This issue is one of the oldest debated issues that caused great division among Muslims to the extent that some scholars gave more concern to this matter than they did with Jihad, even during the time when Islam and Muslims were subject to many anti-Islamic campaigns staged by the enemies of Allah. While these enemies were amending the principles of Shari`ah and changing Muslims’ lifestyle, the latter were busy with differences and disputation.
However, it seems useful to sum up the following points from the book Dustur al-Wahdah ath-Thaqafiyyah (The Constitution of Cultural Unity) with regard to this issue:
First,tawassul or invoking Allah the Most High, through His Being (Dhat) and Most Beautiful Names made in such way is mentioned in the following hadiths:
1. The hadith which reads: “O Allah! I implore You by virtue of Your being Allah, the One, Who has no partner, the Eternal, Absolute, Who begetteth not, nor is He begotten, and like unto Whom there is none.”
2. The Prophetic supplication for memorizing the Qur’an, “O Allah! I beseech You by virtue of Your Glory and by the Light of Your Face to let me keep Your Book by heart as You have taught me.”
3. The supplication, “O Allah! I seek refuge with Your pleasure from Your wrath and with Your pardon from Your punishment.”
Undoubtedly, there is no harm in such forms of tawassul.
Second, tawassul of a person to Allah, the Most High through showing obedience to Him as well as through his own good deeds which are done only for His sake. This meaning is involved in the verse that reads, “O ye who believe! Do your duty to Allah, seek the means of approach unto Him, and strive (with might and main) in His cause: that ye may prosper.” (Al-Ma’idah: 35)
There is also a long Hadith speaking about three men who were trapped in a cave by a great stone, and nothing saved them but their supplications to Allah, each using a means through his best deed. This comes in accordance with the Hadith, “Get to know Allah in prosperity and He will know you in adversity.”
Third, tawassul through the righteous people’s supplications and the supplications of Muslims, one for the other, has been established since the time of Prophet Nuh (peace and blessings be upon him) who supplicated to Allah saying, “O Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in Faith, and (all) believing men and believing women: and to the wrong–doers grant Thou no increase but in Perdition!” (Nuh: 28)
Such supplication is recommended and rewarded by Allah, whether it is said in the presence of the one on whose behalf it is made or in his absence. The angels and the bearers of the Throne continuously supplicate: “Our Lord! Thou embraced all things in Mercy and Knowledge, forgive, then, those who turn in repentance, and follow Thy Path; and preserve them from the Chastisement of the Blazing Fire!” (Ghafir: 7)
Late Muslims supplicate for the sake of the early Muslims as a token of the unity of believers in their being all servants of Allah regardless of difference in time and place: “And those who came after them say, ‘Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have believed.” (Al-Hashr: 10)
The Muslim Ummah supplicates for the sake of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) after prayer and adhan out of their love and reverence to him.
The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) used to ask the Messenger of Allah to supplicate to Allah to bring them rain. After the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) they asked Al-`Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, to supplicate to Allah to give them rain due to his relation to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
In Islam, there is nothing wrong in asking your righteous Muslim brother to supplicate to Allah on your behalf.
Fourth, tawassul through the person of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and Allah’s love to him; concerning the ruling of this form of tawassul, I have found two opinions:
i) There is nothing related in this concern and the supplications mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an and the Sunnah involve direct invocation to Allah. Therefore, it is more proper that we follow this direct style.
ii) Supplication to Allah through the person of Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was related in the narration which states that a blind man sought intercession of the Prophet with his Lord on his behalf in a supplication that he had learned from the Prophet, or from others, and when he said that supplication his sight was restored. Those who state that opinion add that this form of tawassul was reported in more than ten ways (of transmission), and this is a testimony on its behalf, although it was not narrated in the two Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim.
However, the two parties disputed to the extent that they were about to fall into a prolonged rupture of relations. Both parties committed faults. For example, one of them accused the other of polytheism, and the latter described the former as hating the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This resulted in more division among them. The issue became worse when the second sect drew analogy between the person of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and others whom they thought to be righteous and awliya’ (saints). They, moreover, neglected the authenticated supplications and indulged in formulas of supplications about which there is more than one opinion.
These people committed a mistake when they drew analogy between the person of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and others. Analogy should not be applied to acts of worship. They should ha
ve mainly used what is proven as authentic in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
As for those who depict Muslims with polytheism, they should refrain from this and stop judging people depending only on mere ill thinking.
Fifth, tawassul through asking those who are close to Allah, as to ask a dead Prophet or a wali at his grave to fulfill one’s request. This form of tawassul is unanimously rejected in Islam, for it is a form of polytheism. What prevents those who commit this heinous act from asking Allah, Who is nearer to them than their jugular veins, and Who is the only One Who can fulfill all their requests?
However, it seems that the difference between those who regard tawassul through the person of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as permissible and those who do not, is like the difference between two religions. In their reactions to this issue, some scholars delivered incorrect judgments.”
Quoted from M. A. Al-Khatib’s Reflection on the Tract of the Teachings, published by Al-Falah Foundation for Translation, Publication & Distribution.