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The significance of the month of Rajab (2)
IN a tradition of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu anhu, reported by both al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Holy Prophet said: "Fara' is nothing and 'Atirah is nothing."
Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu anhu, has explained in the same tradition that 'Fara" was the first child of a she-camel. Whenever a she-camel delivered its first child, the Arabs used to sacrifice it in the name of their so-called gods, while the 'Atirah' was a goat used to be sacrificed in the month of Rajab. Since the Holy Prophet stopped both these customs, 'Atirah is no longer a recognised practice.
'Umrah in the month of Rajab
Ibn 'Abidin, the well-known scholar of the Islamic jurisprudence, has mentioned that the people of Makkah (in his days) used to perform 'umrah in the month of Rajab. Perhaps they believed that performing 'umrah in this month is more meritorious than in other months. Then Ibn Abidin himself has rejected the authenticity of this practice, because no tradition of the Holy Prophet is found to this effect.
Conversely Sayyidah 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, has expressly negated the presumption by saying that the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallamnever performed an 'umrah in the month of Rajab (Sahih Muslim 1:409)
However, Ibn 'Aibidin has quoted a narration that 'Abdullah ibn Zubair, Radi-Allahu anhu, completed the renovation of Ka'bah shortly before 27th of Rajab, and as a sign of gratefulness he performed 'umrah and slaughtered some animals. But this report cannot form the basis of a recognized annual practice, firstly because the report is not very authentic, and secondly because it does not mention that Abdullah ibn Zubair, Radi-Allahu anhu, had adopted it as a continuing practice. At the most, he performed 'umrah once as a sign of gratefulness on the completion of Ka'bah. It does not mean that he performed it as a characteristic of the month of Rajab. Therefore, performing 'Umrah in this month is like performing it in any other month and no special merit can be attached to it merely because it has been performed in the month of Rajab.
The Salat of "Ragha'ib"
Another special mode of worship attributed by some people to this month is the Salat of Raghai'b.
According to the custom of such people, this Salat is performed in the night of first Friday of the month of Rajab. The Salat of Raghaib is said to consist of 12 rak'ats to be performed in pairs with six salams, and in each rak'at the surah al-qadr is recited three times followed by the Surah-al-ikhlas. This type of Salat is also not based on any sound source of Shari'ah. Therefore, almost all the jurists and scholars of Shari'ah have held that the Salat of Raghaib is a baseless practice and it is not permissible to treat it as a recognised practice of this month. It is true that there is a tradition, narrated by Razin, the author of a book of hadith, which attributes the origin of this practice to the Holy Prophet but almost all the scholars of the science of hadith have held it to be absolutely unauthentic. Therefore, no importance can be attached to it.
Distribution of Breads:
Another baseless practice in the month of Rajab is that the people bake special types of breads and, after reciting some verses and prayers on them, distribute them among their friends and neighbors. This custom has two different shapes.
In some communities, this custom is celebrated on 17th of Rajab on the assumption that Sayyidna Ali, Radi-Allahu anhu, was born on 11th of Rajab and the 17th of Rajab is the day on which his 'Aqiqa (Shaving of his head) was performed. In order to celebrate this happy event, the breads of some special type are prepared and after reciting Surah Al-Mulk on them, they are distributed among the relatives and friends. These breads are generally called "breads of Tabarak" because Surah Al-Mulk is usually recited on them.
This practice is baseless because it is never proved that Sayyidna Ali, was born on 11th of Rajab or that his Aqiqa was performed on 17th of this month and, as explained earlier, even if these events are proved to have happened in those days, their commemoration through these specific rituals is not warranted by the Shari'ah.
A more common practice of this type is observed on 22nd of Rajab whereby some breads and meals of a special type are prepared and distributed among the people. Since these special meals are usually placed in some bowls made of clay, the custom is usually known as "Koonda", an Urdu equivalent of such bowls. It is usually believed that the custom is designed to make 'isal-al-thawab to the soul of Sayyidna Jafar Al-Sadiq who himself has directed his followers to observe this custom and has promised them that whoever observes it, his desires will be fulfilled.
All these assumptions also have no basis at all, neither historically, nor according to the principles of Shari'ah. In fact, the date of 22nd of Rajab has no concern whatsoever with Sayyidna Jafar al-Sadiq, Rahimah-u-Allah. According to the historians, he was born on 8th of Ramadan 80 A.H. and died in Shawwal 148 A.H. No specific event of the life of Sayyidna Jafar al-Sadiq is proved to have happened on this date.
Briefly stated, the gist of the story is that a poor woodcutter lived in Madinah in the days of Jafar Al-Sadiq. He went abroad to earn his livelihood. His wife was employed in the house of the Prime Minister.
Once she was cleaning the courtyard of the Prime Minister when Sayyidna Jafar al-Sadiq passed by her. It was 22nd of Rajab. He advised her to bake some breads of a special type and make 'isal-al-sawab to him. According to this story, he promised her that if her desire is not fulfilled after this practice, she can catch hold of him at the doom's day. On hearing this, the woman made a vow that if her husband will come back with a considerable wealth, she will observe the custom of "Koonda". On the same day her husband, who was in another country, found a valuable treasure in the earth and came back with it to Madinah where he established himself as a rich man and started living in a magnificent castle. When his wife told the story to the wife of the Prime Minister, she disbelieved her and because of this disbelief, she and her husband, the Prime Minister, were punished by Allah. He was removed by the king from the Prime Minister-ship and was imprisoned in a jail and was ordered to be hanged. While being in the prison, the wife of the Prime Minister remembered that she had disbelieved the story of Jafar al-Sadiq told to her by her maidservant and their misery might be the punishment of their disbelief. On this point, she and her husband repented before Allah and made a vow to observe the custom of "Koonda", if they are released from the jail. After they made such a vow, the whole scenario of the events changed suddenly. The king released the Prime Minister from the jail and reinstated him on his former position.
As it can be seen by any reasonable person, this story is totally forged on the face of it. The person who has coined this story did not even know that Madinah had never a king nor a Prime Minister. All the Muslim rulers were named as caliphs and had no Prime Minister at all. In the days of Umayyads, their capital was Damascus and in the days of Abbasids, their permanent seat was in Baghdad.
It is ironical that the story of such a woodcutter is not even known to anybody in Madinah, nor in any city of the Arab countries. No Arabic book has ever referred to it. It has no mention except in an Urdu book 'Dastaan-e-Ajeeb', the author of which is unknown. One can easily see that a custom based on such a fallacious and mythical story can never be an Islamic custom. Islam has always been far away from such superstitions.
Therefore, this baseless custom should completely be avoided by the true Muslims. Some historians have opined that in fact, this custom has been coined by some Shi'ites because the date of 22nd of Rajab is the date of the demise of Sayyidna Mu'awiyah whom they take as their biggest enemy. They took that date as a happy occasion and made the Sunni Muslims also to celebrate it on the pretext of the above mentioned story.
Be that as it may, it is evident that such customs have crept into the Muslim society by their long association with Hindus who commemorate different historical events of their religion in the like manner.
The Muslims must be careful about these customs, because they are not only an invention of ignorance but also the imitation of non-Muslims in their religious rituals. No doubt the "'isal-al-thawab' to the soul of a deceased Muslim, and particularly to a pious person is not only permissible but also a commendable practice but the Shari'ah has not prescribed a particular date, nor a particular mode to do so.
If someone wants to make "isal-al-thawab" to Sayyidna 'Ali, Radi-Allahu anhu, or to Ja'far al-Sadiq, he can do it any day and by performing any act of worship, like Salat, fast, Sadaqah, dhikr etc.
(To be continued)