A sect of Muslims is so thoroughly confused about the concept of Waseelah (medium towards Allah) and Tawassul (seeking a medium) that it labels anything and everything related to Tawassul as polytheism (Shirk).
Although this appears to be a recent phenomenon coinciding with the rise of Salafism, it is actually an age-old misconception propagated by the ignorant and skeptics alike.
As a matter of fact, even the so-called leaders of these Muslims as we will see were confused in the matter.
An interesting debate between Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) and Abu Hanifah – the chief of the Hanafi sect – on the subject of Waseelah should put a permanent seal on the mouth of skeptics.
Who is Abu Hanifa?
A brief introduction on Abu Hanifa – the so-called Imam – will be in order.
Abu Hanifa No’man Ibn Thaabit (exp. 150 AH) is the Imam of the Hanafi sect. This is the largest sect of the Ahle Tasannun.
He studied in the school of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) and confessed it was the most important period of his life:
‘Had it not been for the two years (as a student of Imam Sadiq (a.s.)), No’man would certainly have been destroyed.’
• Mokhtasar Tohfah al-Ithna al-Asharriyyah p. 9
He further confessed – Jafar b. Muhammad (a.s.) is the greatest jurist I have ever seen.
• Jaame’o al-Masaaneed Abi Hanifah vol. 1 p. 222
Debate between Imam Sadiq (a.s.) and Abu Hanifa
Al-Karajki (r.a.) narrates in Kanz al-Fawaid that Abu Hanifa was eating alongside Imam Sadiq (a.s.).
When he (a.s.) finished eating he (a.s.) expressed gratitude (by saying) “All Praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. O Allah! Surely this (food) was from you and from your Messenger (s.a.w.a.)”.
Abu Hanifa remarked, “O Aba Abdillah! Are you associating a partner with Allah?”
Imam (a.s.) rebuked him, “Woe be to you! Surely Allah, the Almighty says in His Book –
وَمَا نَقَمُواْ إِلاَّ أَنْ أَغْنَاهُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ
‘And they did not find fault except because Allah and His Apostle enriched them out of His Grace’
(Surah Taubah (9): Verse 74)
He mentions at another place,
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ رَضُوْاْ مَا آتَاهُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللّهُ سَيُؤْتِينَا اللّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ وَرَسُولُه
‘And if they were content with what Allah and His Apostle gave them, and had said: Allah is sufficient for us; Allah will soon give us (more) out of His Grace and His Apostle too’ (Surah Taubah (9): Verse 59)”.
Abu Hanifa admitted, “By Allah! It is as if I have never read both these verses in the book of Allah nor heard it except now.”
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) replied – “Indeed you have read and heard these two verses earlier but Allah, the Almighty, has revealed about you and people like you –
‘Nay, on their hearts there are locks.’ (Surah Muhammad (47): Verse 24) and also said ‘Nay! Rather, what they used to do has caused their hearts to rust.’ (Surah Mutaffifeen (83): Verse 14)
• Behar al-Anwar, vol. 47, p. 240, H. 25 narrating from Kanz al-Fawaid by Al-Karajki, p. 196
The exchange between Imam Sadiq (a.s.) and Abu Hanifah clearly highlights following points:
1. All grace reaches us through the waseelah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and according to other reports through Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s.) whether or not we accept it or realize it
2. The Holy Quran has indicated this reality in many places as pointed out by Imam Sadiq (a.s.)
3. The Great Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a waseelah in his lifetime as also after it. This exposes the lie of those who claim that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a waseelah only in his lifetime. As a matter of fact, it is with his (s.a.w.a.) waseelah and that of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) that Prophets Adam (a.s.) and Nuh (a.s.) were rescued from certain destruction. (Refer Ziyaarah of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) on occasion of 17th Rabi al-Awwal).
So the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a waseelah at all times for all creation regardless of time.
4. Those who claim that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after being buried in the earth is lifeless like the earth have done great injustice to him (s.a.w.a.). They have failed to recognize his (s.a.w.a.) eminent status and in fact have lowered his (s.a.w.a.) position due to their weak intellects and fragile beliefs. They should first reflect on the ‘lifeless’ shirt of Yusuf (a.s.) and its miraculous powers and status of the ‘lifeless’ Hajar-e-Aswad before raising objection against the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.).