Tawassul means to resort to someone or something as an intermediary before God in order to become closer to Him so that He may fulfill one's request. Resorting to the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) as an intermediary is among the prominent beliefs of Shi'a based on God's order in the Qur'an and many hadiths narrated from the Ahl al-Bayt (a). It is mentioned in Shi'a supplications and ziyarah of the Infallible (a). One may resort to anyone or anything - like prophets, saints, and angles - that has an honorable position before God.
Lexically tawassul means to try to get close to someone out of interest and eagerness or something that makes you get close to someone with the same motivation. Technically, it means to resort to someone or something valuable in order to reach a goal or to gain proximity to God.
Tawassul in Qur’an
Several verses in the Qur’an are related to tawassul:
- “O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and seek the means of recourse to Him, and wage jihād in His way, so that you may be felicitous.” (5:35)
This verse commands the faithful to seek recourse to God. Exegetes maintain that the word “wasila” (means of recourse) in this verse has a general meaning and includes any act or thing that can help one gains proximity to God.
- Another verse in the Qur’an reads, “Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you and pleaded to Allah for forgiveness, and the Apostle had pleaded for forgiveness for them, they would have surely found Allah all-clement, all-merciful.” (4:64) Moreover, Josef’s brothers said to their father, “Father! Plead [with Allah] for forgiveness of our sins! We have indeed been erring.” (12:97)
It can be concluded from these two verses that the prophets and saints can act as an intermediary between God and His sinful servants so that He forgives them.
Tawassul in Sunnis’ Hadiths
Numerous hadiths among Shi’as and Sunnis prove tawassul in this meaning. These hadiths have been quoted in various books, including Sunni sources:
- Ahmad b. Hanbal, the great Sunni scholar, has narrated from ‘Uthman b. Hunayf that “a blind person came to the Prophet (s) and said, ‘ask God to heal me’ … The Prophet (s) told him to make wudu and perform two rak’as of salat and then recite this supplication ‘O, God, I ask you and turn to you by Muhammad, your prophet, the prophet of mercy. O, the Apostle of God, I have turned by you to my Lord for my request to be granted. O, God, accept his intermediation in [granting] my request.’”
- In addition, having recourse to Ahl al-Bayt (a) is mentioned in Sunni sources: "the family of the Prophet are my recourse. Before Him, they cause me proximity. I hope that because of them, the record of my deed will be given to my right hand."
Tawassul to Non-God
- Main article: Tawassul to Non-God
The ultimate goal of tawassul is gaining proximity to God and having one’s request granted. Thus, if having recourse to the prophets and the Infallible is for gaining proximity to God, it has been advised in the Qur’an and many hadiths. Additionally, swearing God to the position of the prophets, the Infallible, and His virtuous servants is included in the general meaning of tawassul.
- This article is mainly taken from "حقیقت توسل" on Persian Wikipasokh.