Tawassul is simply a means to seek the help of Allah (SWT). It's meaning can be derived from Waseelah which is the means or methods used to draw closer to someone or something. From an Islamic point of view, it means drawing closer to Allah by obeying Him. Tawassul must meet three criterias:
- It must be directed towards Allah
- The person performing Tawassul must be a righteous person
- The proper methods of Tawassul must be used.
There are two types of Tawassul; allowed and disallowed Tawassul.
Allowed Tawassul include:
1. Tawassul by using the names of Allah
"And (all) the most beautiful names belong to Allah, so invoke Him by them...." - Q7:180
This type of Tawassul was commonly used by the Prophet (SAW) and the Salaf. Also, Allah likes when we seek Him by His names and attributes.
2. Tawassul by deeds performed for the sake of Allah
We are allowed to seek Allah by mentioning good deeds we did in good faith. These include and are not limited to our solat, sawm, dhikr and jihad. The story of the three men trapped in the cave springs to mind. Each invoked Allah by mentioning a good deed they had performed for His sake and each time the stone blocking the entrance of the cave moved until they were finally able to leave.
"Those who say: 'Our Lord! We have indeed believed, so forgive us our sins and save us from the punishment of the Fire '." - Q3:16
3. Tawassul to Allah by a righteous persons supplication on your behalf
"....Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in faith" - Q59:10
"A Muslim's invocation (to Allah) for his absent brother is accepted. " - Muslim
Whenever Umar bin Al-Khattab used to ask Al-Abbaas bin Abdul-Muttalib to invoke Allah for rain. He used to say:
"O Allah! We used to ask our Prophet to invoke You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke you rain. O Allah! Bless us with rain, and so it would rain by Allah's Leave," - Bukhari
Disallowed Tawassul are based on innovated practices. Such Tawassul would not be accepted as it contradicts the Quran and Sunnah.
1. Tawassul to Allah by using the Jaah(Status) of a person
"And they worship others beside Allah, such as do not and cannot own any provisions for them from the heavens or the earth. So out not forward similitude for Allah (as there is nothing similar to Him, nor does He resemble anything). Truly! Allah knows and you know not." - Q16:73-74
Asking favor from Allah by using the Jaah of a person can lead to shirk. We do not need any intermediary between us and Allah. This is why the companions did not invoke Allah by the Prophet (SAW) after his death and instead asked his uncle to invoke Allah on their behalf and not by his status.
The musrikoon used to perform something similar with their idols, saying:
"We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah in position" - Q39:3
2. Invoking people (dead or alive) for help
"If you invoke them, they hear not your call, and if they were to hear, they could not grant it. And on the day of Resurrection, they will disown your worship of them. And none can inform you( O Muhammed) like Him who is the All-Knower (of each and everything)." - Q35:14
3. Performing Tawaaf and Itikaaf around the graves of Righteous people.
This is an act that dates back to the period of Jaahiliyyah (pre-Islamic period of ignorance). Some people make sacrifices to graves and even circuit round them. Some even bring the ill to the vicinity in hope of relief.
"....Then do not set up rivals with Allah (in worship) while you know (that He alone has the right to be worshipped)." - Q2:22
There are right ways to seek Allah's help. And these are the ways we need to go about it. We must avoid innovation of all sorts that could lead to Shirk. Allah only accepts dua' that is within what he has allowed for us.
"...Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower?" - Q2:61
And Allah knows best. May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path. Ameen.