What is shafa’ah (intercession)? Will you explain it? Is there a verse in the Quran about the Prophet’s interceding for us?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Yes, shafa’ah (intercession) is true. Intercession is mentioned in several verses and hadiths; thus, it is stated that intercession is true. We will mention those verses and hadiths below when appropriate. We want to start the topic by answering the second part of the question: “Who can intercede and to what extent?” Besides, the answer given to that part will also explain that intercession is true.

Prophets, saints (awliya), pure people (asfiya) and martyrs - according to their degree - can and will intercede at the level bestowed upon them by God Almighty. However, the summit is the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) regarding the issue. He has great wisdom. Every prophet used the unlimited but one-time intercession granted to them in this world but Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) reserved it for the hereafter and will be the owner of the “great intercession” in the hereafter. His ummah, called “hammadun (those who praise Allah a lot)”, will gather under “Liwa al-Hamd (Banner of Praise)” and everyone will be honored with their share in the intercession that will be made by him as the owner of “Maqam Mahmud (Glorious Station)” and attain salvation

The world is ephemeral and temporary. The troubles suffered in this world will be regarded as atonement in some way for the sins that are committed. However, there will be a day when people will be in great difficulty and will not be able to find a chance for a new deed that will save them - we call that day the hereafter; on that day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) will appear with his intercession encompassing all humanity, and he will intercede with “shafa’ah al-uzma” which means the greatest intercession.

There is definitely a limit to the intercession of the Messenger of Allah. Besides, all intercessions will only be in compliance with the permission and criteria determined by God Almighty.

The following verse informs us about it:

“Who can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth?” (al-Baqara, 2/255)

It is quite natural and normal because those who will intercede might act emotionally, go too far, and might have offer more mercy than divine mercy; thus, they might act contrarily to good manners. Therefore, Allah imposed a balance, measure and criteria. It has been determined who can intercede for whom and to what extent. There is justice and balance in all deeds of God Almighty; similarly, there is justice and balance in the authority of intercession that He will give in the hereafter. If such restriction and limitation had not been determined, some people would use intercession unevenly. As a matter of fact, perhaps unlimited permission of intercession would agitate their feelings; for example, when they saw that some people were burning in the flames of hell, their mercy would urge them and would demand that everyone enter Paradise regardless of being infidels, hypocrites or criminals. However, such a demand could sometimes violate the law of billions of believers.

For, when intercession is left to the feelings of people, there is a possibility that sinners, heretics and unbelievers can benefit from such emotional intercession. It means showing mercy to the unbeliever who has sins as big as mountains, violating the rights of all beings. However, since the unbeliever denies and despises all the beauties, all orders and all wise reasons belonging to Allah in the universe, he commits as many crimes as places; showing mercy to such a person every minute of whose life is blackened with crimes should be the biggest disrespect on behalf of mercy.

The Prophet (pbuh) states that his intercession is for those who commit major sins: “My intercession is for those who commit major sins among my Ummah.” He is a person of balance related to intercession as he is in every other issue. In fact, the entire ummah finds solace in those statements of his and hopes to attain the intercession of the Messenger of Allah.

While explaining the hadith above, Hallaj al-Mansur was overwhelmed and addressed the Prophet (pbuh) as follows, overstepping the limit: “O Sultan of Prophets! Why did you set such a limit and did not say for all people? If you had wanted to intercede for all people, your Lord would not have deprived you of it and would have given you that permission.” At that moment, the Messenger of Allah appeared and wrapped Mansur’s turban around his neck and said: “Pay for it with your head; do you think that I uttered that statement myself?” Hallaj was smiling though his organs were to be cut off and pruned like a tree. He knew that this decree was given in a high assembly and it was necessary to consent to that decree

Yes, perhaps, as Hallaj said, if the Messenger of Allah had asked Allah Almighty to intercede for all people, his Lord would have given him that permission. However, he showed respect to Allah in a way that we could not understand. He did not say anything other than what his Lord said, and he never overstepped the limits of his authority.

Among the criteria of intercession determined by the Lord is that the person to be granted intercession should deserve it. As a matter of fact, the following is stated regarding the issue:

“Then will no intercession of (any) intercessors profit them.” (Muddaththir, 74/48)

We understand from the verse that intercession is not for everyone and it is not unlimited. There is no decree that the intercession by anyone for anyone will be accepted. As it is the case in everything, divine will is essential in intercession too.

The unbeliever remains outside of the circle of intercession in the first place due to his unbelief. No one can intercede for him; even if someone did, it would not benefit him.

God Almighty teaches us a prayer (dua) in the Quran: It is indicated with that prayer that we should ask great things from Allah:   

“Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” (al-Furqan, 25/74)

In other words, may our children and wives be in such a state to enlighten our eyes! Give us such life partners to encourage us in the name of religion. May our children always send goodness after our death and let mercy flow toward us because of them! Do not make us only righteous; make us imams and leaders for them. Grant us such favors that will make us serve your religion at a time when service to Islam is abandoned and service to religion is regarded as a shame; and grant us the rank of imamate in front of the righteous people!

Such an understanding is an expression of asking great things. It means to ask God Almighty for the authority to intercede in the manner He has taught. Besides, if He had not wanted to give, He would not have given ask the feeling of asking. Since He gave us the feeling of asking and taught us how to ask, He will give us what we want. We hope and expect it from His infinite mercy. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the issue that needs attention here. Yes, asking our Lord to accept us only in a corner of Paradise is an evidence of asking small things. However, Allah teaches us to ask great things. Yes, we must ask great things and ask from Him to make us imams for the righteous people and give us the authority to intercede for them.

In one of his hadiths, the Prophet (pbuh) describes a scene from the hereafter as follows: Allah will ask Hz. Nuh (Noah): “Did you fulfil your duty properly?” That great prophet will answer: “Yes, O Lord, I fulfilled it. I fulfilled the duty of conveying the message you gave me perfectly.” Thereupon, God Almighty will ask Noah to show witnesses. He will show the Ummah of Muhammad as a witness. When he is asked how it will happen, he will answer as follows: “You made them witnesses of nations, and they saw in the Book in their hands that Nuh had fulfilled his duty. And I show them as a witness for me today.

Yes, the following is stated in a verse:

“Thus, have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves.” (al-Baqara, 2/143)

Intercession is true and real. All great people will intercede within the limits determined by God Almighty. If witnessing is to be accepted as intercession in a way, the Ummah of Muhammad will intercede completely in that sense.

Those who deny intercession have nothing to gain in the world or in the hereafter because Allah will treat His slaves there in the way that His servants knew Him.

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