Jumua Khutbah of 2 January 2015 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
After Praising Almighty Allah and sending salutations on Prophet Muhammed (sawa) and his Purified Household, I remind myself and you to be conscious of Allah in every moment of our life.
We are in the great month of Rabi-ul Awwal, the month of the Spring of Nur or Light which reminds us of the arrival of the one who brought the most comprehensive message of Almighty Allah for the whole of humanity. It’s the month in which we remember the appearance of the Nur and Light of Allah on the level of our human and earthly creation, the descent of that Truth and Reality (Haqqiqat) to the level at which we can interact and communicate with. This is the month of Love, Beauty, Unity and Harmony because the Divine Love and Mercy of Allah manifested amongst us human beings.
The message of this Greatest Creation of Allah who is the Final Messenger of Allah who enjoyed the Highest Level of being a Messenger was not different to the previous Prophets. Rather, it was the Perfection of the same message brought by them which in essence is represented in the hadith of the Prophet Muhammed (sawa) wherein he says “Say there is no God except Allah and you will be successful (and achieve salvation).”
The message of Prophet Muhammed (sawa) was thus to propagate the Tauheed of Allah (Oneness of Allah) and that we should surrender to this Tauheed. This is the essence of his message.
Prophet Muhammed (sawa) conveyed this message of Tauheed on the highest level possible and taught us the detailed contents of Tauheed in the process. Though the message of Tauheed was propagated from the time of Prophet Adam (a.s) until Prophet Isa (a.s) (i.e. Jesus), you will not find previous religions, including Abrahamic Faiths discussing Tauheed in the level of detail that was taught by Prophet Muhammed (sawa).
Tauheed simplistically explained is “to believe in One God.” However, when one examines the details on this topic, you will soon realise it is not as simple as this formula seems to suggest. It is much more complex than that.
The purpose of today’s jumuah khutbah is not to deliver a detailed lecture on Tauheed, but only to highlight certain very relevant aspects of this subject which I wish to link to an issue that is rather topical during the month of Rabi-ul Awwal.
The Quran makes reference to three levels of Tauheed:
1. Tauheed of Essence (Zhaat) of Allah
This means that the Essence of Allah is One, not numerical Unity (which is waahid), but Tauheedi Ahadi, or Tauheedi Samadi, which means there is no one other than Allah and that nothing can be compared to Allah.
2. Tauheed of Sifaat or Attributes of Allah
The various attributes of Allah, like Allah being All Powerful, All Seeing, All Hearing, etc. which extends to the 99 Names of Allah are United with the Essence of Allah, i.e. they are not separate from the Essence of Allah. In the case of other than Allah, like human beings, if I say Zaid is a doctor, then intellectually one can imagine a Zaid without the attribute of being a doctor. But in the case of Allah it’s not possible that Allah was Ignorant and then acquired the Attribute of being All Knowing, or that Allah was Blind and then Acquired the Attribute of All Seeing, etc. Thus the Knowledge of Allah (or any Attribute of Allah) is itself United with the Essence of Allah, there is no separation between these two. Thus Imam Ali (a.s) says in Nahjul Balagha that “The Perfection of Tauheed of Allah is to deny the Attributes of Allah”….i.e. in the sense of our human understanding of the attributes of normal people….Allah’s Attributes are not of that type. This is because an attribute is a witness that the “attribute” is one thing and the “attributed” is something else i.e. one sees two existences, and this is not possible in the case of Allah, to believe like this in the case of Allah would be Shirk!
3. Tauheed of the Action of Allah
Tauheed on this level which is discussed in the Quran teaches us that in reality there is no “Actor” other than Allah. This Tauheed of Action of Allah has various levels which include the following which are discussed in Quran:
a) Tauheed of Khaaliqiyya or Creation: Creation is an action and since Allah is the only effective, in reality there is Oneness or Tauheed in Creation.
b) Tauheed of Maalikiyya or Ownership: True ownership only belongs to Allah.
c) Tauheed of Rububiyyat or Administration/Management: True management of this Universe only belongs to Allah.
d) Tauheed of Wilayah or Authority
e) Tauheed of Provision
f) Tauheed of Shafa’ah
g) Tauheed of Haakimiyya or Governance/Ruling: No one Governs except Almighty Allah.
This aspect of Tauheed Haakimiyya or Governance is really the core of the remainder of this lecture. Though this issue is widely discussed in Quran, I wish to refer you to only a small selection of verses on the topic to demonstrate certain key points today. One of these key points is that Governance over this world belongs to Almighty Allah alone. Some of the verses which demonstrate this point are as follows:
Surah Yaasien, Verse 83:
فَسُبْحَانَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ مَلَكُوتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ
“So Immaculate is He in whose hand is the Control/Power/Governance over all things.”
Surah Yusuf, Verse 40:
نِ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلَّهِ أَمَرَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُوا إِلآَّ إِيَّاهُ ذَلِكَ الدّينُ الْقَيّمُ
“Sovereignty/Ruling/Governance belongs only to Allah, He has commanded you to worship none except Him. That is the upright religion.”
The above principle then results in us understanding a further level of Tauheed in Tashri or Tauheed in Legislation in that Only Allah can make Legislation/Law because Governance solely belongs to him! Hold on to this point to see how it leads to the conclusion we will draw. That means it is solely Allah’s right to dictate what is halaal and haraam, what is waajib, mustahab, makruh, etc.
Since this right solely belongs to Allah, the Quran repeatedly condemns, in different levels of condemnation, those people who do not Judge by what Allah has determined to be Legislation. The last portion of the following verses of Surah Ma-ida clearly indicates the seriousness of this matter when it says:
Surah Ma-ida, verse 47:
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“….Those who do not judge/rule by what Allah has revealed – it is they who are the transgressors.”
Surah Ma-ida, verse 45:
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أنزَلَ اللّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“….Those who do not judge/rule by what Allah has revealed – it is they who are the wrong doers/oppressors.”
Surah Ma-ida, verse 44:
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
“….Those who do not judge/rule by what Allah has revealed – it is they who are the faithless/non-believers (kaafiroon).”
It is interesting to note that in Surah Tauba, verse 31, Almighty Allah says the following about the Jews and Christians:
اتَّخَذُوا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَاباً مِن دُونِ اللّهِ وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَآ أُمِرُوا إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُوا إِلَهاً وَاحِداً لآ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ سُبْحَانَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“They have taken their scribes (clergy/priests) and their monks as lords besides Allah, and also Christ, the son of Maryam, though they were commanded to worship only the One God.”
In other words the verse is saying the Jews and Christians have taken these people to be their god. When this verse was revealed, a Christian called Uday ibn Khatib came to Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and said to him that this verse in the Quran is not correct as Christians do not consider their clergy to be God. Prophet (sawa) responded by explaining that the meaning of the word “Rabb” used in this verse is different to the normal meaning of “Rabb” that Allah is your Lord, rather, the use of the word “Rabb” in this verse is saying that Christians and Jews have taken their clergy/priests/monks as people who have the right to establish Law and decide what is halaal and haraam and have thus given them Authority of Legislation and this act of giving them such authority to make Legislation caused them to become Mushrik and being deviated from the path of Tauheed!
Please note in the above mentioned point that Authority for Legislation could not even be given to a Prophet like Isa (a.s) as this Authority solely belongs to Allah.
Consequently, Islam is extraordinarily sensitive when it comes to the making of Legislation. It is contradictory to the concept of Tauheed to introduce something into the Deen/Religion of Allah which is NOT part of Deen. Even the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) has no right to establish Law out of his own. Thus the Quran says in Surah Najm, verses 3 and 4 (in relation to Prophet Muhammad sawa):
وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَی
“Nor does he speak out of (his own) desire:
إِنْ هُوَ إِلاّ وَحْيٌ يُوحَی
it is just a revelation that is revealed (to him).”
With all the greatness and status that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) enjoys, he still has NO RIGHT to make Legislation out of his own. It is in this background that the discussion of Bid’ah (innovation) originates.
During these days of Rabi-ul Awwal, bid’ah is a hot topic in social media, and everyone wants to provide authoritative views on the topic. Yet, when you examine the spirit of the views that are expressed by those who are passionately anti-bid’ah, you will realise that their views are bid’ah itself.
So what is Bid’ah??
The literal Arabic meaning of Bid’ah is something that is innovated which was not there before. Sometimes people think that this very word bid’ah is a swear word, which is not the case! Quran says Allah is Badi’ i.e. “Allah is the Originator of the Heavens and the Earth.” Why does Allah give Himself the name Badi’ (which has the same root as the word bid’ah)? It is because when Allah Originates something, it is an Innovation and Creation of something that was never there before. This is the literal understanding of the term bid’ah.
However the bid’ah that is condemned, which is the topic of discussion, is not every innovation. In fact in general, Islam encourages us to be innovative as Islam strongly encourages us to think and the natural outcome of the thinking process is to innovate.
Let’s look at the definition provided by both Shia and Sunni Scholars. Sayed Murtadha (famous Shia Scholar) defines bid’ah as: “Something that has been innovated in Deen which does not have any ROOT in Deen.”
Ibn Hajar Haythami and Ibn Hajar Asqalani (both Sunni Scholars) have a definition which is similar to each other which says: “Bid’ah is something that is innovated which has no Root in shariah.”
When one considers these definitions in the background of the earlier discussion on Tauheed of Legislation, one concludes that there are 3 elements that must be satisfied for something to be conclusively called bid’ah. These are:
1. Bid’ah is something innovated in Deen. Thus matters outside of Deen which are innovations are generally permissible as they are not part of this discussion (of which there are hundreds of examples).
2. Bid’ah is something that has NO background, or root in Deen. This is something which NEITHER SPECIFICALLY, NOR in a GENERAL sense has ANY backing from Deen/Religion. This is because Shariah commands are sometimes GENERAL and sometimes VERY SPECIFIC. One good example to demonstrate this is the following command in the Quran in Surah Anfal verse 60:
وَأَعِدُّوا لَهُمْ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ وَمِنْ رِبَاطِ الْخَيْلِ تُرْهِبُونَ بِهِ عَدُوَّ اللَّهِ وَعَدُوَّكُمْ
“And prepare against them whatever you can of power and war-horses.”
This command of Allah has two angles, one is general in saying “prepare against them whatever you can of power…” so that you can create fear in the hearts of your and Allah’s enemies. But then the verse also SPECIFICALLY says “and war-horses.” Does that mean that today we should have war-horses in our army as this is the SPECIFIC command of the Quran?? Are you going to plant fear in the hearts of the Israeli’s because you have the best war-horses in your army?! Of-course not.
3. The person who created the innovation should also be actively promoting it. So if someone on the individual level has some idea which he considers a part of Deen which is an innovation but does not promote it, it is not considered bid’ah as defined. This is because the ahadith which condemns bid’ah refers to the innovation becoming established as a part of Deen. This process of establishment requires that the bid’ah is promoted to become established.
The bid’ah which is condemned MUST satisfy the above mentioned three criteria. And when it does, it is condemned as one is actually ATTRIBUTING something to Allah by saying “this is Islam” when it is not and the Quran regards such a person as someone who “belies Allah.”
In other places, on the same basis the Quran says why do you make that which Allah made halaal to be haraam? i.e. in Surah Ma-ida verse 87:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُحَرِّمُواْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا أَحَلَّ اللّهُ لَكُمْ
“O you who believe, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful for you.”
And there are many verses in the Quran which speak about previous nations who interfered with the Laws of Allah by changing it.
And there are many ahadith on the same topic which condemns bid’ah in this sense. One such hadith which is often recited in the jumuah khutbah in local mosques is the one which says: “And the worst of affairs are the newly invented matters (in religion), and every newly invented matter is bid’ah, and every bid’ah is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the hellfire.” This hadith is in ibn Majah.
From Shia resources in Usuli Kafi it states: “When a bid’ah appears it is compulsory for an Aalim (religious scholar) to react by making his knowledge known and exposing the bid’ah, and if he does not do that, then the curse of Allah is on him (i.e. the aalim).”
Up to this point we should all generally be in agreement on this topic. But our difference of opinion starts when some people say there is “good bid’ah (hasanah) and bad bid’ah (sayyi’ah).” From everything discussed so far, there is NO MENTION ANYWHERE in Quranic resources or Prophetic ahadith of “good bid’ah” or “bad bid’ah”. This is because bid’ah is actually in OPPOSITION to sunnah. Sunnah is something well established (Muhkamah) while bid’ah is misguidance.
But now this discussion of good bid’ah and bad bid’ah has a background. And that is it appeared for the first time in Islamic history in the era of the second Khalif when he found, in the month of Ramadaan, that people were performing the nawafil (recommended) prayers of the nights of Ramadaan in a scattered fashion at different times during the night and performed different numbers of rakaats and he decided to bring the people together and cause them to perform it in the form of jamaat or congregational prayer led by Ubay ibn Ka’b. This well-known incident is recorded in Bukhari and Muslim. On one occasion when the Khalif Umar came to the mosque and found that people were now performing these prayers in congregation he said “Fa nia’mal bid’ah haatha” meaning “and what a good bid’ah it is.” This is the origin of the idea of good and bad bid’ah.
Now the question is does Islam accept this idea of good and bid’ah? In the light of the earlier discussion on Tauheed, it becomes self-explanatory that bid’ah itself is in conflict with Tauheed.
Further discussions on this matter will continue next week, including the issue of whether celebrating Miladun Nabi is bid’ah to start with or not.
My original intention was not to discuss Bid’ah in this lecture but to speak about the personality of the Prophet Muhammad (sawa). Regardless of whether celebrating Miladun Nabi is bid’ah or not, everyone agrees that this is the month of Rasulullah (sawa), the month of the one who is the Mercy to the whole Universe.
Is there anyone else that can bring our hearts closer than the personality of Rasulullah (sawa). But it is regretful and heartbreaking that this season of opportunity to bring us together is used to divide the very Ummah of Rasulullah (sawa) to promote hate and declare each other transgressors, mushrik, Ahlul Bid’ah, etc.
Most of the year there is a fight between Sunni and Shia, but during Rabi-ul Awwal there is a fight within Ahlus Sunnah itself on this issue of bid’ah which sees Sunni’s hating Sunni’s. Why can’t this issue be academically addressed at another time of the year outside the season of focussing on expressing our love for Rasulullah (sawa)? For the sake of Rasulullah (sawa), let us use this opportunity to unite and manifest the Quranic verse that the followers of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) “are merciful to each other.” We live in a world where the enemies of Islam have destroyed the image of Prophet Muhammad (sawa). Is this not the opportunity to come together and present the real Personality of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) to the world?