Tawassul (use of a Means)
The concept of tawassul has been referred to many times in this course. It is one of the most important etiquettes of dua,and one of the greatest factors that increase the chances of a dua being accepted.
Since many people have an incorrect understanding of this concept, and because of it fall into shirk or innovation, it is important that this topic be given greater attention.
The word Tawassul is an original Arabic word occurring in the Qur’aan and Sunnah and in ancient Arabic poetry and prose, and its meaning is: To draw near to what one seeks after and to approach that which one desires, Ibn-Katheer said in an-Nihaayah: “Al-Waasil is one who desires or longs for something, and al-Waseelah is nearness and a means, and that by which one is able to approach and draw near to something. Its plural is Wasaail.”
“Waseelah is to desire and to seek after. One says Waslas for one who wishes and aspires for something, and the Waasil is the one who wishes to draw nearer to Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.
The reality of seeking a waseelah to Allaah, the Most High, is: To take care to follow His way with (good) actions and worship, by adhering to the noble qualities required in the Sharee’ah. It is like nearness, and the waasil is one who aspires nearness to Allaah, the Most High.”
O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek al wasilah to Him. (5:35)
Its tafsir (interpretation) :
Qatadah said that the ayah means, “Seek the means of approach to Him by obeying Him and performing the acts that please Him.”And there is no disagreement amongst the mufassireen on what those Imams said.
Thus the general meaning of Tawassul is to seek nearness to Allah through performing good deeds.
As for the specific meaning of Tawassul, it is to hope for and seek the answering of one’s duaa (supplication).
Types of Permissible Tawassul
a) All kinds of worshipping to Allah.
b) A way to have the call responded. This is divided in into 6 ways: –
1. Tawassul by calling the Best Names of Allah
This is the Tawassul (Use of a Means) for Allah by His Best Names, whether by all of them as a whole or by One of them only.
An example for the first which is calling for help using all His Best Names is that was reported in the sound Hadith in the Du’a’ of worry and grief which says, “Allaahumma ‘innee ‘abduka, ibnu ‘abdika, ibnu ‘amatika, naasiyatee biyadika, maadhin fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadhaa’uka, ‘as’aluka bikulli ismin huwa laka, sammayta bihi nafsaka, ‘aw ‘anzaltahu fee kitaabika, ‘aw ‘allamtahu ‘ahadan min khalqika, ‘awista’tharta bihi fee ‘ilmil-ghaybi ‘indaka, ‘an taj’alal-Qur’aana rabee’a qalbee, wa noora sadree, wa jalaa’a huznee, wa thahaaba hammee.
O Allah, I am Your slave and the son of Your male slave and the son of your female slave . My forehead is in Your Hand (i.e. you have control over me) . Your Judgment upon me is assured and Your Decree concerning me is just . I ask You by every Name that You have named Yourself with , revealed in Your Book , taught any one of Your creation or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You , to make the Qur’an the spring of my heart, and the light of my chest, the banisher of my sadness and the reliever of my distress.
And the evidence is in his saying, “by every Name of Yours…” And we say , ‘O Allah we call you by Your Best Names’. Allah says “The most beautiful Names belong to Allah: “so call on Him by them”
Another way of Tawassul for Allah by One of His Names, such as your saying, “O forgiver, forgive me, O Merciful, be Merciful with me, O Allah, You indeed Love pardon, so Pardon me”. So this is a call using a means which is One of His Best Names.
2. Tawassul by Attributes of Allah
This is the Tawassul by all of His Attributes as a whole or using One of them, including His Deeds for they are considered Attributes as well. Such as saying, “O Allah, I call You by Your Best Names and Your Superior Attributes”, and this is a sound Du’a’. In fact, this Tawassul may also be general including all Attributes such as the example above.
3. By Your Belief in Allah:
This is the tawassul to Allah by our belief in Him, so that we can ask Allah to respond our call because we believed in Him and His messenger ﷺ. and say “O Allah!, because of my belief in You and Your messenger, I asked such and such ……..”. This is correct as Allah said
رَّبَّنَا إِنَّنَا سَمِعْنَا مُنَادِيًا يُنَادِي لِلْإِيمَانِ أَنْ آمِنُوا بِرَبِّكُمْ فَآمَنَّا ۚ رَبَّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَكَفِّرْ عَنَّا سَيِّئَاتِنَا وَتَوَفَّنَا مَعَ الْأَبْرَارِ
Our Lord, indeed we have heard a caller calling to faith, [saying], ‘Believe in your Lord,’ and we have believed. Our Lord, so forgive us our sins and remove from us our misdeeds and cause us to die with the righteous.
This means that they asked their Lord to forgive them because they believed, so they made the faith a means of the call of forgiveness.
4. By Presenting the State of the Slave:
Tawassul to Allah by Presenting the State of the Slave s that he would submit himself to his Lord without mentioning anything about his needs, such as saying, “O Allah! I am needy poor to You, I am the prisoner in Your hands“. This is clearly shown by what Musa said when he watered the two women’s flocks before he went to the shadow and said “O my Lord! truly am I in (desperate) need of any good that You have send me!” and did not mention anything about his needs. Obviously, what is important here is the miserable state that in directly necessitates Mercy & Kindness especially when it is concerned with the most merciful.
5. Tawassul by Asking a LIVING (Pious) Person to Make Du a
It is allowed to make Tawassul by asking a living person to make dua on your behalf, if you feel that such a person is a true and righteous person. So, it is permissible to go to a scholar, and say, for example: “O so-and-so! I ask that you make a dua to Allah that he cure my son from such-and-such an illness“.
Safwan ibn Abdillah narrated: “I went to Syria, and visited Abu al-Darda in his home, but he was not present when I arrived. Umm al-Darda asked me, ‘Are you going to perform Hajj this year?’ I replied that I was, so she said: ‘In that case, do not forget to pray to Allah for us for good, for the Prophet ﷺ used to say: “The dua of a Muslim for his brother in his absence is responded to. In his presence there is an angel that has been assigned to him; every time he makes a du a for his brother with good, the angel assigned to him says, ‘Amin. And to you the same.” (Sahih Muslim)
Although it is permissible to ask others to make dua for one’s self, it is better not to do so for personal duas.
This for the following reasons:
6. By the pious deeds
Tawassul to Allah by the pious deeds is mentioning to Allah while calling him for help a good deed one has previously done, which he thinks he did purely for the sake of Allah and is useful as a means to have his need responded. It is clearly illustrated by the story of the three men which the Prophet ﷺ. told us about.
He ﷺ said “Once three persons (from the previous nations) were traveling, and suddenly it started raining and they took shelter in a cave. The entrance of the cave got closed while they were inside. They said to each other, ‘O you! Nothing can save you except the truth, so each of you should ask Allah’s Help by referring to such a deed as he thinks he did sincerely (i.e. just for gaining Allah’s Pleasure).’ So one of them said, ‘O Allah! You know that I had a laborer who worked for me for one Faraq (i.e. three Sas) of rice, but he departed, leaving it (i.e. his wages). I sowed that Faraq of rice and with its yield I bought cows (for him). Later on when he came to me asking for his wages, I said (to him), ‘Go to those cows and drive them away.’ He said to me, ‘But you have to pay me only a Faraq of rice,’ I said to him, ‘Go to those cows and take them, for they are the product of that Faraq (of rice).’ So he drove them. O Allah! If you consider that I did that for fear of You, then please remove the rock.’ The rock shifted a bit from the mouth of the cave. The second one said, ‘O Allah, You know that I had old parents whom I used to provide with the milk of my sheep every night. One night I was delayed and when I came, they had slept, while my wife and children were crying with hunger. I used not to let them (i.e. my family) drink unless my parents had drunk first. So I disliked to wake them up and also disliked that they should sleep without drinking it, I kept on waiting (for them to wake) till it dawned. O Allah! If You consider that I did that for fear of you, then please remove the rock.’ So the rock shifted and they could see the sky through it. The (third) one said, ‘O Allah! You know that I had a cousin (i.e. my paternal uncle’s daughter) who was most beloved to me and I sought to seduce her, but she refused, unless I paid her one-hundred Dinars (i.e. gold pieces). So I collected the amount and brought it to her, and she allowed me to sleep with her. But when I sat between her legs, she said, ‘Be afraid of Allah, and do not deflower me but legally. ‘I got up and left the hundred Dinars (for her). O Allah! If You consider that I did that for fear of you than please remove the rock. So Allah saved them and they came out (of the cave).”
This Hadith indicates that one can only ask Allah for help directly or through his performed good deeds. But to ask dead or absent prophets, saints, spirits, holy men, angels etc. is absolutely forbidden in Islam and it is a kind of disbelief and asking through them leads to Shrik so is again forbidden.
The Prohibited Types of Tawassul
The prohibited Tawassul includes all the forms and types of Tawassul other than the allowed types that we have explained above. The scholars of Islam have firmly rejected the prohibited types of Tawassul throughout the centuries. We should note here that some scholars had allowed Tawassul by the Jah (the grade and the high status) of the Prophet ﷺ. However, there are no proofs in the Quran or the Sunnah that allow this type of Tawassul.
There are basically three types of the innovated Tawassul.
1. Invoking other than Allah, such as a dead righteous person, for various needs and wants. This is clear Shirk. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “Invoking the dead or absent Shaykhs for emergencies and various needs, “Is a part of Shirk that Allah and His Messenger have prohibited. It is a well-known fact that Islam disallows this type of Tawassul.”
2. Asking a dead prophet or righteous person to invoke Allah on one’s behalf. This type is also disallowed, as it is innovated and thus an evil act that the Sahaba never practiced or allowed. Therefore, no Muslim is allowed to visit the grave of the Prophet, or any other prophet for that matter, to ask him to ask Allah on his or her behalf. Ibn Taymiyyah said, “It is not allowed to ask the dead for anything, such as asking them to invoke Allah on one’s behalf. Also, it is not allowed to complain to the dead about the hardships of this life or the trials in the religion that one is experiencing. Even if it was allowed to complain to a righteous living person, this is not like complaining to him when he is dead, as this latter action leads to Shirk.”
3. Invoking Allah by the Jah, that is, the grade and status the prophets and the righteous ones have with Allah. None among the companions or the Tabi’een —the second generation of Islam— ever practiced this type. For example, when the Muslims experienced drought during the reign of Caliph Umar, he did not ask Allah by the Prophet’s grade and status to send down the rain. Instead, he called upon Al-‘Abbas to invoke Allah on their behalf, saying, “O Allah! We used to invoke You by our Prophet’s Du’aa’ when we needed rain, and You would send down the rain. We now invoke You by the Du’aa’ of our Prophet’s uncle.” He then said, “O Abbas! Stand up and ask Allah for us.” Al-Abbas then performed Du’aa’ to Allah, and Allah sent down the rain. Neither Umar nor the companions would abandon invoking Allah by the status of His Prophet if this was allowed for them, and instead revert to a Du’aa’ from Al-Abbas, who is less in grade and status than the Prophet. Therefore, the Tawassul that Umar performed by Al-Abbas is with his Du’aa’, not his status with Allah. Otherwise, the companions would have asked Allah by the high status of the Prophet, ﷺ.
In addition, when Prophet Adam committed his mistake, he invoked Allah, saying, “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.” [7:23]. Thus, Adam did not invoke Allah by the status that Prophet Mohammad has with Him. This Ayah refutes the fabricated Hadith that is falsely attributed to the Prophet in which he is claimed to have said, “When Adam committed his mistake, he said, ‘O Allah! I ask You by the grade that Mohammad has with You, so that You will forgive me.’ Allah said, ‘O Adam! How did you know Mohammad although I have not yet created him!’ He said, ‘O Allah! When You created me with Your Own Hands and then blew life unto me, I raised my head and read a statement on a pillar of the Throne: There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah. I then knew that You would not mention a name of a person next to Your Name except for the name of the most dear created being to You.’ Allah said, ‘You have said the truth, O Adam! He is the dearest creation in My Sight. Therefore, invoke Me by his right. Further, I have forgiven you. If it was not for Mohammad, I would not have created you.’” [Al-’Hakim]. The scholars of Hadith have stated that Al-‘Hakim was sometimes lenient in authenticating the Hadith, such as in this case. Also, Imam Ath-Thahaby has firmly stated that this Hadith is fake.
We have so far stated that there are legal Tawassul. All other types of Tawassul are not allowed and are among the innovated Bid’ahs that the Prophet has warned us against. He has said, what translated means, “Beware of matters of innovation, for every innovation is a Bid’ah, and every Bid’ah is a heresy.” [Abu Dawood & Ibn Majah], and,“Whoever introduces unto our religion that which is not a part of it, he will have it rejected.” [Muslim].
We should note here that in order for our acts of worship to be accepted by Allah, we are obliged to perform them for the sake of Allah alone and in accordance with the Sunnah of His Messenger ﷺ. We are thus required to refer to the Sunnah of our Messenger regarding every matter of the religion. This is also the command that the Messenger of Allah has issued to us, “I have left with you two matters with which you will never be misled as long you hold fast unto them: the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.” [Malik & Ibn Majah].