servants there are some who are neither prophets nor martyrs but on the Day of Judgement the prophets and the martyrs will envy their grades. The Companions asked: O Messenger of Allah, tell us, who are those people? He replied: ‘those are the people who love one another on Allah’s count. They are neither related to one another nor do they have any property to exchange. I swear on Allah that they will have faces of light, they will be on pulpits of light. They will not have any fear when others will be afraid, they will not have any grief when others will be aggrieved.’ Then he recited the verse: Beware! No doubt, there is no fear for the friends of Allah nor shall they be sad and sorrowful. [Qur’an (Yūnus) 10:62].[16]

On the Day of Judgement when people will be scrambling selfishly for personal safety and survival, everybody will be overawed by the overwhelming presence of Allah, there will be a few people untouched by this pushing, shoving and jostling. They will be content and an unbelievable serenity will be visible on their faces. Everyone will envy their unruffled calmness; even the prophets and the saints will be deeply impressed by the halo of tranquillity hovering around their faces. Their highly-graded position will be a feast for every eye. The Companions asked in amazement: O Messenger of Allah, who are these people? The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) replied: these are the people who love one another and the basis of their mutual love is neither blood relationship nor abundance of wealth, they love one another only for the sake of Allah. Thus the basis of their love is in fact their shared love of Allah. Their rewards and grades derive directly from this source. On this day their faces will emit rays of light and they will be seated on pulpits of light.

The tradition has clearly established the fact that people who love one another simply because they love Allah deserve high rewards and grades on the Day of Judgement and they will receive these precious gifts through the mediation of Allah’s favourites because their love of these intimate friends is based fundamentally on their love of Allah from which basic source it draws its strength and influence.

5. Love of Allah’s friends is the cause of Allah’s love

Love of holy men and saints is an act which earns the servant not only the love of Allah but also draws him closer to Him.

It is reported by Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

If two persons love each other on Allah’s count, and if one of them is in the east and the other in the west, Allah will bring them together on the Day of Resurrection and He will say: This is the man you loved on my count.[17]

It is now established that intermediation through the prophets, the holy persons and the saints is quite valid whether it is by invoking their name in prayer, or by physical presence in their companionship or through expressions of love for them. This act of intermediation is correct and legally permissible. A detailed discussion on this issue will be found in the sixth chapter. For the time being, in the light of Qur’anic injunctions and relevant traditions, it should be kept in mind that intermediation through the servants of Allah, who are His favourites and who are the righteous, is quite valid and is compatible with Islamic teachings. The doubts and objections expressed against this form of intermediation are baseless and grounded in prejudice. People who oppose intermediation through Allah’s favourites and holy men need to revamp the very basis of their faith. I have made it clear that we rely on holy persons as sources of intermediation on account of our love for them and loving a holy person is in itself a virtuous act. Therefore, intermediation through these holy men is in fact intermediation through virtuous deeds and this kind of intermediation based on righteous deeds is universally permissible in Islam.






[1]. Qur’an (an-Najm) 53:39.

[2]. Qur’an (al-An‘ām) 6:164.

[3]. Qur’an (al-Baqarah) 2:286.

[4]. Muslim narrated it in his as-Sahīh, b. of wasiyyah (will) ch.3 (3:1255#1631); Abū Dāwūd in Sunan, b. of wasāyā (wills and testaments), 3:117 (#2880); Nasā’ī in Sunan, b. of wasāyā (6:251); Tirmidhī in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of akhām (judgements) ch.36 (3:660#1376) and graded it hasan (fair) and sahīh (sound); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (2:372); Bayhaqī in as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (6:278); Baghawī in Sharh-us-sunnah (1:300#139) and declared it sahīh; and Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ‘ilm (knowledge), 1:104 (#203).

[5]. Muslim, as-Sahīh b. of zakat (obligatory charity) ch.20 (2:705#1017); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:357 & 359); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (4:175); and Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (13:302).

[6]. Qur’an (an-Nahl) 16:43.

[7]. Qur’an (al-Baqarah) 2:186.

[8]. Qur’an (al-Baqarah) 2:48.

[9]. Qur’an (ash-Shu‘arā’) 26:100-1.

[10]. Qur’an (az-Zumar) 39:3.

[11]. Qur’an (an-Nisā’) 4:48.

[12]. Qur’an (al-Isrā’) 17:57.

[13]. Muslim transmitted it in his as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, good manners and joining of the ties of relationship) ch.48 (4:2030#2637); Bakhārī narrated it at three places in his as-Sahīh: b. of bad’-ul-khalq (beginning of creation) ch.6 (3:1175#3037), b. of adab (good manners) ch.41 (5:2246#5693), and b. of tawhīd (Islamic monotheism) ch.33 (6:2721#7047); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (2:413); Mālik bin Anas in al-Muwattā, b. of sha‘ar (hair) ch.5 (2:953#15); and Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ādāb (good manners) ch.16 (3:74#5005).

[14]. Tirmidhī narrated it in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of zuhd (piety) ch.50 (4:595#2385), and graded it sahīh (sound); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (3:104, 168, 178, 200); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (1:182, 308-9#8,105; 16:345#7348); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (13:60-4#3475-9). Bukhārī also narrated it with different words in his as-Sahīh, b. of fadā’il-us-sahābah (merits of the Companions) ch.6 (3:1349#3485), b. of adab (good manners) ch.95, 96 (5:2282-3#5815-9), and b. of ahkām (judgements) ch.10 (6:2615#6734); Muslim in as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, good manners and joining of the ties of relationship) ch.50 (4:2032-3#2639); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (3:110,165,167,172,173,207,208,255,276); ‘Abd-ur-Razzāq, al-Musannaf (11:199#20317); Humaydī, Musnad (2:502#1190); Ibn Abū Shaybah, al-Musannaf (15:169#19407); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (5:144#2758; 6: 36,256#3280-1, 3557); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (2:323-4#563-5); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (3:183#3061); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (1:380,387#462,498; 2:130-1#1379); and Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of adab (good manners) ch.16 (3:75#5009).

[15]. This sahīh (sound) hadith narrated by Mālik bin Anas in al-Muwattā, b. of sha‘ar (hair) ch.5 (2:954#16), and Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr said its chain is good. Ahmad bin Hambal also transmitted it in his Musnad (5:233); Hākim in al-Mustadrak (4:169), who graded it sahīh, and also confirmed by Dhahabī; Baghawī in Sharh-us-sunnah, (13:49-50#3463); Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī in Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ādāb (good manners) ch.16 (3:75#5011).

[16]. Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of ijārah (wages) 3:288 (#3527); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān, (6:486#8998,8999); Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of adab (good manners) ch.16 (3:75-6#5012).

[17]. Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān, (6:492#9022); Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of ādāb (good manners) ch.16 (3:77#5024); ‘Alā’-ud-Dīn ‘Alī, Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (9:4#24646).

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