Thursday, April 19, 2007



Thank you for all your wonderful comments, I really enjoyed reading them! And no, I did not forget you! I had missed you when you stopped logging on to the forum, and I missed your gentle correspondence and manner of questioning and am overjoyed you found the blog again and asked your questions. Naturally, I'm more than happy to provide answers.

But to avoid the need to traipse through pages of archives, I would like to answer them all up front if I can inshaAllah (God willing.) I'll start from the bottom and work my way up hopefully, and I might take a couple posts instead of just one if that is necessary.

Let me start by saying there is no question too basic. Knowledge has to be acquired somehow, you can't sleep with a book under your pillow and expect in the morning to know its contents. So what better way to learn than ask? Really, I'm honored that you're asking and I feel privileged to answer. :-) I tend to forget that my readers are not only Muslims, so I'm thinking now it might not be a bad idea to place a small glossary on the side of the blog for some of these words.

So first things first... haram. More or less, yes, it means prohibited. In Islam there are things that are mandatory or obligatory on adherents, like five daily prayers and fasting Ramadan, and there are somethings that aren't allowed, like eating pork or drinking alcohol. Those things not allowed are called haraam. However, there's an exception to the rules and there are situations where the mandatory may be excused, and the prohibitions relaxed. But you are correct that the meaning of haraam is prohibited.

Next, there is a difference of opinion of scholars regarding music. Some will say that in all forms it is totally prohibited, maybe even a mother singing to her child (though it's easy to call that a bit extreme.) Others will say it is allowed but disliked, or allowed assuming it does not involve other things that could lead to trouble or are in their own ways prohibited. For example, a song about alcohol, and the fun of being drunk? Well we established that alcohol is haraam, right? A lot of music also is tied to dancing, dancing in sexual forms to sort of elicit a physical response from the audience. I think conservative people of faith would naturally shy away from that--music that gives the appearance of a bedroom scene in public, bumping and grinding and so forth. So that could easily be prohibited. But music that is more benign often falls into a mysterious category where people don't know if it should be allowed (in Arabic halal) or prohibited. Some scholars dislike certain instruments or intentions for music. I'm sure they all have their reasons, and I can acknowledge that a discussion about why they think it is one or the other is over my head to some degree--what I wish is that more people would acknowledge that and cease to pretend to be the scholars they aren't qualified to be. :-)

As far as music for worship, this is interesting you ask. The Psalms to me always seemed like music, and in fact reciting the Qur'an is a music all its own. But worship, Islamic-style, does not involve instruments, and tends to be a very quiet affair. The parts of the prayer that are aloud are just reciting of the Qur'an but the rest of it is quiet. The silence adds to the reverence and respect, in my opinion, and prevents distraction from the real message of it.

A fitnah... this word means something like a trial or a test, or maybe a troubling situation where one is tempted to stray, or maybe even a civil war. Another benefit of my posting this is that some of my readers might be able to correct me on this--if I'm wrong I strongly encourage them to do so (hint hint ya'll!)

Now mashaAllah is one of these things that people say, where the meaning doesn't quite make sense. Literally I think it means "What Allah willed" and usually as a good omen. Muslims, especially Arabs, tend to say things like "Oh what a beautiful baby, mashallah" or "So he's an engineer? Mashallah" or "What a kind brother, mashallah." It's like a reminder that Allah had a hand in this world, what we see and what we don't. As I used above, inshaAllah means "If Allah wills" and Muslims will use that especially when talking about doing something in the future. It's really beautiful, actually, and something not only found in Islam but in Christianity as well actually, if you read the book of James. The author tells the audience not to say they will do something tomorrow without saying "If it is the Lord's will." Likewise in Islam, Muslims are told not to say they will do something for sure without acknowledging that they may only do it if it is God's will.

So it seems I have to go somewhere for now, but inshaAllah I will answer more of your questions in later posts. May God grant us all peace and guidance and keep us straight on His Path.

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