22 — SECOND VOLUME, 23rd LETTER
This letter, written to Khwâja Muhammad ’Abdullah ‘sallamahullâhu wa abkâhu wa awsalahu ilâ ghâyati mâ yatamannâhu’, his master Muhammad Bâqî Billâh’s ‘quddisa sirruh’ son, says that the first thing to do is to hold fast to the Sunnat-i saniyya and to avoid bid’ats, and many other things:
Praise and gratitude be to Allâhu ta’âlâ. I invoke Him to bestow salvation and goodness upon those people whom He has chosen. My dear son! The primary advice that I will give you and to the other beloved friends is to hold fast to the Sunnat-i saniyya and to avoid bid’ats. The Islamic religion has been becoming gharîb and weak. Muslims are now forlorn. From now on it will go on being gharîb, too. This will go so far that there will not be anybody left on earth to say “Allah.” It has been said that Doomsday will come when there are no longer any good people on the earth and evil has spread everywhere.
[Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ stated: “There will come such a time when only the name of Islam will remain on my Ummat. Believers will practise only a few Islamic customs, and they will not have any îmân left. The Qur’ân al-kerîm will only be read (or recited). They will not even know of the commandments and prohibitions. Their only thought will be about eating and drinking. They will forget about Allâhu ta’âlâ. They will worship money only. They will become women’s slaves. They will not be contented with earning a little, nor will they be satisfied with earning much.”
Hadrat ’Abdulwahhâb-i Sha’rânî ‘rahmatullâhi ’alaih’ says in his book entitled Mukhtasar-i Tadhkira-i Qurtubî: “It is stated in a hadîth quoted by Ibni Mâja: ‘There will come such a time when Islam, as the colour, the beauty of a dress fades, will fade away from the earth so much so that namâz, fasting, hajj and alms will be forgotten. None of the Qur’ân’s âyats will be left on the earth.’ ” Imâm-i Qurtubî states: “Islam’s being forgotten will take place after Hadrat Îsâ’s (Jesus) descent from heaven and death. Before that, Muslims will be gharîb (forlorn). Although the Qur’ân alkerîm will not be obeyed, it will not be forgotten altogether.” It is written in Ma’rifatnâma: “There are many presages of Doomsday. Mosques will be plentiful, but the jamâ’at (congregation of Muslims in mosques) will be small. Buildings will be tall, dresses thin, and women will be domineering. Men will become effeminate.”]
The happiest, the most fortunate person is he who recovers one of the forgotten sunnats and annihilates one of the widespread bid’ats during a time when irreligiousness is on the increase. We are now in such a time when a thousand years have elapsed after the Best of Mankind (Hadrat Muhammad ‘sall- Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’). As we distance from the time of happiness of our Prophet, the sunnats are gradually being buried and, lies being on the increase, bid’ats are spreading. A hero is needed who will uphold the sunnats and stop, expel the bid’ats. To spread bid’ats is to demolish Islam. To respect those who make up and commit bid’ats, to deem them great will cause Islam to perish. It is declared in a hadîth: “He who says ‘great’ about those who commit bid’ats has helped the demolition of Islam.” The meaning of this should be given due consideration. Utmost energy should be spent in striving to uncover one sunnat and to annihilate one bid’at. To strengthen Islam anytime, especially when Islam has become so weak, it is necessary to spread the sunnats and demolish the bid’ats. Former Islamic savants, maybe having seen some beauty in the bid’ats, gave some of them the name of hasana [beautiful]. But this faqîr [Imâm-i Rabbânî] does not follow them in this respect; I do not regard any of the bid’ats as beautiful. I see all of them as dark and cloudy. Our Prophet declared: “All bid’ats are aberration, deviation from the right way.” During such a time as this when Islam has become weak, I see that salvation and escaping from Hell depends on holding fast to the Sunnat; and the destruction of the religion is, no matter how, in falling for any bid’at. I understand that each bid’at is like a pickaxe used to demolish the building of Islam and all sunnats are like brilliant stars guiding you on a dark night. May Allâhu ta’âlâ give enough reason to the hodjas of our time so that they will not say that any bid’at is beautiful or allow any bid’at to be committed. They should not tolerate bid’ats even if they seem to illuminate darkness like the rising of the sun! For, the satans do their work easily outside the area of the sunnats. In earlier times, Islam being powerful, the darkness of bid’ats was not conspicuous, but, perhaps, owing to the world-wide powerful light of Islam, some of the darkness appeared as if it were bright. Therefore, they were said to be beautiful. In actual fact, however, those bid’ats did not have any brightness or beauty, either. But now, Islam having become weak and disbelievers’ customs and even the symptoms of disbelief having become settled [as fashion] among Muslims, each bid’at has done its harm, and Islam, without anyone noticing it, has been slipping away. Our hodjas should be most vigilant in this respect, and they should not pioneer the spreading of bid’ats by saying, “It is permissible to do so and so,” or “Such and such things are not harmful,” by putting forward past fatwâs. As the saying goes, “The religion will change in process of time.” It is wrong for disbelievers to use this saying as tongs for demolishing Islam and for establishing bid’ats and disbelief. The bid’ats having covered all the world, this age looks like a dark night. The sunnats being on the decrease, their lights blink like fire-flies flying here and there in a dark night. As the committing of bid’ats increases, the darkness of the night has been increasing and the light of the sunnats has been decreasing. But the increasing of the sunnats would decrease the darkness and increase the light. He who wishes may increase the darkness of bid’ats, thus strengthening the devil’s army! And he who wishes may increase the light of the sunnats, thus strengthening the soldiers of Allâhu ta’âlâ! You should know well that the end of the followers of the devil is a catastrophic loss. He who is in the army of Allâhu ta’âlâ will attain endless bliss.
[Let us repeat that those beliefs, words, actions, manners and customs which did not exist during the time of our Prophet ‘sall- Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ or during the times of his four Khalîfas ‘ridwânullâhi ’alaihim ajma’în’, but which were made up, invented later in Islam are called bid’at. It is bid’at to make up all these under the name of Islam and worship, while saying about the things which Islam holds important, “They are outside of Islam, they do not concern Islam.” Some of the bid’ats are disbelief. Some others are grave sins. One of these bid’ats is to read (or recite) the Qur’ân al-kerîm or to say the adhân (or azân) through loud-speakers or radios.
It is written in the annotation to the hundred and eighty-sixth letter of the Arabic and Persian versions of the book Maktûbât: “Most Islamic savants classified the bid’ats in deeds into two groups: Renovations and reforms that were not against the Sunnat, i.e., those that had their inception in the first century (hijrî), were called bid’at-i hasana. And those that did not appear (in the first century) were called bid’at-i seyyia. However, Hadrat Imâm-i Rabbânî would not blemish with the appellation ‘bid’at’ the ones that existed in the first Islamic century. Instead, he called them sunnat-i hasana. Examples of these are performing the Mawlîd and building minarets and tombs. He gave the name bid’at only to those without an origin. According to Wahhâbîs, these bid’at-ihasanas also sould be termed bid’at-i-seyyia. They said that sunnati hasanas also were shirk (polytheism). On the other hand, ignorant men of religion called most of the bid’ât-i seyyias bid’at-i hasana, and thus caused these atrocious bid’ats to become widespread. In censuring bid’ats, Hadrat Imâm-i Rabbânî is not against the Islamic savants, but he is against the ignorant men of religion.”]
Also, today’s men of Tasawwuf should be reasonable and, realizing that Islam is so weak and concocted things have turned into faith and worship, they should not imitate those actions of their master dervishes which are not suitable with the Sunnat. They should not adopt those things that do not exist in Islam as faith and acts of worship for themselves only because their masters did them. Holding fast to the Sunnat will certainly rescue you and will make you attain blessings and happinesses. Imitating the things other than the Sunnat will expose you to dangers and disasters. Our duty is to inform you of what is right. Everybody may do what he likes, and will get the deserts of what he has done. [Every sane man who has reached the age of puberty is responsible for his own behavior.]
May Allâhu ta’âlâ greatly reward our superiors who educated us in order to protect us, the ignorant, against bid’ats. They did not drag us, who were following them, to dark perils or abysses. They did not show us any way other than the Sunnat. They guided us to no way but that of obeying the owner of Islam and avoiding even the doubtful acts as well as the harâms. For this reason, the blessings of these great people are considerable. The grades which they attained to are very high. They did not even turn to music and dancing, nor did they pay any attention to raptures and ecstasies. They deemed the hâls, which others saw and found through heart and considered great, as far from the purpose and other than what is desired; they expelled and refused the fancies which others fell for. Their deeds are not the kind which can be understood by seeing, finding or learning. They are above knowledge, fancy, tajallîs, zuhûrs, kashfs and views. Others try to find something, to attain something. But these great people do not want anything other than Allâhu ta’âlâ; they expel all others. Others’ expressing the word tawhîd again and again is intended to approach Allâhu ta’âlâ. By expressing the word tawhîd [lâ ilâha ill- Allah], they try to find, to see Allâhu ta’âlâ in this universe, which is only an incapable creature of Allâhu ta’âlâ and which does not have any other relation with Allâhu ta’âlâ. But these great people repeat the word Lâ ilâha il-l-Allah in order to know everything as non-existent, to refuse, to deem non-existent all views, findings, understandings and fancies when saying Lâ; refusing anything which they feel in existence, they do not remember anything. [Half of this letter has been translated. Its latter half has not been translated.]
 Tadhkira-i-Qurtubî is a book written by Abu ’Abdullah Muhammad Qurtubî (of Cordova) ‘rahmatullâhi ’alaih’ (d. 671 [1272 A.D.], an Andalusian scholar. Mukhtasar-i-Tadhkira-i-Qurtubî, an abridged version of the book, is available from Hakîkat Kitâbevi of Istanbul, Turkey.