Volume 1: Surah Baqarah, Verses 47-48
O Children of Israel! call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nation (47). And be on your guard against the day when one soul shall not avail another in the least; neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped (48).
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Qur'an: And be on your guard against the day when one soul shall not avail another in the least:
temporal power and authority, with all its various systems and varying
conditions, is based on a necessity of life - the only justification of
this institution is that it fulfils this need in the framework of the
prevailing factors of the society. It some times exchanges a
commodity for another, gives up a benefit for another, substitutes an
order with another - without any hard and fast criterion to regulate- such
dispensations. The same phenomenon is observed in their
judiciary. Logically, a crime must be recompensed with
ancient tribes and the idol-worshippers believed that the life hereafter
was an extension of this one; that the customs of this world were valid
for that one too, and that the next world was permeated by the same
actions and reactions which prevailed in this one. Thus they offered
sacrifices and offerings to their deities seeking forgiveness for their
sins or assistance in their needs; the offerings were supposed to
intercede on their behalf. Some times a sin was expiated or help was
sought by offering even a human sacrifice. They carried this idea of
continuation of the life so far as to bury with a man all types of
necessities of life, not forgetting his ornaments and arms, in order that
he might use them on his onward journey; some times even his concubines
and soldiers were buried alive with him to keep him company. You may
see a lot of such finds in archaeological museums around the world.
Some such ideas have persisted even among the Muslims - with all their
diverse cultures and languages, albeit in modified forms.
Qur'an has rejected all such superstitious beliefs and baseless ideas in
no uncertain terms:
. . and the command on that day shall be entirely Allah's
. . and they see the chastisement and their ties are cut asunder
certainly you have come to Us alone as We created you at first, and you
have left behind your backs the things which We gave you, and We do not
see with you your intercessors about whom you asserted that they were
(Allah's) associates in respect to you; certainly the ties between
you are now cut off and what you asserted is gone from you
shall every soul become acquainted with what is sent before, and they
shall be brought back to Allah, their true Master and what they did
fabricate shall escape from them (10:30).
are many similar verses; and they show that the life hereafter is cut off
from the natural causes which govern this life, and is quite separate from
material connections. Once this principle is understood all the
above-mentioned myths would automatically be cleared away. But the
Qur'an is not content with this general declaration; it refutes each and
every myth and superstition described above:
And be on your guard against the day when one soul shall not avail another in the least;- neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped (12:48)
. . . . before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, neither any friendship nor intercession (2:254)
day on which a friend shall not avail (his) friend aught . . .
. . there shall be no savior for you from Allah . . . (40:33).
is the matter with you that you do not help each other?
they worship 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
set up with Him. (10: 18).
. . the unjust shall not have any friend nor any intercessors who should
be obeyed (40:18).
we have no intercessors, nor a true-friend (26:100-101).
are many other verses of the same theme, all rejecting the intercession on
the Day of Resurrection.
the other hand, the Qur'an does not totally reject the intercession;
rather it confirms it to a certain extent. For example, it
Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six periods and He is firmly established on the throne; you have not besides Him any guardian or any intercessors; will you not then mind? (32:4)
. . there is no guardian for them, nor any intercessor besides Him
Say: Allah's is the intercession altogether" (39:44).
. . whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is
he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what
is before them and what is behind them (2:255).
your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods;
and He is firmly established on the throne; regulating the affair; there
is no intercessor except after His permission (10: 3).
they say,- "The Beneficent God had taken to Himself a son. " Glory
be to Him! Nay! they are honored servants; they do not precede Him
in speech and (only) according to His commandment do they
act. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they
do not intercede except for whom He approves, and for fear of Him they
tremble (21:26 - 28).
those whom they call upon besides Him have no authority for intercession,
but he who bears witness of the truth, and they know (him)
shall have no authority for intercession, save he who has made a covenant
with the Beneficent God (19:87).
that day shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent God
allows and whose word He is pleased with. He knows what is before
them and what is behind them, while they do not comprehend Him in
how many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession does not
avail at all except after Allah has given permission to whom He pleases
and chooses (53: 26).
of these verses (like the first three) say that intercession is reserved
for Allah, while the rest declare that others too may intercede with
Allah's permission. In any case, all of them confirm the
intercession per se. How are these verses related to the preceding
ones which totally reject intercession? It is exactly the same
relation that exists between the verses that say that the knowledge of
unseen is reserved to Allah and those which declare that others too may
have that knowledge with the permission of Allah. As Allah
"No one in the heaven and the earth knows the unseen but Allah"
with Him are the keys of the unseen, does not know it any except He
Knower of the unseen! so He does not reveal His secrets to any, except to
him whom He chooses of an apostle (72:27).
The same is the case with various verses on the subjects of creating, sustaining, giving death, causality, command, authority and similar things. Some verses reserve them for Allah, while some say that others too may do these things. It is a well-known style of the Qur'an: first it rejects the idea that anyone other than Allah has any virtue or perfection; thereafter it confirms the same virtue or perfection for others depending on the permission and pleasure of Allah. When read together, the verses show that nobody has any virtue by his own power and right; whatever excellence there may be, he has got it because Allah has given it to him. Allah puts much emphasis to this fact; He attaches the proviso of His will even for those things which are firmly decreed by Him. For example:
as to those who are unhappy, they shall be in the fire; for them shall be
sighing and groaning in it; abiding therein so long as the heavens and the
earth endure, except as
that abiding for ever is made dependent on the pleasure of Allah, even in
case of the garden, although it is a gift which shall never be cut
off. It emphasizes the fact that even when Allah firmly decrees a
thing, it does not pass out of His control or authority; "Surely your Lord
is (mighty) doer of what He intends" (11:107). When Allah gives a
thing, it does not go out of His total possession. When He denies
some thing to someone, it is not done to protect Himself against any need
short, the verses that reject intercession - albeit talking about the Day
of Resurrection - do so in the context of intercession independent of
Allah's authority; while the ones proving it, prove it basically for Allah
and then, depending on His pleasure, for others.
the intercession is proved for other than Allah with His permission.
we should see what is the meaning of intercession? Who may
intercede? On behalf of whom? And when? How is it
related to the divine forgiveness?
Al-Husayn ibn Khalid narrates from ar-Rida (a.s.), who narrated through his forefathers from the leader of the faithful (a.s.) that he said: “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said: ‘Whoever does not believe in my reservoir, and whoever does not believe in my intercession, may Allah not extend to him my intercession.’ Then he (s.a.w.a.) said: ‘Verily my intercession is for those of my ummah who shall have committed great sins; as for those good-doers, there shall be no difficulty for them.’” Al-Husayn ibn Khalid said: “I asked ar-Rida (a.s.): ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah! What is then the meaning of the words of Allah, Mighty and Great is He: and they d not intercede except for him whom He approves?’ He (a.s.) said ‘They do not intercede except for him whose religion Allah is pleased with.’” (al-Amali as-Saduq)
The author says: The tradition of the Prophet, “Verily my intercession is….”, has been narrated by both sects with numerous chains; and we have shown earlier that it is based on the theme of the Qur’anic verses.
Suma’ah ibn Mihran narrates from Abu Ibrahim (a.s.) that he said about the words of Allah: may be your Lord will raise you to a praised position: “The people, on the Day of Resurrection, will remain standing for forty years; and the sun will be ordered so that it will ride over their heads and they will be bridled by sweat – and the earth will be told not to accept any of their sweat. So they will approach Adam to intercede for them and he will direct them to Nuh, and Nuh will direct them to Ibrahim, and Ibrahim will direct them to Musa, and Musa will direct them to ‘Isa, and ‘Isa will direct them saying: ‘You should seek the help of Muhammad, the last prophet.’ Thereupon, Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) will say: ‘I’ll do it;’ and will proceed until, arriving at the door of the garden, he will knock at it. It will be asked, ‘Who is it?’ (while Allah knows better!), and he will say: ‘Muhammad.’ Then it will be said: ‘Open for him.’ When the door will be opened he will turn to his Lord, falling in sajdah. He will not raise his head until he is told: ‘Speak up and ask, you will be given; and intercede, your intercession shall be granted.’ He will raise his head and turning to his Lord will fall (again) in sajdah. Then he will be promised as before; then he will raise his head. (Thereupon, he shall intercede) until he will intercede even for him who would have been burnt in the fire. Therefore, on the Day of Resurrection, no one among all the nations will be more eminent then Muhammad (s.a.w.a.); and it is (the meaning of) the words of Allah: May be your Lord will raise you to a praised position.” (al-‘Ayyashi)
The author says: This meaning is narrated by both sects in great number, in detail as well as in short, with numerous chains; and it proves that the “praised position” means the position of intercession. This tradition is not in conflict with intercession of other prophets, because probably their intercession will be an offshoot of our Prophet’s, and it will begin on his hand.
‘Ubayd ibn Zurarah said: “Abu ‘Abdillah (a.s.) was asked whether a believer would have the right of intercession. He said: ‘Yes.’ Then someone said: ‘Will even a believer need the intercession of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) on that day?’ He said: ‘Yes. The believers too will come with wrongs and sins; and there will be none but he shall need the intercession of Muhammad on that day.’” (‘Ubayd) said: “And someone asked him about the words of the Messenger of Allah: ‘I am the Chief of the children of Adam, and I say this without boasting.’ He said: ‘Yes.’ (Then) he said: ‘He will hold the chain-link of the door of the garden and open it; then he will fall in sajdah, and Allah will tell him ‘Raise your head, do intercede, your intercession shall be granted, and ask, you shall be given.’ Thereupon he will raise his head and intercede – and his intercession will be accepted; and he will ask and be given.” (ibid)
Muhammad ibn al-Qasim narrates through his chains from Bishr ibn Shurayh al-Basri that he said: “I said to Muhammad ibn ‘Ali (a.s.): ‘Which verse in the Book of Allah is the most hope-inspiring?’ He said: ‘And what do your people say (about it)?’ I said: ‘They say, (it is the verse), Say: “O my servants! Who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah.”’ He said: ‘But we, the people of the house, do not say so.’ I said: ‘Then what do you say about it?’ He said: ‘We say (it is the verse), And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased. (It means) the intercession, by Allah the intercession, by Allah the intercession.’” (at-Tafsir, Furat ibn Ibrahim)
The author says: The words of Allah, may be your Lord will raise you to a praised position, refers to the Prophet’s glorious position of intercession, as the numerous traditions of the prophet himself prove. Moreover the wording of the verse too supports it: “will raise you” shows that it is a position which he will attain in future, i.e. on the Day of Judgment; “praised” is general and unconditional, and implies that he shall be praised by all men, past and present. Al-Hamd means to praise someone for a good done to you intentionally. This definition shows that the Prophet will do something by his own will and power which will benefit all of them and in return everyone will praise him. That is why the Imam said in the tradition of ‘Ubayd ibn Zurarah, “and there will no one but he shall need the intercession of Muhammad that day.”
We shall later explain it further.