A Life Devoid of Simple Pleasures: Islam & Its Banning of Small Enjoyments
“Angels will not enter a house that contains a dog or a picture.” —The Angel Gabriel, in Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 7, Book 77, Hadith 843
The Quality of Life under Islam
All one has to do is to live one day mindful of all the freedoms which have traditionally been enjoyed by Westerners, and a feeling of gratitude should ensue.
But, in the Islamic world, such feelings of gratitude are harder to come by, in the same sense Westerners share with regard to their notions of individual freedoms, and human rights.
If one just wants to hear music or pet a dog, one would find these simple pleasures almost impossible to experience under the rule of Islam. So a short tour of what Sharia Law says about pets, music, art, et cetera might be called for.
No Pet Dogs? Really?
Yes, it is true that dogs are prohibited in Islam, except as guards, according to Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 67, Hadith 389, which says, “Anyone who keeps a dog merely as a pet, and not a hunting or guard dog, shall have two Qirats [prayer readings] deducted every day from his accumulated good deeds.” The saliva of dogs is considered so unclean that any bowl that a dog merely drinks from must be washed seven times, according to Abu Huraira in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, Hadith 173: “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘If a dog drinks from the utensil of anyone of you it is essential to wash it seven times.’” In fact, Muhammad hated dogs so much that he once commanded that they all be killed on sight, although he eventually relented, due to the over-exuberance with which his order to do this was being carried out. It is recounted in Sahih Muslim, Book 10, Hadith 3813, that Jabir bin Abdullah said, “Allah’s Messenger . . . ordered us to kill dogs, and we carried out this order so much so that we also killed a dog coming with a woman from the desert. Then Allah’s Apostle . . . forbade their killing. He [the Holy Prophet further] said: ‘It is [however] your duty to kill the jet-black [dog] having two spots [on the eyes], for it is a devil.’”
Music Is Problematic in Islam
There seems to be a vast array of opinions among Muslims with respect to the topic of music, song, and dance. So, knowing that Muslims are human beings with differing feelings and opinions about what should be the rules on such matters in Islam, consulting the Sharia itself is called for. Muslims, it must be remembered, do not get a vote, only the Sharia does. According to The Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Classic Islamic Sacred Law, r40.1(1), “Allah . . . commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affair of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.” In other words, musical instruments are jahiliyya, the same as Christian crosses, since they were invented before Muhammad without Islamic guidance. And, without musical instruments, it is difficult to have music, is it not?
Listening to a Songstress Is Prohibited
On the subject of song, in r40.1(2), the Sharia continues: “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.” Additionally, in r40.1(3), it is written that “[s]ong makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage.” And, in a comparison of music and song to alcohol, there is 40.1(4): “‘This Community will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones.’ Someone asked, ‘When will this be, O Messenger of Allah?’ and he said, ‘When songstresses and musical instruments appear and wine is held to be lawful.’” (Yes, alcoholic spirits are illegal under the Sharia as well.)
But Tambourines Are Sometimes Allowed
In r40.2, we learn that “it is unlawful to use musical instruments—such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute—or to listen to them. It is permissible to play the tambourine at weddings, circumcisions, and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is unlawful.” It would seem that all stringed instruments are covered by prohibition of the mandolin, and all flutelike instruments—woodwinds as well as brass instruments—would be banned as well. Instruments resembling the lute, such as a harp or lyre would be prohibited, as well as cymbals, bells, and other percussion instruments, with the exception of tambourines—which are allowed even with bells, but only if the tambourines are being used at weddings or circumcisions. Drums seem to be a risk, as well, especially if they are of the wrong dimensions. In the end, there are few who would risk playing any musical instrument, unless sanctioned by a Muslim cleric for a specific religious event. The lack of widespread use of musical instruments means few people will learn them.
A Singing Imam Is Permitted
In r40.3, it is written that “[a]s for singing that is not accompanied by instruments, one should know that singing or listening to singing is offensive except . . . at weddings and the like, and of our Imams. . . . It is clear . . . that all poetry which encourages good deeds, wisdom, noble qualities, abstinence from this-worldly things, or similar pious traits . . . is sunna to write, sing, or listen to. . . .” So, in a nutshell, only religious singing by men in the clergy is really safe to listen to.
Slow Dancing Is Forbidden
Dancing, according to r40.4, “is permissible, as attested to by the hadith related in the Sahihs Bukhari and Muslim . . . unless it is languid, like the movements of the effeminate.” So, dancing must be energetic and not in any way conducive to intimate touching.
On the subject of creating art of any animate life, w50.1 says that “[o]ne should realize that the prohibition of picture making is extremely severe, that it is counted among the enormities, and the threats against doing it are very emphatic. Bukhari and Muslim relate that a man came to Ibn Abbas . . . and said, ‘My livelihood comes solely from my hands, and I make these pictures. Can you give me a legal opinion about them?’ Ibn Abbas told him, ‘Come closer,’ and the man did. ‘Closer,’ he said, and the man did, until he put his hand on the man’s head and said . . . ‘Every maker of pictures will go to the fire, where a being will be set upon him to torment him in hell for each picture he made.’ So if you must, draw trees and things without animate life in them.””
And because dolls are representations of animate life, in w50.4, the law states: “As for dolls, making them is unlawful, though using them is merely offensive.” However, it is highly discouraged to allow little girls to play with dolls, although it is sometimes tolerated among prepubescent girls, since Muhammad initially tolerated Aisha’s doll-playing, as she was prepubescent when he married her at six years of age.
Talking During Sex
During sexual intercourse, according to r32.7, no talking is allowed: “It is offensive to speak while lovemaking, or when in the lavatory or relieving oneself. It is offensive to laugh in circumstances in which speaking is offensive.”
So, the point of discussing the prohibition of some of the simplest pleasures in life, by the Sharia, should naturally beg the following question: If these things are forbidden, what else might be? Well, in short, under Islamic law almost anything that might distract a person from reverent behavior or that might direct one’s mind in an irreverent or possibly sacrilegious direction is risky. Danger lurks behind each and every humorous comment, never mind risqué or off-color jokes.
In the end, it must be admitted that Islam certainly calls for a cautious and serious frame of mind at all times. Indeed, the pursuit of happiness, if taken too far, can pose many perils. And what Westerner—indeed what self-respecting human being—really wants to live under the totalitarian control of the Sharia court and its functionaries?
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