Friday, November 09, 2007

Chain Letters

There occurs today a very detestable practice among our muslims in particular. It is the indulgence and participation in email chain letters. For those of us not familiar with this activity, it is where someone sends an email letter with some sort of story pertaining, in most cases but not always, to something Islamic, and then they put a condition at the end of this story to distribute this email to a certain number of people. The condition usually is a severe warning against not forwarding the email to the certain number of people in which case some calamity or mishap will occur if it is not done. In other cases the condition proposes a special benefit for forwarding the email to the certain number of people. Ordinarily this is a form of shirk that I think most people would be aware of or at least should recognize. Believing that some act not from the Qur'aan or Sunnah, if done, can cause some harm and/or benefit is indeed shirk. In doing so we set up a rival to Allaah, for truly it is only Allaah who can benefit us or harm us, and only Allaah can remove such harm.

As Allaah says in Surah Al-An'am ayah 17:
"And if Allaah touches you with harm, none can remove it but He, and if He touches you with good, then He is Able to do all things."
One of the things we learn from this ayat is that any harm that afflicts us can only be removed by Allaah, so to specifically believe in bad omens, which includes bad luck and the belief that certain practices, not endorsed by Allaah or The Prophet sallAllahu 'Alayhi wa Salam, can affect the outcome of future events, is in essence the meaning of an omen. So to believe in these omens would be, belief that other than Allaah can remove such harm from us, which is setting a rival with Allaah in this removal of harm. And Allaah says in Surah al-Ma'aidah ayah 72 :
"Verily, whosoever sets up rivals in worship with Allaah, then Allaah has forbidden Al-Jannah for him, and the Fire will be his abode."

Imam Ahmad reports, on the authority of Ibn `Amr radhi Allahu anhumma, that the Prophet sallAllahu 'alayi wa Salam said:

"Whoever is turned back from his objective by a bad omen has committed Shirk." They asked: "And what is the expiation for that?" He sallAllahu 'alayhi wa salam replied: "It is to say: "Oh, Allah! There is no good except that which You bestow and there is no evil except that which You bestow and there is none has the right to be worshipped but You."

In many circumstances these chain emails threatens the reader that "if" the email is not sent to the certain number of people then "such and such" will occur. As reported in the above hadith this is Shirk! As is reported on the authority of Ibn Mas'ood radhi Allahu 'anhu in a marfoo' form, that he said: "At-tiyarah (belief in omens) is Shirk, at-tiyrah (belief in omens) is Shirk. There is none among us who is not afflicted by it, but Allah, by true dependence on Him removes it from the heart." [1] So this hadeeth / athar is a rejection of belief in omens because such beliefs necessitates negation of belief in Allah's Qadr and because it causes the heart to become attached to other than Allah, which is Shirk.

Also it is reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah radhi Allaahu anhu that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu 'alayhi wa Salam said:

"There is no `adwaa [2], no tiyarah (belief in omens) and no haamah[3] and no Safar [4]" (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

Muslim, in his Saheeh, adds: ".and no naw` [5] and no ghoul [6]."

Now what is even more disturbing is that these omens are presented and beautified in the form of "harmless" conditions and mere fun. No doubt a trick for shaytaan ar rajeem, wa iyaadhu billah.

The most recent one of these chain emails, puts the condition that "if you love Allaah, then forward this letter to.."!!! This should indeed be a higher degree of disturbing for Muslims as it entails speaking about an attribute of Allaah without knowledge, namely Allaah's love. How is it that one can put a condition to Allaah's love based on doing an act that has no precedence in The Book of Allaah or The Sunnah of His Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa Salam?!? This is indeed a form of ilhad (deviation) regarding the attribute of Allaah, and a form of shirk in this category of Tawheed (Asmaa wa Sifaat). The love of Allaah is attainable through many acts of ibaadah mentioned to us in the Quran and Sunnah, and thus to innovate in this noble venture is a disgusting type of bidah, pursued in most part by those of ahl kalam (The people of false rhetoric). Those people who chose not to be content with the established texts of Al-Islaam, but rather engage in exercising their intellect with regard to the deen.

As we should know the Beautiful, Perfect and Lofty Names and Attributes of Allaah are tawqeefiyyah, meaning they are derived from the text of The Qur'aan and The Sunnah. Speaking about Allaah's Names and/or Attributes without knowledge that which was not mentioned by Allaah or His Messenger sallAllahu 'alayhi wa Salam or the righteous predecessors of this Ummah constitutes a great offense against Allaah and His Deen. Allaah Subhana wa Ta'ala says in Surah Al Ar'af ayah 33:
"Say: My Lord has forbidden.. and that you say about Allaah that of which you have no knowledge".

And Allaah says in Surah al-Isra'a ayah 36:
"Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge."
So we must be extremely careful not to attribute to Allaah or place a condition on His attributes that was not mentioned in any text of The Qur'aan and Sunnah, even if it appears to agree with our intellect. This is the methodology of the Sahabah concerning the Names and Attributes of Allaah, and it is the methodology that we in turn should adopt.

In conclusion I offer this sincere advise, and brotherly warning, if you or anyone you know is in the practice of writing these emails, or forwarding them, please revere Allaah and set not rivals with Him by spreading this fitnah of belief and indulgence in omens and superstious practices. Like so many other types of hidden shirk, it is beautified and marginalized until it enters our home as something that we take to be so minute and insignificant.

May Allah Al-Wakeel rectify the affairs of the Ummah. May He, protect us from all forms of Shirk, major and minor, hidden and apparent. May Allaah support us against the plots of shaytaan ar rajeem and our nafs and desires.

By Yusuf Atiff Bin Abdel-Lateef Diab

[1] Narrated by Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi, who said it is authentic, but considered the last part of it to be Ibn Mas'ood's own statement.
[2] Infectious or contagious disease.
[3] Interpreting omens based on the flight of a nocturnal bird.
[4] Some scholars said that it refers to parasites which infest the stomach and intestines of mankind and cattle, while others said that it refers to the pagan belief that the arrival of the month of Safar in the Muslim calendar bodes ill, while the dictionary defines safar as jaundice - and Allah knows best.
[5] belief that the positions of the stars affect the climate
[6] ghosts and ghouls

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