Home > Islam, Religion > The Intercession of the Saints in the Bible and the Koran

The Intercession of the Saints in the Bible and the Koran

I spent a large portion of my life believing like a Protestant Christian. I became aware that Roman Catholic Christians often pray to the Mother of God and the Saints while watching TV and also after having come in contact with Roman Catholics in school and in other settings. As a Protestant, I was always told that praying to a Saint is idolatry. However, my views on the subject began to change while I was watching EWTN. I remember a priest telling about a time when he was on a Christian talk show. Two of the men on the show were Protestants. They were about to pray for a vast number of people who had sent in letters requesting prayer. The priest asked them, “Why they do not ask someone on the other side to pray for these people?” They answered that it was wrong to do that because Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Then he asked them, “Why then are you praying for these people?” That got me to thinking. If people on this side pray for people, then it must be all right for someone on the other side to pray for them as well. When I was converting to Orthodox Christianity, I learned that not all prayer is worship. Prayer directed to the Saints or the Mother of God is not worship. It is called prayer, but really it is only communication. There is scientific evidence that people do not cease to exist after they die  and the Bible and the Koran provide some instruction pertaining to intercession. Muslims, like Christians, have different views on the subject of the intercession of the Saints.

First of all, it is important to realize that death is not the end of human existence. People have a consciousness that continues on after one dies. This consciousness is often referred to as the spirit or the soul. In the Bible, it is quite clear that the souls of dead people continue to exist. There is the story about Saul speaking to Samuel after he had died. Saul went to a medium and asked her to call up the soul of Samuel. She did. Then Saul had a conversation with Samuel. (I Samuel 25:1; 28:7-20) In the Book of Revelation, there are the souls of martyrs who pray in Heaven.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11, NKJV)

In the Koran, it says:

And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah “dead.” Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not. (Koran 2:154, Pickthall)

In modern times, there have been many studies done on near death experiences (NDEs). Thousands of cases have been examined by numerous doctors and scientists. The evidence is quite compelling that people really do have souls which survive the deaths of their bodies. Here are some videos on the subject. The first one is quite long and the others are considerably shorter.

 In the Bible and in the Koran, it says that we should pray for others. The Bible says to pray for everyone.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (I Timothy 2:1,2, NKJV)

The Koran says that we should pray for our parents.

Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, say not “Fie” unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. (Koran 17:23,24, Pickthall)

Whenever one prays the Fatihah, one includes others in his prayer.

Thee we worship. Thee we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path. (Koran 1:4,5)

So, anyone who prays this prayer is also interceding for others while he prays. In the Old Testament, Abraham prayed for Abimelech.

But now return the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; but if thou restore her not, know that thou shalt die and all thine…  And Abraam prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his women servants, and they bore children. (Genesis 20:7,17, LXX)

According to the Koran, Abraham also prayed for his father.

He said: Peace be unto thee! I shall ask forgiveness of my Lord for thee. Lo! He was ever gracious unto me. (Koran 19:47, Pickthall)

There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone”: But not when Abraham said to his father: “I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah.” (They prayed): “Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal. (Koran 60:4, Yusuf Ali)

Job prayed for Eliphaz, Baldad, and Sophar.

And it came to pass after the Lord had spoken all these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Thaemanite, Thou hast sinned, and thy two friends: for ye have not said anything true before me, as my servant Job has. Now then take seven bullocks, and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and he shall offer a burnt-offering for you. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will only accept him: for but his sake, I would have destroyed you, for ye have not spoken the truth against my servant Job. So Eliphaz the Thaemanite, and Baldad the Sauchite, and Sophar the Minaean, went and did as the Lord commanded them: and he pardoned their sin for the sake of Job. (Job 42:7-9, LXX)

Simon Magus asked for the prayers of St. Peter.

Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” (Acts 8:24, NKJV)

Muhammad prayed for some Muslims who did not fight.

It was by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him). (Koran 3:159, Pickthall)

Muhammad also prayed for some women.

O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah, nor will they steal, nor will they commit unlawful sexual intercourse, nor will they kill their children, nor will they bring forth a slander they have invented between their arms and legs, nor will they disobey you in what is right – then accept their pledge and ask forgiveness for them of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Koran 60:12, Sahih International)

It is perfectly all right, therefore, according to both Christianity and Islam, for someone whose soul is still united to his body to pray for someone else.

In the Koran, it says that the angels pray for us who are on Earth.

The heavens may almost rend asunder from above them and the angels sing the praise of their Lord and ask forgiveness for those on earth; now surely Allah is the Forgiving, the Merciful. (Koran 42:5, Shakir)

The Bible teaches that those in Heaven know what happens to those on Earth. There are people all over the world who repent of their sins and cry out unto God. Many may live thousands of miles apart and repent at the same time. The angels and the souls of people who are in Heaven know when people repent and rejoice.

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance… Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:7,10, NKJV)

In the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, many Old Testament Saints are mentioned in chapter 11. In the twelfth chapter, it says that those Old Testament Saints surround us like a great cloud of witnesses. They are aware of what we do.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV)

Since they are aware of what we do, it is possible to talk to them and ask for their prayers.

There are some people who obtain things in prayer more easily than others do. In the Catholic Epistle of St. James it says:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:16-18, NKJV)

This is why we should ask for the Saints to pray for us. The effective, fervent prayers of righteous men and women avail much.

Both the Bible and the Koran teach that there are differing degrees of glory the righteous experience and there are different rewards. Some have progressed further in righteousness and holiness than others. In the Bible, there is Jesus’ parable of the sower. Some seed falls on the wayside, others among the rocks, others among the thorns, and others on the good ground.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” … “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:3-9,23, NKJV)

Only the good ground bears fruit. They are the only ones who will inherit the Kingdom of God. Among them, nevertheless, there are some who bear a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. They will be rewarded according to how much fruit they bear. The more fruit one bears, the greater the reward. St. Paul says that we pass from one degree of glory to another.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18, NKJV)

Some have advanced further in degrees of glory than others. The Koran, like the Bible, teaches that there are differing degrees of glory and rewards among the righteous departed.

Is one who followeth the pleasure of Allah as one who hath earned condemnation from Allah, whose habitation is the Fire, a hapless journey’s end? There are degrees (of grace and reprobation) with Allah, and Allah is Seer of what they do. (Koran 3:162,163, Pickthall)

Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary; degrees of rank from Him, and forgiveness and mercy. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. (Koran 4:95,96, Pickthall)

Whoso desireth that (life) which hasteneth away, We hasten for him therein what We will for whom We please. And afterward We have appointed for him hell; he will endure the heat thereof, condemned, rejected. And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favour (with their Lord). Each do We supply, both these and those, from the bounty of thy Lord. And the bounty of thy Lord can never be walled up. See how We prefer one of them above another, and verily the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment. (Koran 17:18-21, Pickthall)

The Koran also says that he who has borne witness to the truth has power of intercession with Allah.

And those unto whom they cry instead of Him possess no power of intercession, saving him who beareth witness unto the Truth knowingly. (Koran 43:86, Pickthall)

The people who cry out to false gods to intercede for them do so foolishly because the false gods have no power of intercession with Allah. The words, “saving him who beareth witness unto the Truth knowingly,” refer to St. John the Baptist and Jesus. In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus said:

You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. (John 5:33, NKJV)

In St. Matthew’s Gopel, Jesus said:

Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11, NKJV)

St. John the Baptist is the greatest man born of a woman except for Jesus. (John 1:24-30)

Regarding Jesus, we have this verse from St. John’s Gospel.

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37, NKJV)

Jesus also has borne witness to the truth. Therefore, according to Koran 43:86, Jesus has power of intercession. In St. Paul’s writings, it says that Jesus intercedes for His followers.

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34, NKJV)

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25, NKJV)

Jesus, like the Holy Spirit, is one of three hypostases of the Deity. Jesus is the Word of Allah which has become incarnate. (Koran 4:171; John 1:1-3, 14) The Holy Spirit also intercedes for those who follow Jesus and strive to obey His commandments. (The Father’s commandments are also the Son’s commandments. All things that the Father has are Mine.— John 16:15, NKJV) In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, it says:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26,27, NKJV)

False gods are not intercessors with Allah. Praying to a false god is useless and foolish. Both the Bible and the Koran teach the same thing regarding this matter.

Then maketh he prayer for his goods, for his wife and children, and is not ashamed to speak to that which hath no life. For health he calleth upon that which is weak: for life prayeth to that which is dead; for aid humbly beseecheth that which hath least means to help: and for a good journey he asketh of that which cannot set a foot forward: and for gaining and getting, and for good success of his hands, asketh ability to do of him, that is most unable to do any thing. (Wisdom 13:16-19)

They worship beside Allah that which neither hurteth them nor profiteth them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Would ye inform Allah of (something) that He knoweth not in the heavens or in the earth? Praised be He and High Exalted above all that ye associate (with Him)! (Koran 10:18, Pickthall)

Shall I take (other) gods in place of Him when, if the Beneficent should wish me any harm, their intercession will avail me naught, nor can they save? (Koran 36:23, Pickthall)

Or choose they intercessors other than Allah? Say: What! Even though they have power over nothing and have no intelligence? Say: Unto Allah belongeth all intercession. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. And afterward unto Him ye will be brought back. And when Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are repelled, and when those (whom they worship) beside Him are mentioned, behold! they are glad. (Koran 39:43-45, Pickthall)

God  can also refuse to listen to the prayers of anyone who intercedes for someone else. St. John the Theologian said that we should not pray for someone who has committed a sin leading to death.

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (I John 5:16, NKJV)

In the Old Testament, God said that even Moses and Samuel could not intercede for the Jews because of the magnitude of their sins.

And the Lord said to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before My face, My soul could not be toward them: dismiss this people, and let them go forth. (Jeremiah 15:1, LXX)

In the Koran, it says that God told Noah not to intercede for the people who were about to be drowned.

Then We inspired in him, saying: Make the ship under Our eyes and Our inspiration. Then, when Our command cometh and the oven gusheth water, introduce therein of every (kind) two spouses, and thy household save him thereof against whom the Word hath already gone forth. And plead not with Me on behalf of those who have done wrong. Lo! they will be drowned. (Koran 23:27, Pickthall)

It also says in the Koran that God would not grant forgiveness to some people for whom Muhammad would intercede. God told him not to pray for them.

Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (Koran 9:80, Pickthall)

Whether thou ask forgiveness for them or ask not forgiveness for them is all one for them; Allah will not forgive them. Lo! Allah guideth not the evil-living folk (Koran 63:6, Pickthall)

In both of those verses from the Koran it says that God does not guide people who want to continue living evil, sinful lives and not adopt a righteous lifestyle. There is no point in praying for God to forgive someone who refuses to repent. This is what it means when it says in the Koran that no one can intercede for someone except by Allah’s permission.

Allah is He besides Whom there is no god, the Everliving, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; 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? (Koran 2:255, Shakir)

Indeed, your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne, arranging the matter [of His creation]. There is no intercessor except after His permission. That is Allah , your Lord, so worship Him. Then will you not remember? (Koran 10:3, Sahih International)

On that Day shall no intercession avail except for those for whom permission has been granted by (Allah) Most Gracious and whose word is acceptable to Him. (Koran 20:109, Yusuf Ali)

He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves and for fear of Him they tremble. (Koran 21:28, Shakir)

According to the Bible, the Saints pray for us. The High Priest Onias and the Holy Prophet Jeremiah prayed for the Jews. Both of them had already died when this vision was revealed.

And this was his vision: That Onias, who had been high priest, a virtuous and a good man, reverend inconversation, gentle in condition, well spoken also, and exercised from a child in all points of virtue, holding up his hands prayed for the whole body of the Jews. This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs, and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prayeth much for the people, and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremias the prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias holding forth his right hand gave to Judas a sword of gold, and in giving it spake thus, Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with the which thou shalt wound the adversaries. (II Maccabees 15:12-16)

Therefore, it is all right to ask for their prayers, but we must be striving to live a virtuous life when we do ask for their prayers. Otherwise, their prayers on our behalf may not help us at all. However, one can also ask them to pray that we do live virtuous lives and keep God’s commandments. Their prayers  can help one advance spiritually.

In the Orthodox Christian tradition, it is acceptable to ask a pious deceased relative or friend to pray for one. I found this video on Youtube. I thought that it was interesting because this Hindu woman is doing what we Orthodox Christians do.

Here are some videos about how Muslims view the intercession of the Saints. You will notice that they all do not agree on the subject. Some think like Protestants and absolutely refuse to ask someone on the other side to pray for them. Others ask Muhammad and pious deceased imams to pray for them.

I conclude this blog with an Orthodox prayer.

O Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother and all Thy Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for Thou art a merciful God, and lovest mankind. Amen.

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