#MiddleGroundPodcast – Sha’ban and Bid’ah: Islam Isn’t Sorcery


[Direct download]

Al-Shatibi, the author of a two-volume book entitled al-I’tisam الاعتصام (Holding Fast), has been hailed by many as the best book ever written on the subject of bid’ah: “unsanctioned innovation in religious matters”. In this work, al-Shatibi gives the following definition for bid’ah:

البدعة طريقة مخترعة في الدين تضاهي الشرعية يقصد بالسلوك عليها ما يقصد بالطريقة الشرعية

“A concocted manner of proceeding in religion that mimics the scripturally mandated way, with the aim of achieving through this concocted way that which should only be sought through the scripturally mandated way.”

According to Dr. Sherman Jackson,

bid’ah” is not simply committing an act that the Prophet did not commit or failing to commit an act that the Prophet actually did. Bid’a is, rather, committing or avoiding such actions as a means of making up one’s own way to God. In other words, the real issue is not whether an act is committed or not; the real issue is the religious value that one attributes to the commission or non-commission of an act“.

The reason why innovation becomes an issue is because people will leave off what was legislated for them* in favor of what is not legislated. In doing so they put themselves in the position of being a prophet or a messenger. We now have people who live recklessly and then attempt to turn religion in general, and Islam in particular, into a kind of magic or sorcery. What was magic’s use or intent? To either gain the gods’ favor, overcome them, or the natural world (which was in most mythologies created by the gods or inhabited by them).

Many of these attempts are “practical” in that they wish to supplant that which would require discipline for something else that “fits their schedule”. “Praying every day in impractical”, in this way of thinking. “I prefer to get it out the way or have it done on my time”.

قُل لِلَّهِ الشَّفاعَةُ جَميعًا ۖ لَهُ مُلكُ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيهِ تُرجَعونَ

“Say to them,’It’s God’s exclusive right to choose someone to be an intercessor, for the control of the heavens and the earth belongs to Him, and then you’re all going to go back to Him’.”Qur’an, 39: 44

So a person will drink, fornicate, cheat, and even murder, and then think all of this can be mitigated on one special night.

Background on the verses 53 through 59 of Surah al-Zumar (#39)

There were some Makkans who wanted to accept Islam, but they had indulged in very wicked behavior in their lives before, having murdered people, committed adultery, theft and other crimes. They felt that their sins were too enormous for God to forgive merely by their accepting Islam. “How can we become Muslims when we did all that?” one of them even asked. Just after the Muslims migrated to Madinah, the concerns of such sympathetic but despairing Makkans were discussed by many. These verses were revealed, and ‘Umar ibn al Khattab, who knew how to write, wrote them on a paper and sent it secretly back to Makkah. The first person who read it was a man named Hisham who said in later days, “I took it and went to a place named Thitawa, and I asked God to make me understand it. When I realized it was for us, I returned to where my mount was tethered and resolved to follow the Prophet.” Many others also joined Islam and made their way to Madinah.

قُل يا عِبادِيَ الَّذينَ أَسرَفوا عَلىٰ أَنفُسِهِم لا تَقنَطوا مِن رَحمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغفِرُ الذُّنوبَ جَميعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفورُ الرَّحيمُ

وَأَنيبوا إِلىٰ رَبِّكُم وَأَسلِموا لَهُ مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَكُمُ العَذابُ ثُمَّ لا تُنصَرونَ

وَاتَّبِعوا أَحسَنَ ما أُنزِلَ إِلَيكُم مِن رَبِّكُم مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَكُمُ العَذابُ بَغتَةً وَأَنتُم لا تَشعُرونَ

أَن تَقولَ نَفسٌ يا حَسرَتا عَلىٰ ما فَرَّطتُ في جَنبِ اللَّهِ وَإِن كُنتُ لَمِنَ السّاخِرينَ

أَو تَقولَ لَو أَنَّ اللَّهَ هَداني لَكُنتُ مِنَ المُتَّقينَ

أَو تَقولَ حينَ تَرَى العَذابَ لَو أَنَّ لي كَرَّةً فَأَكونَ مِنَ المُحسِنينَ

بَلىٰ قَد جاءَتكَ آياتي فَكَذَّبتَ بِها وَاستَكبَرتَ وَكُنتَ مِنَ الكافِرينَ

“[Muhammad – Tell the people that I, Myself, have said, ‘All My servants who have acted excessively against their own souls! Don’t lose hope of God’s mercy, for God can forgive all sins. He truly is the Forgiving and the Merciful!’

‘Turn towards your Lord and surrender to Him before the punishment overwhelms you, for then you’ll have no one to help you.’

‘Follow the best of what’s being revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment overwhelms you all of a sudden without your even realizing what’s happening.’

‘For then your soul will cry out, “I’m doomed! I neglected my duty to God, and I scoffed!”

‘Or it might cry out, “If only God had guided me, I would surely have been one of the mindful.”

‘Or it might cry out, the moment it sees the punishment approaching, “If only I had a second chance, I would surely be with those who are good’.

‘“But no! My signs came to you, and you denied them! You were arrogant, and you tried to cover the truth that was all around you’.”Qur’an, 39: 53-59

Notes

*What do we mean by “legislated”? In specific, that which Allah will judge a person by, and that which may forfeit a person’s entrance to the Garden.

Towards a Sacred Life Style-Loving the Prophet

Marc and Adnan

The following is a short video and full-length audio of a talk I delivered at Drexel University with Adnan Zulfiqar on loving the Prophet صلى الله عليه وصلم.

ذكر عبد الله بن بشر أن رجلا قال يا رسول الله إن شرائع الإيمان قد كثرت عليّ فأخبرني بشيء أتشبث به – قال لا يزال لسانك رطبا من ذكر الله – روى في الترمذي

‘Abdullah bin Bushr mentioned that a man said to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم “O Messenger of God, indeed the conduct of faith has become too numerous for me therefore instruct me with something I may cling to”. He said صلى الله عليه وسلم: “Do not stop your tongue from being moist in the remembrance of God.”

Extra Reads

Sherman Jackson’s Towards Empowering the Common Muslim.

Muslims, America and the Greater Good

The Muslim community in America has been under fire since the tragic events of September 11th. And yet, most of the efforts of Muslims since then have seemed to focus more on how to get back to the foggy, lackadaisical lifestyle which allowed a great many Muslims to enjoy the comforts of American society without having to contribute very much. Sadly, I feel this still persists. And in the light of a society that is in desperate need of help (of whom the Muslims are also in desperate need!), how can we justify our self-indulgent attitude? I muse on this and a few other items in this podcast.

Further Readings

Dawabit al-Maslahah fi’l-Shar’iyyah al-Islamiyyah by Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti.

Summer Reading List 2012

These are the books I hope to read over the summer:

[1] Imam al-Shatibi’s, al-Muwaffaqat. [2] Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community by Wendell Berry; [3] Ziauddin Sardar’s, Islam, Postmodernism and Other Futures; [4] The Illusions of Postmodernism by Terry Eagleton; [5] Intisar al-Faqir al-Salik l’Tarjih Madh’hab l’Imam Malik by Shams al-Din Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Ra’i al-Andalusi; [6] Michel Foucault’s, The Archaeology of Knowledge; [7] Technopoly, by Neil Postman; [8] After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre; [9] Living in the Labyrinth of Technology, by Willem H. Vanderburg; [10] Sherman Jackson’s, Sufism for Non-Sufis?; [11] The Biography of Ibn al-Qayyim by Salahud-Din ‘Ali Abdul-Mawjud trans. by Abdul-Rafi Adewale Imam; [12] John Coltrane and BlackAmerica’s Quest For Freedom by Leonard Brown; [13] The Richness of Life: The Essential by Stephen Jay Gould ; [14] Abu Fatih ‘Uthman Ibn Jinni’s al-Khasa’is; [15] Alex Carberry’s Know Yourself; [16] Qur’an, Liberation & Pluralism by Farid Esack; [17] The Theft of Nations: Returning to Gold by Ahamed Kameel Mydin Meera; [18] Nur al-Din Muhammadi’s Riwayah Warsh min Tariq Abi Ya’qub al-Azraq; [19] The Devil’s Delusion by David Berlinski; [20] Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman.

Extras

Embracing God By Embracing America: American Muslims, Shari’ah & the Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Preamble of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

What is the Shari’ah? Is it taking over America? Can American Muslims embrace the United States’ Constitution as believing Muslims?

Extra Reading

Maqasid al-Shari’ah handout/cheatsheet [PDF].

Dr. Sherman Jackson’s response, ” ‘Soft Shari‘a Fundamentalism’ and the Totalitarian Epistemology of Vincent Cornell” in [PDF].

Vincent Cornell’s article, “Reasons Public and Divine: Liberal Democracy, Shari‘a Fundamentalism, and the Epistemological Crisis of Islam.” [PDF].