Chapter XXV (d)
Audition of Melodious Voices
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
زينوا اصوالكم بالقران
“beautify your voices by reading the Quran,”
زينوا القران باصوات الحسن
“adorn Quran with beautiful voices.”
يزيد في الخلق ما يشاء
He adds to Creation as He pleases: (Q 35:1),
the commentators think, it means a beautiful voice.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that:
who wished to hear the voice of David, he should listen to the voice of Abu Musa al-Ashari.
It is stated in the Hadith (traditions) that the inhabitants of Paradise would enjoy audition, for there comes forth from every tree a different voice and melody. When diverse sounds are mingled together, the natural temperament experiences a great delight. This sort of audition is common to all living creatures, may it be mankind or some other creature. Since everything is alive because of the subtlety of the spirit, and there is a subtlety in the melodious sounds also, so when spirit hears, it inclines to that which is homogeneous to itself.
Physicians and those philosophers who claim to possess deep knowledge have discussed this subject at large and have written books on musical harmony. The results of their inventions are manifest today in the musical instruments which they manufactured for the sake of exciting passion and obtaining amusement and pleasure in accord with satanic ways. It is related that Ishaq Mausali while he was singing in a garden, a nightingale, enraptured with the music. It first got quiet in order to hear his song, and then fell dead from the tree. I have heard many tales of this kind, but my only purpose is to mention the theory that the sounds and melodies blended and harmonized affect on the nature of all living creatures.
Ibrahim Khawwas related:
Once I was guest of one of the Arab tribe’s chief. I saw a Negro lying at the door of his tent, shackled and chained in the heat of the sun. I felt pity for him and determined to intercede with the chief on his behalf. When the food was brought I refused to eat, knowing that nothing grieves an Arab more than that. When the chief asked me the cause of refusal, I answered that I hoped his generosity would grant me a boon. He begged me to eat, assuring that all he possessed was mine. I told him that I did not want his wealth or property but was desirous that he might forgive his Negro slave. The chief said that I must first listen to his offence and then might remove his chains. The chief said that the slave was a camel-driver, and he possessed a sweet voice. He had sent him with few camels to fetch grain from his estates. He put double load on every camel and chanted so sweetly on the way that the camels ran at full speed. They reached back in a very short time, and as soon as he unloaded them they died one after another. I was amazed with that tale and said to the chieftain that a nobleman like him did not speak falsely, but I wished for some evidence of that tale. While we talked, a number of camels were brought from the desert to the wells that they might drink. The chief inquired that for how long the camels had gone without water. He was told that the camels were without water for the last three days. He then commanded the slave to chant. The camels became so occupied in listening to his song that they would not drink a mouthful of water and suddenly they turned and fled, one by one, and dispersed in the desert. The chieftain released the slave and pardoned him for my sake.
Some such happenings are in our routine observation, for example, the drivers of camels and assess when sing melodies their beasts get intoxicated. In Khurasan and Iraq the hunters when hunting deer at night beat a brass plate in order that the deer listening to the sound may stand still, and thus be caught. And it is well known in India that some people go out to the country area and sing and make a tinkling sound on hearing which the deer approach; then the hunters encircles them and sing until the deer are fully absorbed by the delightful melody and find rest in the calmness of sleep and are easily hunted.
The same effect is manifest in infants who cease crying in the cradle when a melody is sung to them and the physicians claim of such a child that he is sensible and will be clever when he grows up. On the death of one of the ancient kings of Persia his ministers wished to enthrone his son, who was a two years old child. The venerable noble on being consulted said that the child must be put to trial to ensure whether he was sensible enough to be trusted with the task. Therefore, the singers were ordered to sing to him. The child was stirred with emotions and began to shake his arms and legs. The venerable noble declared that this was a hopeful sign and consented to his succession. All the sensible people are unanimous on the affectedness of melodious sound and demand no further argument on it. Anyone who says that he finds no pleasure in sounds and music is either a liar or a hypocrite or he does not possess that subtle sense, and such person neither belongs to the human category nor beasts.
Those who prohibit music do so in order that they may keep the Divine commandment. The theologians are unanimous that it is permissible to hear musical instruments if they are not used for diversion, and if mind is not led to wickedness through hearing them. Many traditions are cited in support of this view. Thus, it is related the Aisha (may Allah be pleased with him) said that a slave-girl was singing in her presence at her house when Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) asked permission to enter. As soon as the slave girl heard the sound of his foot steps she ran away. He came in and the Prophet (peace be upon him) smiled. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) that what had made him to smile?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) answered: “A slave-girl was singing here, but she ran away as soon as she heard thy step.” Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said that he would not depart until he heard what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had heard. So the slave girl was called back and made to sing, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was listening to her.
Many such traditions have been related by the companions which Abdul Rahman Salami has collected in his Kitab al-Sama, and he has pronounced such audition to be permissible. In practicing audition, the object of Sufi Sheikhs is different. They say that every act must proceed with some benefit, as mere legality of something is not only the abode of common people but even of beasts also. Therefore, it is incumbent on the seekers to do only those acts through which they might derive some spiritual benefit.
Once, when I was at Merv, one of the leaders of the Ahl-i Hadith (one of the sects) and the most celebrated of them said that he had composed a work on the permissibility of audition. I replied that it was a great calamity to religion that the Imam had made an amusement lawful which was the root of all immorality. He said that if we did not hold it as lawful then why we practice it. I answered, “Its lawfulness depends on circumstances and cannot be asserted absolutely. If audition produces a lawful effect on the mind, then it is lawful but it is unlawful if the effect is unlawful and permissible if the effect is permissible.”