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Published On: Thu, Jan 1st, 2015

Celebrating the uncelebratables: the Sunnah way

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By Husain Zakariyya Yawale.

Allah says:

“… This Day have I perfected your Religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam As your religion. but if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful”[al-Ma’idah: 3].

In the name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon His last and final Messenger, his Household, his Companions and all his followers until the end of time.

Today, and since many hundreds of years after the demise of the Apostle of Allah, many Muslims, including scholars have evolved series of festivals and infused them into the main stream of Islam for various reasons and benefits. While a lot of those infusions or innovations were dead with time, others are still struggling to see the next day. The Sunnah on the other hand, has provided enough leverage for festivities in accordance with the provision of Shari’ah. However, common people and their leaders from both the politicians and the knowledgeable have consistently been maintaining the innovations of celebrations over the centuries. Recently, there are many more festivals innovated on daily basis in the name of Islam. While many of them are localized based on the chief innovators, many others are taking regional or international dimensions. Whereas, in Islam only two celebrations were allowed and rewardful. Any other addition is considered by Sunnah as bid’ah as well as rejected in both part and totality.

‘Aa’ishah, (RA) the Mother of the Faithful narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not part of it will have it rejected.” In a report narrated by Muslim it says: “Whoever does any action that is not part of this matter of ours is rejected.” In Sahih Muslim it is narrated that Jaabir (RA) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to say in his sermons on Fridays: “The best of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad! The worst of matters are those which are newly-invented, and every innovation is a deviation.” Al-Nasaa’i “…and every deviation leads to the Fire.”

What is frightening about the Hadith of A’ishah is its inherent double-edged adversity to any innovation into the affairs of Allah and His Apostle. It is either the innovation that was intended to Allah is completely rejected and turned down, or it is considered as rejecting the Sunnah of His Apostle, and the innovation is perceived as correcting the Law-Giver! Both are terrible and punishable by Allah, if repentance was not offered.

A faithful Muslim is one who stands by the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, as taught by the early righteous luminaries and leading light of Islam. Today we are witnesses to the modern scholars; it is either they are too rigid and inflexible as to rejecting every new beneficial idea and modernism intended to simplify life and creates comfort in worship, or excessively unmindful to anything that could be stealthily pernicious to either Islamic heritages or to the Muslims themselves. Hence, the emphasis in the need to follow only the examples of the early Muslim notabilities in all matters regarding worships and monotheism.

The histories of previous nations and generations are full of examples concerning their bahaviours and rejection of the Apostles sent to them. There is nothing more catastrophe, now that there are no Prophets than rejecting their teachings or substituting them with stark innovations borne out of whims and caprices.

I think Indian Muslims, going by the obtainable happenings annually, are very inclined to several innovative celebration, many atimes in preference to the Sunnah ordained ones. This is may be chiefly so because of their string attachment to the several shrines and graves of their past leaders. For example, the most important Muslim festival in India is Ramzan, which extends through the Islamic month of the same name. It acquires the character of a nationwide fair, with the Muslim areas becoming bright and lively towards the evening and remaining awake almost throughout the night. There is a fixed timing for every ritual performed for the festivals. They observe all the Islamic festivals that are celebrated in other parts of the world, too. In addition to these festivals, there are days of commemorating shrines in India and death anniversaries of saints, which are also observed with religious excitation.

Basically, there are only festivities in Islam; the Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul Adha. The former is celebrated at the end of the month fasting of Ramadan on the first of Shawwal each year. While the later is on the 10th. of Zul-Hajj annually.

However, there are many other festivals introduced at various periods of Muslim nations and civilizations that are in variance with the original teachings of Islam. It is these types of festivals and there rulings in Islam that I intend to discuss in this article.

1. Maulud:

Milad-un Nabi or Maulid is the birthday celebration of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and is celebrated by Muslims as Eid-el Milad. According to some accounts the Prophet Muhammad was born on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal, the year of Elephant, which corresponded to Monday the 20th day of April, 571 A.C. in the city of Mecca of the present Saudi Arabia. It was also said to have passed on the same date; Monday 12th. Rabi-ul Awwal, 63 years later.

During the entire life of the Prophet of Allah, including the first 40 years of his life, there was not a single report, not even a weak one that reported him or his Companions ever celebrated his birthday either in the name of Arabian customs and traditions or Islam. Muslims, by virtue of their worships, they are only allowed to worship Allah after the life and actions of the Apostle of Allah. Thus, anything which was practiced, approved verbally or commanded by him, is not part of Islamic teachings of the Prophet of Islam. ‘Aa’ishah, (RA) the Mother of the Faithful narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not part of it will have it rejected.” In a report narrated by Muslim it says: “Whoever does any action that is not part of this matter of ours is rejected.”

Thus, celebrating that day and considered as part of the Sunnah of Islam, is considered as passed up innovation.

2. Hijah:

The Hijrah, chronicles the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Makkah to Madinah in September 622 C.E. and is the central historical event of Islam. It led to the foundation of the first Muslim city-state, a turning point in Islamic and world history.

The Islamic Calendar is purely based on lunar cycles and was first introduced in 638 C.E the second Caliph, `Umar ibn Khattab (592-644 C.E.) after consulting with his advisors on the starting date of the new Muslim chronology. After serious discussions and suggestions, it was finally agreed that the most appropriate reference point for the Islamic calendar was the Hijrah. The actual starting date for the Calendar was chosen to be the first day of the first month (al-Muharram) of the Islamic lunar calendar of the year of the Hijrah. The Islamic (Hijri) calendar is usually abbreviated A.H. in Western languages from the Latinized Anno Hegirae, “in the year of the Hegira”; Muharram 1, 1 A.H. corresponds to July 16, 622 C.E. Today, by the blessing of Allah we are in 30th day of the month of Rajab, 1432 A. H.!

True to the Companions of the Apostle of Allah, they did not see any wisdom that warranted them to start a celebration seeking the blessing of Allah in the name of Hijrah celebration. They all saw no religious reason in that as it will tantamount to innovating in the affairs that was already decided during the days of revelations.

3. Isra’ and Mi’raaj:

With regard to this night on which the Isra’ and Mi’raaj took place, there is nothing authentic to indicate that it was in the month of Rajab or any other date. Everything that was reported concerning the dates for these events were baseless and unsubstantiated according to the scholars of Hadith. Even if the dates were proven, it would not be permissible for the Muslims to single it out for particular acts of worship, or permissible to celebrate it, because the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions (RA) did not celebrate it either.

4. Lailat al Qadr

The festival of The Night of Power marks the night in which the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Allah.

1. We have indeed revealed this (message) in the night of power: 2. And what will explain to Thee what the night of power is? 3. The night of power is better than a thousand months. 4. Therein come down the angels and the spirit by Allah.s permission, on every errand: 5. Peace! This until the rise of morn![al-Qadr: 1-5]

No doubt Muslims regard this as one of the most important events in history of Islam. On this night the angels descend to earth rehearsing and glorifying the Lord. The Islamic ruling is to enliven the night individually with prayers and recitation of the Holy Qur’an. The Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not to show off) then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2: 34).

The innovation associated with this night is the marry making, drumming and feasting of eating and drinking. In Nigeria for example some people transgress into the bounds of Allah by committing all illicit acts in the name of celebrating ‘Lailatul Qadr’! It is also an innovation to stick to only one date of Ramadan 27 as the undisputed night of Power.

There are many other localized celebrations that are worthless and baseless, and in many instances could be described as unislamic and idolatry. Such as celebrating saints on their graves, the mixing of young men and women, the drumming and dancing, the singing of uncensored phrases and prose, as well as animal sacrifices, all in the name of of Islam; which Islam, is what I do not know.

Finally, if celebrating these events on their dates are acts that were prescribed in Islam, the Messenger (PBUH) would have told his Ummah and set the rules and regulations. Similarly, if any such thing had happened, it would have been well known, and his Companions would have transmitted the information to us in authentic Hadiths. These Compmpanions have narrated from the Prophet (PBUH) everything that his Ummah needed to know, without neglecting any small aspect of the religion. The Prophet (PBUH) was the most sincere of all people; he had fulfilled the trust and conveyed the message to the people in full. Thus, if venerating and celebrating these days and nights were part of Islam of Allah, then the Prophet (PBUH) would have been the first to observe them publically without any concealment. Since no such thing happened then, know that celebrating them and reverencing them is not part of Islam of the Islam he was sent to teach, at all!

Conclusion: Allah says: “Verily, This is My way, leading straight: follow it: follow not (other) paths: They will scatter you about from His (great) path: Thus doth He command you that ye may be Righteous.”[al-An’aam: 153]

“It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, He is indeed on a clearly wrong path.”[al-Ahzaab: 36]


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