According to sound Islamic belief, the ultimate focus of beseeching help and assistance through the prophets and saints is Allāh Himself because He is the only true helper and supporter and has the real power to relieve a difficult situation and mitigate an intractable exigency. He Himself has repeatedly stressed upon the people to implore Him for help and relief whenever they face an ugly predicament or are driven into a tight corner. Thus, if anyone sets aside this fundamental Qur’ānic teaching and regards someone else except Allāh as the source of gain and loss, he is surely guilty of disbelief, because it virtually amounts to imploring non-God for help and assistance. He is a disbeliever whether his request is conditioned by natural causes or is engineered by supernatural factors. On the other hand, if he believes in Allāh as the true helper and then turns to some other person for assistance, he is not committing disbelief because his action is religiously sanctioned. For example, if he consults a doctor for treatment or seeks the assistance of a saint for supplication or some kind of spiritual healing, he is operating within the well-recognised and widely accepted parameters of Islamic faith. His act conforms to approved standards and is compatible with the traditionally hallowed practice of the virtuous people. Allāh has on many occasions in the Qur’ān stressed upon the believers to help one another. He says:
And help one another in (acts of) righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in (the acts of) sin and oppression.
In the Qur’ānic verse Allāh is enjoining upon the community of Muslims to help and cooperate with one another. This cooperation is predicated on the fact of discrepancy between its members, as it is inconceivable without the presence of inequality among them. Thus it is possible only when there are two classes among the believers: the affluent and the non-affluent. The latter are supposed to ask for the help of the former who are expected to extend this help to them. It is obvious that this principle applies indiscriminately in material as well as spiritual matters; it also applies equally in natural and supernatural conditions because Allāh has made it collectively binding and nobody can claim exception, because a Qur’ānic injunction cannot be limited by khabar wāhid (a single saying) or analogical reasoning. Therefore, if anyone tries to restrict it conditionally or by the logic of compromise and expediency, he is undoubtedly indulging in an act that clashes with the divine intention. The injunction for mutual cooperation is one of the basic components of Islamic teaching and is supported by a number of Qur’ānic verses and traditions. It proves without reservation that the person whose help is being craved must assist the person who is craving his help; he should respond to the appeal for help and try to alleviate the suffering of his fellow beings.
The Qur’ān has furnished in different contexts a number of justifications for beseeching the prophets and saints for help. It is as valid to beseech the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help as the act of a Qibtī who beseeched Mūsā (عليه السلام) for help against the excesses of a tyrant. In response to his appeal, Mūsā (عليه السلام) extended help to him and relieved his misery. Who could be a greater source for the validation of this act than the prophets themselves whose primary mission was to disseminate the message of divine unity throughout the world! Allāh has not pronounced anyone of them, Qibtī and the prophet, as a disbeliever on account of this act of beseeching help from others. Allāh says:
So the person who was of his very community sought his help against another person who was from among his foes.
The Qur’ān has also described at various junctures that the believers from former communities beseeched their prophets and saints for help. It is similarly applicable to the followers of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and is clearly reflected in the practice of the Companions. A number of traditions support the validity of this act. These traditions focus on extending help to the needy and alleviating the problems of the less fortunate.
Istighāthah ¾ In the light of traditions and the practice of the Companions
To support someone in his hour of trouble and to commiserate with him in his moment of agony is to fortify the relationship steeped in love. The message of Islam is the message of peace and security and the life of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is permeated with the perfume of love. Even when he is stoned by the ruffians of Tā’if, only the flowers of prayer blossom on his lips; there is not a squeak of complaint against them. He condones the acts of those who are after his blood because his faith is essentially the interpretation of love. Who could be a greater means of redemption than the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself who alleviated the pain of others and helped them — in the fulfilment of their needs! On the Day of Judgement, when people will face their greatest calamity and become self-obsessive, they will rally round the prophets and saints to beseech their help and intercession, but all will express their inability to help them on that day, and finally they will beseech the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and rely on his mediation for their salvation, and Allāh will end their torture for the sake of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). According to the tradition the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: ‘people will beseech Adam (عليه السلام) for help, then Mūsā(عليه السلام) and finally himself.’ If this is permissible on the Day of Judgement, this should be equally permissible during our stay in this world. This reflects the kind-heartedness and benevolence of the prophets that the believers can depend on them as a means of approach to the infinite mercy of Allāh, whether we are on the earth or in the Hereafter.
The text of the tradition is as follows:
Narrated by ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Umar that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said, “A person constantly begs from other people till he on the Day of Judgement has no flesh on his face.” He added, “The sun will come closer to the people on the Day of Judgement. It will be so close that half of one’s ear will be drenched in sweat. In this condition, people will first seek the mediation of Adam(عليه السلام), then of Mūsā (عليه السلام) and finally of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).” And ‘Abdullāh ¾ the sub-narrator ¾ added, “Layth narrated to me that Ibn Abū Ja‘far had narrated: He [the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)] will intercede with Allāh to judge amongst the people. Then he will leave here until he will hold the arc of the gate of Paradise. On that day, Allāh will make him ascend the glorious station and all the people present there will sing his praises.
The tradition has, thus, furnished a justification not only of the word istighāthahbut also of its popular usage. The noteworthy point is that when it is valid to beseech the prophets and the saints for help in the Hereafter and also to seek the help of the living in this phenomenal world, it is simply meaningless and absurd to deny its relevance during the purgatorial existence.
A number of traditions attest to the fact that the Companions beseeched the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and assistance and sought the solution of their problems through his mediation by stressing their penury, disease, suffering, need, debt and humility. This act was based on their underlying conviction that the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) served only as an intermediary in their gain and loss and the real operating force behind all these phenomena is only Allāh Himself. No one, not even His beloved Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), can encroach upon His exclusive terrain.
Given below are a few traditions in which the Companions beseeched the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help:
Abū Hurayrah’s appeal for help
Abū Hurayrah had a weak retentive power and therefore, could not easily remember the commands of the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). He beseeched the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help who permanently cured his tendency to forgetfulness. This is the reason that he proved to be the most prolific narrator of traditions. Abū Hurayrah relates it in his own words:
I said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! I listen to many of your traditions and then I forget them.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: ‘spread your sheet.’ So I spread it. Abū Hurayrah says: ‘then the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) picked up something (from the air) with his hands and put it in (the sheet). Then said: “join it to yourself,” so I joined it, and afterwards my memory never slipped.’
The tradition indicates that the Companions beseeched the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help in every difficult situation. Who could be a greater supporter of the concept of divine unity than the Companions themselves! And who could be a stauncher claimant of the oneness of Allāh than the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself! But, in spite of it, Abū Hurayrah beseeched the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and succour and instead of turning down his request he solved his problem forever. The reason is that anyone who believes in divine unity, knows that the only real helper is Allāh, while the prophets, the saints and other pious people whose help is being sought, act only as intermediaries. Their power of mediation derives from Allāh’s blessing Who has conferred on them this power to ease the problems of the believers. The act of mediation is, therefore, divinely sanctioned, and does not amount to a trespass of divinity.
Abū Hurayrah beseeched the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help who fulfilled his need. He never told him to pray to Allāh directly and to remain steadfast in his belief in divine unity. On the contrary, he picked up a fistful of something invisible from the air and put it in his sheet and commanded to rub it on to his chest. Thus Allāh acknowledged this act of mediation as valid and fulfilled Abū Hurayrah’s need.
Every sensible person who believes in divine unity knows that supplication is made only to Allāh for the fulfilment of needs whose power spans all the worlds. The petitioner believes that the person he is beseeching to mediate and intercede on his behalf is closer to Allāh Who responds more sensitively and urgently to his appeal for help. Therefore, the appeal processed through him stands a greater chance of immediate acceptance. The petitioner knows that his power to help is only derivative because the real helper is Allāh Himself and this is what is clearly reflected in Abū Hurayrah’s tradition.
Qatādah bin an-Nu‘mān’s appeal for help
Qatāda bin an-Nu‘mān lost his eye during the battle of Badr. The eyeball was dislocated and dangled from his face. Keeping in view the severity of pain, a few Companions advised him to have the optic vein cut off to alleviate the pain. Before acting on the advice of the Companions, Qatādah decided to bring it to the notice of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). When he called on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and related to him his story, he did not allow him to have his eye operated; rather, he placed the eyeball back at its original place with his hand, which restored his eyesight. Qatādah used to say that the vision of his lost eye was in no way weaker than the original one; it was even better than before. This tradition bearing on the validity of istighāthah has been recorded in these words:
It is related by Qatādah bin an-Nu‘mān that his eye was lost during the battle of Badr and the eyeball slid on to his face. The other Companions wanted to cut it off. But when they consulted the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), he disallowed it. Then he prayed for him and placed the eyeball back at its original place. So Qatādah’s eye was restored in a manner that it was impossible to say which eye had been damaged.
Abscess–stricken Companion’s appeal for help
It is narrated in the books on tradition that struma appeared on the hand of a Companion, which made it impossible for him to hold the bridle of a horse or the handle of a sword. He called on the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and beseeched him to cure his disease. So Allāh, Who is the real Helper, cured him through the Prophet’s hand. This tradition is related in these words:
I called on the holy Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). I had struma on my hand. I said: ‘O prophet of Allāh! I have a struma (on my hand) which makes it painful for me to hold the bridle of a horse and the sword.’ The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)said: ‘come close to me.’ So I moved closer (to him). Then he opened that struma and blew his breath on my hand and placed his hand over the struma and kept on pressing it and when he lifted his hand, the effect of that (struma) had completely vanished.
A blind Companion’s appeal for help
Restoration of the blind people’s eyesight was not only a miracle performed by ‘Īsā (عليه السلام), it was performed by the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as well. It is narrated that a blind Companion called on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and beseeched his help for the restoration of his eyesight. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), instead of discouraging him or condemning it as a form of disbelief, stressed upon him to supplicate through him. This kind of supplication in itself is a composite of mediation and appeal for help, and if it is offered even today with the same intensity of sincerity, it is a patent medicine for the ailing mankind. Narrated by ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf:
That a blind man called on the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and said to him: ‘(O Messenger of Allāh,) pray to Allāh to give me solace.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: ‘if you wish, I will stall it and this is better (for you), and if you wish, I pray.’ He said: ‘you should pray (for me) to Him.’ So he asked him to perform the ablution: ‘perform the ablution thoroughly well and then offer two cycles of optional prayer and beseech Allāh with this supplication: “O Allāh, I appeal to You, and submit to You through the mediation of the merciful Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). O Muhammad, through your mediation I submit myself to My Lord to have my need granted. O Allāh, acknowledge his intercession in my favour.”
Ibn Mājah, Hākim and Dhahabī have declared it a sound (sahīh) tradition while Tirmidhī graded it hasan (fair) sahīh (sound) gharīb (unfamiliar).
You must have noticed that the introductory sentence of the supplication in the tradition is offering the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as an intermediary before Allāh while its second sentence, in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is being directly addressed, is furnishing not only a justification for seeking the help of Allāh’s favourites but also issuing it as a form of command. If, seeking help through other creatures except Allāh were an invalid act, the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) would not have issued it in the form of a command. When the greatest supporter of divine unity himself commanded that the believers should beseech his help, who are we to mislead the Muslims by calling them disbelievers when they are following in the Prophet’s footsteps! Those who disacknowledge the validity of this act in a fit of misplaced enthusiasm to purify Islam are actually indulging in an un-Islamic act because their efforts are in conflict with the true Islamic beliefs and the practice of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).
Similarly, another tradition narrated by Imām Hākim is couched in different words. In this tradition, ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf says that he was present in the Prophet’s company. A blind person called on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)and complained about the loss of his eyesight. He added: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, there is no one to guide me and I am in great trouble.’ On hearing his complaint, the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: ‘bring an earthen pot for ablution, then perform the ablution and offer two cycles of optional prayer. Then say:
O Allāh, I appeal to You, and submit to You through the mediation of Your merciful Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). O Muhammad, through your mediation I submit myself to your Lord that He should give light to my eyes. O Allāh, acknowledge his intercession in my favour and accept my supplication also in my favour.
‘Uthmān bin Hunayf said:
I swear by Allāh that we had neither left the company nor had we carried on a long conversation that the man entered (with his sight fully restored) and it seemed as if he had never been blind.
In addition, a number of other traditionists of great repute have recorded this sound tradition and their names are given below:
- Nasā’ī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.418#660).
- Bukhārī, at-Tārīkh-ul-kabīr [6:209-10(3/2/209-10)].
- Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:138).
- Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:166-7).
- Ibn-us-Sunnī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.202#622).
- Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (1:473-4).
- Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (pp.123-4).
- Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:559).
- Suyūtī, al-Khasā’is-ul-kubrā (2:201).
- Qastallānī, al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:594).
- Zurqānī, Commentary (12:221-2).
Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh has also expressed his views in his book Raf‘-ul-minārah (p.123):
“All these chains are sound which have been certified by persons who have committed the traditions to memory. Among these are also included Imām Tirmidhī, Tabarānī, Ibn Khuzaymah, Hākim and Dhahabī.”
This sacred tradition clearly indicates that the creature is imploring Allāh Who alone can help him and provide relief to him. He alone has the power to transform non-existence into existence, non-entity into entity. But the point to be noted here is that the words of the supplication are being taught by the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself in which God’s attention and help are being invoked for its acceptance through his own mediation. It may be further noted that it is not only his person that is being relied upon for the acknowledgement of the supplication, but also the quality of his mercy that he has been vested with through Allāh’s kindness. Thus the prayer boils down to the fact that the petitioner is saying: ‘O Allāh, I appeal to You through the mediation of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) whom You have Yourself vested with infinite mercy that You should restore my lost eyesight and return light to my eyes which they have lost.’
Since the supplication was processed through the Prophet’s mediation, the Lord’s mercy gushed forth instantly as it is against the divine will that some petitioner should invoke His mercy through the mediation of the Holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and his petition should not be granted. In this case the grant of the supplication was neither delayed nor was the phenomenon of cause-and-effect allowed to interfere in its acceptance. It was the blessing of the Prophet’s mediation, which returned the eyesight instantly as if it had never been lost.
Companions’ appeal for rain
The books on tradition are riddled with the proofs of beseeching the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and its confirmation by the practice of the Companions. An unbroken chain of authentic traditions proves that whenever the Companions faced a problem or a calamity, they came rushing to the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to beseech his help. They supplicated before Allāh through his mediation and beseeched his help for the fulfilment of their needs. As a result, Allāh waived the calamity dangling over their heads. Anas bin Mālik has related:
- The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) was delivering his sermon on a Friday that a man went up to him and said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! There is extreme scarcity of rain. So pray to Allāh that He should bless us with rain.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) prayed for it and before we reached our homes, the rain had started which continued down to the next Friday. (Anas) says that (the next Friday) the same person or someone else stood up and said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! Pray to Allāh that He should push this (rain) away from us.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) prayed: ‘O Allāh, it should be around us and not over us.’ So I saw that the clouds had rolled away to our right and left and started pouring down rain and the rain ceased over the residents of Medina . 
- That a person entered the mosque through the door in front of the pulpit and the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) was delivering the sermon while standing. So that person took a position right in front of him. Then he said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, the cattle have died and the paths are disconnected. So pray to Allāh that He should send rain on us.’ The Messenger of Allāh(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)raised both of his hands and addressed (Allāh): ‘O Allāh, send us rain; O Allāh, send us rain; O Allāh, send us rain.’ Anas said: ‘By God! We could see neither a cloud in the sky, nor even a fragment of a cloud, and there was neither a house nor any other building between us and the mountain. Then a piece of cloud, that was the size of a shield, appeared from behind the hill. It started floating in the sky and then it spread out, and it started raining. By God! For six days we did not see the sun in the sky. Then the next Friday a person entered through the same door while the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) was delivering the sermon in the standing posture. He positioned himself in front of him and said: “O Messenger of Allāh, the cattle have died and the paths are disconnected, so pray to Allāh that he should stop the rain.”’ Anas relates that the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) again raised his hands and addressed (Allāh): ‘O Allāh, (the rain) may fall around us, and not on us; O Allāh, (the rain) may fall on the hills, hillocks, valleys and the places where the trees grow.’ Anas says that the rain stopped and we came out (of the mosque) and we were walking in the sunshine. Sharīk said, ‘I asked Anas: was it the same person who had come before?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’
- Once during the time of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) famine gripped Medina. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) was delivering the Friday sermon to us that a person stood up and said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh, the horses and the goats have died. So pray to Allāh that He may send us rain.’ The holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) raised his holy hands and prayed. Anas relates that (at that time) the sky was as (transparent as) cutglass. (But on account of the Prophet’s prayer,) the breeze blew instantly and the clouds came over. Then they grew quite dense and then the sky opened its mouth wide (that is, it started raining in torrents). We came out from there and (drenched in rain and) almost drowning in water, we reached our homes. The rain did not stop till the next Friday. The same day the same person or someone else stood up and said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh, the houses have collapsed, so pray to Allāh that this may stop.’ He smiled and then prayed (to Allāh) that rain may fall around us, and not on us. So I saw that the clouds had rolled away from Medina (and Medina appeared) as if it was crowned by the sky.
In another tradition, Anas relates that Allāh shows to the people the blessing of His Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and the acceptance of his supplications.
The proof of appeal for help by the practice of the Companions and the Prophet’s encouragement of their practice establishes the fact that it is not tainted with even a spot of disbelief. It is impossible that a Companion should commit disbelief, and it is still impossible that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) should condone his disbelief. In this case the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is encouraging them in their act, which speaks volumes for its validity.
Amīr Hamzah ¾ the remover of troubles
‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūd says that the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) cried so bitterly over the martyrdom of his uncle Hamzah in the battle of Uhud as he had never cried before. He says that he placed his coffin in the direction ofqiblah and burst into tears until he started hiccupping. Then he addressed Hamzah and said:
O Hamzah! O the uncle of the Messenger of Allāh! O Allāh’s lion! O lion of the Messenger of Allāh! O Hamzah! O doer of good deeds! O remover of troubles! O protector of the radiant face of the Messenger of Allāh!
The use of the collocation yā kāshif al-kurubāt (O remover of troubles) in this tradition for a dead man deserves our special attention. The articulation of these words not only validates the act of beseeching the help of the saints, but it also validates the act of help by the saints in response to the petitioner’s appeal. It also indicates that it is quite consistent with true Islamic belief that the person whose help is being sought should also help the petitioner. That is why he addressed Amīr Hamzah as the ‘remover of troubles.’ Here the status of Hamzah as helper is only derivative because the real helper is Allāh Himself. The fact that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) declared Amīr Hamzah as a helper and addressed him after his death by the word “yā” (O) clearly indicates that the classification of helper into real and derivative is quite legal; otherwise it would have been incompatible with the Prophet’s act.
Yā Muhammadāh ¾ Battle-cry of the Companions
Imām Ibn Kathīr says that on the occasion of the battle of Yamāmah, yā Muhammadāh (O Muhammad, help us) was the battle-cry of the Muslims. He adds that during the war, Khālid bin al-Walīd picked up the flag, and passing through the army positions, set out towards the mountain of Musaylimah, the Liar. He waited there for him to turn up so that he could kill him. Then he returned and, standing between the two armies, he shouted:
I am the son of al-Walīd. I am the son of ‘Āmir and Zayd.
Ibn Kathīr further adds:
Then he raised the battle-cry current among the Muslims, which was ‘yā Muhammadāh’ (O Muhammad, help us).
In this tradition the Muslims are relying on the Prophet’s means and calling him for help, and the Muslims who are committing this act are the Companions. Thus to call the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and rely on his means was a practice of the Companions.
Appeal to the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for forgiveness
Allāh has honoured the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) with the highest status among His creatures. Appeal to him and intermediation through his person was valid during his earthly existence and it is equally valid after his death. The two phases of his existence do not modify in any sense the quality of appeal to and intermediation through him and there is no legal and rational argument that militates against their validity after his death.
We should not also brush aside the fact that the correct belief does not elevate the intermediaries to the level of Allāh’s partners. They essentially remain His creatures, and it is in fact a deep realisation of their creaturely status that has prompted the Creator to raise them to the superlative degree of excellence among His creatures. Therefore, how can those, who claim to be the humble servants of the Lord, ever aspire to be His partners or rivals? Thus they are neither Allāh’s partners nor His equals. Allāh has no rival or partner. He is unique in every respect, both in terms of His personality and the attributes that define His personality. No prophet or saint, dead or alive, can be His partner because He alone has the power to grant or turn down our petitions. Thus in all forms of appeal for help and intermediation, the intermediary himself acts as a humble servant of the Lord and he relies on the divine mercy as much as the petitioner does. In no sense whatsoever he treats himself as His equal. As a matter of fact, his help is being sought because his status as an intermediary owes to the divine favour. Allāh says:
(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allāh, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful.
To restrict the efficacy and operational range of this verse to the earthly existence of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), as some people believe, is to indulge in exegetical misapplication and reflects their unawareness and lack of understanding. Both the exegetes and the traditionists consider intermediation through and appeal to the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as valid acts whether they were done in his earthly existence or after his death.
Ibn Kathīr comments on the Qur’ānic verse:
(In this Qur’ānic verse) Allāh is exhorting the sinners and evildoers that when they commit sins and errors they should call on the Messenger of Allāh(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and ask forgiveness from Allāh. They should also request the Messenger of Allāh(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to pray for them. When they do so, Allāh will turn to them and show mercy to them and He will forgive them. That is why He used the words la-wajadullāha tawwāb-ar-rahīmā (they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful). Many have stated this tradition. One of them is Abū Mansūr as-Sabbāgh who writes the famous narration in his book that, according to ‘Utbī, once he was sitting beside the Prophet’s grave when a bedouin came and he said: ‘Peace be on you, O Allāh’s Messenger! I have heard that Allāh says, “(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allāh, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful.” I have come to you, asking forgiveness for my sins and I make you as intercessor before my Lord and I have come to you for this purpose.’ Then he recited these verses: ‘O, the most exalted among the buried people who improved the worth of the plains and the hillocks! May I sacrifice my life for this grave which is made radiant by you, (the Prophet,) the one who is (an embodiment of) mercy and forgiveness.’ Then the bedouin went away and I fell asleep. In my dream I saw the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). He said to me: ‘O ‘Utbī, the bedouin is right, go and give him the good news that Allāh has forgiven his sins.’
We come to learn from the words jā’ūka fastaghfarullāha of the Qur’ānic verse that sinners and wrong-doers should ask Allāh’s forgiveness through the means of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) while the words wastaghfara lahum-ur-rasūlu furnish a proof of his intercession. In lawajadullāha tawwāb-ar-rahīmā the proof of intermediation is embedded in a precondition: seek forgiveness through the means of the Messenger(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and it is clear when the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) asked forgiveness for his follower, the act of intermediation turned into an act of intercession and through intercession the grant of forgiveness itself becomes a means of forgiveness.
Some people treat means and intercession as two different things. Therefore, it should be noted that when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is elevated to the office of intercession, he can claim it as his right while this very act serves as a means in favour of his follower.
The happening of the bedouin has been recorded by the following:
- Bayhaqī in Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (3:495-6#4178).
- Ibn Qudāmah in al-Mughnī (3:557).
- Nawawī in al-Adhkār (pp. 92-3).
- Ibn ‘Asākir in Tahdhīb tārīkh Dimashq al-kabīr popularly known asTārīkh/Tahdhīb Ibn ‘Asākir as quoted by Subkī in Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (pp. 46-7).
- Ibn Hajar Haythamī in al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam (p.51).
Besides, all scholars of repute have described in their books, in chapters on ‘visiting the tomb of the holy Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)’ or ‘the rituals ofhajj,’ ‘Utbī’s tradition that the villager visited the tomb of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to ask for forgiveness.
In addition, Imām Qurtubī in his famous exegesis al-Jāmi‘ li-ahkām-il-Qur’ān(5:265-6) has related another happening similar to ‘Utbī’s tradition. He says:
“Abū Sādiq has reported it from ‘Alī. A villager came to see us three days after the burial of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). He placed himself near the Prophet’s grave, sprinkled its earth over his body and said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh, you said and we have heard from you. You received commands from Allāh and we received commands from you, and one of these divine commands is wa law annahum idh zalamū anfusahum. It is true that I have wronged myself, therefore, you should pray for my forgiveness.’ (In response to the villager’s act of imploring) he was called out from the grave: ‘there is no doubt that you have been forgiven.’”
Muhammad bin ‘Alawī al-Mālikī has reproduced these two occurrences in his book Mafāhīm yajib an tusahhah (pp.157-8) and then offered a sizzling review which is quite relevant to our context. He writes, “This episode has been reproduced by Imām Nawawī in the sixth chapter of his famous book al-Īdāh, Abū al-Faraj bin Qudāmah in his book ash-Sharh-ul-kabīr and Mansūr bin Yūnus al-Buhūtī in his book Kashshāf-ul-qinā‘ which is a popular book in Hambalī school of thought.”
Muhammad bin ‘Alawī al-Mālikī expresses in his review an ambivalent attitude towards the traditions. He said: ‘I cannot positively certify their authenticity, but in spite of their lack of certainty, most of the traditionists have relied on their credibility. We may only ask if these heavy weights (traditionists and exegetes) have reproduced disbelief and infidelity, or they have reproduced something that tempts people towards idolatry or worship of the graves? If (may God forbid) this happens, then it would become almost impossible to sort out the genuine books from the spurious ones, leading to unmanageable chaos and confusion.’
Appeal to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for rain during ‘Umar’s tenure
Mālik ad-Dār has related:
The people were gripped by famine during the tenure of ‘Umar (bin al-Khattāb). Then a Companion walked up to the Prophet’s grave and said, “O Messenger of Allāh, please ask for rain (from Allāh) for your Community who is in dire straits.” Then the Companion saw the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in a dream. The Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said to him, “Go over to ‘Umar, give him my regards and tell him that the rain will come to you. And tell ‘Umar that he should be on his toes, he should be on his toes, (he should remain alert).” Then the Companion went over to see ‘Umar and passed on to him the tidings. On hearing this, ‘Umar broke into a spurt of crying. He said, “O Allāh, I exert myself to the full until I am completely exhausted.”
Ibn Taymiyyah has endorsed its authenticity in his book Iqtidā’-us-sirāt-il-mustaqīm mukhālifat ashāb-il-jahīm (p.373). Ibn Kathīr has confirmed the soundness of its chain of transmission in al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (5:167). Ibn Abī Khaythamah narrated it with the same chain of transmission as quoted by ‘Asqalānī in al-Isābah fī tamyīz-is-sahābah (3:484), while the latter writes inFath-ul-bārī (2:495-6): “Ibn Abī Shaybah transmitted it with a sound chain of transmission and Sayf bin ‘Umar Tamīmī has recorded it in al-Futūh-ul-kabīrthat the dreamer was a Companion known as Bilāl bin al-Hārith al-Muzanī.” Qastallānī has remarked in al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:276) that Ibn Abī Shaybah has narrated it with a sound chain of transmission while Zurqānī has supported Qastallānī in his Commentary (11:150-1).
It is quite surprising that some people have tried to dub even this soundly transmitted tradition as weak and, therefore, lacking the sinews to face a rigorously probing analysis, though this is far from the truth, they have marshalled in their favour the following objections:
First objection: One of its narrators is A‘mash who is a double-crossing impostor (mudallis).
Reply: Though A‘mash is an impostor, his tradition is popular for two reasons whether its soundness is proved or not:
1. A‘mash is regarded as a second-grade impostor, and this is a class of impostors from whom our religious leaders recorded traditions in their authentic books. Therefore, it is proved that this tradition narrated by A‘mash is accepted.
2. If we accept this tradition only on the basis of its transmission by A‘mash, as is the practice in the case of third-grade or even lower-grade impostors, even then the tradition by A‘mash is likely to retain its popularity as he has copied it from Abū Sālih Dhakawān Sammān. Imām Dhahabī comments: ‘when A‘mash begins a tradition with the word ‘an (from; through) there is a possibility of imposture and deception. But if he relates it from his elders like Ibrāhīm, Ibn Abī Wā’il, Abū Sālih Sammān, etc., then it is presumed to possess sound linkage (ittisāl).’
In addition, Imām Dhahabī has also described him as trustworthy (thiqah).
Second objection: Albānī in his book at-Tawassul, ahkāmuhū wa anwa‘uhū observes, “I do not acknowledge it authentic because the credibility and memory of Mālik ad-Dār is not known and these are the two basic criteria for any authentic narrator of traditions. Ibn Abī Hātim Rāzī in Kitāb-ul-jarh wat-ta‘dīl [8:213(4/1/213)], while discussing Mālik ad-Dār, has not mentioned any narrator except Abū Sālih who has accepted any tradition from him, which shows that he is unknown. It is also supported by the fact that Ibn Abī Hātim Rāzī, who himself was a leading figure of Islam and a memoriser of traditions, has not mentioned anyone of them who has pronounced him trustworthy (thiqah). Similarly Mundhirī has remarked that he does not know him while Haythamī in his Majma‘-uz-zawā’id, has supported his observation…”
Reply: This objection is refuted by the biographical details which Ibn Sa‘d has furnished while discussing him among the second-grade Medinan Successors: ‘Mālik ad-Dār was a slave freed by ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb. He reported traditions from Abū Bakr as-Siddīq and ‘Umar, and Abū Sālih Sammān reported traditions from him. He was known.’
In addition, this objection is also cancelled by Khalīlī’s (d.446 ah) comment on Māik ad-Dār: ‘Mālik ad-Dār’s trustworthiness and reliability is generally accepted and the group of Successors has eulogised him.’
Besides, the biographical sketch provided by ‘Asqalānī also serves to neutralise this objection:
“Mālik bin ‘Iyād, a slave freed by ‘Umar, was known as Mālik ad-Dār. He had seen the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and heard traditions from Abū Bakr. He has taken traditions from Abū Bakr as-Siddīq ‘Umar Fārūq , Mu‘ādh and Abū ‘Ubaydah, and Abū Sammān and the two sons of this (Mālik ad-Dār) ¾ ‘Awn and ‘Abdullāh ¾ have taken traditions from him.
“And Imām Bukhārī in at-Tārīkh-ul-kabīr [7:304-5 (4/1/304-5)], through reference to Abū Sālih, has acknowledged a tradition from him that ‘Umar is reported to have said during the period of famine: ‘I do not shirk responsibility but I may be made more humble.’
“Ibn Abī Khaythamah has reproduced a long tradition along with these words (which we are discussing), ... and I have copied a tradition narrated by ‘Abd-ur-Rahmān bin Sa‘īd bin Yarbū‘ Makhzūmī with reference to Mālik ad-Dār, in Fawā’id Dāwūd bin ‘Umar and ad-Dabīcompiled by Baghawī. Mālik ad-Dār said that one day ‘Umar called him. He had a gold wallet in his hand, which had four hundred dinars in it. He commanded him to take it to Abū ‘Ubaydah, and then he narrated the remaining part of the happening.
“Ibn Sa‘d has placed Mālik ad-Dār in the first group of Successors among the natives of Medina and has averred that he has taken traditions from Abū Bakr as-Siddīq and ‘Umar, and he was known. Abū ‘Ubaydah has asserted that ‘Umar had appointed him the guardian of his family. When ‘Uthmān was elevated to the office of the caliph, he appointed him as the minister of finance, and that is how he came to be known as Mālik ad-Dār (the master of the house).
“Ismā‘īl Qādī has reported it from ‘Alī bin Madīnī that Mālik ad-Dār was the treasurer of ‘Umar.”
Ibn Hibbān has attested to the trustworthiness and credibility of Mālik ad-Dār in Kitāb-uth-thiqāt (5:384).
Now if Mundhirī and Haythamī insist that they do not know Mālik ad-Dār, it means that they have not asserted anything about his credibility or lack of credibility. However there are traditionists of great repute like Imām Bukhārī, Ibn Sa‘d, ‘Alī bin Madīnī, Ibn Hibbān and ‘Asqalānī who know him. ‘Asqalānī has even mentioned him in Tahdhīb-ut-tahdhīb(7:226; 8:217).
It is shocking to learn that Albānī gives weight to the opinion of those who do not know Mālik ad-Dār and prefers them to those who know him. Albānī has discarded the traditions of Mālik bin ‘Iyād who was popularly known by the title “ad-Dār” while the great Companions appointed him as their minister because they relied on his trustworthiness. He was even given the portfolio of finance minister — an office that requires honesty, integrity and a huge sense of responsibility. On the contrary, Albānī gives credence to the traditions of those who enjoyed a much lower status than Mālik ad-Dār. The following examples support my contention:
1. He has pronounced Yahyā bin ‘Uryān Harawī as hasan (fair) inSilsilat-ul-ahādīth-is-sahīhah (1:49). His argument is based on the statement made by Khatīb Baghdādī in Tārīkh Baghdad (14:161) in which he declares Yahyā bin ‘Uryān Harawī as a traditionist of Baghdad.
This statement is quite transparent. Khatīb Baghdādī has argued neither in favour of nor against Yahyā bin ‘Uryān Harawī. His stance is neutral, as he has not tried to establish the stature of his narrations. He has not labelled them as authentic or inauthentic. In spite of his posture of neutrality, it is quite surprising that Albānī has called him fair (hasan).
2. Abū Sa‘īd Ghifārī has also been pronounced a fair narrator in Silsilat-ul-ahādīth-is-sahīhah (2:298). After stating that he is no longer unknown because two narrators have acknowledged traditions from him, he writes, “So he is a Successor. A group of those who have committed the traditions to memory have verified the authenticity of his narrations. Therefore, ‘Irāqī has declared the narrations attributed to him as authentic (isnāduhū jayyid), and there is no harm in it. This gave me a sense of satisfaction and I felt deeply contented.”
The question is why has he tried to discriminate between Abū Sa‘īd Ghifārī and Mālik ad-Dār?
3. Sālih bin Khawwāt has also been pronounced credible in Silsilat-ul-ahādīth-is-sahīhah (2:436) because a group of people has relied on his traditions, and Ibn Hibbān has mentioned him in Kitāb-uth-thiqāt.
While, according to our research, ‘Asqalānī has described him as an acceptable narrator in Taqrīb-ut-tahdhīb (1:359) and has also stated that he belonged to the eighth category of Successors. If an eighth-grade narrator is being described as credible, what justification is there to pronounce a first-grade Successor as incredible? The discrimination seems to be rooted more in prejudice than reason.
Therefore, the silence of Ibn Abī Hātim Rāzī is hardly an argument against the unknown stature of Mālik ad-Dār because his silence is based on lack of evidence about the narrator. Thus the absence of evidence and reasoning does not reflect the unknowingness of the narrator, which his silence neither explains nor indicates towards any definite interpretation. On the contrary, it opposes any attempt to establish the unknowingness of the narrator. There are a number of narrators about whom Ibn Abī Hātim Rāzī has remained silent though other scholars have argued about them and the books on tradition and related issues are riddled with similar examples.
Third objection: There is a suspicion of discontinuance between Abū Sālih Dhakawān Sammān and Mālik ad-Dār.
Reply: This suspicion is a fallacy, as it has no basis in reality. In its rejection, it is sufficient to say that Abū Sālih like Mālik ad-Dār was a native of Medina and he has reported traditions from the Companions. Therefore, he is not an impostor and a fraud. It may also be noted that only contemporaneity is an adequate guarantee for the connection of transmission as Imām Muslim has mentioned the consensus on it in the Preamble (muqaddimah) of his as-Sahīh.
Fourth objection: There is no justification for the soundness of this tradition because it entirely depends upon a person whose name has not been spelled out. Only in the tradition narrated by Sayf bin ‘Umar Tamīmī, he has been named Bilāl and Sayf has declared him as a weak narrator.
Reply: This objection is also groundless, because justification does not depend on Bilāl but on ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb’s act. He did not prevent Bilāl from performing his act; on the contrary, he acknowledged it. He rather himself cried and said: ‘my Creator, I do not shirk responsibility but I may be made more humble.’ Therefore the person visiting the grave, whether he is a Companion or a Successor, does not affect the soundness of the tradition.
The gist of the discussion is that the tradition related by Mālik ad-Dār is sound, as I have stated in the earlier part of my exposition. Muhammad bin ‘Alawī al-Mālikī writes:
“All those people who have made reference to this tradition or narrated it or reproduced it in their books have never labelled it disbelief or infidelity. They have not questioned the substance of the tradition and it has been mentioned by a scholarly person of high level like Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī who has confirmed it as a soundly transmitted tradition. Therefore his confirmation needs no apology in view of his highly distinguished stature among the hadīth-scholars.”
This tradition establishes the following principles:
- Visiting graves with the intention of mediation and seeking help.
- It is valid to visit the grave of a pious dead person during the period of one’s trials and tribulations to seek help from him because if this act were invalid, ‘Umar would surely have forbidden that person to do so.
- The Prophet’s appearance in the dream of the person who visited his grave and to give him good tidings, argues in favour of the fact that it is quite valid to seek help from non-Allāh and the dead because if it were invalid, it would have been impossible for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) not to have forbidden that person to do so.
- Validation of the mode of address “O Messenger of Allāh (yā rasūl Allāh)” even after the Messenger’s death.
- Call for help and the act of intermediation dates back to the early ages.
- The holy personality of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is a fountain of guidance even after his death.
- The head of the state is responsible for administrative matters. The Holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), in spite of being the chief of prophets, did not break the state channel and, as a visible demonstration of his sense of discipline, he commanded the man visiting his grave to see the head of the state.
- The man visiting the grave implored his help through the instrumentality of the Ummah. This shows the Prophet’s immeasurable love for the Community of his followers.
- Justification for making the Ummah as a source for seeking his help.
- Justification for making non-prophet a means of help in the presence of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).
- Anyone who strengthens his link with the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is rewarded by his sight and is showered with his blessings.
- The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), even after his death, is aware of the weakness of his Ummah or anyone of its rulers and he issues different commands for removing these flaws.
- To seek guidance from Allāh’s favourites.
- The acknowledgement of the Prophet’s commands by the Companions after his death as just and truthful.
- Imposition of commands received in dreams on others.
- When intermediation was discussed in the presence of ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb, he did not forbid it; rather he cried and responded to it acknowledging it as valid.
- ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb’s love for the Holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) that he incessantly cried as someone mentioned the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).
Appeal to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) during ‘Uthmān’s tenure
The famous tradition narrated by ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf with reference to the Prophet’s life was discussed in detail in which a blind man submitted his petition to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and his eyesight was restored through his means. Now we would like to explain that this mode was not confined to his life on earth alone, but the Companions relied on it even after his death. It is clear from Tabarānī’s tradition that a person visited ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān on a personal errand. ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān not only was indifferent to him but also turned a deaf ear to his need. That person met ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf and lodged his complaint against it. ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf said to him: ‘fetch an earthen pot and perform the ablution, then go to the mosque and offer two cycles of prayer and say:
O Allāh, I beseech you and submit myself to you through the mediation of our Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), a merciful Prophet. O Muhammad! I submit to my Lord through your means so that He should fulfil my need.
And then mention your need.’ The man went away and he did as he was told to do. Later when he arrived at ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān’s door, the porter caught him by his hand and took him to ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān who made him sit beside him on the mat and asked him: ‘what is your need?’ He mentioned the need and the caliph fulfilled his need and said to him: ‘why haven’t you mentioned your need so far?’ He told him further: ‘do come to me whenever you have a problem?’ When the man left his place, he met ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf and said to him: ‘May God bless you! He neither gave any thought to my need nor turned his attention to me until you recommended me to him.’ ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf replied:
By God! I did not talk to him, but once I was in the company of the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) that a blind man came over to see him and complained to him about the loss of his eyesight. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) asked him to be patient, but he said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! I don’t have any guide and I am in great trouble.’ The Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم)said: ‘fetch an earthen pot and perform the ablution, then offer two cycles of prayer and implore Allāh with these praying words.’ Then (‘Uthmān) bin Hunayf said: ‘By God! We had neither gone out far away from the meeting nor had the conversation among us stretched out that the man came to us as if he had never been blind.’
‘Uthmān bin Hunayf taught him the supplication that had been used as the source of the Prophet’s help and succour after his death. The point to be noted is that the person was under the illusion that his need had been fulfilled on account of ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf’s recommendation to the caliph. So ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf instantly shed his illusion and related to him the tradition he had heard from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and had himself put to test to prove that his need was fulfilled because he had relied on the means of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) by calling on him and seeking his help. He swore by God and convinced him that he had not recommended him to the caliph but it had all happened through the blessing of the Prophet’s mediation.
Ibn Taymiyyah’s endorsement
Ibn Taymiyyah has related a story in the perspective of this tradition that Ibn Abī Dunyā has narrated a tradition in his book Mujābī ad-du‘ā’ that a person came over to see ‘Abd-ul-Malik bin Sa‘īd bin Abjar. ‘Abd-ul-Malik pressed his belly and told him that he was suffering from an incurable disease. The man asked him: ‘what is it?’ ‘Abd-ul-Malik replied that it was a kind of ulcer that grows inside the belly and ultimately kills the man. It is said that the patient turned round and then he said:
Allāh! Allāh! Allāh is my Lord. I regard no one as His rival or partner. O Allāh! I beseech You and submit myself to You through the mediation of Your Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), the merciful Prophet. O Muhammad! Through your means I submit myself to your and my Lord that He should take mercy on me in my state of illness.
It is said that ‘Abd-ul-Malik pressed his belly again and said: ‘you are cured, you are no longer suffering from any disease.’ Ibn Taymiyyah after recording the whole incident in his book, comments:
I say that this and other forms of supplication have been taken over from our predecessors.
The noteworthy point is that Ibn Taymiyyah has also endorsed it that (1) it is an act of our predecessors, and (2) it is quite valid to recover from disease through this act.
Proof of ritualistic assignment
The two traditions also make it clear that the practice of ritualistic assignment by the saintly people to others is a valid act because this has been the practice of Allāh’s favourites in the past. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) had not asked ‘Uthmān bin Hunayf, though, to pass it to other people.
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) wields authority even after his death
Some people, on account of their ignorance and paucity of knowledge, express the view that the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) after his death wields no authority and he can neither hear us nor can he pray for us. May Allāh guard the believers against such a perverse view! No Muslim with sound belief can ever conceive such a possibility. Appeal to and intermediation through the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) are established facts supported by evidence from the Qur’ān and the sunnah and they are a proof of his stature and distinction. Those who do not believe in calling him or intermediation through the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) after his death do not understand his exceptional status.
It is part of the belief of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamā‘ah that a dead person can hear, possesses awareness, benefits from the virtuous deeds of the living and is disturbed by their wicked deeds. The point that clamours for attention is that this belief has been established through the experience of an ordinary man. When an ordinary person can exercise such power, how can we possibly deny it to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) who is the most superior person among Allāh’s creatures? Various authentic traditions testify to the reality that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is alive even after his death. It sounds like a paradox to perverse ears but in his case it is as true as the daily sunrise. He returns our greetings, the affairs of the Ummah are reported to him, he asks forgiveness from Allāh over the evil deeds of the Ummah and praises and glorifies Him over her good deeds. It is stated in a number of traditions that once Marwān saw Abū Ayyūb al-Ansārī lying down over the Prophet’s grave and asked him what he was doing. Abū Ayyūb al-Ansārī gave a faith-freshening reply. The tradition is recorded below:
It is attributed to Dāwūd bin Abī Sālih. He says: ‘one day Marwān came and he saw that a man was lying down with his mouth turned close to the Prophet’s grave. Then he (Marwān) said to him, “Do you know what are you doing?” When he moved towards him, he saw that it was Abū Ayyūb al-Ansārī. (In reply) he said, “Yes, (I know) I have come to the Messenger of Allāh(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and not to a stone. I have heard it from the Messenger of God (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) not to cry over religion when its guardian is competent. Yes, shed tears over religion when its guardian is incompetent.’
Hākim declared that it fulfils the requirements of authentic traditions as demanded by Bukhārī and Muslim, while Dhahabī has also called it sahīh(sound).
Appeal to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) on the Day of Judgement
On the Day of Judgement the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) will act as a means of forgiveness for the believers. The Qur’ān states:
O our Lord! Bless us with all that you have promised us through your messengers and do not humiliate us on the Day of Judgement. Surely You do not go back on Your Word.
In the light of this verse, the divine promise made to all the prophets is here acting as a means. All the rewards promised to other prophets carry special significance for the followers of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) through his means. On the Day of Judgement, grilled by the unbearable heat, the entire mankind will rally round the prophets but each prophet will tell them to move on to some other prophet until the whole mankind will rally round the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). The following is an agreed-upon tradition:
The Holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: ‘when it is the Day of Judgement, people, out of nervousness, will call on one another. First of all, they will call on Adam (عليه السلام) and request him to intercede on their behalf before Allāh but he will turn down their request by saying that today it is beyond his power to help them out and he will advise them to call on Ibrāhīm (عليه السلام) because he is the Friend of Allāh. So people will call on Ibrāhīm (عليه السلام) who will also excuse himself by saying that he is not in a position to help them, therefore, they should go to Mūsā(عليه السلام) because he is Allāh’s interlocutor. They will go to Mūsā (عليه السلام) and he will also express his inability to help them and advise them to see ‘Īsā (عليه السلام)because he is the soul created by Allāh and His word. They will go to ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and he will also tell them that he is not able to help them, therefore, they should go to Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) (because he is the beloved of God). So all human beings will rally round me and I will tell them: ‘yes, (today) I hold the office of intercession.’ I will seek permission from my Lord and I will be granted the permission. Then He will inspire me to praise and glorify Him with such praises, which I cannot describe at this time. (In short,) I will praise and glorify Allāh with those praises and prostrate myself before Him. Then I will be told: ‘O Muhammad, raise your radiant head, speak and you will be heard, demand and you will be blessed with it, and intercede (on behalf of your people), your intercession will be granted.’ So I will implore: ‘O Lord! My Ummah, my Ummah!’ God shall command: ‘go and take him out of the Hell, whosoever is left with faith even as small as the grain of barley.’ So I will go and do so (I will take all such people out of Hell). Then I will return and praise and glorify Him with those praises and I will prostrate myself before Him. So I will be commanded: ‘O Muhammad, raise your radiant head, speak and you will be heard, beg and you will be blessed with it, intercede (on behalf of your people) and your intercession will be granted.’ I will implore: ‘O Lord! My Ummah, my Ummah!’ I will be commanded: ‘go and take him out of Hell too, whosoever is left with faith even as small as the tiny grain of rye.’ So I will go and do so. Then I will return and praise and glorify Him with the same praises and I will again prostrate myself before Him. So I will be commanded, ‘O Muhammad, raise your radiant head, speak and you will be heard, beg and you will be blessed with it and intercede (on behalf of your people), your intercession will be granted.’ I will implore: ‘O Lord! My Ummah, my Ummah!’ I will be commanded: ‘go and take him out (of Hell) whosoever is left with the tiniest faith, even smaller than a grain of rye. Take such a person out of Hell.’ Accordingly I will go and do so (I will take them out of Hell). (Hasan has added a few more words to the tradition narrated by Anas. The holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said:) ‘I will return the fourth time, and I will praise and glorify the Lord in the same way, then I will prostrate myself before Him. So I will be commanded: ‘O Muhammad, raise your radiant head, and speak, you will be heard, beg and you will be blessed with it, and intercede (on behalf of your people), your intercession will be granted.’ At that time I will implore the Lord that I should be allowed to take out a person from Hell who has recited lā ilāha illallāhu (there is no deity except Allāh) even once in his life (from the core of his heart). The Lord will reply, I swear by My honour, glory, greatness and supremity that I will liberate a person from the fire of Hell who has even once recited lā ilāha illallāhu (there is no deity except Allāh).
This tradition has proved, without any particle of doubt, that on the Day of Resurrection the process of judgement and accountability will be initiated through the mediation of the Prophet’s prayer, praise and glorification of the Lord. And on account of the Prophet’s mediation, the process of accountability will start with his Ummah so that they do not have to stay longer than necessary in the scorching heat of the Day of Resurrection. The Qur’ān has also explained in the context of the Day of Judgement:
(It will be the day) when Allāh will disgrace neither His Prophet nor the people who embraced faith along with him. (On that day) their light (of faith) will keep sprinting ahead of them and on their right side.
The Qur’ānic verse spells out in unmistakable terms that Allāh will not humiliate the followers of the Last Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) through the means of his blessing; on the other hand, He will allow them to enter Paradise, with all the glory and splendour associated with such an occasion. A visible proof of the divine concession will be the enveloping light to which they will be entitled through the means of Allāh’s Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).
Mutual relation between appeal for help, intermediation and intercession
Another point worth noting in the context of istighāthah is that when we call someone for help, it also seems to support the relevance of the related concepts of intermediation and intercession. The following Qur’ānic verse clearly links the three concepts by explaining their mutually reinforcing role:
(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allāh, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful.
This Qur’ānic verse clearly argues in favour of intermediation. It means when people have committed sin, and they seek the mediation of the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in their supplication to Allāh and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) also prays for their forgiveness, then they will find Allāh Compassionate and Merciful. Fastaghfarullāh argues for intercession. When Allāh condoned their sin through the intercession of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), it means that intercession is validated by the Qur’ānic text. And the third concept of istighāthah is in fact a proof of seeking someone’s assistance. When a man returns to the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for the forgiveness of his sins, it clearly means that he is asking for his intercession: “O Messenger of Allāh, I am a sinner. Have mercy on me and intercede for me before Allāh so that He may condone my sins.” This desire of the sinner, in fact, amounts to istighāthah (seeking help from others) while the Prophet’s readiness to implore Allāh for the forgiveness of his sins is intercession.
Seek his help today
The gist of the discussion is that it is a futile exercise to prove arguments against appeal to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and to establish authentic traditions as weak and invalid through self-concocted strategies According to the Prophet’s own statement, the benefit of his blessings is still a tangible reality as it was during his earthly life; his death has not changed this reality. And it is further reinforced by the tradition with an impeccable chain of transmission that on the Day of Judgement, the process of accountability will be initiated on his recommendation.
Let’s briefly speculate on the Day of Judgement. The heat and warmth will be at its climax. The people will face deep distress. The Lord will be present in His chair. The Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) will also honour the gathering with his presence and all the prophets will accompany him. The earlier believers and the later ones will also form part of the audience. In this scenario, when these people, presuming Adam (عليه السلام) as the first ancestor, will call on him and request him to help them out of their trouble, but he will send them on to Ibrāhīm (عليه السلام), who will refer them to Mūsā (عليه السلام), who will direct them to see ‘Īsā (عليه السلام) and finally he will send all of them to the Prophet Muhammad(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), the intercessor of mankind. During the whole process, none of the honoured prophets will say: ‘what disbelief are you perpetrating and what have you come to us for? Allāh Himself is there, why don’t you go to Him?’ On the other hand, they will despatch them willingly and expectantly to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) so that he may intercede on their behalf before God. Thus we come to realise that appeal for help and intermediation is a continuous process, uninterrupted by the exigencies of space and time and unaffected by the laws of physical existence, and on the Day of Judgement a consensus among the prophets will emerge on the conceptual and practical relevance of istighāthah. The subtle point to note is that when the first personality in the world of humanity committed error, he offered to the Lord the mediation of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and as a result his error was condoned. The Prophet’s mediation relieved him of the agony he had been suffering from as a consequence of his error. Similarly on the Day of Judgement when life on earth will come to an end and the people will experience the agony of waiting in uncertain anticipation of the process of accountability, they will call the holy Prophet(صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) for help and will be liberated from their torture only through the means of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). It is now transparent from these examples that the first man in the world of humanity was relieved of his agony through the mediation of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), and the world is drawing to a close and mankind is passing through the torture of waiting in a superheated environment, they will also be relieved of their ordeal through the means of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). Fortunate are the people who even today hold on to this belief and will also witness this scenario on the Day of Judgement.
All these traditions and proofs reinforce the reality of istighāthah and intermediation and endorse them as valid religious concepts, and not as figments of the frenzied imagination. If, in spite of these irrefutable indicators, someone still tries to refute them, he is living in a world of fantasy and self-fabrication because they remain unsupported both by argument and precedent.
. Qur’ān (al-Mā’idah, the Feast) 5:2.
. Qur’ān (al-Qasas, the Narratives) 28:15.
. Bukhārī, as-Sahīh, b. of zakāt (obligatory charity) ch.51 (2:536-7#1405); Tabarānī transmitted it in al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (9:331#8720); and Haythamī cited it in Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:371).
. Bukhārī narrated it through different chains of transmission in his as-Sahīh, b. of ‘ilm (knowledge) ch.42 (1:56#119), b. of manāqib (virtues) ch.24 (3:1333#3448); Tirmidhī in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of manāqib, ch.47 (5:684#3835) and graded it hasan (fair) sahīh (sound); Ibn Sa‘d, at-Tabaqāt-ul-kubrā (2:362; 4:330); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (1:451#815); Ibn-ul-Athīr, Asad-ul-ghābah (6:314); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (9:362); ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (1:215; 6:633); and ‘Aynī in ‘Umdat-ul-qārī (2:182; 16:168).
. Abū Ya‘lā narrated it in his Musnad (3:120#1549); Ibn Sa‘d, at-Tabaqāt-ul-kubrā (1:187-8); Hākim, al-Mustadrak (3:295); Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (3:100); Abū Nu‘aym, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (p.540); Ibn-ul-Athīr, Asad-ul-ghābah (4:371); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (3:52); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (6:113; 8:297-8); and ‘Asqalānī in al-Isābah fī tamyīz-is-sahābah (3:225).
. Haythamī narrates it in his Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (8:298) and says that Tabarānī narrated it in his al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (7:306-7#7215). Haythamī does not know the sub-narrator, Mukhallid, and above him while other narrators are sahīh (sound). Bukhārī narrated it in at-Tārīkh-ul-kabīr [4:250 (2/2/250)].
. Ibn Mājah transmitted it in his Sunan, b. of iqāmat-us-salāt was-sunnah fīhā (establishing prayer and its sunnahs) ch.189 (1:441#1385); Tirmidhī in al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of da‘awāt (supplications) ch.119 (5:569#3578); Ahmad bin Hambal in his Musnad (4:138); Nasā’ī, ‘Amal-ul-yawm wal-laylah (p.417#658-9); Hākim, al-Mustadrak (1:313,519); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh (2:225-6#1219); Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:166); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.123); Nawawī, al-Adhkār (p.83); Ibn-ul-Athīr, Asad-ul-ghābah (3:571); Mizzī, Tuhfat-ul-ashrāf bi-ma‘rifat-il-atrāf (7:236#9760); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:558); Ibn Hajar Haythamī, al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam (p.61); and Shawkānī in Tuhfat-udh-dhākirīn (pp.194-5).
. Hākim graded it sahīh (sound) in al-Mustadrak (1:526-7) according to the conditions of Imām Bukhārī and its authenticity has been acknowledged by Dhahabī as well.
. Bukhārī related it in as-Sahīh, b. of istisqā’ (to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.7 (1:344-5#969); Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of salāt-ul-istisqā’ (prayer to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.2 (2:614-5#10/ 897); Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:140); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:472-3); and ‘Asqalānī in Fath-ul-bārī (2:508).
. Bukhārī related it in his as-Sahīh, b. of istisqā’ (to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.6,5,7,8,9,10,11, 20,23 (1:343-6,348,349#968,967,969-73,983, 986), b. of jumu‘ah (Friday prayer) ch.33 (1:315-6#891); Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of salāt-ul-istisqā’ (prayer to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.2 (2:612-4#8/897); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of istisqā’ (3:154-5, 159-60, 161-3); Ibn Mājah, Sunan, b. of iqāmat-us-salāt was-sunnah fīhā (establishing prayer and its sunnahs) ch.154 (1:404#1269); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (3:256); Mālik bin Anas, al-Muwattā, b. of istisqā’, ch.2 (1:191#3); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (5:416# 3104); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh, (3:144,147#1788, 1792); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (3:272-3#992); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (3:354-5) and Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:139 -40); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (4:412-5#1166-7); Zayla‘ī, Nasb-ur-rāyah (2:238-9); Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:472); Qastallānī, al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (4:265-6); and Zurqānī in his Commentary (11:120-5).
. Bukhārī transmitted it in his as-Sahīh, b. of manāqib (virtues) ch.22 (3:1313#3389), b. of jumu‘ah (Friday prayer) ch.32 (1:315#890), b. of istisqā’ (to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.13 (1:346-7#975), b. of adab (good manners) ch.68 (5:2261#5742), b. of da‘awāt (supplications) ch.23 (5:2335#5982); Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of salāt-ul-istisqā’ (prayer to invoke Allāh for rain at the time of drought) ch.2 (2:614-5#9/897); Nasā’ī, Sunan, b. of istisqā’ (3:165-6); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, b. of salāt (prayer) 1:304-5 (#1174); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (3:271); Abū Ya‘lā, Musnad (6:82#3334); Ibn Khuzaymah, as-Sahīh (3:145-6#1789); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (3:353-4, 356, 357) and Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:140); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah (4:415-6#1168); and Ibn Kathīr in al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (4:474).
. Qastallānī related it in al-Mawāhib-ul-laduniyyah (2:104); and Zurqānī in his Commentary (4:470).
. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wan-nihāyah (5:30).
. Qur’ān (an-Nisā’, Women) 4:64.
. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr-ul-Qur’ān al-‘azīm (1:519-20).
. Related by Ibn Abī Shaybah in al-Musannaf (12:31-2#12051); Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (7:47); Ibn ‘Abd-ul-Barr, al-Istī‘āb fī ma‘rifat-il-ashāb (2:464); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.130); ‘Alī al-Hindī, Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (8:431#23535); and Abū Ya‘lā Khalīl bin ‘Abdullāh Khalīlī Qazwīnī in Kitāb-ul-irshād fī ma‘rifat ‘ulamā’-il-hadīth (1:313-4), as quoted by Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh in Raf‘-ul-minārah (p.262).
. Dhahabī, Mīzān-ul-i‘tidāl (2:224).
. Ibn Sā‘d, at-Tabaqāt-ul-kubrā (5:12).
. Abū Yā‘lā Khalīl bin ‘Abdullāh Khalīlī Qazwīnī, Kitāb-ul-irshād fī ma‘rifat ‘ulamā’-il-hadīth, as quoted by ‘Abdullāh bin Muhammad bin Siddīq al-Ghumārī in Irghām-ul-mubtadī al-ghabī bi-jawāz-it-tawassul bi an-nabī (p.9).
. ‘Asqalānī, al-Isābah fī tamyīz-is-sahābah (3:484-5).
. Mahmūd Sa‘īd Mamdūh, Raf‘-ul-minārah (p.266). Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī also mentioned in his Tahdhīb-ut-tahdhīb (7:226; 8:217).
. Muhammad bin ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Mafāhīm yajib an tusahhah (p.151).
. Related by Tabarānī in al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (9:31#8311) and al-Mu‘jam-us-saghīr (1:183-4); Bayhaqī, Dalā’il-un-nubuwwah (6:167-8); Mundhirī, at-Targhīb wat-tarhīb (1:474-6); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.125); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (2:279); and Suyūtī in al-Khasā’is-ul-kubrā (2:201-2). Mundhirī graded it sahīh (sound).
. Ibn Taymiyyah, Qā‘idah jalīlah fit-tawassul wal-wasīlah (p.91).
. Related by Ahmad bin Hambal with a sound chain of transmission in his Musnad (5:422); Hākim, al-Mustadrak (4:515); Tabarānī, al-Mu‘jam-ul-kabīr (4:158# 3999), al-Mu‘jam-ul-awsat (1:199-200#286; 10:169# 9362); Subkī, Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (p.113); Haythamī, Majma‘-uz-zawāi’d (5:245); ‘Alī al-Hindī in Kanz-ul-‘ummāl (6:88#14967).
. Qur’ān (Āl ‘Imrān, the Family of ‘Imrān) 3:194.
. Related through different narrators by Bukhārī in his as-Sahīh, b.of tawhīd (Islamic monotheism) ch.36 (6:2727-8#7072), b. of īmān (faith) ch.32 (1:24-5#44), b. of ambiyā’ (prophets) ch.5,12 (3:1215-6, 1226#3162,3182), b. of tafsīr (exegesis of the Qur’ān) ch.3,203 (4:1624-5, 1745-7 # 4206, 4435), b. of riqāq (softening of hearts) ch.51(5:2401# 6197), b. of tawhīd, ch.19,24,37 (6:2695-6, 2708-9, 2730#6975,7002, 7078). Muslim, as-Sahīh, b. of īmān (faith) ch.84 (1:182-4# 193); Tirmidhī, al-Jāmi‘-us-sahīh, b. of sifat-ul-qiyāmah (the description of Doomsday) ch.10 (4:622-4# 2434). Ahmad bin Hambal has recorded it in his Musnad (1:4-5, 281-2; 2:435-6; 3:116,244,247-8) in six different contexts through different narrators and all these contexts are linked through a sound chain of transmission. Dārimī narrated it in his Sunan (2:234-5#2807); Abū Dāwūd Tayālisī, Musnad (pp.268-9#2010); Abū ‘Awānah, Musnad (1:171-4, 183-4); Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Musannaf (11:444-51#11720-1,3); Abū Ya‘lā, Musand (1:56-9#59); Ibn Hibbān, as-Sahīh (14:377-9, 393-7# 6464,6467); Bayhaqī, Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (1:285-6#308-9); Baghawī, Sharh-us-sunnah(15:157-60#4333); Haythamī in Mawārid-uz-zam’ān (pp.642-3#2589) and Majma‘-uz-zawā’id (10:373-4).
. Qur’ān (at-Tahrīm, Prohibition) 66:8.
. Qur’ān (an-Nisā’, Women) 4:64.