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Tawassul (Arabic: توسل‎) or Waseela is the Islamic understanding of intercession. It is a religious practice in which a Muslim seeks nearness to Allah. A rough translation would be: "To draw near to what one seeks after and to approach that which one desires." The exact definition and to who can intercede is a matter of some dispute within the Muslim community.[1]


Muslims who practice tawassul point to the Qur'an, Islam's holy book, as the origin of the practice. Many Muslims believe it is a commandment upon them to "draw near" to Allah.[2] Sunni Islam, as well as the Twelver Shi'a, refers it as the act of supplicating to Allah through a prophet, imam or Sufi saint, whether supposedly dead or alive. Martyrs are not considered dead in Islam, according to Allah's words in Quran [3] majority of the Islamic Scholers such as Zakir Naik place limitations on this and excludes the dead,and they said that supplicating through dead is Shirk (Islam)


Some Muslims also define tawassul as "intercession" with Allah, also pointing to the Qur'an in explanation of this. Muslims also believe that intercession is only with the "permission" of Allah.[2]

Muslims believe that the practice of seeking intercession began during the life of Muhammad.[4] An oft-cited Hadith in support of this is one narrated from Uthman ibn Hunaif regarding a blind man who Muslims believe was healed through the process.

The Hadith is as follows:

A blind man came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and said: “I've been afflicted in my eyesight, so pray to Allah for me”. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Go perform ablution (Wudu), perform two Rak’at Salat and then say: “O Allah! I ask you and turn to you through my Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy. O Muhammad! I seek your intercession with my lord for the return of my eyesight, that it may be fulfilled. O Allah! Grant him intercession for me”. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) then said: “and if there is some other need, do the same”. (Recorded by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa'i, Tabarani and others, with a sound chain of narrators).[5]

Intercession in Shia Islam[edit]

Seeking Intercession (tawassul) is accepted and even advised in Shi'a Islam. Shia Scholars refer to Quranic verses such as 5:3, 12:97 and 12:98 and justify its permissibility. During the tawassul prayer Shia muslims call on the names of the prophet Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt and use them as their intercessors/intermediaries to God.[6]

Intercession in Sunni Islam[edit]

Sunni Muslims traditionally have believed that seeking intercession is only conditionally lawful:

  • The Salafi movement considers it unlawful to make Tawassul through those that are no longer alive — including prophets and saints. The Saudi-based Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fataawa holds the view that Tawassul through dead persons, virtuous or not, leads to Shirk (polytheism).[7]
  • The Fatwa Committee of Morocco considers Tawassul using collective supplications dhikr permissible and commendable.[8]
  • Syrian Islamic scholars Salih al-Nu`man, Abu Sulayman Suhayl al-Zabibi, and Mustafa ibn Ahmad al-Hasan al-Shatti al-Hanbali al-Athari al-Dimashqi have similarly released Fatwas in support of the practice.[9]

Quranist view[edit]

According to muslims who claim the Quran should be the only source for guidance[10] (as claimed per verses 6:114, 7:3, 7:185, 31:6, 45:6, 77:50), concepts like intercession (shafaa'ah) or tawassul are satanic tricks to dupe people into committing Shirk (setting up partners with God), the greatest sin in Islam according to Quran verse 4:48: "God does not forgive that partners be set up with Him, and He forgives other than that for whom He pleases. Whoever sets up partners with God has indeed invented a great sin."

Quran alone muslims explain that one of the greatest mistakes of modern day muslims is to believe that the mushriks (polytheists) in the lifetime of Muhammad did not believe in God, but were only worshipping gods of wood and stone. According to Quranists, the Meccan polytheists also believed in God, but their biggest mistake was to have intercessors next to God:[11]
Quran 39:3: "Absolutely, to God is the true system. And those who set up allies besides Him: "We only serve them so that they may bring us closer to God." God will judge between them in what they dispute. For God does not guide him who is a liar, a rejecter."
Quran 12:106: "And most of them will not believe in God except while setting up partners."

Quranists claim all intercession belongs to God and that the sole duty of the messenger is to deliver the message:[12]

Quran 2:254: "O you who believe, spend from what We have provided for you before a Day comes when there is no trade, nor friendship, nor intercession; and the rejecters are the wicked."
Quran 21:28: "He knows their present and their future, and they cannot intercede unless it is for those whom He is pleased with. And, from His concern, they are worried." Quran 10:18: "And they serve besides God what does not harm them or benefit them, and they say: "These are our intercessors with God." Say: "Are you informing God of what He does not know in the heavens or the earth?" Be He glorified and exalted above what they set up."
Quran 39:44: "Say: "To God belongs all intercession." To Him belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you will be returned."
Quran 13:40: "And if We show you some of what We promise them, or We terminate your life, then you are only to deliver while for Us is the reckoning."
Quran 72:21: "Say: I have no power to harm you nor to show you what is right."

Quranists also condemn the tawassul prayer, because mentioning other names or using intermediaries during prayer is forbidden in the Quran. According to the Quran the prayer should be dedicated to God and God alone and the dead cannot hear you:

Quran 39:36: "Is God not enough for His servant? And they frighten you with others besides Him. And whoever God sends astray, then for him there will be no guide."
Quran 39:45: "And when God alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter are filled with aversion; and when others are mentioned besides Him, they rejoice!"
Quran 20:14: "I am God, there is no god except Me, so serve Me and hold the contact prayer for My remembrance."
Quran 41:6: "Say: I am no more than a mortal like you. It is inspired to me that your god is One god, therefore you shall be upright towards Him and seek His forgiveness. And woe to the polytheists."
Quran 46:5: "And who is more astray than he who calls on others besides God that do not respond to him even until the Day of Resurrection? And they are totally unaware of the calls to them!"
Quran 6:40,41: "Say: "We will see when the retribution of God comes to you, or the Hour comes to you, if you will still call on any other than God. If you are being truthful." "No, it is Him alone you will call on; and He will remove that which you called Him for, if He wills; and you will forget what you set up."
Quran 22:62: "That is because God is the truth, and what they call on besides Him is falsehood. And God is the Most High, the Great."
Quran 72:20: "Say: I only call on my Lord, and I do not set up anyone with Him."
Quran 21:67: "I am fed up of you and to what you serve besides God! Do you not comprehend?"
Quran 7:194: "Those whom you call on besides God are servants like you; so let them answer for you if you are truthful."
Quran 10:66: "Certainly, to God belong all who are in the heavens and those who are on the earth. As for those who call on partners besides God, they only follow conjecture, and they only guess."
Quran 10:106: "And do not call upon other than God what does not benefit you or harm you; if you do, then you are of the wicked."
Quran 13:14: "To Him is the call of truth. And those who are called on besides Him, they will not respond to them in anything; like one who places his hands openly in the water to drink, except it never reaches his mouth. The call of the rejecters is nothing but in misguidance."
Quran 35:22: "Nor equal are the living and the dead; God causes whoever He wills to hear; and you cannot make those who are in the graves hear."


Further reading[edit]

  • Chiabotti, Francesco, Shafa'a (Intercession), in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014. ISBN 1610691776

External links[edit]