Questions about the Hadra


I would like to ask you questions on the commonly practised tradition of Hadrah as performed by some of the tariqa's within the branch of sufism. I have also observed that in some tariqa the hadra is performed with certain bodily movement whereas in some it is done whilst in the sitting position.

Is the practice of hadrah in accordance with the sunna? when did this practise start and who started? what is the purpose of this practise and what are the benefits? Is this practise widespread through the muslim ummah? Is this practise approved by well known scholars, if so who are they? What is the wisdom of performing the hadrah with bodily movement (jumping etc)

The correct person to ask about this would be someone versed in a Sufi Tariqa which practices the Hadra. However, since the questions are simple and their answers are for the most part accessible to every traditional Muslim, I will attempt to address them from a Hadra- culture perspective, although my replies may be tinged with elements that are, strictly speaking, extraneous, for which I apologize in advance to those who are more knowledgeable.
Is the practice of hadrah in accordance with the sunna?
Yes, the practice of Hadrah is in accordance with the Sunna according to the authorities who wrote about it through the centuries and they produced proofs which, to any observer of good will, should be sufficient to show that the Hadrah is lawful.

Even the hypersunnistic detractors of the Hadrah are forced to agree that any (physical) movement or (verbal) ejaculation which stems from an (involuntary) emotional state of elation toward Allah Most High is excused even if it contravenes the Law, such as certain utterances made famous, among others, by our liege-lord Abu Yazid al-Bistami, may Allah sanctify his secret. Ibn Taymiyya wrote about this in lenient terms and adduced the hadith: "The Pen of the Law is lifted from the sleeper and the person who is not in a normal mental state" (Majmuʿ al-Fatawa, volume on Tasawwuf).
when did this practise start and who started?
This is essentially a poorly-phrased or poorly-conceived question, since it is designed to mislead at the root, the reason being that, in light of the first question, the issue is not "when" this practice started and "who" started it - which is of secondary, historical interest - but whether its principle is rooted in the Qur'an and the Sunna or not.

Allah Most High said of His sincere remembers: { Then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah } (39:23).

Our liege-lord ʿAli, Allah be well-pleased with him, said:

"I visited the Prophet, Allah bless and greet him, with Jaʿfar (ibn Abi Talib) and Zayd (ibn Haritha). The Prophet, Allah bless and greet him, said to Zayd: "You are my freedman" (anta mawlay), whereupon Zayd began to hop on one leg around the Prophet (hajala). The Prophet, Allah bless and greet him, then said to Jaʿfar: "You resemble me in my creation and my manners" (ashbahta khalqi wa- khuluqi), whereupon Jaʿfar began to hop behind Zayd. The Prophet, Allah bless and greet him, then said to me: "You are part of me and I am part of you" (anta minni wa-ana mink) whereupon I began to hop behind Jaʿfar."

He also said of the Companions as a whole:

"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 and heedless." Abû Nuʿaym, Hilya (1985 1:76, 10:388).

The simile of swaying trees is reminiscent of the Prophetic hadith "The one who mentions or remembers Allah among those who forget Him is like a green tree in the midst of dry ones."

So then, both from the perspective of the Sunna and that of historical chronology, it is a practice of the Believers extolled by the Qur'an, practiced by three of the first and foremost of Ahl al- Bayt, observed by the Door of the City of Knowledge as characteristic of the Prophetic Companions, Allah be well-pleased with them.
what is the purpose of this practise and what are the benefits?
To cast out heedlessness and signal the difference between the living (ahl al-akhira) and the dead (ahl al-dunya); to unburden the heart from worldly cares and enliven it with the Dhikr of Allah Most High with the use of the body in the same perspective as Imam al-Hasan al- Basri when he excused himself for using a sibha by saying: "I love to remember Allah Most High with my heart, my tongue, and my hand," even if the most superior dhikr of all is the first (by heart).

Abu Hurayra said that while on the road to Mecca the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, passed on top of a mountain called Jumdan, at which time he said: "Move on, for here is Jumdan which has overtaken the single-minded." They said: "What are the single-minded (mufarridūn)? He said: "The men and women who remember Allah much" (33:35). Muslim related it in his Sahih, beginning of the book of Dhikr.

The version in Tirmidhi has: "It was said: and what are the single- minded? He replied: Those who dote on the remembrance of Allah and are ridiculed because of it, whose burden the dhikr removes from them, so that they come to Allah fluttering!"

Imam al-Nawawi said in his Sharh Sahih Muslim that another narration of the same hadith has: "They are those who shake or are moved at the mention or remembrance of Allah (hum al-ladhina ihtazzu fi dhikrillah)," that is, al-Nawawi comments, "They have become fervently devoted and attached to His remembrance."

Al-Mundhiri said in al-Targhib wa al-tarhib: "The single-minded and those who dote on the dhikr and are ridiculed for it: these are the ones set afire with the remembrance of Allah."

In another explanation of mufarridun cited by Ibn Qayyim in Madarij al-Salikin, the meaning is "those that tremble from reciting dhikrullah, entranced with it perpetually, not caring what people say or do about them."
Is this practice widespread through the muslim ummah?
Most Sufi Tariqas use the Hadra or something similar, and most of the Muslim Ummah follows the teachings of Tasawwuf, so yes, one would have to say that this practice is widespread through the Muslim Umma.
Is this practice approved by well known scholars, if so who are they?
All those who wrote on poetry-audition or samaʿ addressed the movement of the body during such audition. Such discussions are found in Kitab al-Lumaʿ by Abu Nasr al-Sarraj, Ibn Khafif's ʿAqida (section on Tasawwuf), the Ihya ʿUlum al-Din, and Imam al-Dhahabi in Siyar Aʿlam al-Nubala', in his chapter on Sultan al-ʿUlama' Ibn ʿAbd al- Salam mentioned that the latter "attended the samaʿ and danced in states of ecstasy" (kana yahduru al-samaʿ wa-yarqusu wa-yatawajad). Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentions that some scholars have seen in the hadith of "hajal" (cited above) evidence for the permissibility of dancing (al-raqs) upon hearing a recital (samaʿ) that lifts the spirit. There is a lot more evidence mentioned by the Ulama.
What is the wisdom of performing the hadrah with bodily movement (jumping etc)
The same wisdom as the words of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, to the Abyssinians who displayed themselves through certain choreographed movements in the Prophetic Mosque in Madina during ʿEid: "Jump, O Banu Arfada!" while our Mother ʿA'isha was watching with his permission. Muslim narrated it in his Sahih, book of Salat al-ʿIdayn from ʿA'isha, Allah be well-pleased with her.

Sayyid Muhammad ibn ʿAlawi al-Maliki said in his book on the celebration of the Mawlid titled Hawl al-Ihtifal bi-Dhikri al-Mawlid al-Nabawi al-Sharif ("Regarding the Celebration of the Prophet's Birthday"):

"There is no doubt that such singing, dancing, reciting of poetry, and banging the drum was for joy at being with the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, nor did he condemn or frown upon such displays in any way whatsoever. These are common displays of happiness and lawful merriment. Similarly, to stand up at the mention of the birth of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, is an ordinary act that shows love and gladness symbolizing the joy of creation."

Imam Habib Mashhur al-Haddad said in Key to the Garden (p. 116), commenting on the verse already cited, {Then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah} (39:23):

"The 'softening of the heart' consists in the sensitivity and timidity that occur as a result of nearness and tajalli [manifestation of one or more divine attributes]. Sufficient is it to have Allah as one's intimate companion!

"As for the 'softening of the skin' this is the ecstasy and swaying from side to side which result from intimacy and manifestation, or from fear and awe. No blame is attached to someone who has reached this rank if he sways and chants, for in the painful throes of love and passion he finds something which arouses the highest yearning....

"The exhortation provided by fear and awe brings forth tears and forces one to tremble and be humble. These are the states of the righteous believers (abrar) when they hear the Speech and dhikr of Allah the Exalted. {Their skins shiver} (39:23), and then soften with their hearts and incline to dhikr of Him, as they are covered in serenity and dignity, so that they are neither frivolous, pretentious, noisy, or ostentatious. Allah the Exalted has not described them as people whose sense of reason has departed, who faint, dance, or jump about."

This is in short a basic documentation of the proofs of the Hadra. May Allah Most High cause us to leave and die on the path of active followership and living Dhikr of Him, not as naggers of innovation, laziness, and heedlessness.



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latest update: Sat, 9 May 2009


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