Tawassul is one of the greatest factors that can increase your chances of having your du’a answered, and yet many people have an incorrect understanding of this concept.
Linguistically, tawassul means to come closer to an objective and to gain proximity to a desired goal. In Islamic terms, this signifies the act of trying to come closer to Allah through the manners that are prescribed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It is, in other words, a means of seeking nearness to Allah.
The concept is referred to in the following verse:
“O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and seek the means to approach Him (wasilah), and strive hard in His cause so that you may be successful.” (Surah al-Maidah:35)
When used the context of du’a, tawassul takes on a more specific meaning. It refers to seeking them means of having one’s du’a accepted, or increasing the chances of one’s du’a being accepted.
There are a number of ways that are prescribed in the shariah for tawassul. These are as follows:
1. Tawassul Through Allah’s Names and Attributes
This is one of the most powerful means of tawassul, which we find mentioned many times in Qur’an and ahadith, for example:
The Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him said: Whoever is greatly troubled and says: “O Allah! I am Your Slave, son of Your male slave and female slave. My forelock is in Your Hand. Your Judgement is continually operative upon me. Your sentence concerning me is just. I ask You by every Name which is Yours with which You have named Yourself, (regardless of whether) You have taught it to anyone from Your creation, or sent it down in Your Book, or kept it to Yourself in the knowledge of the hidden with You, that You make the Qur’an the spring of my heart, the light of my chest, the removal of my sadness and my anxiety!” then Allah will remove his anxiety and sorrow and replace it with joy. (Recorded in Ahmad)
2. Tawassul by Mentioning Allah’s Favours
Another way in which we can perform tawassul is to mention Allah’s favours upon us. So we might say for example: “O Allah! You have guided me to Islam, and placed in me love for knowledge and its people! O Allah! Cause me to increase in my knowledge, and cause me to be amongst the righteous scholars!”
This principle is shown in the du’a of Zakkariyya, when he asked Allah to bless him with a child:
“He said: O My Lord! Indeed, my bones have grown feeble, and grey hair has spread over my hear. And I have never been unblest in (or deprived of) my du’a to You, O my Lord!” (Surah Maryam:4)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: “The meaning is: you have made me accustomed to receiving your response, and You have not deprived me by rejecting me and cutting off (your help) from me. So it is a tawassul to Allah by the blessings that He has previously given, of answering his du’as, and His good. And this is very apparent here.”
3. Tawassul by Mentioning the State One is In
Another way of making tawassul is by mentioning the dire circumstances that one is in, and the desperate need one had for His Mercy and Blessings. The Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him, cried out:
“I have been overpowered, so help me!” (Surah al-Qamar:10)
We can see that he first mentioned his appalling circumstances, that he was being overpowered by his enemy, and used this to make tawassul so that his du’a would be responded to.
4. Tawassul Through Good Deeds
Tawassul can also be made through mentioning one’s good deeds. The Qur’an is replete with this type of tawassul. For instance, the believers are described as:
“Those that say: ‘O Allah! We have believed, so forgive us our sins, and save us from the Fire of Hell!” (Suarh Ali-Imran:16)
In this du’a, tawassul is sought because of one’s imaan in Allah and His religion, and there is no doubt that the greatest good deed that a person can use is his imaan in Allah.
5. Tawassul Through Mentioning the Effect of the Du’a
Tawassul can also be made by attaching the response of the du’a to a good deed or benefit. So one could say: “O Allah! I ask you to increase me in knowledge, so that I may teach my family and relatives your religion.”
This is shown in the hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him:
“When a person comes to visit the sick, then let him say: O Allah! Cure your servant so-and-so, for he will then inflict a wound on an enemy, or walk for sake to the prayer.” (Recorded in Abu Dawud)
6. Tawassul By Asking a Living Person to Make Du’a
It is allowed to make tawassul by asking a living person to make du’a on your behalf, if you feel such a person to be a good and righteous person. So it is permissible to ask a scholar example to make du’a for you. The Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:
“The du’a of a Muslim for his brother in his absence is responded to. In his presence there is an angle that had been assigned to him; every time he makes du’a for his brother with good, the angel assigned to him says, ‘Amin. And to you the same.” (Recorded in Muslim)
Although it is permissible to ask others, it is better not to do so for personal du’as, because as a general rule a person should pray for themselves just like with other acts of worship.
7. Other Types of Tawassul
The types of tawassul mentioned above are the only types sanctioned by the Qur’an and the Sunnah, all other types are not sanctioned by Islam, and will lead a person to shirk (associating partners with Allah) and biddah (innovation). For example if a person makes tawassul to an object or idol is one of the greatest types of shirk. Similarly is we make tawassul to Allah, but by means of something not sanctioned in the religion, this will be an innovation. The most common type of tawassul done in our times, and yet not sanctioned by the Qur’an and Sunnah, is tawassul through the status of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Without a doubt the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is the single person that Muslims should love the most. He was the best of all creation, and he is our leader in this world and on the Day of Judgement. However, this should not cause us to raise him above the level that Allah has himself chosen for His prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. One only needs to look at the Christians to see the consequences of raising the status of a Prophet above that which he has been allocated by Allah.
With this in mind, we can divide tawassul of the Prophet, peace be upon him, into three categories:
1. Tawassul through one’s love for the Prophet, this comes under the category of one’s good deeds and this is permissible.
2. Tawassul through the Prophet’s du’a when he, peace be upon him, was alive. This comes under the du’a of a pious person and this was allowed when the Prophet was alive, but not since he, peace be upon him, entered his grave.
3. Tawassul though the Prophet’s status. This is where a person might say: “O Allah! I ask You by the status of the Prophet with You, that you grant me such and such.” This type of action has not been mentioned as permissible in either the Qur’an or the sunnah so it should be avoided. It was not something that the Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, ever practiced, and no group of people ever loved the Prophet more than them, may Allah have mercy on their souls.