The concept of Tawassul through the dead
A Hadith says:
A companion went to the grave of the Messenger of Allah and said: “Oh Messenger of Allah, ask Allah to give rain to your Ummah; they are close to perish.”
Al-Bayhaqiyy and Ibn Kathir in his “Tarikh” said that this Hadith is Sahih.
If the Prophet was “dead,” why do you think the companion did tawassul through him ? If tawassul was shirk al-akbar, why do you think a companion would do that? If the companion was wrong, why are there no reports of other companions forbidding him from doing that? Simple answer: Because tawassul (i.e trying to draw close to Allaah by calling on the dead or people who are absent) is allowed, even after one passes away!
The Quran condemns the practice of ascribing partners to God as an unpardonable crime (4: 48, 116). The Book of Allah mentions some of the lame arguments the polytheists used to present to justify their crime and rejects them by pointing out their flaws. One of the arguments the people of Makkah used to present to justify their Shirk of praying to deities other than God has been mentioned by the Quran thus:
“And those who take helpers besides Him (say): ‘We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah” (39:3)
The Quran responds to this claim by saying:
“Indeed Allah will judge between them concerning that wherein they differ. Truly Allah guides not him who is a liar, and a disbeliever.” (ibid.)
In another verse the Quran says:
“And when My slaves ask you about Me (tell them) I am indeed near to them. I respond to the prayers of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them obey me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.” (2:186)
We also know that immediately after the death of the prophet, Allah’s mercy on him, Muslims had to go through many serious problems. None of the senior companions even once asked the prophet’s grave to be approached to get some help from God. Now we are being told that doing so is a perfectly accceptable excercise because Bayhaqi informs us that a companion did something that justifies tawassul. My questions on this claim are:
1. Why are such incidents not mentioned in Bukhari, Muslim and other more authentic books of ahadith?
2. Who was this companion and what was his status compared to the rest of the companions?
3. Did this incident actually come to the notice of the companions who never tolerated even an inch of deviation from the message they had received from the prophet, Allah’s mercy on him?
4. Do our friends who claim that tawassul is a part and parcel of Islamic teachings feel comfortable on the basis of just one incident mentioned in Bayhaqi while loads of evidences both in Quran and hadith are suggesting that this act is likely to be categorised on the day of judgement as the most serious crime imaginable? It’s an unnecessarily serious risk that they are undertaking. It’s difficult to imagine what motivations could there be behind following such a risky trail. I would urge these people to make sure that their motivation in doing so is not what the Quran has already rejected in the following way as an unacceptable religious reason for doing anything:
“When it is said to them:’Follow what Allah has sent down’, they say: ‘No! Instead, we shall follow what we found our elders doing.'” (2:170)
As for the question of asking a living person to pray for us, it is a completely different matter. It has been reported that the companions of the prophet used to request others to pray for them. Since the one requested was alive, there was no religious problem in seeking help from him. For a person who is dead, to seek his assitance in getting a prayer heard by the Almighty should first be sanctioned by the Quran or the prophet, Allah’s mercy on him, in clear terms. It is not enough for tawassul through the dead to show that those who die don’t actually perish but are living at another level. Although that claim is true in case of all people who die — good or bad — yet there is no religiously valid proof to show that we, the living, can establish contact with the dead people directly. Therefore to ask a living person to pray for us is very different from asking the dead to do the same.