بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ; وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ; وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ; يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي An interesting subject to discuss: Poetry! Why am I saying it is an interesting subject? The reason is the huge fan-following this art has. It is no more just an art; rather it has taken a shape of small industry. Indian sub-continent can boast of having produced few of the best poets in the world; Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Mir Taqi Mir to name a few. But it is not that this art is restricted to this region only. In fact, it can be traced to all the periods of history. Turning our attention to the art of poetry that existed in the region of Arabic countries, we come to know that the poets existed among Arabs also in vast numbers, even during the times of Muhammad (PBUH). But it will be interesting to find out what status did they (the poets) enjoy in those days? Or, putting the question in other way rather, let us find out: What status does poetry (or poets) have in Islam? As always, our source of information is Qur’an and Ahadith. When Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) and he used to preach Islam to the disbelievers, they used to attack Messenger of Allah (PBUH) in many ways. One of the ways they adopted to counter Rasool-Allah’s (PBUH) invitation to Islam was to propagate that Muhammad is a poet and what he recites (i.e. Qur’an) is a poetry. On this Allah (SWT) revealed this beautiful verse of Holy Qur’an: وَمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ الشِّعْرَ وَمَا يَنْبَغِي لَهُ إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ ذِكْرٌ وَقُرْآنٌ مُبِينٌ “And we have not taught him (Muhammad, PBUH) poetry, nor is it suitable for him. This is only a Reminder and a plain Qur’an.” (Aayah No. 69, Surah Ya-Seen, Chapter No. 36, Holy Qur’an). The pity is that lot of educated Muslims put forward the reasoning of Qur’an containing poetry (misguided by the rhyming verses, it seems). May Allah forgive us all for any such thought coming to our minds. All such persons should concentrate on the verse above, where Allah categorically states that poetry is not suitable for the Prophet (PBUH). Someone may ask, “What does this statement means: Poetry is not suitable for Muhammad, PBUH?” The answer is that poetry is a thing of such a low cadre; on the other hand Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is the greatest personality among humans on the earth ever; there can be no suitability of such a man being studded with a cheap thing like poetry. In another chapter of Qur’an, Allah has explained about what is poetry all about and what the status of poets is. Refer to following: وَالشُّعَرَاءُ يَتَّبِعُهُمْ الْغَاوُونَ “As for the poets, the erring ones follow them,” أَلَمْ تَرَى أَنَّهُمْ فِي كُلِّ وَادٍ يَهِيمُونَ “See you not that they speak about every subject (praising people – right or wrong) in their poetry?” وَأَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ مَا لا يَفْعَلُونَ “And that they say what they do not do.” إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ كَثِيراً وَانتَصَرُوا مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا ظُلِمُوا وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَيَّ مُنقَلَبٍ يَنقَلِبُونَ “Except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous deeds, and remember Allah much, and vindicate themselves after they have been wronged (by replying back in poetry to the unjust poetry). And those who do wrong will come to know by what overturning they will be overturned.” (Aayah No’s 224 to 227, Surah Ash-Shua’ra, Chapter No. 26, Holy Qur’an). The first three verses mentioned above show Allah’s dislike of poets. The fourth verse tells us about an exception i.e. there is one category of poets that are permissible in Islam. We shall discuss this exceptional category in the end; first let us pay attention to what is the general ruling of Islam about poetry. The verse ‘As for poets, the erring ones follow them’ should be good enough for a man of reasonable understanding to get the message. Qur’an states that those who follow poets (i.e. praise poetry, write poetry, listen poetry, sit in the company of poets etc.) are the ones who are in error. Another aspect of poetry being disliked by Allah is the fact that Allah does not like people who say something which they do not do (or cannot do). And the poets are one such group of people who keep on saying things which they do not do or cannot do or the things which are beyond a man’s control. Allah does not like poets and poetry. Here is a hadith which leaves no doubts remaining regarding dislike of poetry: It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (RA) said: “While we were travelling with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) in Al-Arj, we were met by a poet who was reciting poetry. The Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘Catch the devil’ or ‘Restrain the devil’ – ‘If the belly of a man were to be filled with pus, that would be better for him than being filled with poetry.” (Hadith No. 5895 (2259), Book of Poetry, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 6). A poet and his poetry have been termed as devil above. What more we need to understand Islam’s ruling on poetry? Exception Going back again to Aayah No. 227 of Surah Ash-Shua’ra in Holy Qur’an; Allah has given an exception to the type of poetry that can be done. The conditions under which poetry is allowed are: The one saying poetry should be a believer, doing righteous deeds and remembering Allah excessively; and the poetry is said as a response to poetry of disbelievers who attack Islam and Muslims in their poetry. There is a hadith where Rasool-Allah (PBUH) asked one of the Sahabis to use his poetry against the disbelievers. Narrated Al-Bara’ (RA): The Prophet (PBUH) said to Hassan bin Thabit (RA), “Lampoon them (the pagans etc.) in your poetry, and Jibril (AS) is with you.” (Hadith No. 6153, Book of Al-Adab, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8). ‘Lampoon’ means to attack verbally or an attack in written form. Apart from this, Rasool-Allah (PBUH) has given one more exception for poets. Following two ahadith shall explain about these exceptions: Narrated Ubai bin Kaab: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Some poetry contains wisdom.” (Hadith No. 6145, Book of Al-Adab, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8). Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): The Prophet (PBUH) said, “The truest words said by a poet were the words of Labid. He said ‘Verily, except Allah everything is Batilu (perishable) and Umaiyya bin Abi As-Salt was about to embrace Islam.” (Hadith No. 6147, Book of Al-Adab, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8). These ahadith tell us that poetry said in praise of Allah is allowed. Also, poetry containing wisdom is permissible in Islam. This last exception is a thing which contemporary poetry lovers may use in their defense. But in fact, by wisdom here is meant the wisdom displayed by poets like Allama Iqbal. The poetry used to spread the message of Allah is the best poetry which comes under the category of ‘poetry containing wisdom’. Conclusion The discussion above leads us to following conclusion: Poetry is an act which is disliked by Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). Three exceptions have been clearly identified where poetry is allowed – 1. To respond to attacks from non-believers which they do in form of their poetry to malign Islam & Muslims. 2. To praise Allah. 3. Poetry which contains wisdom. But remember, if someone uses these exceptions to say poetry, then he / she should be a believer, doing righteous deeds and remembering Allah excessively. It is not that an individual may become a poet, and use his / her poetry for spreading the message of Allah, but himself / herself not obeying the requirements of a believer. If in any way a person is not doing his duties as a Muslim due to indulgence in poetry, then even these exceptions are not valid in such a case. It is the more dominant type of poetry which is prevalent in world today that is not allowed in Islam. Poets devoting their words in praise of a woman; writing pages and pages about wine drinking;using eloquent words to praise just about anything, without knowing whether it is to be praised or not; all these types of poetry are not allowed in Islam. It is in our own benefit that we understand this clearly; and the individuals hooked on to this should leave this wastage of time and concentrate on something meaningful which is liked by Allah, or at least not disliked by Allah. If someone cannot leave this addiction of poetry, then let him / her at least use this for the sake of praising Allah, or spreading the message of Allah, or defending Islam and Muslims from the attacks of non-believers. May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen. سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُون َ ; وَسَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ ; وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّالْعَالَمِينَ.