Hadith

Imam al-Shawkani_al-tawassul

The Meaning of Seeking means through The Prophets and Righteous Individuals

(wajh al-tawassul bi ’l-anbiya’ wa ’l-salihin)[1]

وجه التوسل بالأنبياء و بالصالحين

By S. Z. Chowdhury.

August 2003.

His saying:[2] Regarding the one who seeks a means to Allah – Glorified is He – via prophets and Righteous individuals: 

I say: one of the [evidences] for seeking the means via the prophets is what al-Tirmidhi narrated where he said it was fair and rigorously authenticated but peculiar (hasan sahih gharib)[3] as well as al-Nasa’i,[4] ibn Majah,[5] ibn Hibban in his Sahih and al-Hakim who commented that it was rigorously authenticated fulfilling the conditions of both Bukhari and Muslim (sahih ala shart al-Bukhari wa Muslim)[6] from the narration of ‘Uthman b. Hunayf (RA)[7] that a blind man came to the Prophet (SAW) and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, supplicate to Allah to restore my sight for me (an yakshifa li basari).’ He also said: ‘or I supplicate to you.’ He[8] then said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, the dwindling of my eyesight has caused me hardship (inni qad shaqqa alayya dhihab basari).’ [The Prophet] said: ‘go (fa ’ntaliq)[9] and then perform ablution then pray two units of prayer and say: O Allah! Indeed I am asking you (inni as’aluka) and turn to you through Muhammad the Prophet of Mercy (wa atawajjahu ilayk bi-muhammadin nabi al-ramah),’[10] etc. This narration will be mentioned in this book in the section: ‘Prayer in Time of Need’ (salah al-hajah).

As for seeking the means through the righteous individuals, one of [the narrations] is found in the Authentic Collection (al-sahih) where the companions sought rain through al-‘Abbas (RA),[11] the uncle of the Prophet (SAW) where ‘Umar (RA) said: ‘O Allah! We seek a means to you through the uncle of our Prophet,’ etc.[12]

                                                                                                And Allah knows Best.


[1] The excerpt is translated from Imam al-Shawkani’s Tuhfah al-Dhakirin bi-Iddah Hisn al-Hasin, pp.96-97. For a concise account in English of the traditional understanding of the concept and rulings of ‘tawassul’, see Nuh H. M. Keller’s Reliance of the Traveller, pp.935-940.

[2] That is Imam al-Jazari, the author of the book ‘Iddah Hisn al-Hasin.

[3] In his Sunan (#3578).

[4] See the Sunan al-Kubra of al-Nasa’i (#10490).

[5] See ibn Majah, Sunan (#1385) al-Tirmidhi, Sunan (#3578) both narrations are rigorously authenticated (sahih).

[6] See the Mustadrak of al-Hakim, 1:313 & 519 and where Imam al-Dhahabi confirmed the grading. Imam ibn Khuzaymah also mentioned it in his Sahih, 1:603 (#1219) as well as Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, 4/138 (#17240-17242). Moreover, al-Albani also declared the narration rigorously authenticated (sahih) in his Sahih al-Jami‘ (#1279). See also his: Tawassul Anwauhu wa Ahkamuhu, pp.69-70; Rawd al-Nadir fi Tartib wa Takhrij Mujam al-Tabarani al-Saghir (#661); al-Taliq al-Targhibala al-Tartib wa ’l-Tahdhib of al-Mundhiri, 1:241-242 & his Taliqala ibn Khuzaymah (#1209).

[7] Regarding this narration of ‘Uthman b. Hunayf, its citation in al-Albani’s English rendering called Tawassul: It’s Types and it’s Rulings, p.68 has a careless (careful?) re-wording an example (amongst a cluster) being the above supplication. For a succinct rebuttal of al-Albani’s arguments and tampering see Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani et.al. in ‘Tawassul’ from The Encyclopaedia of Islamic Doctrine, 4:113-133 along with the references therein.

[8] i.e. the blind man.

[9] It is interesting to note that the Prophet (SAW) did not ask the man to return to him (SAW) in order to make the supplication, i.e. an indication (qarinah) that the physical presence of the Prophet was neither an obligatory nor necessary condition for validating the supplication.

[10] The particle ‘bi-’ in the hadith may denote either: 1. the instrument and means by which an act is accomplished (li ’l-istianah), e.g. ‘I turn to you through and by means of Muhammad…’ or 2. a contact and association with proximity (li ’l-iltisaq), e.g. ‘I turn to you with or in connection with Muhammad…’ This particular narration is a proof-text for the permissibility of tawassul during the immediate presence as well as existence of the Prophet (SAW) but the restriction (taqyid) does not arise with the death of the Prophet (SAW) because ‘Uthman b. Hunayf’s nephew also relates another narration which is rigorously authenticated (sahih) according to the hadith masters: al-Bayhaqi in his Dala’il al-Nabuwwah, 6:167-168, al-Haythami in the Majmaal-Zawa’id, 2:279; al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib wa ’l-Tarhib, 1:473-474 and Tabarani in the Mujam al-Kabir, 9:17-18 and his Mujam al-Saghir, 1:184 & 201-202 where the authenticity was confirmed and corroborated by Imam Zahid al-Kawthari in Maqalat al-Kawthariyyah, p.391 as well as by Muhaddith ‘Abd Allah Siddiq al-Ghumari in Radd al-Muhkam al-Matin, pp.141-157 and Shaykh Mahmud Sa‘id Mamduh’s treatise Rafal-Manarah, pp.125-131.

Finally, the hadith was also accepted by Imam ibn Taymiyyah in his book Tawassul wa’ l-Wasilah, pp.100-102 where he writes: “al-Tabarani said that this hadith was narrated by Shu‘bah from Abu Ja‘far whose name is ‘Umayr b. Yazid and he is upright (wa huwa thiqah) and ‘Uthman b. ‘Umar only narrated it from Shu‘bah. Moreover, Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Maqdisi commented that the hadith is sahih.” He also continues by saying: “he (i.e. al-Tabarani) mentioned it being an only narration (i.e. a singular narration, tafarrudahu) to the extent of his knowledge and so did not mention the narration (riwayah) of Ruh b. ‘Ubadah from Shu‘bah where that chain is sahih clearly showing that ‘Uthman b. ‘Umar did not only narrate it (i.e. from Shu‘bah).” Cf. also ‘Alawi al-Maliki, Mafahim Yajibu an Tusahhaha, p.71.

[11] The account of the circumstance leading to the reason for ‘Umar (RA) invoking al-‘Abbas (RA) as a means is given by al-Suyuti from the narration of ibn Sa‘d in his Tarikh al-Khulafa’ p.140. Moreover, the annotator of al-Shawkani’s Tuhfah al-Dhakirin points out that ‘Umar could have made tawassul directly via the person (bi ’l-dhat) of Prophet (SAW) but did not and chose instead the supplication (dua’) of al-‘Abbas because he was alive, therefore this suggests (according to the annotator) that the Prophet (SAW) after his life must have no efficacy and thus a means cannot be sort through him (SAW). The ‘ulama’, however, have responded to this in a number of ways one of them being that: The Prophet (SAW) used to be sought as a means (wasilah) even after he passed away as mentioned in at least two narrations:

1a. Where Bilal b. al-Harith (RA) went to the grave of the Prophet (SAW) and sought him as a means of eliminating the drought as cited by ibn Kathir from al-Bayhaqi’s Dala’il al-Nubuwwah, 7:47 in his al-Bidayah wa ’l-Nihayah (Dar al-Ma‘arif edn), 7:91-92 & 7:105  (Dar Ihya’ al-Turath edn.) commenting that its chain is “rigorously authenticated” (isnaduhu sahih) and he also declares its chain “very strong” (isnaduhu jayyidun qawiyy) in his monumental Jamial-Masanid, 1:223 under the Musnad of ‘Umar; Imam ibn Abi Shayba also cites it in his Musannaf, 6:352 & 12:31-32 with an authenticated (sahih) chain as confirmed by the ‘Amir al-Mu’minin’ in hadith scholarship Imam ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani who says: “… and ibn Abi Shaybah mentioned with a rigorously authenticated chain (rawa ibn Abi Shayba bi-isnadin sahih) from the narration of Abu Salih al-Saman from Malik al-Dari who used to be the Treasurer of ‘Umar [RA] who said that: ‘the people had become plagued by famine during the time of ‘Umar [RA]. Then a man came to the grave of the Prophet (SAW) and cried: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Bring rain to your ummah (istasiq li-ummatika) because indeed they are doomed’. And Sayf has mentioned [in his book] al-Fatuh that the one who was seen asleep was none other than Bilal b. Harith al-Muzani, one of the Companions…”  Imam ibn Hajar cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari, 2:629-630 & 2:495 (#1010) as well as in his al-Isaba fi Tamyiz al-Sahabah, 6:164 & 3:484 wherein he says that ibn Abi Khaythamah also mentioned it. It is also narrated by al-Khalili in al-Irshad, 1:313-314 & ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in al-Istiab fi Marifah al-Ashab, 2:464 & 3:1149.

1b. The Mother of the Believers ‘A’ishah (RA) recommended the people of Madinah to go to the grave of the Prophet (undhuru qabra ’l-nabi) and seek him as a means to attaining blessings and benefit in order to alleviate the drought as recorded by al-Darimi in his Sunan, 1:43-44 (#62) in the section entitled: Ma Akrama Allah Taala Nabiyyahu Bada Mawtihi ‘Allah’s Generosity to His Prophet after his Death’ (cf. also Shaykh Nabil b. Hashim al-Ghamri’s commentary on al-Darimi’s Sunan entitled Fath al-Mannan, 1:564-566). After the people had done so, rain became plentiful. The chain is mawquf muttasil (continuous up to the companion only) with all the transmitters being upright. However, al-Albani has cast doubts upon this narration in his book Tawassul: Its Types and Its Rulings, pp.130-131 giving three main reasons: a. the unreliability of the narrator Sa‘id b. Zayd saying he was “weak” and generally unaccepted according to the muhaddithun. However, ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said he was saduq lahu awham (truthful but commits indulgence) in Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 1:288; ibn Sa‘d declared him thiqah (trustworthy) in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 7:287 so too did al-‘Ijly in Tarikh al-Thiqat, p.184 along with Abu Zur‘ah; ibn Hibban commented in his al-Thiqat, 6:358 that he was “truthful and a hafiz” (kana saduqan hafizan) and ibn ‘Ady in his al-Kamil fi ’l-Duafa’, 3:376 wrote that “laysa lahu min al-munkar” (there are no rejected narrations from him) and considered him to be utterly reliable (thiqah). Moreover, Sa‘id b. Zayd is one of the sub-narrators of al-Bukhari, e.g. see the section ‘What to Say upon Entering the Toilet’ (#142) & the section ‘Excellence of the Qur’an’ (#5061). Imam ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani also mentioned in the Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, 4:29 that Sa‘id b. Zayd was trustworthy and one of the narrators of Muslim. al-Albani also makes an allusion to this latter point in his edition of Sunan al-Tirmidhi, e.g. see hadith:1258! Furthermore, he considers sound (sahih) a narration in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (#3385) & hasan (fair) a narration in Sunan ibn Majah (#2402) both containing Sa‘id b. Zayd in the chain!! Cf. also Imam ‘Alawi al-Maliki’s Mafahim Yajibu an Tusahhaha, p.88.

b. al-Albani’s second objection is that the narration found in al-Darimi is mawquf (‘suspended’) at ‘A’ishah and mawquf narrations are neither a binding proof nor an obligatory one. This, however, is not strictly true, In any case, the command by ‘A’ishah (RA) to go to the Prophet’s grave to seek him as a means was not objected to by any of the companions which is a suggestion (qarinah) of a consensus (ijma‘) of tacit approval which no doubt would be binding. For more on the mawquf category of ahadith, see ibn al-Salah, ‘Ulum al-Hadith, p.41; ibn Kathir’s al-Baith al-Hathith, 1:147; ibn al-Mulaqqin, al-Muqni‘, 1:114-115; al-‘Iraqi in his al-Taqyid wa ’l-Idah, p.66; al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in al-Kifayah fiIlm al-Riwayah, p.21, al-Nukatala Kitab ibn al-Salah of Imam ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, 1:512-513; al-Sakhawi in his al-Fath al-Mughith, 1:108; al-Suyuti’s Tadrib al-Rawi, 2:149-150; ibn al-Hanbali’s Qaffu ’l-Athar, p.89 and Tawdih al-Afkar of al-Sana‘ani, 1:261.

c. al-Albani’s final objection is regarding the narrator Abu ’l-Nu‘man, Muhammad b. Fadl al-Sadusi which he says was reliable but changed during the end of his life and hence became unreliable. He then assumes (without evidence) that the narration in al-Darimi was transmitted after al-Sadusi’s deterioration therefore rendering it unacceptable. Imam al-Daraqutni (a specialist in hadith aberrations and shortcomings [‘ilal]), however, has conclusively refuted this when he said that “nothing of rejected narrations issued from him after his deterioration and he is trustworthy” (ma zahara lahu bada ikhtilatihi hadith munkar wa huwa thiqah) as mentioned by al-Dhahabi in his Mizan al-Itidal, 4:81 where he further adds that ibn Hibban (as stated in Kitab al-Duafa’ wa ’l-Majruhin, 2:294) was unable to find a single rejected narration from him. In addition to that, Bukhari transmitted many narrations from him after his deterioration. For more on al-Albani’s glaring mistakes and distortion see Imam ‘Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. al-Siddiq al-Ghumari’s booklet entitled Irgham al-Mubtadi al-Ghabi bi-Jawaz al-Tawassul bi ’l-Nabi, pp.8-10 & 23-25.

                = For more comprehensive responses given by the ‘ulama’ see Shaykh Hisham Kabbani et. al. in ‘Tawassul’ from The Encyclopaedia of Islamic Doctrine, 4:33-126 as well as G. F. Haddad’s article Tawassul and Tabarruk of the Salaf at www.livingislam.org.

 [12] See al-Bukhari with the commentary of Imam ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, 1:716-717 (#1010); ibn Khuzaymah in his Sahih, 2:(#1421) & ibn Hibban in his Sahih with the Ihsan of Bulban al-Farisi, 7:(#2861). Moreover, see the article by Imam G. F. Haddad entitled Tawassul of Umar Through al-Abbas accessible at www.livingislam.org where he lists over 10 reasons as to why ‘Umar (RA) used the Uncle of the Prophet (SAW) as an intermediary. See also ‘Alawi al-Maliki’s Mafahim Yajibu an Tusahhaha, pp.91-95. The text of the hadith in Bukhari runs as follows:

                “al-Hasan b. Muhammad related to us who said: Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari related to us who said that: My father, ‘Abd Allah b. al-Muthanna related to me from Thumamah b. ‘Abd Allah b. Anas from Anas that: ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (RA) – at the time a severe drought – sought the prayer for rain through al-‘Abbas b. Muttalib and said: ‘O Allah we indeed turn to you through our Prophet (inna kunna natawassalu ilaka bi-nabiyyina); give us rain and we also turn to you through the Uncle of our Prophet to give us rain.’ It then rained.” This narration regarding ibn ‘Abbas (RA) can also be found under the section Fada’il Ashab al-Nabi – ‘The Excellence of the Prophet’s Companions’ (#3710).

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