Islam is religion of nature and so does not deny any natural requirement. Therefore, all fine arts are originally valid according to Islam. All things that give beauty, amusement, and ecstasy to human life are adornments. The Quran says:
“Say: ‘Who has forbidden you to wear the nice clothes or to eat the good things which Allah has bestowed upon his servants?’ Say: these are for the faithful in the life of this world, (though shared by others); but they shall be theirs alone on the Day of Resurrection. Thus we make plain our revelations to people of understanding.” (Al-A`raf 7:32)
There are just two restrictions laid down by Islam on their practice. First, that there should not be violation of any religious order. For instance idolatry and vulgarity must not be reflected through their practice. Second, that every thing must be in the circle of moderation. If a person is so absorbed in some of the fine arts as to forget his profession, family, and even God, it is not approved by Islam.
Images of living things
It is generally assumed that the image of any living being is forbidden in Islam. It is a baseless assumption. In fact every picture free from idolatry and obscenity is permissible whether drawn by hand, shot by the camera, or used for cinema or television. The logic here is that the Holy Quran has not forbidden it although pictures were used in the society at the time of the revelation of the Quran.
Since the Quran is the equity for us, and the basis for every thing valid and invalid is laid down here, it would have been clearly mentioned if illustrations would have been disallowed in Islam.
When we study the Holy Prophets sayings (Hadith) regarding illustration in the light of the above principle, the fact dawns upon us that paganism was prevalent in that society.
In addition to the statues of the Quraysh in Mecca, the statues and images of the Holy Christ and the Holy Mary were present in the churches, and the Christians worshipped these images. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SWS) explained it very clearly. When two female companions of the Holy Prophet, Umm-i-Habibah and Umm-i-Salmah migrated to Habshah (Ethiopia) because of the atrocities of the Quraysh, they saw the churches there, where different images were present for worship. They related it to the Holy Prophet on return from Habshah. The Holy Prophet told that those people used to construct a place of worship on the grave of pious persons and placed the images of the pious people for the purpose of worship. They would be the worst creation of God on the Doomsday. (Bukhari-kitab-al-Salat, Muslim-kitab-al-Masajid)
The paganism was the real crime reflected through these pictures, which is strictly forbidden in Islam. At another time Ayeshah, the Holy Prophet’s wife hung a curtain on the door of house, which had images of pinioned horse. The pinioned horses stood a symbol for the angels used by the pagans for worship. Therefore, the Holy Prophet ordered Ayeshah to replace those imaged curtains. (Bukhari, Muslim-kitab-al-libas).
Since those who drew pictures for worship believed that the pious people imaged on their pictures are alive even after their death, recommend their redemption to God, hear them and set their destinies aright. So these artists would be asked on the Day of Resurrection to infuse life into the pictures made by them. It would a punishment for their idolatry at that time. Therefore, the crime in these references is paganism and not illustration. This is why the pictures of the artists have been mentioned in these references as proper nouns. (Bukhari-kitab-u-Tasveer).
Every idol was worshipped in those days and every projected grave and every picture was also considered sanctity. This was the situation when the Holy Prophet directed Ali to wipe out all such marks of paganism and he did so. (Muslim:kitabul- Janaiz).
This is the reason that the Holy Prophet allowed the illustration where there was not chance of idolatry. For example, Abu-Talhah Ansari, a companion of the Holy Prophet, relates a Prophetic saying that a cloth with an image can be used as a curtain if it is not used for idolatry, (Baukhari: Kitab Al-Libas)
In the same way when Ayehah tore that curtain and changed it into a bed sheet (and thus eliminated any expression of paganism), the Holy Prophet did not forbid her to do so. (Muslim: Kitab ul-Libas)
Salim bin Abdullah, a Prophet’s companion, relates the Prophet’s saying that only that picture is disallowed, which is used for worship and thus placed prominently; but not that which is on an ordinary place. (Musnad Ahmad)
It becomes clear through the above discussion that the right context of the Prophet’s saying can be determined if studied in the light of the guidance laid down by the Quran. Their exact justification comes before us and the apparent contradiction in different references also becomes clear to the level of our satisfaction. Picture is a natural thing; those who consider it wrong have to give several exceptions like pictures for identity cards and passports, cartoons, pictures of religious and political gatherings, pictures for educational purposes etc. It is a fact that even those declaring it wrong have made it valid for positive purposes.
Is music disallowed?
Next is the issue of Music. In fact there is nothing throughout the Quran to forbid music. Music was played even before the Quran was revealed. Had the music been forbidden in Islam, the Quran would have laid down clear instructions about that, so music is originally valid if not used wrongly.
Now, when we study Hadith, we find two kinds of references. One forbidding music and the other allowing it. It is important to note that all references against music are weak and unreliable. For example a Prophet’s saying is quoted in a book titled as “Kanz-ul-Ammal”:
“I have been sent to repel music”
The author of the book himself acknowledges that it is an unreliable reference.
Unlike this, most of the references according validity to music are strong, true, and are quoted in reliable books. For instance, it is related by Ayeshah that on the occasion of the marriage of an Ansari (local resident of Al-Madinah) the Holy Prophet asked if they had no organs of music, as music was favorite to the Ansar. (Bukhari: Kitab ul-Nikah)
In the likewise manner, it is related by Amir bin Sa’d that he witnessed two girls busy in singing in the presence of two companions of the Prophet on an occasion of marriage. Amir asked them if it was all valid when it was done in the presence of those companions of the Prophet who had even participated in the Battle of Badr. They replied that they had been granted this permission on such occasions ad now it was up to Amir to remain there or leave the place. (Nisai: Kitab ul-Nikah)
Another reference from Bukari (The book of Hadith) relates that two girls sang the songs of the war of Ba’as with music in the house of the Prophet on Eid day.
Another reference of Masnad Ahmad and Tirmizi (two books of Hadith) relates that a woman sang a song with a musical organ (Duff) on the return of the Holy Prophet from a war.
The brief discussion made above establishes the principle that basically music is allowed. It can only be invalid if used wrongly. The references (though weak) that declare it forbidden had the logic that music was accompanied by idolatry, wine, and vulgarity.
Next is the question of drinking.
It is very clear through the Quranic order in Al-Maidha verse 90 that the wine and all other narcotics are strictly forbidden in Islam. It is also clear that wine has been a forbidden thing in every revealed faith. However, the gradual imposition on wine during the Prophetic period makes us realize how Islam brings a change in an intangible way without disturbing the society. God ordered for a change in the society only when people were prepared to accept this change after a long period of eighteen years.
We know that the Arabs were addict to wine. They used to take it even more than Westerners of today.
A disapproval of wine was expressed like this in Madina period:
“They ask you about drinking and gambling. Say, there is great sin in both, although they have some benefit for people, but their sin is far greater than their benefit”. (Al-Baqarah 2:219)
When it had settled in the hearts of people that drinking is a bad act, they were directed, as a step further not to offer their prayer in a state of intoxication. Thus the timings for drinking wine were limited to great extent:
“Believers do not approach your prayers when you are drunk, but wait till you can grasp the meaning of your words” (Al-Nisa 4:43)
The Holy Prophet kept educating people after this revelation to leave drinking, as the complete ban on it was expected soon. Therefore, the final revelation in this regard appeared in the third year of his Madina reign:
“Believers, alcohol and games of chance, idols and divine arrows are abominations devised by the devil; avoid them, so that you may prosper.” (Al-Maidah 5:90)
The above discussion proves that Islam is in favour of gradual change and not revolutionary or an abrupt change. Islam wants a behavioral change before every order.
It solely depends on the conscience of a Muslim whether he keeps a beard or not. Thus the state cannot ask any Muslim to keep beard or punish him for that. Beard is no doubt desirable in Islam. All Prophets kept it as they modeled nature; and beard is of course a natural thing. Generally, the pious people have been avoiding shaving their beards. So it can be said that beard is something good.
When we glance at the origins of the faith of Islam, we don’t find it mentioned anywhere in the Quran. Among the Hadith, there is one saying of the Prophet quoted in the Bukhari and the Muslim which is related by Abdullah Bin Umar as under:
“Oppose the pagans, let your beards grow and trim your moustaches”.
Besides this all other references are unreliable and weak.
We must reflect upon the above quoted Hadith and find out what is the sense in opposing the pagans by growing a beard and trimming moustaches. Obviously, three possible answers dawn upon us:
Firstly, the Holy Prophet wanted to maintain a distinction between the Muslims and the pagans. This seems to be a weaker possibility as people from both the communities wore and ate alike. The name of a pagan was not changed even when he embraced Islam unless it conveyed the sense of paganism. It is also historically recorded that the pagans too used to keep beards. Secondly, there is the possibility that some unwanted innovation might have been in practice which needed its reformation. The reformation of every such innovation is always a temporary phase and it never assumes the status of a permanent order. For example, it is quoted in Bukhari and related by Abu Hurayrah that the Holy Prophet directed the Muslims to color their hair as it was not done by the Christians and Jews as a rule. It is agreed upon by all the Muslims that it was just a temporary order. Now it is not a binding upon the Muslims to color their hair as this instruction has lost its justification in the present era. This is why some of the Muslims color their hair while some others don’t. Third possibility could be that the style of the pagan’s beard might have been snobbish and queer in appearance. So as the Holy Prophet banished wearing of every vulgar dress in his times, he directed the Muslims to let their beards grow and trim their moustaches so as to avoid the vulgar style adopted by the pagan. It is just as the Holy Prophet asked a Muslim to take care of his hair when he saw his hair disheveled. It means that one who grows his hair must arrange them properly. Thus the important thing is that if kept, the beard and the moustaches must be in a civilized, noble, and proper way. It is clear that no one was punished for not keeping a beard during the Prophetic period. The same had been the practice during the pious Caliphate when there must have been several people without a beard living in the Muslim dominion spread over millions of square miles of land.
According to Shafii, one of the most important schools of thought in Islamic jurisprudence, keeping beard is not mandatory, rather it is an optional Sunnah.
It is generally objected that slavery is established as an institution in Islam. The non-Muslim prisoners of war can even now-a-days are made slaves. This is merely a misunderstanding. Islam believes in equality among all people and declares that man is an independent and free creature. Islam eliminated slavery gradually as Islam believes in a gradual change in every important matter. The Quran affirms that God has bestowed upon man the dignity and honor by blessing him with best characteristics and placed him above many of his creations:
“We have bestowed blessings and respect on Adam’s children and carried them by land and sea. We have provided them with good things and exalted them above many of our creatures”. (Al-Isra 17:70).
God honoured humans to the extent that the angels were asked to bow before him and he was affirmed as an independent and free beings to act as the viceroy of God on Earth.
“And when we said to the angels: prostrate yourselves before Adam, they all prostrated themselves except Satan, who, in his pride, refused and became an unbeliever”. (Al-Baqarah 2:34)
“When your Lord said to the angels: I am placing on the earth one that shall be My deputy, they replied: Will You put there one that will do evil and shed blood, when we have for so long sung your praises and sanctified your name? He said: I know what you do not know,” (Al-Baqarah 2:30)
There is no distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim in this matter because God always declared the Holy Prophet of the time a brother of even the non-Muslims:
“And to the tribe of Aad We sent their compatriot Hud”. (Al-A’raf 7:65)
“And to Thamud We sent their brother Saleh”. (Al-A’raf 7:73)
Islam declares all men as equals and believes the division of nations and tribes to be for the mutual identification of one another. The one who obeys God is superior to others:
“Mankind, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most righteous of you”. (Al-Hujurat 49:113)
Islam esteems man’s life very precious and affirms that the one who saved a man’s life in fact saved the whole humankind:
“Whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind”. (Al-Maidah 5:32)
The above-mentioned Quranic principles and Islamic teachings are sufficient to prove that there is no concept of slavery in Islam. Islam does not acknowledge this rubbish that an individual should make another individual his slave and his life and belongings should be at the mercy of his master. In fact, Islam abolished it forever through its directions and teachings but it was done gradually in order to avoid any conflict and chaos in society. Those days the whole Arab economy was dependent upon the institution of slavery. Every wealthy man had several slaves who were used for the services in the fields like trade and agriculture. In case of the sudden release of all slaves from shackles of slavery it would have been fatal for the economy and most of the slaves also would not have been able to earn for their souls. Therefore, Islam first made the people realize morally and declared the release of slaves as a big virtue. One of the initial Quranic orders issued in this context during the Mecca period was as under:
“Would that you know what the height is! It is the freeing of a bondsman”. (Al-Balad 90:13)
As a first order in this regard, the Quran forbade to transform prisoners of wars into slaves. The slavery was uprooted through the law that the Muslims would either just receive ransom (fidya) from the prisoners of war or would free them to please God if ever they overpowered the enemy completely. This verse was revealed even before the first battle was fought at the state of Madina.
“Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have killed many of them, bind your captives firmly. Then grant them their freedom or take ransom from them until war shall lay down its burdens,” (Muhammad 47:4)
This is how Islam abolished slavery and ended its prospects forever. Consequently the Holy Prophet did not declare any prisoner of war as slave during the future battles.
Now it was time to lift the status of the slaves already present in the society and to eventually free them. So at the next stage it was declared as a principle that the human rights of the slaves are equal to those of free men and they should be treated as the relatives and the neighbors are treated:
“Serve Allah and associate none with Him. Show kindness to your parents and your kindred, to the orphans and to the needy, to your near and distant neighbors, to your fellow travelers, to the wayfarers, and to the slave whom you own. Allah does not love arrogant and boastful men”. (Al-Nisa 4:36)
After the revelation of this Quranic verse the Holy Prophet forbade everyone to call anyone by the epithet of a slave or a maid rather they should be called by good names like a boy or a girl. It was made a law that a specific amount could be allocated in the government treasury as a payment for the release of slaves:
“Alms shall be for the poor and the needy and the captives”. (Al-Tawbah 9:60)
Then it was legislated that the slaves could get freedom by paying a set amount to their masters through an agreement and the masters would accept the agreement by all means:
“As for those of your slaves who wish for a deed of freedom free them if you find in them any promise and (the state should) bestow on them a part of the riches which Allah has given you”. (Al-Nur 24:33)
After this revelation only those old men and women did not get freedom that were well set in the houses of their masters and used to live as members of their families. With this the Holy Prophet ordered to abolish the rule that the son or the daughter of a slave would continue to be a slave rather it was decreed that the offspring of a slave would be deemed to be free automatically.
This is how Islam abolished slavery and ended its prospects forever.
It is also alleged by the modern world that Islam is against the family planning and is thus generating problems of diverse nature.
The fact is altogether different. Islam does not oppose family planning at all, rather directs to devise a strategy and planning in this field too like all other fields. It can be described as under:
God has made a code of conduct for the smooth running of this world. Thus all the works, accordingly get accomplished in two ways. The first way is beyond the capacity of human beings as in the matters of rains, storms, floods, earthquakes, changing of seasons, and the natural calamities etc. the second way has the partial involvement of the human being’s will and action. In all of the matters which a human being considers to be in his capacity, God has directed him to undertake them with knowledge, rational thinking, intellect, wisdom and proper strategy.
The Quran has placed this direction and the related references at more than a hundred spots. For instance, the following verses are noted:
“Say: Lord increases my knowledge.” (TA’HA’-20:114)
“Are the wise and the ignorant equal? Truly, none will take heed but people of understanding.” (Al-Zumar 39:9)
“And the person that receives the gift of wisdom is rich indeed. Yet none except people of sense bear this in mind.” (Al-Baqarah 2:269)
“The meanest beasts in Allah’s sight are those that are (by choice) deaf, dumb, and devoid of reason”. (Al-Anfal 8:22)
“In the creation of heavens and the earth, in the alternation of night and day, in the ships that sail the ocean with things that are beneficial to people, in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death, dispersing over it all manner of beasts; in the movements of the winds, and in the clouds that are driven between earth and sky: surely in these there are signs for people who understand.” (Al-Baqarah 2:164)
“(O Prophet) Give good news to my servants, who listen to my words and follow the best interpretation of it. These are they whom Allah has guided. These are they who are endured with understanding”. (Al-Zumar 39:118)
In all such matters where man has free will whatever the decision he makes and whatever the line of action he opts becomes the decision of God, if it is not against the larger interest of the whole of the humankind. Thus man continues proceeding on the highway of knowledge, rational thinking and science through this way. God has declared this principle in clear terms in the Quran that He never let any man’s Action go waste:
“No soul bears another’s burden and that each person shall be judged by his won labors”. (Al-Najam 53:38, 39)
“God never mends the plight of a nation, unless it struggle to do so” (Al-Raad 13:11)
However, if an individual effort proves to be overall against the whole humankind and has a risk of promoting evil so as to curb virtue completely; it is turned down by God:
“Had Allah not repelled some by the might of others, the monasteries and churches, the synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is frequently remembered would have been utterly destroyed”. (Al-Hajj 22:40)
“Had Allah not defeated some by the might of others, the earth would have been utterly corrupted. But Allah is bountiful to His creatures”. (Al-Baqarah 2:251)
Childbirth is one of the selective matters where God lets the free will of the human beings exercise. Though a child is born as per the order of God, yet the human beings are the vehicle for that. It is just as a farmer cultivates his land and grows the crop. The Quran affirms it at so many occasions that the cultivation of land and growing of crop by man is certainly done at the will of God. The farmer is no doubt the source. Thus the same intellect employed by man for the cultivation of his land should be applied while cultivating his generation too. Both these matters have been yoked together in Al-Waqia’ah:
“Behold the semen you emit: did you create it, or did we? (….) Consider the seeds you grow. Is it you that give them growth or we?” (Al-Waqi’ah 56: 63-64)
Therefore, under present circumstances we must think about certain things before extending the size of our family. The very first and foremost thing in this regard is the health of the mother both physical and psychological. It is a fact that a woman after giving birth to a child becomes weak both psychologically and physically. Secondly it is important to make sure whether the woman has completed the process of the training and education of her first child. The first two years are very important in this. If a child does not find enough attention of the mother through this period, it might affect his life and personality. The third notable thing is the income of the father. It is important to realize whether he is able to meet the requirements of all the kids he wishes to have. These requirements include education, medical assistance, proper lodging and an honorable life and he would be answerable to God in this regard. At the fourth stage a father has to think over how many kids he can pay personal attention to, how much time he can spare and to what extent he can educate and train all of them in the most desirable manner. The fifth considerable matter is the economy of the whole country, the situation of the unemployment and the chances of appropriate planning. Every individual has to think for the collective welfare of the whole of the society. In short, planning is necessary in every field of life including the matters of family and it is very much according to the teachings of Islam. The above point of view can be objected from different angles. It is better to analyze them.
The first objection is that the family planning is an expression of the lack of faith in the capacity of God as the Provider of food. Since He is the guarantor of food to people, birth control is unjust. The answer is simple. If family planning is a lack of faith, what is the status of man for employment, trade, cultivation and scientific development? Should man just sit idle and wait for the things to happen? If we acknowledge that it is necessary to struggle for one’s earning, we must try to understand the sense in God’s capacity as the provider of food. It means that God has treasured his bounties in this soil and has granted intellect to man so that he benefits himself from them in a proper way. God will open the mouth of his treasures when he will use his intellect. Thus man has to plan for that, otherwise he would not get it enough. Hence one must plan the size of one’s family, the time for the birth of a child and the proper care of every child. This is what we call family planning.
During the time of the Holy Prophet some of his companions used to adopt certain preventive measures for birth control. The Holy Prophet knew it and allowed to continue with that. Thus it can be concluded that all methods for birth control are valid in Islam.
It is also objected that the Quran forbids the killing of children and family planning amounts to the same. The fact is contrary to this comprehension of the Quranic verse. In fact the pagans of Makkah used to kill their daughters in particularly considering them a burden on their economy and due to some other reasons too. Hence the Quran stopped this practice, as it was criminal. It has nothing to do with family planning at all.
It is also said that the family planning is a plot hatched up by the Western and the Jewish lobby so as to stop the increase in the number of the Muslims. This objection is due to a misunderstanding. In fact the real plot against the Muslims is to keep them disordered, disorganized, uneducated and ignorant of scientific progress. The unplanned population increase provides the best platform for the enactment of the above-mentioned plot. Unlike this an organized nation can maintains her superiority over the world through her better civilization and practicability. So the Muslim Ummah can open the gateway of Islam for the other nations to enter through reaching the zenith of progress. This is the real way to increase the number of the Muslims.
It is argued that “women have been declared as the fields of their husbands and they have been allowed to go into their fields as they desire, through the verse 223 of Al-Baqarah in the Quran. Obviously through the fields one gets maximum yields but the family planning is against this teaching. Thus Islam is against it”. The facts are otherwise. In the above quoted verse of the Quran man or a husband has been personified as a responsible farmer who, first of all gives fertilizer and water to his fields, sows the required seed, looks after the fields during the growth period and protects it from every disease and gives proper pauses between the harvest and the new fertilization. Only an irresponsible farmer doesn’t observe these measures. Thus the above-mentioned Quranic verse lays a lot of responsibility on of the shoulders of a husband. He must take proper care of the health of this wife. He must plan for a new child when his wife is able to give birth to a child in all respects. He has to look after her during her pregnancy. He must give proper respite between the births of two children. He can only be called a wise and a responsible husband if he abides by all what has been stated above.