Types of Intercession

Tawheed (pure belief in the oneness and uniqueness of Allah) is the essence of Islam. Therefore, Islam has waged unabated war against all forms of polytheism, paganism and idolatry. Muslims have been categorically exhorted to be on their guard lest they may fall into the traps of Satan, associating others with Allah in matters that exclusively belong to His Majesty.

A basic monotheistic belief significantly observed and safeguarded in Islam is to believe that Allah is the Sole One in Whose Hands are all the affairs of this universe.  Even when a Muslim seeks the help of another person or asks him to do something, he has to believe firmly that such a person is no more than a means he is allowed to use in order to attain his goal, but the whole matter eventually refers to Allah Alone to give or withhold.

Speaking on intersession and its types, Sheikh Muhammad SalihAl-Munajjid said:

Intercession means: mediating for someone to gain some benefit or ward off some harm. It is of two types: The first type is intercession that will take place on the Day of Resurrection and the second is intercession concerning worldly matters.

Regarding the intercession that will take place in the Hereafter, it is of two types:

The first type is the exclusive intercession, which will be granted only to the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and no one else will have a share in that. This one also has subtypes:

1 – The greater intercession. This is the station of praise and glory (al-maqamal-mahmud) which Allah has promised the Prophet, when He said: (And in some parts of the night (also) offer the Salat (Prayer) with it (i.e. recite the Qur’an in the prayer) as an additional prayer for you (O Muhammad). It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqam Mahmud) (Al-Isra’ 17:79)

This intercession means that he will intercede for all mankind when Allah delays the Reckoning and they will have been waiting for so long in the Place of Gathering on the Day of Resurrection. People’s distress and anxiety will reach a point they can no longer bear, and they will say, “Who will intercede for us with our Lord so that He will pass judgment amongst His slaves?” So the people will come to the Prophets, each of whom will say, “I am not able to do this,” until when they come to our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), he will say, “I am entitled to do it, I am entitled to do it.” So he will intercede for them that judgment may be passed. There are many Hadiths which speak about this intercession in the authentic books of Hadith.

2 – Intercession for the people of Paradise to enter it.
It was narrated that Anas ibn Malik said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘I will come to the gate of Paradise on the Day of Resurrection and will ask for it to be opened. The gatekeeper will say, “Who are you?” I will say, “Muhammad.” He will say, “I was commanded not to open it for anyone before you.”’” (Muslim).

According to another narration reported by Muslim, “I will be the first one to intercede concerning Paradise.”

3 – The intercession of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) for his uncle Abu Talib:
It was narrated from Abu Sa`idal-Khudri that mention was made of Abu Talib, the uncle of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) in his presence. He said, “Perhaps my intercession will benefit him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will be placed in a shallow part of the Fire which will come up to his ankles and cause his brains to boil.” (Al-Bukhariand Muslim).

4 – His intercession for some people from his Ummah to enter Paradise without being brought to account.

This kind of intercession was mentioned by some scholars who quoted as evidence the lengthy Hadith of Abu Hurayrah concerning intercession which says: “Then it will be said, ‘O Muhammad, raise you head; ask, it will be given to you; intercede, your intercession will be accepted.’ So I will raise my head and say, ‘My Ummah, O Lord; my Ummah, O Lord; my Ummah, O Lord.’ It will be said, ‘Admit those among your Ummahwho are not to be brought to account through the right-hand gate of Paradise. They will share the other gates with the people of other nations.’” (Al-Bukhariand Muslim).

The second type is the general intercession. This will be granted to the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and others, including angels, Prophets and righteous people, each will have a share in it as Allah wills. This has subtypes as well:

1 – Intercession for some people who have entered Hell that they might be brought forth from it.
There are much evidences for this, for example: The Hadith of Abu Sa`idal-Khudriin Sahih Muslim that the Messenger of Allah said: “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, none of you can be more insistent in asking Allah to restore his rights against his opponent than the believers who will ask Allah, on the Day of Resurrection, (to grant them the power of intercession) for their brothers who are in the Fire. They will say, ‘Our Lord, they used to fast with us and pray and perform Hajj. It will be said to them, ‘Bring out those whom you recognize, so the Fire will be forbidden to burn them.’ So they will bring out many people… And Allah will say: ‘The angels have interceded, and the Prophets have interceded, and the believers have interceded. There is none left but the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.’ Then He will seize a handful of the Fire and bring forth from it people who never did anything good.”

2 – Intercession for people who deserve Hell, that they may not enter it.
This is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “There is no Muslim who dies and forty men who associate nothing with Allah pray the Funeral Prayer for him, but Allah will accept their intercession for him.” (Muslim).This intercession takes place before the deceased enters Hell, and Allah will accept their intercession concerning that.

3 – Intercession for some of the believers who deserve Paradise, that they may be raised in status in Paradise.

For example, Muslim narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed for Abu Salamah and said: “O Allah, forgive Abu Salamah and raise his status among those who are guided, and take good care of his family that he has left behind. Forgive us and him, O Lord of the Worlds, make his grave spacious for him and illuminate it for him.”

Conditions of this intercession:
Evidences indicate that intercession in the Hereafter will take place only if the following conditions are met:

1)     Allah must approve of the one for whom intercession is made, as Allah says: (and they cannot intercede except for him with whom He is pleased) (Al-Anbiya’ 21:28)

This implies that the one for whom intercession is made must be a believer in Tawheed. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The people who will be most blessed by my intercession on the Day of Resurrection are those who say Laa ilaahaill-Allah sincerely from the heart.’” (Al-Bukhari)

2)     Allah must give permission to the intercessor to intercede, because Allah says: (Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His Permission?) (Al-Baqarah2:255)

3)     Allah must approve of the intercessor, as Allah says: (…whose intercession will avail nothing except after Allah has given leave for whom He wills and is pleased with) (Al-Najm53:26)

For example, Muslim narrated in his Sahih that Abul-Darda’ said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) say, ‘Those who curse much will not be witnesses or intercessors on the Day of Resurrection.’”

The second type of intercession is that which has to do with matters of this world. This one includes two subtypes:

1 – That which is related to a matter that is within a person’s ability to do. This is permissible, provided that two conditions are met:

1)  It should be concerning a permissible thing. It is not correct to intercede concerning something that will result in the loss of people’s rights or in doing wrong to them. It is also not permissible to intercede concerning something that is haram, such as interceding to suspend a hadd punishment. Allah says: (Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression) (Al-Ma’idah5:2)

A’ishah narrated that Quraysh were concerned about a Makhzumi woman who had stolen, and they said, “Who will speak to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) concerning her? Who is better than Usamah, the beloved of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)?” So Usamah spoke to him. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) angrily said, “Are you interceding concerning one of the hadd punishments prescribed by Allah?” (Al-Bukhariand Muslim).

2)     In his heart, the person must depend on Allah alone to attain his aim and ward off what he dislikes. He should know that this intercessor is no more than a means which Allah has permitted to us, and that benefit and harm are in the Hand of Allah alone. This meaning is expressed clearly in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).

2 – That which is related to a matter that is not within a person’s ability to do, such as seeking intercession from the dead and grave occupants, or from a living person who is absent, believing that he is able to hear and meet one’s need. This kind of intercession constitutes shirk, which is clearly forbidden in many verses of the Qur’an and prophetic Hadiths, because it ascribes to them attributes which belong only to the Creator, the Ever-living.

Some people have a specious argument that the awliya (“saints”) intercede for their relatives and for those who call on them and take them as friends and love them, and because of that they ask them for intercession. This is exactly what Allah described the early mushrikin as doing, when they said, (These are our intercessors with Allah) (Yunus10:18) referring to those whom they worshipped among the angels, righteous people and others, and meaning that they would intercede for them with Allah. In the same way, the contemporary mushrikun say “the awliya (‘saints’) intercede for us; we cannot ask of Allah directly so we ask them and they ask of Allah.”

Moreover, they give the example of kings in this world, and say that the kings of this world can only be approached through intercession; if you need something, you go to their friends and those who are close to them, their ministers, gatekeepers, servants, etc., to intercede for you so that the king may deal handle your affair; so we reach Allah by approaching and asking His awliya who are close to Him.

Indeed by doing this they fall into the same shirk as those before them, and they compare the Creator to His creation. Allah tells us of a righteous man in Surat Ya-Seen, who said: (Shall I take besides Him alihah (gods)? If the Most Gracious (Allah) intends me any harm, their intercession will be of no use for me whatsoever) (Ya-Seen 36:23)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), even though he will be given the power of intercession on the Day of Resurrection, will not be able to use it until after Allah has given him permission and has approved of the one for whom intercession will to be made.

Therefore, he (peace and blessings be upon him) did not let his Ummah ask him to intercede for them in this world, and that was not narrated from any one of his Sahabah(may Allah be pleased with them). If that had been a good thing, he would have conveyed it to his Ummah and called them to do it.

Moreover, his Companions who were keen to do good would have hastened to do it.
The people on the Day of Resurrection will only ask the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to intercede for them so that judgment will be passed, because he will be there with them and because he will be able to turn to his Lord and ask Him. This is like asking a person who is alive and present to do make du’a for someone, which is something that he is able to do.

Hence, it is not narrated that any of the people in the Place of Gathering will ask him (peace and blessings be upon him) to intercede for them that their sins might be forgiven.
From the above, it is clear to every fair-minded person that the proper kind of intercession is the intercession that depends on the permission and approval of Allah, because all sorts of intercession belong eventually to Him. This also includes asking for intercession from a living person concerning worldly matters, for which Allah has granted permission.

It should be pointed out here that this kind of intercession is permitted because Allah has given permission for it, since it involves no emotional attachment to the person. Rather, the point is that it is a means, like all other means which Islam permits us to use. the kind of intercession which is forbidden is to ask someone other than Allah to do something that no one is able to do except Allah, because intercession belongs to no one besides Allah, and no one can do it unless Allah grants him permission and approves of him.