By Shaykh `Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda | Translated by A. Haque
As for the type of dhikr performed by some people which comprises of rhythmically coordinated movements of the body, melodious hymns and songs, jumping, leaping, hopping, bending forward and then straightening up, and violent twisting and shoving, then this form of dhikr is forbidden, for a sound fitra finds it repugnant, and a heart in khushu` is far removed from the likes of such things. As the noble tabi`i Sa`id ibn al-Musayyab (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Had the heart of this man been in khushu`, his limbs would be in khushu` as well.”
Moreover, engaging in this type of dhikr has not been transmitted from the salaf whose generations were commended for their excellence. As for the reasoning put forward for these physical movements and leaping up and down, that they prevent the mind from being distracted away from Allah the Exalted, then it is rejected due to the well-known example of the salaf. Indeed, they were the most vigilant of all people in safeguarding their minds and hearts, and making them in sync with Allah the Exalted. Yet, they never engaged in such acts. To the contrary, when these kinds of acts were brought to their attention, they strongly censured them. They were a nation whose example is meant to be studied and adhered to. What follows, then, are excerpts from their discourse regarding the aforementioned type of dhikr.
`A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “Abu Bakr entered while two slave-girls of the Ansar were with me. They were singing the rhymes of the Ansar for the Day of Bu`ath, though they were not singers …”2
Ibn Hajar explains:
“A group of Sufis used this report as evidence to support the permissibility of singing and listening to songs, whether accompanied by musical instruments or not.
It suffices as a response that `A’isha herself clarified the words of the report by saying, ‘they were not singers,’ negating what could be interpreted from the first part of her report [i.e. ‘they were singing’], because ghina’ [singing] refers to raising the voice, the melody which the Arabs call nasb, and the chanting of the caravan leader. The performer of this act is not called a mughanni [singer], which is a term that refers to those who sing by elongating and breaking the words, stimulating and provoking the listener by way of allusive and explicit descriptions of indecency.
Qurtubi3 says, ‘The statement of `A’isha – they were not singers – means that they were not of those who are experts at singing like professional singers. This is an indication by `A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) of her wariness and reservation from the customary form of singing, which moves the motionless, and arouses what is deeply hidden. This is a type of singing whose impermissibility is agreed upon, if it consists of poetry that depicts the attractive features of women, intoxicants, and other forbidden things.’
He continues, ‘As for what the Sufis have innovated in this regard, then it is impermissible without disagreement. However, a large number of those attributed with virtue have been overcome by their appetitive souls, to the extent that many of them have displayed acts that are normally associated with children or the insane, such as dancing with organized steps and synchronized movements. Some of them even have the audacity to deem these acts as righteous deeds and a means of seeking nearness to God. They claim that these acts help to attain exalted states, while in reality they are among the indicators of zandiqa [heresy] and the statements of magicians. And Allah is the source of all help!’
In fact, the truth is the reverse of what they say: these acts help to attain the most evil of states.” 4
The poet says, censuring the statements and acts of these enamored souls:
Has Allah said, ‘Clap for me and sing,
Say words of evil, and claim that dancing is dhikr?’
Qadi Iyad said about Imam Malik on the authority of al-Tinnisi:
“We were with Malik while he was surrounded by his companions, when a man belonging to the people of Nasibin said, ‘There is a group of people among us called Sufis. They eat excessively, then they begin to sing, and then they get up and dance.’ Malik asked him, ‘Are they children?’ The man replied, ‘No.’ Malik asked, ‘Are they insane?’ The man replied, ‘No. They are a group of mashayikh [religious scholars] and other intelligent people.’ Malik replied, ‘I have never heard of anyone from the people of Islam doing such a thing.’
The man said, ‘But these people eat, and then get up and dance tirelessly, some of them striking their heads, and some striking their faces.’ Hearing this, Malik laughed, then rose and went inside his house. The companions of Malik said to the man, ‘Verily you have brought bad omen to our companion. We have been in his company for more than thirty years, and we never saw him laugh until this day.’” 5
Qurtubi, the Sufi Qur’an exegete, says commenting on the statement of Allah the Exalted, ‘Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor of fear in their hearts, and when they hear His ayaat rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put all their trust in their Lord’ 6 —
“Allah the Exalted describes the believers in this ayah feeling fearful when He is mentioned. This is because of the strength of their faith, and cognizance of their Lord, as if they are right before Him.
Similar to this is the ayah, ‘Give the good news to those who humble themselves – to those whose hearts, when Allah is mentioned, are filled with fear…’ 7 and Allah’s statement, ‘(Those) whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah…’ 8 This is due to the perfection of their ma`rifa [gnosis] and trust [in Him].
Allah brings the two meanings together when He says, ‘Allah has revealed the most beautiful message in the form of a book, consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teachings in various aspects): the skin of those who fear their Lord trembles thereat: then their skins and their hearts soften to the mention of Allah…’ 9 That is, their souls find rest due to their certainty in Allah, even though they fear Him.
This, then, is the state of those who know Allah. They fear His power and retribution, unlike the clamor and shouting of the ignorant among the masses and the innovators, and their making sounds that resemble the braying of a donkey. It is said to those who occupy themselves with these acts, claiming that they constitute wajd [ecstasy] and khushu` — The Messenger and his companions were superior to you in their ma`rifa, fear and reverence for Allah, yet their state while receiving admonition was that of increased comprehension and weeping out of fear from Him. This is why Allah has described the state of those who know Him upon hearing His mention and the recitation of His Book as, ‘And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth. They pray: “Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses (to the truth).’ 10
That is the true description of their state. Whoever does not behave like this is not upon their guidance, nor traversing their path. Whoever seeks to have a role model, let him take them as his role model. As for those who wish to occupy themselves with the states of the insane and insanity, then he is worse than the insane. Indeed, insanity comes in many forms!
Anas b. Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘One day, people kept posing questions to the Prophet (peace be upon him) regarding an issue, until the number of questions became superfluous. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) climbed the pulpit and proclaimed, ‘Ask me! I will answer every question that you ask me as long as I remain at this spot.’ When the people heard this from him, they became silent. They were terrified that something horrible might happen soon. I began to turn right and left, and I saw everyone covering his face with his robe, weeping.’ 11
`Irbad b. Sariya said, ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) delivered a powerful speech one day, causing tears to flow, and hearts to tremble with fear.’ 12
He didn’t say that the listeners screamed, or danced, or struck their feet against the ground as the dancers do, or stood up!” 13
The eminent scholar and Hanafi jurist Shaykh Ahmad al-Tahtawi writes the following:
“As for the acts that are committed by those who claim to be Sufis – such as dancing, clapping, clamoring, or playing musical instruments such as cymbals and trumpets – then all of these acts are impermissible by consensus, because they are from the characteristics and acts of disbelievers.” 14
Those who indulge in the aforementioned form of dhikr insist that these coordinated movements do not go beyond the bounds of permissibility. If they will not submit to the statements of the scholars that prohibit these physical movements, then at least let their statements of prohibition cast doubt in the permissibility of these acts, and let this be reason enough to leave off these practices, by way of distancing away from that which the scholars have deemed forbidden. For the Sufi is defined as he who protects himself from all doubtful matters, and leaves off even some of what is permissible out of fear that he may fall into the offensive, much less the impermissible!
Allah alone is the Guide for those who seek Guidance from Him. O Allah! Guide us to that which You love, and leads to Your Contentment.