Al Shafā’a

Al-Shafā’a is requesting a person such as a scholar, pious individual, parent, friend or a traveller to supplicate on one’s behalf, with the understanding that the prospects of that persons Dua’ being accepted is greater because of their rank, location or situation. For example, asking your mother to make dua’ for you because you are aware of her piety, or your friend who is about to perform Hajj or your cousin who is currently sick and you know the dua’ of the sick is answered. We’ll discuss the position of Ahl us-Sunnah on Shafā’a.

Requesting living persons for Dua’

All scholars permit this form of Shafā’a as there are many examples in the Sunnah.

Allah ﷻ says “If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you (O Muhammad) and asked Allah’s forgiveness, and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah ﷻ indeed forgiving and Most Merciful.”1

This verse clearly gives an example of the permissibility of the Prophet ﷺ making dua on behalf of the companions as well as indicating one should continue making dua directly to Allah ﷻ themselves.

Shafā’a is not restricted to the Prophet ﷺ, but to any person.

Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه said, “I asked for permission from the Prophet ﷺ to perform ‘Umra, so he permitted me and said: ‘Do not forget us, O young brother, in your supplication.’ He said these words to me that were more precious to me than the whole world.”2

There are many examples from the righteous and scholars where they request each other to make dua’ for them.

A caveat to Al-Shafā’a is that one must not hold the view their own supplication is unacceptable or only validated by a third party.

Requesting deceased persons for Dua’

Scholars differ on this form of Shafā’a. It may be done in two ways, either at the grave side or from afar.

a) Going to the grave of a Prophet ﷺ or pious individual and requesting him to supplicate on one’s behalf. For example, one says, “Oh such-and-such person, pray for me that Allah ﷻ grants me a child.”

There are examples in the Sunnah where companions requested dua from the Prophet ﷺ after he died.

Malik al-Dar رضي الله عنه reported: The people were afflicted with drought in the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه. A man (Bilal ibn Harith رضي الله عنه) went to the grave of the Prophet ﷺ, and he said: O Messenger of Allah, ask Allah ﷻ to make it rain for your nation, for they have been ruined! The Prophet ﷺ came to him in a dream and he said: Go to Umar and greet him with peace. Tell him you will be given rain and and that he should perform salat Istisqa.3

Imam al Qurtabi writes: “One Arab went to the grave of our Prophet ﷺ and recited the verse from the Holy Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’, verse 6 and then he then began to cry and say how sinful he was, and requested from the Prophet ﷺ to supplicate for him. A voice then came from our Prophet’s grave ﷺ, saying that Allah ﷻ has forgiven your sins”4

Imam Ibn Kathir also recorded this event with the variance, that the Prophet ﷺ appeared in the dream of Utba’ and informed him to go to the Arab and convey the message that there is good news for him that Allah ﷻ had forgiven his sins.5

Some have contested permissibility of such acts due to the verse, “Truly you cannot cause the dead to listen”,6as well as other verses on the dead not being able to hear. And if they cannot hear, then they cannot make dua’ for you. There are many lengthy articles discussing the hearing of the dead. Here are some hadith to prove the dead can hear.

Anas ibn Malik رضي الله عنه narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Verily when the servant is put in his grave, and his companions turn away from him, he hears the noise of their sandals.”7

“Friday is one of your best days. It was on it that Adam was made, and it was on it that his (soul) was taken, and it is on it that the Trumpet blows, and it is on it that the Swoon is. As a result, enhance the frequency with which you send your Salat to me, because your Salat to me are given to me.”
“O Messenger of Allah!” they exclaimed. And how will our Salat be delivered to you when you have passed away?” “Indeed, Allah ﷻ, the Mighty and Sublime, has forbidden the earth from (destruction) the bodies of the Prophets,” he said.8

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ addressed the disbelievers from the dead of Badr saying, “We have found true what our Lord promised us, did you find true what your Lord promised you?” Umar رضي الله عنه said, “O Messenger of Allah! You are speaking to bodies that have no souls?” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ replied, “You do not hear better [than them] to what I say to them, except that they are unable to reply.”9

Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه related the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said that, “None passes by the grave of his Muslim brother that he knew in the world and greets him except Allah ﷻ restores his soul to him and he returns the greeting to him.”10

So indeed, the righteous believers can hear and with the power of Allah ﷻ can make dua for the people.

b) Requesting a Prophet ﷺ or saint from a distance (and not at his grave) to supplicate on one’s behalf. For example, whilst sitting at home, one says, “O Prophet ﷺ, please pray for me that Allah ﷻ forgives my sins.”

Since, there are no examples in hadith literature or from the practice of the Companions and early Muslims of asking people from afar to make dua’ for them, most scholars advise to refrain from such action, even though it may be permissible or at least rationally possible.

The Hadith of salawat reaching the Prophet ﷺ is accepted as well as deeds being presented to the Prophet ﷺ, but as they do not mention dua requests, they are not used as a proof. If one carried out this practice, it will be regarded as Bida’.

Automatic and Indirect Dua

There are also many examples in the Sunnah where angels and good deeds make dua for a person.

Abdullah ibn Amr رضي الله عنه reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Fasting and the Quran will intercede for the servant on the Day of Resurrection. Fasting will say: O Lord, I prevented him from food and desires during the day, so let me intercede for him. The Quran will say: O Lord, I prevented him from sleeping during the night, so let me intercede for him. Thus, they will both intercede for him.” Musnad Aḥmad 6626

and likewise indirect Dua

Once Sa`d (bin Abi Waqqas) رضي الله عنه thought that he was superior to those who were below him in rank. On that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You gain no victory or livelihood except through (the blessings and invocations of) the poor amongst you.” Sahih al-Bukhari 2896

  1. Surah Nisa, Verse 64, ↩︎
  2. Tirmidhi; Abu Dawud ↩︎
  4. Tafsir al Qurtabi, under Sura Nisa’, verse 64 ↩︎
  5. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Sura Nisa, under verse 64 ↩︎
  6. Qur’an 27:80 ↩︎
  7. Sahih Muslim ↩︎
  8. [Ibn Khuzaimah #1733 and Ibn Hibban #910 and Hakim in Mustadrak 1/278 He added, It is authentic on the conditions of Bukhari. ↩︎
  9. Bukhari and Muslim ↩︎
  10. Tafsir Ibn Kathir ↩︎

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