Friday Sermon: Harmful innovations in religion
October 29th, 2010
Hudhur gave an exposition on harmful innovations in religion in his Friday Sermon today. He began by reciting the following Quranic verse: ‘Surely, Allah will not forgive that any partner be associated with Him; but He will forgive whatever is short of that to whomsoever He pleases. And whoso associates partners with Allah has indeed devised a very great sin.’ (4:49)
Hudhur said alongside the many benefits of modern inventions, is the loss of humanity adopting mutual ills. Badness attracts and leads man to adopt it with intensity, while forgetting traditions and beliefs. Some Ahmadis, considering such matters trivial, also get inclined in this way, resulting in very bad consequences.
Among the ills that take over imperceptibly is one that is a great sin: shirk (associating partners with God). Even a hint of shirk is unacceptable to God. A Muslim who claims to be firm on the Unity of God, needs to understand the subtlety of the concept of Unity of God and the subtlety of shirk and be extremely careful in this fast developing world. In particular Ahmadi Muslims, who have accepted the Imam of the age, the first condition of whose bai’at is: ‘The initiate shall solemnly promise that he/she shall abstain from shirk right up to the day of his/her death.’ Thus is the first promise to enter Ahmadiyyat, true Islam. It can be said that Muslims already verbally acknowledge Unity of God by saying the Kalima. However, there is also the need to bring those of other religions to true Islam, hence the first condition of bai’at. The Kalima negates shirk most vehemently, yet we see that due care is not taken among Muslims about latent shirk. The first condition of bai’at is therefore not a huge condition for a Muslim to come into Ahmadiyyat. But, on reflection we find many among the Muslims who practice latent shirk. Some do it by prostrating before graves of Pirs (ascetics), others do it by placing offerings on the graves and some by praying/supplicating to the graves. Women are often heard saying that they asked God for a son but none was born but when Data [Hadhrat Data Ganj Bukhsh, an 11th century saint] was asked at his shrine, a son was born. Women usually have weak faith. Generally speaking there is lesser tendency among Muslims towards worship of God; this is the reason why especially women, and men as well demonstrate weakness in faith. They acquire greater faith in Hadhrat Data Ganj Bukhsh than God, the five daily Salat appear cumbersome to them. As this practice continues from generation to another, faith in God continues to be weakened.
Seeing such harmful innovations among Muslims gave the audacity to a Hindu to write a poem depicting that if Hindus worshipped idols, Muslims prostrated before graves. He has gone on to lay a ghastly allegation that, God forbid, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is considered god. There was no greater a champion of Unity of God than the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him); no one with better teaching on Unity of God, or a better insight and perception of Unity of God and no one who implemented Unity of God in their life better than him. Only that person can understand the reality of Unity of God who gives God precedence over everything else and who else is there other than the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who practised this? Even before the advent of his prophethood, he spent long hours in isolation in the worship of One God. Hudhur read out a prayer of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) that illustrates this subject.
‘O Allah, grant me Your love and the love of one whose love will benefit me by You. O Allah, make the things I like which You grant me, a source of strength for me, a source of enhancing in Your love, a source of developing belief. And grant me Your preferred things in return of the things I like that You keep away from me.’ Thus, if he asked God for anything, it was what was pleasing to God.
Hudhur said the reason given by people who visit Pirs is that these people were dear to God. The Holy Qur’an gives a similar explanation by those who worshipped idols. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was so particular about the spiritual training of his Companions that he would say that even a little hypocrisy is shirk. He said, ‘avoid shirk, it is more subtle than footprints [on soft soil]’. The Companions asked how they should avoid it. In reply, he told them to read this prayer, ‘O Allah, we come in Your refuge from knowingly associating partners with You. And we seek Your forgiveness from doing so unknowingly’. Hudhur explained that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) only ever described himself as a man, a humble man at that. Therefore, while the Hindu poet is incorrect in saying that God forbid, the Prophet is given a divine status, he is correct in his premise that Muslims have given grave the station of God. It is thus a cause for concern for Muslims that an allegation of shirk has been made against them. Ordinary Muslims cannot remove this allegation but Ahmadi Muslims are obligated to bring about changes in their condition and practices so that they reflect Unity of God. Tell the world that the advent of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) took place to establish Unity of God but as the condition of Muslims has deteriorated, therefore now Unity of God can only be truly honoured by joining the Community of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) who is the Prophet’s true and ardent devotee.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote in his book ‘Al Wassiyat’ (The Will): ‘God Almighty desires to draw all those who live in various habitations of the world, be it Europe or Asia, and who have virtuous nature, to the Unity of God and unite His servants under one Faith. This indeed is the purpose for which I have been sent to the world. You, too, therefore should pursue this end, but with kindness, moral probity and fervent prayers.’ [The Will, pp. 8 – 9] Hudhur said it is the obligation of Ahmadis that in understanding this message they become helpers of the Imam of the age and endeavour to establish Unity of God with their each word and deed.
Hudhur said when certain harmful innovations become prevalent they take one away from the true teaching and impair religion. All early religions lost their original state because new harmful innovations were introduced in them and no one came to remove them. Indeed, none was to come because Islam was to be the last, enduring religion on earth and it was the advent of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) that was to take place. Now, some harmful innovations have made their way in Islam and some of them are tantamount to shirk, including obvious and apparent shirk. However, in accordance to His promise, God has sent the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) to safeguard Islam from shirk and harmful innovations and InshaAllah it will remain safe.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that our way is the same as that of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and his Companions. He said although ascetics have introduced many harmful innovations, the correct way of Islam is to read the Holy Qur’an with deliberation, to offer Salat with reflection and to pray to God.
Hudhur explained that let alone general harmful innovations, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) even considered laying too much stress on incantation (wazaif/wird/dikr) as innovation. This is because such practices make one disregard the real aspect, which is Salat. Hudhur related an anecdote that once, influenced by some people, a very pious sister of an esteem person became inclined towards incantation. Gradually she gave up her voluntary worship of God, replacing it with dikr and in spite of her brother drawing her attention to the error of her ways, advising her to read ‘La Hawl’ for help, she continued. After a while she realised she was moving away even from obligatory worship of God. This is when she started reading ‘La Hawla wa la quwwata illa billa’ (There is no power to avoid sin or to do good except through Allah) and thus her attention to worship of God was restored. Hudhur said doing dikr is very good, but only after the obligatory worship has been fulfilled. To leave what is obligatory and what is in the Sunnah (practice of the Prophet) is erroneous. There is no doubt that gatherings where Allahu and other dikr is made are pure gatherings but when they exceed their limitations they incline one to satanic ways. Thus, Hudhur said, if what apparently leads to piety can take one to harmful innovations, the influence of other innovations on society is much greater and for this great care is required. An Ahmadi should make a jihad-like endeavour to avoid these.
Hudhur reiterated that new inventions have played a role in spreading badness. Many people start following practices without thinking and simply imitate others. They also include their children in these. One such practice which is celebrated popularly in the West is Halloween. It is about to be celebrated in the next few days. Carelessly, some Ahmadis also let their children participate in this without giving any thought to its origin etc. Halloween is a harmful innovation among Christians which takes one closer to shirk. The Bible forbids witches, satanic practices etc. but Halloween is generally regarded as fun. Hudhur said it should always be remembered that any ‘fun’ that is based on shirk or any harmful way is to be avoided.
Hudhur said his attention was drawn to this when the in-charge of a research team related to Hudhur that her young daughter has asked for permission to at least let her dress up in the Halloween costume but she did not allow her. When she researched into it, some strange facts were revealed which Hudhur asked for. Hudhur said he would present a summary of those facts here. Hudhur said often children write to him asking about the harm of joining in Halloween saying their parents would not allow them to join. Hudhur said he would reply to them according to what he knew, telling them this was a wrong and displeasing practice and stopped them from participating. However, now that its definitive explanation has come to light, it is important that Ahmadi children avoid it.
Halloween originates from old Irish pagan practices and is based on concepts belonging to witches; concepts which trample upon religion and sanctity of homes. No matter how much fun it may be considered, its very basis is wrong and it includes shirk. Because its basic concept is that on 31 October the boundaries between the living and the dead are removed and the dead come back to cause harm to the living. In order to avoid being harmed, about which many nonsensical things are said, so-called magicians are called in who take animals and crops from people and sacrifice them in a specific way. Bonfire is also part of the ritual and is meant to frighten the dead. The special costumes and masks are also worn to scare. Christianity adopted this ritual, in particular the Catholic Church. Due to Christianity and also the media Halloween spread all over the world, in particular in the West; in USA, Canada, UK, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and other European countries.
Hudhur said this practice is a hidden evil. Muslims in the West are adopting it. Children dress up in costumes and go from door to door asking for something to bring comfort to spirits. The notion is that if a household gives something to the costume-clad children the dead would not harm the household. Indeed, it is all considered good fun, but the idea behind it all is based on shirk. It is against the dignity of an Ahmadi child to dress up in strange manner and go door to door like beggars, even if it is for chocolates. Ahmadis should have a dignity which should be inculcated from childhood.
The message of Halloween is thus of existence of witches, evil spirits and satanic worship. It is extremely wrong to ‘believe in’ things that are ‘supernatural’ even if it is for fun. For this reason, our children should strictly avoid them. Until recently, village folk used to give something to the children in the belief that it would save them from spirits. Such practices also embolden children to do wrong in the name of fun. Bad manners towards grown-ups are becoming common. In the West every evil is allowed in the name of fun and in the name of children’s rights. However, voices against Halloween are now being raised here as well and it is being said that it encourages children to frighten people and to commit crime. Films too have given wrong messages and when such practices are encouraged by grown-ups in the name of fun, society is going to deteriorate. For us, the biggest matter is the bringing of dead spirits, as if, equal to God and thus committing shirk. Gifts are meant to please the spirits. It is a most absurd and nonsensical concept.
Dr. Grace Ketterman writes in her book, ‘You and Your Child’s Problem’: ‘A tragic by-product of fear in the lives of children as early as preadolescence is the interest and involvement in supernatural occult phenomena.’
Hudhur said nowadays Halloween rituals do not stop at wearing of costumes and going from door to door. Rather older children deliberately frighten people in their homes and disturb surroundings. As a result they are a nuisance for their parents and ruin their own lives. This is why Hudhur said he would once again advise Ahmadis to avoid this and instead to increase their connection with God. They should not espouse so much influence of the West that they get embroiled in hidden/latent shirk. May God protect everyone from this.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said man claims to worship God, but does worship entail an abundance of prostrations etc. or plentiful reading the rosary (Tasbih) beads? Rather, worship is possible by one to whom love of God attracts to such a degree that his or her own being is nullified from the middle. Foremost is absolute belief in God as well as full awareness of God’s beauty and favours. This connection of love is such that its pathos is ever-present in the heart with this state always evident on the face. The heart carries God’s greatness to such an extent that the entire world appears dead by comparison and every fear is only associated with His Being and there is pleasure in His pain. Delight is experienced in solitude with Him alone and without Him the heart does not find satisfaction from anyone else. When such a state is attained, it is called worship, but this state is not generated without special blessing of God.
Hudhur prayed that may God enable us to meet the expectations as stated by the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and may we always endeavour for this. If we make endeavour God will bless, InshaAllah.