Chapter Seven: Convening Majlis (Gathering) to remember the dead

Allah (swt) and his Prophet have instructed us to organise gatherings to remember Allah (swt)

Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

[Shakir 2:152] Therefore remember Me, I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me.

In this verse, Allah (swt)orders us to remember him and it is clear that remembrance should be practiced in ways other than just offering Salat. The esteemed Sunni scholar Allamah Jalaludin Suyuti states that Holy Prophet (s) said:

“On the day of judgment Allah shall declare that on this day those gathered shall know those bestowed with honour and respect.” The companions asked: “O! Prophet of Allah, who are these honourable and respectable people?” The Prophet (s) replied: “Those who conduct the Majalis [gatherings] of Dhikr [remembrance] and participate in them.”

Suyuti then states that the Holy Prophet (s) said:

“Those who gather at a place in order to please Allah and do His (swt) Dhikr in their speeches, will be addressed by an orator from the skies, who shall proclaim that as soon as they leave that place, their sins shall be forgiven and their bad deeds shall be transformed into virtues.”

Then he further states that the Holy Prophet (s) said:

“Those in the skies shall look at the houses in which Allah (swt) is remembered and mentioned. To the angles, they shall appear bright and shining to the angels in the same way that the stars appear to those on the earth.”

Suyuti further states Ibn Umar asked the Holy Prophet (s):

“What shall be the reward for participating in a Majalis where the Dhikr [remembrance] of Allah (swt) is conducted ?” The Holy Prophet (s) replied: “Paradise will be earned.”

He adds further, that the Holy Prophet (s) said:

“On the Day of Judgment, Allah will appoint people whose faces will be glowing with spiritual light, they shall be seated on the pulpit made of pearls and their eminence will cause anger and envy among the people and neither will they be Prophets nor Martyrs.” On hearing this someone said: “O! Prophet of Allah (s), bless us with the description of their appearance.” The Holy Prophet (s) said: “They will be the people who have friendships with each other for the sake of Allah; they will be from different families and different countries.”
Tafseer Dur al- Manthur, Volume 1, page 151

Along the same line we also read in Sahih Muslim: The Book of Prayers (Kitab Al-Salat) Book 035, Number 6505:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying Allah has mobile (squads) of angels, who have no other work (to attend to but) to follow the assemblies of Dhikr and when they find such assemblies in which there is Dhikr (of Allah) they sit in them and some of them surround the others with their wings till the space between them and the sky of the world is fully covered, and when they disperse (after the assembly of Dhikr is adjourned) they go upward to the heaven and Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, asks them although He is best informed about them: Where have you come from? They say: We come from Thine servants upon the earth who had been glorifying Thee (reciting Subhan Allah), uttering Thine Greatness (saying Allah o-Akbar) and uttering Thine Oneness (La ilaha ill Allah) and praising Thee (uttering al-Hamdu Lillah) and begging of Thee. Be would say: What do they beg of Me? They would say: They beg of Thee the Paradise of Thine. He (God) would say: Have they seen My Paradise? They said: No, our Lord. He would say: (What it would be then) if they were to see Mine Paradise? They (the angels) said: They seek Thine protection. He (the Lord) would say: Against what do they seek protection of Mine? They (the angels) would say: Our Lord, from the Hell-Fire. He (the Lord) would say: Have they seen My Fire? They would say: No. He (the Lord) would say: What it would be if they were to see My Fire? They would say: They beg of Thee forgiveness. He would say: I grant pardon to them, and confer upon them what they ask for and grant them protection against which they seek protection. They (the angels) would again say: Our Lord, there is one amongst them such and such simple servant who happened to pass by (that assembly) and sat there along with them (who had been participating in that assembly). He (the Lord) would say: I also grant him pardon, for they are a people the seat-fellows of whom are in no way unfortunate.

These Ahadeeth proves the validity of acts that go beyond Majalis [gatherings] where Allah (swt) is remembered. These are gatherings wherein the Holy Qur’an is explained, the Orders of Allah are described and recited, the Holy Prophet (s) is praised, and the virtues of Islam are also explained.

The Wahabi and Deobandi sect do not conduct any Majalis what so ever, whereas normal Hanafis do observe births and deaths including Majalis for Imam Husayn (a.s).

Whilst some ceremonies carry components such as the remembrance of Allah (swt) and the recitation of the Holy Qur’an many are observed in a different manner and involve the recitation of poems and rhymes which do not fall under the category of gatherings as explained earlier. The Nasabi’s have tainted both types of gathering with the same brush deeming both to be Bidah.

Now the question arises which type of Majalis are these Ahadeeth pointing to? They must exist nothing spoken by the Prophet (s) is senseless or without any reason.

There must be some kind of Majalis / Gathering that the Ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet (s) refer that carry these immense rewards. The only Majalis that conform with the requirements of these traditions are those traditions wherein the Majalis of Imam Ali (as), Imam Hasan (as), Imam Husayn (as) and the other Imams of Ahl’ul bayt (as) are remembered. These are the Majalis, in which the speaker:

  • Begins by cursing Satan and the praising the Creator,
  • refers to the virtues of Allah and his beloved Prophet (s) (that constitutes the remembrance of Allah),
  • Recites verses from the Holy Qur’an,
  • Comments on the Oneness of Allah, the perfection of Prophethood and core components of Deen.
  • Paints a true representation of Islam in all its greatness.
  • Uses his elegant tongue to refute the enemies of Islam [hypocrites] and the Kuffar.
  • Narrates events from the life of the Prophet (s) and his Holy Progeny

We have hence proven that the Majalis of Imam Ali (as), Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Husayn (a.s) are gatherings that constitute the remembrance / Dhikr of Allah (swt), in accordance with the Hadeeth of Rasulullah (s).

Ayesha’s gathering over Abu Bakar’s death

We read in Al-Aqd al-Farid, Volume 2 page 76:

عن سعيد بن المُسيّب قال: لما تُوفى أبو بكر أقامت عليه عائشة النَوح

“Saeed bin al-Musayab narrated that when Abu Bakr died, Ayesha convened a mourning assembly over him…”

Ayesha’s gathering (Majlis) at the time of Umar’s death

As evidence we shall rely on Tareekh Khamees, Volume 2 page 349:

I saw ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (when he was stabbed) saying, “O ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar! Go to the mother of the believers Ayesha and say, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab sends his greetings to you, do not say Ameer ul Momineen since today this term expires’ Abdullah went and found that Ayesha was crying at the plight of Umar”

What we see is Ayesha was crying, so if this is an act of Bidah then it is the Sunnah of Ayesha. If Ayesha will receive salvation for her tears so will the women who mourn Imam Husayn (as).

Umm’ul Momineen Salmah obtained the approval of the Prophet (s) to participate in a mourning ritual

We read in Ahl’ul Sunnah’s authority work Al-Jami al-Sagheer by al Tabrani, Volume 2 page 181:

أم سلمة زوج النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم قالت : يا رسول الله إن نساء بني مخزوم قد أقمن مأتمهن على الوليد بن المغيرة فأذن لها فقالت وهي تبكيه … وأبكى الوليد بن الوليد بن المغيرة … أبكي الوليد بن الوليد أخا العشيرة …

Umm Salmah the wife of the Prophet (s) said: ‘O Rasulullah (s), the women of Bani Makhzum are arranging a mourning gathering for al-Waleed bin al-Mughira. Thus he gave her permission to attend that. She went and recited a couplet whilst crying … ‘I weep over al-Waleed bin al-Mughira … I weep over al-Waleed bin al-Mughira the brother of the tribe’…

Umm Salmah obtained the consent of her husband to participate in this mourning procession If mourning rituals are Haraam then Rasulullah (s) would have refrained his wife from attending and made an order that women abstain from such Haraam activities. Not only did she participate she even recited a sad elegy!

If Rasulullah (s) allowed participation in a gathering which was for an ordinary deceased Sahabi and Umme Salmah recited a sad couplet in it then how can mourning rituals for Imam Husayn (as) be Haraam?

Muharam gathering under the auspices of al Muhaddith Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi

The Shah would convene two Majalis per annum at his residence:

  1. To remember the passing away of the Holy Prophet (s) and
  2. Majlis of Imam Husayn (as)’s martyrdom.

The words of Fatawa Azizi, pages 199-200 published by H.M Saeed Co. Karachi are:

“About 400-500 and on some occasions a thousand would assemble on the day of Ashura or a day or two before it and would collectively recite Durood. Then this pauper (The Shah is referring to himself) would speak on the greatness of Imam Husayn (as) and give a detailed account of the martyrdom and how retribution against these killers was meted out.

The Elegies from Jinn for Imam Husayn (as) as heard by Umm – e – Salama and other Sahabas would be recited listening to which people including this pauper would be effected and would start lamenting and crying. The Holy Qur’an would then be read and then Fateha would be read on the departed Holy Souls and finally, food would be distributed”.
Fatawa Azizi, page 199 & 200

The Shah needs no introduction to those from the Indian Subcontinent. He hated the Shi’a. Author of the famous Tauhfa Ithna Ashari, he dedicated his whole life to countering Shi’a influences in the Indian Subcontinent. Despite his anti Shi’a stance he supported Azadari of Imam Husayn (as). If holding Majalis during Muharam, referring to the greatness of Imam Husayn (as) and his martyrdom, reciting elegies, crying and feeding the people is Haraam, the Shah would never have initiated such gatherings. Shah’s fatwa as mentioned above clearly proves that Azadari for Imam Husayn (as) is permissible, and recommended under the Shari’ah.

Majalis to mourn Husayn (as) build character

If we analyse all that is done in Muharam we see that it is a very effective method of character building for all people. During our Majalis we convey the teachings of Islam from the Holy Qur’an, Sunnah and lives of our Holy Imams. Speakers refer to the lessons and sayings of the Holy Prophet (s) and the Ahl’ul bayt (as). Our processions maintain peace and perfect harmony. We express our hatred against cruelty, propagate the truth and convey salutations to the Holy Prophet (s) and his family. We set out teachings on Jihad against tyranny, strengthening of faith and belief, patience and fortitude in times of danger and such other noble and sublime thoughts and emotions. Why then do these Nasibi oppose our gatherings?

Prophet (saww) arranged Majalis to mourn his uncle Hamza (ra)

“When Holy Prophet (s) reached Madina, he saw that cries could be heard from most of the houses of Ansaar (the helpers) but not from Hamza’s house. Holy Prophet (s) said that wasn’t there anyone to cry over Hamza, the helpers(Ansaar) asked their females to mourn over Hamza first and later on they may go and cry over their own martyrs, the women went to Hamza’s house in the evening and kept crying till midnight, When Holy Prophet(s) woke up and asked about it, he was told the whole thing, Holy Prophet(s) blessed them by saying” May Allah be pleased with you and your children.”
1. Madarij al-Nabuwat, volume 2, page 166 by Sheikh Mohammad Abdul Haque Mohaddis Dehalvi
2. Tarikh Kamil, Volume 2 page 64
3. Tarikh Khamees, Volume 1 page 499

Had such gatherings been bidah or against islamic injunctions , Holy Prophet (s) would have not showed sadness over absence of mourners for Hamzah(r) and would have not given glad tidings for those who had later on participated in the mourning gathering of martyred Hamzah (r).

Weeping while relating the tragedies befallen on pious is sunnah of Holy Prophet(s) and listening to them is the sunnah of Sahaba

We read in Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 338:

Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Zaid took over the flag and was martyred. Then it was taken by Jafar who was martyred as well. Then ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha took the flag but he too was martyred and at that time the eyes of Allah’s Apostle were full of tears. Then Khalid bin Al-Walid took the flag without being nominated as a chief (before hand) and was blessed with victory.”

We arrange gatherings to relate the calamities befallen on Imam Hussain (as) and their companions and weep over them just like Holy Prophet (s) wept while relating the miserable tragedies befallen on the martyres before their death.

The mourning gathering of Sahaba and elegies recited by Hassaan bin Thabit over the death of a martyr

Ibn Katheer in his authority work al-Bidayah wa al-Nihaya records the grief of Sahaba over the death of a sahabi Sa’ad bin Ma’az in the following way:

Ibn Ishaq narrates that on the death of Sa’ad bin Ma’az, which was termed as martyrdom by the Holy Prophet (s), Hasaan bin Thabit had recited a very woeful elegy, furthermore, such a huge number of people was never seen crying over someone’s death ever before.
al Bidayah wa al Nihaya, Volume 4, page 547

Here we can see that not only Hassaan bin Thabit recited elegies over the death Sa’ad bin Ma’az who was according to Ibn Katheer reached to the status of martyrdom during war of Bani Qariza but a large number of Sahaba also gathered and wept over his death. Likewise Shias arrange gatherings to commemorate the martyres of Karbala where they recite elegies and weep over them. Had reciting elegies and weeping over the death of a martyr been forbidden, Sahaba would have not gathered to do so in the presence of Holy Prophet (s).

A Sunni Scholars order that all the redidents of Baghdad partake in mourning ceremonies due to the death of Ibn Hanbal

We read Hilya tul Awliyah Volume 9 page 170:

Upon receipt of new of the death of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Yahya al-Nisaburi said: Every ‘household in Baghdad should have mourning ceremony in their houses’.
Hilya tul Awliyah Volume 9 page 170 

Comment

We appeal to justice, today’s Nawasib raise objections that the Shia partake in Bidah during the month of Muharrum by turning their own homes into houses of mourning, wherein the entire atmosphere is solemn and linked to the loss of Imam Hussain (as).  Rather than argue with us on this, we suggest they look at the above example wherein a Sunni scholar was not only saddened by the death of Ibn Hanbal he opined that others should mourn his departure by in effect turning their own residences into houses of mourning.   Imam Muhammad bin Yahyah al-Nisaburi al-Dahali was of course asking people to reflect and mourn the loss to the nation, caused by the passing away of a major scholar who died of natural causes.  Now, today’s Nawasib aside, we don’t think any normal Sunni would suggest the rank of Ibn Hanbal was greater that Imam Husain (as).  If a Sunni scholar deemed it permissible to mourn the loss of one of their scholars that died of natural causes, what is the objection if the Shia convert their homes into a house of mourning to remember the loss of that individual who was the flesh and blood of Rasulullah (s) who was brutally slaughtered in Karbala?

The Fatwa of scholars of Ahle Sunnah regarding the permissibility of Majalis for Hussain (as)

Ibn al Hashimi sought to create an unnecessary wedge between the two Sects by penning the article titled ‘‘Why Sunnis Do Not Comemmorate Ashura’’. This title sought to deceptively suggest that Ibn al Hashimi was reiterating a position shared by all Sunni Muslims around the world; and hence sought to portray them as a homogenous group with one voice, opposed to commemorating Imam Husayn (as). This Nasibi should know that Sunni Islam is not just restricted to those affiliated with the Ulema of Najd and Deoband! There is Sunni life beyond those institutions and to suggest that every Sunni scholar worth his salt from whatever affiliated group would corroborate the opinion of Ibn al Hashimi is a complete lie. After Indonesia the second largest group of Sunni Muslims come from the Indian Subcontinent. Let us therefore cite some Sunni opinions supporting the practice of gathering to mourn Imam Hussain (as).

The name of Allamah Muhammad Shafi Okarvi is not new to the Ahle Sunnah living in the sub continent, a person popularly known as “Khateeb e Pakistan”. In his book “Shaam e Karbala” he cites the fatwa on the permissibility of mourning gatherings [majalis] for Imam Hussain (as).

“Shah Rafiuddin Mohaddith Dehalvi who is also the translator of Holy Quran, says in one of his edicts:

‘Holding of Majalis for the remembrance of Imam Hussain (as) in the month of Muharram, or other than that, listening to Salams and elegies, and crying and wailing for the martyrs of Karbala is permissible and correct.’”
Shaam e Karbala, page 300

Worthy of note is the fact that Allama Muhammad Shafi Okarvi was one of those Sunni scholars who arranged Majalis in the month of Muharram where thousands of Sunni muslims would gather and listen to the merits of Imam Hussain (as) and the tragedy of Karbala. In a brief biography of Allama Shafi Okarvi mentioned in the preface of his book “Shaam e Karbala” we read:

“Molana Sahib kept delivering religious speeches every night continuously for forty years. His sound knowledge, eloquence, decent behavior and the excellent oratory was singular and had made him the beloved of all. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered for every speech of his. On the night before Ashura in the month of Muharram, the largest religious gathering used to be at Molana Sahib’s place of speech. There would hardly be any place left in Pakistan where Molana Sahib hasn’t satisfied the hearts and souls of people through his speeches.”
Shaam e Karbala, page 11

On page 15 we read:

“Hadhrat Moulana started the process of conducting the Majalis in 10 days of Muharram, and the procession and gatherings of Eid Millad un Nabi by Ahl e Sunnah wal Jama’at.”
Shaam e Karbala, page 11 & 15

The above cited references completely destroys

Ibn al Hashimi who asserts:

Sometimes the Shia of today will encourage the Sunnis to comemmorate Ashura, using and exploiting the fact that the Ahlus Sunnah also loves Hussain (رضّى الله عنه). We strongly urge our Muslim brothers not to fall into this trap of the Shia! They want us to take part in rituals that were designed to defame the Ahlus Sunnah, and nothing more. We cannot accept the Shia way of life.
Additionally, comemmorating Ashura with any special ritual would be adding to the faith of Islam, and this is Bidah. Bidah is considered part of Hell-Fire, and whoever invents a Bidah is promised Hell-Fire as well.

We are sure that none of these Sunni scholars were encouraged to mourn Imam Husayn (as), it was natural due to their love for him! Both scholars were opposed to the Shia so being influenced by them would not even come into the equation. They certainly didn’t believe that gathering to remember the fallen Imam was designed to defame Ahlus Sunnah! Is Ibn al Hashimi going to suggest that these Sunni Ulema had accepted the Shi’a way of life?

Crucially where is Ibn al Hashimi’s Fatwa of Bidah for those Sunni Muslims who arrange Majalis during the month of Muharram and commemorate the tragedy of Karbala? If according to Ibn al Hashimi arranging of Majalis for Imam Hussain (as) is bidah / kufr than are all those Sunni Muslims of the world who arrange mourning gatherings in Muharram Kaafir in his eyes?

 

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