Monday, July 26, 2010

happy fifteenth of shaban

Sha'ban: Merits, Do's, and Dont's
The Fast Of 15th Shaban (Revised opinion of Mufti Taqi Usmani)


jubayr said...

you know i was having a discussion about 15th shaban with some friends and family as it relates to predestination vs. free will and all that jazz.

so from what i understand, the basix of 15th shaban is that Allah (swt) determines what people's lot will be for the next "muslim fiscal year," as one aunty put it.

but if Allah is writing our provisions out for the next year doesn't that then suggest that our lives are predetermined.

i always like raising this question because it's one of the oldest theological debates in Islam, and it still hasn't been settled.

none of the responses i received satisfied my question, but my mother-in-law raised something else that i thought was pretty provocative.

she said that when she lived in Texas the whole community would celebrate it. but when they got a new imam fresh out the madrasa he did all he could to shut it down because it's not orthodox, and instead has more popular, sufi or folk origins.

my mother-in-law was emphasizing that the intellectual and theological implications of the day were less important than the social aspect of it. it was an exercise in community building, so what's wrong with.

i found her response pretty humbling, and exceptionally brilliant. the social aspect of religious practices needs to be considered an important part of popular theological activity. i wouldn't completely disregard the intellectual aspects of theological inquiry, but how religious practice acquires meaning really goes beyond dogmatic or intellectual formulation by authoritarian or elitist persons and institutions divorced from the masses.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Asalam-alaikum, I hope the month finds you well and thanks for stopping by.

I think you are right that if we assume that Allah measures out what will happen each year then our lives are strongly pre-determined in some sense. I wouldn't just make that argument based on celebrations on the 15th of Shaban but many other statements in the Quran and hadith which explain and clarify Allah's power and control over the creation and our weakness with respect to the same.

Before you even get to holidays, you can even point to simple customs like saying "inshaAllah" when talking about the future. Or even saying Jazakallahukhair (may Allah give you the best reward) instead of "thank you" when someone does you a favor.

I'm not sure if I would say that the issue is really unsettled. I mean, if you are Sunni then you can look up the very old explanations of Imam Ashari or Imam Maturidi on this subject. While the Shia have their own different explanations. (For the Shia, since they say that God wanted Ali to have been the caliph instead of Abu Bakr, they obviously have to have a different concept of pre-destination to explain that).

I think your mother in-law made a good point about the social aspect. And if every once in a while a masjid/islamic center wants to have a dhikr/ibada night on a regular basis that wouldn't be a bad thing.

But with the 15th of Shaban my understanding is that even if the hadith which supports treating the night as special may have some weakness, some scholars say that that is actually ok in order to justify nafl acts of worship.

jubayr said...

it's been a while since i've investigated these theological debates, so you're right on the question of whether or not this question has been settled.

thanks for the pointers.

i do think, however, that the lesson in popular theology that my mother-in-law gave me adds another dimension to the debate, and in a way vindicates the idea that the question is unsettled.

in my experience, references to the power of Allah that are expressed through the concept and notions of predestination are excuses not to take responsibility for becoming involved in the process of history.

let me be more concrete. i've spent a lot of time organizing around Palestine and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Muslim community.

i can't tell you how many times i've heard "whatever Allah wills" as a response and excuse to not become involved in the struggles to defend the ummah.

despite the scholarly consensus that humanity maintains its free will alongside the 'ilm of Allah, the social reality based on mass activity of Muslim peoples (at least in my communities) has forged a different living consensus about this theological debate; one that argues quite the opposite.

for me, if ideas do not come to life, then they are merely dead word written on dead trees.

the argument could be made that there are Muslim peoples engaged in struggle, but maybe not in the places i've called home. i can concede that, but then i think that just lends credence to the notion that these matters are far from settled... because practical activity has not settled it.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

I think your point about politics and philosophy is interesting and is probably valid psychologically. But I would actually argue that ultimately the issues are independent. What I mean is, regardless of whether our actions are pre-determined or whether there is free will, we should still do our best to do the right thing. One issue really doesn't affect the other.