Friday, March 22, 2013

WHEN FATHER DIED



                                  Late Alhaji Muhammadu Garba

Mother died about a decade ago. And now, father has gone too. Does orphanage is Islam cover a man closer to fifty than forty like me, and my living siblings of varying ages of majority? Of course not; an orphan is a child below the age of puberty, who lost their father. So, when the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, said, while putting his index and middle fingers together, that he ‘will be in Paradise like this’ with ‘the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him’ – he was referring to a minor-orphan. Therefore, I and those of my siblings who have attained maturity are not orphans!


This piece is neither a tribute nor an obituary- any self-respecting Islamic scholar who knows his onions will tell you about the wrongness of issuing out an obituary. It is a presentation of my thoughts on the unpredictability of death, the difficulty of practicing what we read and preach mainly due to our own shortcomings and the corrupt environment in which we practise what we know, and the need to stick stubbornly to the teachings of Muhammad, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, in matters of religion, funeral and whatnot.


The last time I saw dad was when he attended the funeral of my father-in-law in Kaduna about nine days before he passed away. He was able to take part in the janaazah rites even before I and my wife arrived. I met him in Kaduna on his way out of my in-laws’ compound after offering his condolences to my mother-in-law.  The hand-shake lasted eternity for he held my hand for quite some time, trying to give an update on the house he was building in Damchi, our village in Potiskum, Yobe State. I said eternity because it was so inconveniencing standing with him right in the middle of the compound; the house was so crowded that you had to constrict your body to avoid touching female mourners. But he was hastening to leave, to pass on to me his final and last instructions as he had stayed there for more than three hours before our arrival from Abuja. I kept wondering why he insisted on conversing with me under the above situation, but his death on Sunday 4th March, 2013 provided the answer. He performed ablution for Maghrib (post sunset) prayers when he suddenly collapsed, was taken to a hospital in Fika where he later died around 10pm that evening.


He did not complain of any ailment. He went to maintain and strengthen the bond of kinship among his brethren; an act enjoined by the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. And the last thing he performed was purifying himself in readiness to offer the Maghrib prayers. Alhamdu lillah, Islam teaches that dying while doing a good deed is one of the signs of a good end.


Jaabir, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, said: ‘Every ‘abd (servant of Allah) will be resurrected doing the same thing upon which he died.’


Huthayfah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that he braced Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, to his chest; and he, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, told him: ‘He who says, ‘Laa ilaaha illallaah’ seeking by that Allah’s Face, and his deeds are sealed with it (as his last deed), enters Jannah; he who fasts one day, seeking by that Allah’s Face, and his deeds are sealed with it, enters Jannah; and he who gives charity, seeking by that Allah’s Face, and his deeds are sealed with it, enters Jannah.’


Also, Anas, Abu Umaamah, Abu ‘Inabah, and ‘Amr Bin al-Hamq, may Allah be pleased with them all, reported that Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, said: ‘When Allah wills good for a servant of His, He purifies him; He directs him to doing a good deed before death, so that those around him are pleased with him. He then takes away his life while he is doing it.’


Since he died in faraway Yobe, we felt the need to go and condole our uncles and aunts who were first to bear the calamity of the death of a brother who came to maintain the ties of kinship between him and his relatives. Some people thought that my step-mother should travel with us, and felt strongly about it – how can your husband die in your home town, his body was not brought to you, and you are prevented from going to see his grave? Perhaps they forgot or did not know that a widow has to mourn her husband for a period of four months and ten days (Qur’an 2:234). Yes, she can go out for whatever is necessary like her office, market place, hospital, etc., but travelling out to Yobe, for example, is not what a widow is allowed to do until the lapse of the mourning and waiting period. Therefore, my step-mother had to remain behind.


When we returned from Yobe, we joined other mourners at the family house in Unguwar Shanu, Kaduna, my adopted city and home. People kept coming to show kindness and to console us in our distress. The purpose of condolence is to reduce the sorrow of the afflicted family, help them to be patient and submissive to Allah. Whatever anybody says in this connection is good provided it does not conflict with the Sunnah. And the visit should be brief. Staying for hours and constraining the bereaved family to get you food is beyond the boundaries of good conduct. I will revert to this later.


Usamah Bin Zayd, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that one of the Messenger’s daughters sent someone to summon him because a child of hers was dying. He, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, told the envoy to say salaam to her and tell her: ‘To Allah belongs what He took, and to Him belongs what He gave. Everything is (recorded) with Him for an appointed term. So let her be patient and seek Allah’s reward (for her affliction).’


Now, for example, where do we get this prevalent way of consoling the family of the deceased by asking those present to recite Al Fatihah, 10 times, Inna A’daina, 10 times, Qul Huwa, each with a separate Bismillah, 10 times? Some will end this series of recitals by saying, may the reward of all we’ve recited go to the departed, or words of similar import. I met a group of ‘ulamaa with various copies of the Qur’an, sitting in a circle and each one of them was reading silently. After a while, their leader offered a general prayer in which he said: ‘O Allah, we have now read Your Glorious Qur’an from cover to cover three times for the repose of the soul of late Alhaji Muhammadu. O Allah, grant him the reward of this recitation in his grave.’ Subhaanallah! These were well intentioned acts that sadly bear no benefit. More on that later, in shaa Allah.


Well, if I and any of the offspring of late Alhaji Muhammadu were to offer such prayer, father will benefit from it because we are a continuation of him, and part of what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, clearly mentioned to be recorded in favour of the dead – unceasing charity, useful knowledge or a child supplicating for the parent. Even on this, it is better for the children of the deceased to ask Allah to include them in whatever reward He will give to their late father than to exclude themselves and entreat Him to grant the reward to the dead. What is with Allah is enough to go round. He, the Almighty, can give all without stint from His inexhaustible resource.


The Glorious Qur’an teaches that ‘man can have nothing but what he strives for’ (Najm 53:39). In his commentary to this verse, Ibn Katheer said: ‘Just as man will not bear the sin of others; he will not as well benefit from their righteousness, except what he has done for himself.’


On account of this also, Imam Ash Shaafi’eey and those who share his position said: ‘Offering the reward of recitation of the Qur’an to the dead does not benefit them as that is not part of their deeds. That is why the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, did not sanction this to his Ummah. He did not encourage them to do anything of that sort even by a single text. None of the Sahaabah (his companions) was ever reported to have offered the reward of their recitation to the dead. If there was any good in doing so, they would have preceded us in it…’


We announce a person’s death for the purposes of inviting people to perform the necessary rites for the deceased, like washing, shrouding, and praying janaazah. When making such announcements, it is recommended to ask the Muslims to seek Allah’s forgiveness for him. This is called the permissible Na’y. This permissibility in announcing the death of a Muslim would become prohibited where ‘it is done in a blunt manner reflecting dissatisfaction with Allah’s decree, excessive praise of the deceased, or an invitation (even implicit or subtle) to the people to wail over him’.


General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, GCFR, former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, had, on Friday, January 29th, 2010, signed a public notice, published in some national dailies, including the LEADERSHIP, for the ‘cancellation of the forty-day fida’u prayer in memory of late Maryam Babangida.’ In the first paragraph of the notice IBB said: “My Family and I wish to notify all our friends, well-wishers and our fellow compatriots who visited our Residence to console and condole (with) us that the forty-day fida’u prayer for my beloved late wife will not hold because it is not obligatory. We would rather request you all to recall her good deeds and pray for the repose of her soul in Jannatul Firdaus whenever you remember her.


I wrote a piece then on this page concerning the above cancellation in which I said: ‘By this public notice, IBB has shown the way out of wrong beliefs and practices in funeral matters to families of heads of government and people of means in our society. IBB’s message was succinct and mild. His phraseology, choice of words, in describing fida’u as ‘not obligatory’ is understandable; given his experience, sagacity and his witnessed-by-all position as an elder statesman, he will not suffer the resurrection of heated discourse on the occasion of the demise of his beloved consort. The issue, actually, is not that of obligation (Fard) or supererogation (Sunnah); it is outright innovation!’


Many Muslims of our time are not taught the true form of Islam emanating from the sources of sound teachings of this religion – the Book of Allah, and the Sunnah of His Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him and the understanding of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH). This omission has led numberless of Muslims into ‘wrong beliefs and practices (or bid’ahs), which are usually based on weak hadiths, misinterpretations, imitation of disbelievers, non-Islamic cultural values, etc.


‘The Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, had conveyed Allah’s message unto mankind without omission or addition. His companions were his first addressees and recipients of his teachings. Nobody can claim a better understanding of the import of the Prophets’ instructions than his companions. There is absolutely no account from the text or the practice of the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, to support fida’u of 8th day, 40th day or even annual remembrances and prayers. ‘During the Prophet’s life time, his wife Khadijah, his son Ibrahim, his three daughters (Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Zaynab), his uncle Hamzah, his cousin Ja’far, and many of his companions, may Allah be pleased with them, died or were killed. Yet, we have no reports of him performing’ any fida’u for them. The companions of the Prophet were never reported to have conducted any such prayer for him or for any person whatsoever; if it was a good thing to do, they would have preceded us in doing it.


Even the word fida’u (which actually means ransom) is a misnomer that slowly crept into the lexicon of Nigerian Muslims. But our newspapers are replete with paid advertisements of fida’u, and whatnot. What is more disheartening is the annual fida’u prayers organised by some families for the repose of the soul of a deceased member. This is part of the practice of the disbelievers conducted in the name of Islam under the auspices of some so-called Muslim scholars. Well, we all know anyone could label himself a sheikh or ustaaz; it is particularly for this reason that a group of ignoramuses can go on YouTube and declare war on Nigerians. You call them Boko Haraam, they are evil and far from Islaam.


The period of mourning, in Islam, does not exceed 3 days. The Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, said, “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn over a dead person more than three days – except for her husband, where she mourns for four months and ten days. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 2 – Funerals, Janaa’iz, Hadith no. 371)


If the allowed period for mourning the dead is confined to only 3 days according to the Prophet’s instruction, on what basis are people wasting money on paid advertorials, and electronic media air-time heralding the 8th, 40th or annual fida’u prayers for the deceased? The resources expended in these types of gatherings could be put to better use in augmenting the maintenance of the widows and payment of school fees for the orphans left behind by the deceased. Note that when the Prophet said three days of mourning, he did not mean that you should have recitation of the Quran on the third day or any other day for that matter; the import is to ensure that no one mourns beyond three days for the death of another. Those who did not heed this binding instruction are the ones who started this fiasco of 8th day and 40th day ‘prayers’. How does one worship his Creator with what He forbids?!


‘Abdullah bin Ja’far, may Allah be pleased with them, reported that the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon, allowed the family of Ja’far three days (of mourning), then came to them and said: “Do not weep over my brother after this day.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 28. Combing the Hair. Hadith no. 4, 180)


‘It is recommended for the relatives and neighbours to make for the deceased’s family enough food to suffice them during the peak of their distress. When Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon, learnt about the demise of Ja’far, he recommended: “Make food for Ja’far’s family, because a matter has occurred diverting them (from normal life).” (Abu Dawud, Book 14, Funerals, Hadith no 3, 126)


Ash-Shaafi’, may Allah be pleased with him said: ‘I recommend for the deceased’s neighbours or relatives to make food for the deceased’s family that would suffice them during the day and night of death. That is a Sunnah and a thoughtful good act, and is the practice of the generous people before and after us.’


‘Today, people are not informed about this Sunnah; doing the exact opposite is the vogue – the family of the deceased are required to provide food for people during the period of mourning, and beyond. In short some ‘mourners’ will camp in the deceased family’s residence until the 40th day fida’u prayer. Thus, bereavement has another calamity attached to it in our society today: unnecessary financial expenditure!’ There are professional mourners who hang around houses of bereaved families; they sit there all day long making the bereaved incur extra expenses by feeding them and generally becoming a nuisance by wailing intermittently to show their artificial grief.


I left Kaduna after the 3rd day of father’s death. His instructions were clear – no fida’u, 8th, 40th or whatever prayer. Honouring him is in obeying his last wish which is in line with the Qur’an (Baqarah 2:180-181) and Sunnah. You should leave this legacy to members of your family, reminding them of Allah, directing them to take care of your obligations after your death, and observing the Sunnah in your funeral rites. If they deviated in following what you instructed, Allah will not take to task for whatever they did after your death.


Now, if you do not instruct them and they do otherwise, the blame would be on you even as you are in your grave. The messenger of Allah (informed us that some departed souls would be tormented in their graves as punishment for the conduct of their families which was occasioned by their own negligence while they lived.


“The one upon whom people wailed would be punished”. Recorded by Al Bukhari, Muslim and others. Anas the son of Maalik narrated these words to Hafsah, the daughter of Umar, the second Khaleefah. She was wailing when Umar died of stab wounds and Anas had to remind her of the danger of that.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

IBB AND FIDA’U PRAYERS


                                            General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida

                 
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, GCFR, former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, had, on Friday, January 29th, 2010, signed a public notice, published in some national dailies, including the Leadership, for the ‘cancellation of the forty-day fida’u prayer in memory of late Maryam Babangida.’ In the first paragraph of the notice IBB said: “My Family and I wish to notify all our friends, well-wishers and our fellow compatriots who visited our Residence to console and condole (with) us that the forty-day fida’u prayer for my beloved late wife will not hold because it is not obligatory. We would rather request you all to recall her good deeds and pray for the repose of her soul in Jannatul Firdaus whenever you remember her.”

By this public notice, IBB has shown the way out of wrong beliefs and practices in funeral matters to families of heads of government and people of means in our society. IBB’s message was succinct and mild. His phraseology, choice of words, in describing fida’u as ‘not obligatory’ is understandable; given his experience, sagacity and his witnessed-by-all position as an elder statesman, he will not suffer the resurrection of heated discourse on the occasion of the demise of his beloved consort. But the issue, actually, is not that of obligation (Fard) or supererogation (Sunnah); it is outright innovation!

                                              Late Maryam Babangida


‘The general masses of Muslims in our time are far from the true and sound understanding of Islam deriving from Allah’s Book and His Messenger’s Sunnah. This paramount ignorance has resulted in numerous wrong beliefs and practices (or bidahs), which are usually based on weak hadiths, misinterpretations, imitation of disbelievers, non-Islamic cultural values, etc.’

Innovation in religion has been described by the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, as ‘an act of misguidance. In pages 13 to 14 of his book, Funerals – Regulations & Exhortations, published by Al-Kitaab & as-Sunnah Publishing, Arlington, Texas, Sheikh Muhammad al-Jibaly summarises the basic criteria of abhorred bidahs as follows:

a)     Any statement or action or belief that conflicts with Sunnah – even if it resulted from ijtihad (independent judgement of scholars).

b)    Any act that had been prohibited by Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, even if it is done with the intention of pleasing Allah.

c)     Any act that requires proof with a clear text or command, but has none. There is an exception to this in acts that were done continuously by a sahabi (companion of the Prophet) without objection from other sahabah.

d)    Any practice of the disbelievers that has become associated with an Islamic act of worship.

e)     Any act that some scholars – especially those of later generation – state, without an evidence, that it is recommended.

f)      Any act of worship that is only described in a weak or fabricated hadith.

g)     Excessiveness in worship.

h)    Any act of worship that is unrestricted by Allah, but people restrict it to a specific place, time, description, or number.

The Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, had conveyed Allah’s message unto mankind without omission or addition. His companions were his first addressees and recipients of his teachings. Nobody can claim a better understanding of the import of the Prophets’ instructions than his companions. There is virtually no account from the text or the practice of the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, to support fida’u of 8th day, 40th day or even annual remembrances and prayers. ‘During the Prophet’s life time, his wife Khadijah, his son Ibrahim, his three daughters (Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Zaynab), his uncle Hamzah, his cousin Ja’far, and many of his companions, may Allah be pleased with them, died or were killed. Yet, we have no reports of him performing’ any fida’u for them. The companions of the Prophet were never reported to have conducted any such prayer for him or for any person whatsoever. Even the word fida’u is a misnomer that slowly crept into the lexicon of Nigerian Muslims. But our newspapers are replete with paid advertisements of fida’u, and what not. What is more disheartening is the annual fida’u prayers organised by some families for the repose of the soul of a deceased member. This is part of the practice of the disbelievers conducted in the name of Islam under the auspices of some so-called Muslim scholars.

The period of mourning, in Islam, does not exceed 3 days. The Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, said, “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn over a dead person more than three days – except for her husband, where she mourns for four months and ten days. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 2 – Funerals, Janaa’iz, Hadith no. 371)
If the allowed period for mourning the dead is confined to only 3 days according to the Prophet’s instruction, on what basis are people wasting money on paid advertorials, and electronic media air-time heralding the 8th, 40th or annual fida’u prayers for the deceased? The resources expended in these types of gatherings could be put to better use in augmenting the maintenance of the widows and payment of school fees for the orphans left behind by the deceased.

‘Abdullah bin Ja’far, may Allah be pleased with them, reported that the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon, allowed the family of Ja’far three days (of mourning), then came to them and said: “Do not weep over my brother after this day.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 28. Combing the Hair. Hadith no. 4, 180)

‘It is recommended for the relatives and neighbours to make for the deceased’s family enough food to suffice them during the peak of their distress. When Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon, learnt about the demise of Ja’far, he recommended: “Make food for Ja’far’s family, because a matter has occurred diverting them (from normal life).” (Abu Dawud, Book 14, Funerals, Hadith no 3, 126)

Ash-Shaafi’, may Allah be pleased with him said: ‘I recommend for the deceased’s neighbours or relatives to make food for the deceased’s family that would suffice them during the day and night of death. That is a Sunnah and a thoughtful good act, and is the practice of the generous people before and after us.’

Today, people are not informed about this Sunnah; doing the exact opposite is the vogue – the family of the deceased are required to provide food for people during the period of mourning, and beyond. In short some ‘mourners’ will camp in the deceased family’s residence until the 40th day fida’u prayer. Thus, bereavement has another calamity attached to it in our society today: unnecessary financial expenditure!

This cancellation of forty-day fida’u prayer by General IBB has dealt a heavy blow to the avarice of those ‘members of my constituency’ who had, literally, sharpened their teeth to feast on the intercontinental cuisine to be served at the Hilltop Residence. These ‘government Malams’ have not conveyed the true teachings of Islam, on funeral matters, to the people; their preoccupation is to fill their stomachs and pockets to the brim at the expense of the bereaved.

Let us all do as General IBB advised, recall the good deeds of late Maryam, and pray for the repose of her soul in Jannatul Firdaus whenever we remember her.