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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

Twelve significant points that you should know about intercession/2

The word of Shafa’a is derived from the root of Sha-Fa-‘A meaning “to append or join something to another”.[1] Shafi’ [intercessor] is called so because they join one to themselves and provide him/her with what he/she lacks and thus rescue him/her.

Shafa’a in religious terminology means “a creature’s mediation between God and another creature in delivering the good or driving away the evil whether in this world or in the hereafter.” Shafa’a means to make a change in the sinner so that he becomes non-deserved for receiving punishment and exclude him from the law of punishment; like repentance makes a wrongdoer non-deserved for punishment and makes him deserved for receiving God’s forgiveness. “There is no Shafi’ [intercessor] more rescuing than repentance.”[2]

Shafa’a has a close relation with Tawassul [invocation]: Tawassul is the act of one who takes refuge to an Infallible one (a) and asks him for intercession and thus Shafa’a is the act of the Infallible (a) who asks God to forgive that wrongdoer.

Believing in Shafa’a also exists in other divine religions such as Judaism and Christianity.[3]
1)Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-‘arab, vol.15

2)Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol.6 p.19

3)New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol.7 p.519-520

Twelve significant points that you should know about intercession/1

Shafa’a [intercession]  is a religious act, all Muslims and followers of divine religions believe in. Shafa’a means that on the Day of Judgment, friends of God and some holy entities such as the Qur’an, with some conditions, intercede for some wrong-doers and rescue them from hellfire or cause the promotion of some people. Among Muslims, Wahhabis believe that only God can be asked for Shafa’a and if someone asks others for Shafa’a (especially after their demise), he is a polytheist. Belief in Shafa’a has a special position among Shi’a.