Monday, August 14, 2017

Ring of the Dove - Busaad Art Gallery (2012)

The Ring of the Dove
The Ring of the Dove is one of the most important books in the Arab literary heritage that talked about love and its meanings and attributes, and what lovers may experience, from abandonment and deprivation, to satisfaction and pleasure. And although Ibn Hazm was true to his commitment to the morals and noble values ; his poetry, however, had some direct indications perhaps due to his rebellious nature and the openness prevailing in that period of time. The title The Ring of the Dove signifies permanence and stability, the permanence and immortality of love. In addition to the aesthetic significance of the ring or collar, which has a distinguished beauty in itself, the dove also seen to be a messenger of love and passion.

Ibn Hazm
Is Ali bin Ahmed bin Saeed, was born in the year 384 AH/994 AD in Cordoba. He reached the rank of minister but finally rejected this path in favor of his passion for literature, science and languages. The boldness in his opinions and arguments brought indignation of many people and so some of his books were burned and ripped apart. He said: “to burn the book you are only burning paper because the book is in my heart”. Ibn Hazm died in 456 AH/1064 AD at the age of seventy.

The Technique
Due the high literary standing of The Ring of the Dove, a special harmony between text and the technique of painting was necessary. And so the formulation of the exhibition’s paintings was based on the legacy of the manuscripts in terms of a strict construction and configuration and flow of manuscripts, using natural materials in the preparation of the paper and colors of Islamic design and decoration. Representing the factor of time was paramount and thus the aged appearance of the paintings give a real sense of history. Calligraphy remained the master of the situation in this experiment, which took a lot of effort and time to reach a degree of convergence between the text and actual writing.

Tribute to the calligrapher Hashim Muhammad Al-Baghdadi
It is through his mentorship in the rules of Arabic calligraphy, that I have I got to know the secrets of calligraphy. A grand Salute to my teacher and mentor Hashem Baghdadi. And last but not least Love.. the permanent and sustainable; and longevity means humanity and morality. 

Ibrahim BuSaad (Artist) December 2011

Anthropomorphism in Islam: The Challenge of Traditionalism (700-1550) by Livnat Holtzman

Anthropomorphism in Islam

"Explores the problem of anthropomorphism: a major bone of contention in 8th to 14th-century Islamic theology"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Women Judges in the Muslim World: A Comparative Study of Discourse and Practice

"Edited by Nadia Sonneveld, Radboud University, and Monika Lindbekk, University of Oslo

Women Judges in the Muslim World: A Comparative Study of Discourse and Practice fills a gap in academic scholarship by examining public debates and judicial practices surrounding the performance of women as judges in eight Muslim-majority countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco). Gender, class, and ethnic biases are inscribed in laws, particularly in the domain of shariʿa-derived family law. Editors Nadia Sonneveld and Monika Lindbekk have carefully woven together the extensive fieldwork and expertise of each author. The result is a rich tapestry that brings out the various effects of women judges in the management of justice. In contrast to early scholarship, they convincingly prove that ‘the woman judge’ does not exist.

Contributors are: Monique C. Cardinal, Jessica Carlisle, Monika Lindbekk, Rubya Mehdi, Valentine M. Moghadam, Najibah Mohd Zin, Euis Nurlaelawati, Arskal Salim, Nadia Sonneveld, Ulrike Schultz and Maaike Voorhoeve."

Muslim Media Review: Access Free Arabic Texts from Library of Arabic Li...

Muslim Media Review: Access Free Arabic Texts from Library of Arabic Li...: You can now get free, Arabic-only PDFs of LAL bilingual books! I can't link b/c twitter thinks it's spam but you're clever. ...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660 by Alison Games

The Web of Empire

"How did England go from a position of inferiority to the powerful Spanish empire to achieve global pre-eminence? In this important second book, Alison Games, a colonial American historian, explores the period from 1560 to 1660, when England challenged dominion over the American continents, established new long-distance trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean and the East Indies, and emerged in the 17th century as an empire to reckon with. Games discusses such topics as the men and women who built the colonial enterprise, the political and fiscal factors that made such growth possible, and domestic politics that fueled commercial expansion. Her cast of characters includes soldiers and diplomats, merchants and mariners, ministers and colonists, governors and tourists, revealing the surprising breath of foreign experiences ordinary English people had in this period. This book is also unusual in stretching outside Europe to include Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. A comparative imperial study and expansive world history, this book makes a lasting argument about the formative years of the English empire."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

'The Book of Tribulations: The Syrian Muslim Apocalyptic Tradition' Translated by David Cook

'The Book of Tribulations: The Syrian Muslim Apocalyptic Tradition'

"'The Book of Tribulations: The Syrian Muslim Apocalyptic Tradition' is the earliest complete Muslim apocalyptic text to survive, and as such has considerable value as a primary text. It is unique in its importance for Islamic history: focusing upon the central Syrian city of Hims, it gives us a picture of the personalities of the city, the tribal conflicts within, the tensions between the proto-Muslim community and the majority Christian population, and above all details about the wars with the Byzantines. Additionally, Nu`aym gives us a range of both the Umayyad and the Abbasid official propaganda, which was couched in apocalyptic and messianic terms."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil Translated by: TALLAL M. ZENI

"Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil is a translation of selections from two of Ibn Qayyim’s books, Key to the Blissful Abode (Miftāḥ dār al-saʿāda) and Remedy for Those who Question on Matters Concerning Divine Decree, Predestination, Wisdom and Causality (Shifā’ al-ʿalīl fī masā’il al-qaḍā’ wa’l-qadar wa’l-ḥikma wa’l-taʿlīl). As with all his other writings, Ibn al-Qayyim’s foremost goal is to establish the wisdom of God, the primacy of the Qur’ān and Sunna, and the congruity between reason and revelation. In the present selections, Ibn al-Qayyim focuses on the application of the wisdom of God to the existence of evil. Ibn al-Qayyim first discusses twenty-six wise purposes behind God creating humanity and settling them on Earth. His perspective is that whatever exists in this world is either purely or preponderantly good, or indirectly leads to a greater good. Ibn Qayyim then explores how the presence of evil allows the manifestation of many of God’s Beautiful Names, glorious attributes and compassionate actions; while, for humanity, the existence of evil provides the righteous with opportunities to strive against it, for Paradise can only be reached by ‘traversing a bridge of hardships and tribulations’. The discussion of the existence of evil is followed by thirty wise purposes and secrets in God allowing people to sin. Prominent among them are that God loves repentance and loves to manifest His Attributes of forgiveness and mercy. Here, Ibn al-Qayyim also debates at length whether the punishment of Hellfire will be eternal or whether it will come to an end. He favours the latter position in accordance with the Qur’ānic verse 107 of the Chapter Hud and because of God’s mercy. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya was born in 1292 near Damascus where he obtained a classical Islamic education and specialised in jurisprudence. In 1312, he met the Hanbalite reformer Ibn Taymiyya and remained his disciple until the latter’s death in 1327. Ibn al-Qayyim died in 1350 in Damascus." 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Shi'i Doctrine, Mu'tazili Theology: al-Sharif al-Murtada and Imami Discourse by Hussein Ali Abdulsater

Shi'i Doctrine, Mu'tazili Theology: Examines the critical turn that shaped Imami Shi'ism in the 10th and 11th centuries

"God is not free to act; He is bound by human ethics. To be just, He must create an individual of perfect intellect and infallible morality. People are obligated to submit to this person; otherwise eternal damnation awaits them. While these claims may be interpreted as an affront to God’s power, an insult to human judgment and a justification for despotism, Shiʿi Muslims in the eleventh century eagerly adopted them in their attempts to forge a ‘rational’ religious discourse. They utilized everything from literary studies and political theory to natural philosophy and metaphysical speculation in support of this project. This book presents the contribution of al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 1044) of Baghdad, the thinker most responsible for this irreversible change, which remains central to Imami identity. It analyzes his intellectual project and establishes the dynamic context which prompted him to pour the old wine of Shiʿi doctrine into the new wineskin of systematic Muʿtazili theology."

Key Features

  • Comprehensive coverage of al-Murtaḍā’s enormous oeuvre (running to several thousand pages) and diversity (spanning virtually all contemporary fields of knowledge)
  • A meticulous engagement with long and dense theoretical texts that are either in manuscript form or poorly edited
  • An orderly presentation that equips readers with an overall understanding of Shiʿi theology in its main phases while preserving the profundity of analysis
  • The study of a little-known author whose views, nonetheless, are still a major influence for Shiʿi Muslims

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls

Henry David Thoreau: “Walden. Yesterday I came here to live.” That entry from the journal of Henry David Thoreau, and the intellectual journey it began, would by themselves be enough to place Thoreau in the American pantheon. His attempt to “live deliberately” in a small woods at the edge of his hometown of Concord has been a touchstone for individualists and seekers since the publication of Walden in 1854.   But there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Many books have taken up various aspects of Thoreau’s character and achievements, but, as Laura Dassow Walls writes, “Thoreau has never been captured between covers; he was too quixotic, mischievous, many-sided.” Two hundred years after his birth, and two generations after the last full-scale biography, Walls restores Henry David Thoreau to us in all his profound, inspiring complexity.   Walls traces the full arc of Thoreau’s life, from his early days in the intellectual hothouse of Concord, when the American experiment still felt fresh and precarious, and “America was a family affair, earned by one generation and about to pass to the next.” By the time he died in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, Thoreau had witnessed the transformation of his world from a community of farmers and artisans into a bustling, interconnected commercial nation. What did that portend for the contemplative individual and abundant, wild nature that Thoreau celebrated?   Drawing on Thoreau’s copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.   “The Thoreau I sought was not in any book, so I wrote this one,” says Walls. The result is a Thoreau unlike any seen since he walked the streets of Concord, a Thoreau for our time and all time.

Walayah in the Fatimid Isma'ili Tradition

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 'Ethics of Disagreement' Disagreement

ʿAwwama's "Traditionalist" Ethics of Disagreement                 ʿAlwani's "Reformist" Ethics of Disagreement (Eng)


During my visit to Medina a few years back, I had the opportunity to meet with a prolific writer and editor of works in the Hanafi tradition, Said Bikdash. His gracious hospitality and generosity with his time was equally matched by the vigor with which he defended what he saw as traditional conservative Sunni Islam from what he considered the deviated methods of modernists and reformists. He was a staunch supporter of the concept of taqlīd (defined in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as 'uncritical and unqualified acceptance of a traditional orthodoxy or of an authoritarian code of a particular religious teacher') and held no sympathy for reformist calls to the practice of its opposite, ijtihād.

He was critical of medieval and modern ʿulamaʾ who had criticized taqlīd, considering them to be a major reason for the decline in authority of the traditionalist scholars. I mentioned medieval scholars such as ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām (1182-1262) and Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī (1274-1348) and he cited them as examples of praiseworthy scholars who practiced taqlīd of the Shafiʿī school of jurisprudence. I mentioned that both of them had strong words of praise for the jurisprudential writings of Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064), a medieval scholar whom Bikdash had criticized over his pro-ijtihād, anti-taqlīd position. His response was that this may be an example of a specific praise within a general critique, a concept I had often heard mentioned by the conservative Salafi scholars, rivals to the traditionalists like Bikdash, when referring to medieval Sunni ʿulamaʾ like Ibn Ḥajar al-Asqalānī (1372-1449) and al-Nawawī (1233-1277) who endorsed theological positions from the Ashʿarī school rejected in Salafi/Atharī theology.

He directed me to read the book Adab al-Ikhtilāf (Ethics of Disagreement) in order to better understand the manner in which the ʿulamaʾ respectfully handled what they considered acceptable differences of opinion in theology, worship practices, and law. A friend who had accompanied me in my visit said he had read the book and met its author, the late Taha Jabir al-ʿAlwani (1935-2016). Said Bikdash abruptly corrected my friend, and clarified that he was referring to another book of the same title by his shaykh (as well as in-law), Muhammad ʿAwwama of Syria. The book by al-ʿAlwani was considered by Bikdash to contain too many "problems" with respect its pro-ijtihād reformism.

This meeting, in a nutshell, represents the traditionalist/reformist divide within the Sunni ʿulamaʾ class. Al-ʿAlwani's credentials as an Azhari scholar steeped in the Islamic legal tradition would not be questioned by more conservative, traditional ʿulamaʾ and was never denied by Said Bikdash, I must add. And yet, a book on the etiquettes of disagreement has difficulty being accepted when it is written by someone holding the very positions with which one disagrees!

A sampling of the works of Sāʾid Bikdāsh graciously gifted to me after our meeting:

The newly revised and expanded edition of Alwani's Ethics of Disagreement (Arabic):

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ports and Printers Across the Armenian Diaspora with Sebouh Aslanian hosted by Nir Shafir

Uncool Imams

Not too long ago, I had dinner with a Muslim religious leader who works primarily in the suburban parts of where I grew up in the "Gateway Region" of northeastern New Jersey. His traditional education is unquestionable and his knowledge expands into a number of other fields, yet his obliviousness to some important matters in local and foreign history and politics, coupled with a false confidence borrowed from his expertise outside of these fields, was wholly disappointing. During our after-dinner conversation, he was adamant in his assertion that it had been Rachid al-Ghannouchi, intellectual leader of the Tunisian Muslim democrats, who followed the ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as President of the Republic of Tunisia, and not Moncef Marzouki. In spite of my conversation partner's adamance, Ghannouchi, founder and president of the Ennahda, Renaissance, Islamic democratic political party, was never the president of Tunisia, and was vocal in both his refusal to run and in his criticism of the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party, aligned with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, for nominating a presidential candidate, in the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections.

Even more disappointing, and hitting much closer to home, was his denial that a specific neighborhood in downtown Jersey City now populated by numerous South Asian restaurants and businesses, had historically been a Puerto Rican neighborhood. It was an erasure that denied the histories and contributions of a people that included my own parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, who in the 1950s and 1960s populated many of the old apartment buildings and brownstones that still stand today.

This ignorance of the stories and struggles of certain non-white communities, those descendants of the survivors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the genocides and ethnocides of indigenous peoples who do not fall under the label of "model minority," remains prevalent. A glaring example of this is to be found in a 2016 article by Eboo Patel, which speaks of a class divide that pits privileged Princeton liberals of color protesting racism against working-class whites embodied by the cab-driver who took him from the "Brick City" of Newark to the quaint university town of Princeton.

An excerpt on his conversation with Mickey the white working-class cab driver (click to enlarge):

And yet, had Mr. Patel decided to take the cab before or behind the one fate led him to choose, he more likely than not would have been faced with a working-class black or Latino-American driver, much like my own uncles and cousins and father for a period of time, people that Mr. Patel seems even more unacquainted with than working-class whites. These are a people who often worked in factories like Mickey, or in shipyards like those of the Bethlehem Steel and Shipbuilding Company that employed many of my own relatives for 30-plus years, that also closed up and moved away. The problems faced by these other groups of working-class Americans in terms of job loss, family life, health and mortality rates, etc., are further aggravated by an attitude of white supremacy that still pervades much of white working-class consciousness, best exemplified in the 1848 speech by South Carolina politician and Vice President under John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) and Andrew Jackson (1829-1832), John C. Calhoun (1782-1850):

"With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and the poor, but white and black, and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals, if honest and industrious, and hence have a position and pride of character of which neither poverty nor misfortune can deprive them."

A version of what follows was written several years ago. The names of people and places have been removed out of respect for those involved who have passed on and in the hopes that those now in positions of leadership will work towards positive change without feeling shamed in any way.

The Bigoted Imam:

I have attended ****** numerous times between the years 2003-2009. It is an institution, like other institutions, composed of individuals, some who are right for the job and some who are not. This letter is regarding the Imam of ******, a man who, in my estimation, is not worthy of being a leader over even one person.

Here is a man who has said that "Spanish" people are lazy, all the while surrounded by Mexican immigrants working on new construction for the Islamic center of which he serves as Imam. Here is a man of Levantine/shāmī descent (from the area comprised of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) who said that North African Arabs (Tunisians, Algerians, Moroccans, etc.) were fornicators and adulterers, and that black and Latino men should not be trusted when marrying Arab women, while Middle Eastern men seeking US citizenship were encouraged to marry black and Latina women, hiding information about other wives in their home countries, divorcing the American women of color after becoming citizens, and obtaining sole custody of whatever children were had without any censure. These are the words and practices of an ignorant man.

The Imam needs to be reminded of a few facts regarding the place he now calls home. America has had to suffer a long time with the problems of racism. The Imam himself, in his physical appearance, clearly displays what in Spanish is referred to as mestizaje, mixed racial ancestry, specifically of sub-Saharan African ancestry. If he is ignorant of these facts regarding his adopted country and regarding himself, the burden is on him and those around him to make himself aware, especially since he is in a position of leadership in the Muslim community of ******.

Lot or Allāt?

I do not remember what department(s) and organization(s) sponsored the talk, but some time around November of 2010, journalist Nir Rosen was invited to discuss his new book “Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World.” I decided to read up on some of his work and found his article published in the National in September of 2008 on "Blowback from Iraq - We Run the Road." The original link,, no longer works but a copy of the article has been posted on the website of Steve Clemons, The Washington Note.

There are many things with which one could take issue both in this article and in the work of Nir Rosen in general, but I wanted to point out one mistake I noticed in the piece (click to enlarge):

Sunni militant individuals and groups like those being discussed by Rosen refer to the Shiʿa Islamist militant group Hezbollah as ḥizb al-Lāt, meaning the Party of Allat. Allat was one of the chief goddesses of ancient Arabia and Sunni extremists refer to their Shiʿa rivals with such a term with the intention of making takfīr, declaring the Shiʿa to be non-Muslims, comparable to the polytheistic Arabians of the pre-Islamic period.

If the intention was to make reference to the party, or people, of Lot, the nephew of prophet Abraham who lived in the original 'Sin City' of Sodom-and-Gomorrah, the Arabic term would be qawm Lūṭ.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Forever Brothers: The '71 Pirates Story

FOREVER BROTHERS - OFFICIAL TRAILER from Little Moving Pictures on Vimeo.

"On Sept. 1, 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates made history by fielding the first all-minority starting lineup in Major League Baseball history. Antoine Fuqua presents the often forgotten story of a trailblazing team that became World Champions."

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ibn Hazm of Cordova and His Conception of the Sciences by Anwar G. Chejne

"The Andalusian Ibn Hazm was a humanist par excellence and one of the intellectual giants of Islamic civilization. Professor Chejne's work sheds light on the intellectual history of Islam in general and the position of sciences in Muslim Spain in particular. It deals with the place of Ibn Hazm in this history and discusses his literary and theological contributions as well."

Anwar G. Chejne Papers

"Anwar George Chejne was born on 15 August 1923 in Rahbe, Lebanon. He attended Colegio Del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia from 1939-1941, earning a B.A. and Ph.D. in languages and liberal arts. From 1948 to 1950, he attended the Asia Institute at Columbia University (New York, N.Y.), earning an M.A. in Islamic studies and history. He was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Islamic studies in 1954. Before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Chejne was an instructor of Arabic for the State Department (1950-1951) and assistant professor and chair of Arabic and Near Eastern languages at Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan). In 1965, Dr. Chejne became an assistant professor of Arabic at the University of Minnesota. In 1966, he founded and chaired the Middle Eastern Languages Department (1966-1973). In 1979, he became professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Chejne was known as an authority on Muslim Spain. Anwar Chejne died on 5 September 1983."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mahmud Sami al-Barudi: Reconfiguring Society and the Self by Terri DeYoung

"To explore the life of Mahmud Sami al-Barudi is to gain a nuanced perspective on the many facets—the perils and promises—of change in the rapidly modernizing Egypt of the nineteenth century. Al-Barudi, sole scion of a Turko-Circassian elite family that clung precariously to a legacy of position and power, turned his military education into a government career that ended with his elevation to the office of prime minister. He served briefly before the British invasion in 1882 put an end to Egypt’s independence for seventy years. 

As prime minister, al-Barudi focused on drafting and passing into law Egypt’s first constitution, an achievement that was summarily swept aside by the British occupation. Similarly, the prime minister’s efforts to modernize and improve the educational system were systematically undermined by the policies of colonial rule in the 1880s and 1890s. Although his reforms ultimately failed, al-Barudi was recognized among his contemporaries as the most consistent supporter of liberalism and eventually democratic representation and constitutionalism. For his boldness, he paid a price. He was exiled by the British to Ceylon for seventeen years and returned to Egypt in 1901 as a blind, prematurely aged, and broken man. 

Even before he made an impact as a political leader, al-Barudi had made a name for himself as the most original and adventurous poet of his generation. DeYoung charts the development of al-Barudi’s poetry through his youth, his career in government, his philosophical and elegiac reflections while in exile, and his return to Egypt at the beginning of a new century. Connecting the themes found in his more influential poems—among the more than 400 lyrics he composed—to the turbulent events of his political life and to his equally fierce desire to innovate artistically throughout his literary career, DeYoung offers a vivid portrait of one of the most influential pioneers of Arabic poetry."

The Anatomy of an Egyptian Intellectual: Yahya Haqqi by Miriam Cooke

"Several Egyptian writers are known to the English-speaking world: Tuha Husain, Taufiq al-Hakim, Najib Mahfuz, and Yusuf Idris enjoy a popularity that extends beyond Cairo or Beirut to the international book markets of London, New York, and Los Angeles. Yet the present study marks the first time that the contemporary writer, Yahya Haqqi, whose literary reputation among his countrymen is second to none, has been analyzed in a full-length monograph available to English readers who are not specialists in contemporary Arabic literature, yet are eager to learn more about it.

Haqqi’s oeuvre is eclectic, encompassing short stories, essays, literary criticism, and a novel. All facets of his literary output are systematically studied, with careful attention to the biographical aspects of his varied career which illumine the shape of particular writings as well as the overall tone of his production. What emerges is the Weltanschauung of an Egyptian intellectual struggling to come to terms with a society in transition. Haqqi’s hopes, anxieties, and prescriptions coalesce in an exquisite prose which sets him apart from his contemporaries. Beyond exploring the thematic issues raised by Haqqi, both directly and implicitly, the present study analyzes the quality of craftsmanship that is at once the most elusive and most satisfactory dimension of Haqqi’s work. The intellectual and the adlib, the Egyptian patriot and the sensitive universalist merge and reinforce one another in the fascinating complexity of this major yet comparatively unknown Arab writer."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Traditionalist Roots of Islamism (I)

“Debating Slavery in the Arab Middle East: Abolition between Muslim Reformers and Conservatives,” In Behnaz Mirzai Asl, Ismael M. Montana and Paul E. Lovejoy (eds.), Islam, Slavery and Diaspora (Trenton NJ: Africa World Press, 2009): 139-153.

This article analyzes a polemical defense of slavery made in refutation of the progressive reformist Muhammad Abduh (d.1905) by the Ottoman Shafiʿi judge and Sufi sheikh Yusuf al-Nabhani (1849-1932), grandfather of Taqiudeen (1909-77), the founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Quote from the Hanafi traditionalist Mustafa Sabri (1869-1954) cited in The Inevitable Caliphate? by former Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamist Reza Pankhurst

Quote from the traditional Maliki exegete al-Qurtubi (d.1273) cited in The Inevitable Caliphate? by former Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamist Reza Pankhurst. Other premodern scholars used by Islamists include the Shafiʿi al-Mawardi, the Hanbali Abu Yaʿla, and others

Traditionalist Roots of Islamism (II)

Stamps from the Islamic Republic of Iran showing support for Egyptian Islamists

1984 stamp of literary critic turned Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966)

Stamp of Khalid Islambouli, assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a group which under Ayman al-Zawahiri later merged with al-Qaeda

A street named after Islambouli in Tehran

In an interview with Mike Wallace aired on December 18, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini issued the following statement: "Sadat states he is a Muslim and we are not. He is not, for he compromises with the enemies of Islam. Sadat has united with our enemies. I demand that the Egyptian people try to overthrow him, just as we did with the Shah"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Women-Led Prayer in Islam: Abu Thawr, Dawud al-Zahiri, al-Tabari and Ibn Arabi

Ahmed Elewa and Laury Silvers, "‘I Am One of the People’: A Survey and Analysis of Legal Arguments on Woman-Led Prayer in Islam," Journal of Law and Religion 26, no. 1 (January 01, 2010): 141-71.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R.I.P. John Freely (1926–2017)

"The beginning of Arabic philosophy in al-Andalus comes with the work of Ibn Hazm (994–1064), who was born and spent most of his life in Cordoba, where his father and grandfather had been functionaries in the Umayyad court. His best-known philosophical work is his Book on the Classification of the Sciences. Aside from his many philosophical works, he also wrote poetry and treatises on history, jurisprudence, ethics and theology. His most famous poetical work is entitled Tawq al-hamama, or The Dove’s Neck-Ring, a treatise on the art of love, which he says is ‘a serious illness’.

Love, may God honor you, is a serious illness, one whose treatment must be in proportion to the affliction. It’s a delicious disease, a welcome malady. Those who are free of it want not to be immune, and Those who are stricken by it want not to be cured.

Ibn Hazm was particularly qualified to write a book on the art of love, he writes, having been brought up to the age of fourteen in the harem, or women’s quarters, of his family home: ‘I have observed women at first hand and I am acquainted with their secrets to an extent that no one else could claim, for I was raised in their chambers and I grew up among them and knew no one but them.’ He goes on to say that ‘women taught me the Qu’ran, they recited to me much poetry, they trained me in calligraphy’.

The Islamic schools of the time in Cordoba employed several women copyists, as did the city’s book market, whereas more highly educated women worked as teachers and librarians, while a few even practised medicine and law.

Ibn Hazm believed in revelation, but he felt that ‘the first sources of all human knowledge are the soundly used senses and the intuition of reason, combined with the correct understanding of a language’. He said that the first Muslims had experienced divine revelation directly, whereas those of his own time were exposed to contrary beliefs and needed logic to preserve the pure teachings of Islam, so that they can know ‘the reality of things and…discern falsehood without a shred of doubt’.

Ibn Hazm also wrote a work on ethics entitled The Characters and Conduct Concerning the Medicine of Souls. There he describes the Socratic ideal of moderation in all things that governed his own way of life: ‘In this book I have gathered together many ideas which the Author of the light of reason inspired in me as the days of my life passed and the vicissitudes of my existence succeeded one another. God granted me the favour of being a man who has always been concerned with the vagaries of fortune.’"

John Freely, Light from the East: How the Science of Medieval Islam Helped to Shape the Western World (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015), pp. 128-9.

Music in Islam: Ibn Hazm, al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Qaisarani, Abdul-Ghani al-Nabulsi and Hassan al-‘Attar

Music in Islam: The mathematical origin of melodic tones

"A group of scholars comprehended the prohibition of music from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings be upon him] in which he says: “There will be [at some future time] people from my Ummah [nation] who will seek to make lawful the following matters: fornication, the wearing of silk, alcohol drinking and the use of musical instruments” [included by Bukhari]

However, Ibn Hazm said that this does not mean the prohibition of musical instruments and that the Prophet was talking about the social features of the spread of corruption which may accompany some instrumentalists or artists . 

Fornication [Allah forbids], wearing silk, drinking alcohol, singing and musical instruments are the concomitant features of the licentious night. But this does not mean that all what the Prophet has mentioned is prohibited or an ingredient of prohibition.

The mere association between one matter and another is not an evidence that they both share the same legal ruling. Therefore, when the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him] mentions something which is prohibited and associates another thing with it, it does not mean that the second matter is also prohibited. Same goes for mentioning an obligatory matter and associating another matter with it, this does not mean that the second matter is also obligatory. Allah the Almighty says: “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives”. Justice is an obligatory matter whereas good conduct and giving to relatives are recommended matters. Based on this, the obligatory matter is associated with the recommended matter and thus association between two matters does not indicate that both matters share the same legal ruling.

Therefore, the hadith which associates between fornication, drinking alcohol, wearing silk and using musical instruments does not indicate an obligatory association between all these matters but carries within its fold the potentiality of carrying out prohibited acts. The renowned scholars Abdul-Ghani al-Nabulsi, Imam al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Qaisarani and Ibn Hazm stated that music is a sound if it is beautiful, it is good and if it is ugly, it is bad. 

Moreover, music is a natural disposition to which our souls are inclined. Therefore, it is good when the soul finds its comfort in and it is bad when it disturbs the human soul. Therefore for Muslim scholars, music is one of the mathematical sciences and we have seen the scholars’ opinions that its good is permitted and its bad is impermissible. Therefore, we have seen Muslims throughout history playing these instruments. 

To the extent that Sheikh al-Islam Hassan al-‘Attar has said in the first third of the 19th century that a person who listens to strings tone accompanied by water murmur and the view of trees without being affected is a donkey."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Manuscript Collections and Scholar-Editors of the Twentieth Century (5)

Salah al-Din al-Munajjed (1920-2010)

Some edited works (taken from "Obituary: Salah al-Din al-Munajjed"):

The History of Damascus (Volume I) by Ibn ʿAsākir

Promoting Virtue and Forbidding Vice by Ibn Taymiyyah

The Literature of Foreigners by Abū al-Farāj al-Asbahānī

The Qur'an Schools In Damascus by al-Nuʿaymī

Letters and Poems by al-Jāhiẓ

The Fatwas of Imām Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā

In Addition To:

(c) Jibreel Delgado. From the personal library of Muhammad Hamidullah

Some original works:

Proverbs About Arabian Women

The Arab Canons of Women's Beauty

Sexual Life of the Arabs

The Rules of Editing Manuscripts

The Rules of Cataloguing Manuscripts

The Bolshevization of Islam

The Socialist Delusion

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

“There is No Greater Harm to Knowledge” - Maydan

“There is No Greater Harm to Knowledge” - Maydan: There are objective criteria by which to determine who has greater expertise, whether on specific events, ideas, or people in history. Scholars of the Middle East risk committing blunders when claiming to speak with authority...

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women in Public Space: Ibn Hazm vs. Kawthari

Camilla Adang, “Women’s Access to Public Space according to al-Muhalla bi-l-Athar” in Manuela Marín and Randi Deguilhem (eds.),Writing the Feminine: Women in Arab Sources. London, New York: I.B. Tauris: 2002, 75-94.

The Conservative Traditionalist Hanafi Opinion of the Last Ottoman Deputy Şeyḫülislām

Saudi Supreme Judicial Council: Evening courts to marry women without male guardians

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Manuscript Collections and Scholar-Editors of the Twentieth Century (4)

IHSAN ABBAS (1920-2003)

Some Works Edited by Abbas:

The Biographical Dictionary of Ibn Khallikān (1211/608-1282/681) - 8 volumes (1968-72)

Supplement to Ibn Khallikan by al-Kutubī - 4 volumes (1973-74)

The Biographical Dictionary of Yāqūt (1179-1229) - 7 volumes (1993)

The Cultural Encyclopedia of Ibn Ḥamdūn (c. 12th century) - 10 volumes (1996)

The Letters of Al-Maʿārrī (973-1057) - 1 volume (1982)

Essay Fragments of Umayyad Secretary ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd b. Yaḥyā (d. 750) - 1 volume (1988)

The History of Andalusian Poetry by Ibn al-Khāṭīb (1313-1374) - 1 volume (1963)

The History of Andalusian Poetry by Ibn al-Kattānī (951/342-1029/420) - 1 volume (1966)

The History of Andalusian Poetry by Ibn al-Abbār (1199-1260) - 1 volume (1986)

Encyclopedia of Andalusian-North African Culture by al-Maqqarī (1578/986-1632/1041) - 8 volumes (1968)

"The Merits of the Iberians" by Ibn Bassam al-Shantarīnī (1058-1147) - 8 volumes (1975-79)

Extracts from the Muʿjam al-Safar of al-Silafi (d. 1180) - 1 volume (1979)

The Essays of Ibn Hazm (994/384-1064/456) - 4 volumes (1959-60, 1980, 1990-93)

In Addition To:

Al-Baladhuri (d. 297/892), Ansab al-Ashraf (Genealogies of the Nobles). Wiesbaden: 1979.

Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam (Introduction; On Principles of Legal Theory). Beirut: Dar al-Afaq al-Jadida, 1980.

Ibn Hazm, Al-Taqrib li Hadd al-Mantiq bi al-Alfaz al-ʿAmmiyya (On Logic). Beirut: 1959.

Ibn Hazm, Ṭawq al-Ḥamāmah (On Love). Cairo: Dar al-huda lil-thaqafah wal-nashr, 2002.

Abd al-Hayy b. Abd al-Kabir al-Kattani (1884/1302-1962/1382), Fihris al-faharis wa'l-athbat wa-muʿjam al-maʿajim wa'l-mashyakhat wa'l-musalsalat. Beirut: 1986.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

(UNESCO) The Different Aspects of Islamic Culture

A unique contribution to a better knowledge of Islamic civilization

"Since its creation, UNESCO has been highlighting the intellectual solidarity of humankind, the importance of knowledge and the value of diversity to build mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue.

Launched by UNESCO in 1977, this collection is the result of work undertaken over 40 years under the supervision of a scientific committee and the guidance of the pluralistic perspective defined for UNESCO’s General and Regional Histories (History of Humanity, General History of Africa, General History of the Caribbean, General History of Latin America and History of Civilizations of Central Asia).

It provides unique knowledge of the creative diversity and complexity of Islamic culture and highlights its fundamental contribution to the progress of humanity. As such, it constitutes a relevant tool to encourage and facilitate intercultural and interreligious dialogue. By bringing together diverse academic views on Islamic culture, it strongly contributes to the global debate on Islam and challenges many of the prejudices and misinterpretations."

The Independent Authoritative Jurists (Series)

Select Episodes Subtitled in English:

"Imam Ja'far al Sadiq is the noble descendant of the Prophet's lineage and a renowned scholar. His life is a living proof of the invalidity of any claimed contentions between the Prophet's companions and his noble household as he studied under all of them. Imam Ja'far refused juristic analogy which contradicts the solid and plain legal texts and legalized intellect [al-ʿaql] as one of the sources of legislation when there is a lack of legal texts."

Ibn Hazm (Avenhazen), Ghazali (Algazel) & Shawkani on the Beauty of Music

What Is The Ruling Concerning Music? - Fatwas | Ali Gomaa - Official …
archived 14 Oct 2013 21:39:01 UTC

The word “music” comes from ancient Greece and is a reference to the “art of combining sounds in a certain order for aesthetic effect.” Music is also concerned with combining these sounds in a harmonic way; therefore it studies what sounds go together and what sounds do not. This is achieved both through musical instruments and through human voices.The issue of listing to music is one that has differing opinions in Islamic law, it is not from matters of creed or those matters that are necessarily known from religion therefore it is not prudent for Muslims to castigate one another on such issues since one can only castigate issues that are agreed upon, not issues that have differing opinions. As there are jurists who have ruled that listening to music is permissible and they are jurists whom it is permissible to follow in their scholarship, it is therefore impermissible for one to criminalize Muslims who follow such an opinion. This is even more so as there is no single text proof that specifically outlaws music.Among the scholars who have ruled music and listening to music is permissible is Imam al-Ghazali as he stated:Amusement and entertainment help one in seriousness and serious matters as one cannot tolerate such matters without aid, except for the Prophets upon them be peace. Therefore, amusement and entertainment are cures of the heart from exhaustion so it must accordingly be permissible, however one should not engage in it with excess just as one cannot take medicine in excess. Based on this intention (i.e. relaxation and aid in seriousness and serious matters) amusement and entertainment become acts of drawing near to God and this is for the person whom listening to music does not stir up a certain praiseworthy trait that he seeks to be evoked by listening to music, rather such a person only seeks pure enjoyment and relaxation so it is incumbent that such an act be praiseworthy for him to engage in so as to reach the goals mentioned previously. This situation, however, indicates a level lesser than wholeness as the whole person is he who is in no need of other than the truth to aid him. However, the righteous deeds of the common people are the misdeeds of those who are high in spiritual rank. Whosoever has mastered the science of the cures of the heart and the ways in which to make the heart soft knows with certainty that these sorts of entertainment and amusement are things one can not dispense with. Imam al-Ghazali has also written that “if musical instruments have become the sign of drunkards or lewdness, if the instruments are like the harmonica, wind instruments, string instruments, or drums used by drinkers then it is impermissible. And every other kind of instrument remains permissible such as tambourines even with jingles, drums, striking drums with branches, guitars and the like, or any other instrument.” Other scholars saw in music and listening to music lessons and allusions for those who understand and whose souls are at a high level. Amongst them was Qadi ‘Iyyad al-Shibli who was asked about listening to music to which he replied, “its apparent nature is seductive and tempting while esoterically it is full of lessons so whoever can understand the allusion it is permissible for them to listen to music.” Similar statements can be found attributed to the Sultan of the scholars al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salam who said, “the path to rectifying hearts from without are many such as listening to Qur’an which is the best thing one can listen to, it can also be done to listening to admonishment and remindful talk, it can be done through songs and odes, and it can be done through music and instruments of which there is a difference of opinion regarding its permissibility. For example the flute, if listening to it is permissible then it is praiseworthy what occurs to a person when listening to it and has left cautiousness in religion by listening to that which has differing opinions regarding.” Al-Qurtubi has mentioned in his commentary on the Qur’an al-Jami al-Ahkam al-Quran the singing of some Qusharites in the presence of the Prophet the day he entered Madina. Abu Bakr was disturbed by this and the Prophet said, “leave them Abu Bakr so that the Jews can see that our way is expansive.” They were playing drums and saying, “we are the girls of al-Najjar and we love that Muhammad is a neighbor”. Al-Qurtubi then said, “it is said that the tambourine and other instruments used in weddings are permissible as long as what is said is sound and not from foulness.” Al-Shawkani has stated in his Nayl al-Awtar in the section “That which has come concerning instruments of amusement and music” both the arguments for those who rule on its impermissibility and permissibility. He specifically discussed the hadith in which the Prophet said, “Every form of amusement which the believer engages in is false except for three; a man being playful with his wife, a man being playful with his horse, and archery”. Al-Shawkani then quotes Imam al-Ghazali’s commentary on this hadith, “The Prophet’s statement ‘is false’ does not necessitate its impermissibility, rather it indicates its lack of benefit”. Al-Shawkani then adds “this is indeed a sound statement since anything that has no direct benefit is from the category of permissible things.” Al-Shawkani offers other text proofs to the same effect such as the women who vowed to play the tambourine if the Prophet returned from a certain battle safely. When he did, he allowed her to carry out her vow without any form of castigation. This allowance indicates that what the women did was not an act of disobedience in such a circumstance.Ibn Hazm has stated that the Prophet said:“all actions are based on intentions and to every person is what they intended” thus whosoever listens to singing, or engages in any other act, as an aid in disobedience towards God then it is evildoing, and whosoever intends by listening to singing relaxation of one’s soul so as to aid it in being obedient to God and helping it perform righteous acts then he is engaging in an obedient act and is rewarded and this action is a true and sound one. Whosoever does not intend either disobedience or obedience, then this action is simple amusement and it is ineffectual and such an act is pardoned such as a person walking in his garden strolling or one sitting on his doorstep relaxing. In summary we can say that the issue of singing, with instruments and without, is an issue that has caused scholarly dispute throughout all ages. These scholars have agreed on aspects regarding the issues and have disagreed in other aspects. They have agreed that any sort of singing of music that causes disobedience or aids in disobedience is impermissible as singing is comprised of words so its good is permitted and its bad is impermissible. These scholars have also agreed on the permissibility of singing a cappella especially in times of happiness such as weddings, homecomings, and days of ‘Eid as long as certain conditions are met such as a woman does not sing in front of non-relative males. The areas of disagreement are whether musical instruments are permissible or not and others mentioned earlier.Based on this discussion we find that singing, whether with musical instruments or without, is permissible with the condition that it not a call for disobedience, lewdness, and does not contain any themes contrary to the Shari‘ah. It is also noteworthy that excess of music and singing can take the act beyond its permissibility to the category of reprehensible acts, and perhaps even to the category of impermissibility. God is most high and all knowledgeable."


On Music – Fatwa by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

"The whole issue of singing is controversial, whether it is with musical accompaniment or not. Some issues succeeded to gain the Muslim scholars’ agreement, while others failed. All scholars have unanimous view on the prohibition of all forms of singing and music that incites debauchery, indecency, or sin. As for musical instruments, given the weakness of the evidence indicating that they are forbidden, the rule to be applied here is the one states that all things are originally deemed permissible as long as there is no Shari`ah text that prohibits them.

Singing is no more than melodious words; if these are good, singing is considered good; but if they are bad, such singing is deemed bad. Talk that contains forbidden content is prohibited. What if that talk is accompanied with rhythm and melody?

Scholars agree on the permissibility of singing without instrumental accompaniment and where the content is not prohibited. This sort of singing is allowed only in certain occasions such as: weddings, feasts, welcoming a traveler, and the like. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) that states: “He (peace and blessings be upon him) asked, ‘Have you given the girl (i.e., the bride) anything as a present?’ They (the attendants) replied, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘Did you send a singer along with her?’ ‘No’, said `A’ishah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then said, ‘The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing: Here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.'” In this case, we can say that a woman can sing only in front of women and her non-marriageable male kin.

In the subject of musical instruments, scholars disagree on the matter. Some of them permit all sorts of singing, be it accompanied with musical instruments or not, and even consider it recommended. A second group of scholars permit singing only when is not accompanied with a musical instrument. A third group declare it to be prohibited whether it be accompanied with a musical instrument or not; they even consider it as a major sin. In supporting their view, they cite the hadith narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Malik or Abu `Amir Al-Ash`ari (doubt from the sub-narrator) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk (clothes), the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful.’ Although this hadith is in Sahih Al-Bukhari, its chain of transmission is not connected to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and this invalidates its authenticity. Ibn Hazm rejects it for that very reason. Moreover, the sub-narrator, Hisham Ibn `Ammar is declared ‘weak’ by many scholars of the Science of Hadith Methodology.

Besides, this hadith does not clearly prohibit the use of musical instruments, for the phrase ‘consider as lawful,’ according to Ibn Al-`Arabi, has two distinct meanings:

First : Such people think all these (the things mentioned) are lawful.

Second : They exceed the proper limits that should be observed in using these instruments. If the first meaning is intended, such people would be thus disbelievers.

In fact, the hadith in hand dispraises the manners of a group of people who indulge themselves in luxuries, drinking alcohol and listening to music. Therefore, Ibn Majah narrates this hadith from Abu Malik Al-Ash`ari in the following wording: “From among my followers there will be some people who will drink wine, giving it other names while they listen to musical instruments and the singing of female singers; Allah the Almighty will make the earth swallow them and will turn them into monkeys and pigs.” (Reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih )

Conclusion on Permissibility of Musical Instruments

In the light of the above, it is clear that the religious texts that stand as a basis for those who maintain that singing is haram are either ambiguous or inauthentic. None of the hadiths attributed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is valid as evidence on the judgment of prohibition. Moreover, all these hadiths are declared ‘weak’ by the followers of Ibn Hazm, Malik, Ibn Hanbal, and Ash-Shafi`i.

In his book, Al-Ahkam , Al-Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn Al-`Arabi says, “None of the hadiths maintaining that singing is prohibited are considered authentic (by the scholars of the Science of Hadith Methodology).” The same view is maintained by Al-Ghazali and Ibn An-Nahwi in Al-`Umdah . Ibn Tahir says, “Not even a single letter from all these Hadiths was proved to be authentic.”

Ibn Hazm says, “All the hadiths narrated in this respect were invented and falsified.”

Proofs of Those Who Maintain that Singing is Halal :

First : The Textual Proofs:

They base their argument on some authentic hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). One of these hadiths is the following:

`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him, came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Bu`ath (a story about the pre-Islamic war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Awus). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) laid down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, ‘Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)?’ Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) turned his face towards him and said, ‘Leave them.’ When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signaled to those girls to go out and they left.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

This indicates that these two girls were not so young as claimed by some scholars. If they were, Abu Bakr would not have been angry with them in such manner. In addition, in this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wanted to teach the Jews that Islam has room for merriment and that he himself was sent with a moderate and flexible legislation. There is also another important lesson to learn here. It draws our attention to the fact that one needs to introduce Islam to others in a good fashion, along with displaying its moderateness and magnanimity.

Moreover, we can also cite as corroborating this Allah’s words that read, “But when they spy some merchandise or pastime they break away to it and leave thee standing. Say: That which Allah hath is better than pastime and than merchandise, and Allah is the best of providers.” (Al-Jumu`ah: 11)

In this verse, Allah Almighty joins pastime with merchandise. He does not dispraise any of them, He just only rebuked the Companions who left Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone giving the khutbah (Friday Sermon), when they all rushed to attend to the caravan and beating of the drums celebrating its arrival.

Second : In Respect of Islam’s Spirit and Basics:

It is a fact that Allah had prohibited for the Children of Israel some of the good things of this worldly life as a punishment for their misdeeds.

He says, “Because of the wrongdoing of the Jews, We forbade them good things which were (before) made lawful unto them, and because of their much hindering from Allah’s way. And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it, and of their devouring people’s wealth by false pretences. We have prepared for those of them who disbelieve a painful doom.” (An-Nisa’: 160-161)

Before sending Prophet Muhammad, He Almighty referred to him in the earlier scriptures as, “Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul.” (Al-A`raf: 157)

Thus, Islam left nothing good or sound but declared it to be halal (lawful). This is a sign of mercy to this Ummah (nation or community), moving along the line of its comprehensive and eternal message. Allah Almighty says, “They ask you (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you.” (Al-Ma’idah: 4)

If we are to delve deeply into this matter, we will find that love for singing and melodic voices are almost a human instinct. We can observe an infant lying in his cradle soothed and sleeping by the sound of a lullaby. Mothers and nannies are always in the habit of singing for babies and children. Moreover, birds and animals respond to nice voices and rhythmic melodies.

Thereupon, if singing is thus a human instinct, it is not for Islam to defy humankind’s instincts. Islam came to refine and promote the human instinct. Ibn Taymyiah says, “Prophets were sent to polish and discipline man’s instinct and not to change or modify it.” This is pursuant to the hadith that reads, “When Allah’s Messenger came to Madinah, he found them (i.e., the people of Madinah) celebrating two days. He said, ‘What are these days?’ They replied, ‘We used to rejoice in these days during the pre-Islamic era.’ He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Verily, Allah Almighty has given you two alternative days which are much better: these are Al-Adha and Al-Fitr days (`Eids).’ ” (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i)

Moreover, if singing is to be considered rejoicing and play, these are not haram ; this is in pursuant to the famous idea that man needs some time to relax a bit and rejoice. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Hanzalah who thought himself to be a hypocrite for his attendance to his wife and children and the change that affected him when he was apart from Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “O Hanzalah! Part of your time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and part of time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation).” (Reported by Muslim)

`Ali Ibn Abu Talib says, “Amuse yourselves for some time, for if hearts are exposed to too much strain, they turn blind.”

Abu Ad-Darda’ said, “I refresh myself with some amusement in order to make myself stronger on the path of right.”

Imam Al-Ghazali answered someone who asked him: “Isn’t singing some kind of play and rejoice?” He said, “Yes. But, all that exists in this present life is mere play and rejoice. All that takes place between a husband and his wife is play, except sexual intercourse that is the direct cause of reproducing children. This has been reported from Allah’s Messenger and his honorable Companions.”

In fact, leisure time is refreshing to the heart and alleviates its tensions at the same time. Excessive strain and efforts render the heart bored and blind. Amusing the self refreshes and renews its strength and vigor. One who continuously works hard at something should take a break for a while in order to restore and regain his energy and firm will lest he totally collapses in future. When one takes a break, he thus restores his strength and vigor. Only Prophets can stand absolute seriousness. Having leisure time is a form of treatment for diseases of the self, weariness and boredom. But, leisure should not be excessive. This will go against the whole issue of rejoicing hearts to make them able to go on.

One who is familiar with and experienced in the nature of the human heart and self knows for certain that recreation and relaxation are necessary treatments for one’s well-being.

These proofs on the permissibility of singing are extracted from the texts and rules of Islam, and these are sufficient to clarify the issue.

In addition to this, the people of Madinah, who were very pious and God-fearing, the Zahiriyyah, who were very literal regarding the textual proofs, and the Sufis, who were very strict and rigid, were all quoted to have declared the permissibility of singing.

Imam Ash-Shawkani says in his book “ Nayl Al-Awtar ”, “The people of Madinah and those who agreed with them from among the Zahiriyyah and the Sufis maintain that singing is permissible, even when it is accompanied by a musical instrument such as the lute or the flute. Abu Mansur Al-Bughdadi Ash-Shafi`i narrate that `Abdullah Ibn Ja`far saw nothing wrong in singing, and he, himself, used to compose the music for his own slaves who used to sing these melodies in his presence. This took place during the time of Commander of the Faithful, `Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Abu Ja`far Al-Bughdadi narrates the same after Al-Qadi Shurayh, Sa`id Ibn Al-Musaiyb, `Ata’ Ibn Abu Rabah, Az-Zuhri and Ash-Shi`bi.”

Ar-Ruwaiyani narrates on the authority of Al-Qaffal that Malik Ibn Anas maintained that singing with musical instruments is permissible. Also, Abu Mansur Al-Furani quotes Malik as maintaining that playing the flute is permissible.

Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir narrates, “The people of Madinah never disputed over the permissibility of playing the lute.”

Ibn An-Nahwi narrates in his “ Al-`Umdah ”: “Ibn Tahir said, ‘The people of Madinah showed consensus over this (issue). Also, all the Zahiriyyah maintained the same.’”

Al-Mawardi attributes the permissibility of playing the lute to some of the Shafi`i followers and students. This has been narrated also by Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir after Abu Ishaq Ash-Shirazi; and it is narrated by Al-Isnawi after Ar-Ruwaiyani and Al-Mawardi. Again, this is narrated by Al-Adfuwi after Sheikh `Izz Ad-Deen Ibn `Abd As-Salam. It is also narrated after Abu Bakr Ibn Al-`Arabi.

All these scholars consider singing that is accompanied by musical instruments permissible, but as for singing that is not accompanied by musical instruments, Al-Adfuwi says, “In some of his jurisprudence-related books, Al-Ghazali narrates the consensus of the scholars on its permissibility.” Also, Ibn Tahir narrates the consensus of the Prophet’s Companions and those who succeeded them on this very topic. Ibn An-Nahwi states in Al-`Umdah that singing and listening was deemed permissible by a group of the Companions and the Followers.

Conditions and Terms:

There are some conditions and terms that should be observed regarding listening to singing, as follows:

1. Not all sorts of singing are permissible. Rather, the permissible song should comply with the Islamic teachings and ethics. Therefore, the songs praising the tyrants and corrupt rulers disagree with Islamic teachings. In fact, Islam stands against transgressors and their allies, and those who show indifference to their transgression. So, the same goes for those songs that imply giving praises to such attitude!

2. Also, the way the song is performed weighs so much. The theme of the song may be good, but the performance of the singer – through intending excitement and arousing others’ lusts and desires along with trying to seduce them – may move it to the area of prohibition, suspicion or even detest. The Glorious Qur’an addresses the wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, “O you wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech.” (Al-Ahzab: 32) So, one has to show caution to music when there is softness of speech accompanied with rhyme, melody, and special effects!

3. Singing should not be accompanied with something that is prohibited such as alcohol, nakedness, mixing of men with women that is common in pubs and nightclubs, etc.

4. Islam has declared excessiveness as prohibited in everything. The same goes for excessiveness in leisure and recreation even though these things are permissible ! This indicates that the emptiness of the mind and heart has to be observed and tackled during man’s short-term life. One should know that Allah Almighty will ask every one about his life and his youth in particular.

There are some things in which one is to be his own judge and Mufti. If there is some kind of singing that arouses his own lust or desire, and takes him away from the real life, he should avoid it then and block that very gate from which the winds of trial and seduction may come and erase his religion, morals and heart. If he does this, he will live in peace and tranquility.

Warning against playing with the word “ haram ”

To conclude, we address the respectful scholars who tackle the word “ haram ” easily and set it free in their writings and fatwas that they should observe that Allah is watching over them in all that they say or do. They should also know that this word “ haram ” is very dangerous. It means that Allah’s Punishment is due on a certain act or saying, and should not be based upon guessing, whims, weak Hadiths, not even through an old book. It has to be supported by a clear, well-established text or valid consensus. If these last two are not found, then we revert the given act or saying to the original rule: “permissibility governing things”. We do have a good example to follow from one of our earlier pious scholars. Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: “It was not the habit of those who preceded us, the early pious Muslims, who set good example for the following generations, to say, ‘This is halal , and this is haram . But, they would say, ‘I hate such-and-such, and maintain such-and-such, but as for halal and haram , this is what may be called inventing lies concerning Allah. Did not you hear Allah’s Statement that reads, ‘Say: Have you considered what provision Allah has sent down for you, how you have made of it lawful and unlawful? Say: Has Allah permitted you, or do you invent a lie concerning Allah?” (Yunus: 59) For, the halal is what Allah and His Messenger made lawful, and the haram is what Allah and His Messenger made unlawful."