By Khalid Baig
When the pagan Makkan army was marching to Badr in 2 A.H., it included
not only fighting men, weapons, camels, and horses, but also the means
of inciting the fighters: singing-girls and musical instruments. At
every rest stop along the way these cheerleaders plied their craft,
spitting venom against the Muslims and promising their favors in the
most enticing ways to those who would destroy them.
The army had been summoned to protect their trade caravan. When they
learnt that the caravan had escaped and some of them wanted to turn
back, Abu Jahl insisted on continuing: "No, I will not return to Makkah,
until we have refreshed ourselves at Badr, and spent three days in
feasting, drinking wine, and listening to the singing and playing of the
In the end, the unequal war in Badr did not turn out to be the picnic he
had imagined. Abu Jahl was slain, as were many other prominent leaders
of Makkah. The decisive victory at Badr by the ragtag Muslim army
remains a constant source of inspiration and education. It changed the
course of history, for if Muslims had been defeated, the magnificent
Islamic civilization would not have seen the light of day and the
jahilyah society would have continued uninterrupted.
At Badr Muslims drastically lacked the weapons of war. But it was the
absence of a particular weapon of war that symbolizes the moral edge
that gave them the victory. Unlike their adversaries the Muslim army did
not include bands of singing-girls and musical instruments!
There is no doubt that such bands could and did stir up emotions. At
Uhud, the chant of the singing girls was: "Move forward and we will
embrace you. Turn back and we will abandon you." In countless pagan wars
before and since, the promise has been the same. It works for the lowly
beasts seeking the sensual pleasures of this world, fanning the fires of
their basest emotions and bringing out the animal from within them. No
wonder battlefields have historically showcased the worst of human
behavior and character.
Islam came to rid the humanity of such decay. It produced soldiers who
fought to establish justice and morality and sought nothing but the
pleasure of Allah. Their weapons were piety, sincerity, fear of Allah,
an unshakable commitment to right the wrong, and an unwavering
willingness to sacrifice even their lives for it. Quite naturally it
removed the filth of singing girls and musical instruments from its side
of the war zone.
There were also other uses of music that Islam abolished in its
revolutionary remaking of society.
While in other religions music and singing have been an integral part of
worship, Islam's acts of worship do not require or permit music. What
about the argument that "sacred music" can bring one to a state of
ecstasy and union with God? Well, salat brings one closer to Allah.
(There are historical accounts of earlier Muslims some of whom reached
such a state of absorption that they could not feel even physical pain
of surgery during salat.) It is very significant that this closeness is
achieved without any "sacred" music.
Music has also been a means of indoctrination and glorification.
Trumpets were blown to announce the arrival of His Majesty and to make
people bow to his pomp and glory. If this had been a legitimate use,
then the person most deserving of this honor would have been no one
other than the Prophet . But to a world used to the courts of monarchs
with musicians always ready to glorify them, he introduced a drastically
different court. No pomp, no musicians, no music.
Historically music has also been associated with magic and
superstitions. When faced with disasters or epidemics, pagan people
resorted to dance and music to get rid of the evil spirits. The legend
of the Pied Piper, popular in the West for centuries, attests to the
belief in the magical powers of music. In Arabia singing girls called
dajina (from dajana meaning cloudiness) sang to conjure rain when clouds
gathered. Islam instead taught its followers to turn to Allah in salatul
istasqa to pray for rain.
And of course music has also been used as a distraction and mindless
entertainment. This is what Nadr ibn Harith did to keep people from
paying attention to the Qur'an. He bought a singing girl and used her to
"win the hearts and minds" of anyone who appeared to be leaning to
Islam. He was condemned in Surah Luqman (31:6).
Islam did permit some singing and use of a simple instrument like duf
(tambourine) for weddings or Eid celebrations. It permitted rajaz
singing for jihad. These were exceptions to the general rule. Thus if we
draw a graph of music activity in the Muslim world against time, we will
find it to be at its lowest during the time of the Prophet and the
Khulafa Rashidoon. Its subsequent rise during the Umayyad and Abbasid
Khilafah was a result of external influences: Sassanid in Baghdad and
the Byzantine in Damascus. The graph went down after the fall of Baghdad
and remained low for centuries. Its latest rise came under the influence
of the imperial West and began with the conquest of Egypt by Napoleon
where Khadieve Ismail (ruled 1863-1876), dedicated to Europeanizing
Egypt, built the first opera house in Cairo. Throughout the Muslim world
the colonial rulers used gramophone and then radio to spread music far
and wide. Then came the television and a plethora of other gadgets,
which have made it impossible to find a music-free space anywhere. Today
music playing on cell phones even invades the sanctity of the most
sacred of all places --- the house of Allah. What is more, many Muslims
are convinced they are serving Allah as they try to spread Islam through
music. I was struck the other day by stumbling on the following entry on
BBC's website: "Muslim rap is big business with annual sales in excess
of $1.8bn in America alone." [6 May 2004].
To gain an insight into the colonial project, we can turn to Henry G.
Farmer (1882-1965), the author of many books on Arabian music and the
dean of the music-in-Islam-crusade. Here is one bit of "wisdom" from
him: Islamic censure of listening to music was manufactured by the
theologians of the Abbasid era who were jealous of the inordinate
attention paid to music and musicians!
Those who are not convinced by this "scholarly" explanation need to do
something to end the delusion and stop the profane noise.
Article Taken (with Thanks) from Albalagh.net
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