a – Tawassul – Primer on Tawassul and its Types
The word Tawassul comes from the word “Al Wasila”
Definition of Al Wasila
Al-Khalil bin Ahmad (100-170 H.) said in “al Ayn”:
“Wassaltu to my Lord Wasilatan, means: I did a deed that by which I drew near to Him. And I did tawassul to someone by a book or a relative, means that I sought means of approach to him by it
‘I see that the people do not know the value of their affair,
whereas every religious person seeks to draw nearer to Allaah.’
Isma’il bin Hammad al Jawhari (d. 393 H.) said in “As-Sihah fi Al-Lughah”:
“Al Wasila: That by which one draws near to another”.
“Al wasilah ” by this meaning is found in the Quran:
O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek al wasilah to Him. (5:35)
Its tafsir (interpretation) :
Tafsir Imam At-Tabari (d. 310 H.) He says: and seek nearness to Him by performing the acts that please Him.
Tafsir “Bahr al Uloom” by Abul Layth As-Simirqandi (d. 375 H.) It means: seek nearness and virtue by the good deeds.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H.) Ibn `Abbas said that Wasilah means `the means of approach’.
Mujahid, Abu Wa’il, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, `Abdullah bin Kathir, As-Suddi, Ibn Zayd and others gave the same meaning for Wasilah.
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).
The types of tawassul that are permissible, with no dispute amongst the scholars, are:
1. Tawassul through the beautiful Names and exalted Attributes:
Allah said – translation of the meaning- And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allâh, so call on Him by them. [Al A’raf (6):180]
Examples of this type of tawassul are found in the Quran and Sunnah:
Allah said, “And he said: ‘My Lord! Inspire and bestow upon me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your Favours which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You, and admit me by Your Mercy among Your righteous slaves.’” [An Naml (27): 19]
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) entered the mosque and saw a man who had finished his prayer, and was reciting the tashahhud saying:
“O Allah, I ask You, O Allaah, the One, the Single, the Self Sufficient Master Who needs none, but all have need of (Him), Who does not beget, nor was He begotten, nor is there any like Him…, that You forgive me my sins, indeed You are the Most forgiving, the Most Merciful’. ” [Sunan Abu Dawud : Book 3 Hadith 980]
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“Whoever becomes greatly troubled or saddened and says: ‘ O Allaah I am Your slave, son of Your male slave and female slave. My forelock is in Your Hand. Your judgement is continually operative upon me. Your sentence concerning me is just. I ask You by every name which is Yours, with which You named Yourself, taught to anyone from Your creation, or sent down in Your Book, or which You kept to Yourself in the knowledge of the Hidden with You, that You make the Qur’aan the spring of my heart, the light of my chest, the removal of my sadness and of my anxiety’ then Allaah will remove his anxiety and sorrow and replace it with joy…” [Musnad Ahmad; Ahmad Shakir said: Sahih 5\267]
Examples in the Quran and Sunnah:
“Those who say: ‘Our Lord! We have indeed believed, so forgive us our sins and save us from the punishment of the Fire.’” [Al Imran (3):16]
“Our Lord! We believe in what You have sent down, and we follow the Messenger so write us down among those who bear witness (to the truth (i.e. Lâ ilâha ill-Allâh – none has the right to be worshipped but Allâh).” [Al Imran (3): 53]
The Prophet –sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- said, “While three persons were walking, rain began to fall and they had to enter a cave in a mountain. A big rock rolled over and blocked the mouth of the cave. They said to each other, ‘Invoke Allah with the best deed you have performed (so Allah might remove the rock)’. One of them said, ‘O Allah! My parents were old and I used to go out for grazing (my animals). On my return I would milk (the animals) and take the milk in a vessel to my parents to drink. After they had drunk from it, I would give it to my children, family and wife. One day I was delayed and on my return I found my parents sleeping, and I disliked to wake them up. The children were crying at my feet (because of hunger). That state of affairs continued till it was dawn. O Allah! If You regard that I did it for Your sake, then please remove this rock so that we may see the sky.’ So, the rock was moved a bit. The second said, ‘O Allah! You know that I was in love with a cousin of mine, like the deepest love a man may have for a woman, and she told me that I would not get my desire fulfilled unless I paid her one-hundred Dinars (gold pieces). So, I struggled for it till I gathered the desired amount, and when I sat in between her legs, she told me to be afraid of Allah, and asked me not to deflower her except rightfully (by marriage). So, I got up and left her. O Allah! If You regard that I did if for Your sake, kindly remove this rock.’ So, two-thirds of the rock was removed. Then the third man said, ‘O Allah! No doubt You know that once I employed a worker for one Faraq (three Sa’s) of millet, and when I wanted to pay him, he refused to take it, so I sowed it and from its yield I bought cows and a shepherd. After a time that man came and demanded his money. I said to him: Go to those cows and the shepherd and take them for they are for you. He asked me whether I was joking with him. I told him that I was not joking with him, and all that belonged to him. O Allah! If You regard that I did it sincerely for Your sake, then please remove the rock.’ So, the rock was removed completely from the mouth of the cave.” (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
Another example is: “O Allah I ask you by my love for your Prophet …..”; Because loving the Messenger of Allah is a good deed.
3. Tawassul by the supplication of a righteous living person, by asking them to make dua for you.
If a Muslim falls into great difficulty or a great misfortune befalls him, and he knows that he has been very negligent with regard to Allaah, the Blessed and Most High’s, rights upon him, so he wishes to use a strong means of drawing nearer to Allaah. So he goes to a man whom he believes to be righteous and asks him to supplicate to his Lord for him that He (Allaah) should relieve his distress and remove what had befallen him.
Examples from the Sunnah and the actions of the Sahabah (companions of the Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)
Anas b. Malik reported that a person entered the mosque through the door situated on theside of Daral-Qada’ during Friday (prayer) and the messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was delivering the sermon while standing. He came and stood in front of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and said: “Messenger of Allah, the camels died and the passages were blocked; so supplicate Allah to send down rain upon us.”
The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) raised his hands and then said: (O Allah, send down rain upon us; O Allah, send dowp rain upon us; O Allah, send down rain upon us.
Anas said: By Allah, we did not see any cloud or any patch of it, and there was neither any house or building standing between us and the (hillock) Sal’a. There appeared a cloud in the shape of a shield from behind it, and as it (came high) in the sky it spread and then there was a downpour of rain. By Allah, we did not see the sun throughout the week. Then (that very man) came on the coming Friday through the same door when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was standing and delivering the sermon. He stood in front of him and said: “Messenger of Allah, our animals died and the passages blocked. Supplicate Allah to stop the rain for us. ”
The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) again raised his hands and said: O Allah, let it (rain) fall in our suburbs and not on us, O Allah (send it down) on the hillocks and small mountains and the river-beds and at places where trees grow. The rain stopped, and as we stepped out we were walking in sun- shine. He (the narrator) said to Sharik: I asked Anas b. Malik if he was the same man. He said: I do not know. [ Sahih Muslim: Book 4: Hadith 1955]
Narrated Anas: Whenever drought threatened them, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, used to ask Al-Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib to invoke Allah for rain. He used to say, “O Allah! We used to ask our Prophet to invoke You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke You for rain. O Allah ! Bless us with rain.” And so it would rain.
Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani –rahimahu Allah- said :
“And az-Zubair bin Bakkar showed in the ansab the description of the duaa of al-Abbas in this incident and the time in which that happened.
He narrated with his isnad that al Abbas, when Umar did istisqa’ through him, said: ” “O Allah, truly no tribulation descends except because of sin, nor is lifted except with repentence. The people have turned to you by means of me because of my position in relation to your prophet, and here are our hands [raised up] towards you – despite our sins – and our forelocks in repentence, so send down water for us.” Whereupon the sky let down water as thick as ropes.”
Then he said:
“And we benefit, from the story of Al Abbas, the recommendation (istihbab) of seeking intercession by the pious and the family of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.” [Fath al Bari]
Salim bin ‘Amer Al Khaba’iri reported: That the sky withheld all its rain, so Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and the people of Damascus went out to pray for rain. So when Mu’awiyah sat upon the minbar he said: ‘Where is Yazid ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashi?’ So the people called him and he came stepping between the people. Then Mu’aawiyah commanded him and he ascended the minbar and sat at his feet. Then
Mu’awiyah said: “O Allaah we are today asking the best and most noble amongst us to supplicate to You for us, O Allaah today we put Yazeed ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashee forward to supplicate to You for us,” “O Yazeed raise up your hands to Allaah.” So he raised up his hands and the people raised up their hands. Then very quickly rain-clouds like a large shield came quickly from the west, and the wind blew and it rain ed so profusely that people could hardly reach their houses. [Sharh Usool I’tiqad Ahlus-Sunnah by Al Lalika’i …. ??…; Ibn Hajar al Asqalani said: “Abu Zur’ah Ad-Dimashqi and Ya’qub bin Sufyan narrated in their tarikh, with a sahih chain, through Salim bin ‘Amer ….” [al Isabah fi Tameez As Sahabah]