Urs/Death Anniversaries of Ahl al-Bid’ah and other innovations


[1] ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Laknawi wrote in his Ibraz al-Ghayy (a book in refutation of an advocate of Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan):

 أما الزيارة البدعية والسفر بقصدها المشتمل على أمور محرمة ومكروهة كالسفر بقصد الشركة في مجالس الأعراس المعهودة في زماننا المشتملة على جعل قبور المشايخ عيدا وعلى أمور كثيرة غير مشروعة كالغناء مع المزامير والرقص وجعل القبور أوثانا تُعبد فلا كلام في عدم جوازه

 “As for the visit that is innovated, and the journey with that as its objective, comprising of matters that are prohibited and reprehensible; like travelling with the objective of participating in gatherings of ‘urs (death anniversaries) that are commonly known in our time that consist of making the graves of the pious scholars into a place of celebration and of many unlawful activities like singing with musical instruments and dancing and making the graves into idols that are worshipped, then there is no argument regarding its impermissibility.”

(Ibraz al-Ghayy from volume six of Majmu’at Rasa’il al-Laknawi, Intisharat Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad Jam, p. 47)

‘Allamah Laknawi, therefore, believed the common ‘urs celebrations of his day, and what was commonly recognized (ma’hud) as ‘urs in his time, consisted of sinful, innovated and polytheistic practices. This is sufficient reason to understanding why the Deobandi scholars issued a general verdict of innovation and prohibition for ‘urs celebrations.

Imam Lakhnawi is not alone in opposing the ‘urs celebrations. Some other scholars who were opposed:

[2] Imam Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dahlawi writes,

“The truth in my opinion, (traveling to) visit the grave of any wali or the [mouth] Tur, all fall within the ambit of the same prohibition.” (Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, 1:192)

Shah Sahib further writes, “I say regarding the Hadith, ‘Do not make my grave a place of ‘Eid’, that it is a means of preventing tahrif (changing in the Din), just as the Christians and Jews have perpetrated where they made the graves of their Prophets seasonal venues of festivity.” (Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, 2:77)

And he states further,“Amongst the great acts of bid`ah are the great excesses which the people have perpetrated at the gravesides and made them venues of festivity.” (Tafhimat-i-Ilahiyyah, 2:64)

[3] Qadi Thana’ullah Panipatti writes, “That which the ignoramuses do with the gravesides of the awliya and Shuhada’ is impermissible. They prostrate there, circumambulate around them, place lamps thereupon, perform sajdah towards them and gather their annually for a festival, which is called ‘urs.” (Tafsir Mazhari, 2:65)

[4] ‘Allamah Muhaddith Muhammad Tahir Patni Shahid also refuted the gathering of ‘ursand considered it an act of Ahl al-Kitab.

‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari mentions him in a list of Hanafi masters of hadith, and writes: “King of the muhaddithin (malik al-muhaddithin), Shaykh Muhammad ibn Tahir al-Fattani al-Gujrati, author of Majma‘ al-Bihar and Tadhkirat al-Mawdu‘at and Al-Mughni and other valuable writings on hadith and its uncommon words. He died a martyr in the year 987 H.” (Fiqh Ahl al-‘Iraq wa Hadithuhum p. 70)

After gaining mastery in many sciences, he travelled to the Hijaz in 944 A H and he took from the famous Shafi‘i jurist, Ahmad ibn Hajar al-Haythami, and other scholars. And he stayed for a period in the company of Shaykh ‘Ali ibn Husam al-Din al-Muttaqi, the author of Kanz al-‘Ummal. For a detailed study of his life and works, see the phd thesis: http://uir.unisa.ac.za/xmlui/bitstre…468/thesis.pdf (Between Orthodoxy and Mysticism: The Life and Works of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Tahir al-Fattani) The renowned Shaykh ‘Abd al-Haqq Muhaddith Dehlawi said of him, “When he returned to his hometown, he made concerted efforts to root out innovations and customs.” (Quoted in the thesis on page 37)

[5] Similarly, Shah Ishaq Muhaddith Dahlawi also mentions in Arba’in Masa’il that to specify a day for ‘urs is not permissible.

[6] Beside that many early Ottoman scholars have also spoken against ‘urs. See Majalis al-Abrar of Shaykh Ahmad al-Rumi and Ziyarat al-Qubur of Imam Muhammad Birgiwi.

[7] Another Ottoman scholar ‘Allamah Abu Sa’id Muhammad al-Khadimi  (d. 1176 AH) says in Al-Bariqah al-Mahmudiyyah Sharh Tariqah Muhammadiyyah, p.221:

“The worst bid’ahs are ten:

[a] First reciting the Qur’an on payment specially with cash; since its endowment (waqf) is invalid. And similar is the case with dhikr, du’a, and salah and tasbih, etc. due to prevalence of cash and kind. Also, it includes reciting after salah, as it is for requesting money.

[b] The second is the food of dead, burning candles on graves, performing dhikr with loud voice in front of janazah, celebrating ‘urs, etc. erecting building on graves, decorating them and spending night near graves.

[c] The third is performing nafl (optional) salah in congregation (jama’ah) which includes salah al-raghayib, bara’ah, Al-Qadr, salah al-tasbih.

[d] The fourth is listening ghina‘ (mystic song). Likewise, reciting the Qur’an and performing dhikr in musical tone, mystic dance (raqs) and ecstasy….”

بريقة محمودية في شرح طريقة محمدية

أقبح البدع عشرة أولها تلاوة القرآن بالأجرة سيما بغلة النقود فإن وقفها باطل وكذا الذكر والدعاء والصلاة ومنه التسبيح ونحوه لترويج المتاع ونحوه ويدخل فيه القراءة بعد الصلاة لسؤال المال وثانيها طعام الميت وإيقاد الشموع في المقابر والجهر بالذكر أمام الجنازة والعروس ونحوهما والبناء على القبر وتزيينه والبيتوتة عنده ثالثها الجماعة في النفل ويدخل فيه صلاة الرغائب والبراءة والقدر والتسبيح بالجماعة سابعها التغني وسماع الغناء ومنه اللحن في القرآن والأذكار والرقص والاضطرا

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