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Miscellaneous

Reasons for the preference for holding ceremonies

People who believe that it is permissible and even desirable to hold religious ceremonies have resorted to a number of proofs. We will now refer to some of them:

A. Verses of the Holy Qur’an that permit ceremonies

There are many verses in the Holy Qur’an which talk about organizing and holding ceremonies:

1. “O you who believe! Do not violate the signs (rites) appointed by Allah nor the sacred month, nor interfere with the offerings, nor the sacrificial animals with the garlands, nor those going to the Sacred House seeking the grace and pleasure of their Lord.”4

    ﴿ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا تُحِلُّوا شَعَائِرَ اللهِ وَلاََ الشَّهرَ الحَرَامَ وَلاَ الهَدي وَلاَ القَلائِدَ وَلا آمِّينَ الْبَيْتَ الحَرَامَ ...﴾

We can infer two possibilities from this verse:

a. One possibility is that the verdict is affirmative; meaning that Allah has in fact ordered believers to pay homage and reverence to religious signs and rites.

b. The other possibility is that the verdict is prohibitive, meaning that Allah intends to prohibit laziness when it comes to organizing divine rites. In other words, Allah has forbidden negligence as regards holding religious rites when we have distinguished their instances of application.

2. “That shall be so [the rites of the pilgrimage to Mecca], and whoever respects the signs of Allah, this is the outcome of the piety of the hearts.”5

    ﴿ ذَلِکَ وَمَن يُعَظِّمْ شَعَائِرَ اللهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِنْ تَقوَي الْقُلُوبِ ﴾

This is the most clear and indisputable verse of the Holy Qur’an which proves the permissibility of holding religious rites. This verse denotes in a general and explicit way that paying homage to divine rites is an act beloved by Allah.

3. “And as for the camels (of sacrifice), We have made them of the signs of Allah for you, for you therein is much good.”6

    ﴿ وَالْبُدْنَ جَعَلْنَاهَا لَکُمْ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللهِ لَکُمْ فِيهَا خَيرٌ ... ﴾

In this verse, the discriminate [tab‘idiyyah] preposition “of” [min] (of the signs) has been employed. It denotes that the camels brought for sacrifice during the days of the hajj are also considered the signs of Allah.

4. “Surely, Safa and Marwah are among the signs appointed by Allah; so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or pays a visit to it, there is no blame on him if he goes around them both.”7

    ﴿ إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللهِ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتِ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيهِ أَنْ يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا... ﴾

5. “There is no blame on you seeking bounty from your Lord, so when you hasten on from ‘Arafat, then remember Allah near the Holy Monument…”8

    ﴿ فَإِذا أَفَضْتُمْ مِنْ عَرَفاتٍ فَاذکُرُوا اللهَ عِنْدَ المَشْعَرِ الحَرامِ... ﴾

This Qur’anic verse intends to pronounce and hence permit holding religious ceremonies, but it has employed the Arabic word “mash‘ar” instead of the word “sha‘a’ir”, which has been used in the other previously cited verses. Both these words connote ‘upholding the signs of Allah’.

B. Analogous verses permit celebrating signs of Allah

Analogous verses are verses which allude to celebrating the signs of Allah but the word “sha‘a’ir” has not been explicitly used in the wording of the verses.

1. “And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path, that they may witness advantages for them and mention the name of Allah during stated days over what he has given them of the cattle quadrupeds, then eat of them and feed the distressed one, the needy. Then let them accomplish their needed acts of shaving and cleansing, and let them fulfil their vows and let them go around the Ancient House. That (shall be so); and whoever respects the sacred ordinances of Allah, it is better for him with his Lord.”9

    ﴿ وَأَذِّنْ فِي النَّاسِ بِالحَجِّ يأْتُوكَ رِجَالاً وَعَلَي کُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يأْتِينَ مِنْ کُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ * لِيشْهَدُوا مَنَافِعَ لَهُمْ وَيذْکُرُوا اسْمَ اللهِ فِي أَيَّامٍ مَعْلُومَاتٍ عَلَی مَا رَزَقَهُمْ مِنْ بَهِيمَةِ الأَنْعَامِ فَکُلُوا مِنْهَا وَأَطْعِمُوا الْبَآئِسَ الْفَقِيرَ * ثُمَّ لْيَقْضُوا تَفَثَهُمْ وَلْيُوفَُوا نُذُورَهُمْ وَلْيَطَّوَّفُوا بِالْبَيْتِ الْعَتِيقِ * ذَلِكَ وَمَنْ يعَظِّمْ حُرُمَاتِ اللهِ فَهُوَ خَيرٌ لَهُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِ ﴾

Scholars of the divine message and commentators of the Glorious Qur’an regard the above mentioned verse—which indicates veneration of divine ordinances—as an enjoinment to perform religious rights.

This is because according to principle, just as one can reason using a rationale regarding a specific subject so also may one reason using rationales regarding similar subjects or subjects that have something in common with the intended subject. However, this is only valid when the subject is generic or of a general type that includes many objects; otherwise, there would be an invalid analogy.

In other words, although this verse is specifically about the hajj ceremony, at the end of the verse ‘sacred ordinances of Allah’ are mentioned generally, so the verse can be applied generally.

2. “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 may be averse.”10

    ﴿ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَيأْبَي اللهُ إِلاّ أَنْ يُتِمَّ نُورَهُ وَلَوْ کَرِهَ الْکَافِرُونَ ﴾

Because this verse comes along with verses about holy war [jihad], inviting people to the Oneness of Allah [tawhid], and propagating religion, it can be inferred that the part of the religion that the enemies of Islam want to extinguish is, in fact, the divine signs and rites which have been alluded to in the verse, “And whoever respects the signs of Allah, this is the outcome of the piety of the hearts.”11

3. “In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them; glorify Him therein in the mornings and the evenings.”12

    ﴿ في بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْکَرَ فِيهَا اسمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالغُدُرِّ وَالآصَالِ ﴾

If we take the verse that comes before this verse, the Verse of Light [ayat al-nur], into consideration, it shows that “in houses” [fi buyutin] means those houses wherein the light of Allah shines and the centres where the light of religion radiates. These places are the sources of radiation of the light of religion. They are centres of guidance and venues of observing the divine law of Islam [shari‘ah].

Allah, the Exalted, has willed that these radiant houses should be revered and elevated in status. These places deserve to be venues of continuous remembrance, worship and obedience of Allah.

We can deduce from this Qur’anic verse that Allah has willed that every place which serves as a custodian for the exposition of Islamic laws and divine teachings (the light of Allah) has to be honored and revered.

We can also infer from the same above-mentioned verse that sha‘a’ir (the signs and rites of Allah) are not confined to any particular place; that is to say, they are not confined only to the rites and ceremonies of the hajj or other rites of worship specifically mentioned. On the contrary, everything that serves to spread and propagate divine laws is included in the meaning of sha‘a’ir, and anything that propagates Islamic knowledge and teachings is also included in the meaning of this word.

4. “And He made lowest the word of those who disbelieved; and the word of Allah, that is the highest; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.”13

    ﴿ ... وَجَعَلَ کَلِمَةَ الَّذِينَ کَفَرُوا السُّفلَي وَکَلِمَةُ اللهِ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَاللهُ عَزِيزٌ حَکِيمٌ ﴾

It can be understood from this verse that those things that serve to honor the word of Allah and to exterminate unbelief [kufr] are among the goals and objectives of divine law and religion.

5. “And Allah will by no means give the unbelievers a way (to triumph) against the believers.”14

    ﴿ ... وَلَنْ يجعَلَ اللهُ لِلْکَافِرينَ عَلَی المُؤْمِنِينَ سَبِيلاً ﴾

This blessed verse alludes to another dimension of the reality of the word sha‘a’ir and that reality is the aspect of proliferation of the glory and esteem of Islam and Muslims. Another aspect of sha‘a’ir is veneration of the Word of Allah [kalimat Allah] and attaching special importance to Muslims in general.

Notes:

4. Surat al-Ma’idah 5:2.

5. Surat al-Hajj 22:32.

6. Surat al-Hajj 22:36.

7. Surat al-Baqarah 2:158.

8. Surat al-Baqarah 2:198.

9. Surat al-Hajj 22:27-30.

10. Surat al-Tawbah (or Bara’ah) 9:32.

11. Surat al-Hajj 22:32.

12. Surat al-Nur 24:36.

13. Surat al-Tawbah (or Bara’ah) 9:40.

14. Surat al-Nisa’ 4:141.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"