The word Tawassul comes from the word “Al Wasila”
Definition of Al Wasila
Al-Khalil bin Ahmad (100-170 H.) said in “al Ayn”:
“Wassaltu to my Lord Wasilatan, means: I did a deed that by which I drew near to Him. And I did tawassul to someone by a book or a relative, means that I sought means of approach to him by it.
‘I see that the people do not know the value of their affair,
where as every religious person seeks to draw nearer to Allaah.’
Isma’il bin Hammad al Jawhari (d. 393 H.) said in “As-Sihah fi Al-Lughah”:
“Al Wasila: That by which one draws near to another”.
“Al wasilah ” by this meaning is found in the Quran:
O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek al wasilah to Him. (5:35)
Its tafsir (interpretation) :
Tafsir Imam At-Tabari (d. 310 H.) He says: and seek nearness to Him by performing the acts that please Him.
Tafsir “Bahr al Uloom” by Abul Layth As-Simirqandi (d. 375 H.) It means: seek nearness and virtue by the good deeds.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H.) : Ibn `Abbas said that Wasilah means `the means of approach’.
Mujahid, Abu Wa’il, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, `Abdullah bin Kathir, As-Suddi, Ibn Zayd and others gave the same meaning for Wasilah.
Qatadah said that the ayah means, “Seek the means of approach to Him by obeying Him and performing the acts that please Him.”
And there is no disagreement amongst the mufassireen on what those Imams said.
Thus the general meaning of Tawassul is to seek nearness to Allah through performing good deeds.
As for the specific meaning of Tawassul, it is to hope for and seek the answering of one’s duaa (supplication).