By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
22 February, 2021
One of the myths widely circulated in Islamic circles is that Islam condemns, disapproves or discourages poetry. The verses 224-226 of Surah Ash-Shuaraa are presented to fortify the myth. The verses say:
"And the poets, the erring follow them. Don't you see that they wander distracted in every valley, and that they say what they practise not."
The fact is that the verses do not condemn the art of poetry but only criticises those poets who speak imaginary things and absurdities in the name of poetry. In other words, the Quran is not against poetry that conveys constructive messages and spreads the truth. In fact, any beautiful speech is poetry and the Quran itself uses figures of speech to embellish or make its verses effective and powerful. It uses rhyming words to make the verses effective and appealing to the ears.
In addition, it uses a unique pattern like in Surah Al Rahman or in Surah Al Qamar in which a particular verse is repeated to create an effect. The Quran is not written in dry prose.
The holy Prophet pbuh also appreciated good and constructive poetry. And at the same time he discouraged poetry that did not serve any purpose. He pbuh praised the poetic skills of one of the greatest poets of pre-Islam era Imra’ul Qais though he did not approve of the content of his poetry. The holy Prophet pbuh also condemned absurdities in the name of poetry as it was only a waste of time.
Ibn Umar narrated that the holy Prophet pbuh said, 'if someone's stomach is filled with puss, it is better if it is filled with poetry."(Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Adab:644)
In other words wasting most of the time by indulging in purposeless poetry is not appreciated.
On the other hand the holy Prophet pbuh encouraged true and constructive poetry that enriched the human mind and inspired the listeners to do good things.
Abi ibn Ka'ab narrated that the holy Prophet pbuh said, "some couplets are full of wisdom". (Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Adab:1077)
The holy Prophet pbuh also praised a couplet by the poet Labeed saying it was true poetry:
"All except Allah is mortal"
(Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Adab:1079)
According to Sahih Bukhari, the holy Prophet pbuh even said a couplet during a journey.
Jundub narrated that the holy Prophet pbuh was travelling during a jihad. While walking, he pbuh stumbled on a stone and one of his toes got injured and bled. The holy Prophet pbuh spontaneously said a couplet:
"Thou art only a humble toe, little does it matter if you got injured,
So what if you got injured in Allah's path."(Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Adab:1079)
It is known to all that Hassaan bin Sabith was a famous poet who composed naat in praise of the holy prophet pbuh and the holy Prophet pbuh blessed him.
According to the Sahih Bukhari, the holy Prophet pbuh sometimes recited poetry of Muslim poets during battles.
All these hadiths point to the views of the holy Prophet pbuh on poetry. The Quran and the Hadith do not reject poetry as a whole but advocate the use of poetry or poetic tools and figures of speech for constructive purposes. Immoral or vulgar poetry is condemned and disapproved by the Quran and Hadith. Poetry that is full of wisdom and conveys constructive messages is appreciated by Islam.
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