Friday, July 19, 2013

The pitfalls of cut-and-paste da'wah

The legacy of Ibn Abd ul-Wahhab, destroyed well and
garden of Companion Salam al-Farsi. A school
built over site where Prophet
Muhammad (SAW) planted date
trees to liberate him from slavery.
© Shafiq Morton
Shaikh Bin Baz calls Imam
Shafi’i (ra) an innovator


One of the truly annoying things about social media is what I call “cut-and-paste da’wah”, so-called propagation by the sweep and click of a mouse.

These cyber missionaries – no doubt of good intent – take great umbrage when their unedited pastings, usually of Wahhabi origin, are challenged. Attempts at debate can often result in chat-room tantrums.

What irks me is that behind all this verbiage is a lingering dogmatic haughtiness – bred of ignorance unfortunately – that arrogantly claims a theological superiority over everyone else. Of particular significance here are the obsessive-compulsive theological inventions of the discredited 18th century Najdi cleric, Ibn Abd ul-Wahhab, that are continually posted on the net.

Shunned by his village and condemned by even his own brother, he decided that we were idolaters on the brink of unbelief and that Sufis and all scholars (except for Ibn Taimiyya) were deviants.

As a result, there is an evangelical crudity, a reproachful fury and a crass disdain for classical tradition and orthodox tawheed in his pseudo reformation of Islam. Wahhabi proclamations of “bida’h”, “shirk” and “kufr”, and their takfir on scholars such as Ibn ‘Arabi, are legend.

However, curiously, ibn Abd ul-Wahhab’s acolytes always ignore the fully attributable and sound Hadith of A’ishah (ra) that the Prophet (SAW) did not fear polytheism after his demise.

In his heyday with Ibn Saud – an ambitious Bedouin chieftain whose daughter he married for political reasons – Ibn Abd ul-Wahhab declared death on all those who disagreed with his flaky canons. His legacy, which is modern-day Salafism or Wahhabism – call it what you will – was historically founded in the blood of the Shi’ah and the Sunni who dared to differ with him.

The slaughter of Taif – where the covers of Hadith and Qur’an mushaf were used to make sandals – is a notable example, as is Karbala. Its hapless inhabitants were killed in the thousands by Ibn Sa’ud’s so-called “ikhwan” on the path of a “purifying” jihad that terrorised the Middle East, and caused the Ottomans to send an army.

It’s often forgotten that the red chequered scarf of Al-Sa’ud’s royal house is a symbol of so-called infidel blood, and that the Sa’ud dynasty’s claim to being a guardian of Islam is as spurious as the idea that all Muslims are Arab.

These are just some of the things that our Salafi/Wahhabi cut-and-paste orators need to understand. The legacy they’ve imbibed is, unfortunately, steeped in terror, slaughter and slander.

So when I saw a Facebook cut-and-paste of the late Shaikh Bin Baz on the Shafi’i qunoot (invocation) during the dawn prayer, I was reminded of the above. Stupefyingly, Bin Baz – a former Saudi mufti – had bypassed over 1,000 years of legal opinion to claim that Imam Shafi’i’s view was an “innovation”.

Bearing in mind that in classical texts there are five categories of bida’h – from necessary and permissible to reprehensible – I still couldn’t help getting the impression that Bin Baz’s view was not complimentary, and that he tended more to the reprehensible.

I really do wish Bin Baz – a direct descendant of ibn Abd ul-Wahhab – peace in his grave. But I can’t let his legal opinion on Imam Shafi’i pass by unchallenged. For what took my breath away was his total avoidance of opposing views, which would be the time-old Sunni method of presenting a legal opinion.

I was dumbfounded that a man who called himself Hanbali (the Saudi Wahhabis claim to be Hanbali) could make such an utterance – or even draw such an outrageous conclusion. Ibn Hanbal had studied under Imam Shafi’i, and is reported to have said that no-one adhered more strictly to Hadith than his master.

I could only see Ibn Hanbal, may Allah bless him, squirming in his grave at the suggestion by Bin Baz that his Shaikh, one of history’s most celebrated legal minds, was a dubious “innovator” on the question of qunoot in the Fajr prayer.

Of course, the other schools of legal thought – Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali – have differing views, but none of their mujtahids (legal authorities) have ever entertained the bizarre notion that Imam Shafi’i would embrace an undesirable innovation.

Bin Baz also forgets that people such as Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam al-Ghazali, Imam Muzani, Imam Haitami, Imam Nawawi, Imam Rafi’i and Imam Jalal ud-Din Suyuti (ra) were all Shafi’i, and performed the qunoot.

For information’s sake, the Shafi’i madh-hab performs the standing invocation of the qunoot in the second cycle of the Fajr prayer; this is based on a narration by Anas ibn Malik (ra) that the Prophet (SAW) made the qunoot at Fajr “until he left the world”.

Shafi’i scholars provide five solid proofs for the above opinion. The Hadith is regarded as sound by imams Al-Hakim, Dhahabi, Haitami and Daraqutni. Imam Shafi’i regards the qunoot as a Sunnah, its inadvertent omission not invalidating the salah if one performs a special prostration of forgetfulness at the conclusion of the prayer.

Imam Jalal ud-Din Suyuti differs from Imam Shafi’i in that he reasons that the prostration, the sujud ul-sahw, is not necessary. The opposing Hadith, used exclusively by Bin Baz, quotes Sa’ad ibn Tariq as saying that his father never observed the Prophet (SAW) performing the Fajr qunoot.

Space does not allow further discussion, but it is a long-standing tradition that the four schools of thought have always treated each other’s widely varying interpretations and ijtihad with the utmost respect, and that whilst there are indeed many academic differences – there has never been any conflict.

This is well underlined by an axiom of the Prophet (SAW) – an axiom accepted by the tongues of scholars that, indeed, differences of opinion are a blessing for the ummah and not a curse. I would contend that the cut-and-paste fraternity need to understand this, and that the unscholarly utterances of Bin Baz need to be seen for what they are.