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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] Others such as Zakir Naik place limitations on this and excludes the dead. Hamza Yusuf disagrees but argues these are not major issues which should cause fitnah. He notes that the source of this topic being an issue started only with Ibn Taymiyyah.


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.

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).[6]
  • The Fatwa Committee of Morocco considers Tawassul using collective supplications dhikr permissible and commendable.[7][dead link]
  • 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.[8]


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]