MUSIC BAN ILL FITS ISLAM
Following the recent seizure of power by Shaykh Ahmed’s militias in Somalia, music and football, amongst other social pastimes, have now been banned in terms of Shari’ah law (The Times, 11 June 2006). However, these theological rulings are a flagrant abuse of Islamic jurisprudence. While the militant faction that now controls the capital Mogadishu is determined to impose its political and religious authority on that worn-torn country, it cannot claim scriptural legitimacy for its stringent application of shari’ah law. Their prohibition of music, for example, has no foundation whatsoever in the Holy Qur’an itself. In Islam, the incontrovertible rule is that whatever is not expressly disallowed or specifically disapproved by God in the Sacred Scripture is deemed lawful and permissible.
When Shaykh Ahmed (and ultra-conservative Muslim clerics in Britain and elsewhere) assert that music is forbidden in Islam, they cannot provide any valid Qur’anic verses to this effect. The three passages (17:64, 31:6; 53:59-62) by which traditionalists seek to justify their unilateral banning of music, when examined, will be found to have no credible relevance to this particular subject. If Almighty God had desired music to be proscribed, He certainly would have done so explicitly instead of relying on the Muslim clergy to do this work for Him.
To support their prejudicial judgements against music, Muslim clerics rely on subordinate and spurious prophetic traditions (ahadith), which were assembled some 250 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. But even these ahadith banning music are regarded as suspect and groundless by leading classical scholars like Ibn Hazm and Ibn al-Arabi. It is an established legal fact, that all key teachings and principles of Islam must be derived from the immutable divine source (the Holy Qur’an) and not from the (largely) fabricated human collections of hadith. So, without any superior Qur’anic directives to the contrary, no ecclesiastical fatwah can outlaw the validity of music in Islam. Sacred music, liturgical songs and devotional chanting (as well as other uplifting genres) all have a legitimate place within Islam when they enhance faith and spirituality.
In this connection, MECO has just held its successful second Oxford Muslim Music Festival on Saturday, 10th June 2006. This major annual celebration of sacred music from around the Islamic world is an emphatic riposte to all those who wish to keep Muslim society in the grip of rigid fundamentalism and a joyless music-free life. The third Oxford Muslim Music Festival next May will again reconfirm the inspirational importance of divine music within Islam.
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