MUSIC & ISLAM : A DEEPER LOOK

                  “Whoever says that all music is forbidden,

                         Let him also claim that the sweet chirping sound of bird are prohibited as well”.

Waking up every morning to the recital of Quran from the nearby masjid has always been so soothing to the  eras that it feels like the morning has become more brighter and gives a promising ray of hope to look at every day. It is indeed a form of music that one feels a sense of relief which calms and cleanses our mind from the unnecessary irrational thought that keep us worried. Music is an ancient and divine tool that stimulates the heart and soul and is referred to as a mode of expression of emotions and feelings. It knows no geographical boundaries and is thus called an international language. The scholars of music have defined music as an art of combining sounds and sequence notes into harmonies and melodious pattern pleasing to the ears giving emotional satisfaction.

There has however been an endless debate that people having varying beliefs across the country might have different views on what kind of music is lawful and how music is to be portrayed to this generation of ours. There are two schools of thought amongst Islamic scholars with divergent opinions about music. One being conservative which considers music as forbidden in Islam and the other with a view that any strong hadith of Prophet (peace be upon him) is not against it. The famous muslim jurist Sheikh Abdul Haqq Dehlvi, in his famous book Ashat-ul-Lamat, Vol. 4 has agreed with the views of spiritual leaders (mushaikh) that Islam is against the music which has vulgarity in it. In the famous book Ihya-ul-Ulmud Deen, Imam Gazzali, leader of Islamic jurist devoted a full chapter to this.

His consternation is that melodious songs bring out what is hidden in the heart thereby creating a wonderful feeling.”

“Although some Muslim scholars consider Music as unlawful and forbidden but there are others who did not agree with them”.

The main reason for Muslim reservations about music is that many believe it is a very powerful intoxicating force, capable of creating extreme excitement in listeners that can potentially cause them to lose control of their reason, diverting them from their devotional life and inviting sinful behavior.

 The Arabic term for music, “musiqa”, does not apply to all types of artistic vocal and instrumental arrangements of sounds or tones and rhythms; rather, the Muslims term this general case “handasah al sawat,” or “the art of sound.” Musiqa, or “music,” applies rather “only to particular genres of sound art, and for the most part it has been designated for only those that have a “ somewhat questionable or even disreputable status in Islamic culture” (al Faruqi, 1986). “Handasah al sawt” is a recently coined term used by Muslims to separate their Islamic conception of “music” from that held in the Western and non- Islamic world, which, as we will see, often contrasts in very fundamental and critical ways.

 Hazrat Abu Talib Makki says music is lawful in Islam. He quotes from Islamic history that Prophet’s companions like Ameer Musawiyah, Hazrat Abdullah and others listened to music. Both Makkans & Madenites used to listen to music & melodious songs. Muslim Sufi saints like Hazrat Khawja Chisti, Nizam-ud-din Aulia, Zunum Misli, Junaid Baghdadi and Hassan Asqalani, all used to listen to music and songs. According to the Imam Gazzali, music is a sweet sound, rhythmical and simple which can be easily understood.

Music is considered lawful according of the traditions to the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Gazzali considers Music as a natural trade of human ear. Man has five organs which have a natural inclination for the sensation of state and employment. For example, the human eyes have a tendency to see, they enjoy/beautiful things, beautiful faces, green leaves, streams, meadows etc. In other words the sight of all beautiful colours and sceneries are dear to eye, while the sight of ugly thing is scornful to the eye. Likewise the nose likes fragrance and dislikes unpleasant smell. Human tongue likes palatable and tasty things and dislikes bitter and distasteful eatables. Human hands like soft and smooth things and dislikes hard and rough ones. Human intellect feels comfort in literacy and knowledge and dislikes ignorance and illiteracy. Similar is the case with the human ear which naturally adores sweet songs & sweet voices. For instance, the sweet sound of nightingale and the sweet songs sung by human beings. These are the two kinds of sounds that are pleasing to the human ear. While the Braying sound of a donkey is displeasing.

What holds true of other organs is also true for the human ears. Is not recitation of Quran with a sweet voice lauded by the holy Prophet (peace be upon him)? In a hadith, Prophet praises Daud Prophet by saying that he was gifted with a melodious voice that even birds, Jinns, beasts and men would gather to listen and become spell bound. Imam Gazzali quotes verse from holy Quran in support of his opinions which reads as under :-

“Surely the most hateful of voices is braying of asses (SURA LUKMAN AYAT-19)”

This clearly reveals that Almighty Allah does not like the unpleasing sound like the braying of ass, and likes the sweet voice and sounds. If Music is held as forbidden then the hearing of sweet sound of nightingale and recitation of Quran in sweet voice can also be taken as unlawful. But it is not so. Imam Gazzali further states

“Songs sung at the time of different festivals, marriage etc, warriors songs, love songs and mourning song (elegies) are lawful”

“It is haram (unlawful) when it is sung by a beautiful women whose looks excite sexual passion. Not for songs but for exciting looks it becomes illegal”

“Music and musical instrument of drunkards because they act indecently and talk obscene and thus render it unlawful because of intoxicants”

 “Obscene poetry, obscene talk and act and blasphemy in music, all comes under the purview of HARAM (unlawful)”

Description of beauty of women folk in general is allowed but of a particular lady is illegal according to Islam”

“Songs and music that arouse immoral desires is also unlawful”

Music and songs which are full of vulgarity, myths, character assassination of somebody, useless joking etc, are undesirable and thus forbidden”

Regular habit of listening to music and spending much of time in it is undesirable because excess of everything is bad. In short after hard and strenuous work, music is a means of simple enjoyment and is no way against the teaching of Islam.

There is no way Islam forbids anything which a human being does with a pious & clean intention. All humans have the liberty to have a liberal look at the rules and regulations stipulated by the society or any religion as long as its not disrespectful for others and violates someone’s ‘Right to Equality’. The Puritan form of practicing Islam however gives it a rather extremist outlook. We as God fearing Muslims have a legitimate right to have a more liberal and moderate view of Islamic interpretations in the modern & progressive society and time.

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