Event Review: Approaching Allah – Understanding the Concept of Tawassul
Event Review: Shaykh Ahmad Saad – Approaching Allah: Understanding the concept of Tawassul
What: Approaching Allah: Understanding the Concept of Tawassul
Where: SimplyIslam.sg, 152 Still Road
Who: Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari
When: 20th November 2013
Shaykh Ahmad Saad began the final lecture of his visit to Singapore by addressing the supposed controversial nature of the topic at hand. He stated that not only did the four Sunni madhabs permit tawassul, or the act of taking an intercessor or intermediary to Allah, within the Hanbali madhab it is a recommended act with prescribed methods and formulas. There was thus no reason why it should be a controversial topic.
Linguistically, wasila, the root of tawassul, referred to the means used to get to something. The Shaykh stated the point of contention for those who contested the validity of tawassul was whether it was possible to ask from Allah through someone else, and why a person could not go directly to Allah with his du’as. It was a false analogy, he said, to compare tawassul to Catholics seeking forgiveness from their priests as Muslims did not believe that prophets or saints had the ability to act independently from Allah. Rather, they believed that the righteousness of these individuals brought them closer to Allah.
He described tawassul as falling into two categories, tawassul through deeds and tawassul through people, and as an example of tawassul through deeds he described the story of three people from Bani Israel, who found themselves trapped in a cave and asked Allah to free them through the baraka of their good deeds.
The shaykh stressed that those who sought tawassul through deceased awliyah were not grave worshippers. He stated there were great blessings at their graves due to the multitude of angels delivering continuous thawab to the dead because of their good deeds, and said the angels would say “amin” to all the du’as made there.
Tawassul in the Qur’an and Hadith
Shaykh Ahmad gave numerous examples from the hadith of tawassul. Among them was an incident before the time of the prophethood of Rasulallah (SAWS) during a time of drought when the Quraysh came to Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet, who was known to be a righteous man, to make du’a to Allah for rain. Abu Talib made du’a then took the hand of Rasulallah (SAWS) and pointed it towards the sky, and wherever he pointed rain clouds would follow.
He also stated that the companions would rush to grab the Prophet’s hair and sweat for baraka, and Sayyidina Khalid bin Walid even kept a strand of his blessed hair under his helmet, attributing his victories in battle to it.
He also stated that great scholars such as Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal also sought tawassul through each other.
The Shaykh spoke of his own experiences with tawassul. He said that when he was going through difficult situations while in Egypt, making du’a at the maqams of the scholars such as Ibn Ata’illah Iskandari, Imam Shafi’i and others, helped with his problems.
As an example of tawassul in fiqh, the shaykh said that when performing the istisqa prayers for rain , women, children and even animals should follow, even though they did not need to pray, so that those performing would gain barakah from the weaker members of society.
Questions and Answers
One question was asked as to how one could make tawassul through the ulama and awliyah if one was far away from them, or had no connection to them. Shaykh Ahmad responded by saying that one should read the du’as or qasidahs composed by them, as doing so grants thawab to the person and establishes that connection.
Another questioner stated her concerns over tawassul after being asked to kiss a supposed hair of the Prophet. Shaykh Ahmad first stated that kissing the hair was a mark of honour for the Prophet, and not an act of worship. He agreed though that many people made fake claims to owning hairs of the Prophet (SAWS) for profit or status, and stated that the authentic hair of the Prophet had certain properties, including being able to grow, not burning when lit with fire, and not casting a shadow.
A question was asked as whether it was permissible to take the hair given by someone who claimed to be a wali and keep it in a shop for good fortune. The Shaykh replied by saying that the true awliyah would not claim to be walis, and in fact disliked showing off any miracles that they might have received.
Najib, an IT consultant,who had attended all of Shaykh Ahmad Saad’s lectures said, “The Shaykh is very knowledgable. This is the first time I have had the chance to listen to someone of his calibre.” He added that though the topic was controversial and often polarising, the talk helped strengthen his knowledge, prevent doubts and repelled ignorance.
Tawassul is indeed a topic that is hugely misunderstood and often divisive., Alhamdulillah Shaykh Ahmad Sa’ad Al-Azhari gave a very enlightening talk, based on the Qur’an, the sunnah of Rasulallah and the tradition of the scholars, that helped demystify the sacred practice of tawassul beyond the frequent claims of bid’ah and shirk.
Ahmad Zhaki Abdullah
Ahmad Zhaki holds a degree in English Literature from the University of London. He is a full-time executive at a local research institute and a part-time writer.