Book presentaion - Khalid Baig: Music in Islam

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Book presentaion - Khalid Baig: Music in Islam

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Khalid Baig : Slippery Stone
About music in Islam ... &item=1355

From the introduction ... spread.pdf
In his marvelous book of reflections, Sayd al-Khātir, Ibn al-Jawzī
(d. 597/1200) makes an interesting observation about the singing
of two laborers he once saw. They were alternately singing as they
carried a heavy tree trunk. One of them would sing, and the other
would listen attentively and then either repeat it or respond in
song. Ibn al-Jawzī marvels at the wonderful power of singing to
make their task lighter:
  • I thought about the reason for this. I realized that each one of
    them was focused on what the other was singing, taking delight
    in it, and thinking of the response, so he kept on moving while
    forgetting the heavy load he was carrying.1
    Ibn al-Jawzī, ayd al-Khāir, فصل: تعليل النفس [Section: Keeping the nafs
    occupied], 78.
He then notes that all of us have to carry a load of difficulties in
our lives. We need to keep our nafs (self ) patient when deprived of
things it loves or when facing things it hates. “So I realized that the
best way of traversing the path of patience is through diversion.”2
As an example he mentions the Sufi master who was traveling on
foot with a disciple while they were thirsty and he kept assuring
that they would drink at the next well. Taking our mind off the
immediate difficulties can take many forms, and it is obvious that
what the laborers did in singing was make a productive use of this

Yet the same Ibn al-Jawzī is quick to censure singing in his
Talbīs Iblīs (Devil’s Deception):
  • You should know that listening to singing entails two things.
    First, it distracts the heart from pondering the greatness of
    Allāh, praised is He, and engaging in His services. Second, it
    inclines the heart to the seeking of quick pleasures that seek
    their fulfillment in all the sensory desires.3
    3. Ibn al-Jawzī, Talbīs Iblīs, ذكر تلبيس إبليس على الصوفية في السماع والرقص والوجد [On
    Iblīs’ confounding of the Sufis in regard to samā, dance, and ecstasy], 195.
He then goes on to affirm, as many did before him, that singing is
the charm for fornication and adultery.

The apparent contradiction between the two statements may be
useful in understanding the nature of the controversy about music
in the Islāmic discourse. Let us make the ridiculously simplistic
assumption that these two passages were all that was available in
the Islāmic source texts regarding music. We can then visualize
the arguments of the various groups in this debate through this
microcosm. Those supporting music would use the first passage
and argue that music was the essential tool for lightening the
burdens of life and traversing the path of patience. They would
also argue that Ibn al-Jawzī himself listened to singing (because he
listened to the laborers). Their opponents would, of course, use the
second passage to show it was impermissible. And the Orientalists
would use both passages to “prove” that Islāmic teachings on the
subject were nebulous and self-contradictory and for that reason
the music controversy in Islām could never be resolved.

In reality there is no conflict between the two statements because
they are talking about two different things.
The first is talking about
the permissible work song; the other about the impermissible
singing for vain entertainment. The first aims at making us forget
hardships in a job that we must perform; the second makes us forget
the job itself.
It is our inability or unwillingness to differentiate
between the two categories that makes the issue intractable.
In appendix 2 we look at the books written to condemn music
followed by those justifying samā. These books were written by
well-known authorities belonging to all schools of fiqh, in every
Muslim land, all through the centuries. Together these books cover
nearly the entire music debate in Muslim history. This timeline
of books on music is an important part of Islāmic history and is
very helpful in understanding the issue in its broader context. The
common ground between all these books is the prohibition of most
musical instruments, mixed gatherings, emulation of secular music,
vain amusement and entertainment, and anything having any
sensual dimensions.
None of them praises the professional singer,
whose expertise is in the censured arab-producing ghinā’. There
is recognition, even by the supporters of samā, of its potentially
very destructive consequences—resulting in many restrictions
and cautions. At the same time they agree on the permissibility of
poetry (if the text is morally clean), poetic recitals, and instrumentfree
personal singing
. It shows that what has been painted as a never
ending controversy actually contains within it a huge consensus.
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