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Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, in his treatise, "al-Waasitah bayn al-Haqq wal-Khalq", (Intermediation Between al-Haqq [Allaah] and the Creation) provides an excellent explanation of this subject. Before we quote the passage from this treatise, the following background information should be understood.
Just like the mulk (dominion) belongs to Allaah alone, and just like izzah (might, honour) belongs to Allaah alone, and just like Allaah alone is the dispenser of rahmah (mercy), and just like Allaah alone is the source of barakah (blessing, increase, growth) and so on, and just like none grants maghfirah (forgiveness) except Allaah alone, then likewise, to Allaah alone belongs all shafaa'ah (intercession) - and these meanings are found in the Qur'an.
قُل لِّلَّهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا لَّهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ
Say: "To Allah belongs all intercession. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you shall be brought back." (Az-Zumar 39:44)
Just like the dominion, sovereignty belongs to Allaah alone, likewise, the intercession belongs to Allaah alone. What this means is that there is no intercession except with His permission, and there is no intercession except for the one with whom He is pleased. This is the meaning of "to Allaah belongs all intercession". And both these conditions are found in the following verse:
يَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَنُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلًا
On that day no intercession shall avail, except the one for whom the Most Beneficent (Allah) has given permission and whose word is acceptable to Him. (Ta-Ha 20:109)
And these two conditions are mentioned in other verses too (Baqarah 2:255, Anbiyaa 21:28). When this is established, it follows that the asking of intercession is only from Allaah, just like the asking of barakah (blessing) is only from Allaah, and the asking of rahmah (mercy) is only from Allah, and the asking of maghfirah (forgiveness) is only from Allaah, and the asking of izzah (glory, honour) is only from Allaah. Consider the following verse:
قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاء وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاء وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَاء وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَاء بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ إِنَّكَ عَلَىَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Say (O Muhammad): "O Allah! Possessor of the kingdom, You give the kingdom (mulk) to whom You will, and You take the kingdom from whom You will, and You endue with honour whom You will, and You humiliate whom You will. In Your Hand is the good. Verily, You are Able to do all things. (Aali Imran 3:26)
In this verse, Allaah establishes that He is the "Owner" of the dominion (mulk), then He says that He gives dominion (mulk) to whomever He wills and removes it from whomever He wills. And also consider the following verse:
مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا
Whosoever desires izzah (honour, power and glory) then to Allah belong all honour, power and glory (Fatir 35:10)
So all izzah (might, honour, glory) belongs to Allaah and (from the previous verse) He gives it to whomever He wills and removes it (i.e. humiliates, lowers) from whomever He wills.
When you grasp this with respect to mulk (dominion) and izzah (might, honour, glory) and barakah (blessing) - and all of this is found in the Qur'an, then it is exactly the same with the saying of Allaah:
قُل لِّلَّهِ الشَّفَاعَةُ جَمِيعًا
Say: "To Allah belongs all intercession..." (Az-Zumar 39:44)
As all intercession belongs only to Him alone, then it is asked and sought from Him alone, and it is not asked of those besides Him, since He is the only granter of intercession (shafee') in truth and in reality, and all intercession returns back to Him, and those besides Him have absolutely no say or power or ability in intercession without His permission and pleasure.
And we see in the Qur'an shafaa'ah being negated and also being affirmed. That which is affirmed is the shafaa'ah for which Allaah has granted permission for it to be sought, which is sought from Allaah, and whose recipient He is pleased with. And that which is negated is the requesting of shafaa'ah from others besides Allaah.
Once all this is grasped well, we can move and see how this subject is connected to Tawhid (Monotheism), and how the failure to understand this, and to understand the true nature of the associationism (shirk) of those rebuked in the Qur'an, leads people to end up giving their devotion and worship to others besides Allaah, upon false and rejected assumptions.
Ibn Taymiyyah on the Affirmed and Rejected Types of intermediaries
The titles are added for making the passage easy to read and follow:
THE SCHOLARS ARE THE INHERITORS OF THE PROPHETS AND THEY ARE intermediaries OF KNOWLEDGE AND ITS DISSEMINATION
Those who affirm people other than the Prophets - such as the shaikhs [scholars] of Knowledge and of the religion - as intermediaries between the Messenger and his Ummah in the sense that they are people who impart knowledge to them (the Ummah), teach them (such knowledge) and correct their conduct and then follow in their way, they are correct in doing so (i.e. considering them intermediaries in this particular manner).
THE INTERMEDIATION OF SHIRK
There are those who affirm them as being intermediaries between Allaah and His creation in the manner of a barrier which is between a king and his citizens and who raise to Allaah the needs of His creation - such that Allaah guides His servants and gives them sustenance throught their intermediation, the creation asks them and they ask Allaah. This is like the intermediaries between the kings and their people who ask for the needs of the people because they are closer to the kings than the people themselves. So the people ask them courteously, that they should take their request to the king, or thinking that their requesting the intermediaries is more beneficial for them than requesting from the king directly because the intermediaries are closer to the king than the one making the request. Whoever affirms the scholars as intermediaries in such a manner then he is a Kaafir (disbeliever) and a Mushrik (pagan). It is necessary to seek his repentance and if he does not make repentance he must face death. Such people make resemblances for Allaah, they compare the creation with the Creator and set up rivals and equals with Allaah.
THE REJECTED TYPES OF INTERMEDIARIES
There is a refutation of these people within the Qur?aan which is too vast to mention in this treatise. Intermediation between the kings [of this world] and their people occurs in one of three ways:
The Difference Between the intercession That Belongs to Allaah and That Which is Made With the Kings
As for the interceders who intercede with Allaah, they do not do so except by His permission just like Allaah has said:
This topic is a foundational one as it relates to Tawhid, and from the above, it should be clear that intercession (shafaa'ah) belongs to Allaah alone, that He alone grants it, and that it should be asked only from Him alone, and that likening Allaah to the kings of the Earth as it relates to how intercession takes place with them, then that is a revilement upon Allaah, and anyone who believes that this is how Allaah operates with respect to His creation has committed kufr, for Allaah is free from all the deficiencies of created beings, lofty and exalted is He from all of that.
However, the opponents of the Prophets and Messengers have their doubts and arguments in this regard and these will be addressed in detail in other articles.
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