The hadith scholar and ascetic, Imam Ibn Abi Dunya (d. 281 H) in his book “مجابو الدعوة” which is a compilation of various supplications used by the Salaf, records the following:
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو هِشَامٍ، سَمِعْتُ عَنَ كَثِيرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ كَثِيرِ بْنِ رِفَاعَةَ قَالَ: ” جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى عَبْدِ الْمَلِكِ بْنِ حَيَّانَ بْنِ سَعِيدِ بْنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ أَبْجَرَ، فَجَسَّ بَطْنَهُ، فَقَالَ: بِكَ دَاءٌ لَا يَبْرَأُ، قَالَ: مَا هُوَ؟ قَالَ: هُوَ الدُّبَيْلَةُ، فَتَحَوَّلَ الرَّجُلُ، فَقَالَ: اللَّهُ، اللَّهُ، رَبِّي لَا أُشْرِكُ بِهِ أَحَدًا، اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَتَوَجَّهُ إِلَيْكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، نَبِيِّ الرَّحْمَةِ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ، إِنِّي أَتَوَجَّهُ بِكَ إِلَى رَبِّكَ وَرَبِّي أَنْ يَرْحَمَنِي مِمَّا بِي رَحْمَةً يُغْنِينِي بِهَا عَنْ رَحْمَةِ مَنْ سِوَاهُ – ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ثُمَّ دَعَا إِلَى ابْنِ أَبْجَرَ، فَجَسَّ بَطْنَهُ، فَقَالَ: بَرَأْتَ، مَا بِكَ عِلَّةٌ “
(as translated by others), a person came over to see ‘Abd-ul-Malik bin Sa‘īd bin Abjar (who is from the Tabi’ Tabieen). ‘Abd-ul-Malik pressed his belly and told him that he was suffering from an incurable disease. The man asked him: ‘what is it?’ ‘Abd-ul-Malik replied that it was a kind of ulcer that grows inside the belly and ultimately kills the man. It is said that the patient turned round and then he said: Allāh! Allāh! Allāh is my Lord. I regard no one as His rival or partner. O Allāh! I beseech You and submit myself to You through the mediation of Your Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), the merciful Prophet. O Muhammad! Through your means I submit myself to your and my Lord that He should take mercy on me in my state of illness. It is said that ‘Abd-ul-Malik pressed his belly again and said: ‘you are cured, you are no longer suffering from any disease.’
As one can see, the practice of Tawassul was a practice of Muslims from the earliest of times going back to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) himself who taught the dua of tawassul as in the hadith of the blind man and practiced by the Sahabah as in the hadith of man in need and continued to be practiced by the Salaf, scholars and laity until today. In fact, Ibn Taymiyya in his book قاعدة جليلة في التوسل والوسيلة quotes this narration and says,
قلت: فهذا الدعاء ونحوه قد روي أنه دعا به السلف، ونقل عن أحمد بن حنبل في منسك المروذي التوسل بالنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في الدعاء، ونهى به
“I say this dua’ and similar (dua’) has been narrated that the Salaf used to ask (in supplication) with, and it’s been reported in the Manasik of Al Marrudhi that Imam Ahmed (encouraged) tawassul through the Prophet in his dua’”.
The above saying of Ibn Taymiyya also refutes the bogus claim of pseudo salafis that the tawassul which scholars allowed is restricted to calling upon Allah only such as “Oh Allah we seek by your Prophet…” while instead we see from the narration above that it is not restricted to such.