Fatwa: # 17667
Category: Character & Morals
Country: United States
Date: 7th March 2009

Title

Question regarding Fatwa #17519 from the United States concerning aqeedah. I have also wondered about innovation among practices of Tassawuf. I clearly understand...

Question

Question regarding Fatwa #17519 from the United States concerning aqeedah. I have also wondered about innovation among practices of Tassawuf. I clearly understand Tassawuf as internal dhikr for Allah ta'ala; however, my opinion is that the whirling associated with Tassawuf is an innovation. Please refer me to hadith and sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (saw) that reflects whirling associated with Tassawuf.  Jazakallah khair.

Answer

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalaamu `alaykum waRahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

The science of Tasawwuf is not confined to internal dhikr as you presume. At times, external forms of dhikr and spiritual exercises are prescribed by the Shaykh. The various ashghāl (spiritual exercises) depend on the spiritual condition of the student and the intent of the Shaykh for the student. You have also stated that it is your “opinion” that “the whirling associated with Tasawwuf is an innovation”. Although at certain times and under certain circumstances the whirling and dancing could be considered as an innovation, the statement made is very serious and grave. In order for a person to meet the bare requirements of having an inkling of an opinion, one would need to have a sound knowledge of the Arabic language consisting of Nahw, Sarf, Balāghah, as well as the sciences of Fiqh, Usūl al-Fiqh, Hadīth, Usūl al-Hadīth, Tafsīr, Usūl al-Tafsīr and a host of other sciences. Needless to say, acquiring such knowledge would take a lifetime to acquire. Perhaps after acquiring the knowledge of these various sciences, one’s personal opinion might hold an atom’s weight of authority. After years of study and specialization in jurisprudence and Hadīth, students are taught never to express their own personal opinion; rather, to find an exact passage or text expressing the opinion of our pious predecessors and masters of the Islamic sciences whose opinions actually hold some weight. If one has not studied and mastered the mentioned sciences, how reliable and valid would his or her opinion be? Upon what understanding and what knowledge is such an opinion based? It is extremely dangerous and perilous for such a person to hold an opinion in any matter of the Sharī‘ah for which he or she has no expertise. It is repeatedly mentioned and rightfully so, that in other fields and sciences such as medicine or law etc, people do not voice their opinion and abide by the statements and views of the experts of the field; yet when it comes to the Sharī‘ah, everyone seems to have their own opinion. Having stating thus, we wish to reiterate a point made in our previous answer, namely,

“To those unfamiliar with Tasawwuf, such exercises may seem extremely peculiar and unusual. It is understandable for people to feel uncomfortable and queasy during their first experience with such exercises. However, to repel this discomfort, one should bear in mind that the Shuyūkh don’t claim that these adhkār and spiritual exercises are new forms of worship where it would be classified as an innovation (bid‘ah) in Dīn. Only those bereft of the understanding of Fiqh and the subtleties of Dīn make such professions. These spiritual prescriptions should be seen and regarded as a form of treatment (tadāwī) for the sicknesses of the heart.”

Whether or not the whirling of the Sūfīs constitutes an act of bid‘ah or not does not revolve around whether there is a Hadīth of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم to substantiate the act or not. Before a person claims something to be an innovation, one first needs to have a proper understanding of the institution and concept of bid‘ah and its various categories.

Imām Muhammad al-Zarqānī رحمه الله states in his commentary of Mu’atta Imām Malik that linguistically, the word bid‘ah means that which has been brought about without a previous similitude preceding it.

وهو لغة ما أحدث على غير مثال سبق (شرح الزرقاني على موطأ الإمام مالك ج 1 ص 340 , العلمية)

Thus, any new concept, practice, belief or action that was not existent in previous generations, specifically in the era of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم would technically fall under the linguistic definition of bid‘ah without necessarily falling under the juristic definition. Such a broad all-inclusive linguistic meaning was never intended under the Hadīth, “Every invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance. (Abū Dawūd)

 

كُلَّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ

He further mentions that the purport of this Hadīth is general; however, with some exclusion. The Hadīth, for obvious reasons, cannot be left upon its generality to include every single new and innovated thing.

حَدِيثُ كُلُّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلَالَةٌ عَامٌّ مَخْصُوصٌ  (شرح الزرقاني على موطأ الإمام مالك ج 1 ص 340  العلمية)

For example, during the era of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم there were no such things as guns, bombs, tanks and other modern weapons. Thus, using such weapons in Jihād and warfare would linguistically qualify as a bid‘ah. However, is there a single jurist or scholar who claims that using such weaponry is an innovation and that the Mujāhidīn have to restrict themselves to using only swords, shields and horses? Furthermore, there was no such concept as the internet and computers in the era of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم ; thus, would any jurist classify using the internet to propagate Dīn as an innovation under the generilty of the above-mentioned Hadīth? It is quite evident that the Hadīth was not intended be left unspecified. Moreover, there is a well-known narration in Mu’atta Imām Malik wherein Umar رضى الله عنه regarded the Tarāwīh Salāh behind one Imām as a good bid‘ah. If we take the above Hadīth of Rasūlullah to be all-inclusive of every innovation, it would necessitate Umar رضى الله عنه blatantly opposing the narration of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم, which is unfathomable. Abū al-Hassan al-Mubarakpūri, one of the prominent ‘Ulamā of the salafi sect discusses this issue in his commentary of Mishkāt. He quotes Ibn Taymiyyah and states that when Umar رضى الله عنه referred to Tarāwīh Salāh as a bid‘ah, he was referring to its linguistic meaning and not its juristic meaning. This would then necessitate that the Hadīth of Rasūlullah be taken to refer to certain types of bid‘ah with the exclusion of others. Shaykh Mubarakpūri then continues to quote Ibn Taymiyyah and states that a juristic innovation is a misguidance that does not have any juristic evidence to substantiate it. He then gives examples such as deeming an act to be Mustahab whereas Allah does not deem it such, deeming something to be wājib whereas Allah has not ordained it or deeming something to be harām whereas Allah has permitted it.

 

لأن البدعة لغة ما فعله أحد ابتداء من غير أن يتقدمه غيره فالمراد بالبدعة في قوله هي البدعة اللغوية ، وهي ههنا اجتماعهم على إمام واحد ، والاهتمام لذلك ، والمواظبة عليه ، لا أصل التراويح ، أو نفس الجماعة ، فإنهما قد ثبتا من فعل النبي {صلى الله عليه وسلم} وفعل الصحابة في عهده بحضرته. قال ابن تيمية : إنما سماها عمر بدعة ؛ لأن ما فعل ابتداء بدعة لغة ، وليس ذلك بدعة شرعية ، فإن البدعة الشرعية التي هي ضلالة ما فعل بغير دليل شرعي ، كاستحباب ما لم يحبه الله ، وإيجاب ما لم يوجبه الله ، وتحريم ما لم يحرمه الله. وبه يندفع ما يقال إن قول عمر : "نعمت البدعة" مخالف لحديث : (مرعاة المفاتيح ج4 ص 327 ادارة البحوث العلمية)

 

In regards to the classification of bid’āt, some ‘Ulamā state that there is only one type of bid‘ah, namely such innovations that fall under the jurisitic denotation of bid‘āh. These ‘Ulamā do not consider the innovations that merely fall under the linguistic meaning as being included in the ambit of bid‘āt. They state that as long as there is some Shar‘ī substantiation for the innovation from juristic principles of substantiation, the innovation will not be considered as a bid‘ah. Other ‘Ulamā have classified bid‘ah into two categories, namely, bid‘ah hasanah (good innovation) and bid‘ah sayyi’ah (evil innovation). They state that good innovations are such innovations in accordance with juristic principles and evil innovations are those in opposition to them. Another famous classification of innovations mentioned by ‘Ulamā such as Allāmah al-Qarāfī and Hāfiz Ibn Hajr categorizes bid‘āt into five different classifications, namely wājib, harām, mandūb, makrūh and mubāh:

wajib (compulsory innovations): those innovations which the principles of the Sharī‘ah necessitate and indicate towards being compulsory such as compiling the Qur'ān in one book, codifying the Sharī‘ah through juristic compilations and studying and teaching linguistic sciences such as Sarf (Arabic morphology) and Nahw (grammar and syntax) etc. for the sake of preserving and disseminating the Sharī‘ah etc.

harām (impermissible innovations): those innovations which the principle of the Sharī‘ah necessitate and indicate towards being impermissible such as innovated taxes levied on Muslims from oppressive leaders, inheriting a position by a person not fit for it by the mere fact that he is a offspring of the previous ruler, attributing to a Nabī or Walī some of the same attributes of Allah which would constitute shirk etc.

mandūb (praiseworthy innovations): those innovations which the principles of the Sharī‘ah necessitate and indicate towards being praiseworthy such as performing Tarāwīh Salāh in congregation behind one Imām, establishing Madāris for the dissemination of Islamic knowledge and discussing the in depth subtleties of Tasawwuf etc.

makrūh (reprehensible innovations): those innovations which the principles of the Sharī‘ah necessitate and indicate towards being reprehensible such as specifying a specific day or time for a specific type of worship and attaching importance to that time where as the Sharī‘ah did not do so, such as the prohibition of Rasūlullah for specifying the day of Friday for fasting and performing other types of worship like Tahajjud Salāh etc. Another example of this is celebrating the birthday of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم and attaching specific importance to that day or night for specific types of worship whereas it was not practiced by Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم himself or his Sahābah رضى الله عنهم .

mubāh (permissible innovations): those innovations which the principles of the Sharī‘ah necessitate and indicate towards being permissible such as using a sieve for flour and eating delicacies and luxurious food. Certain narrations state that the first innovation to crop up into the Ummah is using the sieve for flour whereas using refined flour was not the custom during the era of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم . However, it is known that increasing one’s comfort in life by eating good food and wearing comfortable clothing etc. is from among the mubāhāt (permissible actions).

 

وقال بن عبد السلام في أواخر القواعد البدعة خمسة أقسام فالواجبة كالاشتغال بالنحو الذي يفهم به كلام الله ورسوله لأن حفظ الشريعة واجب ولا يتأتى الا بذلك فيكون من مقدمة الواجب وكذا شرح الغريب وتدوين أصول الفقه والتوصل إلى تمييز الصحيح والسقيم والمحرمة ما رتبه من خالف السنة من القدرية والمرجئة والمشبهة والمندوبة كل إحسان لم يعهد عينه في العهد النبوي كالاجتماع عن التراويح وبناء المدارس والربط والكلام في التصوف المحمود وعقد مجالس المناظرة ان أريد بذلك وجه الله والمباحة كالمصافحة عقب صلاة الصبح والعصر والتوسع في المستلذات من أكل وشرب وملبس ومسكن وقد يكون بعض ذلك مكروها أو خلاف الأولى والله أعلم (فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري ج 13 ص 254 دار المعرفة)

From the statements and views of the ‘Ulamā, we come to know that each and every new thing is not to be considered as a rejected innovation and termed as a bid‘ah. First, it would have to be examined in light of the principles of the Sharī‘ah to ascertain what position it holds in the Sharī‘ah. If the principles and tenets of the Sharī‘ah indicate to the fact that it is compulsory to bring about such an innovation, it will be considered compulsory to do so. Similarly, if the principles of the Sharī‘ah indicate to the fact that bringing about such an innovation is harām or makrūh, it will be considered as such.

Bearing the above in mind, if we analyze the whirling of the Sūfīs we would understand that making dhikr is something praiseworthy in the Sharī‘ah. Thus, if whirling around in rhythmic gyrations is something intrinsically and inherently permissible in certain Madhāhib as the Shāfi‘īyyah; combining the two would also be permissible when analyzed through the principles of the Madhhab. However, this is would be the case only when no other corruptive factors are existent. For example, if a person deems the act of whirling in itself as a special form of worship and a means of closeness to Allah, then he will be trespassing the bounds of permissibility in his madhhab and entering the sphere of innovation. Such a belief would bring about a change in the Sharī‘ah thus constituting an innovated belief. The same is generally stated in regards to standing up and reciting salutations (salāt wa salām) upon Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم. Standing is a perfectly permissible act and reciting salutations upon Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم is one of the best forms of worship and means of reward. Thus, inherently, it will be permissible to stand up and recite the salutations. However, if a person couples this with the belief that Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم visits that gathering, or with the belief that Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم hears and sees everything with the complete omniscience attributed to Allah, or with the belief that it is compulsory or mustahab, then the act will leave the realm of permissibility and enter the ambit of innovation.

In conclusion, one cannot state unequivocally that the whirling or dancing of the Sufis is an inherent innovation since according to the principles of the Shāfi‘ī Madhhab, dancing and whirling are intrinsically mubāh (permissible). One would have to analyze other pertinent factors similar to the ones mentioned above before deeming it as an innovation. Furthermore, classifying something as a bid‘ah is the duty of the ‘Ulamā and Fuqahā and not that of the general masses. Therefore, one should be extremely cautious and avoid making any a statement or conclusion regarding which one has no knowledge.   

 

And Allah knows best

Wassalam u Alaikum

Ml. Yusuf bin Yaqub,
Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Darul Iftaa

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