The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing: Part 5. [Especially Directed towards the Youth]




The final verse, and the one most often presented as proof of prohibition, is located in Soorah Luqmaan:(*35) Allah, the Exalted, says,
{And there are among men those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from Allah's path without knowledge, and who throw ridicule upon it. For such there will be a humiliating punishment.}
After mentioning the condition of the felicitous (those who are guided by Allah's Book and who benefit from listening to it), Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, reveals the condition of the miserable ones who refuse to benefit from hearing the word of God. They only devote themselves avidly to idle and foul talk, empty amusements and all other false works and deeds whose purposes are to turn others away from Allah's path and to make it the butt of mockery.

Ibn Jareer At-Tabari, in his Jaamiul Bayaan, mentions that the interpreters of the Quraan differed as to
the meaning of the term {lahwal hadeeth} (idle talk)  which occurs in the above-quoted verse. Their
views regarding its meaning can be formulated into three basic categories.

The first category defines the term {lahwal hadeeth}: (a) singing and listening to songs, (b) the
purchasing of professional male or female singers and (c) the purchase of instruments of amusement;
namely, the drum (tabl). The elements of this category revolve around reference to the blameworthy
usage of instruments of idle amusement, in short, music and song. This view was held by a number of
companions such as Ibn Masood, Jaabir and Ibn Abbaas. It is related that the former was questioned
regarding the meaning of the verse under discussion to which he replied, "I swear by the One other
than Whom there is no god that it refers to singing [ghinaa]"; he repeated it three times to emphasize
his position.(*36) It is related that Ibn Abbaas said it referred to "singing and the like."(*37)  Jaabir is
reported to view its meaning to signify singing and listening to songs.(*38) This general view
pointing to censure of music and song was also held by a great number of  taabi'een, such as Ikrimah,
Mujaahid, Makhool and Umar bin Shuayb, to name only a few.(*39)

The second category of interpretation centers around the idea that  {lahwal hadeeth} indicates
conversation inviting to or consisting of shirk (polytheism). This view was the view of some tafseer
scholars from the generation after the companions, such as Ad-Dahaak and Abdur-Rahmaan bin Zayd
bin Aslam.(*40)

The third category conveys the meaning of all false talk, actions or deeds, whose nature it is to divert
people from Allah's path and from His worship and remembrance. For example, Al-Aaloosi  relates
that Al-Hasan Al-Basri was reported as saying that  {lahwal hadeeth} includes "everything which
distracts one from worship and the remembrance of Allah such as whiling the night away in idle
conversation or entertainment, jokes, superstitous tales, songs and the likes thereof."(*41) Al-Aaloosi
supports this view, saying that the verse should be interpreted to include all such blameworthy words
and deeds which divert one from Allah's path.

After having conveyed the previously-mentioned categories of  tafseer, Ibn Jareer relates the
commentary of Ibn Zayd about the verse,
{And there are among men those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from Allah's path without knowledge, and who throw ridicule upon it.} 
Ibn Zayd said, "The people referred to [in this verse] are the disbelievers. Don't you see that it says
[in the immediately following verse],
{And when Our revelations are recited to such a person he turns away in pride as if he hadn't heard them, as if there was a deafness in his ears.} (*42) 
The people of Islam are not as those described here, although some say the verse refers to Muslims [as
well]. The verse refers to the disbelievers who pitched their voices in a tumultuous clatter in order to
drown out the hearing of the Quraan."(*43)

At-Tabari concludes by offering his own weighted preference for the general, inclusive meaning as conveyed in this final category. He states, "The most correct view regarding the meaning of  {lahwal
is the one which indicates every form of conversation(*44) which diverts from Allah's path -
the hearing of which has been prohibited by Allah or His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon
him). This is because the statement by Allah, the Exalted, is general and inclusive, and does not
exclude certain forms of conversation. Therefore, His statement remains in its general context unless
proof which specifies it appears; and singing and polytheism [shirk] are included in this general

From what has preceded, it is to be understood that a specific or exclusive meaning such as singing or
shirk cannot be proven; rather, the verse and particularly the phrase  {lahwal hadeeth} should be
interpreted as anything which diverts one from Allah's path. Music, singing, etc. (since they occupy
people's attention and distract them from Allah's worship and remembrance and invite to His
disobedience), no doubt fall under the general censure, blame and rebuke cast upon those who fall
into this category. However, this verse is not itself an explicit, unequivocal proof for the prohibition
of music, singing, etc. Rather, its prohibition is conditional and incidental as stated above. Thus, this
issue requires other external proofs which are both clear and categorical, so as not to leave the least
bit of doubt in the mind of the conscientious, truth-seeking believer. In order to achieve such a lofty,
yet absolutely vital objective, it is necessary to turn to the second source of the Islamic  shari'ah, the
authentic sunnah of Allah's Messenger (upon whom be blessings and peace).

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