Recently, during a Q&A programme on an Islamic channel, the guest who is a Sheikh proclaimed that Barelvi`s are guilty of shirk. The example he gave was off making dua to people other than Allah, especially dead people. He also disputed the act of katum, specifically sending sawab to a deceased person following say completion of the quran and blessing of food. Please can you provide more information on this as these are fundamental challenges to our beliefs.
The brother will be reassured that the point he refers to, that is Tawassul, is an integral part of the belief of Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama`ah. The practice of using Prophets and Awliyas as a waseelah in supplication is rigourously identified by Qur`an and Sunnah.
It is an innovation of recent times that this is disputed. The essay below (from The Sunnah Foundation of America) sheds some light on this subject.
Seeking means (tawassul) through the Prophet The specific tawassul through the Prophet is a request in acknowledgement of his standing as the chief intercessor for the Community before Allah, and it is a request for Allah`s blessing as effected by Allah in the person of His Prophet and His saints — not as effected by the latter without Allah, which is the belief those who oppose tawassul falsely impute to those who make tawassul. Allah has said of His Holy Prophet, Peace be upon him:
He is anxious about what you do, and merciful with the believers. (9:128)
If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah`s forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful (4:64)
And if they had had patience till thou camest forth unto them, it had been better for them. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (49:5)
If only they had been content with what Allah and His Apostle gave them, and had said, “Sufficient unto us is Allah! Allah and His Apostle will soon give us of His bounty: to Allah do we turn our hopes!” (9:59)
They swear by Allah to you (Muslims) in order to please you: But it is more fitting that they should please Allah and His Apostle, if they are Believers. (9:62)
Allah has mentioned all this about His Prophet because it is through His Prophet that He Himself has shown His greatest mercy and most comprehensive forgiveness, and it is by coming to the Prophet that the believers seek to obtain these from Allah. This is clear evidence, both now as it was then, that the mediation of the Prophet — for that is the meaning of intercession — can be sought to obtain forgiveness from Allah. The first hadith Imam Ahmad related from Anas ibn Malik in his Musnad Anas is: “The whole Community of the people of Madina used to take the hand of the Prophet and rush to obtain their need with it.”
The Mufti of Mecca at the time of the spread of the Wahhabi heresy, al-Sayyid Ahmad Ibn Zayni Dahlan (d. 1304) said in Khulasat al-kalam:
Tawassul (using means), tashaffu` (using intercession), and istighatha (asking help) all have the same meaning, and the only meaning they have in the hearts of the believers is that of tabarruk (using blessings) with the mention of Allah`s beloved ones, since it is established that He grants His mercy to all His servants for the sake of His beloved ones, and this is the case whether they are alive or dead, because in either case the actual effecting agent and true executor is Allah Himself, and these beloved ones are only ordinary causes for Hmercy. Like any other secondary causes, they have no effective power of influence in themselves.
The early and late Imams of the Community have said clearly and unequivocally that tawassul through the Prophet is highly desirable and recommended for every person. Following are some of their words to this effect.
Imam Malik was asked the following question by the Caliph Abu Ja`far al-Mansur: “Shall I face the qibla with my back towards the grave of the Messenger of Allah when makind du`a (after salams)?” He replied:
“How could you turn your face away from him when he is the means (wasila) of your and your father Adam`s forgiveness to Allah on the Day of Resurrection?
Nay, face him and ask for his intercession (istashfi` bihi) so that Allah will grant it to you as He said: “If they had only, when they were wronging themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah`s forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful (4:64).””
It is cited by al-Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa (2:92-93) with a sound (sahih) chain, and also cited by Samhudi in Khulasat al-Wafa, Subki in Shifa` al-siqam, Qastallani in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya, Ibn Jama`a in Hidayat al-salik, and Haytami in al-Jawhar al-munazzam and Tuhfat al-zuwwar. See also Ibn `Abd al-Hadi in al-Sarim al-munki p. 244. Ibn Jama`a says in Hidayat al-salik (3:1381): “It is related by the two hafiz Ibn Bashkuwal and al-Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa` after him, and no attention is paid to the words of those who claim that it is forged purely on the basis of his idle desires.”
The words “he is the means (wasilat) of your and your father Adam`s forgiveness to Allah” are confirmed by the verses whereby the Prophet is witness over all communities and people including their Prophets (2:143, 3:81, 4:41, 33:7) as well as the sound hadith of his intercession over all prophets on behalf of all believers in Sahih al-Bukhari (Kitab al-tawhid).
Furthermore, it is also established from the verse “And Adam received words from his Lord and He relented towards him” (2:37) that Adam has been forgiven.
Imam Ahmad made tawassul through the Prophet a part of every du`a according to the following report: `Ala` al-Din al-Mardawi said in his book al-Insaf fi ma`rifat al-rajih min al-khilaf `ala madhhab al-Imam al-mubajjal Ahmad ibn Hanbal (3:456):
The correct position of the [Hanbali] madhhab is that it is permissible in one`s supplication (du`a) to use as means a pious person, and it is said that it is desirable (mustahabb). Imam Ahmad said to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi:
yatawassalu bi al-nabi fi du`a`ih — “Let him use the Prophet as a means in his supplication to Allah.”
The same report is found in Imam Ahmad`s Manasik as narrated by his student Abu Bakr al-Marwazi.
Similarly the lengthy wording of the tawassul according to the Hanbali madhhab as established by the hafiz Ibn `Aqil in his Tadhkira was cited fully by Imam Kawthari in his appendix to Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki`s al-Sayf al-saqil included in Kawthari`s edition of the latter.
The Prophet said on the authority of `Umar: “When Adam committed his mistake he said: O my Lord, I am asking you to forgive me for the sake of Muhammad.
Allah said: O Adam, and how do you know about Muhammad whom I have not yet created? Adam replied, O my Lord, after You created me with your hand and breathed into me of Your Spirit, I raised my head and saw written on the heights of the Throne:
LA ILAHA ILLALLAH MUHAMMADUN RASULULLAH
I understood that You would not place next to Your Name but the Most Beloved One of Your creation. Allah said: O Adam, I have forgiven you, and were it not for Muhammad I would not have created you.”
It was transmitted through many chains and was cited by Bayhaqi (in Dala`il al-nibuwwa), Abu Nu`aym (in Dala`il al-nibuwwa), al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (2:615), al-Tabarani in his Saghir (2:82, 207) with another chain containing sub-narrators unknown to Haythami as he stated in Majma` al-zawa`id (8:253), and Ibn `Asakir on the authority of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, and most of these narrations were copied in Qastallani`s al-mawahib al-laduniyya (and al-Zarqani`s Commentary 2:62).
This hadith is declared sound (sahih) by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (2:651), although he acknowledges Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam, one of its sub-narrators, as weak. However, when he mentions this hadith he says: “Its chain is sound, and it is the first hadith of Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam which I mention in this book”; al-Hakim also declares sound another version through Ibn `Abbas.
Al-Bulqini declares this hadith sound in his Fatawa.
Al-Subki confirms al-Hakim`s authentication (in Shifa` al-siqam fi ziyarat khayr al-anam p. 134-135) although Ibn Taymiyya`s rejection and criticism of this hadith was known to him and he rejects it, as well as saying that Ibn Taymiyya`s extreme weakening of Ibn Zayd is exaggerated.
The hadith is also included by Qadi `Iyad among the “sound and famous narrations” in al-Shifa, and he says that Abu Muhammad al-Makki and Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi mention it; Qadi `Iyad says: “It is said that this hadith explains the verse: `And Adam received words from his Lord and He relented towards him` (2:37)”; he continues to cite another very similar version through al-Ajurri (d. 360), about whom al-Qari said: “al-Halabi said: This seems to be the imam and guide Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Husayn ibn `Abd Allah al-Baghdadi, the compiler of the books al-Shari`a devoted to the Sunna, al-Arba`un, and others.`” This is confirmed by Ibn Taymiyya in his Qa`ida fi al-tawassul: “It is related by Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Ajurri, in his book al-Shari`a.”
Ibn al-Jawzi also considers it sound (sahih) as he cites it in the first chapter of al-Wafa bi ahwal al-mustafa, in the introduction of which he says: “(In this book) I do not mix the sound hadith with the false,”
although he knew of `Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd`s weakness as a narrator; he also mentions the version of Maysarat al-Fajr whereby the Prophet says:
“When satan deceived Adam and Eve, they repented and sought intercession to Allah with my name”; Ibn al-Jawzi also says in the chapter concerning the Prophet`s superiority over the other Prophets in the same book: “Part of the exposition of his superiority to other Prophets is the fact that Adam asked his Lord through the sanctity (hurmat) of Muhammad that He relent towards him, as we have already mentioned.” Suyuti cites it in his Qur`anic commentary al-durr al-manthur (2:37) and in al-Khasa`is al-kubra (1:12) and in al-Riyad al-aniqa fi sharh asma` khayr al-khaliqa (p. 49), where he says that Bayhaqi considers it sound; this is due to the fact that Bayhaqi said in the introduction to the Dala`il that he only included sound narrations in his book, although he also knew and explicitly mentions `Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd`s weakness;
Ibn Kathir mentions it after Bayhaqi in al-Bidayat wa al-Nihaya (1:75, 1:180); al-Haythami in Majma` al-zawa`id (8:253 #28870), al-Bayhaqi himself, and al-Qari in Sharh al- shifa` show that its chains have weakness in them.
However, the weakness of Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd was known by Ibn al-Jawzi, Subki, Bayhaqi, Hakim, and Abu Nu`aym, yet all these scholars retained this hadith for consideration in their books; Three scholars reject it, such as Ibn Taymiyya (Qa`ida jalila fi al-tawassul p. 89, 168-170) and his two students Ibn `Abd al-Hadi (al-Sarim al-munki p.
61-63) and al-Dhahabi (Mizan al-i`tidal 2:504 and Talkhis al-mustadrak),
while `Asqalani reports Ibn Hibban`s saying that `Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd was a forger(Lisan al-mizan 3:360, 3:442). However, Ibn Taymiyya elsewhere quotes it and the version through Maysara and says: “These two are like the elucidation (tafsir) of the authentic ahadith (concerning the same topic)” (Fatawa 2:150). The contemporary Meccan hadith scholar Ibn `Alawi al-Maliki said: “This indicates that Ibn Taymiyya found the hadith sound enough to be considered a witness for other narrations (Salih li al-istishhad wa al-i`t), because the forged (al-mawdu`) and the false (al-batil) are not taken as witness by the people of hadith”; al-Maliki also quotes (without reference) Dhahabi`s unrestrained endorsement of the ahadith in Bayhaqi`s Dala`il al-nubuwwa with his words: “You must take what is in it (the Dala`il), for it consists entirely of guidance and light.” (Mafahim yajib an tusahhah p. 47). Its latter part is mentioned as a separate hadith in the wording: “Were it not for Muhammad, I would not have created the spheres (al-aflak).” al-Qari said in al-Asrar al-marfu`a (#754-755): “al-Saghani (in al-ahadith al mawdu`a p. 7) said: “It is forged,” however, its meaning is sound (mi`nahu sahih), as Daylami has narrated on the authority of Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet said: “Gabriel came to me and said: O Muhammad! Were it not for you, Paradise would not have been created, and were it not for you, the Fire would not have been created.” And Ibn Kathir`s narration has: “And were it not for you, the world would not have been created.”” As for Albani`s rejection of Qari`s use of Daylami in support of the hadith with the words: “I do not hesitate to declare it weak on the basis that Daylami is alone in citing it” (Silsila da`ifa #282), it shows an unwarranted wholesale rejection of Daylami in lieu of a discussion of the hadith itself, whereas the Imam of hadith Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani did rely on hadith narrated by Daylami, as is shown by hadith #33 of his Arba`un fi rad` al-mujrim `an sabb al-muslim, although Daylami is alone in citing it! Ibn al-Qayyim in his Bada`i` al-fawa`id went so far as to declare that everything was created for the sake of human beings: hal `arifat qimata nafsik? innama khalaqtu al-akwana kullaha laka… kullu al-ashiya`i shajaratun wa anta al-thamara: “Have you realized your value? I only created all the universes for your sake… All things are trees whose fruit you are.” If this is true, then how could all humanity be given what the Prophet is refused, who is the best of mankind and of all creation put together? Following are some of the hadiths of the mention of the Prophet`s name together with Allah on the Throne and in the heavens cited by the hadith masters, as related by Suyuti in al-Khasa`is al-kubra (1:12-14): In Ibn `Asakir from Ka`b al-Ahbar: Adam said to his son Sheeth: “O my son, you are my successor, therefore found my successorhip upon godwariness and the Firm Rope, and every time you mention Allah, do mention next to His name the name of Muhammad, for I saw his name written on the leg of the Throne as I was between the spirit and the clay. Then I circumambulated the heavens and I did not see in them a single spot except the name of Muhammad was written upon it, and when my Lord made me inhabit Paradise I saw in it neither palace nor room except the name of Muhammad was written on it. I have seen his name written on the bosom of the wide-eyed maidens of Paradise, on the leaves of the reed-stalks and thickets of the Garden, on the leaves of the Tree of Bliss, on the leaves of the Lote-tree of the Farthermost Boundary, and upon the veils and between the eyes of the angels. Therefore, make frequent remembrance of him, for the angels remember him in every moment.” Ibn `Adi and Ibn `Asakir from Anas: The Prophet said: “When I was taken up to heaven I saw written on the leg of the Throne: la ilaha illallah muhammadun rasulullah ayyadtuhu bi `ali.” Ibn `Asakir from `Ali: The Prophet said: “The night I was enraptured I saw written on the Throne: la ilaha illallah muhammadun rasulullah abu bakr al-siddiq `umar al-faruq `uthman dhu al-nurayn.” Ibn `Adi, Tabarani in al-Awsat, Ibn `Asakir, and al-Hasan ibn `Arafa in his famous volume from Abu Hurayra: The Prophet said: “The night I was enraptured and taken up to heaven I did not pass a heaven except I saw in it my name written: muhammadun rasulullah with Abu Bakr at my side.” al-Bazzar from Ibn `Umar: The Prophet said: “When I was taken up to heaven I did not pass a heaven except I saw in it my name written: muhammadun rasulullah.” al-Khatib, Ibn `Asakir, and al-Daraqutni in al-Afrad (Reports from a single narrator), from Abu al-Darda`: The Prophet said: “The night I was enraptured I saw a green garment on the Throne whereupon was written in letters of light: la ilaha illallah muhammadun rasulullah abu bakr al-siddiq `umar al-faruq.” Ibn `Asakir from Jabir: The Prophet said: “On the gate of Paradise is written: la ilaha illallah muhammadun rasulullah.” Abu Nu`aym in al-Hilya from Ibn `Abbas: The Prophet said: “There is not in all Paradise one tree with a single leaf but inscribed la ilaha illallah muhammadun rasulullah.” al-Hakim from Ibn `Abbas, and he graded it sahih — sound: “Allah revealed to `Isa the following: Believe in Muhammad and order all those of your Community who see him to believe in him, for were it not for Muhammad I would not have created Adam, nor Paradise, nor the Fire. When I created the Throne upon the water it shuddered. So I wrote upon it: la ilaha illallah muhammadun rasulullah and it became calm.” al-Dhahabi said: “Its chain contains `Amr ibn Aws and it is not known who he is.” In Ibn `Asakir from Jabir through Abu al-Zubayr: “Between Adam`s shoulders is written: muhammadun rasulullah khatam al-nabiyyin.” Imam Shawkani said in his commentary on al-Jazari`s (d. 833) `Iddat al-hisn al-hasin entitled Tuhfat al-dhakirin bi `iddat al-hisn al-hasin (Beirut ed. 1970), p. 37: “He [al-Jazari] said: Let him make tawassul to Allah with His Prophets and the salihin or saints (in his du`a). I say: And exemplifying tawassul with the Prophets is the hadith extracted by Tirmidhi et al. (of the blind man saying: O Allah, I ask You and turn to You by means of Muhammad the Prophet of Mercy) [see below]… as for tawassul with the saints, among its examples is the hadith, established as sound, of the Companions` tawassul asking Allah for rain by means of al-`Abbas the Prophet`s uncle, and `Umar said: “O Allah, we use as means to You the uncle of our Prophet etc. [see below].” We cite further below Shawkani`s complete and detailed stand on tawassul from his treatise al-Durr al-nadir.
A blind man came to the Prophet and said: “Invoke Allah for me that he help me.” He replied: “If you wish I will delay this, and it would be better for you, and if you wish I will invoke Allah the Exalted (for you).” He said: “Then invoke him.” The Prophet said to him: idhhab fa tawadda`, wa salli rak`atayn thumma qul — “Go and make an ablution, pray two rak`at, then say: “O Allah, I am asking you (as`aluka) and turning to you (atawajjahu ilayka) with your Prophet Muhammad (bi nabiyyika Muhammad), the Prophet of mercy; O Muhammad (ya Muhammad), I am turning with you to my Lord regarding my present need / I am asking my Lord with your intercession concerning the return of my sight (inni atawajjahu bika ila rabbi fi hajati hadhih — another version has: inni astashfi`u bika `ala rabbi fi raddi basari) so that He will fulfill my need; O Allah, allow him to intercede (with you) for me (allahumma shaffi`hu fiyya).”
It is related by Ahmad (4:138 #17246-17247), Tirmidhi (hasan sahih gharib — Da`awat Ch. 119), Ibn Majah (Book of Iqamat al-salat wa al-sunnat, Ch. on Salat al-hajat #1385), Nasa`i (`Amal al-yawm wa al-laylat p. 417-418 #658-660), al-Hakim (1:313, 1:526), Tabarani in al-Kabir, and rigorously authenticated as sound (sahih) by nearly fifteen hadith masters including Ibn Hajar, Dhahabi, Shawkani, and Ibn Taymiyya.
The Prophet`s order, here as elsewhere, carries legislative force for all Muslims and is not limited to a particular person, place or time; it is valid for all generations until the end of time unless proven otherwise by a subsequent indication from the Prophet himself, Peace be upon him. The Prophet was not physically present at the assigned time of the invocation, since he said to the blind man: “Go and make ablution,” without adding: “and then come back in front of me.” With regard to physical absence, the living and the dead are exactly alike, namely:absent. Despite the Prophet`s physical absence, the wording (sigha) for calling upon his intercession is direct address: “O Muhammad.” Such a wording — “O So-and-So” — is only used with someone present and able to hear. It should also be noted that Allah forbade the Companions from being forward or calling out to the Prophet in the ordinary manner used with one another (49:1-2). The only way, therefore, that the Prophet, Blessings and peace be upon him, could both be absent and at the same be addressed is that the first be understood in the physical sense and the second in the spiritual. The above invocation was also used after the Prophet`s lifetime, as is proven by the sound (sahih) hadith authenticated by Bayhaqi, Abu Nu`aym in the Ma`rifa, Mundhiri (Targhib 1:473-474), Haythami, and Tabarani in the Kabir (9:17-18) and the Saghir (1:184/201-202) on the authority of `Uthman ibn Hunayf`s nephew Abu Imama ibn Sahl ibn Hunayf: A man would come to `Uthman ibn `Affan for a certain need, but the latter would not pay him any attention nor look into his need, upon which he complained of his condition to `Uthman ibn Hunayf who told him: “Go and make ablution, then go to the mosque and pray two rak`at, then say (this du`a),” and he mentioned the invocation of the blind man, “then go (to `Uthman again).” The man went, did as he was told, then came to `Uthman`s door, upon which the door-attendant came, took him by the hand, and brought him to `Uthman who sat him with him on top of the carpet, and said: “Tell me what your need is.” After this the man went out, met `Uthman ibn Hunayf again, and said to him: “May Allah reward you! Previously he would not look into my need nor pay any attention to me, until you spoke to him.” He replied: “I did not speak to him, but I saw the Prophet when a blind man came to him complaining of his failing eyesight,” and he mentioned to him the substance of the previous narration.
It is narrated that `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, would pray to Allah for rain during times of drought through the means, the honor and intercession of the uncle of the Prophet, `Abbas ibn `Abd Muttalib by using this supplication, “O Our Lord! Previously, when we had a drought, we used to come to You by means and intercession of Your Prophet. Now we are requesting intercession through the uncle of the Prophet to grant us rain.” And it was granted. Bukhari relates it. `Umar added, after making this supplication: “He (al-`Abbas), by Allah, is the means to Allah” (hadha wallahi al-wasilatu ilallahi `azza wa jall). Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates it in al-Isti`ab bi ma`rifat al-ashab.
The scholars have explained that `Umar sought the means of al-`Abbas rather than the Prophet in order to show and acknowledge the status of the Prophet`s uncle among the people and, more generally, of the Ahl al-Bayt or direct relatives of the Prophet. Al-Kawthari in his Maqalat (p. 411) cites Ibn `Abd al-Barr`s commentary in al-Isti`ab that `Umar used al-`Abbas in response to Ka`b`s words: “O Commander of the believers, the Bani Isra`il in such circumstances used to pray for rain by means of the relatives of Prophets.” It is not, as some ignorant explainers of the hadith have fancied, because the Prophet`s means is no longer available that `Umar used al-`Abbas as a wasila. The hadith of `Uthman ibn Hunayf and the words of Imam Malik to al-Mansur show that the Prophet continued to be sought by the Companions and the Followers as a wasila or means of blessing and benefit even after he left this life. Following is some more evidence to this effect.
Al-Darimi in the Chapter 15 of the Muqaddima (Introduction) to his Sunan (Vol. 1 p. 43) entitled: “Allah`s generosity to His Prophet after his death,” relates from Aws ibn `Abd Allah: “The people of Madina complained to `A`isha of the severe drought that they were suffering. She said: “Go to the Prophet`s grave and open a window towards the sky so that there will be no roof between him and the sky.” They did so, after which they were watered with such rain that vegetation grew and the camels got fat.”
Al-muhaddith al-Samhudi wrote in Wafa` al-wafa` (Vol. 2 p. 549): “al-Zayn al-Miraghi said: “Know that it is the Sunna of the people of Madina to this day to open a window at the bottom of the dome of the Prophet`s room, that is, of the blessed green dome, on the side of the qibla.” I say: And in our time, they open the door facing the noble face (the grave) in the space surrounding the room and they gather there.”
al-Bayhaqi relates with a sound (sahih) chain: “It is related from Malik al-Dar, `Umar`s treasurer, that the people suffered a drought during the successorship of `Umar, whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah, ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished,” after which the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: “Go to `Umar and give him my greeting, then tell him that they will be watered. Tell him: You must be clever, you must be clever!” The man went and told `Umar. The latter said: “O my Lord, I spare no effort except in what escapes my power!” Ibn Kathir cites it thus from Bayhaqi in al-Bidaya wa al-nihaya and says: isnaduhu sahih; Ibn Abi Shayba cites it in his Musannaf with a sound (sahih) chain as confirmed by Ibn Hajar who says: rawa Ibn Abi Shayba bi isnadin sahih and cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari. He identifies Malik al-Dar as `Umar`s treasurer (khazin `umar) and says that the man who visited and saw the Prophet in his dream is identified as the Companion Bilal ibn al-Harith, and he counts this hadith among the reasons for Bukhari`s naming of the chapter “The people`s request to their leader for rain if they suffer drought.” He also mentions it in al-Isaba, where he says that Ibn Abi Khaythama cited it.
The legal inference here is not from the dream, because although the dream of seeing the Prophet is truthful, a dream cannot be used to establish a ruling (hukm) due to the possibility that the person who saw it makes an error in its wording. Rather, the inference from this hadith is based on the action of the Companion Bilal ibn al-Harith. The fact that Bilal came to the grave of the Prophet, called out to him, and asked him to ask for rain is a proof that these actions are permitted. These actions fall under the rubric of asking the Prophet for help (istighatha), seeking him as a means (tawassul), and using his intermediary (tashaffu`), and none of the Companions reprimanded him, and therefore it was understood that such actions are among the greatest acts of drawing near to Allah.
In his edition of Ibn Hajar, the Wahhabi scholar Ibn Baz rejects the hadith as a valid source for seeking rain through the Prophet, and brazenly condemns the act of the Companion who came to the grave, calling it munkar (aberrant) and wasila ila al-shirk (a means to associating partners to Allah). We seek protection from Allah from ignorance and error.
The Prophet said: “My life is a great good for you, you will relate about me and it will be related to you, and my death is a great good for you, your actions will be presented to me (in my grave) and if I see goodness I will praise Allah, and if see other than that I will ask forgiveness of Him for you.”
Haythami says in Majma` al-zawa`id (9:24 #91): “Al-Bazzar relates it and its sub-narrators are all the men of sound hadith.” Qadi `Iyad cites it in al-Shifa (1:56 of the Amman edition). Suyuti said in his Manahil al-safa fi takhrij ahadith al-shifa (Beirut 1988/1408) p. 31 (#8): “Ibn Abi Usama cites it in his Musnad from the hadith of Bakr ibn `Abd Allah al-Muzani, and al-Bazzar from the hadith of Ibn Mas`ud with a sound (sahih) chain.” It is cited in Shaykh al-Islam al-Taqi al-Subki`s Shifa` al-siqam fi ziyarat khayr al-anam (The healing of the sick concerning the visit of the Best of Creation), where he mentions that Bakr ibn Abd Allah al-Muzani reported it, and Ibn al-Jawzi mentions it through Bakr and then again through Anas ibn Malik in the penultimate chapter of the penultimate section of al-Wafa, both huffaz without giving the isnad.
However, Ibn al-Jawzi specifies in the introduction of his book that he only included sound traditions in it. He also mentions the version through Aws ibn Aws: “The actions of human beings are shown to me every Thursday on the night of (i.e. preceding) Friday.” See also Fath al-Bari 10:415, al-Mundhiri`s al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib 3:343, and Musnad Ahmad 4:484.
The former Grand Mufti of Egypt Shaykh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhluf wrote in his Fatawa shar`iyya (Cairo: Dar al-i`tisam, 1405/1985, 1:91-92):
The hadith means that the Prophet is a great good for his Community during his life, because Allah the Exalted has preserved the Community, through the secret of the Prophet`s presence, from misguidance and confusion and disagreement, and He has guided the prople through the Prophet to the manifest truth; and that after Allah took back the Prophet, our connection to the latter`s goodness continues uncut, and the extension of his goodness endures, overshadowing us. The deeds of the Community are shown to him every day, and he glorifies Allah for the goodness that he finds, while he asks for His forgiveness for the small sins, and the alleviation of His punishment for the grave ones: and this is a tremendous good for us. There is therefore “goodness for the Community in his life, and in his death, goodness for the Community.”
Moreover, as has been established in the hadith, the Prophet is alive in his grave with a special “isthmus-life” (hayat barzakhiyya khassa) stronger than the lives of the martyrs which the Qur`an spoke about in more than one verse. The nature of these two kinds of life cannot be known except by their Bestower, the Glorious, the Exalted. He is able to do all things. His showing the Community`s deeds to the Prophet as an honorific gift for him and his Community is entirely possible rationally and documented in the reports. There is no leeway for its denial. And Allah guides to His light whomever He pleases. And Allah knows best.
We cite more hadiths on tawassul in section c) below.
Al-`Utbi said: “As I was sitting by the grave of the Prophet, a Beduin Arab came and said: “Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah! I have heard Allah saying: “If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked Allah`s forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful” (4:64), so I have come to you asking forgiveness for my sin, seeking your intercession with my Lord.” Then he began to recite poetry:
O best of those whose bones are buried in the deep earth,
And from whose fragrance the depth
and the height have become sweet,
May I be the ransom for a grave which thou inhabit,
And in which are found purity, bounty and munificence!
Then he left, and I dozed and saw the Prophet in my sleep. He said to me: “O `Utbi, run after the Beduin and give him glad tidings that Allah has forgiven him.””
A report graded mashhur (established and well-known) and related by Nawawi, Adhkar, Mecca ed. p. 253-254, al-Majmu` 8:217, and al-Idah fi manasik al-hajj, chapters on visiting the grave of the Prophet; Ibn Jama`a, Hidayat al-salik 3:1384; Ibn `Aqil, al-Tadhkira; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 3:556-557;
al-Qurtubi, Tafsir of 4:64 in Ahkam al-Qur`an 5:265; Samhudi, Khulasat al-Wafa p. 121 (from Nawawi); Dahlan, Khulasat al-Kalam 2:247; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir 2:306, and al-Bidayat wa al-nihayat 1:180; Abu al-Faraj ibn Qudama, al-Sharh al-kabir 3:495; al-Bahuti al-Hanbali, Kashshaf al-qina` 5:30; Taqi al-Din al-Subki, Shifa` al-siqam p. 52; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muthir al-gharam al-sakin ila ashraf al-amakin p. 490; al-Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-iman #4178; Ibn `Asakir, Mukhtasar tarikh Dimashq 2:408; Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, al-Jawhar al-munazzam [commentary on Nawawi`s Idah]; Ibn al-Najjar, Akhbar al-Madina p. 147. A similar report is cited through Sufyan ibn `Uyayna (Shafi`i`s shaykh), and through Abu Sa`id al-Sam`ani on the authority of `Ali.
Al-`Utbi`s account of the Arab`s tawassul for forgiveness at the Prophet`s grave is famous: It is found in many books on the subject of ziyara (visiting the Prophet`s grave in Madina) or manasik (rites of pilgrimage) by the many scholars of the Four Schools, none