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     Question Forum :  "Islam Under A Cloud of Ignorance"    Date Posted:  24 - May  -  2003




In "Islam Under A Cloud of Ignorance -The Fiqh of Freedom - A Law for Liberation" Sahib Mustaqim Bleher argues that "[in Islam] music as such was not prohibited". Could you provide the specific Hadith in Bukhari that state this? As myself I learnt that Islam denounces music (except singing and the use of the tambourine by women). An argument used by Bleher is that story in the Sirah. By listening to the music that was played on a wedding nearby and by the falling asleep, Bleher argues, Allah (swt) protected the Prophet (saws) against the corrupt youth. But my account of the story is a bit different. The Prophet (saws) was on his way to the wedding, and fell asleep on the way. In this way Allah (swt) protected him against the Djins that were present on the wedding, and against the tunes and the dancing that was going on. 

The article "Islam under the Cloud of Ignorance" was not intended to provide authoritative answers but to generate discussion and stimulate a desire to take a fresh look at Islamic sources. We find ourselves today in the uncomfortable situation where the majority of Muslims reject the narrow and restrictive view of Islam provided by scholars who mostly are Islamic theologians with little experience of the real world Muslims inhabit. As a consequence too many Muslims lead a double life where, on the one hand, they placate the scholars by agreeing with their verdicts, and on the other hand they practice something quite different. In this way "scholarly" Islam breeds hypocrisy. For argument's sake: The vast majority of Muslims listen to music of some kind - the majority of the ummah can, according to a hadith often quoted, never be in error - yet we are told that they've all got it wrong. Scholars get out of this problem by defining the majority of the Ummah as the majority of scholars, but then who appointed them if they are not representative of the Ummah? Music is only one item where this discrepancy becomes apparent. Those who argue for the absolute prohibition of music rely on a number of Qur'anic verses, none of which prohibit music as such, but denounce idle pastimes etc. They further support their view with a number of Hadith, all of which, however, mention music in conjunction with drinking, dancing and immoral behaviour. 

There is no argument that in the context of such excesses, music is against the principles of Islam. Those who argue that music is permitted point to the songs of David mentioned in the Qur'an and to a number of Hadith about the prophet, peace be with him, permitting music at celebrations, in preparation for battle and during martial games. The story of David, peace be with him, may not be instructive, since the rulings of earlier prophets are abrogated by their successor. The Hadith, however, are important. They indicate that even at that time there was a difference of opinion, for Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, clearly described the tambourine played by two little girls in the house of the prophet as the flute of the devil. Yet, the prophet told him to let them have fun. Some argue that the prophet did not object to the description used by Abu Bakr, and that the prophet's permission was a one-off exception. 

This defeats logic and shows the narrow loop of reasoning which has characterised discourse about Islamic jurisprudence for centuries. The prophet would never tolerate something devilish even for a one-off exception (this is precisely why the allegation of Satanci Verses is blasphemous slander). His approval, therefore, indicates that he took a more lenient view, and we may deduct that he considered the music of these girls as harmless because it was not corrupting in the given context, whereas he forbade music in other contexts where it encouraged excesses. The real question raised in my article "Islam under the Cloud of Ignorance" many years back was - and still remains today - whether when judging the permissibility of something by way of analogy we cling to a mere imitation of the prophet's outward deeds - which should mean that we all ride camels and wear sandals even in the midst of winter - or whether we look for the reasoning and purpose of those deeds for the benefit of the Ummah and humanity. A narrow interpretation of the Sunnah can, instead of bringing us closer to the way of the prophet, result in a rejection of the Sunnah altogether by less educated Muslims and be divisive in many other ways, thus achieving the exact opposite of what the teachings of our prophet, peace be upon him, stood for. 

Dr. Sahib Mustaqim Bleher

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