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Shia Islam

Resort to the Dead or Tawassul to the dead (Arabic: التوسل بالأموات), is to seek intermediary through prominent religious leaders after their death so that they ask God to respond to one's requests. Muslims, and in particular Shi'as, believe in the resort to the dead, which is based on the presumption that the dead are able to hear the living people (Sama' al-Mawta) and have a life in barzakh. Shiite and Sunni sources refer to cases in which Ahl al-Bayt (a) and some of the companions resorted to the Prophet (s) after his death. Wahhabis and Ibn Taymiyya reject the legitimacy of the resort to the dead.

Contents

The Notion

Tawassul to the dead is the resort to the prominent religious leaders, such as the Infallibles (a), after their death so that they ask God to respond to one's requests.

Posthumous Hearing and Life in Barzakh

The resort to the dead is acceptable only if there is life in barzakh and the dead are able to hear the living people, that is, only if it is possible for living persons to communicate with souls in the world of barzakh and it is possible for the souls in barzakh to hear them.

Legitimacy

Main article: Tawassul

For the legitimacy of the resort to the dead, it has been appealed to Qur'anic verses, the practice of Ahl al-Bayt (a), and the practice of Muslims:

Qur'anic Evidence

For the legitimacy of the resort to the dead, it has been appealed to the unqualified tone of the Qur'am 4:64 in which believers are encouraged to ask the Prophet (s) to pray for their forgiveness by God.[1] The verse generalizes both to the period of the Prophet's (s) life and the period after his death. Moreover, the Qur'an 5:35 permits the resort in an unqualified way, which implies that one can make a resort to the souls of believers and prophets (a) after their death as well.

The Practice of Imams of the Shi'a

According to some sources, Imams of the Shi'a resorted to the Prophet (s) after his death. Imam Ali (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) have resorted to the Prophet (s). In his al-Tawassul Supplication, Imam al-Sajjad (a) resorted to both dead and living Infallibles.

Moreover, supplications transmitted from Ahl al-Bayt (a), such as the Supplication of Sari' al-Ijaba, show that the resort to the religious leaders is recommended even after their death.

The Practice of the Companions

There are reports in Sunni sources of hadiths to the effect that some of the companions and Muslims resorted to the Prophet (s) after his death. For example:

  • A'isha's resort to the Prophet (s) so that the drought comes to an end.
  • According to one report, Malik b. Anas had a conversation with Mansur al-Dawaniqi in which he taught him how to visit the Prophet's (s) mausoleum and resort to him.

The Sunni View

The majority of Sunni scholars permitted the resort to the dead and did themselves resort to religious leaders. Al-Samhudi, a Shafi'i scholar in the tenth/sixteenth century, wrote a book, Wafa' al-wafa' bi akhbar dar al-Mustafa, in which he collected cases where people resorted to the Prophet (s) and their requests were met. According to Abu Ali Khilal, whenever he had a problem, he visited the grave of Imam al-Kazim (a) and resorted to him and his problem was solved. Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i was quoted as saying that the Household of the Prophet (s) are means for the proximity to God.

The Wahhabi View

Wahhabis dismiss the resort to the dead as illegitimate and impermissible. Ibn Taymiyya (whose views are frequently cited by Wahhabis) believes that the resort to the prayers of the Prophet (s) and righteous people is legitimate only when they are alive, and it is an instance of polytheism to resort to them after their death.

Reply

According to proponents of the resort to the dead, there is no difference in resorting to divine people during their life and after their death. Just as one can legitimately ask the Prophet (s) and other divine people to pray for one and ask God for one's forgiveness during their lives, one can do so after their death as well. The Qur'an 4:64 has also been appealed to, which includes both the period of the Prophet's (s) life and the period after his death. Moreover, the practice of Muslims, including the companions, shows that the resort to the dead was permissible.

See Also

Notes

  1. Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you and pleaded to Allah for forgiveness, and the Apostle had pleaded for them [to Allah]for forgiveness, they would have surely found Allah all-clement, all-merciful.
  2. Uthman b. Hunayf asked him to resort to the Prophet (s) as follows: "O God! Truly I ask You and direct myself towards You with Your Prophet Muhammad, may Allah send regards and peace to him, the prophet of mercy. O Muhammad! Through you I direct myself towards my Lord, so respond to my request".

References