Let there be no vigil on Dec 31
I say “No” to night vigils on the 31st of December simply because that day has no spiritual nor religious significance in Islamic weltanschauung. I say “No” to night vigils on the 31st of December simply because that to dedicate that night for special worship would amount to bringing an innovation that enjoys no creedal or theological warrant into the Deen. To do so is to establish what Muslim jurists refer to as bid’ah: it is to confer validity and legality to a practice that is patently invalid. In other words, there is no biblical passage that enjoins consecrating the night of the 31st of December for special worship. There are no traditions of the Prophet of Islamnor Āthār (milestones) of his followers in which this practice enjoy credence. Keeping vigils is a practice Muslims are enjoined to keep observe every night of their lives. The Almighty says: And in some parts of the night (also) offer the Salat(prayer) with it (i.e. recite the Quran in the prayer), as an additional prayer(Tahajjud optional prayer Nawafil) for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a station of praise and glory. (Quran 17: 79)
But to sound that note of caution is not to plead ignorance of the contemporary trend where every 31st day of December is celebrated by millions of people as the ending and beginning of a new year. But I have always held that the beginning and ending of a year, instead of being a source of infantile indulgence in celebration and perfidious revelry, should be occasions for sober reflections. It should be an occasion to reflect on our journey on terrestrial earth and confront, afresh, the ephemerality of this life and the paucity of our preparation for the great beyond. Such occasions should be seized to ponder how those who came before us lived their lives andhow they succeeded in building mansions of faith that were fated to outlast them for eons and centuries.
Again, for the greatest majority, all there is to this period isthe consumption of rice and chicken. For them, all there is to this season isthe indulgence in empty goodwill and exchange of pleasantries. Let me recall two stories from the annals of those who traversed this earth centuries ago perhaps we might take heed and begin to understand the real import of this life more than we presently do.
His name is Muhammad ibn al Munkadir. One night he began to cry so profusely that members of his family got extremely worried. All attempts to console and counsel him proved abortive. His family, therefore, sought the assistance of his companion-scholar Abu Hazim to calm him down.
On arrival to Ibn al-Munkadir’s homestead, Abu Hazim asked him: ‘mybrother what has made you cry so much to the extent you have made your family worry about you?’ Muhammad then replied saying: ‘I read an ayah in the book of the Almighty and it brought me to these tears’. When he was asked what the Ayah was, Muhammad responded saying ‘it is the statement in which Almightysays: “And if those who did wrong had all that is in the earth entirely and the like of it with it, they would (attempt to) ransomthemselves thereby from the worst of the punishment on the Day of Resurrection. And there will appear to them from the Almighty that which they had not taken into account” (Quran 38: 47)
Upon hearing this Ayah, Abu Hazim also became so touched and impacted by thedeep meaning of the verse that he also started crying. Imagine the day of Qiyamahis here and you are standing in front of the Almighty. You thought you did all that was required of you while on earth. You thought you committed no infraction. You thought your account was free of sins and iniquities. But suddenly spins appear that you did not take into account; sins you neglected to atone for; sins for which your recompense was not accepted! What fate do you think await a subject in this type of situation?
IbnAbbas (r.a) says: ‘I have not seen a person that was better than Umar. While alive, he spent his nights praying. He spent his days fasting and fulfilling the needs of the Ummah. After his demise, I prayed that the Almighty should show him to me in a dream. My supplication was accepted. The Almighty showed him tome. I saw him walking through Madinah. I asked him “what did you find after death?”. Umar replied: “I have just finished being questioned. My position as ruler almost caused me to fall, except that I found a MercifulLord”
Abdullahibn Umar also saw his father in a dream and asked him how long his questioning had lasted in the grave. Umar responded saying: “it has just finished”. Abdullahthen said: “When I woke up I realized it had been 12 years since the death of’Umar”!(08122465111 for text messages only)
Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan,
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