An intercessor is a mediator or arbitrator (Arabic: shafeeh), that looks after the interests of someone. In this sense the Quran too is shafeeh because, through its guidance, it looks after the interests of mankind and society. However, in the religious sense it is a person who intervenes on behalf of another, especially by prayer. The Quran rejects the notion that an intercessor is needed to appeal to God, because every individual will be judged by his or her deeds and given a status that is rightfully theirs.[1]


Intercession in religious terms is undeserved favouritism. This is where criminals can ask influential people, in this case a messenger of God such as Muhammad, on the ‘day of judgement’ to intercede and ask God for absolution and forgiveness to avoid the penalties for their ill deeds.  However, in reality this is not so and no intercession is accepted by God. What you plant, so must you reap.


The Quran mentions shafa’at: looking after each other’s interests. In an ordered society that follows the Deen-Islam every individual should be a ‘shafeeh’ – someone who is aware of the affect of their actions on other people’s affairs and interests and therefore acts in a positive manner. There will be no shafeeh to look after the interests of the wrongdoers – simply because it is a mistake to support the corrupt. Furthermore, in verses 21:27-29, God makes clear His messengers…


“…never convey anything of their own whim and they strictly follow His commands. He knows their future and their past. They, His messengers, need not intercede on behalf of anyone, those who send forth their good deeds are already honoured by Him. The messengers worry about their own future. If any one of them claims to be an authority equal or rival to God, We punish him with the torment of hell; We thus rebuke the wicked.”


If the messengers cannot intercede, what right have priests, saints and other ‘holy’ men?


The basic meaning of shafa’at is to act as a community and to look after each other’s interests. The main goal of the Quran is to establish a socio-economic system that helps mankind develop as a whole. For this purpose, the Quran advocates a system of collective living rather than individualism because mankind can develop only as a whole in a healthy and stable society. Social systems that promote or encourage selfishness, greed and exploitation of fellow humans where the individual’s interests prevail over collective interests conflict with the Quranic values.


Social systems in which the very rich do not care for the poor – in spite of improved resources – suppress human potential. Such a system produces corrupt and characterless individuals and creates severe imbalances in all spheres of that society.


In a muslim society that follows the Quranic Deen every individual should be a shafeeh – someone who is aware of the affect of their actions on other people’s affairs and interests. A shafeeh will make every effort to achieve collective objectives. The administrators of an Islamic state are shafeeh of their fellow citizens. Their primary responsibility is to ensure protection for every citizen and not allow any of the citizens to feel neglected in respect of their individual rights and basic needs. This sort of shafeeh among muslims is not limited to them, but indeed extends to other nations.


Our commitment to God is to make His ‘system of economy’ successful and useful for the whole of humankind. For this purpose they are encouraged to cooperate with other nations in all works that are carried out according to the divine laws for the welfare, peace, stability and strength of humankind. They are prohibited from cooperation with those who act against the interests of humankind. They must not make plans that create division, rifts and disunity among the people and to not sap their energies and vigour, and leave them unsubstantial.


Accordingly the Quran says: “Whoever contributes to a good deed receives a share of the resulting reward and whoever takes part in any evil work incurs a share of the retribution. God holds to account all things.” [Verse 4:85]. This is the Quranic concept of shafa’at.


Now, compare this with the traditional notion: it is believed that on the Day of Judgement, God will condemn the criminals and sinners to hell. Then the pious, the saints and the ‘holy’ men – especially the messengers, and Muhammad in particular – will come forward for the defence of criminals and request a general amnesty. God will pardon them on the request of the holy and pious men and send the criminals from hell to heaven. This is called intercession. Obviously, this definition of intercession is not what is meant in the Quran – rather, it demolishes the whole edifice of Islam that is firmly established on the principle of accountability.


The Quran says that on the day of Accountability everyone will be shown the exact effect of everything that they had thought, said or done in this life of probation, however they may have concealed or misinterpreted it in this life. Everything will be taken into account and the account shall convince even the persons themselves. It will be done openly and transparently.


It seems that the popular concept of intercession (patronage of criminals) originated during the era of despot kings when the Quranic value system was put aside and the principles of fairness, justice and accountability were ignored. Influential men in the royal courts interceded to protect criminals.


This concept may have gained credence from the Christian idea of atonement. According to this idea Jesus will intercede for all sinners among his believers on the Day of Judgement. It was a strong argument used by Christians in an attempt to give the impression of superiority over other religions. Therefore, it may have inspired the Arab religion to contrive similar beliefs about Muhammad. They concocted a hadith claiming that on the Day of Judgement when God sentences the sinners to hell Muhammad will fall in prostration before God and will not raise his head until God forgives all sinners and sends them to heaven.


These falsehoods may have led to a perceived superiority by Muslims over Christians but at the same time proved fatal due to Islam’s firm foundation on the principle of accountability. This hadith attributed to Mohammad regarding intercession is obviously false and in fact did great harm to muslims’ morality. The Quran does not advocate such intercession as it states explicitly: “Beware of the day when no person can help another, no intercession will be accepted, no ransom can be paid, nor can anyone be helped.” [Verse 2:48].  In other words this is a strict warning: be on your guard, do not think that special favours exempt you from the personal responsibility of each Self.


Some advocates of intercession conclude that God, in His wisdom, may grade his creatures and give superiority to one person over another. Then by His will and permission such a person may intercede or help. And as such Muhammad will intercede for Muslims by the will and permission of God. This conclusion is absolutely wrong as Muhammad cannot intercede on behalf of anyone.


Our thoughts and actions produce results simultaneously but often we cannot see or perceive them until they mature and become visible. There is a well-measured period for the maturity of each act to produce visible results. For some of our acts this period is so short that we can see the results in our lifetime but for the others it is so long that in order to see the results we must wait for the ‘Final Day’. In order to understand it better, we can classify the phenomena of human activity as concrete realities and latent realities. The former we face in our lifetimes and the latter we face in the life yet to come – there is a built-in system of reward and punishment in the Divine Laws. God does not need help or advocacy of anyone whatsoever.


The Quran explains the process of reward and punishment figuratively so that human minds can grasp it easily. The ‘Day of Judgement’ presents a similar allegorical scenario like those we often see in judicial courts. For example, the criminal is brought to the court with witnesses. All are present and listen to the judgements. Similarly, the Quran says:

“You come back to us as individuals, just as We created you the first time … We do not see with you the intercessors that you idolized or authorities that you set up as equals to Me and those who claimed that they will help you. All ties among you have been severed; the idols you set up have abandoned you.” [Verse 6:94].


Traditional meanings of ‘shafeeh’ are misleading. The Quran does not use the word ‘shafeeh’ for Mohammad. It uses witness, (Arabic: shahid) for Muhammad [Verse 16:89]. On the day of accountability, those deluded with intercession will lament:


“The intercession of those whom We honoured will never help us.” [Verse 74:48]. “…Warn them about the imminent day, when the hearts will be terrified and many will be remorseful. The transgressors will have no friend or an intercessor to speak on their behalf.” [Verse 40:18].


And again, “Say: ‘Shall I seek other than God as my sustainer when He is the sustainer of all things?’ No Self benefits except from its own works and none bears the burden of another. Ultimately, you return to your God then He informs you of the truth regarding all your disputes.” Verse 6:164.


With their roots in tradition and culture, beliefs in intercession are held by nations that have lost the will and energy to work hard. They have become idle and look for easy shortcuts to success. Could you imagine how easy it would be to get paradise through intercession? You are simply required to profess in the messengership of Mohammad and subscribe to a religion associated with him. When a person’s prayer appears to be answered it is often assumed that intercession has worked, when in fact it was no more than a coincidence with events in accordance with God’s ordinance.


In our world shafeeh means to stand with someone in order to help, advocate for, and support him. If this support is for a good cause, the shafeeh will be rewarded but if the support is for bad cause he will share part of the punishment along with the criminal. In reality, God does not need advocacy of anyone. To intercede for criminals or to favour someone undeservedly is against the teachings of the Quran. Therefore, this sort of belief in intercession is wrong. We cannot rely upon any power or person other than God to help us.[2]



[1] Mediator, arbitrator, benefactor, intercessor: providing justice and by consequence ensuring peace and security, looking after the interests of another. (Arabic: shafeeh). The Quran is shafeeh because it looks after the interest of mankind through its guidance. See verses 16:69; 17:82; 41:44. Quran as a mercy to mankind: verse 21:106.

[2] Being a shahfeeh clearly shows ‘team mindset’. A group of intelligent people using planning and cooperation to their personal and community’s advantage. They progress as a society as well as individuals and are constantly looking after each others’ interests. They face and overcome the challenges of life and attract success and achieve harmony as their God-given right. Development through facing challenges: see verses 11:7; 11:114; 19:87; 94:5-8 also 3:185; 32:9. Social welfare and Citizen’s income: see verse 21:112. Equity and equality: see verse 10:109. Salvation without accountability. In contrast, religions have a ‘herd mentality’, the blind following of each other without any critical thinking. Religious people are always waiting for a saviour to lead them out of their misery or hoping that an intercessor will show them pity or favour and they will be raised in status without fulfilling their commitments to themselves, their family or their society. This would be very much like being given a secure, easy and well paid job without having the qualifications, experience or the competence to perform it. The taint of cronyism, in fact. See verses and footnotes 2:177; 17:23- 39; 107:1-7. In complete contradiction to the Quran there is a Bukhari hadith that says 70,000 people will go to heaven without being held to account for their actions, and in the Bible it says that people are saved not by their good deeds but by the grace of God. Sahih-al-Bukhari 6059 and the Bible: Titus 3.5. Authentic Bukhari is the Sunni corpus of hadith literature. Hadith: 4:42; 68:37; 77:50.