Fatawa by Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah
Q: I work at an Islamic art production company, and we sometimes use percussion instruments with the chants we write. What is the ruling in this regard?
A: There is nothing wrong with this, Insha’ Allah, as it is reported in a hadith that the people of Abyssinia danced at the Mosque of the Prophet (PBUH), and he assented to this, and when `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab wanted to throw them with pebbles as a means of rebuking them, the Prophet said to him, “They are Banu Arfadah”. We understand from this that they were permitted to carry out their traditions and customs, and since this matter does not involve a Shar`i misdeed, then there is no harm in doing it. For this reason, it is deemed permissible to beat drums in festivals and other events, based on the ruling that detestation, in some cases, does not utterly negate permissibility of the action. Hereupon, if this is a tradition and it is aimed to promote and benefit people, then the matter is flexible, Insha’ Allah, and there is no problem with it.
Q: I am from Sri Lanka. We have a habit on Thursday night of people praying and reading Qur’an often between the Maghrib and `Isha’ prayers. They consider it an important event and do it regularly. Others burn fragrant incense to spread the fragrance while people are reading the Qur’an. Mosques are usually crowded after `Isha’ prayer and the Imam gives a sermon. Is this permissible or it is an innovation in religion?
A: Scholars differ as to the ruling of this act. Some believe that gathering to read Qur’an and remember Allah is an innovation in religion, while others encourage it. Each group has evidence supporting their view. One group depends on the Hadith where Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “You have done a wrong innovation in religion,” or “Have you surpassed the Companions of Muhammad in knowledge!”
The other group depends on the apparent meaning of the authentic Hadith narrated by Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said, “No people gather together in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, without tranquility descending upon them, mercy enveloping them, the angels surrounding them, and Allah making mention of them amongst those who are with Him.” Related by Muslim (2699) The apparent meaning of the Hadith supports the permissibility of gathering to read the Qur’an and study it.
Once Al-Awza`y was asked about gathering to study the Qur’an after Fajr prayer and he said, “There is no problem with this.” He added, “Hassan ibn `Atiyyah told me that the first person to do so was Hisham ibn Isma`il Al-Makhzumy during the caliphate of `Abd Al-Malik ibn Marawan. Since then people started doing it.” So the matter is subject to different opinions among scholars. Some scholars, like Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), disapproved of what Hisham did, while others found no problem with it. Harb mentioned that he saw the people of Damascus, Homs, and Basra gather to recite Qur’an after Fajr prayer. The people of Sham read the same Surah loudly, in one voice, and the people of Basra and Mecca used to gather and take turns in reciting ten Ayahs while the rest listened. Harb commented, “All that is good and acceptable”, thus disagreeing with Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbaly’s view (stated in his book Jami` Al-`Ulum wal-Hikam). So the matter is debatable among scholars. As regards to what happens in Sri Lanka, I hold the view that it is good.
I have been to this country and I encountered many idol-worshippers. Idols are everywhere and people are attached to them. When Muslims gather to recite and study the Qur’an or to remember Allah, without committing any prohibited act such as dancing or mixing with the other sex, this is a good act and no one should admonish them.