Tawassul is to implore Allah through the means of a righteous person or through one’s righteous actions.
Tawassul in Dua is to supplicate to Allah through an intermediary, such as saying, ‘O Allah, I ask you by the rank of your Prophet…’
With respect to the significance of tawassul, it is to be noted that it is a way of turning to Allah to beseech Him and to supplicate to Him. The real objective is to do supplication only to Allah. The person through whom tawassul is performed is only an intermediary and a means of drawing closer to Allah. One who does tawassul through an intermediary does so on account of his deep love for him and his belief that the intermediary is a beloved of Allah.
While making tawassul in Dua, one must believe that only Allah brings benefit and harm, and only Allah can accept or reject his supplications. The intermediary through whom tawassul is done cannot bring benefit or harm to the individual.
It must be understood that tawassul is not an obligation, nor is the acceptance of Duas (by Allah) suspended upon it.
As mentioned by the great Scholars, the basis of tawassul is the verse of the Holy Quran which states, ‘O you who believe, fear Allah and seek a means of approach to him’ (Al Maida verse 35).
The ‘means’ mentioned above are everything that Allah made as a means to draw one closer to him and bring him to that which will fulfill his need. Therefore with respect to one’s righteous actions, one can perform tawassul through these while beseeching Allah in Dua. It is evident in authentic narrations that once three persons were trapped in a cave. One of them performed tawassul to Allah through the kindness which he did to his parents. Another performed tawassul to Allah through his act of protecting himself from falling into fornication after he had intended to do so. The third person performed tawassul to Allah through his noble deed of fulfilling a trust and guarding someone else’s wealth and returning it back to him. Through these good deeds which they placed before Allah while making Dua, Allah removed them from the trouble they were in, and granted them safety and protection. This incident shows that one can make tawassul in his Dua through the good deeds he has done for the sake of Allah.
With respect to making tawassul through the Prophet (saw), this is evident in the traditions recorded by many compilers of hadith.
In one tradition from Uthman Bin Hunaif (R.A), he narrated that a blind man came to the Prophet (s.a.w) complaining of the loss of his sight. He said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I have no one to lead me and things are difficult for me’. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said: ‘Go perform wudhu, perform two rakaats of salaah and then supplicate saying: ‘O Allah, I ask you and turn to you through your Prophet, the Prophet of mercy. O Muhammad, I turn to your lord through you so that He returns to me my sight. O Allah grant him intercession for me and grant me intercession for myself’. Uthman said: ‘By Allah, we did not part company or speak for very long, before the man came to us as if there was nothing wrong with him. (Recorded by Hakim who said that this Hadith is vigorously authentic; Imam Dhahabi recorded it and said: It is vigorously authentic-siyar alam An Nubala, Imam Tirmizi said about this Hadith; It is good and sound)
The above shows that tawassul was made through the Prophet (s.a.w) while he was alive. It is also narrated that even after his death some of the companions still made tawassul through him in their suplications.
In this regard, Imam Tabrani narrated the Hadith of Uthman Bin Hunaif and in the beginning of it mentioned the incident of a man who repeatedly approached Uthman Bin Affan (R.A), but Uthman did not pay attention to him or his need. The man then met Uthman Bin Hunaif and complained to him about the matter. Upon this, Uthman Bin Hunaif said, ‘Go to the place of ablution and perform wudhu, then come to the mosque, perform two rakaats of salaah and say, ‘O Allah, I ask you and I turn to you through our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w), the Prophet of mercy. O Muhammad, I turn through you to my lord, that he may fulfill my need,’… and mention your need.’ The man left and did as he was told, then went to the door of Uthman Bin Affan (R.A). The doorman came, took him by the hand, brought him to Uthman and seated him next to him on a cushion. Uthman asked, ‘What do you need?’ The man mentioned what he wanted and Uthman fulfilled it for him and said, ‘I did not remember your need until just now, so whenever you need something, just mention it.’ The man departed, met Uthman Bin Hanif and said to him, ‘May Allah reward you! He didn’t see to my need or pay attention to me until you spoke to him.’ Uthman Bin Hunaif replied, ‘By Allah, I did not speak to him, but I have seen a blind man come to the Messenger of Allah (S.A) and complain to him of his lost sight. The Prophet (S.A) asked, ‘Can you bear it?’ The man replied, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I do not have anyone to lead me around, and it is a great hardship for me’. The Prophet (S.A) told him, ‘go to the place of ablution and perform wudhu, then pray two rakaats of Salaah and make the supplications’. Ibn Hunaif went on, ‘By Allah we did not part company or speak long before the man returned to us as if nothing had ever been wrong with him’. Hafiz Al Mundhiri said, ‘This hadith was narrated by At Tabarani who said, ‘This hadith is good and sound’. (At Targheeb)
The above narration shows that Uthman bin Hunaif who witnessed the incident of the blind man coming to the Prophet (S.A), taught the same supplication to the man who complained to Uthman bin Affan (R.A) (the Khalifa) of his need. The man did as he was told and made Dua with tawassul of the Prophet (S.A) even after the Prophet (S.A) had died. From this and other similar traditions, the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah have stated that just as it was permissible to make tawassul through the Prophet (S.A) in dua while he was alive, so too, it is permissible after his death.
It is also established in other traditions that it is permissible for one to make tawassul through pious and righteous servants of Allah besides the Prophet (A.S). Regarding this, it is evident in a hadith recorded by Imam Bukhari in his Saheeh that Anas (R.A) says, ‘When there was a drought, Umar bin Al Khattab (R.A) used to supplicate to Allah for rainfall through Abbas (R.A), the uncle of the Prophet (S.A). In his dua, Umar (R.A) used to say, ‘O Allah, we used to perform tawassul through our Prophet, and now we perform tawassul through the uncle of our Prophet, so send us rain’. Anas (R.A) says, ‘Upon this rain used to fall’. (Bukhari – Chapter on Istisqaa)
While explaining the above narration, the great scholar of hadith and fiqh Hafiz Badrudeen Al Aini (Died 855 AH) states, ‘And in the hadith of Abu Saalih it is stated, ‘When Umar (R.A) ascended the mimbar with Abbas, Umar (R.A) said, ‘O Allah we have turned to you with the uncle of Your prophet and the light of his father, so send rain to us and do not make us from the hopeless ones’. Then Umar (R.A) said, ‘Supplicate O Abu Al Fadhl (i.e Abbas)’. Upon this, Abbas (R.A) supplicated, ‘O Allah, no trial descends except on account of sins, and no trial is removed except through repentance. The people have turned me towards You because of my position (relation) to Your prophet. These are our hands raised towards you despite our sins, and our foreheads are with repentance, so send rain to us’. As soon as this dua was made, the sky sent down showers like mountains until the earth became soaked and the people lived’. (Umdatul Qaari Sharh Bukhari vol.7 pg. 32,33 – Maktaba Rasheediya Pakistan)
Having narrated the above narration, Hafiz Badrudeen writes, ‘This makes it evident that it is Mustahab (commendable) to seek the intercession of the people of goodness and righteousness and those of the house of the prophets. (Umdatul Qaari vol.7 pg. 33)
The above incident shows that Umar (R.A) performed tawassul in his Dua through Abbas (R.A) because of his close relation to the Prophet (S.A).
The above discussion shows that tawassul in Dua is permissible, and it is allowed to be done through one’s righteous actions and through the pious servants of Allah. It is allowed to use as an intermediary any of Allah’s beloved servant who is alive or who has passed away already. This is the position of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah as mentioned by the great scholars.
In this regard, the great Shaikh of Hadith and expert Jurist, Mufti Abdul Haqq writes, ‘According to the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah, tawassul is permissible through those who are alive and those who have died’. (Fatawa Haqqania vol.1 pg. 217)
In a similar manner, the great scholar of hadith and jurist expert, Mufti Abdur Raheem (A.R) writes, ‘To supplicate to Allah and to place one’s needs before Allah by placing an intermediary of a prophet or pious servant and to say, ‘O Allah, through the means of such prophet or such pious servant, please have mercy on me and fulfil my need’. This is permissible and evident from the Sunnah and is effective in having one’s Dua accepted. The Prophet (S.A) himself taught a companion to make Dua in this manner when he told the companion to say in his Dua, ‘O Allah, I ask You and I turn towards you through Your Prophet Muhammad (S.A), the Prophet of Mercy’. (Tirmizi) (Fatawa Raheemiya vol.3 pg. 5)
References: (Fatawa Haqaania vol.1 pg.217; Fatawa Raheemiya vol.3 pg. 5; Fatawa Mahmoodiya vol.1 pg. 572-585; Mafahim Yajib an Tusahhah pg. 82-130)
By: Mufti Waseem Khan
This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.