The Truth about "Wasila" (getting close to Allah)
Allah says in His Quran:
"O you who believe, keep your duty to Allah, and seek means of nearness to Him, and strive hard in His way that you may be successful " [Al-Maidah:35]
A large number of scholars and mufassir have explained the Arabic word "wasila" as a method to get closer to Allah by doing good deeds. In "tafsir ibn kathir", ibn Kathir writes that no Mufassir has disregarded the above meaning and all of them agree upon it.
Moreover in Sahih Bukhari we find a hadith Qudsi which explains that one gets closer to Allah (tawasil) and is loved by Him when he offers his compulsory and optional prayers.
In the collection of hadith in Sahih Muslim we come across a hadith narrated on the authority of Rabia b.Kaab, in which he said:
"I was with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) one night, and I brought him water and what he required. He said to me: 'Ask (anything you like)'. I said: 'I ask for your company in Paradise.' He (the Holy Prophet) said: 'or anything else besides it.' I said: 'That is all (what I require)'. He said: 'Then help me to achieve this for you by devoting yourself often to prostration' " [Sahih Muslim]
It is repeatedly stated in The Quran that along with accepting Islamic faith one is expected to do good deeds. From the above mentioned hadith we come to know that the meaning of finding a Wasila towards Allah is to do good deeds. In fact the verse in itself suggests a form of Wasila, that is Jihad. Dua or calling upon Allah is one of the most prestigious act which one can do. That’s why our Prophet told us that calling upon Allah is a prayer and if we don’t ask from Allah then He gets angry with us. Similarly in Quran we have:
"And your Lord says: Call on Me, I will answer your (prayer). But Those who are too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in hell, in humiliation " [Ghafir:60]
"When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me' let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way " [Al-Baqarah:186]
When we look in The Quran and the Sahih ahadith, we find many supplications. Important thing about them is that they reflect a direct relationship between the suppliant and Allah. There is no third person or a source involved between the two. No Prophet associated any pious person or a senior Prophet (before him) in his supplication as an intercessor while calling Allah. If this is the case, then what permits anyone to use pious people or Prophets as intercessors while calling Allah. If we can't find our Prophet or his companions do such a thing then how can we do it on our own. It is certainly not a good deed, in fact it is lethal. There are some narrations which are commonly presented as evidence to intimate wasila regarding rank or status of a dead Person, but the truth is that they are either unauthentic or misunderstood. Please read the article Intimating Wasila Regarding Rank or Status of a Dead Person for details.
BIG MISTAKE - Calling on others instead of Allah
If one makes a pious dead person an intercessor of his supplications to Allah, then he is indulging himself in innovations which may lead to shirk (Polytheism).
Today we find a large number of people calling the dead and thinking that they have the ability to convey their message to Allah. They say like:
"O' Jesus, O' Ali, O' Muhammad, O' Ghaus, O' Abdul Qadir, O' Daata, please help us convey our message to Allah as He cannot say no to you and we don’t feel confident that He (Allah) will listen to us."
They make these persons as intercessors or associates with Allah, and do not fear about the biggest of all sins, called shirk (Polytheism). If one commits shirk then he earns Hell forever. Polytheists of Makkah also had these sort of believes, and Allah mentions in the Quran:
"And they serve besides Allah that which can neither harm them nor profit them and they say, These are our intercessors with Allah. Say, Would you inform Allah of what He knows not in the heavens and the earth? Glory be to Him, and supremely exalted is He above what they set up! (with Him)." [Yunus:18]
A hadith in Sahih Muslim also throws light upon the faith of the polytheists of Makkah. Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the polytheists recited the talbiyah[uttering loudly (at the time of pilgrimage) to Allah that one is obedient to Him] as:
"Labaik Allahumma, Labaik! Labaika laa shareeka lakal labaik." (Here I am at your service, there is no associate with You). But they added this, "Only one associate with You, You possess mastery over him, but he does not possess mastery (over You). They used to say this and go around the Kaaba (House of Allah in Makkah). Because of their adding this statement to the talbiyah, the prophet, peace be upon him, sayyid "Woe to them, because they have said, 'But one associate with You, You possess mastery over him, but he does not possess mastery (over You). [recorded in Sahih Muslim]
So when Allah never made anyone His partner then how can people associate partners or intercessors with Him. Some people argue that these verses are for idols and not human beings, as the polytheists used to worship idols and not human beings. Well its very simple to answer this, just open the most authentic book of ahadith The Sahih Bukhari, and you will find in the chapter of Tafsir that the idols worshipped in Prophet Noah's time were actually reminders of Pious people before them. Second evidence is provided by the conquest of Makkah. When the Prophet took charge of The Kaaba he threw away all the idols and amongst them found idols of the Prophet Ibrahim and Ismael (Bukhari Kitab Al-Maghazi). So all these idols were reminders of human beings and the following Quranic verse makes it clear to understand this fact:
No one merely worshipped an idol of wood or stone. Worshipping of idols by Hindus and Fire by Majusis (fire worshippers) is based on the fact that they used idols and fire as a source or media to worship God. It’s a pity that many Muslims today have the same believes like these Hindus and think that these dead or alive pious people would get them closer to God. Some say that God is in them and everything is God. Some say that Muhammad (peace be upon him) can save them from Allah but if Muhammad (peace be upon him) gets hold of anyone then no one can help. These concepts of polytheism came only because Quran was not read and understood properly. By looking up in the Quran, we find that if Allah decides to punish someone then that person cannot be helped by anyone, even the Prophets of Allah become helpless at that moment.
The story of the Prophet Noah and His son is a very good example to explain the point. When Noah (peace be upon him) saw his son drowning, he cried to his Lord and said: My Lord, surely my son is of my family, and Your promise is true and You are the Most Just of the Judges. Allah replied:
O Noah, he is not of your family; he is (an embodiment of ) unrighteous conduct. So ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge. I admonish you lest you be of the ignorant. [Hud:45-46]
Now an honest look at the above mentioned Quranic verse clearly explains that even the Prophet of Allah could not save his own son, although he had been preaching Allah's religion for 950 years. In Quran Allah told His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
"Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases, and He knows best those who walk aright " [Al Qasas:56]Moreover in ahadith of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim we find Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advising his relatives to do good deeds. He clearly told them that it was not possible for him to save them from Allah's anger. He specifically made it very clear to his own daughter Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her), that he would be unable do anything for her, once in front of Allah on the day of judgment. He advised her to do good deeds in order to save her self from Allah's wrath. Now these examples from Sahih Ahadith clearly explain the true concept of Wasila.
O yes! The supplication of the Prophet was definitely a wasila for his companions. They used to come to him for their problems and asked him to pray for them. The prophet used to pray for them and Allah solved their problems. But this was when he was alive. After he died, his companions never went to his grave to use him as an intercessor between Allah and themselves. They were very clear that once someone dies, he breaks his links with this world and is not aware of what happens behind him. This was the reason that during the need for rain (after Prophet's death) they (Prophet's companions) never went to his grave, they used to go to his uncle Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), to invoke Allah for the rain. Anas (radiallahu anhu) narrated:
" Whenever drought threatened them, Umar bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) used to ask Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib to invoke Allah for rain. He used to say, 'O Allah! We used to ask our Prophet (peace be upon him) to invoke You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke You for rain. O Allah! Bless us with rain'. And so it would rain." [Bukhari - Chapter Al-Istisqa (Invoking Allah for rain)]
It is of great importance to notice that it is permissible for one to request a living religious person to invoke Allah on his behalf but if you ask Allah through a dead or an absent (person etc) then it is not allowed. Moreover we find in this hadith the Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) also prayed to Allah himself. Thus praying to Allah by oneself is also essential, apart from requesting someone else to pray on behalf of someone.
So it is very obvious now that the companions of the Prophet never went to his grave to solve their problems. This was because they were trained that way. The following hadith taken from Sahih Muslim would explain the teachings of the Prophet about graves:
"Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: As the messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was about to breathe his last, he drew his sheet upon his face and when he felt uneasy, he uncovered his face and said in this very state: Let there be curse upon the Jews and the Christians that they have taken the graves of their Apostles as places of worship. He in fact warned (his followers) against what they (the Jews and the Christians) did." [Sahih Muslim]
"Narrated by Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her), she said: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said during his illness from which he never recovered: Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians that they took the graves of their Prophets as mosques. She (Ayesha) reported: Had it not been so, his (Prophet) grave would have been in an open place, but it could not be, due to the fear that it may not be taken as a mosque." [Sahih Muslim]
So dear brothers! Call upon Allah ONLY. Call on Him, without making anyone as an intercessor or associating anyone with Him. Allah knows what we have in our hearts. Surely He listens to His people and fulfils their needs.