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Islam and Tolerance (18 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Suhana, Nahid and the Curse of Muslim Intolerance

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

18 March 2017

Nahid Afrin (left) and Suhana Sayed

Nahid Afrin, based in Assam and Suhana Sayed, based in Bangalore, are today united by grief. They are grieving over what the Mullahs have turned Islam into: an intolerant, insensitive and abusive creed hell bent on giving a bad name to Muslims. The fatwa against Nahid Afrin by Ulema in Assam and the online trolls against Suhana by ‘Mangalore Muslims’ is indicative of a larger malaise which has come to characterise Muslim society in India. While Suhana has been very nearly silenced, Nahid needs to be saluted for the courage that she has shown in standing up to those bigoted organizations who claim to speak in the name of Islam and Muslims.

Two fundamental objections have been made against these two girls by reactionary Muslim organizations. They are accused of showing their faces to people who are not related to them by blood thus breaking the code of Purdah in Islam. Secondly they are accused of singing and indulging in music which the conservatives think is not permitted in Islam. Suhana is also accused of singing Hindu devotional hymns, thereby seriously compromising the monotheistic principle of Islam which expressly forbids any eulogy for anyone else other than Allah. Let’s take all these objections one by one.

Much has been said about the institution of Purdah in Islam. Whether it refers to a garment which women above a certain age are supposed to wear in public or whether it refers to a division between public and private spaces is an open question. The conservative sections have argued that Purdah is ordained in Islam and that it practically means that women should not show their bodies in public, more so to strangers. However, there is no consensus on which party part can be shown and which cannot. While some say that it is alright to show the face, others have disapproved of it. It is argued that the face and hair of women have the capacity to ‘tempt’ men and therefore women should keep them covered at all times. Again, since sexuality and culture are intricately linked, some societies find even the hands of Muslim women too tempting and therefore they are barred from showing their hands in public. There is no end to such ridiculous reading of the scripture. Since Islam gets influenced by different cultural patterns, we see a wide divergence in terms of actual practice of the Purdah. While some intellectuals have argued that Purdah actually refers to physical separation between the public and the private, there are very few takers for such an interpretation. More or less there is a consensus that women should not show their faces in public.

The second objection relates to the appropriateness of music and singing in Islam. There has been a long running debate within Muslim societies whether Islam forbids or permits music and singing. On the whole, the scholarly consensus seems to be that only such kind of singing and music be allowed which is expressly for the glory of Allah. All other kinds of music, especially the ones which are for ‘entertainment’ are considered un-Islamic and therefore prohibited in Islam. Despite such a theological consensus, Muslim society in India has produced many musicians and singers. Their contribution to music is so immense that without their reference, one cannot think of writing a history of Indian music. Almost all of them were also religious and God fearing Muslims and they seemed to have overcome the conservative resistance put on their music and singing.

The problem is that till today, they are not considered good Muslims by the Ulema despite bringing laurels to the country for their musical accomplishments. The scholarly opinion remains the same and unchanged since many centuries. And that’s why citing names of Indian Muslim musicians and singers to defend Suhana and Nahid is not going to help. It is not also enough to say that when Prophet of Islam went to Medina, women sang in his honour. It is also not enough to cite Hadiths where it is stated through Aisha, the Prophet’s wife that women used to come and sing in her house in the presence of the Prophet.

 What is required is an attempt to break this scholarly consensus which argues that music and singing is forbidden in Islam. Doing so does not require an exegetical exercise of sifting through the pages of Islamic literature, but to argue boldly and consistently that Islam needs to be one with the fundamental marker of contemporary modernity: that of expanding choice and freedom. It is up to these Mullahs and overtly sensitive Muslims to decide whether they want Islam to become an ossified, irrelevant doctrine or whether they want it to be a flag bearer of inclusivity and freedom.

Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist and a social and political commentator

URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-tolerance/arshad-alam,-new-age-islam/suhana,-nahid-and-the-curse-of-muslim-intolerance/d/110445

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  • Suhana or Nahid are soft targets. They can be easily suppressed. That's all to it.
    By Deepa Natarajan - 3/20/2017 6:35:59 PM

  • Islam is what Muhammed Mustafa sallallahü alayı wa sallam conveyed from Allāhü te'âlâ through Gebrail alayhissalam and practiced together with his Sahāba-e kirām, as conveyed by the Tābiîn and the Ahl-e sünnet 'ulamâ. As declared in the Qurân-al karîm and the final Wadâ khutba, the Dîn Islâm cannot be what we think it should be, more than 1400 years later, without a close look at how the Rasûlullāh sallallahü ba alayhi wa sallam and His Sahâba radıyallahü anh um ajmaîn, praised by Allāhu  teâlâ lived up to İslâm. 
    By Abdurrahman Güner - 3/20/2017 6:15:14 AM

  • Totally agree with Ghulambhai. We need to question the credentials of those who would forbid that which is lawful. They have hijacked the religion.

    By Asif Merchant - 3/20/2017 5:03:38 AM

  • A two page pamphlet brought out by some individuals, not by any organisation or seminary, appealing to Muslims not to indulge in evil practices such as sorcery, black magic, vulgar singing etc. was distorted and a fabricated sensational story based on it was telecast by some TV channels.  In a channel (NDTV) it was said a fatwa was issued against the TV talent show winner Nahid Afrin as a result of her singing against IS and that her life is in danger. The channel realized its blunder and tendered its apology. Other channels should also regret for the mischief they have done.
    Let the media shun its attitude of making issues sensational for reasons best known to it. If the pamphlet had not been blown out of proportion, it would have stood nowhere and the poor singer would not have received so much shock and fear as reported. The pamphlet is mischievous and its blowers are more mischievous.
    V. M. Khaleelur Rahman
    By V. M. Khaleelur Rahman - 3/20/2017 4:22:53 AM

  • Is Music Prohibited In Islam?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/19/2017 10:51:04 PM

  • Restrict to SA
    Tourism profits will be enough to carry on
    Oil wells is bound to be dry soon
    Withdraw tactically

    By Oshok Dubey - 3/19/2017 7:19:47 PM

  • Many issues of Islam need to be urgently discussed with a cool and sombre mind without being obsessive. Words must be evaluated on their own intrinsic merit irrespective of whether those come from a great scholar or someone least known and very ordinary. Sweeping presumptions are also not part of the best intellectual practices. Aggressive retaliation could also be avoided if the other person is reasoning well.
    By Manzurul Haque - 3/19/2017 7:19:26 PM

  • My concern for the time being is of a different kind. In fact just now I wrote a longish piece but my mobile conked out erasing all my labour of several minutes, but then it was the will of Allah. I may not be able to reproduce but I am cursorily touching upon the theme. Before starting to discuss the nuts and bolts and getting stuck with the the devils underlying details I would prefer discussing, evolving, and internalizing the rules of communication within the community. This is a major, continuous cultural excercise especially for the intellectuals of the community.
    By Manzurul Haque - 3/19/2017 7:19:01 PM

  • A common view has developed that there are conflicts of views within Muslim community. To my mind those conflicts are superficial which flourish in the minds of superficial thinkers. The moment you touch a deeper level of thinking consensus begins to build up. At the most abstract level, highest level unity under the banner of Tauheed is possible. Of course vested interests can push us towards discussing more and more details and thus trap us in the quagmire of small issues. Such a quaqmire is best avoided. The culture of communication as I was mentioning includes an understanding that if a different note on a smaller issue is struck, there is scope of restraining ourselves from a full blast reaction - based on several counts of argument.

    By Manzurul Haque - 3/19/2017 7:16:47 PM

  • “Muslims to decide whether they want Islam to become an ossified, irrelevant doctrine or whether they want it to be a flag bearer of inclusivity and freedom” As long as you continue calling them “Ulema” the ordinary Muslim will remain bogged in the mire of ignorance and confused as to whom to trust—you the knowledgeable or the Ulema, the designated professionals?
    By Rashid Samnakay - 3/19/2017 7:14:50 PM

  • Neither music, nor singing nor dancing nor acting in the movies is forbidden in Islam. Trying to suppress God-given talents is no way to worship God! Intolerance and ignorance, as far as my understanding goes, are forbidden in Islam.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/18/2017 12:04:40 PM

  • mr. arshad alam is one the most courageous people i have had the privilege to read.

    hats off to you, sir!

    By hats off! - 3/18/2017 6:59:47 AM

  • Salute to your scholarly ideas
    By Meera - 3/18/2017 6:56:54 AM

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