Anas ibn Maalik narrated that when they suffered drought, Umar would seek rain by virtue of al-‘Abbaas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, and he would say: “O Allaah, we used to ask You for rain by virtue (means) of our Prophet and You gave us rain. Now we ask You for rain by virtue (means) of the paternal uncle of our Prophet, so give us rain” (al- Abbaas responded by saying, “0 Allaah no misfortune descends except due to sins, and is not removed except through repentance, and the people turn to You by means of me due to my position with regard to Your Prophet. Here are our hands turned to you with our sins, and our forelocks turned to you in repentance. So bless us with a downpour of rain,” He said: So the heavens released rain like the mountains, the earth became fertile and the people lived.”) and they would be given rain.
The part of the hadeeth not in brackets is reported in Al-Bukhaari. The response of al-Abbaas to Umar’s request which is in brackets was reported with an authentic chain of narration by al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalaanee, in al-Fath (his explanation of al-Bukhaari) (3/150), saying: “Az-Zubayr ibn al-Bakkaar mentions in al-Ansaab the description of the supplication of al-‘Abbaas at this occasion and at that time.”
This hadeeth (the part not in the brackets) has been the cause of much dispute. Some people saying the hadeeth proves a person can make tawassul (seek a means of nearness to Allah) with the righteous. This type of tawassul involves a person coming to a righteous person who is alive and asking him to supplicate to Allah on there behalf.
While others think it does prove a person can make tawassul through the prophet or awliyeha. As they claim in this hadeeth Umar makes tawassul through al- Abbaas. These people claim Umar did not do tawassul through the prophet because he wanted to teach the people that they could make tawassul through the status of a righteous person not just the prophet.
The hadeeth indicates that Umar made tawassul by asking al-Abbaas to supplicate on the peoples behalf, not by asking Allah through al-Abbaases.
Umar said “O Allaah, we used to ask you for rain by virtue (means) of our Prophet and you gave us rain.”
This seems as though he used to make tawassul through the prophets status. However what he meant was in the time of the prophet if there had been a drought, the sahaba would come to the prophet and ask him to make du’aa to Allah asking for rain.
In Bukhaari there is a hadeeth in which a man comes to the prophet and in the middle of the Friday khutbah and he asks the prophet to supplicate to Allah asking him to give his people rain . So the prophet made the supplication and Allah gave the people rain. (This hadeeth is narrated in full below).
So coming to the prophet and asking him to supplicate to Allah for a certain need (rain, good health, etc) was a normal practice among the sahaba. This why Umar said “O Allaah, we used to ask you for rain by virtue (means) of our Prophet (his du’aa to Allah on their behalf) and you gave us rain.”
Also Umar “Now we ask you for rain by virtue (means) of the paternal Uncle of the prophet, so give us rain”
Here Umar asks al-Abbaas to supplicate for rain, as the prophet is dead so he can no longer ask him. The fact Umar did not ask the prophet for rain when the prophet was dead or go to his grave and ask him, indicates going to his grave or asking Allah through his status indicates doing either of these things are haraam. This is permissible as in the time of the prophet the sahaba used to do the same thing.
Its known he did not make tawassul through his status for a number of reasons.
The first reason is another authentic hadeeth (the part in the brackets) explains to us that he went in person and asked al-Abbaas. This is why in the other hadeeth al-Abbaas responds to Umar’s supplication if al-Abbaas was not there he could not have responded. So Umar just ask Allah to give the people through the status of al-Abbaas he actual whet to see him in person and ask him as this is the sunnah.
The second reason is in the other authentic hadeeth al-Abbaas makes du’aa for rain which explains why Umar said “we ask you for rain by virtue (means) of the paternal Uncle of the prophet”. This shows that what Umar meant was ‘we’ meaning the people ask ‘you’ meaning Allah for rain by ‘virtue of the paternal uncle of the prophet’ means through his du’aa he will make on our behalf to you Allah.
Therefore what Umar meant was ‘O Allah please give us rain due to the du’aa Al-Abbaas’.
He knew al-Abbaas was going to make this du’aa as al-Abbaas was standing next to him listening to his supplication this is why al-Abbaas responded as soon as Umar finished his duaa, which was also a request to al-Abbaas to supplicate for the people. So al-Abbaas accepted the request of Umar and supplicated on the peoples behalf.
Hadeeth Tawassul with the Prophet
Anas ibn Maalik, reports, saying: “The people were afflicted with drought in the time of the Prophet, so whilst the Prophet was giving the khutbah [upon the minbar], standing, on the day of jumuah a Bedouin [from the people of the desert] stood and said: “0 Messenger of Allaah, the livestock are dying and the children are hungry so supplicate to Allaah for us [that he should give us rain] So he raised up his hands and supplicated [until I saw the whiteness of his armpits], 0 Allaah bless us with rain, 0 Allaah bless us with rain and the people raised up their hands along with him supplicating, and we could not see any trace of clouds. He (Anas) said: So I then saw a large cloud like a shield and when it came to the middle of the sky it spread and it rained. By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, as soon as he had lowered his hands clouds like mountains had gathered, and he did not descend from the minbar until I saw the rain dripping from his beard, and he came down from the minbar and prayed the Prayer so we went out and waded through the water until we reached our homes. So it continued to rain that day, and the next, and the next, and that which followed, until the following Jumuah and it had not ceased [so the waterways of al-Madeenaah were filled]. Then that bedouin or someone else stood up and he said: 0 Messenger of Allaah, buildings are being destroyed, and livestock are being drowned. So supplicate to Allaah [to withhold it] for us so the Prophet smiled and he raised his hands and said: 0 Allaah, around us and not upon us, [0 Allaah upon the tops of mountains, hillocks [and hills] and river beds and places where trees grow}. So he did not point with his hand in any direction except that the clouds cleared away producing a clear circular hole and we went out walking in the sunshine. So Allaah showed them a miracle for His Prophet and His response to his supplication. The valley of Qanaat was flooded for a month, and no one came from outside except that he told of abundant rain.” Al-Bukhaari
Another reason it is wrong to do tawassul through the status of the prophet or the righteous, is the story about the sahaba Mu’aawiyah ibn Abee Sufyaan. While Mu’aawiyah was the governor of Damascus the people in Damascus suffered a drought. So he asked a man called Yazeed ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashee to make du’aa to Allah on behalf of the people of Damascus for it to rain. So Mu’aawiyah did tawassul through a righteous person which is permissible. This is the type of tawassul which was done in the story of Umar ibn Al-Khtaab and in the story of the prophet Mohammed which were both previously mentioned.
Athar Of Mu’aawiyah ibn Abee Sufyaan
al-Haafidh Ibn Asaakir reports in his Tareekh (18/151/1) with an authentic chain of narration from the noble tabi’ee Sulaym ibn ‘Aamir al-Khabaairee and Al-Haafidh al-‘Asqalaanee reports the same story with an authentic chain of narration but he attributes it in al-Isaabah (3/634) to Aboo Zur’ah ad-Dimashqee and Ya’qoob ibn Sufyaan in his Tareekh with an authentic chain of narration from Sulaym ibn ‘Aamir.
“That the sky withheld any rain, so Mu’aawiyah ibn Abee Sufyaan and the people of Damascus went out to pray for rain. So when Mu’aawiyah sat upon the minbar he said: ‘Where is Yazeed ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashee?’ So the people called him and he came stepping between the people. Then Mu’aawiyah commanded him and he ascended the minbar and sat at his feet. Then Mu’aawiyah said: “0 Allaah we are today asking the best and most noble amongst us to supplicate to You for us, 0 Allaah today we put Yazeed ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashee forward to supplicate to You for us,” “0 Yazeed raise up your hands to Allaah.” So he raised up his hands and the people raised up their hands. Then very quickly rain -clouds like a large shield came quickly from the west, and the wind blew and it rained so profusely that people could hardly reach their houses.”
Ibn ‘Asaakir also reports with an authentic chain of narration that ad-Dahhaak ibn Qays went with the people to pray for rain, and he also said to Yazeed ibn al-Aswad: ‘Stand up 0 he who weeps much!’ and in a narration: “So he only supplicated three times before it rained so heavily that it almost drowned them.”
So from the story of the Prophet Mohammed, Umar ibn Al-Khataab and Mu’aawiyah it is clear that tawassul with the righteous is fine (asking a pious Muslim to supplicate to Allah on your behalf) and is prove by authentic narrations. But tawassul through the status of the dead awleyah, was not done by any of the sahaba.