(1) Thikr – Just any Form?
On page 8, the venerable Mufti Sahib states: “There is also no doubt in the fact that zikr, no matter what form it may be, is the backbone and one of the main objectives of Tasawwuf.”
In fact Thikrullaah is the Maqsad (Objective) of life on earth. Allah Ta’ala has created man and jinn for only His Thikr (Remembrance). There is no other objective of our sojourn here on earth. Thikr is not only the “backbone and one of the main objectives of Tasawwuf”, it is in fact the only objective of Tasawwuf. All practices, acts, and methods of Tasawwuf are secondary and designed for the purpose of achieving the Objective which Allah Ta’ala states with clarity in the Qur’aan Majeed: “I have not created jinn and man, but for (the purpose) of worshipping Me.”
While the importance of Thikr cannot be overstated or exaggerated, it is incorrect to claim that “zikr, no matter what form it may be”, is desirable and commanded by the Shariah. If Thikr is performed in emulation of the ways and styles of the Ahl-e-Bid’ah, then such forms will be bid’ah and shunned, and if they happen to be among the Mustahab or Mandoob categories of the Shariah, which have been elevated to Wujoob (incumbency) then too, the Shariah orders abandonment of the meritorious practice whose origin is well-grounded in the Sunnah.
The Fuqaha have evolved the principle: When a Mustahab is assigned a higher status, it becomes Makrooh. “Verily, Mandoob becomes Makrooh (prohibited) when there is fear of it being elevated to a rank higher than its status….. In fact some Fuqaha issued the fatwa of prohibition when fasting the Ayyaam-e-Beedh (13th, 14th and 15th of the month) which became so widely prevalent that it raised the fear of the belief of Wujoob (compulsion) developing. They issued this Fatwa notwithstanding the fact that fasting on these days is Mustahab. Numerous Ahaadith are narrated in this regard. Now what is your opinion regarding Mubah (permissible acts which are elevated to incumbency, and, what is your opinion regarding detestable practices (being elevated)?” (Majmaul Bihaar from Majlisul Abraar)
In this regard, the following explanation is given in Fataawa Rahimiyyah, Page 305, Vol. 2:
“It is Mustahab to begin from the right side in good acts. However, when Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) observed during his time that this was developing into a Waajib act, he decreed it to be Makrooh. Ibnul Muneer said in this regard: ‘Verily Mandoob acts sometimes become Makrooh when it (Mustahab/Mandoob) is elevated above its status. (Beginning from the) right is Mustahab in all acts of ibaadat. But when Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) feared that people will believe it to be compulsory, then he indicated its Karaahat. And Allah knows best.”
(Fathul Baari Sharh Bukhaari)
“Every Mubah (permissible act) which leads to this, is Makrooh.” (Majaalisul Abraar)
A unanimous principle of Fiqh is that when a Mustahab is elevated above its status then it becomes Makrooh.
Even if the belief and intention of someone (who indulges in the act) is not erroneous, then too, because of the fear of the belief of others becoming corrupt and because of the resemblance with the Ahl-e-Bid’ah, it (the permissible or Mustahab practice) will be prohibited. Imaam Ghazaali (rahmatullah alayh) said: “When a Sunnat becomes a salient (distinguishing) feature of the Ahl-e-Bid’ah, then we order its abandonment for fear of resembling them.” (Ihyaaul Uloom)
Thikr in “just any form” is not acceptable. With regard to forms of Thikr, the methods instructed by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and practised by the Sahaabah have priority and permanency. Any other new form, be it of the Mubah category, cannot displace the Masnoon forms of Thikr. A Mubah form which is elevated above its permissible status is transformed into Bid’ah Sayyiah. The reward (thawaab) for Masnoon Athkaar (forms of Thikr) cannot be acquired from Mubah types of Thikr which have no origin in the Sunnah. If a Mubah or even a Mustahab form resembles a salient feature of the practices of the Ahl-e-Bid’ah, then such form of Thikr has to be incumbently set aside in terms of the principles of the Shariah.
A form of Thikr such as loud Thikr which disturbs others is not permissible. Thus it is not permissible to make loud Thikr in the Musjid nor recite Qur’aan Shareef loudly if others are engaging in Salaat or if it disturbs the sleep of those in I’tikaaf. Those who participate in loud congregational Thikr in the Musaajid are becoming incrementally indifferent to the rights and convenience of others who engage in Sunnat or Nafl Salaat or in their own acts of silent Thikr and tilaawat. They conduct themselves as owners of the Musjid with no care for the huqooq (rights) of the other musallis.
It is important to understand that the Musaajid in this country are cosmopolitan. They are attended by the public at large. The Musaajid here are not small village or khaanqah Musjids where the writ of the Shaikh of the area holds sway. Such small and special Musjids are generally the preserve of the mureedeen of the Shaikh. It is not permissible to infringe on the rights of the other musallis by imposing practices and performances which may initially have been Mubah, but which have become Bid’ah due to transgression of the limits. The Musaajid in South Africa are not private khaanqahs. Even in khaanqahs where adherence to the Sunnah dominates, there are rules and regulations governing the Mubah Thikr forms introduced as spiritual remedies.
The Mashaaikh did not introduce their specific forms of athkaar to displace the Sunnah forms of Athkaar, nor did they pass off these Mubah forms of Thikr as Masnoon acts of ibaadat. But today, these innovated specific forms of Thikr, unsubstantiated by the Sunnah are accorded primary importance.
Any form of Thikr has to be examined in the light of the Sunnah. Provided that there are no accretions which conflict with the Shariah, the new form will be Mubah.
(2) The Qur’aan and Thikr
The honourable Mufti Sahib enumerates 15 Qur’aanic verses to highlight the status of Thikr. However, not a single one of these verses remotely deals with the topic which the Mufti Sahib has undertaken to espouse, namely loud and collective Thikr in the Musjid. The Aayaat refer to Mutlaq Thikr – Thikr in general which is the objective of man’s sojourn on earth. While the dispute pertains to the special forms of non-Sunnah Thikr rituals, the Qur’aanic verses exhort Thikr in general or to make Thikr in the manner in which Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his Sahaabah used to make Thikr.
There is absolutely no basis in the cited verses nor anywhere else in the Qur’aan Majeed for vindicating the special forms of innovated Thikr gatherings which are now developing into Bid’ah. Just as our Bareilwi brethren have no right to cite the Qur’aan in substantiation of their many bid’ah Thikr and other programmes, so too may our Deobandi brethren not cite the Qur’aan in their attempt to ‘prove’ validity for their forms of Thikr gone haywire in emulation of the Bareilwi bid’atis.
Those who are refuting the special forms of Thikr programmes which are being conducted in the Musaajid do not trade their Imaan for kufr by contending that Thikr is haraam or bid’ah. What they are saying is plain and simple: Your specific forms of non-Sunnah Thikr are now crossing the threshold of permissibility and entering into the domain of Bid’ah. Hence, the presentation of Qur’aanic verses to bolster these new forms of Thikr is a redundant and a diversionary exercise which does not assist the case of the venerable Mufti Sahib.
The virtues, significance, importance, benefits and indispensability of Thikrullaah as imparted by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) are accepted and believed to be the Soul of Imaan and the basis of Najaat and Falaah. But participation in the specific forms which have no sanction in the Sunnah is not a requirement for engagement in the constant and perpetual Thikr commanded by the Qur’aan and Sunnah.
(3) The Hadith and Thikr
In his discussion pertaining to the virtues of Thikr in the light of the Ahaadith, Mufti Radhaaul Haq Sahib has enumerated 20 Hadith narrations which all mention Mutlaq Thikr, not the new specific forms which are being propagated nowadays. None of the Ahaadith substantiates the case of the participants in collective loud Thikr in public places (the Musaajid), nor does any of these narrations refute the contention of those who criticize the innovated forms of Thikr.
The virtues of Thikr in general are extolled in the Ahaadith cited by the Mufti Sahib. But the dispute is on another turf. The virtues, excellence and imperative need of perpetual Thikr (24 hours of the day and night) are not being contested. The refutation is directed at the specific forms of non-Sunnah practices which are developing into hardcore bid’ah.
(4) The Status of Collective Thikr
In support of the specific forms of non-Sunnah Thikr which were unknown to the Sahaabah, the Mufti Sahib presents the following Hadith:
“Hazrat Abu Hurairah (Radiyallahu anhu) and Hazrat Abu Saeed (Radiyallahu anhu) bear testimony to having heard Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) say: “Whenever a group of people gather to remember Allah Ta’ala, the angels surround them, mercy enshrouds them, tranquillity descends upon them and Allah Ta’ala mentions them in the presence of angels.” (Muslim)
Mufti Radhaaul Haq Sahib proffers the following commentary for this Hadith:
“The virtues of the gatherings of zikr are shown in this Hadith. This proves the permissibility of collective zikr. Generally loud or audible zikr takes place when people congregate. Silent zikr outwardly has no relation with a gathering. Hence this Hadith indicates towards audible zikr.”
The venerable Mufti Sahib has stretched his imagination excessively in the endeavour to justify the specific forms of Thikr which are being disputed. As far as the ‘virtues of gatherings of zikr’ are concerned, there is no problem and no dispute. But his claim: “Generally loud or audible zikr takes place when people congregate’, and his claim: “Silent zikr outwardly has no relation with a gathering”, are refuted. His conclusion: “Hence this Hadith indicates towards audible zikr”, based on the two spurious aforementioned claims is likewise spurious and baseless.
What is the proof to substantiate the first premises cited by the Mufti Sahib? Besides this being his personal opinion, there is no evidence to back up this spurious opinion. It is incorrect to aver that when people congregate for Ibaadat or Thikr, then generally loud Thikr takes place. Millions of Muslims gather and congregate in the Musaajid five times a day for Salaat. The Jamaa’t which has gathered for Salaat is a congregation of Thaakireen (people who make Thikr). The Qur’aan describing Salaat, says: “…..And establish Salaat. Verily Salaat prevents from immorality and evil. And the Thikr of Allah is the greatest.” (Surah Ankabut, aayat 45)
Salaat is the highest form of Thikr (Remembrance of Allah Ta’ala). Musallis in a Musjid constitute a ‘gathering’ when they perform the Fardh in jamaa’t and even when they perform their Sunnat and Nafl individually. The musallis, scattered all over the Musjid, some engaging in Nafl Salaat, some in silent Tilaawat, some in silent Thikr, some in silent Dua and some in Muraaqabah (contemplation), all together constitute a gathering which comes within the context of the Hadith.
The validity of a gathering/congregation is not reliant on all members of the gathering raising their voices in chorus and chanting in unison. This is a fallacious idea posited as a requisite for the validity of a gathering. There is no basis for this contention of the Mufti Sahib.
All the Muqtadis standing behind the Imaam are silent and during Zuhr and Asr even the Imaam is silent, and in every other Salaat, besides Fajr, the Imaam too is silent in the last two raka’ts. There is thus a valid congregation performing Thikrullaah of the highest category collectively without audibility/loudness. There is no collective chanting and no loud Thikr, yet this jamaa’t is a noble congregation about which the cited Hadith states: “the angels surround, them, mercy enshrouds them, tranquillity descends upon them and Allah Ta’ala mentions them in the presence of the angels”.
The musallis joining in the ostensibly Ijtimaai’ silent dua after every Fardh Salaat, constitute a valid gathering engaging in Thikrullaah. Everyone engages in his own silent dua despite being a member of the Jamaa’t.
It is absurd to restrict these transcendental virtues and benefits for a gathering in which the members loudly chant in unison such formulae of Thikr uncorroborated by the Sunnah, while those who silently engage in Salaat and Thikr whether in jamaa’t or individually in the Musjid in conformity with the Sunnah, are excluded from these benefits when in reality the musallis performing Salaat in the Musjid are the first and primary repositories of the glad tidings mentioned in the Hadith cited by the honourable Mufti Sahib.
At home the womenfolk perform their Salaat individually and in silence. They too constitute a gathering in the meaning of the Hadith, hence they too qualify as recipients for the wonderful benefits and rewards mentioned in the Hadith for those who engage in Thikr in a ‘gathering’. A ‘gathering’ is a congregation of persons. The attribute of collectivism – to act in unison – and the attribute of loudness – all chanting loudly in chorus – are not requisites for the meaning of ‘gathering’ in the context of the Hadith. There is no explicit instruction in the Ahaadith ordering collectivism of the kind advocated by the venerable Mufti Sahib.
The other preposterous fallacy stated by the honourable Mufti Radhaaul Haq Sahib is his arbitrary averment: “Silent zikr outwardly has no relation with a gathering.” The term ‘outwardly’ in this statement is a misfit. ‘Silent’ Thikr is done ‘inwardly’ – inside the heart and with a silent tongue, not outwardly. What is the basis for claiming that silent Thikr has no relation with a gathering? A Musjid packed with musallis silently engaged in Thikrullah is a gathering. There is no valid grounds in either the Hadith nor in language for claiming that the hundred musallis sitting silently in the Musjid do not constitute a gathering.
In terms of the Hadith cited by the Mufti Sahib as well as other Ahaadith, this concourse of musallis sitting silently in the Musjid or performing their acts of ibaadat individually and silently come within the meaning of Rasulullah’s statement, and they all qualify for the benefits mentioned in the Ahaadith. They all constitute the gathering which is enshrouded with mercy, and on whom the Malaaikah cast their sacred shade of blessings.
The conclusion: “Hence this Hadith indicates towards audible zikr’, is highly erroneous. The very first beings who qualified for the awards and rewards mentioned in these Ahaadith in which appear the term ‘gathering’, are the Sahaabah. Despite the Sahaabah being the first recipients of these rewards, the honourable Mufti Sahib managed to only venture “this Hadith indicates”. He has not presented the amal of the Sahaabah. He has not cited a single episode of the Sahaabah having gathered to execute a programme of loud collective Thikr.
The clinching argument for dismissing the baseless opinion of the Mufti Sahib is his inability to present the practice of the Sahaabah to corroborate his inference, namely, “this Hadith indicates towards audible Thikr”. There is no need for ‘indications’ on such an important and vital issue as Masnoon Ibaadat. How did the Sahaabah perform their acts of Thikr in their ‘gatherings’? Was loud and collective Thikr in chorus the practice of the Sahaabah? Were they not concerned with the tranquillity, peace, etc. which the Hadith promises for those who engage in Thikr in gatherings? Were the Sahaabah deprived of the benefits and blessings mentioned in these Ahaadith wherein appears the aspect of ‘Thikr in gatherings’? From the innumerable thousands of Ahaadith is it not possible to present a few explicit narrations which explain with clarity the amal of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the Sahaabah in their gatherings of Thikr? Why should we rely on the inferences of the venerable Mufti Sahib when we have the perfect and excellent Example of Nabi-e-Kareem (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his Ashaab in front of us? Why have the Fuqaha elaborated with clarity the numerous acts of ibaadat, but do not make even the slightest mention of collective loud Thikr. Their silence is not puzzling. Collective loud Thikr simply did not constitute part of the ibaadat of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the Sahaabah, the Taabieen and Tab-e-Taabieen.
This dispute cannot be decided in terms of an inference based on figments of personal opinion which has no relationship with the reality of the method in which the Sahaabah performed their Thikr. While the narrations mentioning the blessedness of gatherings of Thaakireen are general and unrestricted in meaning, that is, they apply to even two musallis or even one thaakir sitting in solitude in a cave, the honourable Mufti Sahib has innovated exclusivity for these Ahaadith. He has confined the benefits mentioned in these Ahaadith to those who gather for collective loud Thikr, chanting in chorus when in reality there is absolutely no substantiation in the Ahaadith for these new specific forms of Thikr even if they are assumed to have initially been Mubah.
The Mufti Sahib is expected to produce precise and unambiguous proof from the Ahaadith to corroborate the specific forms of loud and collective Thikr which is the subject of the discussion and dispute. How did the Sahaabah understand these Ahaadith and how did they give practical expression to Rasulullah’s teaching regarding Thikrullah? Far from having organized collective loud Thikr programmes in the Musaajid, the Sahaabah acted fully in accord with the Qur’aanic instruction: “Call unto your Rabb with humility and silently.” There is no hint of collective loud Thikr gatherings in the Hadith. It is therefore highly erroneous to seek proof and justification in the Ahaadith for the current loud collective Thikr programmes.
The Sahaabah were the embodiments of the Ahaadith. Every command issued by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was given practical expression by the Sahaabah. Thus for the correct tafseer of the Ahaadith, it is imperative to view the Hadith narrations in the mirror of the Sahaabahs’ amal.
It is highly improper to isolate the Ahaadith from the practical life and example of the Sahaabah. Minus the Sahaabah there is no Sunnah and no Shariah. They were the very first Link in the Chain of Islam. Highlighting the indispensability of the Sahaabah for recognizing and understanding the Sunnah, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) commanded the Ummah:
“Honour my Sahaabah, for verily they are the noblest among you then those who come after them (i.e. the Taabieen); then those who come after them (i.e. the Tab-e-Taabieen). Thereafter will appear falsehood.”
It is incorrect to relegate the practice of the Sahaabah into oblivion, then isolate the Ahaadith and mutilate it with a personal opinion which is unsubstantiated by the Sunnah. Thus, to say: “This Hadith indicates towards audible zikr”, and “This proves the permissibility of collective zikr”, “Silent zikr has no relation with a gathering”, is untenable and is not borne out by the practical expression which the Sahaabah gave to these Ahaadith on which the venerable Mufti Sahib seeks to structure his case for loud, collective Thikr. Since it is known for a fact that the Sahaabah did not indulge in these specific forms of loud and congregational Thikr which are today in vogue and which are fast assuming the form of Bid’ah, the suggestion that these Ahaadith even ‘indicate’ towards these innovated forms of Thikr is preposterously erroneous.
The kutub of Hadith and Fiqah elaborately discuss the Athkaar of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the Sahaabah and the methods of recitation of these Athkaar on all occasions, including the Musjid. Nowhere will these specific forms of collective loud Thikr be found in these kutub. It is therefore futile, to put it mildly, to even attempt to acquire from the Ahaadith a basis for these new practices.
If these specific forms which are the subject of dispute, had any Sunnah validity or substantiation, there would have existed an unbroken chain of Ta-aamul (continuous, uninterrupted practice) extending to the Sahaabah. The kutub of the Muhadditheen and the Fuqaha would have explained its significance, virtues, benefits and methods of practical expression. We all would have been practising collective Thikr in the Musaajid. However, there is nothing but complete silence, and even rejection.
The Hadith of Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) cited by the Mufti Sahib has a very wide meaning. It is not restricted to a specific group of thaakireen sitting in the Musjid engaging in their own respective forms of Thikr silently. The ‘group’ which ‘sits’ and engages in Thikr is not a reference to a special group of persons who gather for any specific form of Thikr, be it Sunnat Thikr or Mubah Thikr. The tranquillity, mercy and peace descending for the thaakireen mentioned in this Hadith are for all types of thaakireen and apply to all situations. Thus, even one person sitting at home in Thikr, one woman engaging in Tasbeeh while doing her housework, a group of musallis performing Jamaa’t Salaat in the Musjid, two musallis performing Jamaa’t Salaat in the wilderness, a group of Muslims reciting the Qur’aan Shareef silently while scattered in the Musjid, a family reciting Qur’aan Shareef at home, the musallis performing Janaazah Salaat, the passengers making Thikr while in a vehicle or in the plane or ship, a worker keeping his tongue moist with Thikr while going about his duties, the sick person lying in his bed with Thikr on his tongue, the solitary person standing up during the night for Tahajjud, those who do not sit but move in Tawaaf of Baitullah – in short every person and every group of Muslims engaging in whatever type of ibaadat, be it wa’z, dars and tadrees, all of them without exception come fully within the ambit of this specific Hadith and similar other Ahaadith.
The Hadith may not be restricted to a sitting group of men or for a particular group who have gathered for a Thikr program even if the program is devoid of any bid’ah. Such restriction is devoid of evidence. In the tafseer of this Hadith, the following appears in Mirkaat: “Thus, his standing for taa-ah (obedience/ibaadat of Allah) such as Tawaaf, ziyaarat, Janaazah Salaat, seeking knowledge and listening to naseehat do not negate it (i.e. the purport stated in the Hadith).” The Mufti Sahib’s averment, ‘Silent zikr outwardly has no relation with a gathering’, is utterly fallacious. It excludes the numerous kinds of thaakireen from the barakaat mentioned in this particular Hadith.
With his highly erroneous inference, the honourable Mufti Radhaaul Haq Sahib has negated the scope of this Hadith for all the millions of Muslimeen engaging in their different acts of ibaadat either individually or in Jamaa’t whether at home or in the Musjid or elsewhere. But there is no authority of the Shariah who has presented such a narrow opinion as the view of the Mufti Sahib. Furthermore, there is no backing anywhere in the Shariah for the inference that this Hadith pertains to a group of persons who have gathered for a specific form of loud and collective Thikr.
All Masnoon acts of ibaadat are explained with clarity in the reliable kutub of the Shariah. Regardless of inferences, indications and deductions, the venerable Mufti Sahib has no alternative other than conceding that the collective forms of loud Thikr are most assuredly not Masnoon, and that there is no substantiation in the Ahaadith for these specific forms of loud collective Thikr.
The Mufti Sahib will have to argue permissibility from another angle and base his case on Shar’i principles. If he manages to structure a case for a Mubah hukm, then it will devolve on the other party to show grounds for the claim that this specific mubah practice has degenerated into Bid’ah Sayyiah. This is the narrow arena into which these specific forms of collective and loud Thikr programs fit.
(5) Loud Thikr Based on Deduction
The next Hadith quoted by the Mufti Sahib is similar to the aforementioned one narrated by Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu). Presenting his commentary, the venerable Mufti Sahib alleges: “The importance and permissibility of the gatherings of zikr are highlighted in this Hadith. From this it can be deduced that loud zikr is permissible.”
The ‘importance and permissibility of gatherings of zikr’ have not been contested. This statement in the context of our discussion is superfluous. Audible as opposed to ‘loud’ Thikr has also not been refuted. The Imaam recites audibly; the Talbiyah is audible; Takbeer-e-Tashreek is audible; the Athaan is audible; the Iqaamah is audible; lectures/bayaans are audible, individuals at home and elsewhere recite the Qur’aan Shareef audibly while others recite Tahleel and Tasbeeh audibly, alone and in privacy where they do not attract the gazes of people. These are Masnoon forms of Thikr which are audible. These audible Masnoon acts of Thikr have not been contested.
There is no need to deduct from any Hadith permissibility for audible Thikr. There is a difference between audible and loud Thikr which borders on screaming and shouting. The latter form of ‘loud’ Thikr is not permissible. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) explicitly prohibited the screaming type of loud Thikr which has become a salient attribute of the participants of halqah Thikr which constrains the walls of echo.
The subject of the dispute as mentioned earlier is neither audible Thikr nor collective Thikr. Many forms of Masnoon Thikr have been referred to. Jamaa’t Salaat is collective Thikr. The Dua after the Fardh Salaat is collective Thikr. The crowds making Tawaaf are engaged in collective Thikr. The musallis scattered all over the Musjid silently making their own Thikr are all in collective Thikr. Neither audible Thikr nor collective Thikr has been criticized. The bone of contention is that the specific forms of collective loud Thikr which are nowadays being practised in the Musaajid have degenerated into bid’ah, hence are not permissible. Insha’Allah, this aspect will be discussed in greater detail in the ensuing pages.
There is no substantiation in this Hadith for the type of collective and loud Thikr which is being given greater impetus by the day. All the Ahaadith cited by the Mufti Sahib pertain to all forms of athkaar and ibaadat – Masnoon acts and Mubah acts. It is incorrect to portray the Thikr mentioned in these Ahaadith as being acts of loud and collective Thikr which are executed in the customary forms in vogue. Besides the specific occasions of jahr (audible Thikr) ordered by the Shariah such as Athaan, Iqaamah, Talbiya, etc., there are no other forms of loud collective Thikr in the Sunnah. A new form of Thikr which has no substantiation in the Sunnah will have to be examined in the light of the principles of Fiqah to determine its status for issuing a ruling of Mubah or Bid’ah.
All the Ahaadith cited by the honourable Mufti Sahib refer to Thikr in general. There is no support for any bid’ah form of Thikr in the Ahaadith. ‘Gatherings of Thikr’ referred to in the Ahaadith pertain to all acts of ibaadat. It is improper to interpret these narrations to convey the impression that such ‘gatherings’ are the type of halqah Thikr programmes introduced recently in the Musaajid in South Africa.
(6) Silent Thikr
Mufti Radhaaul Haq Sahib, includes in his booklet a section which he captioned: ‘Silent Zikr of the Heart and Tongue in the Light of the Ahaadeeth’. There appears to be no relationship between this caption and the objective of his booklet which is supposed to substantiate loud collective Thikr in the Musaajid. Since he has introduced this topic of silent Thikr, it will be appropriate to comment on the Ahaadith which he has presented to show the virtues of silent Thikr.
Among these Ahaadith are the following statements of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam):
* “Always keep your tongue moist with zikr of Allah Ta’ala’
* “The action most loved by Allah Ta’ala is that you meet your death in such a state that your tongue is moist with zikr of Allah Ta’ala.”
* “There are two such sentences which are easy to recite yet they weigh heavy on the scales (of deeds) and they are loved by Rahman. They are Subhaanallahi wa bihamdihi and Subhaanallahil Azeem.”
* “That………. you ensure that your tongue always makes the zikr of Allah Ta’ala.”
* “Recite Subhaanallah ten times, Alhamdulillah ten times and Allahu Akbar ten times a day but it will be counted as one thousand five hundred rewards on the scale of deeds.”
* “Everything is a purifier and the purifier of the heart is zikr of Allah Ta’ala.”
* “I am with My servant when he remembers Me and he moves his lips (when making My zikr).”
These Ahaadith cited by the Mufti Sahib, while explaining the significance and importance of Mutlaq Thikr (Thikr in general), do not refer exclusively to silent Thikr. All forms of Thikr come within the purview of these Ahaadith. In the narrations cited by the honourable Mufti Sahib, no mention of ‘silent’ Thikr is made. The superiority of silent Thikr is based on other Ahaadith and dalaa-il (proofs of the Shariah).
The Thikr exhorted in the aforegoing Ahaadith may be done silently or audibly, i.e. audible within the limits of the Shariah and unaccompanied by any adverse factor which would render the Thikr form Bid’ah. A man in solitude, whether sitting, walking or lying down, may engage in Thikr audibly without trumpeting, and his Thikr will be within the scope of the Ahaadith.
All the Ahaadith which the venerable Mufti Sahib has enumerated in substantiation of loud collective Thikr apply to silent as well as permissible forms of audible Thikr. And, all the Ahaadith enumerated for indicating the permissibility or importance of silent Thikr, also apply to permissible audible Thikr. Differentiating between these Ahaadith and presenting them under separate topics to substantiate different Thikr methods is baseless, unwarranted and simply not vindicated by any daleel whether explicit or implied.
(7) The Ruling of Thikr
The honourable Mufti Sahib next explains the ruling on Thikr of the tongue and heart. There is no dispute on this issue. This exposition is unrelated to the subject of dispute, namely, the specific forms of loud collective Thikr innovated recently.
(8) The Benefits of Thikr
Then the honourable Mufti Sahib presents 13 pages in which he has enumerated the benefits of Thikr. In the context of the subject matter, this presentation is superfluous since it has no relevance to the dispute. No one denies the benefits of Thikr. The target of criticism is the specific form of loud collective Thikr which has degenerated into Bid’ah.
(9) “Loud and Collective Zikr of the Ambiyaa (Alayhimus salaam)”
The discussion appearing under this caption is a supine attempt to bolster the loud collective Thikr programmes in vogue nowadays. The Mufti Sahib cites the two following Qur’aanic verses in the endeavour to prove the validity of today’s loud collective Thikr:
(i) “Verily We subjugated the mountains and the birds to gather with him (Hazrat Dawood – Alayhis salaam) and to glorify Allah Ta’ala in the evening and at daybreak. Each of them were occupied in His glorification.”
“We placed the mountains and the birds at Dawood’s (Alayhis salaam) service and together they engaged in Allah Ta’ala’s glorification.”
The mountains and the birds reciting the Tasbeeh of Allah and making Thikr with Nabi Dawood (alayhis salaam) is indeed a far cry from the bid’ah loud collective Thikr sessions organized in the Musaajid in our day. In this miraculous unison of Thikr there is no violation of any of the principles of the Shariah, neither the Shariah of Hadhrat Dawood (alayhis salaam) nor the Shariah of Muhammadur Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The discussion here concerns human beings engaging in loud and collective Thikr which is unsubstantiated in the Sunnah. The grounds on which the claim of bid’ah is made cannot be dispelled by the episode of the mountains and the birds joining Nabi Dawood (alayhis salaam) in Thikr. If the walls, pebbles, birds and mountains join any Buzrug in his Thikr, no one will object. No one will label such ‘collective’ Thikr as bid’ah. But, if human beings introduce a practice which conflicts with the teachings and methodology of the Sahaabah, then the claim of bid’ah will necessarily be made.
These Qur’aanic verses have no relevance to the dispute or the subject of our discussion. The Mufti Sahib would have been closer to the course of Haqq if he had rather taken into account the Qur’aanic verses which explicitly command humble and silent Thikr which clearly negates collective loud Thikr performed in public. Citing the mountains and the birds as a ‘daleel’ is a ludicrous attempt.
Arguing his case, the Mufti Sahib states: “There is a certain method of making zikr practiced by the Soofis in which whilst making zikr, it seems as if the entire universe is also engaged in Allah Ta’ala’s zikr. This method of making zikr which is deduced from the above verse of the Glorious Qur’an has an unusual effect on the purification of a person’s soul and on his enthusiasm in his worship.”
Such far-fetched inferences and deduction are a futile attempt which do not constitute a basis for matters pertaining to the Ahkaam of the Shariah. This type of deduction is not proof of the Shariah. The Thikr methods of the Sahaabah should be presented in support of one’s claim, not a method introduced by the Sufiya centuries after the Sahaabah. The benefits in such new methods are not valid grounds for Bid’ah. We are dealing with Shar’i Ahkaam for which evidence from the Sources of the Shariah are sought. The practices of the Sufiya, irrespective of their benefits, may not be adduced to confer Shar’i status to a peculiar method which has assumed the form of ibaadat when in reality it was unknown to the Sahaabah. The methods of the Sufiya will, Insha’Allah, be explained in the light of the Shariah. Here it suffices to say that their methods do not constitute Shar’i evidence for a practice which has been introduced as ‘ibaadat’ whilst in fact it was unknown to the Sahaabah.
The Mufti Sahib adds: “From the above verses it becomes known that the zikr which Hazrat Dawood (Alaihis salaam) made with the birds and the mountains was loud and collective.”
If anyone has the lofty status of Nabi Dawood (alayhis salaam) and the mountains and birds join him in loud and collective Thikr, no one will object. But, the Mu’jizah of Hadhrat Dawood (alayhis salaam) is not a daleel for a practice which we say has degenerated into bid’ah – for a practice which has no origin in the Sunnah. The ibaadat practices of the Sahaabah are the criterion, not the practice of the mountains and the birds. Furthermore, neither did Nabi Dawood (alayhis salaam) nor the mountains and the birds perform to a public gallery of human beings. Hadhrat Dawood (alayhis salaam) was engaging in Thikr in the wilderness, far from the crowds while the Mufti Sahib is promoting Thikr programmes for the public gallery.
It would have served the case of the venerable Mufti Sahib better if it could have been proved that Hadhrat Dawood (alayhis salaam) had engaged with his followers in halqah Thikr in the Musjid. We say ‘better’ in relation to the ‘collective’ Thikr with the birds and mountains. Even if an act which was permissible in the Shariat of a previous Nabi is cited, it is not necessarily a daleel for an act which the Final Shariah of Allah Ta’ala disapproves of.
In the Shariah of Nabi Sulaimaan (alayhis salaam), making images and pictures of living beings was permissible. The jinn would manufacture such ornaments for Nabi Sulaimaan (alayhis salaam). Wine was permissible in the earlier Shariats. Making Sajdah for greeting was permissible. The actions and permissibilities of the previous Shariats are not a basis for permissibility in Islam if there is a conflict with the teachings or principles of our Shariah. There is therefore no daleel whatsoever in the mountains and birds joining Nabi Dawood (alayhis salaam) in his Thikr. Furthermore, the Mu’jizah was not loud collective Thikr of human beings taking place in a Musjid.
It is the way of the Ahl-e-Bareilwi to fabricate proof for their bid’ah practices by making baseless deductions from Qur’aanic verses and unrelated Ahaadith. For example, to substantiate their sajdah for the graves of the Auliya, they will cite the sajdah which the parents and brothers of Yusuf (alayhis salaam) had made for him, or they will present the sajdah which the Malaaikah made for Hadhrat Aadam (alayhis salaam). In similar style, the honourable Mufti Sahib seeks proof for the loud collective Thikr custom in Qur’aanic verses and Ahaadith which bear no relevance to these bid’ah Thikr practices.
Proof for acts of ibaadat should be acquired from the specific practices of the Sahaabah and Taabieen, not by inferences and deduction from Qur’aanic Aayaat and Ahaadith which have general scope and unrelated meanings.
(ii) The Mufti Sahib mentions what he terms “The Loud Zikr and Collective Zikr of Hazrat Yunus (Alaihis salaam)” Presenting his daleel for loud and collective Thikr, the Mufti Sahib avers: “Allah Ta’ala says in the Noble Qur’an: ‘When the person of the fish (i.e. Hazrat Yunus – Alaihis salaam) left his nation in anger and thought that We would not straighten things for him, he called out to his Lord in the darkness: ‘O my Sustainer, there is no deity but You. I am surely amongst the wrongdoers.”
The Mufti Sahib commenting on this verse, says: “From this verse we come to know that when Hazrat Yunus (Alaihis salaam) called out to Allah Ta’ala, he did so in a loud voice. This was co-incidentally also a form of supplication. Note: The Arabic word Nidaa means to call out to someone in a loud voice. In Mu’jamul Waseet the word Nidaa is defined as: to call out to something or someone and to scream with a loud voice. In Qaamoosul Waheed the word Nidaa is defined as: to call out loudly to someone. According to Misbaahul Lughaat the word Nidaa means to call out. From these dictionary passages it becomes clear that the meaning of Nidaa is to call out with a raised voice.”
Several aspects of this commentary requires rebuttal.
* Nowhere in the aayat does there appear even a hint of ‘collective’ Thikr. Yunus (alayhis salaam) was alone in the belly of the fish. He was in an abnormal situation. Even if he had called out loudly from within the belly of the fish, it does not constitute a basis for the collective loud Thikr conducted in the Musjid. While the Qur’aan unambiguously mentions the mountains and the birds making Thikr with Hadhrat Dawood (alayhis salaam), there is not the remotest suggestion in this aayat that the fishes or even just the one fish which had swallowed Hadhrat Yunus (alayhis salaam) had joined him in the Tasbeeh which he was reciting as a dua. And even if we assume that the fishes had joined him in Thikr, it is never a basis for the bid’ah type of collective loud Thikr performances in the Musaajid. The venerable Mufti Sahib’s allegation that this aayat is daleel for the imagined ‘collective zikr’ of Hadhrat Yunus (alayhis salaam) is utterly fallacious.
Yunus (alayhis salaam) was alone in the stomach of the fish and he was alone making Thikr/dua. If it should be baselessly imagined that the fish which had swallowed him or the fishes of the ocean had also joined him in Thikr, then too, such an imaginary figment will not be proof for a practice elevated to the status of ibaadat. Proof of ibaadat is the Qur’aan and the Sunnah – not such weird deductions and inferences, but explicit and specific references such as the narrations pertaining to the precise method of performing Salaat, making Dua, reciting Tasbeehaat, etc. Performance of Salaat and making Masnoon Dua in the way the Ummah is doing have not been structured on the basis of inferences and deductions from ambiguities.
* If Hadhrat Yunus (alayhis salaam) had made his dua/Thikr audibly in the darkness of the fish’s body, it does not constitute a basis or proof for the loud collective Thikr practices in vogue in the Musaajid nowadays. It has not been averred that audible dua made by an individual in privacy is bid’ah or not permissible. We all recite the Qur’aan Majeed and make Thikr audibly in the privacy of our homes and in solitude, and individually. Such audible, as opposed to loud and screaming Thikr, is perfectly permissible. There is no dispute in this regard. If indeed the Thikr/dua of Hadhrat Yunus (alayhis salaam) inside the belly of the fish was audible, it would be justification for an individual making dua/Thikr audibly, alone in privacy, not in public to attract the gazes of people.
While it could be assumed that the Tasbeeh/Dua of Hadhrat Yunus (alayhis salaam) was audible, the implication stemming from the literal (dictionary) meaning, namely, ‘screaming’, is unacceptable and baseless. While the Thikr could have been audible, it never was a scream nor a raised voice as the Mufti Sahib tried to suggest with the definition of Mu’jamul Waseet. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had specifically prohibited the Sahaabah on one occasion when they had raised their voices while calling on Allah Ta’ala.
* While the word, ‘nidaa’ does generally mean audible and loud, sirr/khafy (inaudible and silence) are not excluded from its meaning, especially in the context of Dua. Describing the Dua of Hadhrat Zakariyya (alayhis salaam), the Qur’aan Majeed states:
“When he (Zakariyya – alayhis salaam) called (naadaa) his Rabb a silent call (nidaa-an khafiyyan).” In this aayat the word ‘nidaa’ is qualified with the term khafiyyan (i.e. the nidaa was made silently and in solitude). Commenting on the word nidaa appearing in this aayat, Tafseerul Mazhari explains: “Nidaa-an khafiyyan, i.e silently. in the middle of the night because, verily, silent Thikr and dua have greater ikhlaas (sincerity), and Ikhfaa’ (silent dua) is the Sunnat (method) of Dua.”
Tafseer Ruhul Bayaan commenting on the terms nidaa-an khafiyyan, states: “Zakariyya (alayhis salaam) observed beautiful etiquette in his Dua. Despite it (silent dua) being like audible dua in relation to Allah Ta’ala, it (silent dua – nidaa-an khafiyyan) is closest to Ikhlaas (sincerity) and furthest from riya (show). This Faqeer (i.e. the author of Ruhul Bayaan) says: Although the word ‘nidaa’ is in the meaning of (raising) the voice, nevertheless the voice is sometimes qualified with weakness, and it is then described as ‘sautun khafiyyun’ (silent voice), i.e. whispering. Similarly is nidaa’. It has been authentically reported from the Fuqaha that some low tones are regarded to be the minimum stage of jahr (audibility). By researching (this subject) another meaning has become apparent, namely, an-nidaaul khafi (i.e. a silent/hidden call) according to the elite (khawaas – the Auliya), such as Thikr-e-Khafi is hidden from even the guarding angels, leave alone people….”
Ma-aariful Qur’aan explaining nidaa-an khafiyyan, states: “From this it is known that to make dua silently is afdhal (best/most meritorious). Hadhrat Sa’d bin Abi Waqqaas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: ‘Verily, the best Thikr is silent (Thikr).”
Elucidating further on the meaning of nidaa, Tafseer Ruhul Ma-aani states: “Concealed from people. No one from among them heard him. Zakariyya (alayhis salaam) made his dua silently because it was more conducive for Ikhlaas (sincerity) and furthest from riya (show and ostentation)…..On the basis of our explanation there is no conflict between nidaa and it being silent. In fact there is no conflict even when nidaa is defined with raising of the voice (raf’us saut)………And there is no conflict based on a figurative interpretation (of the term nidaa), or based on the view that raf’us saut (raising the voice) is not a requisite for nidaa.”
Thus, the ‘nidaa’ argument presented by the Mufti Sahib is devoid of substance in the context of the aayat as well as in the context of our discussion.
Commenting on nidaa-an khafiyyan, Tafseer Ibn Katheer states: “Verily, Allah is aware of the pious heart, and He hears the silent voice (as-sautul khafi).”
Al-Jaami li-Ahkaamil Qur’aan of Qurtubi explaining the terms, nidaa-an khafiyyan’, says: “This is like Allah’s statement: ‘Call unto your Rabb with humility and silently, Verily, He does not love those who transgress the limits.” – A’raaf. …. It has already been explained in Surah A’raaf that Ikhfa’ (silence) is Mustahab in Dua. This aayat is Nass in this regard because Allah Subhaanahu praises Zakariyya for this (i.e. for his silent dua).”
The word, nidaa is not restricted to calling aloud, screaming and shouting. Even a silent dua is referred to with the descriptive word, nidaa’ as is clearly evidenced by the Qur’aan. It is, therefore, incorrect to infer on the basis of the term, nidaa’, that Nabi Yunus (alayhis salaam) had ‘screamed’ and ‘shouted’ in the belly of the fish when he had recited the Tasbeeh. At most, audibility could be inferred, and the conclusion would be nothing beyond an inference stemming from the human mind. There is no Nass regarding the manner of Hadhrat Yunus’s dua. Was it jahri or khafi? Every conclusion will be a human inference which cannot be presented as a basis for istidlaal (deduction of categorical ahkaam). The dua of Nabi Yunus (alayhis salaam) cannever constitute a basis for the collective loud Thikr performances in the Musaajid. But to establish the validity of audibility (mutlaq jahr) there is no need to undertake a journey into the deep ocean. Above the ocean, on land, there are copious Ahaadith for this purpose.
It emerges from all the Tafaaseer that the best and most praiseworthy and exhorted method of Thikr and dua is to make it silently. It is thus spiritually counter-productive and in conflict with the spirit of the Sunnah and the Qur’aanic nusoos to promote specific forms of loud collective Thikr which have no origin in the Sunnah.
(iii) Then the venerable Mufti Sahib cites Hadhrat Ayyoob’s (alayhis salaam) dua as proof for ‘loud’ Thikr. In his pain and grief from years of suffering, Hadhrat Ayyoob (alayhis salaam) lying alone in the wilderness, called to Allah Ta’ala, petitioning Him for mercy. Indeed, it strains credulity to imagine that this cry of Hadhrat Ayyoob (alayhis salaam) lying alone, forlorn and smitten by diseases could ever be proof for the current loud collective Thikr programmes conducted boisterously in the Musaajid in conflict with the Sunnah.
Furthermore, the dispute does not centre on the issue of audible Thikr. The dispute is loud collective Thikr which has degenerated into bid’ah. There is not a hint of support for the Mufti Sahib’s case in the dua of Hadhrat Ayyoob (alayhis salaam).
(iv) The honourable Mufti Sahib then proceeds to present the example of Hadhrat Nabi Musaa (alayhis salaam) and Hadhrat Nabi Haroon (alayhis salaam) as proof for the loud collective Thikr programmes in vogue in the Musaajid nowadays. Citing the Qur’aanic aayat, he says: “Allah Ta’ala in the Noble Qur’aan has quoted the words of Hazrat Musaa (Alaihis Salaam): “So that we may glorify and remember You excessively.” In Ma’aariful Qur’an this verse is explained as follows: The benefit of appointing Hazrat Haroon (Alaihis Salaam) as a minister and a partner in the prophethood of Hazrat Musaa (Alaihis Salaam) was so that they could collectively remember Allah.”
There is no indication in this verse that Nabi Musaa (alayhis salaam) and Nabi Haroon (alayhis salaam) would sit in a halqah in the Musjid and engage in loud collective Thikr. The aayat does not exceed the assertion of making abundant Thikr. Hadhrat Musaa (alayhis salaam) only said: “So that we recite Your tasbeeh abundantly and that we remember You.” Numerous persons can engage in Thikr in the same location without doing so collectively and loudly. If a number of people in the Musjid engage in silent Thikr individually, it will be correct to say: ‘All the musallis are engaging in Thikrullah.’
Collective and loud Thikr is not a logical conclusion of the statement of Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam). Even the Tafseer given by Mufti Shafi’ (rahmatullah alayh) in Ma-aariful Qur’aan does not explicitly state that the Tasbeeh/Thikr of these two Nabis was done collectively and loudly. The emphasis in the explanation of Ma-aariful Qur’aan is on the mahoul (environment). A pious mahoul greatly facilitates acts of piety. Thus, Mufti Shafi (rahmatullah alayh) explains: “In Thikr and tasbeeh, a pious environment and pious companions play a great role. A person whose companions are not pious (men of Allah) cannot perform as much ibaadat as one whose environment is pious and whose companion is a thaakir, shaaghil. Hence, a person who desires to be engrossed in Thikrullaah should also search for a pious environment.”
The plural expression of Hadhrat Musaa (alayhis salaam) does not convey the idea of any specific congregational form of loud Thikr. The statement only signifies that both will be engaging in the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala at all times and in all conditions. The reference is to Thikr in general. At times when Hadhrat Musaa (alayhis salaam) was not in physical proximity with Hadhrat Haroon (alayhis salaam), his statement still held true. Both were occupied in Allah’s Thikr at all times, whether it was Jamaa’t Salaat, individual Salaat, making Thikr while on a journey, whether they were in company or alone or in any other state, together or separated, they were in a state of remembering Allah Ta’ala. This is the meaning of Hadhrat Musa’s statement: “So that we recite Your tasbeeh in abundance….” There is no support whatsoever in this statement for the loud collective Thikr programmes conducted in the Musaajid.
(10) Qur’aan and Hadith Proofs for loud Thikr
(a) The honourable Mufti Sahib cites the following Qur’aanic aayat in support of loud collective Thikr in the Musaajid: “Allah Ta’ala says in the Noble Qur’an: ‘When you have completed your Haj rituals then remember Allah Ta’ala as you would remember your forefathers, or even more intense than that.’ Commentary: From this verse it is clear that the zikr of Allah Ta’ala should be made audibly because during the Days of Ignorance, the people on the basis of pride remembered their forefathers openly. They did not do so secretly nor silently in their hearts.”
The Mufti Sahib’s commentary is highly ambiguous and misleading. He presents the practice of the mushrikeen as a basis for collective loud Thikr. According to the Mufti Sahib’s logic, collective loud Thikr is permissible because during the days of Hajj, the mushrikeen would vociferously and loudly proclaim the virtues and glories of their ancestors. This is the Mufti Sahib’s basis. It would have saved him from self-inflicted academic immolation if he had rather laboured more arduously to hack out a basis from some practices of the Sahaabah. But, to present the stupid amal of the mushrikeen as a basis for the imagined validity of collective loud Thikr, is to fall from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Precisely which Thikr ‘should be made audibly’ during the days subsequent to the completion of the Hajj rituals? After execution of the Manaasik of Hajj, there is no specific form of Thikr commanded by the Shariah to be observed during the stay at Mina. It is a period of Thikr, albeit squandered in futility and shaitaaniyat by the hujjaaj in these times. Although these are holy days which should be devoted to abundant and intense Thikr, there is no formal, mandatory or specific form of audible or silent Thikr ordained for this occasion. The solitary audible Thikr during the Hajj ibaadat, namely the Talbiyah, has also ended with the striking of the first pebble at the Jamrah. There remains now no mandatory act of audible Thikr. There is no Masnoon audible Thikr ordered during these days. The Mufti Sahib’s claim is therefore baseless.
His opinion that Thikr during these days ‘should be audible’ is bereft of Shar’i substance. His opinion in fact is tantamount to promoting an accretion which comes within the purview of bid’ah because nowhere does the Shariah order that the Thikr during this period ‘should be audible’. The imposition of incumbency is the right of only Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Only an act of ibaadat substantiated by the Sunnah or observed by the Sahaabah will be considered to be Masnoon. No one has the right to impose on others his personal understanding and interpretation, giving it the status of ibaadat or wujoob. By saying that the Thikr during these days ‘should be audible’, the venerable Mufti Sahib has overstepped the bounds of the Shariah, hence the Qur’aanic stricture: “These are the limits of Allah. Do not transgress them”, is applicable here.
The deduction of the incumbency of Thikr on the basis of the loud practice of the mushrikeen of Jaahiliyyah during these days, is utterly scandalous. The honourable Mufti Sahib has concluded that Thikr after completing the Hajj rituals ‘should be audible’ because this audibility was the style of the mushrikeen during the days of Jaahiliyyah. Since the polytheists would raise their voices with their bunkum praises of their ancestors, we too are now required to raise our voices with the remembrance of Allah Azza Wa Jal in terms of the Mufti Sahib’s logic.
This logic is absurd and has no basis in the Shariah. The essential factor debunking the Mufti Sahib’s opinion is that the Shariah has not imposed any mandatory form of Thikr during these days, whether audible or silent. It is a period of abundant Thikr and ibaadat, and it has to be maintained free of the accretions of bid’ah.
The Qur’aanic reference to the custom of the pre-Islam pagans of Makkah is by way of castigation. It has not been mentioned by the Qur’aan Majeed as a style for emulation by Muslims. It is bizarre to argue that since the mushrikeen loudly and vociferously sung the praises of their ancestors, Muslims too are required to loudly sing the praises of Allah Ta’ala. The Mufassireen have explicitly stated that the effect of the Aayat’s command is ‘to engage in abundant Thikr’, not loud Thikr. Stating this fact, it appears in Tafseerul Mazhari:
“Allah’s statement: ‘And remember Allah like you remember your fathers or a remembrance of greater intensity’, is not a comparison with jahr, but (the comparison) is in making Thikr in abundance (ikthaar).”
(b) Among his imagined Qur’aanic proofs for the specific forms of loud collective Thikr conducted in the Musaajid, is his averment: “Allah Ta’ala says: “And who can be more oppressive than him who prevents the name of Allah Ta’ala from being mentioned in the Houses of Allah Ta’ala.”
The citation of this verse is a veiled calumny and slander which the votaries of these specific forms of loud collective Thikr programmes in public usually direct to those who label these programmes as bid’ah. This attitude is part of the legacy inherited by these votaries from the Qabar Puja group. When the Ulama-e-Haqq of Deoband labelled the customary meelaad functions as bid’ah, the Bareilwi bid’atis vilified the Ulama and accused them of disrespecting Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). When the Ulama explained the mas’alah of Imkaan-e-Kithb, the grave-worshippers accused them of alleging that Allah Ta’ala speaks lies – Nauthubillah. In similar vein, those from among the Deoband School who have of recent opened the avenue of bid’ah with their specific forms of unsubstantiated loud collective Thikr enacted for public display, accuse the Ulama-e-Haqq of preventing from Thikrullah and prohibiting Thikrullaah. Well, let it be known to them that just as our Akaabireen had taken up cudgels with the Bareilwi bid’atis, we are now following in their footsteps, hence we are constrained to take up cudgels with the Deobandi bid’atis. Be they from any school of thought, the initiators and perpetrators will be called to account. All bid’atis, of whatever hue and persuasion, are of the same breed of deviation.
The presentation of the aforementioned aayat as ‘proof’ for the loud collective Thikr programmes demotes the contender from the lofty rank of Ilm. We are certain that the venerable Mufti Sahib is not in the darkness nor in any doubt regarding the dispute. We are convinced that he does understand the target of our criticism. He is aware that we are criticizing the specific loud collective Thikr programmes being conducted in the Musjid. We are certain that in his heart he knows that we are not saying that Thikrullaah is haraam. Despite this awareness, the honourable Mufti Sahib has succumbed to emotion, hence he has proffered an argument which is tantamount to slander.
Preventing bid’ah in the Musjid is like Hadhrat Ali’s prevention of a person from performing Salaat before the Eid Salaat. It is also like Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ood’s prevention of the enactment of bid’ah in the Musjid. The aayat quoted by the Mufti Sahib has absolutely no relevance to the prevention of bid’ah and baatil.
(c) Another flabby proof presented by the Mufti Sahib in his endeavour to validate the loud collective Thikr accretion, is his baseless inference eked from the Qur’aanic aayat:
“Allah Ta’ala says in the Noble Qur’an: ‘And remember your Lord fearfully and silently in your heart; do not remember Him too loudly.”
Firstly, the translation, “do not remember Him too loudly”, is incorrect. The correct translation of the terms ‘doonal jahr’ is ‘less than loudness’. There is a difference between ‘too loudly’ and ‘less than loudness’. The aayat negates loudness, whereas the Mufti Sahib’s translation negates excessive loudness. The aayat instructs that the recitation should be less than jahr, i.e. not loud. The meaning is clear: the recitation may be a whisper or above a whisper, but not loud as the Mufti Sahib’s translation implies. Less than ‘excessive loudness’ and ‘less than loudness’ have different meanings.
Secondly this aayat in fact refutes the loud collective Thikr in the Musaajid. At these Thikr performances, the participants indulge in excessive jahr (jahr-e-mufrit) bordering on screaming. ‘Doonal Jahr’ (less than jahr) is not an attribute of the public Thikr performances.
The explicit instruction in this aayat to make Thikr “in your heart with humility and fear” confirms the superiority of silent Thikr as opposed to the advocacy of loud Thikr which the Mufti Sahib seeks to extrapolate from this very aayat which negates jahr. Whereas the aayat negates jahr, public performance and show, the honourable Mufti Sahib attempts to utilize it (the aayat) for an opposite objective, namely, the promotion of jahr, and public performance which generally is accompanied by riya, ujub and takabbur.
The logic of the Mufti Sahib baffles the mind. The aayat emphasizes silence, concealment, humility and fear in Thikr. But the Mufti Sahib extravagated an interpretation entirely out of the character of the meaning of this verse for the sake of vindicating the unsubstantiated specific form of loud collective Thikr which is incrementally becoming prevalent in the Musaajid.
Thirdly, this aayat addresses an individual. The individual is commanded in the methodology of Thikr. There is not the remotest hint in this aayat for collective public Thikr programmes which are in diametric conflict with the silence, secrecy, concealment, humility and fear commanded in this gracious aayat.
Although according to Hadhrat Ibn Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhu) this particular aayat only refers to Qiraa’t in Salaat, the Mufassireen in general explain that the verse refers to Mutlaq Thikr (Thikr in general). The specific program of loud collective Thikr has to be necessarily excluded from the universality of Mutlaq Thikr in view of the following factors:
It (the loud collective Thikr) is beyond the confines of ‘nafsika’ (silent Thikr in the heart).
It does not come within the scope of ‘Doonal Jahr bil Qaul’.
It is generally bereft of ‘tadharru’ (humility) and ‘kheefah’ (heartfelt fear).
It is an act of self-expression (Izhaar) whereas the individual’s silent Thikr in solitude is an act of concealment (Ikhfa’). The attribute of khafy (concealment which goes with silence) is the conspicuous theme of the aayat.
Ma-aariful Qur’aan presenting the tafseer of this aayat, says: “In these two verses (i.e. 205 and 206 of Surah Al-A’raaf), according to the Jamhoor (the overwhelming majority of the Mufassireen) is the rule pertaining to Mutlaq Thikrullah and its aadaab (etiquettes, respects), which includes tilaawat of the Qur’aan. According to Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhu) these verses refer to only the Qur’aan and the aadaab mentioned here relate to tilaawat of the Qur’aan. However, this is not really a difference because, besides the Qur’aan, these very same aadaab apply to other athkaar (forms of Thikr) according to all authorities. In short, in this aayat is the explanation of the rule for man’s Thikr of Allah, its times and etiquettes.”
This tafseer has further severely dented the ‘proof’ which the venerable Mufti Sahib has attempted to extrapolate from the aayat. In terms of the version of Hadhrat Ibn Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhu) this aayat is restricted to only Qur’an tilaawat. Hence, from this viewpoint, the loud collective public and unsubstantiated Thikr programmes simply do not feature.
Commenting on ‘Doonal Jahr bil Qaul’, Tafseer Qurtubi states: “Dua with the tongue for Allah in silence without jahr. …….Ibn Zaid narrated: “There should not be jahr with it.” Mujaahid said: “They are commanded to make Thikr in their hearts with humility and fear.” Ibn Juraij said (in the tafseer of this aayat): “Raf’us saut (raising the voice), nidaa’(loud calling) and siyaah (screaming) with dua are Makrooh (i.e. Makrooh Tahrimi).”
Explaining ‘Doonal Jahr bil qaul’, Tafseerul Mazhari states: “A speech above sirr (total silence) and less than Jahr (loudness).”
The net result of this tafseer is that the Thikr may be a whisper, if the thaakir does not opt for the option of total silence. Less than jahr is a whisper or above a whisper, but never the loudness which echoes and shakes the walls of the Musjid.
The audible Thikr which is less than jahr mentioned in this aayat refers to Mutlaq Thikr. It is not a support for the type of loud collective Thikr being conducted with considerable ostentation in public places.
(d) The honourable Mufti Sahib poses the question: “Thus when the Qur’an – one of the forms of zikr – can be recited loudly, why can other forms of zikr such as reciting the kalima, etc. not be recited aloud when both are regarded as zikr?”
This is indeed a peculiar question. It implies that the Mufti Sahib has failed to understand what the dispute is all about. It was not contended by anyone that besides the Qur’aan Majeed, other forms of Thikr may not be recited audibly. The criticism is directed specifically to the specific forms of loud collective Thikr which has become customary in the Musaajid nowadays. No one claims that Thikr may not be made audibly. The Mufti Sahib has indulged in exercises of futility in a laborious attempt to prove the permissibility of audible Thikr. The presentation of the many Ahaadith to support audible Thikr is superfluous.
We also engage in audible Tilaawat and audible Thikr. We follow the Chishti Silsilah in which Thikr Bil Jahr is the norm while the Naqshbandi Silsilah proscribes audible Thikr. We are, Alhamdulillah, cognizant of the Thikr methodology of our Chishti Akaabireen. The target of our criticism is not Thikr bil Jahr. Our concern is with the bid’ah into which the loud collective Thikr has developed in this day.
The Thikr of the Qur’aan
In the aforementioned question mentioned in (d) above, posed by the Mufti Sahib, he has placed tilaawat of the Qur’aan Majeed (which is also a form of Thikr) in the same category as other forms of Thikr, hence he made the query, seeking to know the difference. Well, there is a difference between Tilaawat and other forms of Thikr. This difference is the basis for audibility (jahr, but not mufrit jahr) being better for purposes of Tilaawat, while silence (sirr) is superior for other forms of Thikr.
Answering the query of the venerable Mufti Sahib, Tafseerul Mazhari presents the following dissertation:
“If it is asked (as the venerable Mufti Radhaaul Haq Sahib has asked): ‘Jahr with Thikr and dua is bid’ah, and the Sunnah in both (Thikr and dua) is ikhfa’ (silence) as the mas’alah has been explained in the tafseer of Allah Ta’ala’s statement: ‘Call unto your Rabb with humility and in silence.’, then what is the difference between Thikr and qiraa’t of the Qur’aan despite qiraa’t also being Thikr?’ (In response) We (the Author of Tafseer Mazhari) say: The Qur’aan consists of admonition, stories imparting lessons and laws. Its theme miraculously absorbs ailing hearts, and inclines them towards Islam. It is for this reason that Allah Ta’ala says: “(O Muhammad!) If any among the mushrikeen seeks refuge by you, then grant him refuge until such time that he has heard the Kalaam of Allah…’. Further, its recitation with the tongue is an additional ibaadat over and above Thikr, and it is such an ibaadat which wards of indolence (ghaflat) from the heart. Also, causing others to hear it is another ibaadat which is desirable to Ar-Rahmaan. On the contrary, the objective of Thikr (other than the Tilaawat) and dua is acceptance (of the dua) and (with Thikr) it is to forget things which divert one from Allah, Al-Azeez, Al-Mannaan, so that the act of Thikr and even the thaakir disappear from his sight, and there remains in his vision only Al-Waahidul Qahhaar (The One Mighty Allah).”
It is rather strange that the august Mufti Sahib has failed to differentiate between the Thikr of Tilaawat and other forms of Athkaar. Firstly, the Qur’aan-e-Kareem itself advocates reasonable jahr (audibility) for Tilaawat. According to Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhu), the aayat of Surah A’raaf in which appears the phrase, doonal jahr bil qaul (less than loud), was revealed specifically for the method of reciting the Qur’aan Shareef.
Secondly, Allah Ta’ala commands in the Qur’aan: “When the Qur’aan is being recited, then maintain silence.” Thus, Ismaa’ (to recite audibly to enable others to hear) and Insaat (maintenance of silence by the listeners) are two special acts of Ibaadat commanded by the Qur’aan. Ismaa’ are acts related to Tilaawat, not to other forms of athkaar. While intentionally reciting the Qur’aan for the hearing of others is ibaadat provided there is no riya, this Ismaa’ (causing others to hear) is not advocated with other forms of Thikr.
Thirdly, the Qur’aan comprises of a variety of topics which require tadabbur and tafakkur (reflection and contemplation). The need for this is to reflect on the actual words. This in itself is another act of ibaadat. The variety of subject matter such as warnings, admonition, glad tidings, description of Jannat and Jahannum, episodes of bygone times and nations, punishments which eliminated communities from the face of the earth, etc., etc., focus the mind on matters other than only the Zaat and Sifaat of Allah Azza Wa Jal. While Tilaawat is not direct communion with Allah Ta’ala despite its composition of various forms of ibaadat and Thikr, other forms of pure Thikr and Dua are direct communion with Allah, Al-Khaaliq, Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem.
The Muhib (Lover) who engages in plain Thikr or dua speaks directly with his Mahboob (Beloved). He is in privacy with his Mahboob. The private and secret conversation between Lovers may not be advertised and publicized. It is indeed hypocritical for a lover to tell all and sundry about his moments of secrecy in communion with his Beloved. Thus, the difference between the two forms of Thikr (Qiraa’t and Nidaa/Dua) should be manifest for one who has adna munaasabat (minimum compatibility) with his Mahboob-e-Haqeeqi (True Beloved) – Allah, Al-Kareem, Al-Wadood, Ar-Ra-oof, Maalikul Mulk Zul Jalaali Wal Ikraam.
So while reasonable jahr for Tilaawat of the Qur’aan is preferable, ikhfa’ is superior and best for Thikr and dua, and according to some authorities, ikhfa’ in dua and Thikr is mandatory. From the aforegoing explanation it should be clear that there is a difference in the two forms of Thikr –Qiraa’t and other forms of Thikr and dua.
(e) In another insipid attempt to condone the loud collective Thikr practices in public places, the Mufti Sahib says: “It is narrated on the authority of Hazrat Abu Jazaa’i (Radhiyallahu anhu) that Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alaihi wa sallam) said: ‘Remember Allah Ta’ala excessively to such an extent that people call you a hypocrite who is only doing good deeds for show.”
Commenting on this narration, the Mufti Sahib avers: “A person will be only called insane when he excessively makes zikr of Allah Ta’ala aloud, not when he makes zikr silently.”
This spurious comment ignores the thrust and emphasis of the Qur’aan and Sunnah on silent, concealed Thikr. The Mufti Sahib using this Hadith as a basis, seeks to elevate loud zikr above silent Thikr which the Qur’aan and Sunnah promote and elevate, and on which there exists Ijma’ (Consensus) of the Ummah. It is wrong, irrational and the effect of emotionalism to present scores of narrations – almost all ambiguous and unrelated to loud Thikr – in an endeavour to highlight the imagined greater importance of loud Thikr, thereby implying its superiority over silent Thikr which all authorities unanimously say is superior and the best method. The Mufti Sahib’s foundational pillar in his system of reasoning is ‘inference’. He has no explicit dalaa-il to substantiate his collective loud Thikr public performances. His personal inferences are not evidence and basis for structuring Shar’i ahkaam.
The Mufti Sahib has been constrained to adopt this line of reasoning in defence of the loud collective Thikr programs which he espouses zealously for want of Nusoos (explicit Qur’aanic and Sunnah evidence). A man of knowledge is not supposed to unduly emphasise a permissibility which is of secondary importance in order to substantiate a practice which has no origin in the Sunnah, and which is developing into a bid’ah.
It is also incorrect that excessive Thikr is related to only loud Thikr, and that the Hadith refers to only loud Thikr. The Hadith mentions abundant Thikr, not loud Thikr. ‘Loud’ is the Mufti Sahib’s personal inference. A man engrossed in abundant silent Thikr can also be branded as ‘insane’ by ignoramuses. Wherever he is seen, his lips are perpetually moving with Thikr. He may be sitting silently in the Musjid for hours or he may be wandering in the wilderness or the bush with his lips constantly moving with Thikr. As an effect of his engrossment in Thikrullah, he becomes oblivious of his surroundings. Such a person sometimes renounces the world and adopts solitude. He may be branded as ‘insane’ by the people of the world. In fact, great Auliya such as Hadhrat Uwais Qarni (rahmatullah alayh) and many others, were branded insane for their abundance of Thikr of Allah Ta’ala and the Aakhirat. Yet, never were these ‘insane’ Auliya ever seen or heard wandering the streets vociferously proclaiming their Thikr of Allah Ta’ala.
In fact those who were labelled ‘insane’ on account of their Thikr, were not men who wandered around the street screaming Thikr. They were men who were totally absorbed in the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala, primarily Thikr-e-Qalbi (Thikr with the heart). One great Buzrug had to be led by a mureed from his house to the nearby Jumuah Musjid for forty years because he himself could not find the way to the Musjid. This was the effect of his total absorption in Thikrullaah. Such men whose primary occupation was Thikr-e-Khafi and Thikr-e-Qalbi were regarded ‘mad’ by the denizens of the world. This ‘mad’ Buzrug did not run around the streets screaming Thikr. Their state of Thikr which was interpreted as ‘insanity’ by the people of the world, was Thikr-e-Khafi. The pervading effect of the Thikr on their entire being – spiritual and physical – led spiritually blind people to label these thaakireen insane. There is no basis for the assumption that this effect is restricted to loud Thikr. A Shar’i hukm cannot be structured on the basis of the Mufti Sahib’s personal opinion which has no standing in the Shariah.
The title of insanity which people of the dunya award to a thaakir has absolutely no relationship with the loud collective Thikr programs which are in conflict with the Sunnah and which are generally creative of riya and ujub.
(f) The Mufti Sahib’s attempt to gain support for the loud collective Thikr programmes by referring to the audible recitation of the Talbiyah during Hajj time, and the occasional recitation of a poem by some Sahaabah, is incredulous. The programs being conducted in the Musaajid are specific forms of innovated Thikr being promoted to the level of incumbent ibaadat. The Talbiyah is a Waajib act of ibaadat. But on the basis of the Talbiyah being recited audibly it may not be concluded that qiraa’t in Nafl Salaat during the daytime could also be recited aloud. Nor is it valid to cite Talbiyah and poems as a basis for an attempt to recite Dua-e-Qunoot aloud in Witr Salaat or to recite Durood Shareef aloud when Rasulullah’s name is mentioned in the Khutbah.
Talbiyah and poems may not be cited as a basis for fabricating a specific form of Thikr which has no basis in the Sunnah. The Talbiyah has a basis in the Sunnah, and so have all the other Shar’i acts of audible Thikr. According to the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen, the audible forms of athkaar such as Talbiyah, Athaan, etc., are exceptions which are excluded from the Principle of Ikhfa’ which applies to Thikr and dua. A collectivism commanded by the Shariah, is ibaadat while a fabricated collectivism given the veneer of ibaadat is bid’ah. There is a stark difference between the two, which the honourable Mufti Sahib has failed to understand hence the irrational exercise to prove every Thikr Hadith to be a reference to loud Thikr when in fact the teaching of the Qur’aan and Sunnah is Thikr-e-Khafi besides the couple of exceptions such as the Talbiyah, Athaan, Iqaamah, etc.
Since the cases of loud Thikr commanded by the Shariah are exceptions to the general principle, ‘The principle in athkaar is Ikhfa’, these may not be extended to all forms of Thikr. Such misdirected application culminates in the abrogation of the the very Principle emphatically stated by Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh). Exceptions should not be regarded as the principle. The primary principle is the basis of formulating a hukm. Not the exception.
(g) The attempt to prove validity for the loud collective Thikr programmes by extrapolating a basis from the Hadith which mentions the loud Takbeer Battle Cry during Jihad is laughable to say the least. In fact it is lamentable. The Battle Cry being loud has no relevance to Thikr which has to be made in concealment and with silence. The loud Takbeer cry on the battlefield is a glaring exception and cannot be presented to justify an unsubstantiated loud collective Thikr programme which is being projected as ‘Sunnah’ ibaadat. The aim of the loud – excessively loud – Takbeer battle-cry is to drive fear and awe into the hearts of the enemy, hence the command of ‘Have mercy on your souls’, and ‘less than jahr’ which apply to Thikr in general, does not apply to the battle-cry.