Correct Islamic tawassul:
This means seeking to draw close to Allah through acts of worship which He loves and which please Him; these may be waajib (obligatory) or mustahabb (encouraged), and may take the form of words, actions or beliefs. Some types are as follows:
Seeking to draw close to Allah by means of His names and attributes. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny (or utter impious speech against) His names. They will be requited for what they used to do.” [al-A’raaf 7:180]. So when a person makes du’aa’ to Allah, he begins by calling on Allah with the name that is most apt, such as “al-Rahmaan” (the Most Merciful) when seeking mercy and al-Ghafoor (the All-Forgiving) when asking for forgiveness, and so on.
Seeking to draw close to Allah by means of faith and Tawheed. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Our Lord! We believe in what You have sent down, and we follow the Messenger, so write us down among those who bear witness (to the truth).” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:53]
Seeking to draw close to Allah through righteous deeds, whereby a person asks Allah by virtue of the best deeds that he has done, such as salaah, fasting, reading Qur’an, avoiding haraam things, and so on. An example of this is the saheeh hadeeth narrated in the Saheehayn about the three people who entered a cave, and a rock fell and blocked their way out. They asked Allah by virtue of their best deeds (to save them). A person may also ask Allah by virtue of his total dependency upon Him, as Allah mentions in the Qur’an (interpretation of the meaning): “ [Ayyoob said:] ‘Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.’ [al-Anbiya’ 21:83]; or by admitting his own wrongdoing and his need for Allah, as Yunus is described as saying (interpretation of the meaning): “‘None has the right to be worshipped except You (O Allah). Glorified (and exalted) are You. Truly I have been of the wrong-doers.’” [al-Anbiya’ 21:87]
The rulings on Islamically correct tawassul vary according to its type. Some types are waajib, such as seeking to draw close to Allah through His names and attributes and through Tawheed (believing in His absolute Oneness), and some are mustahabb, such as seeking to draw close to Him by virtue of all kinds of righteous deeds.
Tawassul that is bid’ah and therefore forbidden:
This is the attempt to draw close to Allah by means of things that He does not like and that do not please Him, whether they be words, deeds or beliefs. One example of this is trying to draw close to Allah by calling on the dead or people who are absent, asking them for help, and so on. This is a form of major shirk (shirk akbar), which goes against Tawheed and means that a person is no longer considered to be a Muslim. Calling upon Allah, whether it is for a purpose such as asking Him to grant some benefit or to ward off some harm, or as an act of worship to express humility and submission before Him, can only be addressed directly to Allah. If du’aa’s or prayers are addressed to anything or anyone else, this is shirk. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And your Lord said: ‘Invoke Me (and ask Me for anything), I will respond to your invocation. Verily! Those who scorn My worship [i.e., do not invoke Me and do not believe in My Oneness], they will surely enter Hell in humiliation!” [Ghaafir 40:60]. In this aayah, Allah explains the punishment of those who arrogantly refuse to call on Allah, whether they call on someone other than Allah or they do not call on Him at all, out of pride and self-admiration, even if they do not call on anyone else.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Invoke your Lord with humility and in secret…” [al-A’raaf 7:55]. Allah commands His slaves to call on Him and not anyone else.
Allah says of the people of Hell (interpretation of the meaning): “[They say:] ‘By Allah, we were truly in a manifest error when we held you (false gods) as equals (in worship) with the Lord of the Worlds.” [al-Shu’ara’ 26:96-97]
Anything that results in equating something other than Allah with Allah in worship or acts of obedience is shirk, the crime of associating partners with Him. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And who is more astray than one who calls (invokes) besides Allah, such as will not answer him until the Day of Resurrection, and who are (even) unaware of their calls (invocations) to them? And when mankind are gathered (one the Day of Resurrection), they (false deities) will become enemies for them and will deny their worshipping.” [al-Ahqaaf 46:5-6]
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “ And whoever invokes (or worships) besides Allah, any other god, of whom he has no proof, then his reckoning is only with his Lord. Surely, al-kaafiroon (the disbelievers in Allah and in the Oneness of Allah) will not be successful.” [al-Mu’minoon 23:117].
Allah states that anyone who calls on anything other than him is taking that thing as a god, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “…And those, whom you invoke or call upon instead of Him, own not even a qitmeer (the thin membrane over a date-stone). If you invoke (or call upon) them, they hear not your call, and if (in case) they were to hear, they could not grant it (your request) to you. And on the Day of Resurrection, they will disown your worshipping them. And none can inform you (O Muhammad), like Him Who is the All-Knower (of everything).” [Faatir 35:13-14].
In this aayah, Allah explains that He is the only One Who deserves to be called upon, because He, and no one else, is the Sovereign who is directing everything. Those things that are worshipped cannot hear du’aa’s, let alone respond to the one who invokes them, and even if they were able to hear, they cannot respond, because they do not have the power to either benefit or harm.
The mushrik Arabs whom the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent to call were disbelievers because of this shirk. They would call upon Allah sincerely at times of difficulty, but they became disbelievers at times of ease and plenty, when they would call on others besides Him. Allah says (interpretation of the meanings):
“And when they embark on a ship, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him only, but when He brings them safely to land, behold, they give a share of their worship to others.” [al-‘Ankaboot 29:65]
“And when harm touches you upon the sea, those that you call upon besides Him vanish from you except Him (Allah Alone). But when He brings you safely to land, you turn away (from Him)…” [al-Isra’ 17:67]
“… till when you are in the ships and they sail with them with a favourable wind, and they are glad therein, then comes a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, and they think that they are encircled therein, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him Alone…” [Yoonus 10:33]
The shirk of some people nowadays goes even further than the shirk of people in the past, because they direct some acts of worship to something other than Allah, calling upon them and asking them for help even at times of distress; laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa Billaah (there is no strength and no help except in Allah). We ask Allah to keep us safe and sound.
Thus, asking the dead for anything is shirk, and asking the living for anything that no one except Allah is able to do, is also shirk. And Allah knows best.
[Answer by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid]
Kinds of Tawassul
Seeking Rescue from the Living and Dead and Making Tawassul Through Them
Seeking rescue (al-Istighaathah) through the Prophets, the Pious Friends (of Allah, the Awliyaa), and the Righteous in their life or after their death in order to remove harm or to bring about good, and similarly making Tawassul through them in both situations (of their being alive or dead), in order to fulfill ones needs and wants – is that permissible or not?
As for seeking rescue from the dead, from the Prophets and other than them, it is not permissible and it is from the Major Shirk. As for seeking rescue from the one who is alive and present (in the vicinity), and seeking rescue from him in that which he is capable of, then there is no harm in that, due to the saying of Allah, the Sublime, “The man of his (own) party asked him (fastaghaathahu) for help against his foe” [al-Qasas 28:15]
As for Tawassul through the living or the dead, from the Prophets or other than them, by way of their physical essences, or their honour, or their right, then it is not permissible. It is from the innovations, and the means that lead towards Shirk.
Permanent Committee for Research and Verdicts:
Shaykh `Abdul-`Azeez Bin Baaz
Shaykh `Abdullah bin Ghudayaan
Shaykh `Abdullaah bin Qu`ood
Shaykh `Abdur-Razzaaq al-`Afeefee
Fataawaa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah, Vol 1 page 55, Fatwa No. 5553, compiled by Shaykh Ahmad ad-Duwaish.
What is the Ruling on Tawassul (seeking means) through the Leader of the Prophets…?
What is the ruling on Tawassul (seeking means) through the leader of the Prophets, and is there any proof for its prohibition?
Tawassul through the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has a detailed explanation; if the (tawassul) is by means of following him, loving him, obeying his orders, abandoning his prohibitions, and having (utter) sincerity for Allah in acts of worship, then this is Islam, and it is the religion of Allah, that which He sent with His prophets, and (in fact) it is an obligation upon every sane being (of age). It is the Waseelah (nearness and a means) to happiness in the worldly life and the hereafter. As for tawassul by means of invoking him (directly), asking for his help, and requesting him to grant victory over enemies, and healing the ill, then this is major shirk, and it is the religion of Abu Jahl and his likes from the idol worshipers. And similarly, doing that with other than the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from the anbiyaa’ (prophets) and awliyaa, or jinn, angels, trees, stones or idols (is considered major shirk as well). There is also a third kind that is identified as tawassul, and it is the tawassul by means of his rank, his right, or his actual self, for example, a person says: ‘O Allah! I Ask You by means of Your Prophet, or by the means of Your Prophet’s rank, or by the means of Your Prophet’s right, or by the means of Your Prophets’ ranks.’ Implementing this is not permissible through the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or other than him. This is because Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) did not legislate this, and (all) acts of worship are tawqeefiyyah: these acts of worship are not allowed except that which the purified Islamic legislation indicates (as being allowed). As for the tawassul of the blind man through the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) during his lifetime, (then it is tawassul through him) so that he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) may supplicate for him [on behalf of the blind man] and intercede for him with Allah, so his sight is restored to him. It is not tawassul through the Prophet’s actual self, his status or his right as (this is) known from the context of the hadeeth  and as the scholars of the Sunnah have clarified in the explanation of the hadeeth. The discussion concerning tawassul has been expounded on by Shaykhul-Islam ‘Abul-Abbaas Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, in many of his beneficial books. From (those books), is a book named: Al-Qaaýidaatull-Jaaleeyah fi Tawassul wal-Wasseelah. It is a beneficial book, deserving to be looked at and benefited from. This (aforementioned) ruling is also permitted with other than him (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from the living, as when you say to your brother, or whomever you deem has khayr (good): ‘Invoke Allah for me, that He may cure me from my illness, restore my sight, or grant me righteous children, etc. – with the consensus of the people of knowledge. And it is Allah who bestows success.
(1) That which is intended is the hadeeth of ‘Uthmaan bin Hunay: A blind man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said: ‘Invoke Allah that He should cure me.’ He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘If you wish I will invoke for you, and if you wish I will delay that for that which is better.’ So he said: ‘Supplicate to Him.’ So he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered him (the blind man) to make wudhu well, and to pray two rakats and to supplicate with this du’aa’: “O Allah! I ask You and turn to You by means of Your Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the Prophet of Mercy.” ‘O Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), I have turned by means of you (i.e. your du’aa’) to my Lord in this need of mine, so that it may be fulfilled for me, ‘O Allah accept his Shafaah on my behalf, and accept my Shafaah for him (to be accepted for me).’ It has been related by Ahmad (8/138) and by at-Tirmidh’ in Supplications (3578), and by An-Nasa’i in Amaal al-Yawm wal-Layla page 204, and Ibn Maajah in Iqaamaatu-Salaah (1385).
[Shaykh `Abdul-`Azeez Bin Baz (rahimahullaah) - Majmoo' Fataawa wa Maqaalaat Mutanawee'aa 5/322-323]