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The Ideology behind ISIS Banning Traditional Taraweeh Prayers and Celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr: Ibn-e-Taimiya and Abdul Wahhab's Arguments against All Celebrations in Islam

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

29 July, 2015

This year, the ISIS or DAESH completely banned Celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, the most sacred Islamic festival, in its territory. They argued, “Eid (a festival which fosters love and peace) was never a part of Islam”. Clearly, this argument is along the line of thinking of ISIS’s self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who once proclaimed: “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a single day. It has always been a religion of war and strife”. (Incidentally, Indian Ulema, as Ulema elsewhere, did not condemn or even oppose this statement.) In fact, any festival of love, peace, mercy and harmony has never been a part of the Islam that ISIS and its affiliates profess and practice. Hence, they could not tolerate anyone celebrating Eid and rejoicing in its festivities, particularly in Iraq and Nigeria.

Notably, when the self-styled caliph of extremist Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, resisted the celebration of Eid, disassociating Islam from its spirituality, he gave us clear signs. He made us understand that those vehemently opposed to the concept of celebration in Islam are on the path of al-Baghdadi’s Jihadism, not of Prophet Muhammad’s Islam. It is important to understand that the terror outfit ISIS and its affiliates are far more than ‘Muslim militants’ or just ‘political Islamists’. They have larger and more dangerous aims for which they have harnessed their allies such as Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Jabhat ul Nasra in Syria and others in different parts of Arabia. They aim at establishing a ‘Kharijite state’, and not an ‘Islamic state’. For all their barbarism and violent extremism in the Muslim lands, the one and only ideology can be held responsible; the Kharjism.

However, the mainstream Muslims did not give up their traditional and age-old Islamic practice. As a result, the ISIS jihadists, the followers of the ultra-puritanical, retrogressive and dangerous extremist Kharijites, marked Eid-ul-Fitr with fierce attacks in Iraqi Muslims offering Eid prayer or engaging in its celebration, in any way.  According to news reports, merely in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 people gathered at a marketplace to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The Daesh (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks that resulted into the killing of 80 people, including children. Some local Arab news outlets reported that as many as 180 people have been killed. "We have 35 martyrs and more than 70 wounded," said Mohammed Jawad al-Hamadani, a council member in Diyala province, the AFP news agency reported. Similar brutal attacks in Khan Bani Saad, about 20 miles northeast of Baghdad, vandalized several Islamic buildings, crushing people who were celebrating Eid al-Fitr, following the end of the month of Ramadan.

Earlier, the hardcore and puritanical Jihadist cult, ISIS had banned the traditional Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan on similar religious grounds. It is worth reflecting that both beautifully spiritual practices, Eid and Taraweeh, are vehemently opposed by the IS, while the mainstream Islamic scholars unanimously agree upon their religious legality. Now, it is not difficult to see how the religion of the ISIS jihadists goes completely against the spirit of the mainstream Muslims. Concisely, al-Baghdadi’s faith is at the loggerheads with the Prophet Muhammad’s Islam.

According to Kurdish news source Rudaw, ISIS issued a warning to the residents of its occupied lands to strictly abstain from the prayers of Eid. The warning was a direct result of ISIS scholars’ opinion that such a practice never existed during the time of the prophet Mohammed (pbuh). They claimed that the practice was a fad invented by Saudis. Consequently, ISIS flogged nearly eight Arab sheiks, who had dared to challenge the ban, publicly.

Not only Eid, ISIS and the ilk have an acute problem with every celebration, be it greater Eid, Eid ul Fitr, or lesser Eid, Eidul Adha, not to speak of festivals of other faith traditions. The reason is not difficult to see. All these celebrations in Islam are harbinger of love, peace, compassion, tolerance, pluralism and the values of diversity that they cannot emulate. This is precisely why the radical outfit warned Muslim residents of Iraq not to engage in any way in the celebration of Eid al-Fitr at the end of the month of Ramadan.

However, the self-styled ‘Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen’ (Muslim caliph) Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s utterance that “Eid has no basis in the original Islamic practice” stands indefensible, untenable and crooked. The global consensus of Muslim Ummah is that the Prophet Muhmmad (pbuh) introduced the Eid festival in Islam, with an aim to spread the spirit of peace, reconciliation, compassion, brotherhood and equality among peoples irrespective of cast and creed. The institution of Eid marks the Prophet’s efforts to spread social cohesiveness and solidarity. When the Prophet (pbuh) migrated from his birthplace, Mecca to the city of Madinah, he strongly felt the need for a feast that could help promote peace, unity, charity, brotherhood, equality and deep humane emotions. On receiving the divine inspiration, Prophet (pbuh) announced: "Almighty Allah has granted two blessed Eids: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha” (Abu Dawud, "Salat", 245; Nisai, "Idayn", 1). In addition, the vital significance of Eid is that Muslims the world over celebrate the end of Ramadan with it. The day of Eid is also counted as the first day of the sacred Islamic month, Shawwal.

Nevertheless, the hapless Muslim dwellers of the Arab lands occupied by the ISIS did not have the joy of celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr this year. Regrettably, these lands have witnessed grave violation of human rights and universal Islamic values due to Baghdadi’s misrepresentation of Islam and misinterpretation of the Quran. This resulted into the inhuman and un-Islamic ban on the Eid celebration. It is substantial evidence that the ISIS’s ideology of Islam has no roots in the age-old traditional Islam, professed by the mainstream Muslims the world over. Similarly, the ultra-radical ban on the prayers and festivities of Eid is antithetical to the established traditions of the holy Prophet (pbuh).

The first Islamist ideologue who formed a theological ground to ban celebrations of any kind was the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah. He declared, for the first time in the Islamic history, an uncompromised war on the concept of celebration in Islam terming it ‘Bidah’ (an unlawful innovation in Islam).  His Fatwas opposed the age-old Islamic tradition of celebrating the Eid-e-Milad (Prophet’s birthday), the Urs celebration (Sufi saints’ birthdays) and visitation of the holy shrines, including that of the Prophet himself.  Ibn Taimiyya denounced all these celebrations declaring them ‘blind imitation of the Christian worship’ and despised them as different forms of ‘idolatry’.

Walking in the "puritanical" path of Ibn Taymiyyah, Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder-ideologue of Wahhabism, declared the notion of celebration in Islam as null and void. He not only despised it as Haram (forbidden) and Bidah (unlawful innovation), rather, he went some steps ahead and stated that anyone who even entertains ‘doubt or hesitation’ in his or her acknowledging this particular narrative of Islam is Mubah al-Dam (whose blood is allowed to be shed) and Wajib ul Qatl (whose killing is mandatory). This was the first time when the practice of celebration was declared bad enough to deprive a man of immunity of his property and life. Since then, the hardcore followers of the Takfiri doctrine, influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn  Abd al-Wahhab, began to hate and kill the fellow Muslims as ‘Mushriks’ (infidels) should they engage in the celebration of any kind. The adherents of the puritanical, radical Wahhabism/Kharjism thus banned all eventful occasions permitted and practiced in Islam, including religious festivals, spiritual celebrations, Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and even the events of Isaal-e-Sawab (invocation for the dead loved ones) pilgrimages to the holy shrines, special Islamic sites and mosques.

Clearly, there is no distinction between Wahhabism and ISIS in this respect, as in several others. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s order to wantonly kill all those who celebrated Eid was no different from Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s fatwa that whosoever engages in the above-mentioned celebrations “should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated”. Including non-Muslims, the list of celebrators deserving to be killed included the Sufis, the Shias and other Muslim sects, whom Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab declared Kafirs and Mushriks (unbelievers and infidels) and Wajib ul Qatl (deserving to be beheaded). Is the ISIS’s cruelty of flogging the celebrators of Eid not based on the same theological ground?  Similarly, is al-Baghdadi’s self-proclaimed caliphate not completely identical to Ibn Abdul Wahhab's doctrine of "One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque”?

Now, of course, it is very plain to understand why Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the extremist Jihadists vehemently banned the celebration of Eid and killed Muslims praying during the Eid. It was abhorred by al-Baghdadi because it was a prime time for the Muslim world to reclaim the essential messages of Islam: love, in place of hatred; patience, in place of anger; forbearance, in place of warfare; coexistence and inclusiveness, in place of exclusivism and intolerance; and pluralism, in place of supremacism.

At the end of this story, I would want to reproduce quite a relevant and a moving excerpt from Harun Yahya's, popularly known as Mr. Adnan Oktar, Live Conversation on A9TV dated February 5, 2015:

“There is the kind of Islam advocated by ISIS and the Islam we preach. The world embraces the Islam that we preach but the world responds to the Islam preached by ISIS via airstrikes. This is not the kind of Islam that people can live by. Nevertheless, the Islam we preach will save the world... (In this Islam) there is love, peace, brotherhood, goodness, beauty, arts, aesthetics. Women are made as pearls in men’s crowns. Women are free, kids are free, young boys are free. There is joy everywhere. But in the traditionalist, ultra-orthodox conception of Islam, everything is grave, everywhere is a place of torment, having just enough to keep body and soul together, it is the other name of devastation.... (According to this mindset) beheading, butchering, cutting off a man’s head and showing it around are considered 'normal'. Blood is everywhere; there is starvation, misery, cries everywhere. Hunger, misery, obnoxious, un-aesthetic scenes, corruption; these are the horrible things peculiar to a great majority of ultra-orthodox Islam.”

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur'anic sciences from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P. and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and has done his M. A. in Comparative Religions & Civilisations and a double M.A. in Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.