Friday, 22 June 2018

Reality of Intercession (Part 2)


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأبياء والمرسلين

نبينا محمد وعلى اهل بيته الطيّبين الطاهرين المظلومين

والعاقبة للمتّقين


In the previous entry regarding the affair of intercession, I cited verses from the Qur’an al-Karim which establish the fact that no intercession may avail anyone on Judgment Day except for that intercession which Allah Most High has permitted. In this entry, I shall focus on the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him & his family) regarding the matter of intercession on Judgment Day. Before that, however, it is prudent to cite the verse from the holy Qur’an which proclaims that it is the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him & his family) who has been granted the highest honor and distinction in the kingdom of the Lord’s creation:

عَسَىٰ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا

It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy station

(Sura 17:79)

Regarding maqam al-mahmud, or the “praiseworthy station”, when the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) was asked what precisely it is, he answered:
هِيَ الشَّفَاعَةُ
“It is the intercession” (Jami al-Tirmidhi #3137)
In a longer tradition, the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) illustrated the scene on Judgment Day when he will be permitted to intercede on behalf of those who committed major sins:
فَيَأْتُونِي فَأَسْتَأْذِنُ عَلَى رَبِّي فِي دَارِهِ فَيُؤْذَنُ لِي عَلَيْهِ، فَإِذَا رَأَيْتُهُ وَقَعْتُ سَاجِدًا فَيَدَعُنِي مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَدَعَنِي فَيَقُولُ ارْفَعْ مُحَمَّدُ، وَقُلْ يُسْمَعْ، وَاشْفَعْ تُشَفَّعْ، وَسَلْ تُعْطَ ـ قَالَ ـ فَأَرْفَعُ رَأْسِي فَأُثْنِي عَلَى رَبِّي بِثَنَاءٍ وَتَحْمِيدٍ يُعَلِّمُنِيهِ، فَيَحُدُّ لِي حَدًّا فَأَخْرُجُ فَأُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ
“So they will come to me, and I will ask my Lord's permission to enter His House and then I will be permitted. When I see Him I will fall down in prostration before Him, and He will leave me (in prostration) as long as He will, and then He will say, ‘lift up your head, Muhammad, and speak, for you will be listened to, and intercede, for your intercession will be accepted, and ask (for anything) for it will be granted:' Then I will raise my head and glorify my Lord with certain praises which He has taught me. Allah will put a limit for me (to intercede for a certain type of people) I will take them out and make them enter Paradise.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
These and other Hadith clarify the fact that the intercession of the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) on Judgment Day is a limited intercession. It is an intercession which he will be commanded to do by Allah, meaning, it is only by Allah’s permission and will that the Prophet will intercede for those of his Umma who committed grave sins. The Prophet will not be able to intercede for the disbelievers or anyone else for whom Allah does not accept intercession for. This is proven from another well known tradition:
لَيَرِدَنَّ عَلَىَّ نَاسٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِي الْحَوْضَ، حَتَّى عَرَفْتُهُمُ اخْتُلِجُوا دُونِي، فَأَقُولُ أَصْحَابِي‏.‏ فَيَقُولُ لاَ تَدْرِي مَا أَحْدَثُوا بَعْدَكَ
“Some people from among my companions will come to the Hawd (pond) until I recognize them but they will be taken away from me, so I shall say: ‘My companions!’ So it will be said: ‘You do not know what they did after you.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari #6582)
It is apparent from this Hadith that the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) will seek to intercede on behalf of a group of his own companions, but it shall not avail them, and instead, the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) will be informed that they had become apostates after his death. In other words the intercession of the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) is not an independent right, nor is it an intercession independent of Allah’s will and permission. Intercession can only benefit those who have faith, despite their major sins. Intercession will not avail the disbelievers and polytheists whatsoever. Islam rejects the concepts of intercession by right, or by love, or by relation. All intercession that shall take place will be due to Allah permitting it, as He says:

قُل لِّلَّـهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا

Say: “To Allah belongs all intercession”

(Sura 39:44)

A question may arise as to what is the purpose and wisdom of there being any intercession on Judgment Day. Why won’t Allah simply announce the fate of the resurrected mankind immediately and directly? The answer is that the granting to the Prophet (peace be upon him) the role of intercessor (for the major intercession), and to others also whom Allah approves of (a minor intercession) is meant to illustrate that the salvation of those on whose behalf intercession is being accepted is, in part, due to their their faith in the Prophet Muhammad as Allah’s Messenger. For example, among the virtues of memorizing and attaching oneself to the holy Qur’an is that it shall intercede for such a person on Judgment Day. Concerning the virtue and excellence of the 67th chapter of the holy Qur’an, Surat Tabarak Alladhi Biyadihil-Mulk, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
سُورَةٌ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ ثَلاَثُونَ آيَةً تَشْفَعُ لِصَاحِبِهَا حَتَّى يُغْفَرَ لَهُ
“A sura of the Qur’an consisting of thirty ayat which will intercede for its companion till he will be forgiven.” (Sunan Abi Dawud #1400)
So, the intercession of a chapter of the Qur’an on Judgment Day is meant to illustrate the virtue of that chapter and the benefit of reading and memorizing it in this world. Likewise, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being granted the role of intercessor for those of his followers who committed grave sins is meant to illustrate their goodness in having believed in him as Allah’s Apostle, on the basis of which they shall benefit from his intercession. Again, all of this is due to the permission of Allah, so none should ever rely on the intercession of anyone or anything besides Allah. Rather, one must pin all their hopes and faith upon Allah solely for salvation, and by virtue of their faith in Allah first and foremost will be granted salvation and may avail of the intercession of the intercessors if their deeds fall short of the mark.
Finally, let me conclude with a powerful argument regarding the limitation of even this intercession, lest one should feel that Allah’s direct mercy and grace is insufficient and this causes the heart to lose some awe and fear of Him the Most High: When all the intercession of the intercessors on behalf of those in Hellfire has been exhausted, and there is no more possibility of intercession for those left in Hell who have absolutely no good in them, in terms of deeds, except faith and testification to the Oneness of Allah:
فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ شَفَعَتِ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ وَشَفَعَ النَّبِيُّونَ وَشَفَعَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَلَمْ يَبْقَ إِلاَّ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ فَيَقْبِضُ قَبْضَةً مِنَ النَّارِ فَيُخْرِجُ مِنْهَا قَوْمًا لَمْ يَعْمَلُوا خَيْرًا قَطُّ قَدْ عَادُوا حُمَمًا فَيُلْقِيهِمْ فِي نَهْرٍ فِي أَفْوَاهِ الْجَنَّةِ يُقَالُ لَهُ نَهْرُ الْحَيَاةِ
So Allah Azza wa Jall will say: “The Angels have interceded, the Prophets have interceded, the Believers have interceded, and there is none left except the Most Merciful of the Merciful.” He will then grab a handful from the Fire and take out from it a people who never did any good whatsoever and who will have turned into charcoal. He will throw them into a river on the outskirts of Paradise, the River of Life…(Sahih Muslim)
It is the pure Mercy and Grace of Allah Most High that ultimately saves those who believe in Him, and not the intercession of any intercessor. All praise and glory belongs to Allah, Lord of the worlds!

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