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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionResembling Polytheists

In the glorious Qur’an, God considers the polytheists of the time of the Prophet (s) polytheist because they ask Shafa’a from other than God, “They worship besides Allah that which neither causes them any harm, nor brings them any benefit, and they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah.'” (10:18)

Answer: There is no doubt that polytheists of the time of the Prophet (s) considered the rights to make Shafa’a for their idols and gods, but this verse implies that they worshiped idols and also considered the rights to make Shafa’a for them and thus believing in their Shafa’a together with worshiping them led to their criticism.

Polytheists considered unconditional rights to make Shafa’a for their idols which God never had given them such position. Also, they believed in their divinity and worshiped them; while if one believes in someone’s rights to make Shafa’a God has given him and that using such rights is by the permission of God, then there would be no problem. On the other hand, no Muslim considers the position of divinity for intercessors to worship them so that his act resembles the acts of the polytheists.

It is obvious that only showing respect and kissing Zarih in holy shrines without believing in divinity would not be considered as worship; for if it was considered so, then respecting and kissing the hands of parents would also be considered as worshiping them.

Another point is that idols made of stone and wood had no permission for making any harm or benefit and it was only the claim of idol-worshipers who believed in the effects of those stone and wood and their beliefs are different from the effects believed to exist in the Shafa’a of the intercessors by the permission of God.[Qur’an 10:18]

In this verse, God addresses the idol-worshipers that, “you believe in positions for idols I have not given to them. Do you want to give news to God about what (idols’ effects) He does not have news about?” and this is different with asking the friends of God for Shafa’a.

This verse has not mentioned anything about asking for Shafa’a; rather it addresses believing in the Shafa’a of idols, “they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah.'” (10:18) and it has not said, “they say, make intercession for us before Allah.'”

Therefore, if Wahhabi’s reasoning is right, then believing in Shafa’a would be totally polytheistic and this includes Wahhabis as well, because they believe in Shafa’a in general.

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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionThe most important criticisms about intercession

Asking Shafa’a from the intercessor means to call anyone other than God and this is polytheism in worshipping, because God says, “so do not invoke anyone along with Allah.” (72:18)

Answer: The above criticism comes from Wahhabis’ misunderstanding of the meaning of unity of God and polytheism. The true understanding of polytheism and unity of God implies that invoking anyone other than God does not mean polytheism in itself and it is not even forbidden since polytheism refers to cases in which one believes an independent divinity and lordship other than God and Shi’a never believe as such either about their Imams (a) or any other beings but for God alone.

Undoubtedly, invoking Muslims and requesting them for help is a permissible action and they need to help such an invoker as much as they can. On the other hand, when an action is permissible for a person, asking him to do that is permissible as well. When Shafa’a would be permissible for the Prophet (s) and other intercessors, asking Shafa’a from them would also be permissible.

Asking people for making du’a for one is permissible in the view of all Muslims such as that we ask someone, “make du’a for me”; therefore, asking Shafa’a from a person who has permission for that from God, such as he is asked, “make Shafa’a for me before God” is also permissible.

To forgive sins, God invites people to ask the Prophet (s) to make du’a for their forgiveness,

“Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you and pleaded to Allah for forgiveness, and the Apostle had pleaded for forgiveness for them, they would have surely found Allah all-clement, all-merciful.” (4:64)

Some tried to explain the meaning of this verse so that, people harassed the Prophet (s) and needed to ask him for forgiveness; but through a more careful look into the verse, wrongness of this interpretation can be understood so that, if the Prophet (s) was about to forgive people’s sin about his own rights, the verse needed to say “وَ غَفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسولُ” [and the Prophet forgave them] while the verse says, “وَ اسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسولُ”” [the Prophet (s) made du’a for their forgiveness.]

Moreover, the verse Wahhabis refer to (72:18) prohibits Muslims from partnership and association, i.e. that Muslims do not consider anyone at similar level with God. The verse actually addresses polytheists who regarded the means independently. Also, if asking from anyone other than God is a polytheistic act, there would be no difference between the life and after death of people and thus no one should ever ask the Prophet (s) or another even during their lifetimes.

In authentic Sunni hadiths, it is mentioned that Tirmidhi quoted from Anas b. Malik that he asked the Prophet (s) to make Shafa’a for him on the Day of Judgment. He is quoted saying, “I asked the Prophet (s) to make Shafa’a for me on the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (s) said, ‘I will.’ I said, ‘where should I look for you then?’ He (s) said, ‘first near Sirat Bridge.'”[Tirmidhi, Sunan, vol.4 p.621]

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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionDeniers of Shafa’a

Those who have basically denied Shafa’a have mentioned some reasons:

Shafa’a Causes Boldness over Sinning

Some believe that believing in Shafa’a causes boldness over sinning in people and revives the spirit of transgression in sinners and criminals; thus, believing in it is not compatible with the spirit of the Islamic law and other laws.

Answer: firstly, if it is so, repentance which brings the forgiveness of sins can be considered as encouraging people to sin again; while, repentance is an original Islamic belief and agreed by all Muslims.

Secondly, Shafa’a would lead to transgression only if includes all criminals in general; but, if it becomes ambiguous that for what sins and sinners and when on the Day of Judgment, Sahfa’a would be used, then it would not lead to encouragement of sinning.

There is no Need for a Mediator between God and Human Being

God is closer to human beings than their veins and more merciful than anyone to His creation, thus why would we go to anyone other than Him for any request.

Answer: It is true that God is closer to us than our vein, but the wisdom of creation of human being on earth has required that God sends His messengers to guide people than speaking directly to them and that wisdom also required that the position of these messengers would be high before people so that the guidance would be accomplished in a better way, therefore God granted them infallibility from sinning and error so that human being would follow them confidently and gave them positions in appearance so that their great positions before God is better known to people and attracted people’s hearts to them.

In the Qur’an, God mentions some cases and tells people to take these people as mediator in order to reach better results, cases such as the brothers of prophet Joseph (a) who asked their father to intercede for them and ask God for their forgiveness, or elsewhere introduced the Last Prophet’s (s) asking for forgiveness more effective than people’s own supplication or mentioned that people referred to prophet Jesus (s) as the divine proof of their time to heal their sick ones and solve their problems. If it was wrong to take a mediator while knowing the closeness of God, it must have been criticized in the Qur’an, not introducing it to people as a recommended act.

The Punishment of a Sinner can either be Practicing Justice about him or Shafa’a

Shafa’a removes the punishment, which is either justice or oppression. If it is justice, then punishment has been God’s oppression (God forbids), and if it is basically oppression and punishment and justice, then Sahfa’a of intercessors and their action in removing the punishment is oppression.

Answer: removing the punishment can be mercy and neither labels of justice or punishment applies about it. In other words, removing punishment is mercy and above justice. God, the Immaculate has determined punishment for wrongdoers according to His justice, but removing punishment due to Shafa’a is mercy and kindness. God has taught His servants to be just and ordered them to try to reach the level higher than justice which is kindness, “Indeed Allah enjoins justice and kindness,…” (19:90). He also taught His servants that if one did wrong about you, you can punish him due to justice, however it would be better if you forgive him due to patience and kindness.[1]
1)Qur’an, 16:126

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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionEffects of Shafa’a
The nature of Shafa’a is neither encouraging to sin, nor a green light for sinners. It is not a cause of staying behind or mediation either; rather, it is an important educational issue which has constructive effects, some of which are mentioned below:

Raising hope:
Usually, the power of the self and lowly desires leads to committing great sins and following it, a spirit of disappointment takes over the person and this disappointment leads the person to more pollution. On the contrary, being hopeful in Sahfa’a of the friends of God, as a preventive factor, gives people hope that if they correct themselves, their bad past could be compensated through shafa’a of the righteous and the pure.

Establishing spiritual connection with friends of God:
Obviously, someone who hopes in Shafa’a, tries to establish such a relation and does something which pleases them and does not break his cord of love with them, which can lead to doing more good deeds.

Trying to Acquire the Prerequisites of Sahafa’a:
The hopeful in Shafa’a need to review their deeds in the past and make better decisions about the future for Sahfa’a would not happen without proper background; and that is because Shafa’a is a kind of bestowing mercy which actualizes due to the proper background of the one who is interceded for and also because of the honor, dignity and righteous deeds of the intercessor.[22]

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Shafa’a in creation as the influence of causes exists in whole creation. Therefore, in hadiths, the right to make Shafa’a is also mentioned for some places as well as for people and groups and it refers to the effect of such issues in the guidance of people. In Shafa’a of legislation, intercessors are either among the righteous acts of a person, prophets (s), friends of God or other issues.

  • The Prophet (s): the Prophet’s (s) Shafa’a is called Shafa’a t al-Kubra [great intercession]. In different hadiths, it is mentioned that his Shafa’a will include those believers who have committed greater sins.
  • Imam ‘Ali (a)
  • Imams (a)
  • Lady Fatima (a)
  • The glorious Qur’an
  • Prophets (s) and friends of God.[1]
  • Repentance: The superiority of prophets (s) and angels over repentance is that their Shafa’a is effective also on the Day of Judgment; while, repentance is only for this world.
  • Angels[2]
  • Religious scholars[3]
  • Martyrs
  • God, the Almighty: Since God is All-merciful, after that intercessors make Shafa’a for people on the Day of Judgment, many people who will be deprived of all intercessors’ Shafa’a will receive God’s Sahfa’a and mercy.[8]
    1)Himyari, Qurb al-isnad, p.64; Qazwini, Sunan ibn maja, vol.2 p.724
    2) Qur’an, 21:28
    3) Himyari, Qurb al-isnad, p.64; Qazwini, Sunan ibn maja, vol.2 p.724
    4) Fayd al-Kashani, ‘Ilm al-yaqin, vol.2 p.1325; Bukhari, Sahih, vol.4 p.392; Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol.8 p.362

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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionRequirements of the One to be Interceded for

Shafa’a is the very same forgiveness and mercy of God and God does not exclude anyone from His mercy, but sometimes people fail to receive mercy due to incompetence. Therefore, for Shafa’a, it is necessary that the person for whom intercession is going to be made has the necessary competence.

Due to the educational purpose and avoiding people from being bold in committing sins, the Qur’an and hadiths have not mentioned all the details and requirements for one to be interceded for; however, they have mentioned some necessary requirements.

The most important requirement for one to be interceded for is that God approves of him, “…and they do not intercede except for someone He approves of,…” (21:28)

It is obvious that one who needs Shafa’a of forgiveness because some sins, God does not approve his act; rather, it means that God approves of that person’s religion and beliefs. In other words, the one who is going to be interceded for even if is a sinner and has committed greater sins, he must have not cut his relation with God and leaders of religion.

The Obstacles of Shafa’a

From the Qur’an, it can be understood that some issues are obstacles for benefiting from Shafa’a. Some groups who are deprived of Shafa’a are as follows:

  1. Disbelievers and polytheists
  2. Oppressors
  3. Enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Prophet (s) (Nawasib)
  4. Those who harassed the progeny and children of the Prophet (s)
  5. Deniers of Shafa’a
  6. Traitors
  7. Those who do not take prayer seriously
  8. Deniers of the Wilaya of Imam ‘Ali (a) and other Imams (a)
  9. Hypocrites
  10. Those who abandon prayer[1]

From the verse of the Qur’an, two requirements can be understood for those who are going to be interceded for:

  1. To have taken a covenant with God[2]
  2. To be witness to the truth[3]

1)Jawadi, Ma’ad dar Qur’an, vol.2 p.145
2)Qur’an 19:87
3)Qur’an 43:86



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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionTypes of Shafa’a

Shafa’a in Creation and Legislation

Shafa’a in creation means that the origin of any action or effect is God and all other causes and means are only means which deliver God’s mercy to lower levels by His permission. This way, all the causes in the world are intercessors of their effects since they deliver God’s mercy to lower levels. For example, the sun is the intercessor of the wheat grain to make it grow.

In the Glorious Qur’an we read, “To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that may intercede with Him except with His permission?” (2:255)

Shafa’a in legislation means that God, out of His mercy, has sent laws for people which guide them and in fact intercede them to enter the paradise. All religious rulings are of this type.

True and False Shafa’a

False Shafa’a is that the wrongdoer acts against the law and influences the will of the lawmaker through an illegal way. Such kind of Shafa’a in this world is an act of oppression and impossible in the hereafter.[1] The objections to Shafa’a are mostly of this kind and this is rejected in the glorious Qur’an as well.

The false Shafa’a originates from the belief in Tafwid [unrestricted human delegation] which is a wrong belief meaning that after creating the world, God delegated its management to others and He has no role in it and thus people would be able to make Shafa’a independently and if one can attract the intercessors’ favor, he would not need God. True Shafa’a as mentioned in the Qur’an which is believed by Shi’a and supported by Imams (a) is that Shafa’a in its wholeness belongs to God and no one can make Shafa’a without His permission.Prophets (s) and Imams’ (a) Shafa’a never means that they have an independent role or that to be privileged by their Shafa’a, one would need to do anything other than what God has ordered. On the contrary, they would only make Shafa’a for someone, God would be pleased with, “…and they do not intercede except for someone He approves of,…” (21:28)

Shafa’a for Forgiveness and Shafa’a for Propmotion

Sometimes, Shafa’a is for promotion which is accepted by all Islamic schools and sometimes, it is for forgiveness of the sins which some schools of Islam such as Mu’tazilites andKharijites reject. These two schools do not accept that Shafa’a would be made about those who commit greater sins and those who are entered to the hell. They says that, “one who has entered the hell would not exit it.”[2]

Someitmes, Shafa’a is about issues in the hereafter, such as the Shafa’a of the Prophet (s) for the sinners on the Day of Judgment and it is sometimes about issues of this world. If some actions are good, Shafa’a for them is also good, and if it is about sins, it is not only bad but also the intercessor needs to take the responsibility for a part of it.[3]
1)Mutahhari, ‘Adl-i ilahi, p.234
2)Ash’ari, Maqalat al-islamiyyin, vol.1 p.168,334; Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, vol.1 p.152
3)Qur’an 4:85

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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionShafa’a in the View of Intellect

From the point of hadiths, validity of Shafa’a is definite and its rulings are clear; however, Muslim thinkers have mentioned rational justifications as well. Murtada Mutahhari wrote,

“Even if there was no traditional justification for Shafa’a, we had to justify it using intellect and rational arguments such as the argument of Imkan Ashraf [the Possibility of the Superior] and the nature of organizational creation. When a person accepts the existence of God’s forgiveness, definite rational principles make him say that forgiveness needs to flow through a total intellect or soul, i.e. the intellect and soul of one who has the position of total divine Wilaya; and it is not possible that God’s mercy reaches creation without order.”[1]

From intellectual point of view, Shafa’a is flowing in the creation and is the requirement of the system of causality.

Rational justification is based on two criteria:

  1. The general mercy of God: God’s mercy is general and reaches all creatures. And if a creature receives a smaller proportion of divine mercy, it would only be due to his own incompetence. Basically, no creature can ever reach happiness and success alone without divine mercy or rescues punishment.
  2. Organizational nature of world: from rational viewpoint, the world has an organization and hierarchy. This system of hierarchy is the very same system of causality. Material needs of human being are fulfilled through a chain of natural causes which all effect by the permission of God.[2]

Even though mercy and forgiveness of God is general but it is not excluded from this law and they are impossible to reach the creation without means and this is true about all kinds of divine mercy. For example, revelation which is an instance of God’s guidance and mercy is not received by all human beings, but only certain people receive it and other people benefit from it through these people; because no one other than prophets (s) has such a competence to be directly addressed by God. And this is that very hierarchical system of creation. Or for another example, when Istisqa prayer [prayer requesting rain] is made, it is not that it rains without any change in the weather; but due to the Istisqa prayer, God provides all the causes and means of raining including the wind and condensation of clouds.[9] The same way as the Istisqa prayer causes that the requirements for raining are provided, Shafa’a, repentance and such cause a change in the states of the sinner so that he acquires the competence for forgiveness, decrease of punishment or promotion.[3]

The position of Shafa’a in this system is that it promotes a person’s competence so that he can more benefit from God’s general mercy. It is due to this rationality that if a one lacks perfection, it needs to acquire that perfection from a source of perfection and if it does not have the competence to receive perfection, it needs to develop its competence to necessary level. Such an action not only breaks no rule but it is in fact what rationality requires.

Therefore, Shafa’a about a person does not imply that while he is incompetent and lacks the requirements, Making Shafa’a will be accepted about him; also, Shafa’a in legislation does not mean to cancel the law and not applying the law about that wrongdoer who is deserved to be punished; rather, Shafa’a means to make such a change in that person so that he would not deserve punishment anymore and he will be excluded from that law of punishment, the same way repentance rescues a person from punishment and makes him deserved of God’s forgiveness. Therefore, it is mentioned in hadiths that Shafa’a is the best of Shafi’ [intercessor].[4]

In other words, the essential difference between the true Shafa’a with a false one is that true Shafa’a initiates from God and ends with the sinner and intercessor is only the means of delivering God’s mercy to lower levels; however, in in false Shafa’a, like favoring someone, the wrongdoer without having the required competence and only through relation requests for something.
1)Mutahhari, ‘Adl-i ilahi, p.253
2)Mutahhari, ‘Adl-i ilahi, p.232-236
3)Qur’an, 30:48
4)Jawadi, Tasnim, vol.4 p.262
5)Jawadi, Tasnim, vol.4 p.262


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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionShafa’a in Hadiths

In hadiths narrated from the Prophet (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the truth of Shafa’a has clearly been approved and explained.

  • The Prophet (s) stated, ” God blessed me with five privileges…one of which is [the right to make] Shafa’a and I have secured it for my people. Shafa’a will be for those who do not commit polytheism.”[5]
  • Also the Prophet (s) said, “three groups make Shafa’a for sinners before God and their Shafa’a will be accepted: prophets (s), scholars of religion and martyrs.”[6]

The hadiths of Shafa’a are in three groups:

  1. Hadiths which say that Shafa’a will make a sinner be forgiven from going to the hell.
  2. Hadiths which say that some sinners after while staying in the hell will enjoy Shafa’a and rescued from punishment.
  3. Hadiths which say that some people will never enjoy Shafa’a and will eternally remain in hell.

Therefore, those hadiths which say that anyone having a particle of faith will enjoy Shafa’a do not disagree those hadiths which say one who does some very wrong act such as he takes the prayer of little importance will not enjoy Shafa’a because anyone who believes in God will once enjoy Shafa’a but he will be long left in hell so that some of his impurities will be cleansed and deserve Shafa’a.
1)Ahmad, Musnad, vol.1 p.301; Nasa’i,Sunan, vol.1 p.209
2)Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol.8 p.34

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Twelve-significant-points--about-intercessionShafa’a in the Qur’an

The noble Prophet’s (s) Shafa’a has been clearly stated in the Qur’an and Muslims have no disagreement on the principle of Shafa’a in general and disagree only on its rulings and position. For example, in the verse “And keep vigil for a part of the night, as a supererogatory [devotion] for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy station.” (17:79) all Shi’a and Sunni exegetes agree that by “a praiseworthy station”, the position of Shafa’a is meant which God has promised to His Messenger (s).[1]

The verses mentioned in the Qur’an about Shafa’a can be categorized in some groups, some of them totally reject Shafa’a in the hereafter, some regard Shafa’a exclusive to God, some regard Shafa’a conditioned to the permission and order of God and some reject Shafa’a about some people.

Studying all the verses of Shafa’a implies that the glorious Qur’an approves of a kind of Shafa’a and disapproves and rejects other kinds of Shafa’a. The verses which reject Shafa’a imply that no one other than God has such a right and those verses which support Shafa’a imply that Shafa’a belongs to God and others can do Shafa’a only by His permission.

“Intercession is of no avail with Him except for those whom He permits.” (34:23)

1)Razi,al-Tafsir, vol.3 p55