22-03-2006, 08:49 PM
The ultimate answers so people can compare and decide for themselves.
Shaykh Nuh's view with proofs:
The Public Dhikr (Hadra)
© Nuh Ha Mim Keller 1996.
A person coming to the Middle East to learn something about the tariqa is likely, at some point in his visit, to see the brethren in the hadra or “public dhikr” as it has been traditionally practiced by generations of Shadhilis in North Africa under such sheikhs as al-‘Arabi al-Darqawi, Muhammad al-Buzidi, and Ahmad al-‘Alawi before being brought to Damascus from Algeria by Muhammad ibn Yallis and Muhammad al-Hashimi at the beginning of this century.
Upon entering the mosque, one will see circles of men making dhikr (women participants are screened from view upstairs) standing and holding hands, now slightly bowing in unison, now moving up and down with their knees in unison, the rows rising and falling, breathing in unison, while certain of them alternate at pacing around their midst, conducting the tempo of the group’s motion and breathing with their arms and step. Singers near the sheikh, in solo or chorus, deliver mystical odes to the rhythm of the group; high, spiritual poetry from masters like Ibn al-Farid, Sheikh Ahmad al-‘Alawi, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Himsi, and our own sheikh.
Though a very stirring experience, it is meticulously timed and controlled, and as with all group dhikrs, the main adab or “proper behaviour” is harmony. No one should stand out in any way, but rather all subordinate their movement, breathing, and dhikr to that of the group. The purpose is to forget one’s individuality in the collective sea of spirits making dhikr in unison. Individual motives, thoughts, and preoccupations are momentarily put aside by means of the Sacred Dance, of moving together as one, sublimating and transcending the limitary and personal through the timelessness of rhythm, conjoined with the melody of voices singing spiritual meanings.
It is an experience that joins those travelling towards Allah spiritually, socially, and emotionally. Few forget it, and visitors from the West to whom it is unfamiliar sometimes wonder if it is a bid‘a or “reprehensible innovation,” as it was not done in the time of the earliest Muslims, or whether it is unlawful (haram) or offensive (makruh); and why they see the ulama and righteous attending it in Damascus, Jerusalem, Aden, Cairo, Tripoli, Tunis, Fez, and wherever there are people of the path.
I was one of those who asked our sheikh about the relation of the hadra to the shari‘a or “Sacred Law” which is the guiding light of our tariqa. As Muslims, our submission to the law is total, and there are no thoughts or opinions after legally answering the question “Does the hadra agree with orthodox Islam?”
Because it comprises a number of various elements, such as gathering together for the remembrance of Allah (dhikr), singing, and dancing, we should reflect for a moment on some general considerations about the Islamic shari‘a before discussing each of these separately.
First, the Islamic shari‘a furnishes a comprehensive criterion for all possible human actions, whether done before or never done before. It classifies actions into five categories, the obligatory (wajib), whose performance is rewarded by Allah in the next life and whose nonperformance is punished; the recommended (mandub), whose performance is rewarded but whose nonperformance is not punished; the permissible (mubah), whose performance is not rewarded and whose nonperformance is not punished; the offensive (makruh), whose nonperformance is rewarded but whose performance is not punished; and the unlawful (haram), whose nonperformance is rewarded and whose performance is punished.
Now, Allah in His wisdom has made the vast majority of human actions permissible. He says in surat al-Baqara, “It is He who has created everything on earth for you” (Koran 2:29), which establishes the shari‘a principle that all things are mubah or permissible for us until Allah indicates to us that they are otherwise. Because of this, the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not do this or that particular practice does not prove that it is offensive or unlawful, but only that it is not obligatory.
This is the reason that when shari‘a scholars speak of bid‘a, they do not merely mean an “innovation” or something that was never done before, which is the lexical sense of the word, but rather a “blameworthy innovation” or something new that no legal evidence in Sacred Law attests to the validity of, which is the shari‘a sense of the word. The latter is the bid‘a of misguidance mentioned in the hadith “The worst of matters are those that are new, and every innovation (bid‘a) is misguidance” (Sahih Muslim. 5 vols. Cairo 1376/1956. Reprint. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1403/1983, 2.592: 867), which, although general in wording, scholars say refers specifically to new matters that entail something offensive or unlawful.
Imam Shafi‘i explains:
New matters are of two kinds: something newly begun that contravenes the Koran, sunna, the position of early Muslims, or consensus of scholars (ijma‘): this innovation is misguidance. And something newly inaugurated of the good in which there is no contravention of any of these, and is therefore something which although new (muhdatha), is not blameworthy. For when ‘Umar (Allah be well pleased with him) saw the [tarawih] prayer being performed [in a group by Muslims at the mosque] in Ramadan, he said, “What a good innovation (bid‘a) this is,” meaning something newly begun that had not been done before. And although in fact it had, this does not negate the legal considerations just advanced [n: i.e. that it furnishes an example of something that ‘Umar, who was a scholar of the Sahaba, praised as a “good innovation” despite his belief that it had not been done before, because it did not contravene the broad principles of the Koran or sunna]
(Dhahabi: Siyar a‘lam al-nubala’. 23 vols. Beirut: Mu’assassa al-Risala, 1401/1981, 10.70).
As for the practice of Muslims gathering together for group dhikr or the “invocation of Allah,” there is much evidence of its praiseworthiness in the sunna—aside from the many Koranic verses and the hadiths establishing the general merit of dhikr in every state—such as the hadith related by Bukhari:
Truly, Allah has angels going about the ways, looking for people of dhikr, and when they find a group of men invoking Allah, they call to one another, “Come to what you have been looking for!” and they circle around them with their wings up to the sky of this world.
Then their Lord asks them, though He knows better than they, “What do My servants say?” And they reply, “They say, Subhan Allah (“I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection”), Allahu Akbar (“Allah is ever greatest”), and al-Hamdu li Llah (“All praise be to Allah”), and they extoll Your glory.”
He says, “Have they seen Me?” And they answer, “No, by Allah, they have not seen You.” And He says, “How would it be, had they seen Me?” And they say, “If they had seen You, they would have worshipped You even more, glorified You more, and said Subhan Allah the more.”
He asks them, “What do they ask of Me?” And one answers, “They ask You
paradise.” He says, “Have they seen it?” And they say, “No, by Allah, My Lord, they have not seen it.” And He says, “How would it be, had they seen it?” And they say, “If they had seen it, they would have been more avid for it, sought it more, and been more desirous of it.”
Then He asks them, “From what do they seek refuge?” And they answer, “From hell.” He says, “Have they seen it?” And they say, “No, by Allah, they have not seen it.” And He says, “How would it be, had they seen it?” And they say, “If they had seen it, they would have fled from it even more, and been more fearful of it.”
He says, “I charge all of you to bear witness that I have forgiven them.” Then one of the angels says, “So-and-so is among them, though he is not one of them but only came for something he needed.” And Allah says, “They are companions through whom no one who keeps their company shall meet perdition”
(Sahih al-Bukhari. 9 vols. Cairo 1313/1895. Reprint (9 vols. in 3). Beirut: Dar al-Jil, n.d., 8.107–8: 6408).
The last line of the hadith shows the highest approval for gatherings of dhikr in the religion of Allah. Some other accounts transmit the condemnation of Ibn Mas‘ud (Allah be well please with him) for gathering together to say Subhan Allah (perhaps out of fear of ostentation), but even if we were to grant their authenticity, the above hadith of Bukhari, containing the explicit approval of such gatherings by Allah and His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) suffices us from needing the permission of Ibn Mas‘ud or any other human being.
Further, the explicit mention of the various forms of dhikr in the hadith suffice in reply to certain contemporary “re-formers” of Islam, who attempt to reduce “sessions of dhikr” to educational gatherings alone by quoting the words of ‘Ata' (ibn Abi Rabah, Mufti of Mecca, d. 114/732), who reportedly said,
Sessions of dhikr are the sessions of [teaching people] the lawful and unlawful, how you buy, sell, pray, fast, wed, divorce, make the pilgrimage, and the like. (Nawawi: al-Majmu‘: Sharh al-Muhadhdhab. 20 vols. Cairo n.d. Reprint. Medina: al-Maktaba al-Salafiyya, n.d., 1.21).
Perhaps ‘Ata' intended to inform people that teaching and learning shari‘a are also a form of dhikr, but in any case it is clear from the Prophet’s explicit words (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the above hadith that “sessions of dhikr” cannot be limited to teaching and learning Sacred Law alone, but primarily mean gatherings of Muslims to invoke Allah in dhikr.
As for dancing, Imam Ahmad relates from Anas (Allah be well pleased with him), with a chain of transmission all of whose narrators are those of Bukhari except Hammad ibn Salama, who is one of the narrators of Muslim, that the Ethiopians danced in front of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace); dancing and saying [in their language], “Muhammad is a righteous servant.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “What are they saying?” And they said, “‘Muhammad is a righteous servant’”
(Musnad al-Imam Ahmad. 6 vols. Cairo 1313/1895. Reprint. Beirut: Dar Sadir, n.d., 3.152).
Other versions of the hadith clarify that this took place in the mosque in Medina, though in any case, the fact that dancing was done before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) establishes that it is mubah or “permissible” in the shari‘a, for if it had been otherwise, he would have been obliged to condemn it.
For this reason, Imam Nawawi says:
Dancing is not unlawful, unless it is languid, like the movements of the effeminate. And it is permissible to speak and to sing poetry, unless it satirizes someone, is obscene, or alludes to a particular woman”
(Minhaj al-talibin wa ‘umdat al-muttaqin. Cairo 1338/1920. Reprint. Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, n.d., 152).
This is a legal text for the permissibility of both dancing and singing poetry from the Minhaj al-talibin, the central legal work of the entire late Shafi‘i school. Islamic scholars point out that if something which is permissible, such as singing poetry or dancing, is conjoined with something that is recommended, such as dhikr or gatherings to make dhikr, the result of this conjoining will not be offensive (makruh) or unlawful (haram).
Imam Jalal al-Din Suyuti was asked for a fatwa or formal legal opinion concerning “a group of Sufis who had gathered for a session of dhikr,” and he replied:
How can one condemn making dhikr while standing, or standing while making dhikr, when Allah Most High says, “. . . those who invoke Allah standing, sitting, and upon their sides” (Koran 3:191). And ‘A'isha (Allah be well pleased with her) said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to invoke Allah at all of his times” [Sahih Muslim, 1.282: 373]. And if dancing is added to this standing, it may not be condemned, as it is of the joy of spiritual vision and ecstasy, and the hadith exists [in many sources, such as Musnad al-Imam Ahmad, 1.108, with a sound (hasan) chain of transmission] that Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib danced in front of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) when the Prophet told him, “You resemble me in looks and in character,” dancing from the happiness he felt from being thus addressed, and the Prophet did not condemn him for doing so, this being a basis for the legal acceptability of the Sufis dancing from the joys of the ecstasies they experience
(al-Hawi li al-fatawi. 2 vols. Cairo 1352/1933–34. Reprint. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1403/1983, 2.234).
Now, Suyuti was a hadith master (hafiz, someone with over 100,000 hadiths by memory) and a recognized mujtahid Imam who authored hundreds of works in the shari‘a sciences, and his formal opinion, together with the previously cited ruling of Imam Nawawi in the Minhaj al-talibin, constitutes an authoritative legal text (nass) in the Shafi‘i school establishing that circles of dhikr which comprise the singing of spiritual poetry and dancing are neither offensive (makruh) nor unlawful (haram)—unless associated with other unlawful factors such as listening to musical instruments or the mixing of men and women—but rather are permissible.
To summarize, the hadra of our tariqa, consisting of circles of invocation of Allah (dhikr) conjoined with the singing of permissible poetry and dancing, is compatible with the Sacred Law of orthodox Islam; and when the latter elements facilitate presence of heart with Allah (as they do with most people who possess hearts), they deserve a reward from Allah by those who intend them as such. And this is the aim and importance of the hadra in the tariqa.
Shaykh Bouti's view with proofs:
One of the scholars that object to this practice is Shaykh M. Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti. In his book The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography and a Brief History of the Orthodox Caliphate he offers an argument for his objection, of which I shall post the excerpt (provided by sister Muslimah, jazzak allah kulli khayr ) below. Essentially this is a discussion of Fiqh, however because al-Buti's argument is very broad and regarding a specific Sufi practice, I have decided to post it in this section, though eventually the specific arguments of Fiqh may come to be discussed in their proper section later.
A word on the Hadith concerning Abu Bakr and the additions to which some have fabricated in order to justify a particular heretical practice.
As we have seen based on the hadith about Abu Bakr related by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmindhi, Abu Bakr brought all of his wealth to the Prophet (SAAW). Then, when the Prophet (SAAW) asked him, "What have you kept for your family?" He replied "I have kept God and his Apostle"
However, an addition to this hadith has been fabricated according to which the Prophet (SAAW) then said to Abu Bakr, "O Abu Bakr, God is pleased with you. Are you pleased with him?" In response, Abu Bakr was so filled with rapture, he got up and danced before the Messenger of God (SAAW) saying, "How could I not be pleased with God?!" Having concocted this addition, its originators then turned it to evidence in support of the legitimacy of dancing and whirling in the "dzikr" ceremonies for which the Mevlevis and other Sufi sects are known.
As I have mentioned, the evidence upon which this practice is based is a fabrication. there is no hadith, be it sound or weak, which mentioned Abur Bakr got up and danced before the messenger of god(SAAW). Rather, all we have by the way of texts on this subject is the hadith related by al-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim, and Abu Dawud which, as I noted in my earlier discussion of it, contains a possible weakness As for the conclusion which some Sufis draw based on this fabrication, it must be said that not only is there no support for it, but there is positive evidence against it. Specifically, it is held by the majority of Muslim jurisprudents that when dancing involves bending and swaying back and forth, it is prohibited, and that when it does not involve such movements, it is still undesirable. hence to introduce dace- or whatever sort it happens to be-- into ceremonies devoted to the remembrance of God is to interpolate into Muslim worship a practice which is, if not utterly banned, then at least undesirable Add to this the fact that the state into which these "worshippers" enter into leads them to utter sounds which have nothing to do with the words employed in the remembrance of God. Rather, they are nothing but inarticulate utterances by means of which they produce a steady drone that harmonizes with the rhythms of those chanting and singing increases the mood of ecstatic exhilaration. How can this be the type of remembrance which God has commanded us to engage in, and which was practiced by the Apostle (SAAW) and his companions?!? How can an activity such as this be worship, when worship- as you are well aware- is what God has legislated for us in the Qu'ran and the Prophetic Sunnah, neither of which is to be added or detracted from?
Rest assured that what we are saying is in accordance with the view which has been held by scholars of Islamic law across the ages, with none disagreeing except a small minority of dissenters who have established practices for which God has not granted permission. As for the latter, countless are the forbidden acts which they have deemed lawful and the mortal sins which they have committed, at times in the name of ecstatic transport inspired by the love of God, and at other times in the name of liberation from the "noose" of religious obligations. The following is a quotation on this subject from al-'izz Ibn 'Abd al-Salam, one of the most highly esteemed Muslim leaders and teaches, known and respected for his uprightness, knowledge, piety and Sufi way of life.
"As for dancing and applause, these are acts of thoughtlessness and frivolity the likes of which one generally sees only in women [sic]. No one but the light-headed or charlatan would engage in such practices. Why, then, do we see dancing to the rhythm of song by those whose hearts and minds have grown heedless and fickle, even though he (SAAW) said, "The most virtuous of all generations is my own, followed by those who succeed us, followed by those who succeed them ," and even though not a single member of the righteous generations which we are to emulate engaged in such things?" The same thoughts are expressed by Ibn Hajar in the book, Kaff al-Ra'a' 'an Mugarramat al-Lahu wa-al-Sama' ("preventing the masses from engaging in forbidden acts of frivolity and listening"), and by Ibn "Abidin in his well known widely recognised commentary, where he distinguishes between a genuine, overwhelming experience of ecstatic transport, and a bogus show of the same.
As for Imam al-Qurtubi, he goes into even greater detail in warning against this dangerous innovation and the reasons for the prohibition against it; those who wish to read what he says on this matter may refer to his Qur’anic commentary on the following verses "...and who remember God when they stand and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep..." (the house of imran 3:191) and, "And do not walk upon earth exultantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth (apart) and you will never reach the mountains in height" (the night journey 17:37)
Were it not for the fact that it would mean being long winded on a topic that requires brevity, I would set forth the views expressed on this matter by many other Imams as well. Be that as it may, the position I have expounded is virtually uncontested by the vast majority of Muslim scholars, both ancient and modern day.
Some of my readers may be surprised by the fact that I agree with the Wahabite view on this particular matter, even though I have taken them to task for a number of other positions which they hold. Such surprise, where it exists, is no doubt due to a mistake conception of how a Muslim ought to think and conduct himself.
It is not Islamic in any way for an academic search dictated by the mind to be transformed into a bigoted prejudice that has taken over ones soul. Nor is it consistence with the spirit or teachings of Islam for one to advocate a particular school of Islamic law on the pretext that in so doing, he is championing Islam itself, especially when such a person knows in his hard that he is simply defending the point of view because it has come to form apart of his personality and his standing among others.
When engaging in academic research, the Muslim must have in view nothing but the Book of God and the Prophetic Sunnah, and he must not allow any other power or authority to influence his emotions or thoughts. Moreover, if such a Muslim is committed to the truth, he must conduct himself in such a way that no other Muslim is caused distress by his words or angered by his judgements.
If, in my discussion of issues raised in this book, I disagree in my conclusions with other people, this is not- and God is my witness- out of desire to differ with others, but rather, simply out of desire to be faithful to the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Hence, I may err in my judgements and conclusions, but even if I do, my aim remains the same.
Similarly, if in my discussion of the question at hand I have reached a conclusion that agrees with some Muslims and differs with that of many others, including the Sufis among them, this is not because of any wish on my part to differ from them or because I take enjoyment in criticizing them; rather, it is simply because I sincerely desire not to stay from the book of God or the Sunnah of his messenger (SAAW). At the same time, I wish to affirm my appreciation for many of these esteemed individuals and my certainty for their integrity and the purity of their intentions, my excuse for differing from them being that this appreciation and esteem do not justify being unfaithful to the texts before me or interpreting them metaphorically such that their original intent is distorted.
If the Muslims sought out the truth they are meant to follow based on this same criterion, we would not find the various Islamic sects and their groups treating each other with harshness or even enmity even if their views and interpretations happened to differ. However, prejudice and extremism have led the Muslims to the state in which they now find themselves.
The Sufis call their opponents to account for what they see as fanaticism and excess, yet they do not call themselves to account for similar attributes, and for those practices which have no basis in Islam! in this, then, the truth which we should be living? Excess on one side only breeds excess on the other; hence, whoever wishes to come to the defence of God's religion and the guidance brought by his messenger (SAAW) must put an end to all extremism, harmful innovation, and heresy. This is the best possible remedy for the counter-extremism which one is likely to meet among others. end of footnote
It is clear, of course, that the prohibition of dancing being discussed here could not be applied to someone who, while engaged in the remembrance of God, entered a spiritual state in which he was no longer in control of all his feelings or actions. For when a person is a state as this, binding judgements such as the one under discussion have no applicability. This fact must be born in mind when considering statements to the effect that al 'Izz Ibn 'Abd al-Salam himself once went into a frenzy and got up and began jumping about. After all, given that he held the view which we quoted above, how could he have engaged in such behaviour of his own volition?
(footnote: See Ibn Hajar's Kaff al-Ta'a', 48 on the margin of the book, Al-Zawajir ("Curbs and limitations")
Old thread on this:
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