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“Wasta”: Appeal to Influential People To Secure Our Future?

04 September, 2017
Q Assalamu alaikum. I am from Pakistan and here 70,000 students are applying for medical college. But only about 3,500 seats are available for students in medical colleges. Therefore, some parents tend to ask some influential person to recommend their children... Is is permissible in Islam? Wouldn't it be like snatching a seat from maybe a rather hard-working student?


Wa alaikum ussalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh,

Thank you for sending in your question to our website.

Your question involves the issue of whether it is permissible for parents to request an influential person, such as someone in a government position, to intercede on the behalf of their child to get them admitted into a medical college.

In many places, the number of total seats is very limited compared to the number of hopefuls who wish to occupy them.

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The question, then, becomes: If parents don’t intercede in this way, how else will their children succeed in life?

What is Intercession?

Intercession in Islam is an important issue.

“Intercession” refers to the facilitation done by someone righteous, or a person who is otherwise in a position of authority or influence, to enable another person to acquire a certain blessing, with ease.

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Allah says in the Qur’an:

Whosoever intercedes for a good cause will have the reward thereof, and whosoever intercedes for an evil cause will have a share in its burden. And Allah is Ever All-Able to do (and also an All-Witness to) everything.  [Quran 4:85]

Intercession is a good deed when done legally, when the sought blessing is lawful & permissible, and when it is acquired in an ethical manner.

A good example of this is when a younger person, who is righteous and worthy, is given a character guarantee for a job or marriage proposal by someone who is older and well-known in the community.

This kind of intercession classifies as a good deed in Islam, because it facilitates a needy person to acquire blessings in life.

One of the conditions that must be met for intercession to be lawful & praiseworthy, however, is that the person who wishes to acquire the blessing through the intercession of an influential person should rightfully deserve it and be worthy of it.

They should also pursue it in a manner that is permissible, and their doing so should not infringe upon or usurp the rights of others to the same blessing.

When Does This Kind of Intercession Classify as Cheating?

Regarding the case that you have described, it seems that this would be permissible only if the entry into such a college was not exclusively merit-based, and referrals for hopeful medical students from people in influential positions were warranted by the college in question.

However, if the only criterion of selection of undergraduate students for a medical college is academic merit, then this kind of intercession (by an influential person for an undeserving student with a poor academic record to bag a seat) is wastaor nepotism, and it would be deemed impermissible in Islam.

This is because it would infringe upon the rights of other deserving students, students whose merit might be up to the mark, but who do not have access to any influential people who can intercede on their behalf and give them a referral in order to acquire a seat.

They would lose out to those students who had access to intercessions by influential people, albeit with poor merit.

And the result of this would be catastrophic, as it would lead to ineligible and undeserving students qualifying as doctors.

I also hail from Pakistan, and I can vouch for the fact that rampant corruption in government positions has resulted in the entrance of many unworthy students into all kinds of institutions on an illegal and unethical basis.

This has resulted in undeserving people acquiring medical degrees and going on to practice as doctors. How can we expect “doctors” who possess such low moral character, to ethically serve the needs of the ailing masses?

Seek Alternative Paths to Success

In Pakistan, the medical profession carries a very high social prestige value. Most parents wistfully desire to see their sons and daughters qualify as doctors, mostly in order to boost their own reputation.

This has led to many unethical practices, such as the one you have asked us about.

But all is not bleak!

In the past, only doctors were believed to earn a very high income. However, now many other professions, which were not historically considered to be a good return on investment, are proving to be equally if not more lucrative.

If a student in Pakistan whose merit was good enough to bag a seat in medical college apparently loses out to undeserving but politically well-connected candidates, they should try not to lose heart.

They should remember that whatever passes us by was never meant for us.

Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas, reported: One day I was behind the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, and he said to me:

O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice] : Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you (have need to) ask, ask of Allah; and if you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that even if the Nation (or the whole community) were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with something, they would not be able to harm you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried. [Al-Tirmidhi]

Students in this circumstance should try to focus on channelizing their positive youthful energies and hard work into other available fields of interest, pursuing professions that impassion as well as reward them monetarily.

Allah knows best. I hope that this answers your question.

Salam. Please stay in touch.

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