Seeking the Means

Tawassul in the View of Prominent Imami ‘Ulama’

In Tawassul on July 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

According to such prominent Imami ‘ulama’ as Shaykh al-Ta’ifah Tusi, Shaykh Amin al-Islam Tabrisi, ‘Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Imam Sayyid Ruhullah Khumayni and others, wasilah means faith, love and reverence for the Prophet (s) and obedience to him.

‘Allamah Tabataba’i writes in his monumental exegesis on the Holy Qur’an that the word al-wasilah or ‘approach’ as used in the Ayah “and seek an approach unto Him” (5:35) confirms the reality of worship and means turning submissively and supplicatingly to God, with knowledge and practice serving as the requisite instrument for this connection.[14]

Furthermore, elaborating on the narration found in the Tafsir of ‘Ali bin Ibrahim Qummi that the Ayah “and seek an approach unto Him” means seeking Allah’s proximity through the Infallible Imam (‘a), ‘Allamah Tabataba’i, says that this refers to obedience or adhering to the path of the Imam (‘a) in order to reach Allah.[15]

It is evident that the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams (‘a) who are considered the practical models of divine law and the finest exemplars of morals and etiquette, are the wasilah, since it is through obedience to them and adherence to their path that one can attain proximity to God. Likewise, as stated by prominent Imami or Shi’ah jurists, the laws of the Shari’ah are the wasilah, on the basis of adherence to which, proximity of Almighty Allah is attained. Accordingly, some prominent Imami jurisprudents like Shaykh Hurr al-‘Amili, Ayatullah Abu al-Hasan Isfahani and Imam Khumayni have used the title wasilah for their jurisprudential treatises such as Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, Wasilah al-Najat and Tahrir al-Wasilah, respectively. Wasilah al-Najat or the ‘Means of Salvation’ is the title of over 40 scientific treatises written by Shi’ah ‘ulama’.[16]

Thus, as ascertained by Imami scholars, the Prophet (s) is the wasilah towards God for Muslims since he is the best exemplar and is in fact the ‘Practical Qur’an’. So also is the Prophet’s (s) infallible progeny (‘a), who along with the Book of Allah (Holy Qur’an), is the immortal legacy of the Prophet and continuation of his path as borne out by the Hadith al-Thaqalayn which is unanimously confirmed by both Shi’ah and Sunni ‘ulama’. Muslims, through the wasilah of these two, hold fast to divine laws and strive to attain Allah’s proximity, since good deeds, obedience and adherence to the Qur’an, the Prophet (s) and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are the basis of shafa’at. This is better explained by ‘Allamah Tabataba’i in his exegesis:

Persons who lack any ability to attain the required perfection are like the illiterate who wants to become the doyen of scholars merely through recommendation, since he neither has any basic learning nor has he the required connection with the one who could intercede. Or they could be compared to a slave who is disobedient to his master, but without coming out of this state of insubordination and disobedience wants to be forgiven through intercession (shafa’at). In none of these two cases intercession is beneficial, since shafa’at is the wasilah or means for accomplishment of a cause and is not a cause in itself to make him a doyen of scholars in the first case, and in the second case to avail forgiveness from the master in the state of disobedience.[17]

Therefore, as it has been clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, if a person does not fulfil his obligations and adherence to the path of the Prophet (s) and the Infallible Imams (‘a), he will not be considered worthy of shafa’at, even if the Prophet (s) were to intercede on his behalf.

“Alike it is for them whether you seek forgiveness for them or seek not forgiveness for them; Never will God forgive them…” (63:6)

[14]. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an, vol. 6, p. 328-332.

[15]. Ibid.

[16]. Refer to Shaykh Aqa Buzurg Tehrani, al-Dhari’ah ila Tasanif al-Shi’ah, vol. 25, p. 69-92.

[17]. Tafsir al-Mizan, vol. 11, p. 15 (Dar al-‘Alami print, Beirut).

Message of Thaqalayn – Tawassul

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