Peace be upon whoever follows the guidance.
Dear reader, my intention with this writing is to do service to Allah, The Holy, who has the right of my service. Praise be to Allah.
Allah is The Most Merciful, and The Most Gracious, and He doesn’t punish those who make errors through ignorance, as long as they correct their ways. Praise be to God, the Acceptor of Repentance, The Oft-Forgiving, The Most Merciful, The Most Gracious.
I fear saying things about God that are not true. Allah has prohibited us from saying something about Him that we do not know (Q 7:33). In fact, I’ve resisted writing about religion due to this fear. I’ve occasionally written about religion, but I haven’t made any great effort to have my writing established. I believe that correctly reading the Qur’an is better, and that writing about it is also good, but not nearly as good as reading the Qur’an properly in the first place. Allah has called us, very clearly, to read, not to write, but He hasn’t prohibited us from writing.
However, it seems to me that the existing wrtings on this topic are not comprehensive enough, and that it’s such an important topic that it must be addressed.
I pray that Allah forgive me for any wrongdoing I may commit with this effort, and increase the good of it, and accept from me the good of it. May his mercy be carried in the writing.
Since this widespread error is so concerning to me, I want to make clear what’s compelling me so that people can assess my discussion with awareness of that. The crux of ‘the error’ and ‘it’s importance’ are roughly the following:
That Muhammad will intercede for the faithful on The Day of Judgement;
that a human being, whosoever, will be endowed with the power to do so;
and that Allah has taught this.
I believe that this issue is of the utmost importance;
the most important thing for mankind is the relationship to Allah, and since intercession claims lie in that area, then this issue is among the most important things anyone can contemplate and seek to understand;
and rewording it,
to correctly identify and understand our Creator and Sustainer, and to relate to our Creator and Sustainer in a sound way, is the most important thing mankind can do.
Also, the security of monotheism will be compromised if intercession is significantly misunderstood, and compromised monotheism is polytheism, which is the road to Hellfire;
the matter of intercession has been mentioned in the Qur’an and in the previous revelations numerous times, which means that it’s undoubtably important;
in the Noble Qur’an, people who fear standing before their Lord are given a warning about intercession, which also shows that it’s very important. Allah wouldn’t give a warning unless there was a danger.
The essay contains 2 parts:
Part 1: What the Qur’an says on intercession:
- general power and permission for intercession
- ability to intercede
- specific Judgement Day intercession
Part 2: Why many people aren’t accepting what the Qur’an says about it.
- delusion regarding intercession;
- failure in receiving admonition (tadzakkur)
- distortion in receiving the explanation (bayan) of the Quran
The main points of discussion covered by the above include discussion of the mechanics of intercession and discussion of the authoity to intercede.
A matter doesn’t always have to be understood to be accepted or rejected. While it may be that it is accepted or rejected on the basis of understanding, i.e, knowledge of the matter itself, that’s not the only criterion in religion, and not always the primary criterion.
Many acts based on authority, not understanding, are found within the universe, and these are certainly found within the subsection of it that we know as human action. In those cases, analysing the legitimacy of authority may be a more beneficial discussion than understanding the act of itself.
Not only in broader human life, but specifically within religion, we can observe many examples of people acting without having to fully understand why. Some of these are good actions that an authority has required of a subordinate, such as Allah requiring that we accept his mandate for the creation of mankind, even though we can’t fully understand it (surah Al Baqarah).
Allah created us with an innate desire to know and confirm truth. He calls us to value the truth, to discover it, and to share it amongst one another. In order to know the truth we have to have a source of it. For us, the source of religious truth is revelation. The Qur’an is a revelation and the Qur’an is the truth.
What the Qur’an says on intercession
The Qur’an says:
- all intercession belongs to Allah
Say: “All intercession is with Allah. To Him belongs the dominion of the Heavens and the Earth. Then to Him you will be returned”.
Those who claim that Muhammad will intercede on Judgement Day may say that this verse doesn’t contradict their claim. This is true. The verse itself doesn’t state that Muhammad couldn’t be given such power. In fact, this verse, if it could be taken alone and completely disconnected from the Qur’an, could be used to support that claim.
It would easy to say that all intercession belongs to Allah and Allah has delegated it to Muhammad. However, this verse is not alone. It’s part of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an says
- no-one can intercede without Allah’s permission
Allah – There is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the Heavens and whatever is on the Earth. Who can intercede with Him without his permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not encompass a thing of his knowledge except for what He wills. His Throne extends over the Heavens and the Earth, and He is never weary of preserving them.He is The Most High, The Supreme.
We need to note what this verse is about. Allah knows best, and I don’t want to claim to perfectly know the meaning of Allah’s speech. Yet we can also take an opinion. My opinion is that this verse is about Allah. How many parts of it are about Allah? His name, his oneness, his attributes of eternally being alive and as sustainer, let’s say that’s 3. Next, it mentions his sovereignty of the Heavens and the Earth, that’s 4 things about Allah.
Next, the subordination of intercession, that’s 5. Then it mentions about his knowledge, and then the knowledge that people obtain, yet even then it’s about the role of his will in that, not just about their knowing something. That’s 7 things about Allah that this verse mentions.
Then his throne, that’s 8. Then two more of his attributes. That’s 9, although the counting is rough. There are about 9 main points in the verse, and all about Allah. The verse isn’t about what food is halal or about the way to do salat, it’s about Allah.
Then if one of us wants to look at what this verse says about intercession, it’s necessary to see the mention of intercession in the context. The context is that we are learning about Allah. It would be unwise to look at a part of the verse without noting that.
Now, here’s how that relates to the discussion. This is key because a lot of people these days are quoting this verse to support their idea that the prophet will intercede for them at the time of Judgment.
For example, if someone says “Muhammad will intercede for me on Judgement Day”, and then another says “What’s your proof for that?”, and the first person replies “It’s in the verse of the Throne”, that would be unwise because the verse doesn’t state what the claim states. Actually, this verse is silent of whether or not Muhammad will intercede for you on Judgement Day.
Like the previous point, which noted that “All intercession is with Allah”, the noble verse of the Throne neither confirms nor denies intercession by anyone. It doesn’t mention any specific case of intercession. It’s not about that. The verse is about Allah’s attributes.
So, if this verse is taken as proof that Muhammad will intercede for his people on Judgement Day, it’s insufficient as proof. The verse simply states that intercession requires his permission.
If Allah did give Muhammad such permission, then this verse would confirm that, while while if Allah denied the permission, then this verse would be support for the denial. In that case, this verse would support rejection. Who can intercede with Him without his permission? Nobody can intercede with Him without it.
In fact, this verse is a significant part of the rejection of unauthorised intercession claims. In other parts of the Qur’an, Allah clarifies that there is no intercession at Judgement, and with the support from this verse, that proves that there can’t be any intercession.
If it were not for this verse, one might say: “I have another channel to intercession, it’s not Allah, but it’s a permit that will be given to my prophet by such-and-such”. However, after the revelation of this verse, it is clear that you can’t get an intercession permit from anyone else, only Allah.
The Qur’an says:
- seeking intercession from other than Allah goes into idolatry
And they serve before Allah what can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say: ‘These are our intrcessors with Allah.’ Say: ‘Do you inform Allah of what He knows not in the heavens and the earteh?’ Exalted is He, and He is high above what they join with Him (Jonah 10:18)
In this verse there is proof that seeking intercession may lead to polytheism. The link between intercession and polytheism is “what they join with Him / ‘amma yushrikuun”).
The Qur’an says
- intercession is not possible without power and cognition
What! Do they take for intercessors others besides Allah? Say: “Even if they have no power whatever and no intelligence?”.
This verse is a strong rejection and refutation against those who think that anyone will intercede for them in their affairs.
1. The rejection. Taking intercessors besides Allah is put down.
The style of the language puts it right down: “What! Do they… “, and, as shown in the following discussion, this very same language is also used elsewhere in the Qur’an to put down several other erroneous courses of action. Although it’s a question, the question is in a tone of disgust or surprise which shows that it’s bringing out the blameworthiness of the act.
Whatever you call it, disgust, surprise, jest, or something else, it’s to show rejection. Tremendous support for this is that the same phrasology is used in other parts of the Qur’an to reject similar matters. That it’s rejection is obvious from the verse itself, but to add further support, I’ll mention some other cases of the same phrasology in the Qur’an.
The Qur’an says, for example, “What! Have they taken gods from the earth who can raise the dead?”. The very same words are used in this statement as the words used in verse 43 of Az Zumar, the verse under discussion: Those words are “Am attakhadzu…” which means “Or have they taken…”, or in another translation “Or have they set up…”. The word “Or” isn’t really a good translation, since the use of it in Arabic isn’t the same as the use of “or” in English. Another translation is “What! Have they taken…”.
In the last example the Quranic language used in verse 21 of chapter 21 to reject the taking of false gods is the same as the language used in surah az Zumar to reject the taking of intercessors besides Allah.
The same phrasology appears again in chapter 42 of the Qur’an verse 9: “Or have they taken guardians besides Him? But Allah is the Guardian, and He gives life to the dead, and He has power over all things”. That’s enough to prove that the phrase used in Zumar verse 43 is a rejection, although there are also further cases in the Qur’an that employ the same phrase.
2. The refutation. The mechanics of the claim are shown to be deficient. Two dynamics are discussed: power and cognition.
The Qur’an says “Say: I have no power over any harm or profit to myself except what Allah may will. For every community there is a term appointed; when their term is reached, neither can they delay it nor can they advance it an hour”, and Muhammad was certainly commanded to say these words.
That is already sufficient to cover this subsection of the discussion, i.e, the power to intercede, however, I hope it will be helpful if the point is elaborated further.
If I may say so, the mechanics of how intercession works is a topic that is often lacking in debates about intercession. Most debates are focused on authority, because authority is key, but a genuine debate should not neglect the role of understanding if it is available.
In this article, the discussion is intercession and since the Qur’an gives us a glimpse of how intercession works, the debate will be more well-informed if it takes advantage of what Allah has given us of the understanding of intercession. So the discussion needn’t be limited to authority. Some discussion of understanding is also available, and all praise be to Allah.
This verse isn’t about the authority to intercede, but about how intercession works, and there are two things mentioned: power and cognition. Here, Allah has given us some understanding. Praise be to Allah!
So how does it work? Here’s a simple example: Even though a person be employed on a farm and picking some lovely figs from it, yet they can’t necessarily intercede for people who ask them for free figs. They don’t have the power to do that, as they don’t own the figs.
You might say that they can intercede, because they can take you to the owner, but while that’s true, it’s not the answer to the original problem, which is whether or not you get the figs. They don’t have the power to determine what you get.
Another way to study this is to think of a mayor. He can decide what happens in his city, but not what happens across the whole country. The ‘power’ to do something gives the mayor the ‘power’ to intercede in the affairs of his city. His intercession is limited to his domain, and this is what the verse is indicating when it says “Say: Even if they don’t have the power…”.
These examples show that the ability to intercede in something requires your having the power to intercede in it. Anyone who is going to intercede in getting a visa for someone will have to have the power to do so. And whoever wants to intercede in the spiritual transformation of a human being will have to have the power to do that or have knowledge of the spirits of human beings.
As for interceding in the creative process, or in the actual physical and metaphysical spiritual transformation, such as making you into a flawless being and seating you in a pavilion in Paradise, or actually walking up and taking you by the hand on Judgement Day, and ushering you over and putting you in the line for Paradise, prophets don’t have such power, so they can’t intercede in that way. Yet, that’s not the claim I’m refuting right now. That’s closer to making prophets deities and it’s not what the people are saying. What people are saying is that Muhammad will pray for us, not that he’s going to do divine works.
Let me note that there are also such claims out there. That is, claims that Muhammad will actually go into Hell and drag people out. Although these claims also say that his doing that would be based on Allah giving him the power and the permission to do so, it means that he would need a more miraculous ability than what prophets have. Prophets pray, so claiming that he will pray is not out the range, but prophets don’t go in and out of hell on errands, so it would be another discussion in itself.
Rather, most of this discussion is about the claim that Muhammad will pray for us on Judgement Day, which is also a form of intercession, and which is a more reasonable claim than saying that He will go into Hell and drag people out.
Admittedly prophets can intercede in the matters of their communities in several ways, and prayer is one of them. While alive, a prophet can give people advice, give out food, and so on and they can pray for their people. This last one, prayer, is the form of intercession that is the main subject of this discussion.
Intercessory prayer is found in the stories of the prophets and reported in the Holy Books. According to the books of Allah, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad all prayed for their people, and other prophets did too. However, all of that took place while they were alive.
In the case of intercession by prayer, and this is because prayer itself is a supplication, not an act of it’s own commission, then the problem of having enough power to intercede may appear to be transferred to the thing you’re asking from. But the problem isn’t transferred. The problem of whether or not Muhammad can intercede is still there, whether he goes to Allah or not. The question is ‘Does he have the power to intercede?’.
While Allah can intercede in the affairs of the person who is being prayed for, that’s Allah’s attribute, not the prophet’s, and so it’s not the focus of the verse. In verses 43 and 44 of az Zumar, the roles are given. The claimed intercessors can’t intercede because they don’t the sovereignty to do so, while Allah owns all intercession because he has sovereignty over the entire Heavens and Earth.
The arabic verb ‘yamliku’ which means to own or possess or to have dominion is used twice. One for the claimed intercessors (‘laa yamlikuna shay’ / they don’t have sovereignty over anything) nd oce for Allah (‘lahu l mulku samaawaati wal ardh’ / for Him is the sovereignty of the Heavens and the Earth). It’s clear that the sovereignty and the power to intercede go hand in hand.
So the verse “Say: Even if they have not the power …” is to be applied to the intercessor itself, not another thing which he is interacting with. Even if I have the money, I can’t intercede to get you a plane ticket if the ticket office is already closed and the plane is taking off. You had to get a ticket before that.
This is the mechanics of intercession.
Two important dynamics are mentioned in the verse: power and cognisance, and the first of them, power, is still under discussion.
The power problem can be phrased like this: “Does the prophet have the power to offer his intercession, even if only in the form of a prophet’s prayer, not working directly on the souls in the works of deities”?
No, according to the Qur’an, he doesn’t have the power to intercede on Judgement Day, because he doesn’t have the power to do so.
If a questioner asked me: “What do you mean, Abdullah? He doesn’t have the power to do what? To change souls like a deity can?”.
Then I would say: At the time of Judgement, he has neither the power to change souls nor the power to intercede for them with prayer.
Allah is the Malik of the Day which means the power-holder, the king. He is the King of the Day of Recompense (Qur’an surah al Fatiha). In Arabic, the one who has ‘mulk’ (sovereignty) is a ‘malik’ (sovereign / king). If an intercessor had a certain power, he would be a malik of that power.
As for the second dynamic mentioned in the verse, it is cognition or intellect (‘aql).
For what I know, may Allah have mercy on me, the prophet’s cognition is also not sufficient for Judgement Day intercession on behalf of souls, whether acting like a deity or simply a prophet coming as an advocate.
Why should I say so? In the first case, that is the case of a prophet-god, then the prophet would have knowledge that only Allah has. So that can’t be. There are no prophet-gods. There are no gods but Allah.
Then in the second case, that is where the prophet prays for people on Judgeemnt Day, it is also not going to happen, because prayer, if it be an act of intercession in the court of judgement, will still leave the prophet with a cognisance failure: you can’t pray for something that you don’t know about. Unless Muhammad knows the judgements of souls, he’s not fit to pray for them in the court of judgment. He can’t be a jury member, giving his recommendation to the judge, unless he has full information of their cases.
Noah couldn’t pray for his son whom Allah condemned. Noah said: “My Lord, I seek refuge in You from asking that of which I have no knowledge” (Qur’an surah Hud).
So the problem of cognition. If the prophet could physically intercede for people, like going into Hell and dragging people out, he’d need to have cognisance of who was worthy of Heaven and who was worthy Hell. Since he can’t cognise that, it means he can’t intercede.
And likewise, even if we don’t consider physical superhuman physical intercession, but we simply discuss intercessory prayer, the prophet would still need to have knowledge of, or cognisance of, who was worthy of his prayer and who not, but this knowledge is not in the hands of the prophets, and they are not permitted to pray for whom Allah is condemning.
So, can a prophet be given the power and the cognisance to pray for us on Judgement Day? That is the discussion of the permission to intercede. This part was about the mechanics of intercession, not so much the permission.
Permission to intercede was discussed before this section in a mention of the general: being the supreme or overriding power of Allah in all cases of intercession and after this section in a mention of the specific: being the revelations about judgment time itself and the rejection of intercession therein.
The Qur’an says
- we have no intercessors besides Allah
It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then He established Himself above the Throne. You have not besides Him any protector or any intercessor; so will you not be reminded?
The above verse is in surah as Sajdah. The chapter is about the Greatness of Allah. This is not a misinterpretation. It’s easy. There is no intercessor for us but Allah. That’s what He has revealed to us.
The Qur’an says
- we are warned about it
And warn by the Qur’an those who fear that they will be gathered before their Lord – for them besides Him will be no protector and no intercessor – that they might become righteous (Qur’an 6:51).
6:51 starts with “Wa anzhir” which means and warn. Allah would not give us a warning about something unless there was a danger. Subhaanallah!
Furthermore, the fact that we, along with our messenger, have to give a warning about this, means that it is a fundamental part of our mission. Subhaanallah!
It’s a great tragedy that many believers are unaware of this and that many are in fact calling people to the opposite of what this verse commands us: many are calling people to take Muhammad as an intercessor! Allah is the Acceptor of Repentance. Allah is the Most Merciful.
The Qur’an says
- there is no intercession at the time of Judgement, and intercession will not be accepted at that time, and intercession will not be of benefit at that time, which are more or less three different ways of stating the same thing
And fear a Day when no soul will suffice for another soul at all, nor will intercession be accepted from it, nor will compensation be taken from it, nor will they be aided (Qur’an 2:48).
And fear a Day when no soul will suffice for another soul at all, and no compensation will be accepted from it, nor will any intercession benefit it, nor will they be aided (Qur’an 2:123).
O you who have believed, spend from that which We have provided for you before there comes a Day in which there is no exchange and no friendship and no intercession. And the disbelievers – they are the wrongdoers.
We know from verses of the Qur’an that intercession will not be accepted on Judgement Day, will not benefit, and will not happen. Allah is The Master of the Day of Judgement and the Master has told the servants about that event.
Why many people aren’t accepting what the Qur’an says about intercession
Fruitless hope in false Intercessors is a mistake that mankind has been destined to commit
You have come to Us each on his own, just as We created you the first time, and you have left behind what We had provided for you. We do not see with you your intercessors whom you claimed were associates with you. All ties between you have been cut off and that which you were claiming has deserted you.
Tadzakkur is the making of effort to achieve dzikr, or rememberance. People are not making sufficient effort to receive Allah’s revealed rememberance, held back by:
- lack of persistence,
- lack of precision,
- seeking money,
- seeking to agree with people,
- and other factors.
The Qur’an says in chapter 32, verse 4, teaching us of Allah’s greatness:
It is Allah Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all between them, in six Days, and is firmly established on the Throne: you have none, besides Him, to protect or intercede for you: will you not then receive admonition.
Although this verse states clearly that there is no intercessor besides Allah himself, there is a key to accepting this: you have to be willing to take the admonition: ‘Will you not take the admonition?’ / ‘A fa laa tatadzakkaruun?’.
The phrase ‘a fa laa tatadzakkaruun?’ means ‘Won’t you heed the reminder?’. The same phrase as appears in the above verse (32:4) was used by Abraham when his people were rejecting his call!
The Qur’an says in surah 6, verse 80, reporting the discussion between Abraham and his people, who were polytheists:
His people disputed with him. He said: “Do you dispute with me about Allah, when He has guided me? I don’t fear what you associate with Allah: [Nothing can happen] unless my Lord wills. My Lord comprehends in His knowledge all things. Will you not be admonished?
The distorted understanding of what Allah really meant with ‘bayan’ (explanation) by a large section of scholars. Following some of the errors of the People of The Book, it means over-reliance on man-made techniques in interpretation of the meaning of the Holy Book.
The Qur’an in verse 184 of surah al Baqarah says that it is guidance and also evidence for the guidance and for the criterion (bayyinaat). Many scholars have strayed in their evidential criteria and methods, so that they take the religion from a mix of revelation and scientific work, not just from revelation.
While I don’t carry an outright objection to science and logic, they can never be put on the same platform as revelation. They must be subjugated to the guidance of Allah, the revealed guidance that the prophets received. The techniques of logic, meditation, and the like must not overrun the mind or the heart.
The messengers weren’t as much scholars of interpretation as conveyors of Allah’s explanations and such information as He chose to give them (bayan). While the scholars are wont to use scholarship and it does us both good and terrible harm.