Friday, June 29, 2012

Question of Music

A Chishti, of Barelwi inclination, said that music is the soul of us Chishtis.
This is tricky issue and it has been exercising the neural networks of Sunni Forum users for some days.
Not that it has not been discussed earlier. It has been several times.
Luckily we do have an official position on music. Music is not allowed by the scholars.
But then there are always differing opinions also.
Barelwis indulge in music en masse and then to make the things worse a scholar from the unexpected denomination, Yusuf Al-Qardawi, has permitted it.
To common people it does create a problem.
Unless you are protected by Taqleed.

Now some musings about music. Please read above words once again after reading the following because we may not assert again and again that music is not allowed.

Once a gnostic ('Arif ) poet recited his work after Hazrat Shaikh Hakim Kalimullah Sahab (DB)'s Majlis.
Some times the poetry is recited in tone - it is called Tarannum in Urdu. This is how it was done by the poet in incident mentioned above. After the Majlis some one asked Hazrat Shaikh (DB) whether Qawwali is permitted. Hazrat Shaikh (DB) was not pleased at the question, "Was this not a Qawwali?", he asked.
Hazrat Shaikh (DB) is completely against music. So reciting poetry in a tone is no different from Qawwali but the moment you introduce instruments or the moment you switch to tune from tone or you do the both then you have crossed the fine line.

Here is an example that you too can enjoy - in a particular way.
In this case the poet is Khwaja Aziz-ul-Hasan Sahab Ghauri Majzoob (RA).
The reciter is reciting in tone ( please differentiate it from tune) - Tarannum.

Now the moment this tone is abused it turns into a tune. We shall not give any links here but will mention two incidents that should be sufficient for people familiar with Urdu poetry circles to convince that even in case of a non-religious but allowed activity like poetry meet there is a limit on tone.

Our first examples is of a poet in one of the two annual poetic meets of Department of Urdu, AMU. They have poetic meets on the evenings of August 14 and January 25. August 15 is India's independence day and January 26 is India's republic day. In one of those poetic meets a visitor from Kolkata (then Calcutta) was presenting his poetry and then suddenly the listener next to yours truly said in voice that every one around could hear - hey he is singing!

What does it mean? We can conclude that even a commoner, as the audience is supposed to be, knows that singing is different from reading poetry in tone.

Then there is second example, or a common occurring. It is a sign of slight laxity on part of social circles that many a times some poetesses are called to the poetic meets. There are good poetesses in Urdu even today but then there is a number of entertainers - their job is to do just that, to entertain. They read poetry is a style that is hardly different from singing, except for the absence of music. And everybody knows that. In serious circles these poetesses carry no academic value. Yours truly asked about a poet (not poetess) who indulges in stand up comedy on stage. A professional critique said that we do not take stage poets (Manchiya Kawis) seriously.

In summary it is clear that crossing the tone to tune boundary is not considered desirable even in academic circles.

Perhaps now we can insert a few comments about recitation of the Noble Qur'an. The very fact that we have maintained the dignity of its recitation for fourteen centuries should be taken as a tribute to the fact that we have not succumbed to the charms of music. Do we need any more evidence that music is not a very desirable activity in Islamic circles?

Here is the recitation of Surah Waqia by Shaikh Ibraheem Jibreen.
He looses control of his voice at the words Illa qeelan salamn salamaa.
The effect is barely perceptible. Please do not blame yourself if you can not notice it.
So what does he do? He does not go right ahead. He repeats the portion of the Verse again.
That is his correction.
And that is a fine example of Muslim sensitivity.
No intonations in Recitation of Noble Qur'an.
We recite it in beautiful voice and we have very strict limits on that.
And we do it with ease.
People say that writing Naat, poetry in appreciation of beloved Prophet (PBUH), is like walking on the edge of the sword.
But people do not say that recitation of the Noble Qur'an is liking walking on the edge of the sword.
This is in spite of the fact that tone can easily slip into a tune.
Why are we not worried?
Reason is simple - we hearts are sure that we shall not lapse into tune.

It is really strange that some people are still confused about the music question.

On a second look the reason can be traced to the dominance of western ways of life. Music is a big thing there and or many Muslim youngsters it can not be wrong if some thing is done by the west. Aren't they successful, powerful and prosperous?

Then there is one of those western cultural shocks that come from the west with a nauseating frequency.
In one of  the Time Magazine  lists of most influential people in US had a Sri Lankan girl's brand name M.I.A. in the list. She was, and is, a singer. Yours truly was puzzled. How can be a singer amongst most influential people. That it was a girl from Sri Lanka is only a minor curiosity. Yours truly checked the most viewed video by her on YT called Paper Planes. "Bona fide hustler, making my fame!", she coos in the track. And there is more. How can decadence be most influential? These question all become meaningless once you have accepted one meaningless thing as meaningful. And that meaningless thing is called music.

And your truly will leave a home work for an interested reader. There will be a quip by the supporters of music - what were you doing listening to her, we mean M.I.A.? Try to answer that as a home work.

Then there is another comment on the current music thread at Sunni Forum. Some one said that Muslims gave made deep contribution to music. Unfortunately and sadly that is true. In India there are two broad styles of instrumental and vocal music. The north Indian style is called Hindustani and the south Indian style is called Karnatic. In the Hindustani style Muslims contribution is enormous and this creates a significant dilemma. If so many people, Muslims, dedicated their life for such a long time that half of Indian music is synonymous with their work then can they be wrong? Of course the technical answer is not that difficult - an activity can not become allowed just because a large number of talented people indulge in it. The moral question remains but we are not supposed to talk about the sins of the by gone people. That is where we shall leave the matters.

There are a few more points that need squaring but we shall just forget about them, unless, of course, we are reminded of them by others.