Chapter XXV (c)
Audition of Poetry and Related Matters
It is permissible to hear poetry. The Prophet (peace be upon him) heard it, and the companions not only heard it but also spoke it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
ان من الشعرلحكمة والحكمة ضالة المومن من حيث وجدها فهو الحق بها
“Some poetry is wisdom and wisdom is the believer’s lost thing. Wherever he finds it, he has the better right to it.”
He also said that the truest word ever spoken by the Arabs is the verse of Labid:-
الا كل شيء ما خلا الله باطل و كل نعيم لا محالة ذاءل
“Everything save Allah is vain, And all fortune is inevitably perishable.”
The father of Amr b. al-Sharid related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him whether he could recite any poetry of Umayya b. Abi al-Salt, so he recited a hundred verses, and at the end of each verse he asked for more and he said that the Umayya in his poetry was very close to Islam. Many such stories are told of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the companions.
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) observed that the people held erroneous views on this subject. Some declare that it is unlawful to hear all types of poetry and day and night keep on defaming their brother Muslims. Some on the contrary, hold that all poetry is lawful, and spend their time in listening to love-songs involving descriptions of the face and hair and mole of the beloved. Both the groups extend arguments against each other. My aim is not to establish their arguments. The Sufi Sheikhs follow the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who on being asked about poetry, said,
كلام حسنه حسن وقبيحه قبيح
Poetry is a speech, its good thereof is good and its bad thereof is bad,”
i.e. whatever is unlawful, like backbiting and libel and foul abuse and blame on any person and utterance of infidelity, is equally unlawful whether it be expressed in prose or in verse. And whatever is lawful in prose, like wisdom and counsels and assumption drawn from the signs of Allah and contemplation of the evidences of the Truth, is also lawful in verse.
In short, just as it is unlawful and forbidden to look at or touch a beautiful object which is a source of evil, so it is unlawful and forbidden to listen to that object or similarity to hear the description of it. Who regards such hearing lawful must also regard looking and touching as lawful, which is infidelity and heresy. If one says, that he hears the praise of Allah and seek only Him in eye and cheek and mole and curl, it follows that another may look at a cheek and mole and say that he finds vision of the Truth therein, and he sees to seek the Truth because both the eye and the ear are sources of admonition and knowledge. Then it is also possible that a third one may say that in touching a person, whose description it is thought allowable to hear and whom it is thought allowable to behold, he too argues that he is only seeking Allah, since one sense is no better adapted than another to apprehend a reality; then the whole religious law is made null and void, and the saying of Prophet (peace be upon him) that eyes commit fornication loses all it force, and the blame of touching persons with whom marriage may legally be contracted is removed, and the ordinances of religion fall to the ground. This is absurd and open deviation.
The foolish aspirants to Sufism, seeing the adepts absorbed in ecstasy during audition, imagined that they were acting from a sensual impulse and considered it to be lawful. They argued if it was not lawful the Sufis would not have done so. They imitated them, taking up the form but neglecting the spirit, until they perished themselves and led others into perdition. This is one of the great evils of our time.