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
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
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
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
flute of the devil. Yet, the prophet told him to let them have fun.
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.
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.