New Clear Fatwa of al-Azhar regarding Tawassul; a Prelude to Decline of Wahhabi Dominance

In reply to a question about the ruling of making entreaty to the Prophet (s) for curing Coronavirus disease, the fatwa committee of the Islamic research assembly of al-Azhar said, “after the Prophet’s (s) demise, according to the report of all Maliki, Shafi‘i, Hanbali and late Hanafi fiqh scholars, it is permissible that a person says, “O God, by the right/honor of Your Prophet (s), I ask you to do such and such.”

Al-Azhar continues the reply referring to al- Nawawi who said, “for his needs, a person can make entreaty (tawassul) to the Prophet (s) as an intercessor before God”. Also, Ibn al-Haj said, “it is permissible, because the Prophet (s) is an intercessor whose intercession will not be rejected. He (s) does not disappoint a person who goes to his house and has asked for help; thus, a person who makes entreaty to him and asks him for something, he (s) does not reject his request.”

Then, al-Azhar continues his reply with arguments for permission of entreaty to the Prophet (s), “one of the arguments is that one day a man went to the Prophet (s) and said, ‘ask from God to give me health.’ The Prophet (s) said, ‘let’s postpone this prayer which will be better for you in the hereafter; but, if you want, I will pray for you now.’ The man said, ‘no, pray for me [now].’ The Prophet (s) told him, ‘perform wudu and a two-rak‘a prayer; then, recite this supplication, ‘O God! By the right of Your Prophet (s) who is the prophet of mercy, I turn to You and I ask You. O Muhammad (s), I ask my request from my God through you to be fulfilled and I take you an intercessor in that.’ Then, the man did so and was healed.”

Al-Azhar continues, “and in his marginal note on this hadith, Shawkani said that, “this hadith is an argument for permission of entreaty to the Messenger (s) of God with this belief that the Doer is only God the Almighty, who gives blessings and requests of anyone He wants; and whatever He wishes will be and whatever He does not wish will not be.”

Issuing this fatwa about one of the most challenging ideological issues among Islamic schools, especially Shiites and Sunnites should be considered an important step taken by al-Azhar which is among the largest centers ofIslamic teachings of the Sunni world.

Growth of Wahhabism in the world of Islam during the last century and huge investments for its dissemination and prevalence made some secondary ideological and jurisprudential issues the points of challenge and disunity.

Salafi and Wahhabi movements were developed with the attractive claim of adhering to genuine belief in unity of God and removing polytheism in beliefs of Muslims in different Islamic countries and communities until it changed to a movement which led to excommunication of Sunni Muslims themselves and their killing and slaughter.

But, religious moderate centers in the world of Islam, which saw it a threat to their identity, made a lot of efforts to fight disunifying expansionism of Wahhabi and Salafi movements during the last years.

As one of the oldest religious centers of the Sunni world, al-Azhar University in Egypt organized many various activities in this regard, and so far,its distinguished figures and scholars have taken clear positions against doubt-making of excommunicating Salafi and Wahhabi movement.

Shaikh Ahmad Karima, a prominent fiqh scholar of al-Azhar, who also traveled to Iran, recently spoke in one of Egyptian TV channels, in criticism of the thoughts of Ibn Taymiyya, “negative attributes of Ibn Taymiyya are more than his positive ones. He was a person who excommunicated people of Egypt, Ash‘arites and Sufis and even considered the parents of the Prophet (s) disbeliever! So, he was the one who began excommunication and it led to aggressions and bloodshed.

Shaykh Karima emphasized, “Ibn Taymiyya considered Ash‘arites disbeliever. He was the founder of Wahhabi Salafis’ opposition to al-Azhar and was against 90 percent of Muslims in the world. If it were not for Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab and contemporary Salafis, thoughts of Ibn Taymiyya would be dead by now.”

He continued, “followers of Ibn Taymiyya called him ‘Shaykh al-Islam’, but on the opposite side, some considered him ‘Shaykh of terror’ who fed terrorist groups with his fatwas,with which many crimes were made against religion and humanity.”

These clear words, fatwas and positions of al-Azhar about common Islamic beliefs agreed upon by all Muslims such as tawassul (making entreaty) brought hope for the return of moderation and courage among Muslim thinkers and fiqh scholars.

Political and thought dominance of Saudi Arabia, with great financial support, over different Sunni centers in the world, especially during the last decade sometimes prevented those centers from telling the historical truth about genuine Muslim beliefs;but, the new fatwa of al-Azhar regarding tawassul can be a beginning for them to release from Saudi Arabia’s dominance over religious seminaries of the world of Islam.