Seeking the Means

Does Resorting to Saints imply. .

In Tawassul on July 26, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Question Twenty-Five

Does Resorting to Saints imply associating others with God and is it a source of innovation ?


The defining element of “resorting to saints to seek nearness to God – tawassul – refers to having a person well-esteemed in Allah’s eyes act as an intermediary for one to attain nearness to God. Lisan al-`Arab, a lexicon by Ibn Manzur, gives the following defining example for the word tawassul:

“He made entreaties to someone means he approached someone through the position of anything that might attract his attention.”[1]

The Glorious Qur’an says, “O believers, fear God and seek the means to approach Him, and struggle in His way so that you may achieve salvation.” 5:34

Jawahiri in his sihah al-Lughah gives the following definition for wasilah (the intermediary): “Wasilah is something by which we aspire to approach someone.” Hence the intermediary that we resort to can be either be our own worthy deeds and sincere worship rendered to God or a meritorious person who enjoys a high standing in the eyes of God, both having the capability to serve as intermediaries to make us closer to the Lord of the universe.

Forms of Tawassul

1. Our Worthy Deeds:

In his commentary he has made on the Qur’anic verse: “… and seek the means to come to Him”, Suyuti has quoted Qutadah as having interpreted it to mean: “Approach Allah through obeying Him and doing things that please Him.”[2]

2. Resorting to Honorable People’s Prayers:

Relating the story of Prophet Yusuf, the Holy Qur’an quotes his brothers in this way “They said: O our father, ask forgiveness of our faults for us; surely we were sinners” Jacob said, “… I will ask for you forgiveness from my Lord; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” 12: 97-8. This verse clearly shows that Yusuf’s brothers beseeched their father to pray, considering it a means of forgiveness. Their father, not reprimanding them (for such an appeal), answered their request.

3. Persons Highly Honored by God:

This kind of tawassul has been acknowledged by the Companions of the Prophets (a.s) and the distinguished Muslims of the early days of Islam as following narrations indicate:

1. Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad quotes `Uthman ibn Hunayf as having said, “A blind man came to the Prophet (a.s) and said, ‘Supplicate God to restore my eyesight’. The Prophet (a.s) said, ‘I can supplicate if you desire, or I can put it off until later, which is better.’ The man asked the Prophet to supplicate. The holy Prophet ordered him to make a ritual ablution, wudu’, taking care in doing it, perform a prayer of two rak`ah and invoke God in the following manner: “O God, I implore thee, and turn to thee through thy Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy; O Muhammad, I turn to my Lord through you for my request to be granted. O God, let him be my intercessor.”[3]

This tradition has been generally confirmed by the traditionists as Hakim Nayshaburi, who having narrated it in his Mustadrak, calls it sound.

Quoting Abu-Ishaq, Ibn Majah says, “This tradition is sound.” In his Abwab al-Ad`iyah (The Gates of Supplication), Tirmidhi confirms that this tradition is sound. Also, Muhammad Nasib al-Rifa`i, in his al-Tawassul ila al-Haqiqah, says “No doubt this tradition is sound and known (to all), one in which it is proved that the blind man’s eyesight was restored to him through the supplication of the Prophet (a.s).[4]
It is clearly understood from this tradition that it is permissible to resort to the holy Prophet, asking him to serve as an intermediary for the needs to be granted. What is more the Messenger of God himself ordered the blind man to supplicate in that particular manner and implore God through the intermediary of the Prophet. This is what restoring to the saints, tawassul, really means.

2. Abu-`Abdullah Bukhari has mentioned the following in his Sahih “Whenever there was a drought, `Umar ibn al-Khattab went to Ibn ‘`Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, and said, ‘O God, when the Prophet was alive we implored for rain through Thy Prophet, and Thou sent us rain. Now, we turn to Thee by resorting to the uncle of our Prophet. So, give us rain water”, and rain was given them.”[5]

3. So popular was the issue of resorting to the saints that the early Muslims wrote poems in which the Prophet was referred to as the intermediary between the Muslims and God.

a) Sawad Ibn Qarib wrote an ode concerning the holy Prophet, a part of which is as follows:

“I witness that there is no god but Allah,
That thou art entrusted with all Divine secrets,
And that thou, the son of the honored, the pure,
are the closest intermediary among the prophets

The Prophet listened to the poem but did not prevent (Sawad) from reading it, nor did he accuse him of polytheism and innovation in religion

b) In the following quatrain Shafi`i also points to the same fact discussed above:[7]

The Prophet’s descendents are means for me;
They are my intermediaries towards Him.
I hope that for their sake tomorrow I will be given
my book onto my right hand.

Although the number of the traditions handed down concerning the permissibility of tawassul is very great, the issue is thus made clear in the light of the above narrations and the references that have been made to Prophet’s Sunnah, the behavior of the Companions and of the great Islamic scholars, with no need to go into further details. All these prove that claims of those who consider resorting to the saints as polytheism and an innovation in religion are baseless.


[1] Lisan al-`Arab, vol. 11, p. 724.
[2] Al-Durr al-Manthur, vol. 2, p. 280, printed in Egypt.
[3] Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 4, p. 138, On narrations quoted from `Uthman Ibn Hunayf; Al-Hakim’s al-Mustadrak `ala al-Sahihayn, vol. 1, the book on Salat al-Tatawwu`, p. 313, printed in Beirut; Sunan Ibn Majah; vol. p.441; printed by Dar Ihya’ al-Kutub al-`Arabiyyah; al-Taj, vol. 1, p. 286; al-Suyuti’s al-Jami` al-Saghir, p. 59; Ibn Taymiyyah’s al-Tawassul wa’l-Wasilah, p. 98, printed in Beirut.
[4] Al-Tawwassul ila al-Haqiqah, p. 158, printed in Beirut.
[5] Sahih al-Bukhari, part 2, the book of Al-Jam`, Bab al-Istisqa’, p. 27, printed in Egypt.
[6] Zayni Dahlan’s al-Durar al-Saniyyah, p. 29, as quoted by al-Tabari.
[7] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani’s al-Sawa`iq al-Muhriqahh, p.178, printed in Cairo.

The Shi’ite Apologetics

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