Shafaa (intercession) according to the Qur’an.

Those who carry the Throne and those around it exalt with praise of their Lord and believe in Him and ask forgiveness for THOSE who have believed, saying “Our Lord, You have encompassed all things in mercy and knowledge, so FORGIVE THOSE who have REPENTED and FOLLOWED YOUR WAY and PROTECT THEM from the punishment of Hellfire. Our Lord, and admit them to gardens of perpetual residence which You have promised them and whoever was righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. And PROTECT THEM from the evil consequences of their deeds. And he whom You protect from evil consequences that Day – You will have given him mercy. And that is the great attainment.” (Qur’an 40:7-9)

Paradise is not [obtained] by your wishful thinking nor by that of the People of the Scripture. Whoever does a wrong will be recompensed for it, and he will not find besides Allah a protector or a helper.” (Qur’an 4:123)

“He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they cannot intercede except on behalf of one whom He approves. And they, from fear of Him, are apprehensive.(Qur’an 21:28)

First what actually is Shafa’ah?

Shafa’ah which is usually translated as intercession is the act of pleading to Allah (swt) on behalf of someone else in hopes that their sins would be forgiven or passed over. To pray for forgiveness for someone.

This is Shafa’ah that we believe.

There are 7 points we need to mention.

#1) The Shafa’ah is merely a formality.

#2) To believe that the finite can shift the infinite is shirk.

#3) To indicate a change in the will of Allah (swt) is theologically unsound.

#4) That Allah (swt) has given permission for the intercessor to intercede.

#5) Allah (swt) is pleased with the intercessor.

#6) Allah (swt) is pleased with the one whom intercession is being made for.

#7) That it is understood that no new information is being disclosed to Allah(swt).

Let us address points 1-3 first.

The Shafa’ah is a formality. In other words, if Allah (swt) has judged that people will go to hell the Blessed Prophet (saw) does not change the decision of Allah (swt).

“Have they not seen that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders? And Allah decides; there is no adjuster of His decision. And He is swift in account.” (Qur’an 13:41)

No one can shift the decree of Allah (swt). This should be absolutely clear. To believe that the finite can shift the infinite is shirk.

To indicate a change in the will of Allah (swt) is to indicate that Allah (swt) is not immutable this goes against sound theology.

“Say: I am not the first of the messengers, and I do not know what will be done with me or with you: I do not follow anything but that which is revealed to me, and I am nothing but a plain warner” (Qur’an 46:09)

It would be odd that Allah (swt) would order the Blessed Messenger (saw) to say the above and yet latter reveal what would happen to him and to the Muslim community.

I have not come across any material that would suggest that those hadith that speaks of the Blessed Messenger (saw) making shafa’ah that those statements would abrogate this verse.

“And what will explain to you what the Day of Judgment is? Again, what will explain to you what the Day of Judgment is? (It will be) The Day when no soul shall have power (to do) anything for another: For the command, that Day, will be (wholly) with God” (Qur’an 82:17-19)

All the above should pass as evidence for points 1-3. Now let us address points 4-6.

“And how many angels there are in the heavens whose intercession (shafa’athum) will not avail at all except only after Allah has permitted to whom He wills and is pleased with.” (Qur’an 53:26)

“On that Day no intercession(l-shafa’atu) will avail, except from one who has received the sanction of the Most Merciful and of whose words He is pleased. “ ( Qur’an 20:109)

“He knows what is presently before them and what will be after them, and they cannot intercede (yashfa’una) except on behalf of one whom He is pleased. And they, from fear of Him, are apprehensive.” (Qur’an 21:28)

The fact that the Qur’an clearly mentions angels making shafa’ah shows that it is something acceptable to Allah (swt). Those who deny it deny clear verses of the Qur’an.

It is clear that the angels are making shafa’ah for those who have believed and those who have repented. It is a very specific group of people- the believers, those who repented. There is no ambiguity here.

except on behalf of one whom He is pleased.” Can it really be argued that a person who enters hellfire is someone whom Allah (swt) is pleased with?

What! as for him then against whom the sentence of the chastisement of destruction is due: What! can you save him who is in the fire?” (Qur’an 39:19)

The Blessed Prophet (saw) and the hypocrites.

Even the hypocrites many of whom are outwardly Muslim came to the Blessed Messenger (saw) Allah (swt) left the door open of repentance for them. However, as you can see in the next verse that this is not the case for the defiantly disobedient. The fasiq.

“We sent not a messenger, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of Allah. If they had only when they were unjust to themselves, come unto you (Muhammed) and asked Allah’s forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful” (Qur’an 4:64)

“Whether you (Muhammad) ask for their forgiveness, or not: if you ask seventy times for their forgiveness, Allah will not forgive them: because they have rejected Allah and His Messenger: and Allah guides not those who are defiantly disobedient (fasiq).” (Quran 9:80)

“Allah warns you against returning to the likes of this ever again if you should be (mumin) believers.” (Qur’an 24:17)

“Indeed, those who accuse chaste, unaware and believing women are cursed in this world and the Hereafter; and they will have a great punishment.” (Qur’an 24:23)

This incident as related above came from some of the companions of the Blessed Messenger (saw). The Prophet (saw) would not have been distraught over this if it came from the unbelievers or obvious hypocrites. Allah (swt) gave his warning to the mumin (believers).

Anyone is cursed by Allah (swt) in the next life has no hope of salvation.

Until this day there are some among those who say they are Muslims and they curse the wife of the Blessed Messenger (saw) the blessed Aisha (r.a) the mother of the believers, and it is clear when you look at their state they are cursed in this life and if they do not repent they will be cursed in the next life. There is no escape and no shafa’ah for them!

“It is not fitting, for the Prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for the polytheisteven though they are next of kin after it is clear to them that they are companions of the Fire” (Qur’an 9:113)

“Lord, grant that I may perform the prayer, and so may my descendants. “Lord accept my supplication Our Lord, accept my appeal! Our Lord, forgive me, both my parents, and believers on the Day when the Reckoning will be set up!” (Qur’an 14:41)

Again there are Muslims who have real issues with the idea of the paternal uncle of the Blessed Messenger (saw), his uncle Abu Talib being in hell. So we will try and address that in another entry one day (insh’Allah).

Obviously, people didn’t like the idea of a forefather of the Blessed Messenger (saw), namely the father of Ibrahim being in hell.  So we have the following strange hadith in ‘Sahih‘ Bukhari. 

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet Blessed Messenger (saw) said:

“Ibrahim will meet his father on the Day of Resurrection, and Azar’s face will be dark and covered with dust. Ibrahim will say to him, ‘Did I not tell you not to disobey me?’ His father will say, ‘Today I will not disobey you.’’ Ibrahim will say, ‘O Lord! You promised me not to disgrace me on the Day of Resurrection; and what will be more disgraceful to me than cursing and dishonoring my father?’ Then Allah will say, ‘I have forbidden Paradise to the disbelievers.’ Then he will be addressed, ‘O Ibrahim, what is beneath your feet?’ He will look and there he will see a Dhabh, blood-stained, which will be caught by the legs and thrown into the Fire.”  Source: (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3350).

The first part of the hadith states that even though Ibrahim is known as ‘khail Allah‘ or the friend of Allah (swt) there is no way that his intercession for his father will avail his father. 

The second part of the hadith looks like an attempt by someone who was bothered by this to tamper with the text. The text is strange.  Suddenly Allah (swt) says to Ibrahim, “look at what’s beneath your feet“, and there appears some type of animal and that animal will be caught by the legs and thrown into the fire.

It’s as if this person was trying to introduce the idea of some animal being sacrificed on behalf of Ibrahim’s father!   To read more on this curious narration please see:

What has proceeded together should answer points 4-6. 

Now for the last and final point, point 7. 

What new information can an intercessor bring that the one who is All-Knowing?

This would make sense among humans. In a court of law, an advocate or an attorney can bring in new information new pieces of evidence for the judge to consider this can sway the judge one way or another.

However, Allah (swt) cannot be swayed. The finite cannot shift the infinite. There is no knowledge that Allah (swt) is unaware of. This further shows that shaf’aat is a formality.

Insh’Allah the 7 points above have been addressed and hopefully been made clear to the reader. All praise be to Allah (swt).

1 Comment

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One response to “Shafaa (intercession) according to the Qur’an.

  1. Omer

    Wonderful post….I hope it becomes standard reading one day insha-Allah in Islamic seminaries around the world.

    La Ilaha Illa Allah

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