Yearning for History
Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki writes on every Muslims’ desire to connect with the great events in our history and why it is meaningful to do so through commemoration and celebration.
Of the accepted and established principles among the people of knowledge (ahl al-‘ilm) is that a particular moment in time is made remarkable or auspicious by the events associated with it. The event, in other words, forms the source of the values and the estimation ascribed to that moment.
The magnitude of the event determines the magnitude of the occasion; likewise, the ascribed blessings of the event determines the ascribed blessings of the occasion.
Moreover, the stronger the identity, and the greater the impressions made by the events on people, the stronger and greater will they identify with the time during which the events occurred.
From this point of view it will become evident that the essential purpose of this book, Madha fi Sha’ban (What is in Sha’ban?), is to focus on the links that connect the umma (the global Muslim community) to their history with the aim of deepening their perceptions and religious experience of Din-related events and occurrences.
Methods and Aims of Commmoration
While it is true that some differ with regard to the method and manner of presenting these events to people, namely, that they are not in agreement with respect to their arrangement and organization; there can nonetheless be little doubt that even two people – on their own – would not differ with regard to the aims and objectives of organizing and commemorating these events.
This is so for the reason that whenever we set out to strengthen these connections that bind the umma to its history by utilizing the events and occurrences through and by which these moments become exalted; then we are at once inviting them to a reality that is pure, a belief system that is correct, a path that is straight, and a way that is natural. This indeed constitutes, at once, the essence of our history and our ennoblement as a people. From this foundation we are able to proceed to all that is good, righteous and beneficial.
The commemoration of all these events and exalted moments are – through the permission of Allah – acceptable and legitimate. For it is through this fundamental principle, viz. the undeniable interconnectedness of the event and the moment, that we are able to take advantage of these opportunities that have the force to stimulate our minds into a recollection of these momentous events. In this way the mind, the heart, and the emotions return to the distant past with a sense of yearning for our history – a yearning that enables us to examine that past for the lessons it may provide.
The Experience of Remembrance
This is what constitutes the genuinely “informed lesson” (al-dars al-‘ilmi). It is this that the universities with their lecturers and lectures, and the madrassas with their programs and prescribed works cannot transfer to people in a way that would allow them to live, perceive, and experience this history in a holistic manner – with their hearts, minds and emotions.
Indeed, whenever, we celebrate by commemorating the birth of the Prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, or the Hijra (his flight from Makkah to Madinah), or the Isra and Mi’raj (the Night Journey and Ascension), or the month of Sha’ban, then we invite people to connect with their minds, hearts and emotions to the realities and the events that fill the vast spaces of these moments.
However, these commemorations are not meant to venerate the event as such or to deify it; nor are they commemorated in a manner that expresses an article of our faith. On the contrary, these commemorations are designed to express our ultimate veneration of Allah, the Exalted, who is the ultimate Creator of both space and time.
These commemorations, therefore, essentially represent the veneration of a slave to his/her Lord, the Creator. But, at the same time, they are also designed to celebrate and laud the one who has played a seminal role in these events – the one who at once formed an intrinsic part of, and for whom these events were established; and who, moreover, forms the axis around which these events are all connected. This latter veneration is the veneration of the one who loves for the sake of the beloved … for that possessor of grace whom Allah has chosen to be at the center of these events.
Beyond Space and Time
I am astonished at those petrified and fossilized minds, those minds of stone, that ignore the central figure of these events – the figure through whom, for whom, with whom, and from whom these events emerged in the first place; and then proceed to focus on the event in so far as it is merely an event. This perspective, without a doubt, constitutes the essence of bid’ah (a reprehensible innovation). Indeed, and even beyond that, it signifies the epitome of ignorance and short-sightedness.
We do not venerate or exalt time for time’s sake, nor space by virtue of it being space, for this is in fact, and in our estimation, an act of shirk (idolatry).
On the contrary, our focus is upon that which is beyond, greater and more exalted than mere time or space. Nor do we venerate particular personages for what they possess of body and bones. What we in fact do is to look at their station, their standing, their rank, and their love and belovedness … so is there any sin or falsehood in this? [sh: italics mine].
“Glory to Allah, this is indeed a serious slander!” (Sura al Nur 24:16)
The above is an extract from Madha fi Sha’ban? (What is in Sha’ban?), pp. 4-6, by Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki, Allah show him mercy. The translation is by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks [sh]. It was first published in 2011 on Shadow of Pure Light, and is reproduced here with Shaykh Seraj’s permission.