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Chapter-5: Recreation, Adornments, Music, Fine Arts

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Rest & Recreation:

People require rest and recreation. This is something completely natural. Without it, a person cannot be productive in life. The Companion Abû al-Dardâ’ said: “I seek recreation in something that is neither useful nor unlawful, and this makes me stronger on the truth.”
Islam is complete and comprehensive, addressing all aspects of our lives and all of our needs, including our need for diversions and for recreation. It provides for us lawful means to fulfill this need.
We read in the Qur’ân how the brothers of Joseph (peace be upon him) appealed to their father, the Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him), on the basis of this fundamental human need. They said: “Send him along with us tomorrow so he may engage in revelry and play. We will indeed keep him safe.” [Sûrah Yûsuf: 12]
The judge Abû Bakr b. al-`Arabî, commenting on this verse, observes:
There is no real objection to this type of recreation. A man engages in play with his family, as well as engaging in horse riding, archery, and in any other form of recreation sanctioned by the sacred texts. It is authentically related to us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Jâbir when he married a mature widow: “Why did you not marry a virgin whom you could play with and who would play with you?” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim] The recreation that these brothers were referring to was either foot racing or archery. This we can understand from the verse: “We went off to compete with each other.” [Sûrah Yûsuf: 17]
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`A’ishah relates the following about her husband, the Prophet (peace be upon him):
I swear by Allah that I saw Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) standing at the door of my room while the Abyssinians were engaged in spear play in the mosque of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He screened me with his cloak so I could watch them perform. He stood there for my sake until I decided that I had had enough. Now just imagine how much time a young girl eager for entertainment would stand there watching. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
At the end of this story, she relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Jews know that in the world there is time for rest. And I have been sent with the true and pure religion.”
Qarazah b. Ka`b and Abû Sa`ûd al-Ansârî both said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) permitted us to engage in recreation during weddings.” [Sunan al-Nasâ’î]
In the Sunnah, we see the Companions participating in many different forms of lawful entertainment and play. They engaged in sports like footraces, horse racing, wrestling, and archery. They spent time in telling jokes and in lighthearted conversation.
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Salmân al-Fârisî said to Abû al-Dardâ’: “Your own self has a right over you, your Lord has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your family has a right over you. So give everyone his due.” When the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard about what Salmân had said, he approved of it, saying: “Salmân has spoken the truth.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sunan al-Tirmidhî]
The scholars of Islam have attested to the importance of lawful recreation to the healthy development of a person’s character. Al-Ghazâli writes:
After completing his bookwork, a child should be allowed to play in a nice manner so that he can relax from the fatigue of his studies. His play should not tire him out. If the child is forbidden to engage in play and forced to spend his time in perpetual study, this will result in his heart dying, his intelligence waning, and his manner of living becoming so wretched that he will seek from it any escape he can find.
Ibn Miskawayh writes:
A child should be permitted on occasion to engage in nice play so that he can relax from the fatigue of his proper upbringing. His play should neither cause injury nor be very tiring.

Ibn Jamâ`ah observes:
There is nothing wrong with the student resting himself, his heart, his mind, and his eyes – if any of these grows tired or languid – with play and recreation. This will return him to his proper state so that his time will not be wasted. There is nothing wrong with it being strenuous and exercising his body, for it has been said that this refreshes the metabolism, rids the system of excess toxins, and revitalizes the body.
Though recreation and entertainment is essentially lawful in Islam, it is necessary for us to keep the following in mind:

1. Time is precious. We must always be acutely aware of how valuable the time is that we have been given in our brief lives on Earth. Islam teaches us to place a premium on our time and to get as much out of it as we can, defining for us the various ways we can employ it.
Allah says: “It is He who has made the night and the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or show gratitude.” [Sûrah al-Furqân: 62]
Our lives should be spent in the remembrance of Allah and in thanks to Him. Indeed, Allah says: “I created neither humanity nor the jinn except to worship Me.” [Sûrah al-Dhâriyât: 56]

This is the ultimate purpose of life, and it should be what preoccupies our time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) speaks to us about how much we lose when we waste our time, saying: “There are two blessings that many people squander: health and time.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
He also says as a warning to us: “Allah leaves no more excuses for a person once he has given him sixty years to live.”
We all know that we will be standing before Allah and questioned about how we spent our time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “No one will be permitted to turn his two feet away on the Day of Resurrection until he is questioned about four matters: about his life, how he spent it; his youth, how he employed it; his work, what he did with it; and his wealth, how he earned it and spent it.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî]

2. Our work and our efforts are important in Islam, and as Muslims, we are encouraged to be industrious. Allah says: “Say: Work, for Allah will see your deeds as will His Messenger and the believers.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 105]
Allah makes clear to us the effect that our works have on our recompense in the Hereafter. He says: “Are you recompensed except for the work that you used to do?” [Sûrah al-Naml: 90]
He also says: “Is the recompense for goodness anything but goodness?” [Sûrah al-Rahmân: 60]
There are many verses in the Qur’ân that mention good works in conjunction with faith. Moreover, the importance of diligence and being responsible in our work is specifically emphasized. Allah says: “O John, take the scripture with determination.” [Sûrah Maryam: 12]
He also says: “Take what We have given you with determination.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 63]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The believer who is strong is better and more beloved to Allah than the believer who is weak.” [Sahîh Muslim]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “Allah loves that when you engage in some work, you do so with proficiency.” [al-Bayhaqî, Shu`ab al-Imân]
He also emphasized the importance of continuing with our deeds throughout the duration of our lives, saying: “If the Final Hour arrives and one of you has a sapling in his hand, if he can finish planting it before standing up, then he should do so.” [al-Bukhârî, al-Adab al-Mufrid]
A Muslim alternates from his worldly work to his work for the Hereafter, being equally diligent in both. Allah says: “Therefore, when you are free from your immediate task, still labor hard. And strive to please your Lord.” [Sûrah al-Sharh: 7-8]

3. Islam stresses the importance of striving to reap benefits for both this world and the next. The life of this world is the harvesting ground for the Hereafter. It is but a passing phase and the life to come is the eternal abode. A Muslim, therefore, should expend his efforts for the sake of the Hereafter and at the same time bring about benefits in this world. He should excel in cultivating and developing the Earth while gearing his efforts towards achieving felicity in the Hereafter.
Allah says: “And He has made of service unto you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth; it is all from Him. Lo! Herein are signs for a people who reflect.” [Sûrah al-Jâthiyah: 13]
Allah says: “He it is who has made the Earth subservient unto you, so traverse its paths and partake of His providence.” [Sûrah al-Mulk: 15]

The Muslim world today is behind everyone else in knowledge, enterprise, and productivity. One of the reasons for this is that Muslims are not making productive use of their time and generally do not have a positive work ethic. We must resolve to stop wasting time, to stop falling short in our work, and to put an end to our unproductive habits.
In light of all of this, we can place recreation and entertainment in the proper context: We must observe the following guidelines:
1.Recreation must never cause us to neglect our obligatory worship and our obedience to Allah. 
2.Recreation and entertainment should not take up too much of our time. We should not engage in it to the point where it ceases to be beneficial. 
3. It should not become our habit to perpetually seek recreation and diversion. 
4. Recreation should not keep us from activities that will benefit us in our worldly or spiritual lives. 
5. Our means of recreation and our entertainments must be completely free from anything that is unlawful in Islam. [Source: http://en.islamtoday.net]

Fine Arts:

It is generally perceived that Islam is against ‘Fine Art’, which is concerned primarily with the creation of beauty and generally taken to include painting, printmaking, sculpture, and architecture, with literature, music, and dance sometimes being added. In its strict sense, fine art is to be distinguished from such decorative arts and crafts as wall painting, pottery, weaving, metalworking, and furniture making, all of which have utility as an end; the architect being differentiated from the builder in this respect. Islam is the religion of moderation in harmony with the nature; it does not impose unnecessary restrictions on the adornments which God has created for the enjoyment and development of human faculties. Asceticism often means the negation of art and beauty, it has no necessary sanctity attached to it. God has laid down the broad guidelines of lawful and prohibitions in Qur’an:

“Say: Who hath forbidden the (zenah زينة ) adornment of God which He has brought forth for His devotees, and the good things of His providing? Say: "All these things are for the enjoyment of the believers in the life of this world though shared by others; but these shall be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection. Thus do We make Our revelations clear for those who understand. Say: The things that my Lord hath indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason; assigning of partners to God for which he hath given no authority; and saying things about God of which you have no knowledge.”(Qur’an;7:32-33).

The beautiful and good things of life are really meant for, and should be the privilege of those with faith in God. If they do not always have them in this life, and if there is sometimes the semblance of others having them who do not deserve them, it should be kept in view that this is a test from God. In the life to come they will be purely for the faithful. The forbidden things are described in four categories: (1) What is shameful or unbecoming; the sort of things which have also legal and social sanctions, not of a local but of a universal kind; they may be called offences against society: (2) Sins against self and trespasses or excesses of every sort; these are against truth and reason; here would come in indiscipline, failure in doing intangible duties not clearly defined by law; selfishness or self-aggrandizement, which may be condoned by custom and not punished by law, etc.- (3) Erecting fetishes or false gods; this is treason against the true God; and (4) Corrupting religion by debasing superstitions, saying things about God which are not true.

Within the parameters laid down by Qur’an; in broad-spectrum the Muslims have created such an immense variety of literatures, performing arts, visual arts, and music that it virtually defies any comprehensive definition. In the narrowest sense, the arts of the Muslims might be said to include only those arising directly from the practice of Islam; more commonly, however, the term is extended to include all of the arts produced by Muslim peoples, whether connected with their religion or not. It is difficult to establish a common denominator for all of the artistic expressions of the Muslims. Such a common denominator would have to be meaningful for miniature painting and historiography, for a musical mode and the form of a poem. The relationship between the art of the Muslims and its religious basis is anything but direct. Islam is not against fine arts with in the limits laid down by God and His last Messenger (peace be upon him).

Amusements, Music and Singing:

According to Fiqh us Sunnah Volume 2, Number; 153, “Recreation, amusements, and singing, if they stay within the moral bounds, are permissible on the days of Eid. 

”Narrated Aysha: Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Buath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Aus, before Islam). The Prophet (peace be upon him) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, "Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (peace be upon him)?" Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) turned his face towards him and said, "Leave them." When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signaled to those girls to go out and they left. It was the day of 'Eid, and the Black people were playing with shields and spears; so either I requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, "Carry on! O Bani Arfida," till I got tired. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked me, "Are you satisfied (Is that sufficient for you)?" I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave. (Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith  number; 2:70). 

This Hadith is cited by scholars as evidence for the permissibility of singing, and some scholars cite it also in argument in favour of musical instruments, if with in Islamic values and principles. The traditional Ulema consider musical instruments totally forbidden (Haram). However some modernist think that the music, which encourages un-Islamic practices, is forbidden for that reason but the music which is not erotic, but relaxing and has a healthy effect on the listener, may be acceptable. Music, differentiated as it may be in the countries between Morocco and India, follows: variations of highest subtlety on a comparatively simple given subject or theme.

Bible mentions about use of music by David (pbuh) while praising God: “Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.” (1 Chronicles;23:5); “And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endures for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.”(2 Chronicles;7:6); “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.”(2Samuel;6:15).

Pictures and Sculptures:

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Making of statue existed in the time of David and Solomon, as indicated in Qur’an: “They worked for him (Solomon)  as he desired: making arches, statue...”(Qur’an;34:13); but because the pagans used the pictures and idols for worship hence the Muslim scholars are in agreement about prohibition of statues, and paintings of living creatures. However the Prophet (peace be upon him) once used a piece of cloth with pictures on it for prayers. After he finished, he expressed his dislike to that piece of cloth and said that it distracted him from his prayers. From this it may be deduced that it is discouraged to use such material for a prayer mat. Its use, however, does not affect the validity of prayer.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned that pictures are strongly discouraged, he made the exception "unless they be printed on material." This means material which is used for making clothes. So it may not be appropriate to say that photography, as it is used today, is forbidden, though some scholars hold opposite view. Indeed, it has numerous beneficial uses. If it is used for a bad purpose, as in the case of pornography or compromising individual privacy it becomes forbidden.


The centre of the Islamic artistic tradition lies in calligraphy, a distinguishing feature of this culture, in which the word as the medium of divine revelation (Qur’an) plays such an important role. After the 13th century a highly refined art of miniature developed, primarily in the non-Arab countries; it dwells, however, only rarely upon religious subjects. And a perfect harmony is reached in some of the miniature manuscripts of Iran, Muslim India, or Ottoman Turkey, which, in their lucid colours and fine details of execution, recall both the perfection of the calligraphy that surrounds them on delicate paper and the subtlety of the stories or poems that they accompany or illustrate.
Image result for Qutub Minar Minaret Delhi India
Image result for Qutub Minar Minaret Delhi India
Qutb Minar Minaret Delhi India

Arabesque & Architecture:

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The typical expression of Muslim art is the arabesque, both in its geometric and in its vegetabilic form; one leaf, one flower growing out of the other, without beginning and end and capable of almost innumerable variations, only gradually detected by the eye -which never lose their charm.
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Image result for islamic arabesque architecture
The arabesques, were developed according to a strict ritual to a mathematical pattern and were refined until they reached a perfection of geometrical complicated figures, as in the dome of the Karatay Medrese in Konya (1251); it corresponds both to the most intricate lacelike Kufic inscriptions around this dome and to the poetical style of Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi, who wrote in that very place and during those years.

According to a US study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in its Journal on 21 February 2007;  ‘Designs on arabesque tiles in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages revealed their maker’s understanding of mathematical concepts not grasped in the West until 500 years later. Many Medieval Islamic buildings walls have ornate geometric star and polygon or ‘girih’, patterns, which are often overlaid with a swirling network of lines - This girih tile method was more efficient and precise than the previous approach, allowing for an important breakthrough in Islamic mathematics and design.’ An aversion to empty spaces distinguishes that art; neither the tile-covered walls of a mosque nor the rich imagery of a poem allows an unembellished area; and the decoration of a carpet can be extended almost without limit. The architecture of mosques  with big halls, of Iran and adjacent countries; central buildings with the wonderfully shaped domes of the Ottoman Empire, and Muslim Spain  are unique in elegance.
If any decoration was needed, it was the words of God, beautifully written or carved in the walls or around the domes.
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Image result for islamic art

At first connected with the mosques and later independent of them are schools, mausoleums, rooms for the students, and cells for the religious masters. The Mughals in India have left most beautiful buildings like Taj Mahal, mosques and gardens like Shalimar.


The aimless poetry with pagan inclinations is not approved in Islam, however there is no restrictions on good poetry: “Shall I tell you, O people, on whom the devils descend? - They descend on every slandering sinner. Those who listen to hearsay - and most of them are liars and those poets who are followed by those who go astray. Do you not see, how aimlessly they wander in every valley, preaching what they do not practice themselves? However, an exception is made for those (poets) who believe, do good deeds, engage much in the remembrance of Allah and defend themselves when wronged, showing no vindictiveness. The unjust oppressors will soon find out what vicissitudes their affairs will take.”(Qur’an;26:221-227). Narrated Ubai bin Kab: Allah's Apostle said, "Some poetry contains wisdom." (Sahih Bukhari Hadith. Number;8.166). The ambiguity of Persian poetry, which oscillates between the worldly, the divine, and often the political level, is typical of Islamic writings. A similar characteristic even conditions innumerable historical works in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, which, especially in classical times, contain much valuable information. The immortal mystical poems of Rumi comprise thousands of variations on the central theme of love. Although such a perfect congruency of poetry and fine arts is not frequently found, the precept about Persian art that "its wings are too heavy with beauty" can also be applied to Persian poetry. Thus, the tile work of a Persian mosque, which combines different levels of arabesque work with different styles of writing, is reminiscent of the way Persian poetry combines at least two levels of reality. The 20th century great Muslim poet, philosopher Muhammad Iqbal beautifully conveyed the divine message through his poetry, reviving the spirit among Muslims of India, resulting in creation of Pakistan. 

Influence on Europe:

Europe has known art objects of Islamic origin since the early Middle Ages, when they were brought home by the crusaders or manufactured by the Arabs in Sicily and Spain. Much admired and even imitated, they formed part of the material culture in those times, so much so that even the coronation robes of the German emperor were decorated with an Arabic inscription.
Image result for Saracen arches and Byzantine mosaics complement each other within the Palatine Chapel, Sicily.
Saracen arches and Byzantine mosaics complement each other within the Palatine Chapel, Sicily.

 Image result for Saracen arches and Byzantine mosaics complement each other within the Palatine Chapel, Sicily.
Image result for European depiction of the Persian doctor al-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona's Receuil des traités de médecine (1250–1260).Image result for European depiction of the Persian doctor al-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona's Receuil des traités de médecine (1250–1260).Image result for European depiction of the Persian doctor al-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona's Receuil des traités de médecine (1250–1260).

European depiction of the Persian doctor al-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona's Receuil des traités de médecine (1250–1260). Gerard de Cremona translated numerous works by Arabic scholars, such as al-Razi and Ibn Sina.
At the same time, Islamic motives wandered into the belles letters of Europe, and Islamic scientific books formed a basis for the development of Western science. Islamic culture as such, however, was rather an object of hatred than of admiration; a more objective appreciation of both the works of art and of literature did not start until the mid-17th century, when travelers told of the magnificent buildings in Iran and Mughal India, and the first works from Persian literature were translated, influencing German classical literature. Indian miniatures inspired Rembrandt, Persian carpets were among the most coveted gifts for princes and princesses. A bias against the cultures of the East persisted, however, until after the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment; the indefatigable work of the British scholars at ‘Fort William’ at Calcutta brought new literary treasures to Europe, where they were studied carefully by specialists in the emerging field of Islamic studies. Poets such as Goethe in Germany in the early 19th century paved the way for a deeper understanding of Islamic poetry. Islamic literatures, however, continue to be known to the larger Western public almost exclusively by The Thousand and One Nights, or The Arabian Nights' Entertainment (translated first in the early 18th century), Omar Khayyam's roba'iyat, and the lyrics of Hafez. Although the beauty of the Alhambra, for example, had already inspired European scholars and artists in the early 19th century, a thorough study of Islamic art as an independent field began only in the 20th century.
Image result for The Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by Al-Idrisi for Roger II of Sicily in 1154, one of the most advanced ancient world maps
The Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by Al-Idrisi for Roger II of Sicily in 1154, one of the most advanced ancient world maps.

Islamic society is governed through (Shura) consultation, based upon justice through Shari’a. When the message of Islam was preached, two menace; the slavery and usury were integral part of the societies internationally. Slavery it is sanctioned in Bible (Leviticus 25:44-46) while usury is prohibited. Islam does not approve of slavery, hence through variety of ways the reduction and eventual eradication of slavery was undertaken. Riba (‘usury or interest) is prohibited in Islam, to avoid exploitation and develop economy. Muslims are allowed to eat everything (halal) which is good for the health and permissible. Similar prohibitions are also mentioned in Bible: Humanitarian obligations (Haqooq-ul-Ibad) are highly relevant in Muslim communities. It is totally baseless malicious propaganda to state that the minorities are no well treated in Islam.  The Charter of Medina, in fact was the first ever written constitution in the history of mankind which gave the non-Muslims right of choosing a legal system they wished their affairs be governed by, be it Islamic or Jewish law or pre-Islamic Arab tribal traditions. The Christians and Jews have special place in Islam, they are called People of the Book in Qur’an. The history of Islam proves this, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together in dominant Islamic societies in Spain, Baghdad and Ottomans empire. There are other social courtesies which Muslims are urged to extend to non Muslims.
Muslims are spread all around the world, all their local cultural practices like female circumcision, maltreatment of women etc cannot be called as part of Islamic culture. All Muslim practices may or may not be with in laid down Islamic principles. While attributing every action of Muslims, three broad categories, good Muslims, normal Muslims and bad Muslims like any other community or group should be kept in view. There are. Human life has very high value according to Qur'an. Islam, being the religion of moderation is in total harmony with the human nature, it allows the fine arts, the adornments, which God has created زينة, for the enjoyment and development of human faculties with in the bounds of decency and faith. Islam emphasizes moderation and balance in every sphere. The society based upon Islamic principles is not the society of ascetics and hermits. Ethics and human rights are accorded high priority. Many such aspects projected as ‘Dilemma’ are nothing but ‘Delusion’. It good to conclude by repeating the unanimous e cardinal principle of peaceful coexistence of any society and humanity: “be good to your parents, kinfolks, orphans, the helpless, near and far neighbors who keep company with you..”(Qur’an;4:36), “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyselfs.”.(Matthew 22:39-40, similarly Leviticus 19:18)