LESSON SIXTY: RESPONSES TO CERTAIN SPURIOUS DOUBTS
Various questions and doubts have arisen concerning the subject of intercession; in this lesson, I will provide the answers to the most important doubts raised.
The first doubt is that several verses in the Holy Qur’an maintain that on Resurrection no intercession will be accepted for anyone. For example, it is claimed in al-Baqarah that:
“Beware of the day when no soul shall compensate for another, neither any intercession shall be accepted from it, nor any ransom shall be received from it, nor will they be helped” (al-Baqarah:48)
The point aimed at here is the rejection of independent and non- regulated intercession in which some people believe. Moreover, such verses are general and can be dealt with by the verses in which the acceptance of regulated and God-permitted intercession has been discussed as I explained in the previous lesson.
The requisite for the rightfulness of intercession is that Almighty God should become affected by intercessors; in other words, their intercession causes forgiveness - an action performed by God.
The admittance of intercession does not mean ‘to become affected by’ just as accepting repentance and granting a prayer also do not have such an incorrect requisite. In all these cases the deeds of the servants make readiness in them to accept Divine blessings; in other words, “it is the readiness of the person which counts not the performance of the one who forgives”.
The requisite for intercession is that the intercessors are in fact more merciful than God, as the assumption is that without their intercession the sinners would be engaged in punishment or their punishment would continue.
The intercessors’ sympathy or kindness is a manifestation of God’s endless mercy. In other words, intercession is a means or way Almighty God has considered for forgiving His sinful servants. This indeed manifests His highest levels of mercifulness towards His selected and deserving servants. Similarly, prayer and repentance are other ways He has recognized for the fulfilling of needs aswell as the forgiving of sins.
If God’s decree for punishing the sinful is the requisite for justice, the acceptance of intercession will be against justice. On the other hand, if being secured from punishment, which is a requisite for intercession, is just, sentencing one to punishment before the establishment of intercession would be unjust.
All of God’s sentences, either in punishment before intercession or in releasing from punishment after, is in line with justice and wisdom. However, the point that both of them are wise and just does not mean the togetherness of two contradictory points, as their subjects are different. This means that being sentenced to punishment, irrespective of the conditions, which cause intercession and its being accepted in relation to a sinner, is the outcome of committing sins, just as receiving security from punishment follows its own conditions. Change in a decree due to change in its conditions has been frequently used in canonical and creational laws and regulations. Moreover, the fact that an abolished decree, was considered just at the time of its issue, does not contradict with the decree that replaces it. Similarly, the wisdom behind both the approval of disasters -pre-prayers and almsgiving- and their removal -after prayers and almsgiving- is undeniable. In the same way, the decree towards forgiving sins issued after intercession does not contradict the decree towards punishment pre-intercession.
Almighty God has mentioned that the followers of Satan will certainly be punished in Hell:
“Indeed as for My servants you do not have any authority over them, except the perverse who follow you, and indeed hell is the tryst of them all” (al-Hijr:43)
Therefore, punishing the sinful in the Hereafter is in fact a Divine decree and as we know, such traditions cannot be abrogated or replaced.
“You will never find any change in Allah’s precedent, and you will never find any revision in Allah’s precedent” (Fātir:43)
How is it possible for such a decree to change as a result of intercession?
Accepting intercession for those sinners who possess the necessary qualifications is one of the unchangeable Divine decrees. In other words, Divine decrees are affected by real norms and standards, and should the conditions for occurrence or non-occurrence of a decree exist, it would be unchangeable. However, the words, which express such decrees, do not often include all the relevant limitations and conditions, as it is possible to find verses which on the surface relate to certain decrees, but in reality they represent a specific case. Such verses are interpreted in relation to the most probable case they refer to. Therefore, any decree is unchangeable in terms of its real conditions and limitations (rather than conditions and limitations used in the phrases). One such decree is intercession for those specific sinners who possess the necessary qualifications and follow special regulations; such an intercession is fixed and unchanged.
The promise of intercession will cause boldness and impudence in people, leading them to commit sins and become astray.
The response to this doubt, which is also applicable to the acceptance of repentance and compensating sins, is that; being subject to intercession and forgiveness is limited to certain conditions, the fulfillment of which cannot be guaranteed by the sinner. For example, one condition for intercession is that the sinner must protect his faith until the last minute of his life, and we know that no-one can guarantee to fulfill such a condition. Moreover, if one who has committed a sin does not hope to be forgiven, he will become hopeless and disappointed; this will in turn weaken the motivation for the abandonment of sins and will cause the continuation of his wrong and deviated way. This is why it has been the approach of the teachers of religion to instill into the people the balance between hope and fear - neither holding so much hope in God’s mercy as to make them become complacent, nor to hold so much fear of His punishment as to make them loss hope in His Mercy - both of which, as we know, are among the major sins.
The effect of intercession on one’s security from punishment means that someone else (intercessor’s) has an effect on one’s prosperity and release from adversity, yet the verse:
‘There is nothing for man except what he attempts to get,’ clearly implies that it is only one’s own labor which brings reward.
One’s attempt in reaching an aim is often direct and continues to the end; however, on some occasions such attempts are indirect and are therefore performed following the preparation of their means and preliminaries. A person who is subject to intercession attempts to approach the preliminaries of prosperity, because becoming a believer and behaving in a way whereby one deserves intercession, are considered as attempts at reaching prosperity, even though it is incomplete and deficient. This is the reason why such a person will be involved in the pains and difficulties of the life between this world and the Hereafter aswell as the first stages of Resurrection. Nevertheless, this same person himself has planted the roots of prosperity - faith - in his heart and has watered it with his deserving deeds so that it will not dry out until the end of his worldly life. Therefore, one’s eventual prosperity depends on his efforts and hard work; however, the intercessors will contribute in growing the fruits of this tree (of prosperity), exactly as we witness the fruit of guiding people in this worldly life, as such guidance cannot replace each individual’s efforts and hard work.
1- How can one believe in intercession while there are some verses denying it?
2- Is the effect of others on God not a requisite for intercession?
3- Are the intercessors more merciful that God?
4- Explain the relationship between intercession and Divine justice.
5- Does intercession cause change in Divine decree?
6- Does the promise of intercession cause impudence in the sinners?
7- Explain how intercession does not contradict with the claim that people’s prosperity depends on their own attempts and hard work.