asalaamu alaikum sisters,
Recently, a sister left me a comment on my last post about burning bakhoor to scent ones garments stating that a friend of hers told her that burning bakhoor and oud chips 9agarwood) is a shirk based on the simple fact that Catholic churches also burn resins for their holidays. This sister waned to know the history of burning oud chips and bakhoor and how Muslims adopted this tradition.
Well first, I would just like to say that the burning of bakhoor and oud chips and other resins by Muslims is in no way solely something which Muslims do. The burning of Franckincense and Myrrh resins, Agarwood chips and bakhoor is actually traditional to the Middle East which undoubtly goes back since probably the dawn of humanity! In addition to this, the burning of fragrant materials to enrich ones atmosphere is not solely a Middle Eastern thing but is found worldwide in most cultures. And why not? It cleanses the air, makes everything smell good and even helps to relax ones self.
In traditional Arabian penninsular culture and especially in Bedouin culture its traditional to burn some agarwood or bakhoor when guests come and to offer the scented smoke to each guest so they scent their hair, clothing and hands with it, this is as integral to hospitality as serving coffee and dates.
Given that this tradition is such a mainstay of Middle Eastern culture it leaves no doubt that since Christianity and Judaism were also born in the Middle East that they would have their own uses for these materials too, as its not just limited to Muslims. Arab Christians and Jews use agarwood and burn bakhoor and frankincense too. Its not a traditional though which is linked to any one nationality, culture or religion. Its just a universal tradition.
A friend of mine found me this from a Sunni discussion list; (en’shallah the author wont mind my putting it here!)
“salamu alaikoom. I used to use bakhoor always in my home but nowadays I don’t because of the price just a tiny piece of the chips are like fifty dollars. What I want to know now is the benefits in islam, and are there authentic hadiths about bakhoor? Bukhoor is the smoke of fragrance created by the burning chips of Agarwood or pieces of mix fragrant ingredients bind by sugar-syrup. When burnt slowly it produces a more concentrated smell. These chips are burnt in Bukhur burners to perfume the surrounding and clothing specifically on occasions of all seasons.
Not only Prophets of Bani Israel, but Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.), and his companions used Bukhur regularly and more specifically, on the day of Jumma.
Through the powerful Prophethood institution this Sunnat was largely promoted firstly in Arabia and afterward in the vast territory of the Muslim world. It is a tradition in the Arabian Peninsula to pass Bukhoor around to guests.
Bukhur preparation originated exclusively from the beautiful region of Yemen. It comes from the highest peak of Yemen, Shibaam, where the famous shrine of the celebrated Sirat-biographer and historian, Syedna Idris Imaduddin is located. According to the valuable source of “Qaratees al Yamaniyah”, during the period of Suleyhi Power, first from Sanaa and later Zeejiblah, a large quantity of costly Bukhur along with other fragrances were regularly presented to the Al Haramyn al Sharefyin, Kabah and Rauzat al Nabawi.
• Bukhur alters moods to bring peaceful, tranquil, refreshing, uplifting & inspiring feelings
• Bukhur opens the mind to spirituality & diverts from worldly impurities
• Bukhur keeps the mind allert & encourages it in solitude
• Bukhur gives the mind leisure when it is busy
• Age does not affect the efficacy of Bukhur & its habitual use causes no harm
• Burning Bukhur is a soothing & uplifting activity.
• It is a good haemostatic, antiseptic and a good healing agent
• Applied on wounds internally subsidies the inflammation of UTI & respiratory tract infections
• It dispels malicious & distressing psychic forces
• Improves memory
(“Al Risalatil Nadirah Fil Attur al Fakhirah”, Syedi Abdulqadir bin Qazi Habibullah, manuscript, Hiraaz, Yemen).”
Also if one goes on IslamQ&A there are hadeeths about the Prophet SAWS suggestions with using bakhoor when shrouding a Muslim for burial.
I also wanted to touch on something else in the comment which frankly, rather disturbed me…thats the friends attribution of something harmless to shirk. Attributing something to shirk is no small thing, a Muslim can not just go around and attributing whatever they wish to shirk. Shirk is a grave matter, it is associating partners with Allah suhana wa ta’ala and has 2 aspects. The major one is associating partners with Allah subhana wa ta’ala, such as praying your salaat to someone else, and this puts one outside of the deen and the minor aspect is swearing an oath to someone other than Allah subhana wa ta’ala, for example, which does not put one outside of the deen but is still reprehensible, Frankly how can anyone think of this matter so lightly as to associate something halaal like burning agarwood chips and bakhoor to Shirk? Its mindboggling to me.
It is my deepest hope that this sister really spends some time learning her deen and understanding what exactly shirk is and how grave a matter associating something with shirk is. Also, one should not leap to make what is halaal haraam and vise versa. Unless it is specifically laid out in the Quraan, the Hadeeths or the Sunnah that something is haraam…than it is not haraam! It may be permissible, or disliked (under circumstances) or totally lawful but it is definetly not haraam!
I also wanted to touch on the fact that Islam is a religion is ease, we as Muslims are not supposed to make it difficult, we are not supposed to make more out of something than what it really is. Unfortunately, I have found that sometimes some individuals do this, I have found this most commonly in new converts or those who experience a sudden religious zeal…they go around and scrutinise everything-even things which doesnt need scrutinized just to find something wrong with it and then they say it is haraam! I sincerely hope that this sister becomes educated and that she had not passed on such a belief that burning bakhoor/oud is shirk to other Muslims who now in turn think this same thing.