Why poetry is not allowed in Islam?
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
Dear Mr. Burhan,
I would like to have your comments regarding "Mushaira" (Poetry by Poets). I heard that Islam does not allow this. If this is correct, then why it is not allowed in Islam ?
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In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Beloved brother, it is not that poetry in general is forbidden in Islam; but what is forbidden is poetry that does nothing but instigates and encourages fahisha (indecency), illegal lusts and desires, and inspires one towards the transgression of the boundaries of Islam.
Islam absolutely encourages good wholesome poetry, which inspires one towards the fear of Allah, towards His awe and obedience, and towards anything that is good and made permissible by Allah and His Messenger (saws).
Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 26 Surah Shuaraa verses 221-227:
221 Shall I inform you (O people!) on whom it is that the Shayaateen descend?
222 They descend on every lying, wicked person
223 (Into whose ears) they pour hearsay, vanities; and most of them are liars.
224 And the Poets, it is those straying in Evil who follow them:
225 Seest thou not that they wander distracted in every valley?
226 And that they say what they practice not?
227 Except those who believe work righteousness, engage much in the remembrance of Allah and defend themselves only after they are unjustly attacked. And soon will the unjust assailants know what vicissitudes their affairs will take!
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 8.176 Narrated by Abu Huraira
Allah's Messenger said, "It is better for anyone of you that the inside of his body be filled with pus which may consume his body, than it be filled with poetry."
In is indeed true that the Messenger of Allah (saws) did not like poets and poetry, which sensationalized and encouraged the pursuit of the world and its alluring lusts. But he encouraged those poets whose poetry praised Allah Subhanah, and contained words of wisdom which related to the guidance to Allah.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 8.166 Narrated by Ubai bin Kab
Allah's Messenger (saws) said, "Some poetry contains wisdom."
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.509 Narrated by Salama bin Al Akwa
We went out to Khaibar in the company of the Prophet (saws). While we were proceeding at night, a man from the group said to 'Amir, "O 'Amir! Won't you let us hear your poetry?" 'Amir was a poet, so he got down and started reciting for the people poetry that kept pace with the camels' footsteps, saying: "O Allah! Without You we Would not have been guided on the right path, neither would we have given in charity, nor would we have prayed. So please forgive us, what we have committed (i.e. our defects); let all of us be sacrificed for Your Cause and send Sakina (i.e. calmness) upon us to make our feet firm when we meet our enemy, and if they will call us towards an unjust thing, we will refuse. The infidels have made a hue and cry to ask others' help against us." The Prophet (saws) on that, asked, "Who is that (camel) driver (reciting poetry)?" The people said, "He is 'Amir bin Al-Akwa'." Then the Prophet (saws) said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him."
Thus it is not poetry per say which is disliked in Islam, but what is said in those poetry. If the poetry encourages the believers to believe in Allah and follow His Commands, it would be considered good poetry and absolutely encouraged in Islam.
But the poetry which do not inspire faith in Allah, nor strengthen ones belief in Allahs Oneness, nor kindle ones heart to love Allah; but rather glamorize lust and the pursuit of the world, etc.; such poetry is disliked and discouraged in Islam.
Indeed some poetry may contain wisdom, but most poetry enlarges and enflames the lust for life and power. If one takes learning good literature and poetry as a career, there is absolutely no harm. One only has to read the works of the Islamic Poets like Allama Iqbaal, whose poetry was instrumental in the independence of the State of Pakistan from its British rulers, to understand what power good poetry has on its listeners.
Thus in conclusion, it is not poetry which is disliked or discouraged, but what will determine its permissibility is what message the poetry is portraying to its readers.
Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 4807 Narrated by Aisha
When the subject of poetry was mentioned to Allah's Messenger (saws) he said, "It is speech, and what is good in it is good, and what is bad is bad."
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your Brother in Islam,