Is there blood atonement in Islam?
BRETHREN, I remember I invited you to join me in pondering the above verse of the last testament last year. I equally remember that my invitation to you was in response, not reaction, to the news that those redoubtable elements that have held parts of this nation down since close to a decade now had done their worst again.
I remember I did seek your attention to join me in exploring the above verse with a view to knowing whether those who have turned Yobe, Borno and Adamawa into a hungry land and had roguishly made away with close to 300 girls under the cover of the night could actually be engaged in Islamically sanctioned activity. Could the forceful seizure of young, precocious and nubile girls and boys and their heinous conversion into Islam enjoy Quranic validity? Is it possible that the Almighty who has prohibited unwarranted destruction of lives and properties (Q5:32) would in the same breadth give a warrant for some among His servants to perpetrate same atrocities?
Brethren, after an excursus into and around exegetical postures of our forebears featuring such exemplars as Ibn Abbas, Ibn Kathir, Abul Ala Mawdudi among others, it is clear that since the Almighty Allah is not and would never author nor authorize confusion, it would be an infraction of the divine will for a Muslim or groups of Muslims to forcefully seize young girls and boys even in a state of war and demand their conversion into Islam. Such an action is antithetical and an anathema to the divine will. It is antithetical to the divine simply because it is by His choice that we emerged into the world, you and I, as agents capable of making free choice either to be Muslim, Christian or even ‘free-thinkers’. In fact were the whole world to bear one and one identity only, life on terrestrial earth would have lost all its glamour. Brethren, the reason we appreciate and love goodness and righteousness is simply because we recognize its antithesis- evil and immorality. You speak the truth because you know what is false; paradise would lose its appeal in the absence of hell.
But today’s sermon owes its birth to yet another incident. A week ago, I went to the university centre to process a document. Seated at the entrance of the office I ventured into were my fellow countrymen. One of them held a newspaper whose pages were ‘painted’ red with pictures of Iranians who were marking what is known in the Muslim world as the day of Ashura. I did not know how or when the ‘discussion’ started but there was no way you would have missed the subject matter- it was Islam and Muslims. One of them said: ‘These Muslims would not cease doing ‘wonders’. Look at the way they are bathing in their own blood. Is this another injunction from the Quran?” Without calling attention to my person, I sought the permission of one of the people engaged in the discussion to allow me have a look at the newspaper and the story in question. Lo and behold! the newspaper featured graphic images of Iranians who have inflicted wounds on themselves and their bodies were consequently soaked in blood. The Islamic Republic of Iran, you would remember is the bastion of the Shiite ideology in the world. Its commemorations of the Day of Ashura, the tenth day in the first month of Islamic lunar calendar, usually feature rituals the validity of which lies outside the Quran.
In other words, whereas some Shiites mark the Ashura as a day of mourning and grief based on the assumption that since the day coincided with the murder of Hussayn- one of the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w)- only an unknown ritual the like of which is equally unknown to the companions of the Prophet would befit the occasion.
The Sunni world, on the other hand, usually celebrates the Ashura as the day of victory- a day in which the Israelites were freed from ‘Fir’awn’ of Egypt. Though the killing of Hussayn took place sixty-one years after the departure of the Prophet from Makka, upholders of the Shiite doctrines in such countries as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Pakistan have continued to use the day to affirm their identity and belief in a doctrine which lacks all possible Prophetic sanction.
Desirous of dispelling ignorance, I told the group that I met at the business centre that the ritual of self-immolation or blood atonement such as the Shi’ite practice on the day of Ashura has no legal backing. I added that the practice equally constitutes a barratry of the divine will which had, since the time of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) rendered spilling of human blood as a form of worship a nugatory. I quickly closed with a footnote. I told my fellow countrymen that all acts of worship in Islam have been established by Allah in the Quran and exemplified by His Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) in the course of twenty-three years. Shiism and the Shiite
practices therefore are, as it is in legal parlance, ultra vires.
Brethren, I thought my intervention should put the discussion to a rest. But that was not to be. This is probably because life on the street admits of no closure. An elderly man who had all along presided over the discussion then said the following which to him was the summary of my intervention: ‘what you are saying is that there are many things you Muslims are doing that are against the dictates of your religion”! I paused for a moment and then sent a riposte: “Unfortunately that is true. Yes. It is true of contemporary Muslim world where Islam in the text is constantly being negated by Muslim contexts. Yes it is true. It is also true of other religions: there are many things being done in the name of, for example, Jesus Christ from which the latter would take flight should he stage his return today”!
Brethren, as I took my leave of the querulous scene, I recalled many atrocities being perpetrated by some Muslims in the name of Islam. I remember some other cultural practices that have been coded and labeled ‘Islamic” in order that they may enjoy acceptability by the uninformed section of the Muslim Ummah.
Brethren, please reflect on this: a meeting was convened between Shiites and Sunni scholars years ago. Only one Sunni Scholar attended the meeting – Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (r.a). He walked in late to the meeting holding his sandals under his armpit. The Shiite’ scholars were said to have looked at him and asked: “Why have you entered holding your sandals?” Imam Ahmad replied: “I heard that the Shiites in the Prophet’s time used to steal sandals”. So the Shiite scholars looked at one another in confusion and replied: “There was no Shiites in the Prophet’s time.” Then, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: “This ends our discussion. Where did you get your religion from? (08122465111 for texts only)