Question: How do we understand the hadith where the Prophet says “I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment..” in light of the Intercession of the Prophet on Judgment Day?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Only Allah Most High Can Save
Intercession is essentially an admission to the fact that no one can intrinsically save another from the punishment of Allah Most High and that whatever Allah Most High wishes to occur – will.
Therefore, intercession is not the Prophet’s intrinsic prevention of Allah’s wrath.
Rather it is His appeal for Allah’s mercy toward His community. In the end, only what Allah Most High wants occurs, however, Allah has promised the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that his intercession will be accepted.
A Point Of Belief
It is a point of correct belief to affirm the ultimate intercession of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). This point is affirmed by the Qur’an, the Prophetic narrations, and the consensus of the scholars. [Laqqani, Jawhara al-Tawhid]
Imam Laqqani (Allah have mercy on him) said, in his famous work on Islamic creed, “It is necessary to believe in the intercession of the one whose intercession is accepted, Muhammad, ahead of all, do not deny.” [Ibid.]
The Ultimate Intercession
Imam Bukhari narrates a hadith describing the Day of Judgment and the people seeking intercession from the Prophets until they are directed to the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Though the previous Prophets denied interceding for the people, our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) will say, “I am for it (i.e. this is my duty). I will then seek permission from my Lord and He will permit me. He will then inspire me with praises by which I will extol Him; I don not recall them now; I will then fall in prostration. He (i.e Allah Most High) will say, ‘O Muhammad! Raise your head and speak, you will be heard. Ask, you will be given. Intercede, and your intercession will be accepted.’ Then I will say, ‘O my Lord! My community. My community….'” [Bukhari]
Only Those Who Allah Permits Can Intercede
Allah Most High says, “On that Day no intercession will be of any benefit, except by those granted permission by the Most Compassionate and whose words are agreeable to Him.” [Qur’an; 20:109]
The Prophet’s negation of his own ability to save others from Allah’s punishment refers to the absolute sense (i.e. He is negating his ability to intrinsically stop the decree of Allah). Allah’s acceptance of His intercession is an honor that Allah bestows upon him.
This shows us the extent of the greatness of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his status with Allah Most High.
I hope this helps,
Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; a student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of the Qur’an and the Islamic sciences