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Tawassul: Why Ya Muhammad, Ya Ali Madad

AboutMail Box Letter Relevant to this Topic
 Letter 06
: Shabeehaat (Alam, Taziya), Idolworship and Bidat

Do read [Negative approach towards Wasila and Intercession].

Most peoples confuse tawwasul with shirk. Most people consider Tauheed in very literal and strict terms that every other thing, irrespective of the intentions seem shirk to them.

"Amazingly, you see such people who seek help from other than God Almighty Asking for help: O Hussein! O Ali! O Mahdi! And perhaps: O Abbas…! They appeal for help from the aforementioned relatives of the Prophet (PBUH) to assist them obtain their needs, or to help them remove lessen whatever overburdens them."
Comment from a Random Sunni brother

It is true that Shias say "Ya Muhammad Madad" or "Ya Ali Madad" but what really are the intentions and is it really denying the fundamentals of Tauheed? Before i proceed to discuss the point in focus, i would like to highlight some verses.

It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death;........
Quran [39:42]

Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls......
Quran [4:97]

Those who have a disease to take every verse of the Quran literally might have found a conflict between two verses of the Quran. Is it Shirk to say that angels take the souls out? Or should we believe that there is a Contradiction in Quran? Of course not.

It is neither Shirk nor Contradiction, but when Allah says that He takes the souls out, then Angels are already included in it allegorically, who take the souls out with the permission of Allah. Allah takes out the soul through angels, using them as a wasila.

It is the case with Help and benefit too. There are verses in which Allah says that He is the only and sufficient Helper in absolute terms. People are only quoting these verses. They interpret them literally and claim that it is shirk to seek help and benefit from Rasool Allah.  But there, they forget completely that there are also other verses and Ahadith, which clearly show that "those chosen and given authority by Allah" can also help and benefit us (or they have to neglect these verses of Quran and Ahadith in order to avoid the Contradictions in their Beliefs). 

.......and besides Allah he will find for himself neither a guardian nor a helper.
Quran [4:123]

And Allah best knows your enemies; and Allah suffices as a (Vali) Guardian, and Allah suffices as a Helper.
Quran [4:45]

Based on these verses, people criticize us when we say "Mawla/Wali" (Guardian) to Ali (as) because according to these Quranic verse our Only and Enough Mawla is Allah and it is shirk to use it for Mawla for anyone else, including Mawla Ali (as).

Only Allah is your Vali and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow. And whoever takes Allah and His messenger and those who believe for a guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant.
Quran [5:55-56]

Have we finally found a discrepancy in the Quran? Is Allah contradicting himself when he declares three entities to be a Val after declaring himself to be the only Vali? Is it associating partners to Allah, when we say that Rasool Allah and some believers are also our Valis along with Allah?

And if we accept that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and these some believers are also our Valis, does it mean that Allah is not the Only Vali (i.e. beside Him there are other Valis too)? And does it mean that He is not enough as Vali? The simple answer to above question is, contrary to wahabi claim that whole Quran is Literal, there are figurative expressions in Quran, which must be interpreted accordingly.

When Allah says that He is the only and sufficient vali, then Prophet (SAW) and certain believers are already included in it allegorically. Those who take Valis besides Allah (and those given the authority of Vliayat), it might be considered as disbelief. Who are the specific believers regarding which the verse 5:55 talks about?

Ali was the only one at the time of Prophet who paid Zakat while he was in the state of bowing (ruku'), during which this was revealed.
Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v5, p38
Tafsir al-Kashshaf, by Al-Zamakhshari, v1, p505, 649
Tafsir al-Khazin, v2, p68.
Tafsir al-Bayan, by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, v6, p186, 288-289.

Or have they taken intercessors besides Allah? Say: what! even though they did not ever have control over anything, nor do they understand. Say: Allah's is the intercession altogether; His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you shall be brought back.
Quran [39:43-44]

Thus the Quran says that no one Can intercede except Allah, the almighty himself.

And those whom they call upon besides Him have no authority for intercession, but he who bears witness of the truth and they know (him).
Quran [43:86]

However, this verse hints that there are some who have been given the authority of Intercession. Who are they will be discussed later on.

They shall not control intercession, save he who has made a covenant with the Beneficent Allah.
Quran [19:87]

Is it associating partners to Allah, when we say that Rasool Allah saww can also intercede us by the permission of Allah? Are there contradictions in Quran?

 When Allah says that He is the sole Intercessor, then some pious people are already allegorically included in it, who intercede with the permission of Allah. Intercession is verily Allah's and he can choose who ever whenever for the authority of interceding.

Is bounty only in the hands of Allah?

So that the followers of the Book may know that they do not control aught of the grace of Allah, and that grace is in Allah's hand, He gives it to whom He pleases; and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace.
Quran [57:29]

It is true that bounty is in the hands of Allah.

And if they were content with what Allah and His Messenger gave them, and had said: Allah is sufficient for us; Allah will soon give us (more) out of His grace and His Messenger too; surely to Allah do we make our petition.
Quran [9:59]

...... and they did not find fault except because Allah and His Messenger enriched them out of His grace; therefore if they repent, it will be good for them; .......
Quran [9:74]

 Is Allah himself committing shirk by saying that His Messenger can also give to others along with Him? And do we really associate Rasool Allah as a Partner to Allah when we say that he can also enrich the others out of his Bounty (Fadhl) along with Allah?

Allah is the sufficient Helper.

And Allah best knows your enemies; and Allah suffices as a Guardian, and Allah suffices as a Helper
Quran [4:45]

Say: Who is it that can withhold you from Allah if He intends to do you evil, rather He intends to show you mercy? And they will not find for themselves besides Allah any guardian or a helper.
Quran [33:17]

Our claim is this that when Allah says that He is the Only and Sufficient Helper, then Prophet Muhammad (SAW), righteous believers and angels are already included in it allegorically by the permission of Allah. 

 If you both (Ayesha and Hafsa) turn to Allah, then indeed your hearts are already inclined (to this); and if you back up each other against him, then surely Allah it is Who is his Guardian, and Jibreel and -the believers that do good, and the angels after that are the aiders.
Quran [66:4]

Does this verse really mean that Allah is not the only and sufficient Helper. Are there contradictions in Quran? And do we really associate Partners to Allah when we believe that Gabriel (as), some righteous believers and angels can also be our Mawla (guardians) and Naseer (helpers), along with Allah?  If we still follow the Literal Approach and Self Defined definition of Shirk by some extremists, then certainly we are going to make Allah himself a Mushrik, and along with Him all those too, who believe in Whole Quran. 

My father owns a car. He is the owner of the car and has all authority over the car to do anything with it which he wills. He is the only one who drives the car. If he gives me the permission to drive the car, then I can drive the car. My authority is not independent of his authority. Thus through my father's permission and granted authority, I have similar rights on the car as much as I am allowed.

Same is the case with Allah. All authority, all power, all knowledge belongs to Allah. He gives as much power/knowledge/authority to anyone anytime as he wills.

With the analysis of the above verses, we have established that:

Allah knows all, sees all and can do everything. Yet he has created a wasila for everything, a means of approach. He guided mankind through prophets, he has created angels to control the weather and to do other things on his behalf etc. Such is the wisdom of Allah.

O you who believe! Have Taqwa of Allah and seek the Wasila to Him, and strive hard in His cause, so that you may be successful
Quran [5:35]

(seek the Wasilah to Him.) Sufyan Ath-Thawri said that Talhah said that `Ata' said that 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.
Tafsir Ibne Kathir, Tafsir of Surah 5, Verse 35

Allah is telling us to find a wasila through which we can reach him. He has reached us through Prophet Muhammad (SAW). How can we reach Allah? If he is everywhere, sees everything, hears everything, which no doubt he does, then why cannot we reach him directly?

The Abbasid caliph, Mansur al-Dawaniqi, once asked Imam Malik ibn Anas whether he should turn towards the grave of the Prophet (s) or face the Qiblah for supplication? Malik answered him: Why do you want to turn away from the Prophet (s) when he (Prophet Muhammad (s)) is the wasilah (means) for you and for your father Adam, towards Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Turn to him (the Prophet) and seek his intercession (shafa'at).
Al-Mughni ma' al-Sharh, vol. 3, p. 588;
al-Sharh al-Kabir ma' al-Mughni, vol. 3, p. 494;
al-Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa (2:92-93)

Wasila is a means of approach, a means by which you can achieve your objective. Wasila is a means of communication between this world and that world, just like a ladder.

Now if we take wasila’s in every day life then why do the sunnis take issue if the Shi’a use the Imams and the holy prophet as wasila when supplicating to Allah (swt)? When we ask Allah (swt) for help through them, as a means of forgiveness for our sins we turn to the Ahlul’bayt, because the Prophet (saws) said,

 “My Ahlul’bayt for my Ummah are what the ark of Noah was for the children of Israel, whoever entered therein was forgiven”.
Tabrani, al Aswat hadith number 18

The asking of intercession from the intercessor, like the asking of du’a from a pious Muslim, in no way implies that the person who asks, believes any good can come apart from Allah (swt). In effect he is asking Allah (swt), but he is using the means that Allah put at his disposal, including the intercession of those who may be closer than himself to Allah. If you hear Shiites say O Mahdi! Or O Ali! Or O Mohammad! It is not that the Shiite believe these characters can do anything without the will and want of Allah (SWT).

One may feel too ashamed of one’s bad actions and shall turn to Allah (swt) for forgiveness. To make the forgiveness process a bit quicker he brings with him someone who is dearer to Allah through his actions and intentions.

Here is an example from the Holy Qur’an:

They said: O our father! ask forgiveness of our faults for us, surely we were sinners. He said: I will ask for you forgiveness from my Lord; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.
Quran [12:97-98]

The Brother of Prophet Yusuf (as) asked that their father pray for their forgiveness. An example of seeking forgiveness, where the brothers of Prophet Yusuf (as) were ashamed of the act they had done, so they went to their father and asked for forgiveness from Allah through him.

Want to know a wasila through which you can reach Allah, through which you can ask for your forgiveness,

And We did not send any messenger but that he should be obeyed by Allah's permission; and had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you  (O Muhammad) and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had (also) asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful.
Quran [4:64]

Why shouldn't those who were unjust to themselves ask forgiveness from Allah himself directly? Why is coming to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) necessary? This is the wisdom of Allah, as he has created Muhammad (SAW) wa Aal e Muhammad (AS) a wasila for people. Here it has been made clear that the presence of the Prophet of Allah (SWT) has been a way for the people to use as a means of approach in asking forgiveness.

Prophet Musa (as) and Prophet Muhammad (s) both prayed for helpers to ease their burdens. Right from the beginning of his mission Musa (as) prayed as follows:

He said: O my Lord! Expand my breast for me, And make my affair easy to me, And loose the knot from my tongue, (That) they may understand my word; And give to me an aider from my family: Haroun, my brother, Strengthen my back by him, And associate him (with me) in my affair,
Quran [20:25-32]

Musa (as) is asking for help, not from Allah (swt) alone but from his brother as well. He is not turning to Allah (swt) exclusively for help he is asking help from another human as well, is this an act of shirk?

He said: O chiefs! which of you can bring to me her throne before they come to me in submission? One audacious among the jinn said: I will bring it to you before you rise up from your place; and most surely I am strong (and) trusty for it. One who had the knowledge of the Book said: I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye. Then when he saw it settled beside him, he said: This is of the grace of my Lord that He may try me whether I am grateful or ungrateful; and whoever is grateful, he is grateful only for his own soul, and whoever is ungrateful, then surely my Lord is Self-sufficient, Honored.
Quran [27:38-40]

Prophet Sulayman (as) asked for the throne of Bilkis to be brought to him. He (as) did not pray to Allah (swt) he asked for the help from his supporters A Servant with partial knowledge of the Book was able to bring the throne within the twinkling of an eye. Now clearly a Prophet (as) has more power than an ordinary human being and yet he asked for help from one of his companions, if seeking the help from other than Allah (swt) is shirk, then why did Prophet Sulayman (as) seek the help from am inferior subject? Would you logic not deem this to be an act of shirk?

Now, if a Prophet (as) can seek the assistance of an individual with a partial knowledge of the Book why can’t I seek help from Rasulullah (s) who was the talking Qur’an, or from Mawla Ali (as) who declared that he had a complete knowledge of the Book? In this regards we have the testimony of the great Sahaba Ibn Mas'ud said:

 "The Holy Quran has outward and inward meanings, and Ali Ibn Abi Talib has the knowledge of both."
Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu'aym, v1, p65

In addition contemplate these words of Imam Ali (as):

“Ask me about the Book of Allah, because there is no Ayah but that I know whether it was revealed at night or in daytime, on the plain or in the mountain” History of the Khailfa’s who took the right way by Jalaladeen Suyuti, p 194

Indeed there are pious people of Allah, who can Benefit us by the permission of Allah. And it is not shirk to take these Awliya (friends of Allah) too as our Protectors and Helpers, along with Allah (i.e. they are not separated from Allah in these attributes, but Allah has kept them with Him). 

The above mentioned verses and many other ayats/verses in Quran encourage the practice of tawassul, but only if its to the right people and to the chosen people by Allah (SWT).

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. The Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Quran [1:1-5]

If i ask help from a friend to do me a favor, am i denying the above verse? Logically no! For my friend is alive. This is one of the arguements put forward by people who condemn tawasul, that Muhammad (SAW) and Ali (AS) are dead thus asking help from the dead is kufr.

And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead; nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive.
Quran [2:154]

This verse is self sufficient. Those who consider Prophet (SAW) or Ali (AS) to be dead are deniers of the Quran itself.

Secondly, Asking help from Ghair Allah is Kufr. Ghair Allah includes everyone except the party of Allah, which includes Allah, the Prophet (SAW) and certain believers (Quran 5:55).

Tawassul is intermediate, not independant. When we say Ya Muhammad madad, or Ya Ali madad,

Actions are judged by intentions. Our intentions are not to disobey Allah, neither to associate anyone with him. We believe Muhammad (SAW) and his progeny are creations of Allah, and his slaves. But they are his chosen ones as well who are bestowed by authority by Allah himself. It is use of this authority which we term tawasul.

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