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Azadari and Innovation (Bid'ah)

On the day of Ashura the drums of victory were beating in the army of Yazid and wails arose from the camps of Husayn (a.s). But very soon the eyes of the world also saw that in spite of having used unlimited material means, Yazid failed miserably to vanquish Husayn (a.s). Neither could Yazidism take away the magnificent remembrance of Husayn (a.s) from the hearts, nor could it erase the sanctified mention from the tongues. Peace be on the slain one whose tomb lies in the hearts of his devotees. History testifies that from the time of Yazid until date, in every period and every century an organized propaganda is unleashed so that people do not continue to remember Husayn (a.s), but we see that day by day this name continues to become more and more illuminated, and the devotion towards Husayn (a.s) appeals to people of all faiths and communities.

They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse.1

Every dry and wet thing shall flow away in the flood of death. However the name of Husayn Ibn ‘Ali shall remain intact.2

For sometime the communal riots had silenced the flames of opposition to Azadari3 but recent news reports suggest that as soon as peace returned this spark is again ignited and blown by the selfish motives to demolish the structure of Islamic unity. Now vested interests have started calling the custom of Azadari to be a religious innovation.

These opponents of Azadari beguile the masses by saying that weeping is an innovation, Ta’ziyah4 is an innovation, Alam5 is an innovation, Majlis6 is an innovation, Ma’tam7 is an innovation, this is an innovation, that is an innovation. Thus for these people wearing the glasses of bigotry everything in the rituals of Azadari seems to be innovation and nothing else. And they are so much terrified of the furor of innovation that even before the commencement of Muharram these people depart for a tour of the countryside.

First of all I invite the people of taste to contemplate that even if Azadari is an innovation, how can it be expelled from the circle of honor and entered into the circle of prohibition?

What is innovation (Bid’ah)?

Innovation is generally defined as something new created after the completion of religion or it denotes the invention of new beliefs and rituals after the passing away of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w).8 In the same way Majmaul Bahrayn defines Bid’ah as: “That which was not present in the period of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) is an innovation.”

Keeping these definitions in mind, not only Azadari but all the sciences and arts, which have safeguarded the survival of Islam, all of them seem to be wearing the label of ‘innovation’.

The present arrangement of the Holy Qur’an is innovation. The diacritics on the text of the Holy Qur’an are innovation. To transcribe it in the Naskh script is innovation. To bring out Qur’anic commentaries in book form is an innovation. Collecting traditions through new methods is an innovation. The science of narrators of traditions for determining their authenticity is an innovation. The study of sources to check the authenticity of traditional reports is an innovation. Compilation of jurisprudential works is innovation. Teaching and learning scholastic theology is innovation. Let us now move ahead… To select a caliph through consensus is innovation. Formation of a Shura consultative committee to select a caliph is innovation. The Tarawih9 Prayer is innovation. To derive the religious laws through analogy is innovation. To establish the public treasury is innovation. So much so, that even wearing the Sherwani10 is innovation. Conducting transactions through paper money is innovation. If you apply this criterion whatever was not present during the time of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) is all innovation and every innovation is prohibited.

If being an innovation, Azadari should be given up then we must say goodbye to the Hijri calendar and every type of religious education must be struck off. So much so, that even the recitation of Qur’an printed on paper must be avoided. And most important of all, the caliphate of the first three caliphs must also be weeded out from the garden of Sunnism.

…is as an evil tree pulled up from the earth’s surface; it has no stability.11

The source of all the sorrows and the root of all these evils is that Ahl al-Sunnah scholars have conditioned the minds of general public to regard all innovations as deviations and all the deviations lead to Hell fire. Although to consider every innovation and method to be prohibited is a mistaken notion. Both sects believe in fact that everything is permitted until its prohibition is not mentioned. Therefore the best thing would have been if they had pondered whether this innovation comes under prohibition or not, before labeling Azadari as innovation and misleading the general public. If it is possible to have it included among the prohibited deeds through a legal argument, then indeed to encourage people from refraining from it would be the greatest service to Islam.
But if you do (it) not and never shall you do (it), then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers.12

Instead of getting oneself deviated by selfish motives and slaughtering the law of the Prophet it would have been better for them to commit suicide.

The great Ahl al-Sunnah scholar, Imam Asqalani says in Fathul Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari to the effect that: It is well-known among the majority that innovation, can be divided into all types of acts. The compilation of scholastic theology is an example of obligatory innovation. Recommended innovation is writing of scholarly books and establishment of religious schools. Permissible innovation includes new types of dishes. Detestable innovation is spending so much on food and clothes as does not reach the level of wasteful expenditure. And prohibited innovation, according to the people of truth is to rise up in revolt and everything opposed to the Shariah whose prohibition is proved.

Shia scholars have also explained this. Thus the Shahid Thani (Second Martyr) (a.r.) says in Sharh Lumah: “It is said that all innovation is not prohibited. Rather some people have divided it into four types of actions.”

After these explanations what intelligent person can say that the circle ‘all innovation is deviation’ also includes things which are in the position of obligatory, recommended and permitted? Keeping the same things in view, the First Martyr, (Shahid Awwal) (r.a.) has said: “Matters that developed after the period of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) are of various types. In our opinion innovation is applicable only to those things that fall under the prohibited category.
It is thus clarified that the standard of permissibility and impermissibility is not whether it existed in the time of the Prophet (s.a.), rather we should check whether the particular act conforms to the divine will or not.

Notes:

1. Surah Taubah 9:32
2. Urdu couplet
3. Mourning rituals for the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s.)
4. An effigy of the tomb of Imam Husayn (a.s.)
5. A replica signifying the standard carried by His Eminence, Abbas in the battle of Karbala’
6. A mourning assembly
7. Beating of chest
8. Qamus
9. Special prayers recited by Sunnis during the month of Ramadan
10. A long coat worn in India and Pakistan
11. Surah Ibrahim 14:26
12. Surah Baqarah 2:24

Adapted from : "Understanding Karbala" by: "Allamah Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi"