Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:06 am (KSA) 21:06 pm (GMT)

New Islamic ruling on singing stirs debate

President of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Dr. Yousef al-Qardhawi is considered as a moderate Muslim scholar (File)
President of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Dr. Yousef al-Qardhawi is considered as a moderate Muslim scholar (File)

A religious ruling by the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Dr. Yousef al-Qardhawi, permitting the singing of females stirred debate within Islamic religious circles where playing music and singing were perceived for long as forbidden by the Shariah law, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Some Muslim scholars criticized Dr. Qaradhawi’s fatwa saying that singing is forbidden and not only for women but for men as well, citing the music’s effect on emotions and its potential to lead to what is perceived as sin.
Dr. Abd al-Fatah Idris, an Islamic scholar from Egypt’s Al-Azhar university, said “As a general rule, women’s singing is forbidden, but there is no evidence that shows women cannot allow men to hear their voice while singing.”

But Idris acknowledged that during the prophet's era a woman called Zainab used to sing for other women in weddings.

Others have supported al-Qardhawi’s fatwa particularly with regards to singing for religious purposes such as promoting Islamic values and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed.

But in both camps women are advised to observe certain Islamic legal conditions and to restrain “lustful desires.”

Singing conditions

Al-Qaradawi, while a prominent International Islamic scholar, is widely known for his moderate view of Islam. He was quoted as saying: “there is no hindrance against women to sing, except that singing should be within an acceptable Islamic legal frame that insures singing is not accompanied by prohibited practices such as dancing or drinking alcohol.”

He also advised that singing by women should be that of value and should not be “indecent,” pointing to how a Abu Nuwas, a well-known Arab poet whose poetry often reflected his love for wine and sexual desire for men, continues to misguide the youth long after his death.

Qaradawi also mentioned one of Ahmed Shawqi’s famous poems that celebrates the ending of Ramadan by a sip of alcohol. Shawqi died in 1932, and is another Arabic poet who pioneered the modern Egyptian literary movement and introduced the genre of poetic epics to the Arabic literary tradition.

In what he considered as a good example of singing by women Qaradawi quoted Egyptian female singer Fayiza Ahmed who dedicated a song to mothers.

No video taping

Dr. Ibrahim Salah al-Din al-Houdhud, Another Al-Azhar University scholar, agreed with Qardhawi saying: "scholars have permitted the singing of women, however with conditions; first, the words should not be alluring or indecently violating the religion: second, Singing should not happen when there is dancing and alcohol, and there should not be video cameras taping.”

A third Islamic scholar at Al-Azhar was quoted as saying that women should sing in a non-mixed gender environment but noting that a woman’s voice is not “indecent” or “lustful” and that women can mix with men only in education, pointing that Muslims used to take the prophet’s sayings from his wives behind a veil.

Dr. Adil abd al shakour, professor of the Arabic language and Shariah in an institute for preachers in the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf, said scholars’ opinions on women singing have different views.

"Extremists create the perception that a women's voice is “indecent” or “lustful”, but there is evidence that proves that women used to talk with the prophet about any issue including issues of everyday life.”

(Written by Dina al-Shibeeb and edited by Mustapha Ajbaili)

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