Rational Discussion of Intercession and the Issue of the Dead Hearing

Can the dead hear, (I was under the impression they couldn’t)…?  Seeking waseela with saints (while acknowledging that Allah gives all)? I basicaly need to know what the view is on them…

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Merciful…  May His Salaat and Salaam be upon His Messenger…

Allaah the Most High has said, what means [1]:

( Surely you can not make those in the graves hear. )

So here is the general rule – the dead do not hear, as stated clearly by the Knower of all things.

Then, there are some specific exemptions from this general rule, like the defeated enemies of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) being addressed in the well at Badr, and the dead hearing the footsteps of those at their burial walking away.  These two specific exemptions have been authentically reported by the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam).

Combining the texts is quite simple, from the easiest ways of combining texts that some people feel have some kind of contradiction is a principle called “‘Aamm and khaass“.  The general rule has been stated by Allaah in His Book, and VERY specific cases were exempted from that generality.

So the dead can not hear – as a general rule – however, at the time of burial the deceased can hear the footsteps of those walking away from his burial.

And again, the dead can not hear – as a general rule – however, at the time of defeat, the Prophets would declare the promise of Allaah to be true, and ask the defeated enemies who were killed to testify to that.  (NOTE: without waiting for an answer!!)

A simple question here:

Could these two texts allow us to consider the Statement of Allaah to be abrogated?

The answer:

That would mean abrogation in a fact of the unseen, and the scholars mention that this concept is outside of the field of abrogation.  It would be like Allaah saying, what means, “The dead can not hear,” and then saying, “Actually they can.”  Abrogation is limited to fiqh rulings and can not be considered in issues of ‘aqeedah and information about the ghayb (like descriptions of the Hereafter or stories of the past).  So to claim abrogation in this case is totally invalid.

Another question:

What kind of actions did these texts produce from the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) and the Companions, from what is authentically reported?

Did these two texts lead anyone – even one Companion – to seek things – even one thing – from the deceased?  Or to do “waseelah” through any of the deceased?

More clearly – the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) was our example, showing us all ways to gain nearness to Allaah, by his example he led us!  Did he go to the graves of the previous prophets and seek anything from them or through them?  If that were the intended understanding in Islaam, would it not have been his job to lead by example and show us how to ask the deceased, the manners, the limits, etc. by his example as he did in all important affairs of the Religion?  And would not the noble Companions have busied themselves transmitting that and acting upon it?

The answer is obvious:  That was not his understanding!  Or theirs!  They were told of the status of some of their beloved who passed away, like Sa’d ibn Mu’aath for example, and others who were defined as people of Paradise!  Obviously owliyaa’ of Allaah, beloved to Allaah, forgiven, and Allaah was pleased with them.  These are the righteous who we have not a shred of doubt about their piety – people of Paradise who died as martyrs!  So this would be the perfect occasion – if it were legislated – to request something from one of them or “through” them.  Yet, look for the reports – you find nothing!

So the question arises…

Is it that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) and his companions did not understand properly and therefore they lost out on a big opportunity – while the people of “tawassul” of today who ask Allaah for things “through” the deceased have properly understood the issue in a more complete and thorough way, better in understanding and practice than those who received and witnessed the revelation as it came down!?

The answer again is clear.  The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) was correct.  He was honest and dedicated to showing the Muslims every single way to draw near to Allaah, and this way is simply not from them.


Actually, this way of seeking things from Allaah alone “through” the deceased was indeed practiced by some of the people in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam).  So I guess I have to admit it does have a precedence.  The people of Makkah used to ask Allaah alone for their needs, yet they used to make “tawassul” through the deceased.  Allaah recorded their reason for doing so in the Qur’aan, what means: [2]

( They would say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allaah.’ )

While they believed clearly that only Allaah provided for them, only He created them and everything else, only He causes life and death, and thus, their requests were made TO Allaah alone, meaning they did not ask the deceased to forgive them, they did not ask the deceased for wealth, children, or anything, rather they only requested things from Allaah alone!  Yet, their request TO Allaah alone were made THROUGH others, and they said, “These are our intercessors with Allaah.”  To them, this did not violate or oppose their belief in Allaah’s Sole Lordship.

So this practice that existed in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), which is similar to what many people who ascribe to Islaam today endorse – to use such and such pious person as an intercessor, and ask Allaah THROUGH him… Was this practice accepted and endorsed, discouraged, or prohibited in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam)?


You should now acknowledge that we have arrived at the heart of the matter and the answer to confusion related to this issue is about to become very clear by Allaah’s Permission!

The answer:

This practice was not endorsed or accepted.  Nor was it discouraged.  Nor was it simply prohibited as being haraam!  Instead, it was made as an example of THE SIN that Allaah will not forgive, THE CRIME against the Beneficent Lord that leads to eternal punishment, and THE VERY ACT that drew the lines of battle between the people of towheed – the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) and his purely monotheist following (may Allaah be pleased with all of them), and the polytheists who refused to abandon their intercessors and make their worship for Allaah alone!

Regarding their requests from Allaah through these intercessors, they said, as Allaah recorded in His Book, what means: [3]

( We only worship them to draw nearer to Allaah )

Now remember when I said that this actions was “similar” to the practice of some of the people who ascribe to Islaam today who endorse this sort of so-called “tawassul”…  I did not say “identical,” but rather “similar,” for a reason.  There are some very important differences between them and the people of today.

1) The people in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) knew what they were doing was worship, and they knew that it was in direct contradiction to the message of “laa ilaaha ill-Allaah” they were being invited to, and thus they fought him over it with their lives and wealth.

2) The people of today who do this while ascribing to Islaam believe their practice is endorsed by Islaam!!  And they believe they are worshipping Allaah upon towheed!  So, as pointed out by our scholars, the people of today who worship Allaah “through” the deceased are more ignorant of the meaning of Islaam than the polytheists of Makkah who fought against our Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam)!

3) Furthermore, the people of today sometimes use intercessors that were irreligious themselves, sometimes even polytheists who taught shirk, while the people of Makkah used angels and prophets to intercede for them (which was/is still shirk).

From these few points, you can see how even the polytheists of Makkah who fought against the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) were more knowledgeable about the meaning of worship, towheed, shirk, and thus Islaam, than the modern endorsers of so-called “tawassul” through the deceased.

In conclusion

I hope that these simple lines have cleared some confusion about this matter.  May Allaah bless you all and grant us understanding in His Religion.

May He grant us knowledge of what is right, and the humility, courage, patience, and strength needed to follow it with our hearts and limbs.  And may He also grant us knowledge of what is wrong, and the humility, courage, patience, and strength needed to oppose it with our hearts and limbs!

And Allaah Most High knows best, may His Salaat and Salaam be upon His Final Messenger to Mankind.

Written by: Moosaa Richardson

ST Archives: 09-22-2009


[1] Soorah Faatir (35):22

[2] Soorah Yoonus (10):18

[3] Soorah az-Zumar (39):3

7 thoughts on “Rational Discussion of Intercession and the Issue of the Dead Hearing

  1. Maa sha Allah this article is really clear. I’d like to see more important aqidah issues addressed like this, with a step by step logical approach. How could people go on with their walis and saints after reading something like this?! To call on saints, asking them to intercede for you, is clear shirk, and even Abu Lahab knew it was shirk! How can someone be happy that Abu Lahab knew more about the meaning of tawhid than him?! May Allah reward you for this.

  2. I would love to publish this article in an Islamic newsletter in South Africa where many muslims go to the grave sites of saints & ask for assistance…how do I obtain permission in doing so?

    Jazakallahu khairan
    Mohammed Noushaad

  3. salaam alaikum brother Moosa,
    may Allah reward you for your effort. In this topic, I found a person quoting the following hadith:
    Malik al-Dar i.e. treasurer of Umar (RA) relates: The people were gripped by drought during the tenure of Umar (Ibn-ul-Khattab). Then a man “WALKED UP TO THE GRAVE OF PROPHET AND SAID: O MESSENGER OF ALLAH! ASK FOR RAIN” for your Ummah who is in dire straits. Then he saw the Prophet (SAW) in dream. The Prophet (SAW) said to him, Go over to Umar, give him my regards and tell him that the rain will come to you.
    [This Hadith is authenticated as “SAHIH” by Imam Ibn Kathir in Al Bidayah Wan Nihayah Volume No. 5, Page No. 167, Imam Ibn Hajr al Asqalani also
    declared it “SAHIH” in Fath ul Bari, Volume No.2, Page No. 495-496, Imam Qastallani agreed to him in al-Mawahib]
    I personally found that Ibn kathir said that the isnaad is sahih (ref. # 7/93 and not the one shown above). Though I found that shiekh al-albaani rahimahullah said that this hadith is daeef (Ref: at-Tawassul, p. 118) but he gave some reasons for it. I dont know enough arabic to understand what the shiekh said. Considering that there is an apparent clash in the rulings of shiekh al-albaani and Imam Ibn kathir, a translation of what shiekh al-albaani rahimahullah said would be very beneficial to clarify the issue.
    jazaakallaahu khairan for any assitance you can provide.
    salam alaikum

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. The hadeeth is not authentic. Maalik ad-Daar narrates this story alone, and his reliability as a narrator was never vouched for, thus he is considered “majhool” to the scholars of Hadeeth, and his narration is not acceptable when he is alone in reporting something. This chain is dha’eef (weak), and the wording of the hadeeth has nakaarah (things contradictory to established Islaamic teachings), therefore it is munkar. After studying the chain, the proof is with whoever reaches this conclusion. It is not allowed to cling to the mistakes of some scholars and reject the evidences of those who speak with authority. And Allaah knows best.

      • JazakAllah khayra for this discussion. It has been very valuable to me. One last problem I have is that when the sufis say: How could Umar bin Al-khattab employ Malik ad-Dar in important positions like guarding the Muslim treasury if he was not reliable? This seems like a really good question and I do not know how to answer it. I’m sure the scholars must have dealt with this doubt.

        • Indeed, it is a great virtue for Maalik ad-Daar that he was chosen by al-Faarooq for important jobs. However, employing him in that position shows that he was upright and trustworthy as it related to the duties he would be involved in. He was not assigned by ‘Umar to narrate hadeeth! Being virtuous and trustworthy does not automatically include being precise in one’s hadeeth narrations. Thus, we remain in need of a clear statement from one of the scholars of hadeeth that he was precise in his narrations. Without this, he remains in the category of “majhool”, and his hadeeth remains dha’eef (weak). And Allaah knows best.

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