Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database.


Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word shafa'a is derived from shaf meaning the making a thing to be one of a pair, or the adjoining a thing to its like, and thus shafa'a signifies the joining of a man to another assisting him. In Islamic terminology, it means intercession. It is the intercession of a mediator with the right to intercede of the greater or more worthy on behalf of the lesser or less worthy. The word shafa'a occurs 29 times in the Koran.

The Koranic use of shafa'a and the cognate verb as employed for intercession is interesting, the texts falling into three groups. One group pictures sinful men after death unable to find any intercessor, all those on whom they trusted for this office failing them (2:48, 123, 254; 7:53, 26:10, 74:48). The second group asserts that shafa'a or mediation is reserved by God as His own prerogative: lillahi sh-shafa'atu jami'an (6:51, 70; 10:18; 32:3; 33:45). The third group of texts is behind the overwhelming majority of Muslim prayers concerned with shafa'a. In this group there is no absolute prohibition of mediation, but because it is God's prerogative, He gives the right to it to whom He wills. No one can intercede illa bi idhnihi (except with His permission), illa limani artada (except him who is approved) (21:28). Nowhere is any person named as having this privilege, but one verse is of outstanding importance that this right is exclusively the Prophet: "And those on whom they call beside Him have not the authority for intercession, except him who bears witness to the truth, as they are aware"(43:86). In another verses, it is stated: "Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He displeased. Indeed, the hereafter will be better for you than the present. Your Lord will give to you and you will be well-pleased" ((93:3-5). The pleasing gift of God to the Prophet, according to Ghazalli, is the gift of intercession for his people (Ihya, 4:653). Besides, the scholars have taken following verses to indicate that the Prophet will have the right to intercede for his people on the day of judgment: "On that day intercession will not benefit anyone except those for whom the Merciful has granted" (20:109), "Who is there who can intercede (yashafa'u) in His presence except by His permission?" (2:255), and "No shall have the power of intercession but the one who has taken an oath (ahd) with the Merciful" (19:87).

Back to top