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Tawassul is an Arabic word originated from wa-sa-la- wasilat (Arabic: وسيلة-وسل‎‎). The wasilah is a means by which a person, goal or objective is approached, attained or achieved.[1] In another version of the meaning of tawassul in another text: Tawassul is an Arabic word that comes from a verbal noun, wasilah, which according to Ibn Manzur (d. 711/1311) in Lisān al-'Arab means "a station with King, a rank, or act of devotion.[2] In other words, it refers to a position of power due to one's proximity to the king or sovereign.[2] While the tawassul or tawassulan is the use of wasilah for this purpose.[1] In religious contexts,the tawassul is the use of a wasilah to arrive at or obtain favour of Allah.[1]

We can find various examples of tawassul in the Books of Hadith.One good example is found in well-known hadith of the young men trapped in a cave whose mouth was covered by a stone: Each of them prays to God by mentioning some acts that he did for God's sake, in hopes that it might cause his prayer to be accepted.[2] This is a good example of doing tawassul with one's good action.


The most frequently cited of those verses of the Quran in which the word wasilah appears is:

O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means (wasilah) of nearness to Him and strive hard in His way that you may be successful (Q5:35)

The meaning of the term wasilah in the above verse according to Albani is a thing that is used to obtain closeness and favour of Allah.[1] Some classical commentators, including the great Sufi exegetes, such as al-Qushayri (d. 465/1074) explain the use of al-wasilah in this verse to mean avoiding what is prohibited, fulfilling what is enjoined on us, and drawing near to God through good actions.[2] Both Raghib Isfahan and Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i opine that al-wasilah means to reach a certain goal through desire, inclination and willingness, and in fact wasilah towards God means observance of His path with knowledge and worship through adherence to the Sharia.[3] In another verse of the Qur'an that confirmed legality of tawassul (intercession) states:

We sent not the Messenger, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of Allah. If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come to the Messenger and asked Allah's forgiveness, and the Messenger had (also) asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful.

— Al-Qur'an, Surah an-Nisa, 4:64[4]

It can be deduced from the verse above that intercession (tawassul) is only with the "permission" of Allah.[5] Also, the practice of seeking intercession began during the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[6] 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.[7]

Tawassul in light of Quran[edit]

The Qur'an states:

If, when they had wronged themselves, they had come to you, and asked forgiveness from God, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found God Relenting, Merciful.

— Al-Qur'an, Surah an-Nisa, 4:64

This verse raised the question as to whether or not Muhammad’s mediation was still possible after his death. A number of Islamic scholars including Al-Nawawi, Ibn Kathir and Ibn al-Athir in his exegesis relates the following episode, aiming to demonstrate its effectiveness:

A Bedouin of the desert visited the Prophet’s tomb and greeted the Prophet, addressing him directly as if he were alive. “Peace upon you, Messenger of God!” Then he said, “I heard the word of God ‘If, when they had wronged themselves . . .,’ I came to you seeking pardon for my mistakes, longing for your intercession with our Lord!” The Bedouin then recited a poem in praise of the Prophet and departed. The person who witnessed the story says that he fell asleep, and in a dream he saw the Prophet saying to him, “O ‘Utbi, rejoin our brother the Bedouin and announce [to] him the good news that God has pardoned him!”[8][9][10]

The Qur'an also states:

O believers! Fear Allah and seek means (of approach to) His (presence and to His nearness and accessibility) and strive in His way so that you may prosper

— Al-Qur'an, Surah an-Maida, 5:35

The above verse lay emphasis on four things:

  • Faith
  • Piety (Taqwa)
  • Search for means of approach
  • Struggle for Allah's sake

According to the verse, the third regulation after faith in God and piety is " seeking means (of approach to) His (presence and to His nearness and accessibility)". Some of the religious scholars have interpreted wasilah (the means of approach) mentioned in the Quranic verse as faith and good deeds while others, who are majority have explained the word as the prophets, the righteous and favorites of Allah.[11] Also, the verse reveals that a person seeking means of approach to Allah will have in the first instance a believer and Muttaqeen (a person who fear Allah). Thus wasilah does not amount to associating partner with Allah but rather reaffirms the oneness of Allah.[11]

Tawassul in the light of Sunna[edit]

Various episodes from the life of Muhammad sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam depict him interceding on behalf of his companions, mostly asking God to forgive their sins (Istighfar). For example, Aisha relates that he often slipped quietly from her side at night to go to the cemetery of Al-Baqi' to beseech forgiveness of God for the dead....Similarly, his istighfar is mentioned in the Salat al-Janazah... and it's efficacy explained.[7][12]

Another early example of tawassul is represented by the idea of turning to God by means of the Prophet. This appears in an account concerning the story of a blind man who asked the Prophet to pray to God for his health because of his blindness.This hadith is quoted in some major collections of traditions, such as Ahmad ibn Hanbal's musnad:[7]

The Prophet ordered the blind man to repeat these words: “O God, I ask you and turn to You by means of Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy, O Muhammad! By your means I turn to God.”

Sunni perspective[edit]

Views of Islamic Jurists[edit]

All jurists comprising Imami, Shafi'i, Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali are unanimous on the permissibility of tawassul whether during the lifetime of the prophet or after his demise.[13][14] Sunni Muslims traditionally have believed that seeking intercession is lawful: Imam Baihaqi in Shu’ayb ul Iman endorsed the view of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, Imam Shafi in Imâm Shâfi`î, Dîwân, Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani in Al-Isabah, Mullah Ali Qari in Sharh ash-Shifa, Imam Ibn Kathir in Ibn Kathir, Imam an-Nawawi in Majmu, Imam Jalaluddin Suyuti in Dur al-Manthur, Imam Qurtubi in Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Qadhi Shawkani in Tuhfa tul Dhakireen have explained and supported Tawassul.[4][unreliable source?] 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.[15]

Al-Suyuti in his book History of the Caliphs also reports Caliph Umar’s prayer for rain after the death of the Prophet and specifies that on that occasion ‘Umar was wearing the Prophet Muhammad’s mantel (al-burda), a detail confirming his tawassul through the Prophet at that occasion.[7]

Sunni ahadith[edit]

Few chosen Sunni ahadith in regard to tawassul:

Narrated Anas: Whenever there was drought, 'Umar bin Al-Khattab used to ask Allah for rain through Al'Abbas bin 'Abdul Muttalib, saying, "O Allah! We used to request our Prophet to ask You for rain, and You would give us. Now we request the uncle of our Prophet to ask You for rain, so give us rain." And they would be given rain."[16][17]

Ibn Umar reported: When the Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him) went out on the 'Id day, he ordered to carry a spear-and it was fixed in front of him, and he said prayer towards its (direction), and the people were behind him. And he did it in the journey, and that is the reason why the Amirs carried it.[18]

It's related from Abu Sadiq (ra) that Imam Ali (ra) said: "Three days after burying the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) The Araabi did come and did throw himself on the grave of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), he took the earth and threw it on his head. He said: "Ya Rasulallah! (Peace Be Upon Him) You did speak and we did hear, you learned from Allah and we did learn from you. Between those things which Allah did send you, is following: (4:64) I am the one, which is a sinner and now I did came to you, so that you may ask for me." After that a call from the grave did came: "Theres no doubt, you are forgiven!"[19][20]

Imam Qurtubi related the tradition through Ibn ‘Abbas: The Jews of Khaybar were often at war with the Ghatafan (tribe). When they confronted each other (in battle) the Jews were defeated. They attacked again, offering this prayer, “(O Lord,) we beg You through the mediation of the Unlettered Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) about whom You have promised us that you will send him to us at the end of time. Please help us against them.” Ibn ‘Abbas adds: whenever they faced the enemy, they offered this prayer and defeated the Ghatafan (tribe). But when the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was sent, they denied (him). So Allah the Exalted revealed the verse: “And before that they themselves had (prayed) for victory (through the mediation of the last Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and the Book revealed to him) over the disbelievers,” that is, through your mediation, O Muhammad.[21][22]

It was narrated from 'Uthman bin Hunaif that a blind man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said: "Pray to Allah to heal me." He said: "If you wish to store your reward for the Hereafter, that is better, or if you wish, I will supplicate for you." He said: "Supplicate." So he told him to perform ablution and do it well, to pray two Rak'ah, and to say this supplication: "Allahumma lnni as'aluka wa atawajjahu ilaika bimuhammadin nabiyyir-rahma. Ya Muhammadu inni qad tawajjahtu bika ila rabbi fi hajati hadhihi lituqda. Allahumma fashaffi’hu fiya (O Allah, I ask of You and I turn my face towards You by virtue of the intercession of Muhammad the Prophet of mercy. O Muhammad, I have turned to my Lord by virtue of your intercession concerning this need of mine so that it may be met. O Allah, accept his intercession concerning me)".[23][24][25]

Shia perspective[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 Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt and use them as their intercessors/intermediaries to God.[26] Shias always pray to and only to Allah, but as other Muslims, they accept tawassul as a means of seeking intercession.



  1. ^ a b c d Julian, Millie (2008). "Supplicating,Naming,offering:Tawassul in West Java". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 39 (1): 107–122. doi:10.1017/S0022463408000052. 
  2. ^ a b c d Hamza, Yusuf (2014). The Prayer of the oppressed. eBooks2go. ISBN 9781618130204. 
  3. ^ Shirazi, Abd al-Karim (2000). Tawassul-Seeking a way unto Allah. Ahlul Bayt World Assembly. 
  4. ^ a b http://www.ahlus-sunna.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57&Itemid=116
  5. ^ Sunni Hanbali Position from Islam Tomorrow
  6. ^ Al Rifai Al Salafi At Tawassol Ila Haqiqat al Tawassul P:158. الرفاعي المعاصر: التوصل إلى حقيقة التوسل
  7. ^ a b c d Ph.D, Coeli Fitzpatrick; Walker, Adam Hani (2014-04-25). Muhammad (saw) in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 301. ISBN 9781610691789. 
  8. ^ Ph.D, Coeli Fitzpatrick; Walker, Adam Hani (2014-04-25). Muhammad (s) in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 300–301. ISBN 9781610691789. 
  9. ^ Ibn Kathir (1983). Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim. Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa. pp. 1:521. 
  10. ^ al-Nawawi, Yahya ibn Sharaf. al-Majmu: sharh al-Muhadhdhab. Medina: al-Maktaba al-Salafiyya. pp. 8:256. 
  11. ^ a b Tahir-ul-Qadri, Muhammad (2001). Islamic Concept of Intermediation (Tawassul). Minhaj-ul-Quran Publication,Lahore. pp. 42–44. ISBN 978-9693208825. 
  12. ^ Wensinck, A. J.; Gimaret, D. (1997). "Shafa‘a" In Encyclopedia of Islam. 9. Leiden: Brill. pp. 177–179. 
  13. ^ al-Zurqani, Muhammad. Sharh al-Mawahib al-ladunniyah. Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa. pp. 304–305. 
  14. ^ Ibn Juzayy, Muhammad (1926). Al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah. Matbaat al-Nahda. p. 148. 
  15. ^ Salih al-Na`man's fatwa on Tawassul
  16. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 57, Hadith 59
  17. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 15, Hadith 5
  18. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Hadith 1010
  19. ^ Tafsir al-Qurtubi, al-Jami li Ahkam al-Quran Volume 006, Page No. 439, Under the Verse, 4:64
  20. ^ Ibid., scanned page.
  21. ^ Tafsir Qurtubi, al-Jami li Ahkam al-Quran, Volume 002, Page No. 89-90, Under the Verse 2:89
  22. ^ Ibid., scanned page.
  23. ^ Ibn Majah transmitted it in his Sunan, book of Iqamat al-salat wa al-sunnat (establishing prayer and its sunnahs)[Page 197, Hadith No#1385)
  24. ^ Imam Bukhari, Book : Tareekh Ul Kabeer Volume : 6 page : 209
  25. ^ Tirmidhī in al-Jami-us-sahīh, book of da‘awat (supplications) ch.119 (5:569#3578) where he declared it "HASAN SAHIH GHARIB"
  26. ^ Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 339–358. 

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]