The intercession of Prophet Muhammad is an acknowledged concept in Sunni Islam. Even f the Salafees who are well known for their strictness regarding the purity of tawheed (monotheism) acknowledge the doctrine of intercession simply because it is found ‘authentic’ hadiths. Sunnis also assert that there is a provision in Quran for intercession because of the exceptional clause ‘except with His permission’ in verses regarding intercession.
We have to strongly disagree with their understanding. To be candid, it seems very clear that ascribing intercession to Prophet Muhammad is a major contravention to the philosophy of Quran. Quran rather teaches a one on one connection with Allah which every individual must develop for him or herself. The following are our reasons for rejecting this doctrine.
- Quran asserts that there will be no intercession on judgement day.
This is very clearly stated three times in the biggest chapter, Al-Baqarah in Ch 2 Vs 48, 2/123 and 2/254. In the first two verses (2/48 and 2/123), the phrase ‘no soul may recompense a soul anything’ makes it perfectly clear that intercession cannot happen through one human being for another. In the third and final verse (2/254), we are told to spend out of what is provided for us by Allah. This is again to do with individuals. We do not spend of behalf of others. For all three verses, it is very clearly stated that is no intercession. It is also worth nothing that these verses are the first three on intercession in the whole Quran!
- The permission given is for our own selves
The verses usually quoted to justify intercession are usually 2/255 (the famous ‘aya al kursy’ or ‘verse of the throne’) which has the phrase ‘who has intercession in his sight except with his permission’ and 20/109 which says ‘On that day shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent Allah allows and whose word He is pleased with’.
At first glance, it may seem as if Allah gives permission for intercession to be granted for others but this would lead to a contradictory reading of Quran which is unacceptable given the principle of 4/82 and first point made above. Furthermore, it is never said that Prophet Muhammad will give ,seek or mediate intercession at all. It just says ‘except with His permission’ and ‘whose word He is pleased with’. Let us look at other verse to get a fuller picture. We begin with 17/14:
Read your book; your own self (nafs) is sufficient as a reckoner against you this day (17/14)
Here it is clear that it is our own soul (nafs) which acts as an advocate (and indeed condemner) for ourselves on judgement day. No other soul is involved to be our reckoner (haseeb). ‘Your book’ is also personal (the singular ‘you’) emphasizing this point.
Another very interesting link is made between intercession and nothing of Allah taking son! This is in the passage 19/87-93:
None will have power of intercession except he who had taken from the Most Merciful a covenant.
And they say, “The Most Merciful has taken a ‘son’
You have done an atrocious thing.
The heavens almost rupture therefrom and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation
That they attribute to the Most Merciful a son
And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son.
There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant.
The first thing to note is that Vs 87 says no one has the power of intercession except the one who has a covenant with Allah. Vs 88 is a continuation (starting with an ‘and’) from Vs 87 and points to those who say Allah has taken a son. This shows the link between intercession and the erroneous concept of taking a son. It should be noted that ‘son’ can also be read as a ‘favourite’ which is more universally valid and fitting with Quranic usage. In any case, this is a condemned act as Vs 89-92 shows. Vs 93 goes to show us that every person comes to Allah as a servant. This would include the intercessors and the intercede.
We can therefore conclude, there is a clear link between intercession, covenants and serving Allah. Since there is no intercession ‘except with his permission’ and ‘except through a covenant’, the permission of Allah must be seen something achieved through his covenant. The covenant is acquired through serving Allah, something each of has to do for ourselves. Vs 94-95 confirms this:
He has enumerated them and prepared them with a full preparation
And all of them are coming to Him on the Day of Resurrection alone.
The enumeration shows that each of us is counted separately and Allah further prepares us for our relationship with Him. We then come to Him on the day of resurrection individually. There is no room for intercession for others here. Each of Allah’s servants would mean the Prophet as well.
So how can we perform our own intercession? As usual, Quran does not leave us in the dark and tells us:
Whoever intercedes with a good intercession, he will have a reward of it; and whoever intercedes with an evil intercession, he will receive a share of it. And God has control over all things (4/85)
We must therefore ‘intercede’ to bring about the good and in doing so, have a share therefrom.
- Intercession is seen as idolatrous act
In our understanding of Quranic philosophy, idolatry (the act of associating Allah with partners) is the act which robs us of the divine protection (as per 4/48 and 4/116). Unfortunately, intercession is seen to be such an act according to our understanding of 10/18:
And they serve beside Allah what can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Do you (presume to) inform Allah of what He knows not in the heavens and the earth? Glory be to Him, and supremely exalted is He above what they associate!
Sunni Muslims may object to our interpretation that they do not serve Prophet Muhammad (or worship him) but the idea or serving/worship is related to following the laws of an authority (12/40) and the taking of Allah as a judge is related to the detailed book (6/114). Therefore following any law outside Quran is tantamount to serving the authority which makes that law. Furthermore, according to hadith, Prophet Muhammad intercedes for the sinners showing that Allah’s law of actions leading to salvation is overridden completely. The verse continues to say that Allah is above what they associate, thus showing us that ascribing intercessors is an idolatrous or associative act.
From the above analysis, it is clear that the doctrine of taking intercessors is a wrongful and even an idolatrous act. It is not what Quran teaches us even the opposite. Rather, it expects us to have our own covenant with Allah which acts as an intercession device. After all, we will each come to Allah individually on the day and it is our own souls which will reckon us. It is therefore up to us to intercede good deeds as much as possible.