The Issue of Saints and the Hearing of the Dead in Islām
A brief answer to questions on the issues of saints, intercession and hearing of the dead.
The people of today who do this while ascriibng to Islām believe their practice is endorsed by Islām!! And they believe they are worshipping Allāh upon tawḥīd! So, as pointed out by our scholars, the people of today who worship Allāh "through" the deceased are more ignorant of the meaning of Islām than the polytheists of Makkah who fought against our Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam)!
A questioner asked:
Can the dead hear, (I was under the impression they couldn't)...? Seeking wasīlah with saints (while acknowledging that Allāh gives all)? I basicaly need to know what the view is on them, and if there were known ikhtilāf regarding any, or ijma regarding any? recommended sites or links, or books about them...
wa ʿʿalaykumus-salāmu wa raḥmatullāhi.
In the Name of Allāh, the Most Merciful... May His Ṣalāt and Salām be upon His Messenger...
Allāh the Most High has said, what means:
"Surely you can not make those in the graves hear" (Fāṭir 35:22)
So here is the general rule - the dead do not hear, as stated clearly by the Knower of all things.
Then, there are some specific exemptions from this general rule, like the defeated enemies of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) being addressed in the well at Badr, and the dead hearing the footsteps of those at their burial walking away. These two specific exemptions have been authentically reported by the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam).
Comibning the texts is quite simple, from the easiest ways of comibning texts that some people feel have some kind of contraḍīction is a principle called "'Aamm and khaass". The general rule has been stated by Allāh in His Book, and VERY specific cases were exempted from that generality.
So the dead can not hear - as a general rule - however, at the time of burial, the deceased can hear the footsteps of those walking away from his burial.
And again, the dead can not hear - as a general rule - however, at the time of defeat, the Prophets would declare the promise of Allāh to be true, and ask the defeated enemies who were killed to testify to that. (NOTE: without waiting for an answer!!)
A simple question here:
Could these two texts allow us to consider the Statement of Allāh to be abrogated?
That would mean abrogation in a fact of the unseen, and the scholars mention that this concept is outside of the field of abrogation. It would be like Allāh saying, what means, "The dead can not hear," and then saying, "Actually they can." Abrogation is limited to fiqh rulings and can not be considered in issues of ʿaqīdah and information about the ghayb (like descriptions of the Hereafter or stories of the past). So to claim abrogation in this case is totally invalid.
What kind of actions did these texts produce from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and the Companions, from what is authentically reported?
Did these two texts lead anyone - even one Companion - to seek things - even one thing - from the deceased? Or to do "wasīlahh" through any of the deceased?
More clearly - the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) was our example, showing us all ways to gain nearness to Allāh, by his example he led us! Did he go to the graves of the previous prophets and seek anything from them or through them? If that were the intended understanding in Islām, would it not have been his job to lead by example and show us how to ask the deceased, the manners, the limits, etc. by his example as he did in all important affairs of the Religion? And would not the noble Companions have busied themselves transmitting that and acting upon it?
The answer is obvious: That was not his understanding! Or theirs! They were told of the status of some of their beloved who passed away, like Saʿd ibn Muʿādh for example, and others who were defined as people of Paradise! Obviously awliyaa' of Allāh, beloved to Allāh, forgiven, and Allāh was pleased with them. These are the righteous of whom we have not a shred of doubt about their piety - people of Paradise who died as martyrs! So this would be the perfect occasion - if it were legislated - to request something from one of them or "through" them. Yet, look for the reports - you find nothing!
So the question arises - Is it that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and his companions did not understand properly and therefore they lost out on a big opportunity - while the people of "tawassul" of today who ask Allāh for things "through" the deceased have properly understood the issue in a more complete and thorough way, better in understanding and practice than those who received and witnessed the revelation as it came down!?
The answer again is clear. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) was correct. He was honest and dedicated to showing the Muslims every single way to draw near to Allāh, and this way is not from them.
VERY INTERESTING POINT HERE:
Actually, this way of seeking things from Allāh alone "through" the deceased was indeed practiced by some of the people in the time of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). So I guess I have to admit it does have a precedence. The people of Makkah used to ask Allāh alone for their needs, yet they used to make "tawassul" through the deceased. Allāh recorded their reason for doing so in the Qurʾān, what means:
"They would say, 'These are our intercessors with Allāh.'" (Yūnus 10:18)
While they believed clearly that only Allāh provided for them, only He created them and everything else, only He causes life and death, and thus, their requests were made TO Allāh alone, meaning they did not ask the deceased to forgive them, they did not ask the deceased for wealth, children, or anything, rather they only requested things from Allāh alone! Yet their request TO Allāh alone were made THROUGH others, and they said, "These are our intercessors with Allāh." To them, this did not violate or oppose their belief in Allāh's Sole Lordship.
So this practice that existed in the time of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), which is similar to what many people who ascribe to Islām today endorse - to use such and such pious person as an intercessor, and ask Allāh THROUGH him... was this practice accepted and endorsed, discouraged, or prohibited in the time of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam)?
You should now acknowledge that we have arrived at the heart of the matter and the answer to confusion related to this issue is about to become very clear by Allāh's Permission!
This practice was not endorsed or accepted. Nor was it discouraged. Nor was it simply prohibited as being ḥarām! Instead, it was made as an example of THE SIN that Allāh will not forgive, THE CRIME against the Beneficent Lord that leads to eternal punishment, and THE VERY ACT that drew the lines of battle between the people of tawḥīd - the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and his purely monotheist following (may Allāh be pleased with all of them) and the polytheists who refused to abandon their intercessors and make their worship for Allāh alone!
Regarding their requests from Allāh through these intercessors, they said, as Allāh recorded in His Book, what means:
"We only worship them to draw nearer to Allāh" (Al-Zumar 39:3)
Now remember when I said that this action was "similar" to the practice of some of the people who ascribe to Islām today who endorse this sort of so-called "tawassul"... I did not say "identical" but rather "similar" for a reason. There are some very important differences between them and the people of today.
1) The people in the time of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) knew what they were doing was worship, and they knew that it was in direct contraḍīction to the message of "lā ilāha ill-Allāh" they were being invited to, and thus they fought him over it with their lives and wealth.
2) The people of today who do this while ascriibng to Islām believe their practice is endorsed by Islām!! And they believe they are worshipping Allāh upon tawḥīd! So, as pointed out by our scholars, the people of today who worship Allāh "through" the deceased are more ignorant of the meaning of Islām than the polytheists of Makkah who fought against our Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam)!
3) Furthermore, the people of today sometimes use intercessors that were irreligious themselves, sometimes even polytheists who taught shirk, while the people of Makkah used angels and prophets to intercede for them (which was/is still shirk).
From these few points, you can see how even the polytheists of Makkah who fought against the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) were more knowledgeable about the meaning of worship, tawḥīd, shirk, and thus Islām, than the modern endorsers of so-called "tawassul" through the deceased.
I hope that these simple lines have cleared some confusion about this matter. May Allāh bless you all and grant us understanding in His Religion.
May He grant us knowledge of what is right, and the humility, courage, patience, and strength needed to follow it with our hearts and limbs. And may He also grant us knowledge of what is wrong, and the humility, courage, patience, and strength needed to oppose it with our hearts and limbs!
And Allāh Most High knows best, may His Ṣalāt and Salām be upon His Final Messenger to Mankind.
Recommended reading on the specific topic: "Kashf ash-Shubuhaat", the text itself is very clear on the topic, loaded with Qur’anic quotes. Read the entire text first before reading any lengthy explanations.
 Written on 3rd Shawwāl 1430 (22nd Sept. 2009).