Concerning the tawassul that is unlawful, then it refers to any invalid means, from an Islamic viewpoint, to seek closeness to Allah. The unlawful tawassul is of various types, which are also of varying degree of unacceptability. They included:

  1. Tawassul that involves calling on the dead or absent people for help, or to provide one’s needs or dispel worries. Doing so is an act of major shirk and qualifies the perpetrators to exit the fold of Islam.
  2. Seeking closeness to Allah by worshipping at the graveyards. Such as supplicating to Allah there, building a mosque there, or something similar, on top of the graves, placing lamps, mantles, or veils around them, etc. Such acts are regarded as minor shirk, which are not only inconsistent with the perfection of tawḥīd, but also leads to committing major shirk.
  3. Using the honor, prestige, or lofty position of the Prophets and the righteous as a means to attain closeness to Allah. This is forbidden is nothing but an innovated heresy, for Allah has never sanctioned or approved such thing. Allah says,

“Has Allah permitted you [to do so]?” (Q, 10:59)

The honor or position of the righteous in the sight of Allah benefits only their holders. Allah says,

“That a person has only that for which he makes efforts.” (Q, 53:39)

Using tawassul in this manner was something that was unknown during the time of the Prophet and his Companions. Many Muslim scholars have also unequivocally declared it forbidden. Abū Ḥanīfah said, “It is blameworthy for a supplicant to say, ‘I ask You with the honor or importance of so-and-so person, or that of Your awliyā, Your Messenger, the Sacred House, or the al-Mash‘ar al-Ḥarām.”

Perhaps the antagonists of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘ah will cite some fallacious arguments or raise certain objections regarding the issue of tawassul, either to sustain their erring conclusions or to give the common person wrong impression of the genuineness of their stance. Their arguments in this regard are usually centered around one of the following points:

The first are the use of weak or fabricated ḥadīths, which they use to support their stand on the issue. However, once the fictitious nature of such ḥadīths or their weakness is uncovered, the purported argument itself becomes baseless. Some examples of those ḥadīths are as follows, “Use my [i.e., the Prophet’s] prestige to seek access [to Allah] for my prestige in the sight of Allah is an esteemed one.” Or, “When you ask Allah, ask Him with my prestige, for my prestige, in His sight, is an esteemed one.” These are fabricated ḥadīths that have not been reported by any respectable Muslim scholar or recorded in any ḥadīth compilations.

Another is, “Whenever you are bewildered or confounded with a matter, then you should call on the dead to help you.” This is also, as held by the Muslim scholars, a spurious and forged statement. Another is, “An ordinary stone could have been a source of benefit to one of you, if he had had a good impression of it.” This is another one that has been fabricated by some polytheists, and its content running contrary to the teachings of Islam is obvious. Another one is, “After Adam had committed the sin, he said, ‘My Lord, with the prestige of Muhammad, I beseech You to forgive me.’ Allah asked him, ‘Adam, how did you know of Muhammad when I have not yet created him?’ He said, ‘My Lord, after you created me with Your own Hand and breathed into me the soul You have made, I raise my head and saw an inscription on the pillars of the Throne that read, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.” I deduced of his being Your most beloved creation.’ Allah said, ‘I have forgiven you; were it not for the sake of Muhammad, I would not have created you.’” This is also a false and baseless ḥadīth. Another fabricated one has, “Had it not been for your sake, I would not have created the orbits.” The attitude of a Muslim towards these and other fabricated ḥadīth should be total negligence, and they should never be used as proof, let alone be relied upon in the religion.

The second is the use of authentic ḥadīths while applying a distorted interpretation to them either deliberately or by ignorance. Some of these ḥadīths are the following:

“Whenever drought threatened them, ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb would ask al-‘Abbās b. `Abd al-Muṭṭalib to supplicate to Allah for rain. He would say, ‘Allah, we used to ask our Prophet to supplicate to You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, now we ask his uncle to supplicate to You for rain. Allah, bless us with rain.’”[1]

The opponents of Ahl al-Sunnah erroneously infer from the above ḥadīth that ‘Umar actually used the prestige of ‘Abbās and his position in Allah’s sight as a means to approach Him. They interpret the contents to be: We would use the prestige of our Prophet to seek access to You, and You would give us rain, and we now use that of his uncle to seek access to You. However, this is clearly a misunderstanding on their part, and a very remote interpretation, which is even incompatible with the context. Using the person or prestige of the Prophet as a method of drawing close to Allah was, as far as the Prophet’s Companions were concerned, an unknown phenomenon. They would instead ask the Prophet during his lifetime to supplicate to Allah on their behalf, as we have earlier mentioned some instances of this. Thus, when ‘Umar made his aforementioned statement, “Now we ask his uncle to supplicate to You for rain,” he never had in mind using the prestige of ‘Abbās or his person, but rather his invocation on their behalf. Besides, had taking the person or prestige of anyone as a way of seeking Allah’s favor been a known phenomenon to them, it would have been meaningless on the part of ‘Umar to give up using the person or prestige of the Prophet and instead resort to that of ‘Abbās. Other Companions would have also questioned the rationale for such a move. Since no objection of this kind was raised by them, and having known that they actually used the Prophet’s invocation for them during his lifetime, or that of someone else after his death as a means of approaching Allah, it is understandable that what they believed to be lawful with respect to tawassul was to use the invocation of the intermediary and not his person. Therefore, the ḥadīth comprises no proof in support of the view that says a person or his prestige may be used as a means of approaching Allah.

Another ḥadīth is the one related by ‘Uthmān b. Ḥunayf,

“A blind man came to the Prophet and said, ‘Supplicate to Allah to heal me.’ He said, ‘If you wish I will supplicate for you, and if you wish, you can be patient, for that is better for you.’ He said, ‘Then supplicate to Him.’ So he ordered him to perform ablution, and to make his ablution complete, and to supplicate with this supplication, ‘Allah, I ask You and turn towards You by Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy. Indeed, I have turned to my Lord, by means of You, concerning this need of mine, so that it can be resolved, so Allah so accept his intercession for me.’”[2]

Those opponents think that the above ḥadīth sanctions the use of the Prophet’s prestige or that of any other righteous person as a means to approach to Allah. However, the ḥadīth in reality in devoid of any indication. The blind man only requested that the Prophet supplicate to Allah to restore his sight, and the Prophet responded to him with the following, “If you wish I will supplicate for you, and if you wish, you can be patient, for that is better for you,” but the man insisted that the Prophet supplicate to Allah. The wording of this ḥadīth has, therefore, clearly proven that the event was only an instance of a tawassul through the Prophet’s supplication and not through his person or prestige. Based on this, Muslims scholars, such as al-Bayhaqī, regard the contents of this ḥadīth as a manifestation of the Prophet’s miracle and an example of how Allah answered his supplications. Allah restored the sight of the blind man in recognition of the blessing of the Prophet’s supplication for him.

However, after the death of the Prophet, receiving such blessing that the blind man enjoyed is unrealistic, for it is impossible that the Prophet would supplicate for anyone after his death. It has been related in a ḥadīth,

“The deeds of everyone comes to an end with his death except for three: a recurring charity, knowledge by which the people after him benefit, and a righteous child that supplicates to Allah for him.”[3]

Supplication, understandably, is one of those good deeds that are bound to cease with the death of any person.

In any case, the arguments put forward by the opponents are devoid of any proof, as they are all based on either unreliable narrations, or on sound ones whose contents have nothing to do with their false claims.

Seventh: Al-Ghuluww (Excessiveness)

The linguistic definition of ghuluww is to exceed the proper limits in any way, either by overrating or underrating something. As for it legalistic definition, then it refers to going beyond the limit set by Allah for His servants in regards to their belief or worship.

Excessiveness is prohibited in Islam. This has been stated in a number of religious texts, which also warn against it, and which explain the immediate and remote consequences that awaits those who partake in it. Allah says,

“People of the Book, do not be excessive in your religion, or say about Allah except the truth.” (Q, 4:171)

“Say, ‘People of the Book, be not excessive in your religion unjustly, and do not follow the desires of a people who have already gone astray, misled many and lost the right path.’” (Q, 5:77)

Ibn ‘Abbās relates that the Prophet said,

“Beware of excessiveness, for those before you were destroyed because of being excessive in their religion.”[4]

Ibn Mas‘ūd related that the Prophet said,

“Those who exceed the limits have perished.”[5]

‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb related that the Prophet said,

“Do not go into excessiveness concerning me like the Christians did with ‘Īsā b. Maryam, for I am only Allah’s servant and His Messenger.”[6]

In this ḥadīth the Prophet warns his followers to not go into the extreme in extolling him, lest they reach the extent of saying about him that which the Christians said about ‘Īsā by equating him with Allah. The Prophet also declares that he is mere servant of Allah and His Messenger. However, those who have gone astray instead disobey the Prophet’s command and perpetrate that which he has forbidden. Thus, they disagreed with him, went beyond the limit in extolling him, and said of him that which the Christians said about ‘Īsā or close to it. Those erring people ask the Prophet to forgive them for their sins, to dispel their difficulties, to cure their ailments, and for forth. Such requests can only be answered by the One and true God, Allah, and directing them to any from the creation is an act of excessiveness (ghuluww) in the religious matters.

[1] Bukhārī no. 1010.

[2] Tirmidhī no. 3578 and Aḥmad 4/pg. 138.

[3] Muslim no. 1631.

[4] Aḥmad 1/pg. 347.

[5] Muslim no. 2670.

[6] Bukhārī no. 3445.

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