Celebrations: A Sunnah, not Bidah – Part II
The concept of festivals and commemoration in the Holy Quran.. continued from part I
Reflecting upon the verses, we find commemorations are considered as virtuous actions in Quran. This has been confirmed and recommended by Quran:
(1) The Place of Ibrahim (a.s.)
Allah, the High, instructs: Take ‘Maqaame Ibraahim’ as a place of payer.
Allah – the High –commands Muslims to adopt as sacred the spot where Prophet Ibrahim’s (a.s.) feet were positioned and establish it as a place for prayer. In this way, the memory of Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) and the construction of Kaaba will remain alive in the hearts of the Muslims forever.
Bukhari records in his ‘Sahih’ that during the construction of Ka’bah, Prophet Ismail (a.s.) brought the stones and Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) did the masonry, till such time that the walls had risen to a height. Then Ibrahim (a.s.) stood on a stone to continue his work till the House of Allah was complete. (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitab al-Anbiya, vol. 6, p. 158)
(2) Safaa and Marwah
Allah the High states: Surely the Safa and the Marwah are among the signs appointed by Allah; so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or pays a visit (to it), there is no blame on him if he goes round them both; and whoever does good spontaneously, then surely Allah is Grateful, Knowing. (Sura Baqarah (2): verse 158)
The Almighty has made the traversing between Safa and Marwah as an essential part of Hajj pilgrimage in memory of the efforts of Janab-e-Haajarah (s.a.).
Bukhari says: Ibrahim (a.s.) had left Haajarah (s.a.) and his son Ismail (a.s.) in the land of Makkah where water was scarce. They were both very thirsty. The son struggled with thirst and the mother ran towards Safaa to see if she could locate water. But she could not find anybody. Disheartened, she moved to the hillock of Marwah, but to no avail. This was repeated seven times. Ibn Abbas narrates from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that for this reason, the pilgrims traverse between the Safaa and Marwah seven times. (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitab al-Anbiya, vol. 2, p. 158)
(3) Ritual Sacrifice
Allah the High declares: “So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when he attained to working with him, he said: O my son! Surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see. He said: O my father! Do what you are commanded If Allah pleases, you will find me of the patient ones. So, when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead. And We called out to him saying: O Ibrahim! You have indeed shown the truth of the vision surely thus do We reward the doers of good. Most surely this is a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” (Sura Saaffaat (37): verse 101-107)
In appreciation of the great self-sacrifice, the Almighty ordered the (Hajj) pilgrims to present ritual sacrifice at Mena in conformity with Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) and his momentous examination and redemption thereof.
The convening of gatherings and commemorations in the light of traditions
On referring to traditions, we discover that it has defined celebrations as permissible and virtuous viz.
- Ibn Qataadah narrates in Saheeh al-Muslim: The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was questioned about the Monday fast. He replied: It is because I was born on Monday and the Holy Quran was also revealed on that day. (Saheeh al-Muslim, vol. 2, p. 819)
Baihaqi relates from Anas: The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) performed ‘Aqiqah’ after he was chosen for the position of Prophethood. Whereas, it has come in traditions that the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) grandfather Hazrat Abdul Muttalib(a.s.) had performed his Aqiqah seven days after his holy birth. Suyuti comments: Aqiqah is never repeated. Hence, this action should be based on the premise that it was his way of thanksgiving to the Lord for giving him life and making him a blessing for the universe. Emulating the action of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), we should also get together, organize a feast and perform other acts on the birthday of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) which will bring us closer to the Allah’s satisfaction and be a token of our thanksgiving to Allah.
Hafiz b. Nasir al-Deen Damishqi adds: It has been narrated vide correct (reliable) chain of narrators that the chastisement of Abu Lahab is reduced on Mondays for he had freed his slave girl Nuwiabah in gratification of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birth.
It is abundantly clear from the above the tradition that the punishment of an unbeliever is reduced exclusively due to such a diminutive act of affection for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). What great reward and blessing then, awaits a believer on organizing feasts and celebrations for the same!
Ahle Sunnah views on ‘Meelad’ (Birthdays)
The scholars of Ahle Sunnah have praised celebration of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birthdays. They have counted such acts among good and recommended deeds (as per religious law). Some of their opinions are mentioned below:
- Qastalaasni notes in Mawaaheb al-Daniyyah: Throughout history, Muslims have celebrated the month of Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birthday as a festival. They have organized feasts, made contributions to charity, helped the poor and showed their happiness and joy through gatherings of eulogies and poetry…May Allah’s Mercy encompass those who carry out such great work!(Mawaahib al-Lazinah, vol. 1, p. 128)
- Suyuti opines: I have been questioned regarding poetry and eulogies (Qasidah and Na’t) in the month of Rabi al- Awwal. Is this act recommended or disapproved in religious law? Will the person doing this act be rewarded? The eulogy recitals and the birth celebrations are held so that people gather, recite some Quranic verses and traditions in praise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). In the end, they are invited to partake of food that is specifically organized for this purpose. This is a virtuous deed; both the organizer and the participants are rewarded and recompensed. This is because this act increases the respect for the status and honour of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and people’s expression of their joy and happiness on the birthday of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). (Al-Haawi Li al-Fataavaa, vol. 1, p. 486)
- Shiekh Abdullah Haravi better known as Habashi states: To organize a celebration in memory of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a recommended act and its denial is baseless. We should actually call the act ‘Sunnat-e-Hasanat’ (an exemplary tradition). (Al-Ravaij al-Zakiah, p. 33)Moreover, numerous scholars and elders have presented abundant proofs on the recommendation of the celebration of festivals and commemorations. We have already had a brief purview of this.
- We now focus our attention on the doubts and questions raised by the Wahhabis against this practice.
- A gathering established in memory of someone is akin to worshiping someone other than God?
Answer: It is an established fact that the feeling of worship is created when you respect and honour something/someone believing it/ him to be God. Hence, if this belief is absent, then it does not amount to ‘worship’.
- Such type of celebrations and congregation give rise to the prohibited such as mixed gatherings of men and women, music and song.
Answer: Sin is prohibited at all places and times, whether it is a feast and celebrations or any other place. But a recommended act cannot be struck down by issuing a blanket edict (fatwa) of prohibition due to sins which are committed only in specific celebrations. In other words, only specific celebrations that are exposed to the prohibited must be disallowed and not all celebrations.(Al-Haawi Li al-Fataavaa by Jalaaluddin Suyuti, vol. 1, p. 89)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.): Do not consider your houses as graves and my grave as Eid. Ibn Qayyim has used this tradition as argument for prohibition of ceremonies and celebrations.Answer:
- Firstly, the proof is limited to a single place, i.e. particular to the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and not to all places. It is not a blanket edict.
- Secondly, it is obvious that man should be humble and modest before the grave of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and it is not a place for celebrations. But there appears no objection
in organizing such ceremonies at other locations.
Sabki observes: This tradition can also imply that: Do not consider my grave as Eid day rather recite Ziyarat, salaam and supplications near it.
- Salaf-e-Saleh have not performed this action
- It is clearly established as rule that non-performance of any action by an infallible is not proof of prohibition nor is performance of an act a surety of its obligatory nature. Conversely, it is a fact that if an act is not performed by the infallibles, then it is not obligatory and if it is performed then it is not prohibited. Non-performance is no argument for its prohibition.
- The practice and custom of Muslims till the time of Ibn Taymiyyah was that they conducted ceremonies and celebrations. And the Ahle Sunnah scholars have unanimously stated that Ijma (consensus) amounts to irrefutable proof of the validity of organizing such ceremonies.
- The decree prohibiting ceremonies first appeared in Islam at the time of IbnTaymiyyah who claimed: Salaf-e-Saleh loved the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) more. If ceremonies were not prohibited, they would definitely have organized them. This is against the clear traditions of the Messeger of Allah (s.a.w.a.).The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) addressed his companions in a tradition and prophesized, ‘A nation will soon be born who will befriend and love me more than you do’.(Majma al-Zavaid, vol. 1, p. 66)
- Is it an innovation (bidat) to specify a particular day for celebration and expression of love?
Answer: It is already established that certain places enjoy a higher status due to their association with an auspicious event or thing. The same is true for certain eras and times like Lailatul Qadr. If the celebration is organized on the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birthday or the day of Ghadeer, it is so, since the occasion is blessed and holy.
In conclusion, we pray to Allah – the High – to safeguard us from such doubts and hasten the reappearance of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.). Aameen!