When Qur'an directs us to pitch our voice low what else do we need for our guidance, Prof Muhammad Aslam joins the on going debate on loudspeakers.
For any Muslim, the source of inspiration and information about Islam and its principles has to be the holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). Nobody can deny the fact that the Qur'an, the last Book of Revelation, contains in itself everlasting precepts for the believers, especially, and for common masses, in general. It is this book which guides us in our prayers, manners, beliefs and so on. The Qur'an and its precepts are not bound by history of a nation or its socio-political, socio-economic or socio-cultural factors. Its appeal is universal and applicable any where and any time. Those who deviate from it are called innovators and the innovation is called bid'ah or deviation. A deviation is any act which is against the established practices of the Prophet (SAW) and has been denounced as misguidance. The following hadith from Sahi Muslim clearly mentions this: Wa sharrul Umoori Muhdathaatuhaa, Wa kulla Bid'atin dhalalah, wa kulla dhalatin fin-naar ("Every innovation is a misguidance and every misguidance goes to Hell fire"). Imam Shafi interprets 'kull' in absolute terms and says that it includes everything that was not there in Prophet's time and which people invented after him. There is a hadith which says that the Prophet (SAW) once said that on the Day of Judgement when he would be presenting the water from 'hauz-i-kauthar', a large group of people with bright faces will approach the pool for their turn to drink the water, but suddenly a curtain would be drawn between him and the group and their face would get dark. On enquiring about the change in their faces, the Prophet (SAW) will be informed that these were the people who deviated from his Sunna, after his death, and invented many rituals.
In our part of the world, rituals carry more meaning than the essence with the result that we try to explain everything through socio-cultural or socio-historical viewpoints (Greater Kashmir 25 September). Approving wrong practices on the basis of one's culture and tradition is no justification for them to be religious and in keeping with the precepts of the Qur'an and the Prophet's hadith. One such ritual pertains to the group dhikr-o-adhkar in our mosques with and without amplifiers. Any prayer (nimaaz or dhikr) is in fact an invocation of Allah's blessings addressed to Him alone for we know there is none other than Him who can give or take away things from us in the world. Allah is omnipresent and omniscient and nearer to us than our jugular veins as is revealed in this verse of the Qur'an (50.16): wa- nah.nu aqrab 'ilay -hi min h.abl al- wared ("for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein"). One Who is so near that even a whisper cannot escape His attention, He need not be called aloud. That is what Allah says in Chapter 50: wa- na'lam maa tuwaswis bi- -hi nafs -hu ("We know what his soul whispereth to him"). Is there a need, then, to raise one's voice before our Lord Who controls everything that is there in the universe? Verses with similar theme can be discerned in different suras of the holy Qur'an. For instance, in 2:186, it is said: "When my servants ask thee concerning Me I am indeed close (to them); I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me; let them also with a will listen to My call and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way" (underlining added). Again, Allah's being 'close' to Man is stressed so that people understand that they can be heard without even raising their voices. In sura 34.50, Allah's closeness is stressed in this way: "It is He Who hears all things and is (ever) near". In 56.85, it is revealed in this manner: "But We are nearer to him than ye and yet see not", and in 57.4, it is mentioned in the following words: "And He is with you wheresoever ye may be. And Allah sees well all that ye do".
Allah's being ever present and nearer to Man is indicative of the fact that there is no need to raise one's voice to invoke His blessings. He doesn't need even our words to tell Him what we wish in life; mere thought of our wish He knows. The Qur'an (20.7) says: "…verily He [Allah] knoweth what is secret and what is yet more hidden". So, why do, then, we raise our voice in mosques, especially through the amplifiers? One of the reasons, perhaps, is that people have been made to believe that if they raise their voice, it carries more impact and more influence than silent meditation. Another reason, a pertinent one in relation to shrines in Kashmir, is that mujawirs and mullas turnd our shrines into business centres. They earn huge sums in lieu of du'a which people ask them to say, especially during congregations for their own salvation or for someone dead (this last one is more frequent). Amplifiers make them send the du'a to the ears of the payer, if he lives in the close vicinity, which becomes a certificate that his money has not gone waste. Or, the payer is present in the congregation and he/she listens to the du'a and feels satisfied that his/her wish would be fulfilled. What a pity!
Hadiths of the holy Prophet (SAW) bear witness to the fact that he very often reprimanded his companions for raising their voices during dhikr. It is related that during a travel when the Prophet (SAW) found his companions reciting Allah's name loudly, he stopped them from doing so and told them that they were not calling somebody who was far away from them. Allah says: "And do thou (O reader!) bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy (very) soul with humility and in reverence without loudness in words in the mornings and evenings; and be not thou of those who are unheedful (7.205). "Without loudness in words" is another way of saying that prayers should be offered silently because that makes them more relevant and, that does not disturb others. The Qur'an, does not like those who disturb worshipers and become instrumental in their indifference towards mosques. The Qur'an says (2.114): wa- man az.lam min man manaca masaajid 'allaah 'an yudhkar fe -haa ism -hu wa- sacaa fe kharaab -haa 'olaa'ika maa kaana la- -hum 'an yadkhulo -haa 'illaa khaa'ifen la- -hum fe ad- dunyaa khizy wa- la- -hum fe al- 'aakhirah cadhaab caz.em ("And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of Allah Allah's name should be celebrated? Whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world and in the world to come an exceeding torment"). The genesis of this verse is the change of direction of Qibla, from Maqdas to Makkah, which was objected to by the pagans.
–To be concluded
(Prof. Muhammad Aslam is Head of the Department English, University of Kashmir)