Islamic Concept of Intermediation (Tawassul)

The Doctrine of Tawassul (In the Light of Sacred Traditions)

Purging disbelief in Muhammad's followers

Allah has conferred infinite blessings on the followers of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). One of these blessings is their impossibility to return to disbelief after embracing Islam. It happened in the past that the followers of a particular prophet returned to their earlier state of ignorance and disbelief after his death. But this shall not happen to the followers of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). The Prophet of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in the last days of his earthly sojourn had himself declared that he had no fears that his followers will relapse into disbelief after his death. As Muslims, we should reflect on his words. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) who was sent to this world to quash disbelief and all forms of impermissible innovation, who is our primary source of guidance and who is our ultimate means of salvation, is saying that he has no doubts lurking in his mind about their steady and irreversible belief, while we are hurling allegations of disbelief at one another to cater to our false sense of superiority or to pamper our egotism based on prejudice and sheer stubbornness. What could be more unfortunate than this mutual incrimination?

It is narrated in a tradition:

‘Uqbah bin ‘Āmir has narrated: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) one day went to (Uhud) and offered prayer for the natives (martyrs) of Uhud as it is (generally) offered for the dead. Then he returned to the pulpit and said: I am your forerunner and I am a witness on you. By Allah! I am right now seeing the basin of my fountain (kawthar), and I have been handed over the keys of the treasures of the earth (or the keys of the earth). I swear on Allah, I have no fears that after me you will return to disbelief but I am apprehensive that you will try to outdo each other in acquiring worldly goods.[1]

This is a statement made by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself. He has sworn on Allah about his followers that they will not revert to disbelief. The Prophet’s words call for deep reflection and serious soul-searching. We brush aside the Prophet’s statement when we accuse one another of disbelief. This tradition has been reproduced by Imam Muslim[2] and Imam Ahmad bin Hambal[3]. Repeated references to this tradition by people of such calibre and prestige, and our dogged defiance of its contents are nothing but harrowing unawareness of the real spirit of our faith.

Intermediation, which has been established as a valid act in Islam by countless Qur’ānic injunctions and authentic and certified traditions and which has been practised by the large majority of Muslims, is now turned into a matter of dispute and controversy, and is now being used as a convenient ploy to not only indulge in incriminating one another in disbelief but also to give vent to our personal frustrations. If we care to reflect on his words and statements, we will come to realize that to insist on the illegality of intermediation, either as a doctrine or in some of its actual applications, especially when its legality has been conclusively established both by the Qur’ān and the hadith, is nothing but religious perversity. Tens of statements made by the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) are witness to the fact that to rely on valid forms of intermediation in order to come closer to Allah is quite consistent with Qur’ānic commands and the Prophet’s statements.

As it is reported by ‘Amr bin Shu‘ayb that his grandfather says: we were present in the company of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) when messengers from Hawāzin tribe came and said: O Muhammad! We belong to the same origin and tribe, and the trouble we are facing is not hidden from you, therefore, have mercy on us. The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) replied: opt one of the two choices; either take away your property and wealth or have your women freed. They opted for their women and children. Then the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) added: as far as my share and the share of ‘Abd-ul-Muttalib and his children (in the spoils) is concerned, I have already given it to you. But when I have performed the noon prayer, you should all stand up and say:

Through the means of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) we seek help for our women and children from believers (or Muslims).[4]

The narrator says that when people had finished their prayer, they repeated the same words as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) had advised them. Now these words were uttered by the sacred tongue of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself and he uttered them in the form of a command. Therefore, this tradition furnishes a cogent justification for the act of intermediation.

In the following pages I will draw upon some of the statements made by the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), which clearly prove that intermediation is neither a form of disbelief nor a forbidden act. On the contrary, it is quite valid and one of the permissible ways to seek the nearness of Allah.

Section One :

Intermediation through good deeds

Good deeds are called virtues. To pray through the means of these deeds, “O Allah, through my particular act which I performed purely for Your pleasure, I beseech You that my need be fulfilled,” is quite valid. A few statements that support the act of intermediation are given below:

1. Deliverance from trouble through mediation

A tradition recorded in as-Sahīhayn[5] furnishes clear evidence of the use of intermediation through virtuous deeds which delivers individuals from tension and anxiety or from an actual calamity. ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Umar cites the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to have said:

Once upon a time three travellers were passing through a jungle. All of a sudden the sky was overcast with jet-black clouds. They were thinking of seeking shelter that it began to rain in buckets. They had no other choice but to take shelter in a cave. So they scraped into the cave. The entrance of the cave was quite small. Suddenly a heavy stone came sliding down and covered the entrance. They were trapped inside the cave. They could not move the stone even with their collective might. Therefore, they lost all hope of survival. They felt that the cave would prove to be their grave.

The three of them were religious persons and had an optimistic outlook on life. They had complete faith in the glory and grandeur of God, so the spell of hopelessness did not last long. They chuckled to themselves as they thought of a plan. The clouds of frustration rolled away. Since the plan derived from their strong religious conviction, they readily decided to implement it. They said to one another: there is only one-way to escape the present crunch. We should offer to Allah as a form of intermediation the acts we have performed for His exclusive pleasure and implore Him through their blessings. They said:

Remember the deeds you performed purely for (the pleasure of) Allah, then pray through them to Allah. He may open it (and deliver you from this calamity).

Since the plan was sound and suited the occasion, they all expressed willingness to put it into action. Each one of them offered his virtuous acts turn by turn and using it as a form of mediation, prayed to Allah to deliver them from their misery.

The virtuous act of the first man—Service of parents

One of them related his virtuous act in this way: O Lord, my parents were very old and weak. I considered it my duty to serve them sincerely. I worked hard the whole day. When I returned home, first of all I milked the cow and served the milk to my mother and father. Then I attended to my wife and children and other people. This was my daily routine. One day I was delayed and arrived home late. My mother and father had waited themselves to sleep. However, I milked the cow, poured the milk into a cup and stood by their bedside. I did not like to disturb them in their sleep as I respected them too much; at the same time I could not bear to feed my children before feeding them (my parents) first. Thus I stood there, holding the cup in my hand that I will make them drink it as soon as they woke up. My wee little children kept crying and sobbing bitterly but I ignored it and did not like to break my principle, and in this very state of tension, the night lapsed into day.

(O Allah,) You know it. If I had done this deed purely for Your pleasure, then remove the stone from the entrance so that we can see the sky.

As soon as he ended his prayer, the stone slid a little on one side and the sky appeared, but the gap was not wide enough to let a man pass through.

The virtuous act of the second man—Self-purity

The second person narrates his act in these words: I was emotionally attached with my first cousin but that pure and innocent girl was completely unaware of my feelings. She snubbed me once when I tried to convey to her my emotional plight and after that I never dared do so.

Then once there was a severe drought. The shadows of poverty and hunger began to hover around her. Driven by starvation, that innocent girl came over to me and sought my help. I decided to take undue advantage of her helplessness; I seduced her as she was in a vulnerable condition. I piled up a big sum of 100 dinars in front of her and she half-willingly agreed to cater to my emotions. When I tried to give it a practical shape, tears welled up in her eyes. She became restless with shock and said: don’t be cruel and don’t take undue advantage of my helplessness. Fear Allah and don’t make this immoral move. On hearing her words, my hair stood on their ends and, on account of fear of the Lord, the organs of my body began to tremble. My evil intentions were buried and the human being sleeping inside me became awake. I left her there and did not pick up the money either.

O Allah, if, in Your knowledge, I did so only to seek Your pleasure and if You like my act, then You should open our way (so that we can look at the world outside).

As he ended the prayer, the stone slid a little farther but the gap was still not wide enough for them to come out.

The virtuous act of the third man—To return to the deserving what belongs to him

The third man offers his good deed as his mediation in this way: O Lord, once I had employed a few labourers. I paid their wages as soon as they completed their work. But one of the labourers, for no apparent reason, did not take his wages and went away. His wage was a measure of rice. I planted the rice and when the paddy was blooming, I sold it and bought a goat with the money I made out of the bargain. Through Your blessing, more goats were born out of her. Then I bought a cow and through Your blessing the number of cows multiplied. Thus with the help of a labourer’s wages, there were so many cattle that the valley was filled with them and I had to keep a shepherd to look after those animals. One day the same labourer returned and said to me:

“Fear Allah, don’t be cruel and pay me my wages.” Then I said (to him), “Go and take those cows and their shepherd.”

He said, “Fear Allah and do not ridicule me.” I told him everything with a grim face and he went away with all the goods.

(O Lord,) if I did all this for Your pleasure alone, then, through its blessing, deliver us from this trouble and remove the remaining part (of the stone from the entrance of the cave so that we could come out of it).

As soon as their prayer ended, Allah granted it unhesitatingly, and their virtuous acts changed their dark night of disappointment into a bright day of hope. Through them, they received a new lease of life. Since the basis of their good deeds was the pleasure of Allah, He granted their prayer and the stone at the entrance of the cave skidded aside and all three of them slipped out of it easily and comfortably and went on their way.[6]

2. Prayer as mediation

Five-time prayer is mandatory for every Muslim. It is a pious act through which the servant practically demonstrates his servitude to Allah in a state of prostration. Since Allah likes humility in his servants, prayer is a form of worship, which represents the climax of humility. That is why Allah loves the act of prayer very much. Allah condones the lapses of His servants through the means and blessing of prayer.

It is narrated by Abū Hurayrah that the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Tell me if someone among you has a canal at his doorstep, and he has a bath in it five times a day, will any speck of dirt remain on his body? The audience replied: No dirt will remain on his body. He said: The same applies to five prayers. God erases sins through their (blessings and means).[7]

Here five prayers are acting as a form of mediation. Through them, man achieves his salvation:

3. Nearness of Allah through voluntary prayer

The purpose of a true believer is to seek access to the nearness and pleasure of his real Lord and Master, and the servant gains the nearness as well as the pleasure of his Lord through optional prayers (nawāfil). It means the servant attains the nearness of the Lord through the mediation of optional cycles of prayer.

It is attributed to Abū Hurayrah that Allah says in a divine hadith:

And My servant keeps coming closer to Me through his voluntary acts of prayer until I love him. So when I love him: I become his sense of hearing with which he hears and I become his sense of sight with which he sees and I become his hand with which he holds and I become his leg with which he walks.[8]

4. Deliverance from the hellfire through better upbringing of daughters

During the era of ignorance, people generally disfavoured their daughters. At the birth of a daughter, they felt extremely worried. The Qur’ān has very clearly depicted their typical attitude: whenever someone is given the glad tidings of the birth of a daughter, his face becomes black with anger.[9] This is how the non-believers expressed their disapproval on the birth of their daughters. But Islam placed the fair sex on such a pedestal as is simply inconceivable in any other social system. Mother, sister, daughter and wife, all are sacred relations. Islam not only sanctified these bonds but also spelled out an unmistakable reward for all those who practically realize the value and sanctity of these relations, that is, who protect them and bring them up decently. We realize from a number of statements made by the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), that proper upbringing and education of the daughters is such a virtuous act that it serves as a form of mediation for the parents and delivers them from the fire of Hell. It is narrated by ‘Ā’ishah:

A woman came to see me (and) she had two daughters with her. She had come to beg something from me but she found nothing with me except a date. I gave the same to her. She divided the date between her two daughters. Then she stood up and left. (After this,) the Holy Prophet came over. I related to him the whole story. Then he said: Whoso was tested through the daughters and he treated them well, then this will turn for him into a veil against Hell.[10]

5. Deliverance from punishment through the mediation of the penitent

To worship Allah, to love one another for the sake of Allah, and remember Him while others are sleeping, are such virtuous acts, which are highly favoured by Allah. Those who are penitent and ask for His forgiveness in the silence of the nights are His favourites and through the blessing of their mediation, He delivers other creatures from punishment though otherwise they might have ended up in Hell.

It is attributed to Anas bin Mālik that once the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Verily, Allah the Glorious says, “Surely I want to punish the residents of the earth but when I look at the people who populate My places of worship, who love one another for My sake and who ask for forgiveness in the later part of the night, then I turn (My wrath) away from them.[11]

Section Two

Mediation in supplication

1. Intermediation through Allah’s names and attributes

Just as the acts of a petitioner serve as a form of mediation for the redress of his ills and problems, similarly a reference to Allah’s various names becomes a means for the acceptance of his supplication. The theme of the initial verses of surah al-Fātihah, for instance, is focused on the praise and glorification of the Lord:

All praise is for Allah Who is the Lord of all the worlds, (and) is infinitely Kind and Merciful, (and) is the Master of the Day of Judgement.[12]

After enumerating the praises of Allah, the petitioner places before Him his request:

(O Allah,) we worship only You and we seek only Your help.[13]

This is the relationship of service, the bond of servitude. The servant affirms not only his own low status, but also the highest status of Allah Who is Unique and Unrivalled, and in his prayer based on humility and self-negation, he seeks His help.

Here the question arises why worship has been given precedence over help? An act of worship can be performed only with Allah’s blessing. Without His help, it remains unrealised. Therefore, the order of priority should have been reversed. First of all, Allah’s help should have been sought and then with His help the servant should have engaged himself in worship, so the request for help should have preceded the request for worship. But Allah’s commands have logic of their own and this is inherently built in the divine statements. Sometimes they appear to defy human expectation, which is invariably superficial and scratches only surfaces. But the divine logic is deep, and in order to realize its depth, one has to shed this casual sense of expectation. This is in fact the privilege of those human beings who are deeply impressed by divine logic and who staunchly believe that all divine utterances are logically justified as they appeal to our deeper sense of wisdom. Thus the answer to this question has been furnished by Imam Baydāwī while interpreting the verse. He says that the act of worship precedes the act of help to facilitate the acceptance of prayer. This also shows Allah’s concern for His creatures; it is, in addition, the expression of His pervasive and extensive sympathy for His servants that He Himself is showing them the light to make their prayers effective:

And worship has been given precedence over the request for help so that a sense of compatibility is created between the last letters of the verses. Besides, it also suggests that the means (of worship) is given precedence over the request (for help) so that it may be granted.[14]

Then the prayer is followed by another request:

Show us the right path.[15]

The servant, through his mediation as a servant of Allah, implores Him for guidance. Thus a reference to Allah’s names, to the words that describe his own status as His servant, and to his request for guidance, serve as a source of intermediation for the acceptance of his prayer. The servant, by referring to the names of Allah and by lowering his own status to the trough of the wave and confessing his own faults and weakness, prays to Allah and this prayer acts as a form of mediation for the immediate fulfilment of his need or the elimination of his problem.

2. Prayer through the mediation of Allah’s Personal names

Sometimes we use the personal names of Allah as a kind of mediation to process our petition and to ensure its effectiveness. This form of intermediation has been validated by the Prophet’s own practice and it is supported, inter alia, by a tradition reported by Ibn Mājah. The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

O my Lord: I beg from You through the means of Your being Allah.[16]

3. Prayer through the mediation of divine acts and attributes

Sometimes an act or attribute of Allah is invoked in the prayer as a form of mediation, as it is endorsed by a tradition of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). This prayer is attributed to him:

O Allah! I seek refuge in Your pleasure against Your wrath, and in Your exemption against Your punishment.[17]

These traditions clearly establish the fact that it is quite valid to beg Allah’s protection and help for the fulfilment of one’s needs through the mediation of His Acts and Attributes.

4. Intermediation through the Prophet’s high station

The prayer for the Prophet’s appointment to his high station and to use it as mediation earns one not only Allah’s blessings but also guarantees the Prophet’s intercession for him on the Day of Judgement. The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

When you hear a mu’adhdhin calling out for prayer, you should also say what he says, then send blessings on me. Surely, whoso sends blessings on me (once), Allah sends His mercy on him ten times. Then ask Allah for the wasīlah to be granted to me. It is a position in Paradise which is reserved for His special servant and I’m hopeful that I’m that special servant. So anyone who asks (Allah) the wasīlah for me, my intercession for him will be obligatory (on the Day of Judgement).[18]

If someone sends salutations on the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) once, he is rewarded with Allah’s mercy ten times. And similarly if someone prays to Allah for appointing the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to the promised high station in Paradise, that person is entitled to his intercession on the Day of Judgement.

5. Sending blessings on the Prophet (SAW) as mediation for the acceptance of prayer

Sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is highly cherished by Allah. The popularity and propriety of this act can be gauged from the fact that even if the person who is performing it happens to be a confirmed liar and a dyed-in-the-wool sinner, his act is not rejected. When he sends salutations on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), it is not only appreciated by Allah but is also given proper recognition.

One may ask what is the justification for accepting salutations on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) from a person who is generally known as a blackguard and a sinner. The answer is that this act carries a variety of meanings, some of which are given below.

For example, to send mercy, to confer nearness on someone, to mention someone at a highly audible pitch of voice and to give blessing. Now if we reflect on these meanings, we come to realize that none of these blessings were denied to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم); he already possessed all of them. Allah’s blessings are being showered on him all the time and it is a continuous act. These blessings were showered on him at the beginning of time and will continue to visit him till the end of time, and there is no possibility whatsoever of the termination of this process. As far as nearness is concerned, the night of ascension is the most authentic witness to this phenomenon when all the distances between Allah and His beloved evaporated into thin air:

So when the distance between them was of two bow-lengths or even less than that.[19]

When this is the state of union during a single night, who could compute the grades of nearness which are being conferred on him without break or interruption. The height and glory of his stature is also unmatched. So the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) already embodies the entire spectrum of meanings associated with sending blessings on him. Therefore, when man sends his blessings on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), he is in fact saying: O Allah, send blessings on Your beloved. Allah says: O my servant, I am already sending blessings on him, conferring My mercy on him, glorifying him and drawing continuously closer to him. You need not stress it, it is already in process. Since you have not asked anything for yourself, you have not prayed for wealth and children, you have not prayed for recuperation from illness, and there is no personal motive behind your prayer but you have only expressed blessings for My beloved and implored Me to send these blessings on him, so I grant your prayer.

Since the process is going on even before the prayer, therefore, even if the person who is sending blessings on him happens to be a sinner, his prayer is accepted. This is the reason that this act is absolutely acceptable and, therefore, totally immune to any form of rejection or disinclination.

How to turn presumptuous worship into absolutely acceptable worship

All forms of worship are tentatively acceptable as they are based on the presumption that they will be accepted by Allah. Since an act of worship involves rigorous preparation and conformity to a set of conditions and prerequisites for which he has to spare time and sacrifice his personal comforts, therefore, it is his natural wish that his worship should be accepted and his labour should not go waste but Allah has His own way. It is stated:

To Him ascend pure words and He exalts righteous deed.[20]

Therefore, driven by his physical nature, man explores excuses and pretexts which may elevate his deeds to the level of divine acceptability and they may be acknowledged by Allah in spite of his weakness, flaws and lapses. Divine mercy has not left his natural desire in the lurch but, as an expression of His infinite mercy, He Himself has shown him the way that can transform his tentative acts of worship into an absolutely acceptable reality. And the way is that at the start and conclusion of each act, he should send blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). Since this act is absolutely acceptable, therefore, whenever it is submitted to Allah, it will surely be acknowledged by Him, and it is beyond divine mercy that it should accept his blessings on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and reject his acts that lie between the two salutations. Therefore, the most effective way to make one’s acts absolutely acceptable is to start and conclude them by sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).

Sending blessings on the holy Prophet (SAW) as the last act in the universe

Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’ān:

All that is on earth will pass away, and there will abide forever the Person of Your Lord, Master of glory and honour.[21]

Every soul shall taste of death.[22]

When everything is reduced to extinction, only the Person of the Lord shall remain and there will be no one to praise and glorify Him, but the act of sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) will continue uninterruptedly as it is endorsed by Allah Himself:

Surely Allah and His angels invoke blessings on the Holy Prophet (and they will continue to do so).[23]

Each living being has to die. Each creature in this universe has to taste death. Allah Alone is eternally Existent. Since invoking blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is also a divine act, and since Allah is immune to extinction, His Act also is eternally surviving. That is why the word yusallūna has been used by the Qur’ān which includes both the present and the future and, therefore, is translated as “eternal”. The present never ends and each existing moment is the present and each moment that is to come is the future. Thus Allah’s invocation of blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is a continuous act and will continue forever. It has never been interrupted in the past nor will it be interrupted in the future. Therefore, it is conclusively established by the Qur’ān that sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is the last act in the universe and only this act has permanence on account of its divine orientation. And when we adopt it as a form of intermediation, our prayer will surely be granted.

6. The Prophet’s supplication through the mediation of his own person and other prophets

According to an authentic tradition the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself prayed through the mediation of other prophets as well as of his own person. Following are the words of the tradition:

It is narrated by Anas bin Mālik. He said: When the mother of ‘Alī bin Abū Tālib — Fātimah bint Asad bin Hāshim — died, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) called on her and sat down by the head of the bed and said, “O dear mother, may Allah have mercy on you. After my mother, you were the one I regarded as my mother. When I was hungry you fed me to the point of saturation while you yourself remained hungry. Then you helped me put on clothes and instead of eating yourself, you gave me nice things to eat. You did all this for Allah’s pleasure and for a good reward in the Hereafter.” Then he (the Prophet) commanded to bathe her three times. When camphor water was brought, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) poured some water into his hands. Then Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) took off his shirt and clothed her with it and used his own sheet of cloth as her coffin. Then Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) sent for Usāmah bin Zayd, Abū Ayyūb al-Ansārī and ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb and the negro slave to dig up the grave. So they dug her grave. When they reached near the lahd, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) dug it up and drew the soil out with his own hands. When he finished, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) entered and lay down in (the grave), and said, “It is Allah Who controls life and death, and He is Ever living and will never die. (O Allah,) forgive my mother—Fātimah bint Asad— and help her answer properly at the time of questioning and through the mediation of Your Prophet (Muhammad) and the former prophets, make her grave capacious. Surely You are infinitely Merciful.” Then he repeated, “God is Great” four times (i.e. led the funeral prayer). Then he, ‘Abbās and Abū Bakr as-Siddīq lowered her into the grave.[24]

7. Intermediation through the supplicant

Abū Sa‘īd Khudrī has narrated:

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: A person who comes out of his house with the intention of prayer and prays, “O Allah, I beseech You through the mediation of those who always crave Your (mercy) and I beg You through the mediation of my these steps (moving towards prayer). Surely I am heading neither towards any evil, nor out of pride or arrogance, nor out of a sense of self-display, nor for the sake of any world reputation. I have come out of my house to escape Your displeasure and to earn Your pleasure. So I beg You to save me from the fire of Hell and forgive my sins. Surely, You are the Only One Who forgives sins.” Then Allah turns towards him and seventy thousand angels ask for his forgiveness.[25]

The chain of the tradition is consistent with the requirements of hasan hadith (fair tradition), and five different huffāz[26] of hadith graded it hasan. They are:

  1. Hāfiz Dimyātī in al-Mutajarr-ur-rābih fī thawāb al-‘amal-is-sālih.
  2. Hāfiz Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb.
  3. Hāfiz Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī in ‘Amāl-ul-adhkār.
  4. Hāfiz ‘Irāqī in the Takhrīj ahādīth al-Ihyā’.
  5. Hāfiz Būsīrī in Misbāh-uz-zujājah.

Ibn Khuzaymah graded it sahīh (sound) in his as-Sahīh through Fudayl bin Marzūq.[27]

8. Intermediation through the weak

In addition to the righteous, intermediation through the travellers, the sick and those on whom Allah has shown His mercy or about whom He has said that He is with them, that He helps them and He blesses them with His mercy, is quite consistent with the various statements made by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself.

Abū Sa‘īd Khudrī relates that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Surely, only because of the supplication of the weak and their prayer and their sincerity, Allah helps this nation (Ummah).[28]

Abū ad-Dardā’ has related that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Look for me among the weak. Surely, it is on account of the weak that you are blessed with (Allah’s) bounty and helped.[29]

It means that, through the mediation of the weak and the poor, Allah not only blesses a Muslim nation with His help and assistance, but also with resources and wealth. Therefore, any prayer mediated through them is also graced with acceptance by Allah.

9. Intermediation through the supplication of the prophets

Sa‘d bin Abī Waqās relates that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:

Dhun-Nūn (the Man in Fish, i.e. the prophet Yūnus) prayed in the belly of the fish, “(O Allah,) there is no deity except You. Glory be to You! Surely I was from those who wronged (their souls).” So any Muslim person who uses these words in his prayer for a (fair) purpose, finds a favourable response from Allah.[30]

A prophet is far more deeply and sensitively aware of the subtleties and nuances involved in his relationship with Allah than His saints and favourites, and as we descend down the sliding scale of divine preferences, this awareness decreases in direct proportion to the grades of the people who are seeking Allah’s nearness and recognition. The divine hierarchy is based on these grades and the distinctions between these grades are meticulously drawn and followed.

Therefore, when a prophet of Allah, with his complete and unflawed awareness and understanding of divine pleasure and displeasure and in a posture of self-effacing courtesy and humility, prays to Allah, He graces each word uttered by him with recognition and fulfilment. And, if the prayer of a petitioner is processed through the prayer of the prophets, then it is not rejected as it is supported by the guarantee of a prophet’s articulation; on the contrary, it finds immediate fulfilment and the prayee is relieved of his sense of anxiety and tension.

This phenomenon draws a clear distinction between two kinds of prayer: unmediated prayer and mediated prayer. In the case of unmediated prayer, the petitioner is like a lone ranger, he relies on his personal relationship with Allah, which is in itself invaluable because any creature can establish a hotline with Allah. But there is no divine guarantee for its acceptance, which may relate to his weak faith, lack of concentration or a number of other factors. But in the case of mediated prayer, there is a divine guarantee and it is the nature of divinity that its guarantee never fluctuates as it is immune to all glitches and other human uncertainties. Allah loves His favourites and His love increases in direct proportion to the graded distinction of His favourites. Prophets are the most favoured ones, therefore, any prayee that uses their prayer as a form of mediation is blessed with immediate acceptance.

[1]. Bukhārī narrated this tradition in his as-Sahīh with different words at six various places, i.e. b. of janā’iz (funerals) ch.71 (1:451#1279); b. of manāqib (virtues) ch.22 (3:1317#3401); b. of maghāzī (the military expeditions led by the Prophet) ch.14, 25 (4:1486, 1498-9 #3816, 3857); b. of riqāq (softening of hearts) ch.7, 53 (5:2361, 2408#6062, 6218); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (17:278-80#767-70); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (4:14); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (14:39-41#3822-3); ‘Alā’-ud-Dīn ‘Alī, Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (14:416#39122).

[2]. Narrated in his as-Sahīh, b. of fadā’il (virtues) ch.9 (4:1795#2296).

[3]. Narrated in his Musnad (4:149, 153-4).

[4]. Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of hibah (gifts) 6:262-3.

[5]. as-Sahīh of Imam Bukhārī and as-Sahīh of Imam Muslim.

[6]. Bukhārī narrated it with different words at various places in his as-Sahīh: b. of buyū‘ (sales) ch.98 (2:771#2102); b. of ijārah (hiring) ch.12 (2:793-4#2152); b. of muzāra‘ah (sharecropping) ch.11 (2:821-2#2208); b. of ambiyā’ (prophets) ch.52 (3:1278#3278); b. of adab (good manner) ch.5 (5:2228-9#5629); and Muslim in as-Sahīh, b. of dhikr wad-du‘ā’ wat-tawbah wal-istighfār (remembering (Allah), invocation, repentance and seeking forgiveness) ch.27 (4:2099-2100#2743).

[7]. Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of masājid wa mawādi‘-us-salāt (mosques and the places of prayer) ch.51 (1:462-3#667); Bukhārī, as-Sahīh, b. of mawāqīt-us-salāt (the times of the prayers) ch.5 (1:197#505); Tirmidhī in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of amthāl (examples) ch.5 (5:151#2868) and graded it hasan sahīh; Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of salāt (prayer), 1:231; Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:379); and Dārimī in Sunan, b. of salāt (prayer) ch.1 (1:213#1187).

[8]. Bukhārī, as-Sahīh. b. of riqāq (softening of hearts) ch.38 (5:2385#6137).

[9]. Qur’ān (an-Nahl) 16:58.

[10]. Bukhārī narrated it in as-Sahīh, b. of adab (good manner) ch.18 (5:2234#5649); and Muslim in as-Sahīh, b. of birr was-silah wal-ādāb (virtue, good manners and joining of the ties of relationship) ch.46 (4:2027#2629).

[11]. Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān, 6:500 (#9051); Suyūtī, ad-Durr-ul-manthūr (3:216).

[12]. Qur’ān (al-Fātihah) 1:1-3.

[13]. Qur’ān (al-Fātihah) 1:4.

[14]. Baydāwī, Tafsīr (1:14).

[15]. Qur’ān (al-Fātihah) 1:5.

[16]. This sahīh hadith was narrated by Ibn Mājah in his Sunan, b. of du‘ā’ (supplication) ch.9 (2:1267#3857); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt (prayer) 2:79 (#1493); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of da‘awāt (supplications) ch.64 (5:515#3475); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (5:349, 360); and Baghawī in Sharh-us-sunnah (5:37-8#1259-60).

[17]. This sahīh hadith was transmitted by Ibn Mājah through ‘Ā’ishah in his Sunan, b. of du‘ā’ (supplication) ch.3 (2:1263#3841); Muslim in as-Sahīh, b. of salāt (prayer) ch.42 (1:352#486); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt, 1:232 (#879); Mālik bin Anas, al-Muwattā, b. of Qur’ān, ch.8 (1:214#31); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (6:201); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh, (5:258#1932); and Ibn Khuzaymah in as-Sahīh (1:329#655).

[18]. Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of salāt (prayer) ch.7 (1:288-9#384); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt (1:144#523); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of manāqib (virtues and merits) ch.1 (5:586-7#3614); Nasā’ī in Sunan, b. of adhān (the call to prayer) 2:25-6, and ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah, p.158 (#45); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (2:168); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah, 2:284-5 (#421); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh, 1:219 (#418); Abū ‘Awānah, Musnad (1:336); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (4:588-90#1690-2); Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah, p.33 (#91); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (1:409-10); Muhammad Khatīb Tabrīzī, Mishkāt-ul-masābīh, b. of salāt, ch.5 (1:215#657); and ‘Alā’-ud-Dīn ‘Alī, Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (7:700#20998).

[19]. Qur’ān (an-Najm) 53:9.

[20]. Qur’ān (Fātir) 35:10.

[21]. Qur’ān (ar-Rahmān) 55:26-7.

[22]. Qur’ān (Āl-i-‘Imrān) 3:185.

[23]. Qur’ān (al-Ahzāb) 33:56.

[24]. Tabarānī related it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (24:351-2#871) and al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (1:152-3#191) and its men are those of sound hadith except Rawh bin Salāh who is da‘īf (weak), while Ibn Hibbān and Hākim declared him thiqah (trustworthy). Haythamī also cites it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (9:256-7); Ibn-ul-Jawzī in al-‘Ilal-ul-mutanāhiyyah (1:268-9#433); Abū Nu‘aym in Hilyat-ul-awliyā’ wa tabaqāt-ul-asfiyā’ (3:121); and Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh graded it hasan (fair) in his Raf‘-ul-minārah (pp.147-8).

[25]. Ibn Mājah related it in his Sunan, b. of masājid wal-jamā‘āt (mosques and congregations) ch.14 (1:256#778); Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (3:21); Ibn Abū Shaybah in al-Musannaf (10:211-2#9251); Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (2:458); Dimyātī in al-Mutajarr-ur-rabih fī thawāb al-‘amal-is-sālih (pp.641-2#1321); Ibn-us-Sunnī in ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.30 #83); and Dhahabī in Mīzān-ul-i‘tidāl (2:447#4384).

[26]. Plural of hāfiz.

[27]. Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh, Raf‘-ul-minārah (pp.171-2).

[28]. Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of jihad (holy war), 6:45; Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (6:331); Abū Nu‘aym, Hilyat-ul-awliyā’ wa tabaqāt-ul-asfiyā’ (5:26).

[29]. Nasā’ī narrated it in Sunan, b. of jihad (holy war), 6:46; and Bayhaqī in as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (6:331).

[30]. Tirmidhī related it in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of da‘awāt (supplications) ch.82 (5:529#3505); Hākim in al-Mustadrak (1:505; 2:382-3) and graded it sahīh, also confirmed by Dhahabī; Ahmad bin Hambal in Musnad (1:170); Nasā’ī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah, p.416 (#656); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (2:111#772); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (1:432#620); and Mundhirī in at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (2:488).

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