Appeal to the holy Prophet for forgiveness
Allāh has honoured the Holy Prophet with the highest stat us among His creatures. Appeal to him and intermediation through his person was valid during his earthly existence and it is equally valid after his death. The two phases of his existence do not modify in any sense the quality of appeal to and intermediation through him and there is no legal and rational argument that militates against their validity after his death.
We should not also brush aside the fact that the correct belief does not elevate the intermediaries to the level of Allāh’s partners. They essentially remain His creatures, and it is in fact a deep realisation of their creaturely status that has prompted the Creator to raise them to the superlative degree of excellence among His creatures.
Therefore, how can those, who claim to be the humble servants of the Lord, ever aspire to be His partners or rivals? Thus they are neither Allāh’s partners nor His equals. Allāh has no rival or partner. He is unique in every respect, both in terms of His personality and the attributes that define His personality. No prophet or saint, dead or alive, can be His partner because He alone has the power to grant or turn down our petitions. Thus in all forms of appeal for help and intermediation, the intermediary himself acts as a humble servant of the Lord and he relies on the divine mercy as much as the petitioner does. In no sense what soever he treat s himself as His equal. As a matter of fact, his help is being sought because his status as an intermediary owes to the divine favour.
(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allāh, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful. (Qur’ān (an-Nisā’, Women) 4:64)
To restrict the efficacy and operational range of this verse to the earthly existence of the Holy Prophet, as some people believe, is to indulge in exegetical misapplication and reflects their unawareness and lack of understanding. Both the exegetes and the traditionists consider intermediat ion through and appeal to the holy Prophet as valid acts whether they were done in his earthly existence or after his death.
Ibn Kathīr comments on the Qur’ānic verse:
(In this Qur’ānic verse) Allāh is exhorting the sinners and evildoers that when they commit sins and errors they should call on the Messenger of Allāh and ask forgiveness from Allāh. They should also request the Messenger of Allāh to pray for them. When they do so, Allāh will turn to them and show mercy to them and He will forgive them. That is why He used the words la-wajadullāha tawwāb-ar-rahīmā (they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful). Many have stated this tradition. One of them is Abū Mansūr as-Sabbāgh who writes the famous narration in his book that, according to ‘Utbī, once he was sitting beside the Prophet’s grave when a bedouin came and he said: ‘Peace be on you, O Allāh’s Messenger! I have heard that Allāh says, “(O beloved!) And if they had come to you, when they had wronged their souls, and asked forgiveness of Allāh, and the Messenger also had asked forgiveness for them, they (on the basis of this means and intercession) would have surely found Allāh the Granter of repentance, extremely Merciful.” I have come to you, asking forgiveness for my sins and I make you as intercessor before my Lord and I have come to you for this purpose.’ Then he recited these verses: ‘O, the most exalted among the buried people who improved the worth of the plains and the hillocks! May I sacrifice my life for this grave which is made radiant by you, (the Prophet,) the one who is (an embodiment of) mercy and forgiveness.’ Then the bedouin went away and I fell asleep. In my dream I saw the Holy Prophet . He said to me: ‘O ‘Utbī, the bedouin is right, go and give him the good news that Allāh has forgiven his sins.( Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr-ul-Qur’ān al-‘azīm (1:519-20)}
We come to learn from the words jā’ūka fastaghfarullāha of the Qur’ānic verse that sinners and wrong-doers should ask Allāh’s forgiveness through the means of the Holy Prophet while the words wastaghfara lahum-ur-rasūlu furnish a proof of his intercession. In lawajadullāha tawwāb-ar-rahīmā the proof of intermediation is embedded n a precondition: seek forgiveness through the means of the Messenger and it is clear when the Messenger asked forgiveness for his follower, the act of intermediation turned into an act of intercession and through intercession the grant of forgiveness itself becomes a means of forgiveness.
Some people treat means and intercession as two different things. Therefore, it should be noted that when the Prophet is elevated to the office of intercession, he can claim it as his right while this very act serves as a means in favour of his follower.
The happening of the bedouin has been recorded by the following:
- Bayhaqī in Shu‘ab-ul-īmān (3:495-6#4178).
- Ibn Qudāmah in al-Mughnī (3:557).
- Nawawī in al-Adhkār (pp. 92-3).
- Ibn ‘Asākir in Tahdhīb tārīkh Dimashq al-kabīr popularly known as Tārīkh/Tahdhīb Ibn ‘Asākir as quoted by Subkī in Shifā’-us-siqām fī ziyārat khayr-il-anām (pp. 46-7).
- Ibn Hajar Haythamī in al-Jawhar-ul-munazzam (p.51).
Besides, all scholars of repute have described in their books, in chapters on ‘visiting the tomb of the holy Messenger ’ or ‘the rit uals of hajj,’ ‘Utbī’s tradition that the villager visited the tomb of the Messenger to ask for forgiveness.