Salamu Aleykum respected and honourable Ulama. May Allah reward you for this service and give you the best in the Dunya and Akhirah, Ameen.
I have a question or a few, which are related to one another. I need some clarification and advice.
The topic of tawassul/istighatha, meaning calling upon the dead like a wali and saying things, like 'ya Sheikh', 'madad', 'ya Sheikh, make Dua for me', 'ya Sheikh, guide me', without mentioning the name of Allah within this sentence. However, one has full Iman that only Allah gives and this is just a name or a phrase beloved to Allah. I have read that some opinions say it is Haram and bid'ah, others like Salafis say it's shirk. And some, like the Sufis, say it's permissible.
Now my question is, what are the opinions from the majority of Ulama regarding this topic, especially from the Hanafis, Salaf and Khalaf, especially Ibn Abidin or Abu Hanifa? If it's really Haram or even shirk, should we still unify with these Muslims who practice this act, like holding contact, taking part in their activities? And lastly, can I take knowledge, like Hanafi Fiqh etc., from such scholars or ustadhs?
Sorry for my long message
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tawassul (using intermediaries in supplication to Allah Most High) through the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), Awliya and righteous believers are permitted, rather recommended, according to the four schools of Sunni Islamic law.
This has been the mainstream belief held by scholars of this Ummah throughout the eras. The Salaf (predecessors) from the earliest generations had this understanding and this has been the way of the four Sunni Madhhabs in Fiqh.
The meaning of Tawassul is: To ask Allah Almighty through the medium and intercession of another person. For example, one says: “O Allah! I ask forgiveness for my sins through the Wasila (intercession) of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace)”.
Tawassul can be carried out through one’s own righteous deeds, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), righteous people who have passed away and those who are still alive. All these types of Tawassul are permitted and acceptable.
The permissibility of Tawassul is proven from the Qur’an, Sunnah, continued practice of the Ummah and reason.
Some of the proofs on the validity of Tawassul:
1) Allah Most High says:
“O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek a means (wasila) to him” (Surah al-Ma’ida, V: 35)
The word “Wasila” (a means of approach) in its general indication includes Tawassul (intercession) by persons, and through actions.
2) Allah Almighty says:
“If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you (O Muhammad, Allah bless him & give him peace) and asked Allah’s forgiveness, and the Messenger of Allah had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed forgiving and Most Merciful”. (Surah al-Nisa, V: 64)
These two verses are clear on the permissibility and recommendation of Tawassul. The distinction made by some, between the living and the dead in this matter only comes from one who believes in the perishing of souls upon death, which would lead to denying the resurrection.
Also, when one uses Tawassul in supplication, one does not ask and seek from other than Allah Almighty. Only the high position, status and rank of the person through whom Wasila is carried out is used as intercession. In other words, the servant is saying: “O Allah! This certain Prophet or servant of yours is very close to you. I do not possess any good deeds, but I have a love for the pious. O Allah! Pardon me and forgive my sins due to this love and connection I have with this pious servant of yours”.
Now, every person with a sound mind will determine that there is no reason to distinguish and differentiate between the living and the dead. This is the reason why scholars such as Imam Subki, Hafidh Ibn Kathir, Imam an-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on them all) and many others have declared the permissibility of Tawassul through the righteous, whether alive or passed away to the Mercy of Allah.
3) Imam al-Tirmidhi (Allah have mercy on him) and others relate from Uthman ibn Hunaif (Allah be pleased with him):
“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, Tabrani and others, with a sound chain of narrators).
The express content of this Hadith proves the legal validity of Tawassul through a living person. It implicitly proves the validity of Tawassul through a deceased person, as Tawassul through a living or dead person is not through a physical body or life or death, rather, through the positive meaning attached to the person in both life and death.
4) Moreover, Imam Tabrani relates in his al-Mu’jam al-Kabir reporting from the same Uthman ibn Hunaif (Allah be pleased with him) that a person repeatedly visited him concerning something he needed, but Uthman paid no attention to him. The man met his son and complained to him about the matter- this was after the death of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and after the eras of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and Sayyiduna Umar (Allah be pleased with them)- so Uthman (who collected Hadith and was from the learned) said: “Go to the place of Wudu, then come to the Masjid, perform two Rak’ats and then say: “O Allah!, I ask you and turn to you through our Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy. O, Muhammad! I turn through you to my lord, that He fulfils my need”…. until the end of the Hadith.
This is an explicit and clear text from a Companion (sahabi) proving the legal validity of Tawassul through the dead. The Hadith has been classed as authentic (Sahih) by al-Bayhaqi, Mundhiri, al-Haythami and many others.
5) In the Hadith recorded by Imam al-Bukhari and others, the Companion Umar (Allah be pleased with him) made Tawassul through the uncle of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), Sayyiduna Abbas (Allah be pleased with him), in asking Allah Almighty for rain at the time of drought.
These and many other Ahadith are clear on the permissibility and validity of Tawassul. This is the reason why the great traditional Sunni scholars have held this belief throughout the ages. Even in the present era, most of the Muslims who belong to the Ahl al-Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah in most parts of the world have this belief.
Many books in Arabic and other languages have been written in refutation of those who regard Tawassul to be Shirk. Scholars from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Emirates, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia itself have rejected the position held by the minority -so-called- Salafi sect.
As far as some of the scholars of the Haramayn are concerned, their views in matters of Aqida are generally from the blind following of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. The Imam, despite having great knowledge, in many issues chose a path which was different from the path of the majority of the Ummah, and the Scholars, by and large, did not accept his views.
At the same time, one should be precautious in not having any wrong belief in Aqidah. There should be the conviction that Allah Almighty alone has influence over everything, outwardly and inwardly. Also, one should not have the belief that the supplication (Dua) is not accepted without Tawassul. This is the real Tawhid.
Please note that as you mentioned there are Salafi scholars and different groups that hold a position contrary to this or apply stricter rulings while considering the opposite to be shirk. The scholars of Sunni Islam cannot be called disbelievers nor polytheist due to this difference of opinion. It is no way possible to say that the Ashari or Maturidi scholars are performing disbelief, such a claim is bid’ah as it has to definite standing and is only the opinion of such scholars and their deduction of Quran and Sunnah which is not qati’ (definite without interpretation or does not allow other opinions in its regard).
Al-Maqalah by Imam Zahid Al-Kawthari bab tawassul
Only Allah knows best
Written by Maulana Nabil Khan
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham