How will the Prophet (peace be upon him) intercede for his Ummah (nation based on one creed) with his Lord on the Day of Resurrection?
How will the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), righteous people, and angels intercede for sinners? The Hadith saying:
My Shafa`ah (intercession) will be for those among my Ummah who have committed major sins.
Is it Sahih (authentic)? What does it mean, if it is Sahih?
The Shafa`ah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the righteous people on the Day of Resurrection is affirmed in the Qur'an. Many Sahih Hadiths reported in the Sunnah explain what is mentioned in the Qur'an. From among these Hadiths is the one mentioned in the question above. There are many types of Shafa`ah. Shaykh
`Abdul-Rahman ibn Hasan (may Allah be merciful to him) said in his book Fath Al-Majid:
"Ibn Al-Qayyim mentioned that Shafa`ah is of six types: The first, the Great Shafa`ah which the Messengers of inflexible purpose will be reluctant to undertake until the Prophet (peace be upon him) accepts it, saying: 'I am the one for it.' This is when people shall resort to the prophets (peace be upon them) to intercede for them with Allah to relieve them from their distress in this situation. This kind of Shafa`ah is special for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) alone; allowed to none but him. (Part No. 3; Page No. 473) The second is the Shafa`ah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for the people of Paradise to enter it.
Abu Hurayrah mentioned this type of Shafa`ah in a long Hadith reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. The third is the Shafa`ah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for some sinners among his Ummah who deserve punishment in Hellfire for their sins. He (peace be upon him) will intercede with Allah for them not to enter it. The fourth is the Shafa`ah of the Prophet for the sinners from among the people of Tawhid (belief in the Oneness of Allah/ monotheism) who will be punished in Hellfire because of their sins. There are many Hadiths ranked as Mutawatir (reported by a significant number of narrators throughout the chain of narration, whose agreement upon a lie is impossible) that are reported in this regard. The Sahabah and all Ahl-ul-Sunnah (adherents to the Sunnah) unanimously agreed upon them and declared those who deny them to be Mubtadi`s (people who introduce innovations in religion), decried their act and described them as deviants from the true path. The fifth is the Shafa`ah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for some people of Paradise that Allah may increase their reward and elevate their status. These are undisputable types of Shafa`ah that are dedicated to sincere monotheists who have not associated any protectors or intercessors with Allah. Allah says:
And warn therewith (the Qur’ân) those who fear that they will be gathered before their Lord, when there will be neither a protector nor an intercessor for them besides Him
The sixth is the Shafa`ah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for some of his relatives who died as Kafirs and entered Hellfire that Allah may alleviate their torment. This kind of Shafa`ah is for
Abu Talib alone."
May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.