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Intercession in the Quran and Hadith
Author/Source: Researcher: Bushra Taimur, Supervisor: Abdullah Rahim  Posted by: admin
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Islam Students - Research Association (ISRA) presents:

 

Intercession in the Quran and Hadith

 

Researcher: Bushra Taimur

Supervisor: Abdullah Rahim

24.01.12

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed and the conclusions drawn in this research report do not necessarily reflect the views of the supervisor. Every effort has been made to ensure dissemination of correct information only; however, supervisor does not accept any responsibility for possible errors and omissions, if any. The supervisor has only advised the researcher on how to progress in his/her own line of thinking.

 

Introduction:

There are several strong debates and views in the Muslim world today regarding the topic of intercession in Islam. This report seeks to examine some of these views and highlights the message in the Quran on intercession. Ahadith from Sahih Bukhari have been used to further shed light on this topic.

 

The objective of this report is to simply understand ‘Intercession’ as per the Quran and compare it to the information derived from Ahadith by answering the following questions:

 

Question 1: Which verses of the Qur'an refer to intercession and what are the general messages of these verses?

 

Question 2: Which are the Ahadith that refer to intercession and what are the different messages that these Ahadith are giving?

 

Question 3: Which of the above messages (if any) are in line with the Qur'an and which ones (if any) are giving messages that are not in line with the Qur'an?

 

Question 4: How can these Ahadith be evaluated based on the above?

 

Research Method:

An extensive research of the Quran has been undertaken using various translations including those by Tahir ul Qadri, Mohsin Khan and Yousuf Ali. For Ahadith, Sahih Bukhari has been researched through online resources and the Diraya[1] perspective applied given the limitations of this project.

Sahih Bukhari is a collection of sayings and deeds attributed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH by Imam Bukhari who lived a couple of centuries after the Prophet's (saw) death and worked extremely hard to collect his Ahadith. I have used Bukhari's collection as it is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world to be one of the most authentic collections of the sayings of the Prophet PBUH.

Bukhari (full name Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ismail bin Ibrahim bin al-Mughira al-Ja'fai) was born in 194 A.H. and died in 256 A.H. He spent sixteen years compiling Ahadith, and ended up with 2,602 Ahadith (9,082 with repetition). His criteria for acceptance into the collection are considered to be amongst the most stringent of all the scholars of Ahadith.[2]

As stated, the Diraya perspective has been applied to analyse the Ahadith to see if any message or saying in a certain Hadith is contradicted by a verse in the Quran. In order to accept a Hadith from the Diraya perspective we will compare the Hadith with the Quran. The outcomes can be:


a. It is inline and therefore content wise it is accepted (a further study of the narrators is still required for absolute confirmation).

b. It is apparently not inline but can be interpreted according to the Quran to become inline with the teachings of the Quran. This is only achievable if the interpretation is rational and defendable, however again a study of the narrators is required.

c. It is not inline with the Quran and there is no way to interpret the Hadith in a way that the interpretation brings it in line with the teachings of the Quran. In this case, no matter how reliable the narrators might be, the Hadith is not acceptable.


Meaning of Intercession:

To begin with, it is important to understand the meaning of intercession. In the English dictionary intercession is defined as ‘the act of intervening (as to mediate a dispute, etc). We see that intercession is generally used for religious matters and has also been defined as ‘a prayer to God on behalf of another person’.  In Arabic, the translation of intercession is ‘شفاعة’ that is derived from the trilateral root ‘shīn fā ayn’ (‘ع ف ش’). In Lanes Lexicon we find the meaning of the root ‘shīn fā ayn’ is to make even that which was odd, make double, pair, make a thing to be one of the pair, adjoin a thing to its like, provide a thing which was alone with another, protect, mediate, intercede, be an intercessor. Shaf'un is pair, double while Shafa'at is likeness/similarity, intercede or pray for a person.[3]

1. Intercession in the Quran:

The root shīn fā ayn (‘ع ف ش’) occurs 31 times in the Quran, in five derived forms[4]:

     five times as the form I verb yashfau meaning can intercede

     12 times as the noun shafāat meaning intercession

     1 time as the noun shafa’atuhum meaning intercession

     once as the noun shaf meaning and the even

     9 times as the nominal shafī meaning intercessor

     1 time as the adjective shufa’aa meaning intercessors

     twice as the active participle shāfiīn meaning intercessors

 

In total there are 25 verses that use the root ‘shīn fā ayn’ (‘ع ف ش’) and in order to understand the message of these verses, these have been further grouped together under the below categories

1.1 Intercession for those who established associates with God and or are wrongdoers

1.2 Intercession for those who had messengers during their lifetime

1.3 Intercession for those who rejected Messengers during their lifetime

1.4 Conditions for Intercession

1.5: Verses that use the root ‘shīn fā ayn’ for a meaning different to intercession

 

1.1 Intercession for those who established associates with God and or are wrongdoers:

(6:94, 6:70, 10:18, 26:100, 30:13, 40:18 and 74:48)

 

“When they become attached to others besides Allaah (through the lure of seeking intercession), invoking them, then invocation is such that underlying it or accompanying it are other actions (of the heart) which constitute worship in their own right, such as the type of love, hope, aspiration, reliance and the likes, that is due only to Allaah. So these people, through the route of seeking intercession, open themselves up to committing Shirk with Allaah”[5]

 

The above quote shows how invoking to others besides God, for the purpose of intercession even, can lead to one setting up associates with God. History has also shown us that the pagans of Arabia at the time of Prophet Muhammad PBUH regarded al-Lat, al-‘Uzza and Manat as the daughters of Allah (the highest God) and thought of them as intercessors with Allah. They worshipped these created goddesses and other idols as they believed they would have the power to intercede on their behalf with Allah. In this regard, the Quran gives a clear message to those who commit such a mistake that these intercessors will have no power to intercede on their behalf.

 

‘[It will be said to them], "And you have certainly come to Us alone as We created you the first time, and you have left whatever We bestowed upon you behind you. And We do not see with you your 'intercessors' which you claimed that they were among you associates [of Allah ]. It has [all] been severed between you, and lost from you is what you used to claim.’6.94

 

The above verse along with verses 26:100, 30:13 and 74:48 clarify to those who establish associates with God that these intercessors will not be present with them on the Day of Judgment and will be of no use to them. Verse 6:93 refers the ‘unjust’ who forge lies against God and we see that from verse 6:91 that this is a hint towards the Jews as can be seen below:

 

‘Say, "Who revealed the Scripture that Moses brought as light and guidance to the people? You [Jews] make it into pages, disclosing [some of] it and concealing much.’

 

It is clear from the message below in verse 6.70 and 40:18 that refer to wrongdoers that for them besides Allah, there is no protector and no intercessor.

‘And leave those who take their religion as amusement and diversion and whom the worldly life has deluded. But remind with the Qur'an, lest a soul be given up to destruction for what it earned; it will have other than Allah no protector and no intercessor. And if it should offer every compensation, it would not be taken from it. Those are the ones who are given to destruction for what they have earned. For them will be a drink of scalding water and a painful punishment because they used to disbelieve’ 6.70

 

Verses 10:18 addresses the Prophet PBUH asking him to relay a message to those who worship other than Allah that there will be no protector or intercessor for them besides God. It is also important to note here that verses preceding 10:18 clarify the role of the Prophet PBUH as a Messenger who delivers the word of God as it is revealed to him with no power to change this revelation:

 

Say, [O Muhammad], "It is not for me to change it on my own accord. I only follow what is revealed to me. Indeed I fear, if I should disobey my Lord, the punishment of a tremendous Day’ 10:16

 

1.2 Intercession for those who had messengers during their lifetime:

(2:48, 2:123, 2:254, 6:51 and 6:94)

Verses 2:48 and 2:123 are very similar in nature and clearly speak only to the children of Israel as is clarified in the preceding verses. In the first section of Surah Baqarah (verses 1-121) it is evident that the greatest hindrance in the way of the People of the Book in particular the Jews in accepting Islam was their claim that they were the progeny of Abraham (sws). They contended that guidance and salvation could only be obtained if a person was either a Jew or a Christian. In the second section starting from verse 121, that part of the account of Abraham (sws) and his sons is presented which not only negates these claims but also fully validates the Prophethood of Muhammad (sws) and his mission. In other words, this is a final call for the Jews and Christians in a style which leaves them with no excuse but to face the truth they were seeking to deliberately deny – a call to follow the religion of Abraham (sws) which Muhammad (sws) was asking them to embrace while leaving aside the prejudice of their own religions. They should accept this call and with its reference fear the day when they will be held accountable for their deeds. Both verses (2:48 and 2:123) therefore clarify that the children of Israel should not be mistaken that since they are the progeny of such prophets as Abraham (sws), Isaac (sws) and Jacob (sws) they would be salvaged in the Hereafter merely on this basis. They should remember that in the Hereafter only deeds will be of any avail to a person.[6]

 

When taking into context the group of verses from Surah Baqarah (verses 163 to 263) and the prevalent theme, we see that the children of Ishmael are being addressed who can be referred to as believers or to be believers. Verse 2:254 serves as a reminder not only for Jews and Christians but also to the children of Ishmael.

 

“O you who have believed, spend from that which We have provided for you before there comes a Day in which there is no exchange and no friendship and no intercession. And the disbelievers - they are the wrongdoers.”2:254

 

Verse 6:51 verse addresses the Prophet PBUH ask him to relay a message to those who believe in the Day of Judgement i.e. believers, that there will be no protector or intercessor for them besides God. Again it is important to note here that verses preceding 6:51 clarify the role of the Prophet PBUH as a Messenger who delivers the word of God as it is revealed to him with no power to change this revelation:

 

‘Say, [O Muhammad], "I do not tell you that I have the depositories [containing the provision] of Allah or that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel. I only follow what is revealed to me.’ 6.50

 

1.3 Intercession for those who rejected Messengers during their lifetime:

(7:53, 36:23 and 32:4)

Both verses 7:53 and 36:23 are clearly referring to those who had Messengers during their lifetime and brought them a clear message from the Lord. It is clarified that since these people rejected the Messengers and their clear warning thereby incurring the anger of God, they will not have any intercessors to intercede on their behalf.

 

32:4 speaks to the people at the time of Prophet Muhammad PBUH to whom no warners had come before and have been given the Quran so that they may be guided. The preceding verse clarifies this:

“Or do they say, "He invented it"? Rather, it is the truth from your Lord, [O Muhammad], that you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you [so] perhaps they will be guided. It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then He established Himself above the Throne. You have not besides Him any protector or any intercessor; so will you not be reminded?”32.3-4

They are reminded of the greatness of Allah and His power as the Creator of the heavens and earth. Then it is clarified that for them there is no protector or intercessor besides God.

 

1.4 Conditions for Intercession:

(2:255, 10:3, 19:87, 20:109, 21:28, 34:23, 39:43, 39:44, 43:86 and 53:26)

Condition 1:

The first condition of intercession is that no one may intercede on the Day of Judgment, unless God Himself has given permission to do so. This is the famous verse named ‘Ayat-al-Kursi’ introduces the concept of ‘permission to intercede’:

 

Allah - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.’ 2.255

 

The implication here is that when no one shares His dominion, then who can dare intercede for someone before Him without His permission. Further it can be said that when the Almighty is fully aware of the past and future of a person and when no one can even grasp this knowledge about the past and future without His permission, then on what basis shall a person intercede for someone? Will anyone intercede to increase the knowledge of God? [7]

The first condition for intercession is therefore clear, the permission to intercede with God is given only by God, this is His sole discretion:

 

‘Surely, your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and then Istawa (rose over) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty), disposing the affair of all things. No intercessor (can plead with Him) except after His Leave. That is Allah, your Lord; so worship Him (Alone). Then, will you not remember?’ 10:3

 

Condition 2:

Furthermore as sovereignty belongs to God alone, likewise, intercession belongs to God alone:

“Say: “To Allah belongs all intercession. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you shall be brought back.” 39:44

What this means is that there is no intercession except with His permission, and there is no intercession except for the one with whom He is pleased. This is the meaning of “to Allah belongs all intercession”, both these conditions are found elaborated on in verses 20:109 and 43.86-87 as explained below.

Condition 3:

Verse 20:109 states:

 

‘On that day no intercession shall avail, except the one for whom the Most Beneficent (Allah) has given permission and whose word is acceptable to Him’

Verses 43.86-87 given below in two different translations, further adds to the above conclusion:

 

 ‘And those they invoke besides Him do not possess [power of] intercession; but only those who testify to the truth [can benefit], and they know. And if you asked them who created them, they would surely say, " Allah."

 

‘And those unto whom they cry instead of Him possess no power of intercession, saving him who beareth witness unto the Truth knowingly. And if thou ask them who created them, they will surely say: Allah.’

 

Verse 2:255 (Ayat-al-Kursi) can now be fully understood in the light of the above verse. Yusuf Ali comments in his note (no. 2634) as follows:

“Cf. ii 255 in the verse of the Throne. Here man is in the accusative case governed by tanfa'u, and it is better to construe it as I have done. That is, intercession will benefit no one except those for whom God has granted permission, and whose word (of repentance) is true and sincere, and therefore acceptable to God. Others construe: no intercession will avail, except by those whom God has granted permission, and whose word (of intercession) is acceptable to God.”[8]

Condition 4:

The power of the Prophets to intercede with God is also limited to the above stated criteria i.e. the permission to intercede by the Prophets will only be given for those whom God is pleased with. This is confirmed by the following verse:

‘And We did not send any Messenger before you (O Muhammad SAW) but We inspired him (saying): La ilaha illa Ana [none has the right to be worshipped but I (Allah)], so worship Me (Alone and none else). And they say: "The Most Beneficent (Allah) has begotten a son (or children)." Glory to Him! They [those whom they call children of Allah i.e. the angels, 'Iesa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary), 'Uzair (Ezra), etc.], are but honoured slaves. They speak not until He has spoken, and they act on His Command. He knows what is before them, and what is behind them, and they cannot intercede except for him with whom He is pleased. And they stand in awe for fear of Him. And if any of them should say: "Verily, I am an ilah (a god) besides Him (Allah)," such a one We should recompense with Hell. Thus We recompense the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.).’ 21:25-29

 

1.5: Verses that use the root ‘shīn fā ayn’ for a meaning different to intercession:

(4:85 and 89:3)

Verse 4:85, the word ‘ya shfa’u’ is used in the sense of joining oneself to good or bad causes and gives the results of thereof.

Similarly verse 89:3 uses the word ‘wa-shaf’I’ to mean the even.

 

Message of the Quran:

In conclusion, the Quran gives a clear message to those who set up associates with God for intercession and to wrongdoers that for them besides Allah, there is no protector and no intercessor.

 

It is also clear that for those people who had Messengers during their lifetime with a clear message, including the Quran, and who either rejected the Messengers or distorted their message, that for them besides Allah, there is no protector and no intercessor.

 

Further more, intercession belongs only to God. The permission to intercede is given solely by God and only accepted from and for those who associate none with God and are acceptable to the Lord through their deeds.

We see in the Qur’an shafaa’ah being conditioned and also being affirmed. That which is affirmed is the shafaa’ah for which Allah has granted permission for it to be sought, which is sought from Allah, and whose recipient He is pleased with. All verses that confirm intercession reaffirm that the permission to intercede is given by God to those who are acceptable to the Lord through their deeds and is only for those with whom He is pleased.

 

2. Intercession in the Ahadith:

Sahih Bukhari has been the focus of the research conducted on the Hadith. There are several Ahadith that speak about intercession as the act of intervening with God. These Ahadith can be grouped into the following categories, please note that there are several Ahadith under each of the headings below as certain Hadith are repeated with a few changes and additions however only one from each group is listed as an example.

 

2.1. Hadith that state Prophet Muhammad PBUH will not intercede:

 

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "(On the Day of Resurrection) camels will come to their owner in the best state of health they have ever had (in the world), and if he had not paid their Zakat (in the world) then they would tread him with their feet; and similarly, sheep will come to their owner in the best state of health they have ever had in the world, and if he had not paid their Zakat, then they would tread him with their hooves and would butt him with their horns." The Prophet added, "One of their rights is that they should be milked while water is kept in front of them." The Prophet added, "I do not want anyone of you to come to me on the Day of Resurrection, carrying over his neck a sheep that will be bleating. Such a person will (then) say, ‘O Muhammad! (please intercede for me,)’ I will say to him. ‘I can't help you, for I conveyed Allah's Message to you.’ Similarly, I do not want anyone of you to come to me carrying over his neck a camel that will be grunting. Such a person (then) will say ‘O Muhammad! (please intercede for me).’ I will say to him, ‘I can't help you for I conveyed Allah's message to you.’" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 485)[9]

Narrated Abu Huraira: When Allah revealed the Verse: "Warn your nearest kinsmen," Allah's Apostle got up and said, "O people of Quraish (or said similar words)! Buy (i.e. save) yourselves (from the Hellfire) as I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment; O Bani Abd Manaf! I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment, O Safiya, the Aunt of Allah's Apostle! I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment; O Fatima bint Muhammad! Ask me anything from my wealth, but I cannot save you from Allah's Punishment." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 51, Number 16)

 

The above two Ahadith clearly imply that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) clarified to all those around him that he cannot save them from God’s punishment. This message is clear for believers as well since the Prophet PBUH refers to his daughter, Fatima (RA).

 

Comparison with Quran:

The above two Ahadith can be considered acceptable as they are in line with the message of the Quran. The Quran clarifies the role and power of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as can be seen through the below verses:

“Say (O Muhammad SAW): "I possess no power of benefit or hurt to myself except as Allah wills. If I had the knowledge of the Ghaib (unseen), I should have secured for myself an abundance of wealth, and no evil should have touched me. I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings unto people who believe." 7:188

 

“Say (O Muhammad SAW):"I am not a new thing among the Messengers (of Allah) (i.e. I am not the first Messenger) nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner." 46:9

 

Further we have seen that calling upon others (saints, Prophets, deities etc) is considered another form of worship and is not just disallowed but is also futile, the verse below states:

 

“If you invoke (or call upon) them, they hear not your call, and if (in case) they were to hear, they could not grant it (your request) to you. And on the Day of Resurrection, they will disown your worshipping them. And none can inform you (O Muhammad SAW) like Him Who is the AllKnower (of each and everything)”. 35:14

 

2.2  Ahadith that add to the concept of Maqam Mahmud:

 

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar The Prophet said, "A man keeps on asking others for something till he comes on the Day of Resurrection without any piece of flesh on his face." The Prophet added, "On the Day of Resurrection, the Sun will come near (to, the people) to such an extent that the sweat will reach up to the middle of the ears, so, when all the people are in that state, they will ask Adam for help, and then Moses, and then Muhammad (p.b.u.h) ." The sub-narrator added "Muhammad will intercede with Allah to judge amongst the people. He will proceed on till he will hold the ring of the door (of Paradise) and then Allah will exalt him to Maqam Mahmud (the privilege of intercession, etc.). And all the people of the gathering will send their praises to Allah.  (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book #24, Hadith #553)

 

Comparison with Quran:

 

The Ahadith that speak of ‘Maqam Mahmud’ refer to this as the ‘privilege of intercession’ and it is common practice to pray that God elevates Prophet Muhammad PBUH to this level. However the concept of ‘Maqam Mahmud’ as derived from the Ahadith varies from the concept that is given in the Quran:

 

“And in some parts of the night (also) offer the Salat (prayer) with it (i.e. recite the Quran in the prayer), as an additional prayer (Tahajjud optional prayer Nawafil) for you (O Muhammad SAW). It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmuda (a station of praise and glory, i.e. the highest degree in Paradise!)”17:79

 

Several Ahadith in Sahih Bukhari state that ‘Maqam Mahmud’ is the privilege of intercession, however we see in the above verse that the Quran does not further elaborate on what Maqam Mahmud is. The translator as his own interpretation gives the explanation of ‘Maqam Mahmud’ as the highest degree in Paradise. Therefore we cannot say with confirmation if ‘Maqam Mahmud’ is the privilege of intercession. The Ahadith that categorise this level of ‘Maqam Mahmud’ to be the highest level in Paradise and also refer to praying to God to grant the privilege of intercession to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH are not contradictory to any verses in the Quran and also can be interpreted to be in line with the teachings of the Quran. Therefore these Ahadith can be considered be acceptable in terms of content only, a further study of the narrators will be required for further confirmation.

 

 

2.3    Ahadith regarding permission of Intercession granted only to Prophet Muhammad PBUH on the Day of Judgement:

 

This is the most repeated Hadith and is also found several times in Sahih Muslim. The concept and occurrence of events described in the Ahadith are similar however each hadith varies from the other because of addition of further details that build on the main event. The main body of the message is as below:

 

Narrated Anas: Allah's Apostle said, "Allah will gather all the people on the Day of Resurrection and they will say, 'Let us request someone to intercede for us with our Lord so that He may relieve us from this place of ours.' Then they will go to Adam and say, 'You are the one whom Allah created with His Own Hands, and breathed in you of His soul, and ordered the angels to prostrate to you; so please intercede for us with our Lord.' Adam will reply, 'I am not fit for this undertaking, and will remember his sin, and will say, 'Go to Noah, the first Apostle sent by Allah' They will go to him and he will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking', and will remember his sin and say, 'Go to Abraham whom Allah took as a Khalil. They will go to him (and request similarly). He will reply, 'I am not fit for this undertaking,' and will remember his sin and say, 'Go to Moses to whom Allah spoke directly.' They will go to Moses and he will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking,' and will remember his sin and say, 'Go to Jesus.' They will go to him, and he will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking, go to Muhammad as Allah has forgiven his past and future sins.' They will come to me and I will ask my Lord's permission, and when I see Him, I will fall down in prostration to Him, and He will leave me in that state as long as (He) Allah will, and then I will be addressed. 'Raise up your head (O Muhammad)! Ask, and your request will be granted, and say, and your saying will be listened to; intercede, and your intercession will be accepted.' Then I will raise my head, and I will glorify and praise my Lord with a saying(i.e. invocation) He will teach me, and then I will intercede, Allah will fix a limit for me (i.e., certain type of people for whom I may intercede), and I will take them out of the (Hell) Fire and let them enter Paradise. Then I will come back (to Allah) and fall in prostration, and will do the same for the third and fourth times till no-one remains in the (Hell) Fire except those whom the Qur'an has imprisoned therein." (The sub-narrator, Qatada used to say at that point, "...those upon whom eternity (in Hell) has been imposed.")  (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book #76, Hadith #570)

 

Comparison with Quran:

 

The account of events presented state that no Prophet other than Prophet Muhammad PBUH will feel worthy of asking for intercession due to their own sins and show that once Prophet Muhammad PBUH is granted the power of intercession, he will be able to take people out of hell. This permission will be granted to Prophet Muhammad PBUH several times until all those with faith even to the lightest, lightest mustard seed is taken out of hell due to Prophet Muhammad’s intercession. The further are some additions at the end of these Ahadith:

 

It will be said, 'O Muhammad! Let those of your followers who have no accounts, enter through such a gate of the gates of Paradise as lies on the right; and they will share the other gates with the people." The Prophet further said, "By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, the distance between every two gate-posts of Paradise is like the distance between Mecca and Busra (in Sham).(Sahih Bukhari, Book #60, Hadith #236)

 

The Prophet added, "There will come out of Hell (Fire) everyone who says: 'La ilaha illal-lah,' and has in his heart good equal to the weight of a barley grain. Then there will come out of Hell (Fire) everyone who says: ' La ilaha illal-lah,' and has in his heart good equal to the weight of a wheat grain. Then there will come out of Hell (Fire) everyone who says: 'La ilaha illal-lah,' and has in his heart good equal to the weight of an atom (or a smallest ant).(Sahih Bukhari, Book #93, Hadith #507)

 

These Ahadith can be broken down into several parts:

1.    Intercession will only be given to Prophet Muhammad PBUH and no other Prophet

2.    Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be able to take people out of hell

3.    Through the intercession of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, those who have no accounts (good deeds) but faith in their hearts equal to the lightest mustard seed will be taken out of hell

 

Concerning the first point, there are no verses in the Quran that state that Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be the only one to whom intercession will be given. Also we find that the term intercession has been used in the Quran generally with no indication that this will be permitted specifically to Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Similarly, there are no indications in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad PBUH is superior to other Prophets. Therefore we can say that this part of the Ahadith, although not contradictory to the Quran, cannot be interpreted to be in line with the teachings of the Quran. We also find that the Quran does state that on the Day of Judgement Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be called as witness against his nation:

 

“And (remember) the Day when We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst themselves. And We shall bring you (O Muhammad SAW) as a witness against these. And We have sent down to you the Book (the Quran) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah as Muslims)” 16:89

 

We also find the words of Prophet Muhammad PBUH on the Day of Judgment in the Quran:

 

“And the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) will say: "O my Lord! Verily, my people deserted this Quran (neither listened to it, nor acted on its laws and orders).” 25:30

 

Regarding the second part of these Ahadith, we have already seen from verse 21:28, that speaks of permission of intercession given to Prophets, that this permission will only be given for those with whom the Lord is pleased. We also find the following verse in the Quran:

 

‘Is, then one against whom the Word of punishment justified (equal to the one who avoids evil). Will you (O Muhammad SAW) rescue him who is in the Fire? ’39:19

 

Therefore we can say that the second part of these Ahadith is not inline with the Quran as Prophet Muhammad PBUH is not given the power to rescue those whose judgement has been passed and have been sentenced to hell or are those with whom the Lord is not pleased. This is further supported by the following verse:

 

“See they not that We gradually reduce the land (of disbelievers, by giving it to the believers, in war victories) from its outlying borders. And Allah judges, there is none to put back His Judgement and He is Swift at reckoning”13:41

 

Looking at the last part of these Ahadith that include that those with even an atoms weight of good and belief equal to the lightest mustard seed will be saved from the fire through the Prophets PBUH intercession. The Quran states:

 

“Say (O Muhammad SAW): "None can protect me from Allah's punishment (if I were to disobey Him), nor should I find refuge except in Him.(Mine is) but conveyance (of the truth) from Allah and His Messages, and whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then verily, for him is the Fire of Hell, he shall dwell therein forever. Till, when they see that which they are promised, then they will know who it is that is weaker concerning helpers and less important concerning numbers. Say (O Muhammad SAW): "I know not whether (the punishment) which you are promised is near or whether my Lord will appoint for it a distant term.  (He Alone) the All-Knower of the Gha'ib (unseen), and He reveals to none His Gha'ib (unseen)."72:22-26

 

The above verse is the crux of the analysis of these Ahadith as it asks Prophet Muhammad PBUH to clarify that he (Prophet Muhammad PBUH) is not aware of when and how long the punishment is. The verse also states that all those who disobey God and His messenger will be destined to hell forever.

 

We also find an example of the Jews in the Quran who believed that they will only go to hell for a few days:

 

“And they (Jews) say, "The Fire (i.e. Hell-fire on the Day of Resurrection) shall not touch us but for a few numbered days." Say (O Muhammad Peace be upon him to them): "Have you taken a covenant from Allah, so that Allah will not break His Covenant? Or is it that you say of Allah what you know not?" Yes! Whosoever earns evil and his sin has surrounded him, they are dwellers of the Fire (i.e. Hell); they will dwell therein forever.”2:80-81

 

Further there are several verses in the Quran that state that those condemned to hell will abide in it forever, one such verse is qouted below:

 

“And those who have earned evil deeds, the recompense of an evil deed is the like thereof, and humiliating disgrace will cover them (their faces). No defender will they have from Allah. Their faces will be covered, as it were, with pieces from the darkness of night. They are dwellers of the Fire, they will abide therein forever” 10:27

 

In conclusion, the Ahadith in this category include several messages that are not inline with the Quran and therefore these Ahadith cannot be relied upon.

 

2.4  Ahadith regarding Abu Talib:

 

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: I heard Allah's Apostles when his uncle, Abu Talib had been mentioned in his presence, saying, "May be my intercession will help him (Abu Talib) on the Day of Resurrection so that he may be put in a shallow place in the Fire, with fire reaching his ankles and causing his brain to boil."  (Sahih Al-Bukhari , Book #76, Hadith #569)

 

Comparison with Quran:

 

We do not find any verse in the Quran to say if these Ahadith are contradictory to a message in the Quran. Also these Ahadith can be interpreted to be inline with the teachings of the Quran and therefore can be considered acceptable in terms of content.

 

2.5    Ahadith regarding Al-Jahannamiyin:

 

Narrated 'Imran bin Husain: The Prophet said, "Some people will be taken out of the Fire through the intercession of Muhammad they will enter Paradise and will be called Al-Jahannamiyin (the Hell Fire people)."  (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book #76, Hadith #571)

 

Comparison with the Quran:

 

As explained in the analysis of the Ahadith on the events of the Day of Judgment, the Ahadith that state that Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be able to take people out of hell through intercession are not inline with the message of the Quran.

 

2.6 Ahadith regarding who will have the intercession of Prophet PBUH:

 

Narrated Abu Huraira: I said: "O Allah's Apostle! Who will be the luckiest person, who will gain your intercession on the Day of Resurrection?" Allah's Apostle said: O Abu Huraira! "I have thought that none will ask me about it before you as I know your longing for the (learning of) Ahadith. The luckiest person who will have my intercession on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who said sincerely from the bottom of his heart "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book #3, Hadith #98)

 

Comparison with the Quran:

 

As discussed under the verses that allow intercession in the Quran, we concluded that intercession will be granted to only those whose deeds and word are acceptable to God. Therefore as these Ahadith assume that intercession will be granted to Prophet Muhammad PBUH we can interrupt this to be inline with the message of the Quran. The second part of these Ahadith state that Prophet Muhammad PBUH will intercede for those who sincerely believed that none had the right to be worshipped but Allah. As we find no verse that contradicts this nor does it go against any message of the Quran therefore these Ahadith can also be interpreted to be in line with the teachings of the Quran.

 

2.7  Ahadith regarding one invocation that is fulfilled by God:

 

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: Allah's Apostle said, "I have been given five things which were not given to any amongst the Prophets before me. These are: 1. Allah made me victorious by awe (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey. 2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum. Therefore my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due. 3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me (and was not made so for anyone else). 4. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation exclusively but I have been sent to all mankind. 5. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection.) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book #8, Hadith #429

 

Comparison with the Quran:

 

Only the intercession part of these Ahadith has been analyzed. As explained in the comparison for the Ahadith category above, the assumption that Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be the only Prophet to whom the permission of intercession will be granted cannot be interpreted to be in inline with the message of the Quran. As discussed in the section before, the Quran states that the permission to intercede is given by God to those who are acceptable to the Lord through their deeds. Therefore this permission may be granted to Prophet Muhammad PBUH but there is no indication that it will be granted exclusively to him.

 

2.8. Ahadith that state believers, Prophets and the Angels will be allowed to intercede:

 

Narrated by Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri: We said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?" He said, "Do you have any difficulty in seeing the sun and the moon when the sky is clear?" We said, "No." He said, "So you will have no difficulty in seeing your Lord on that Day as you have no difficulty in seeing the sun and the moon (in a clear sky)." The Prophet then said, "Somebody will then announce, 'Let every nation follow what they used to worship.' So the companions of the cross will go with their cross, and the idolators (will go) with their idols, and the companions of every god (false deities) (will go) with their god, till there remain those who used to worship Allah, both the obedient ones and the mischievous ones, and some of the people of the Scripture. Then Hell will be presented to them as if it were a mirage. Then it will be said to the Jews, "What did you use to worship?' They will reply, 'We used to worship Ezra, the son of Allah.' It will be said to them, 'You are liars, for Allah has neither a wife nor a son. What do you want (now)?' They will reply, 'We want You to provide us with water.' Then it will be said to them 'Drink,' and they will fall down in Hell (instead). Then it will be said to the Christians, 'What did you use to worship?' They will reply, 'We used to worship Messiah, the son of Allah.' It will be said, 'You are liars, for Allah has neither a wife nor a son. What: do you want (now)?' They will say, 'We want You to provide us with water.' It will be said to them, 'Drink,' and they will fall down in Hell (instead). When there remain only those who used to worship Allah (Alone), both the obedient ones and the mischievous ones, it will be said to them, 'What keeps you here when all the people have gone?' They will say, 'We parted with them (in the world) when we were in greater need of them than we are today, we heard the call of one proclaiming, 'Let every nation follow what they used to worship,' and now we are waiting for our Lord.' Then the Almighty will come to them in a shape other than the one which they saw the first time, and He will say, 'I am your Lord,' and they will say, 'You are not our Lord.' And none will speak: to Him then but the Prophets, and then it will be said to them, 'Do you know any sign by which you can recognize Him?' They will say. 'The Shin,' and so Allah will then uncover His Shin whereupon every believer will prostrate before Him and there will remain those who used to prostrate before Him just for showing off and for gaining good reputation. These people will try to prostrate but their backs will be rigid like one piece of a wood (and they will not be able to prostrate). Then the bridge will be laid across Hell." We, the companions of the Prophet said, "O Allah's Apostle! What is the bridge?' He said, "It is a slippery (bridge) on which there are clamps and (Hooks like) a thorny seed that is wide at one side and narrow at the other and has thorns with bent ends. Such a thorny seed is found in Najd and is called As-Sa'dan. Some of the believers will cross the bridge as quickly as the wink of an eye, some others as quick as lightning, a strong wind, fast horses or she-camels. So some will be safe without any harm; some will be safe after receiving some scratches, and some will fall down into Hell (Fire). The last person will cross by being dragged (over the bridge)." The Prophet said, "You (Muslims) cannot be more pressing in claiming from me a right that has been clearly proved to be yours than the believers in interceding with Almighty for their (Muslim) brothers on that Day, when they see themselves safe. They will say, 'O Allah! (Save) our brothers (for they) used to pray with us, fast with us and also do good deeds with us.' Allah will say, 'Go and take out (of Hell) anyone in whose heart you find faith equal to the weight of one (gold) Dinar.' Allah will forbid the Fire to burn the faces of those sinners. They will go to them and find some of them in Hell (Fire) up to their feet, and some up to the middle of their legs. So they will take out those whom they will recognize and then they will return, and Allah will say (to them), 'Go and take out (of Hell) anyone in whose heart you find faith equal to the weight of one half Dinar.' They will take out whomever they will recognize and return, and then Allah will say, 'Go and take out (of Hell) anyone in whose heart you find faith equal to the weight of an atom (or a smallest ant), and so they will take out all those whom they will recognize." Abu Sa'id said: If you do not believe me then read the Holy Verse: 'Surely! Allah wrongs not even of the weight of an atom (or a smallest ant) but if there is any good (done) He doubles it.' (4.40) The Prophet added, "Then the prophets and Angels and the believers will intercede, and (last of all) the Almighty (Allah) will say, 'Now remains My intercession. He will then hold a handful of the Fire from which He will take out some people whose bodies have been burnt, and they will be thrown into a river at the entrance of Paradise, called the water of life. They will grow on its banks, as a seed carried by the torrent grows. You have noticed how it grows beside a rock or beside a tree, and how the side facing the sun is usually green while the side facing the shade is white. Those people will come out (of the River of Life) like pearls, and they will have (golden) necklaces, and then they will enter Paradise whereupon the people of Paradise will say, 'These are the people emancipated by the Beneficent. He has admitted them into Paradise without them having done any good deeds and without sending forth any good (for themselves).' Then it will be said to them, 'For you is what you have seen and its equivalent as well.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book #93, Hadith #532)

 

 

Comparison with the Quran:

 

These Ahadith state that Muslim believers as well as Angels and Prophets will intercede for those already in hell and upon their intercession all those with who have not done any good deeds will be forgiven and taken out of hell. This is contradictory to several verses in the Quran that state that the only those who perform good deeds and believe will be entitled to heaven. Also this concept goes against conditions of intercession set by the Quran that intercession will be only for those who associate none with God and whose deeds are acceptable to God (verses 21:28 reiterates this point by stating the limited power of Prophets to intercede for just anyone). Several verses qouted below also support this view:

 

“Whoever brings a good deed (Islamic Monotheism and deeds of obedience to Allah and His Messenger SAW) shall have ten times the like thereof to his credit, and whoever brings an evil deed (polytheism, disbelief, hypocrisy, and deeds of disobedience to Allah and His Messenger SAW) shall have only the recompense of the like thereof, and they will not be wronged” 6:160

 

Or do those who earn evil deeds think that We shall hold them equal with those who believe and do righteous good deeds, in their present life and after their death? Worst is the judgment that they make. 45:21

 

 

2.9. Ahadith that do not take the meaning of intercession in a technical manner (Hadith of Hazrat Ayesha, example of a poor man):

 

These Ahadith take the meaning of intercession in a worldly sense rather than intercession with God and are out not relevant for the topic under discussion.

 


Message of the Ahadith:

Taking into account the Ahadith that are inline with the Quran or can be interpreted to be inline with the Quran, we see that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be one of those to whom the permission of intercession will be granted. This intercession will be for those who have solely worshipped God, clearly indicating that one should rely only on God for protection. It is also important to understand and keep in mind that as intercession might be granted to Prophet Muhammad PBUH that one should not resort to praying to the Prophet PBUH in any sense, the verse below clarifies:

“It is not (possible) that a man, to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom, and the prophetic office, should say to people: "Be ye my worshippers rather than Allah's": on the contrary (He would say) "Be ye worshippers of Him Who is truly the Cherisher of all: For ye have taught the Book and ye have studied it earnestly. Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and patrons. What! would he bid you to unbelief after ye have bowed your will (To Allah in Islam)?” 3:79-80

It is important to remember that seeking refuge from other than God has been strongly discouraged through out the Quran and we find many verses that not only reiterate this point but also highlight that such an act is futile:

 “Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed. With Him is (the knowledge of) the unseen of the heavens and the earth. How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)! They have no Wali (Helper, Disposer of affairs, Protector, etc.) other than Him, and He makes none to share in His Decision and His Rule." And recite what has been revealed to you (O Muhammad SAW) of the Book (the Quran) of your Lord (i.e. recite it, understand and follow its teachings and act on its orders and preach it to men). None can change His Words, and none will you find as a refuge other than Him.”18:26-27

 

Conclusion:


In conclusion, we find that the concept of intercession has been conditioned in the Quran several times, reinforcing that all knowledge rests with God and He is aware of everyone’s deeds and beliefs. We can further add that there is no one who can share in His Decision and His Rule, however since He is Lenient and most Forgiving therefore God will grant permission of intercession to those and for only those who strongly believe in the Oneness of God, whose words and deeds are acceptable to Him and are therefore recipients of the Lord’s pleasure. Therefore the permission of intercession is to add further leniency to God’s Judgement rather than to reverse His given Judgement.


The several Ahadith regarding intercession found in Sahih Bukhari give detailed accounts of intercession but are contradictory in nature. We also find that some of these Ahadith are not in line with the message of the Quran. The main message derived from these Ahadith is that only Prophet Muhammad PBUH will be granted permission to intercede, thereby indicating that he is superior to other Prophets and that through his intercession all Muslims will be saved from hell regardless of their deeds. One must approach this message with extreme caution as it can leave us in a false state of hope. It is important that we rely solely on God and not on Prophet Muhammad PBUH or any other intercessors for all our needs, including forgiveness, on the day of Judgement.





References:

 

http://www.openburhan.com/

http://www.astudyofquran.org/web/index.php?id=55,0,0,1,0,0

http://islam102.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/intercession-and-intermediaries-sheikh-ul-islam-ibn-taymiyyah/

http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/intercession.html

http://corpus.quran.com

http://www.al-mawrid.org

http://answeringislam.org/Shamoun/satanic_verses.htm


 

[1] To see if a Hadith is authentic or not we need to study it from two perspectives:

 

1. Rijal (narrators): Here we see whether the narrators of the Hadith are reliable.

2. Diraya (content): Here we see whether the Hadith is inline with the Qur'an and with commonly known facts.

[2] http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/

[3] http://www.studyquran.co.uk/LLhome.htm

[4] http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=%24fE

[6] http://www.al-mawrid.org/pages/articles_english_detail.php?rid=1200&cid=94&search=bani Israel -  summarised

[7] Qur'anic Exegesis - Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (Tr. by:Shehzad Saleem)


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