Origins of the Hadrah


Salam Sayyidi,

Is the correct understanding of Shaykh Dabbagh’s statements from al-Ibriz, regarding the Hadra? at “The Origins of the Hadra


Salam alaykum,

I addressed this issue previously, see

What Sayyidi `Abdul `Aziz al-Dabbagh (quddisa sirruh) said about the hadra not existing in the first three generations means (i) in the formal terms and fame in which it took shape and disseminated in later times and (ii) because, as his biographer Sayyidi `Ali b. al-Mubarak said of him, he was always so respectful of textual transmission (naql) and loved for spiritual unveiling (kashf) to confirm it rather than replace it, in deference to the fragile iman of his contemporaries; but both he and Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy on them) still put kashf first (see the first book of Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din on the difference between `ulama of Yaqin and `ulama of “fiqh, i.e. dunya“–his terms), as did (and do) all the Ahl al-Wilaya because it is preposterous to ask for an external chain of transmission (as Shaykh Hisham would say, “footnotes”…) when the wali‘s direct source is Rasulullah salla Allahu `alayh wa-sallam; but they do not force others to follow them in this.

The Siddiqin never force those who do not accept their wilaya or their teachings to follow them. They are not like certain prominent jurists who have known issues with tasawwuf and at times may appear to want to convert everybody to their own ijtihad, for example with a hair-raising comparison, in a contemporary Tafsir, of the Hadra to the worshipping of the Golden Calf of Banu Isra’il (may Allah forgive such su’ al-zann); or the sweeping claim about the Hadra being an invented worship and that “this is not my personal view or opinion but rather that of the majority of scholars of Islamic law throughout the ages.” I know these great `ulama well because they were my teachers in Damascus and I still love and respect them, but I (and all of my other teachers and close fellow students, and certainly all of our myriad Tariqa brethren) part ways with them when they speak ill about the Sufis. Such an act is just too costly to one’s spiritual state.

Even so, it is enough that the Knowers of Allah (`arifin) concur on the permissibility of Hadrah and their word supersedes that of the scholars of the law; and this, to take up his own words, is not my personal view but the fatwa of Sultan al-`Ulama al-`Izz b. `Abd al-Salam (Allah have mercy on him):

<<Concerning the priority of the knowers of Allah over the knowers of the Divine rulings, the saying of the teacher Abu Hamid [al-Ghazali] is agreed upon. No reasonable person doubts that the knowers of Allah… are not only better than the knowers of the Divine rulings, but also better than those of the branches and the roots of the Religion, because the rank of a science is according to its immediate object…. Most of the time scholars are veiled from their knowledge of Allah and His Attributes, otherwise they would be among the knowers of Allah whose knowledge is continuous, as befits the demand of true virtue. And how could the gnostics (`arifin) and the jurists (fuqaha’) be the same, when Allah says: {The noblest among you in the sight of Allah are the most godwary}) (49:13)?… By the “erudite” in His saying {The erudite alone among His bondsmen fear Allah} (35:28), He means those who know Him, His Attributes, and His actions, not those who know His rulings.… A sign of the superiority of the knowers of Allah over the jurists is that Allah effects miracles at the hands of the former, but never at the hands of the latter, except when they enter the path of the knowers and acquire their characteristics.>> Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Fatawa (p. 138-142).

Otherwise, as Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari said of many Sufi practices, “the modality (kayfiyya) is a bid`a but the root/principle (asl) is a Sunnah.” This applies to the Hadrah. See Hafiz al-Sakhawi’s takhrij and commentary on the very last hadith of al-Sulami’s “40 Hadiths on Sufi Principles” (Arba`in Hadithan fil-Tasawwuf), which regards dancing (al-raqs), in which al-Sakhawi said the most obvious *Sunnah proof* for hadrah is the Abyssinian-style dancing displayed in front of the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) by `Ali b. Abi Talib, Jaafar b. Abi Talib and Zayd b. Haritha (Allah be well-pleased with them) (Musnad Ahmad and Sahih Ibn Hibban).

I will also mention this report which to some of us is as if Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani (quddisa sirruh) had spoken it yesterday:

Abu Araka al-Kufi (son of the Companion Maalik b. `Aamir b. `Amroon al-Bajali), after praying the dawn prayer behind Sayyidina `Ali (Allah ennoble his face), saw him pensive and sad, then he heard him say: “I have seen a remnant of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah salla Allahu `alayhi wa-sallam. I see no one who resembles them now. By Allah! They used to rise in the morning disheveled, dust-covered, pale, with something between their eyes like a goat’s knee, having spent the night chanting the Book of Allah, turning and returning from their feet to their foreheads. When Allah Most High was mentioned *they swayed the way trees sway on a windy day*, then their eyes poured out tears until – by Allah! – they soaked their clothes. By Allah! Folks today are asleep, heedless.”

Narrated by Ibn Abi al-Dunya in al-Hathth `ala Qiyam al-Layl (1:210-211 §203), Abu Nu`aym with two chains in Hilyat al-Awliya’ (1985 ed. 1:76 and 10:388), al-Khatib in Mudih Awham al-Jam` wal-Tafriq (2:330-331), Ibn `Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (42:492), Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya (8:6-7), and Hafiz Murtada al-Zabidi in Ithaf al-Sadat al-Muttaqin (10:130).

Finally, the objectors to the Hadrah are usually fond of quoting the story of the delator from Nasibin who disturbed Imam Malik (Allah be well-pleased with him) about “some Sufis who eat a lot then start chanting then get up and dance” (see, which shows that some form of what they so kindly call “fabricated, bogus ecstasy” hadrah did exist in the third generation, since the first three generations consist in (i) the Holy Prophet and his Companions (upon him and his Family and all his Companions blessings and peace); (ii) the Successors; (iii) the post-Successors, to whose generation Imam Malik belonged! So Sayyidi `Abdul-`Aziz’s statement about the hadra not existing in the first three generations means it was not so abundant and widespread as in his time; not that it didn’t exist in absolute terms in the sense of being unheard of in the first three generations.

May Allah bless Sayyidi `Abdil-`Aziz al-Dabbagh (Allah sanctify his secret), he makes a rhetorical concession as a placebo to the people of external knowledge then he moves in for the kill – a good spiritual kill of the ego, for people who have an iota of attraction to be hugely benefited: he mentions to us something incredible, unique! namely, that the hadrah is from *awliya‘s kashf of the Dhikrullah of the angels* – Allahu akbar……. Aamanna wa-saddaqna. Who can resist such jadhba except a stone-hearted shaytan? May Allah sanctify Sayyidi `Abdul-`Aziz’s soul and raise his stations in `Illiyyin, and all our Shuyukh, Amin!

So the hadrah is from *awliya‘s kashf of the Dhikr of the angels*; and here we are still disputing… its Sunniness… – how absurd does it get with the “students of knowledge” in our time?; and then we hear the whisper that “yes, Sayyidi al-Dabbagh is such a great wali, but since he says the Hadrah did not exist in the first three generations, then surely he is implying that it is a bida`.” What is the difference between this reasoning and those who say that Dala’il al-Khayrat did not exist in the first three generations, and invoking blessings on the Prophet is worship, so reading it regularly (not spontaneously) must be an unlawful innovation? In both cases the misguidance is clear in the objection, not the thing objected to.

Such misguidance is the proof (as Sayyidi `Abdul-`Aziz himself said) that some religious knowledge is “from darkness” (zhulmani) because it is ego-based and takes us the wrong way. Such pseudo-knowledge will avail us nothing in the presence of the Awliya, or the Prophet, or Allah Most High. This is the meaning of the words of Abu Yazid al-Bistami (quddisa sirruh) to certain ulema of his time, “You are dead and taking your knowledge from the dead.” See also Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi’s warning to students of Fiqh in his time against the grave dangers of speaking ill about the Sufis and the death of the heart that may ensue in indulging such speech. Shaykh `Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi quoted this excellent text in the beginning of his book on the permissibility of musical instruments in spiritual recital (sama`) entitled Idah al-Dalalat fi Sama` al-Aalaat (Clarifying the Proofs concerning the Audition of Musical Instruments), published at Dar al-Fikr in Damascus. (If someone translated this book it would be a great service to English Muslims.) And you know those who grumble against Shaykh `Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi in our time; they are the very same as those who grumble against Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki. May Allah bless him and all His Awliya past, present and future.

Ghufranaka Rabbana wa-ilayka al-masir! May we remember Him at all times, standing, sitting, and on our sides, with ‘wajd‘ or without. Was-Salam.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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