Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Need for Tabarruk

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Every year, Muslim holy sites are destroyed at an alarming pace.  What is perhaps more alarming is that some Muslims see no problem with this.  Rather, they may even feel that this is a good thing because an “exaggerated emphasis” is placed on the holiness of such sites.  This overstated emphasis, they fear, could weaken or cloud sound understanding of the Oneness of Allah (s.w.t.) and the reliance solely upon Him.

Mu'alla before the Wahhabis destroyed it
However, Muslims from the earliest generations have sought blessings, tabarruk, of individuals, objects, places and times.  The swahabah of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) vied with each other for his hairs, sweat, leftover water from wudhu, and objects related to him, as established in rigorously authenticated ahadits.

We see this practice in subsequent generations, too.  Imam Shafi’i (r.a.) washed a shirt sent to him by Imam Ahmad and drank the water it was washed in.  This was reported by Imam ibn ‘Asakir (r.a.) in Tarikh Dimashq.

Imam Shafi’i (r.a.) also would visit the grave of Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) and pray there when he had some pressing need and ask Allah (s.w.t.) to Fulfill that need, which would invariably be fulfilled.  This was recorded by Khathib al-Baghdadi (r.a.) in Tarikh al-Baghdadi.

Imam Ahmad (r.a.) made a bequest that he be buried in Bab at-Tibn in the Qati’a cemetery.  When asked about this, he responded, “I have strong proof that there is a prophet buried in Qati’a, and I would rather be buried close to a prophet than to my very own father.”  This was recorded by Imam ibn Abi Ya’la (r.a.) in Thabaqat al-Hanabila.

The question arises, then: why this emphasis on the barakah of buildings, relics and individuals?  The Qur’an talks about the barakah of certain individuals such as Jesus (a.s.), places such as the Levant, things such as the olive tree, texts such the Qur’an, words such as the greeting of salam, peace, and times such as Laylat al-Qadr.  Shaykh Raghib al-Iswfahani (r.a.) explains in Mufradat Alfazh al-Qur’an that barakah is “affirming Divinely-placed good in something.”  Blessed individuals, objects and places are signs of the Divine.  Beautiful in themselves, in meaning or form, they remind us of the Divine; of Divine Beauty, Oneness and of the ways of approaching the Divine.  They are a means of remembering Allah (s.w.t.).  They awaken us to the reality that the forms of created things have a meaning.  They are all, in fact, signs of Allah (s.w.t.).  As the poet said, “In everything there is a sign, indicating that He is the One

Allah (s.w.t.). Tells us in the Qur’an:



Such (is his state): and whoever holds in honour the Symbols of Allah, (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart. (Surah al-Hajj:32)

and,



The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the Symbols from Allah: in them is (much) good for you... (Surah al-Hajj:36)

Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) explains in his al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an that the Symbols of Allah, or in another  translation, the Sacred Things of God, sha‘air Allah, are the Distinguishing Signs of His Religion.

This is why Muslims throughout the ages have loved, venerated and sought the blessings of righteous individuals and places of significance, such as mosques, historical sites and the graves of the righteous.  It is an expression of the love of Allah (s.w.t.) to see and celebrate His Signs and to love those things Beloved to Him.  As the poet said, “We see this in the very practice of the Beloved of God, for ibn ‘Umar relates that, ‘The Messenger of God (s.a.w.) used to ask for water to be brought from purification pools.  He would drink from this water, seeking the blessing of the hands of Muslims.”  This is related by Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.) in al-Awsath and Shaykh Abu Nu’aym (r.a.) in al-Hilya.  Imam al-Haytsami (r.a.) said in his Majma ‘ al-Zawa ‘id that its chain of transmitters is reliable.  In an age of increasing meaninglessness, the loss of these persons and places that remind us of Allah (s.w.t.), and of the ways to approach Him, is unfortunate indeed.

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