ISLAM AND THE PHONOGRAPH 159

ISLAM AND THE PHONOGRAPH
-. .o:-
[Through the kindnesa of Professor C. Snouck Hurgronje, we are
able to give our readers a portion of a most interesting paper prepared
by him for the “Tijdschrift van het Batavirtasch Genootschap van
Kunsten en Wetenschappen deel XLII. aftevering 5.” The earlier
part of the paper deals with the origin of Fetwas, or religious decisions
in Islam, in regard to such matters as are riot mentioned in the Koran
or !hadition. Among them he mentions tobacco, the art of printing
and photography, as well as the use of pictorial illustration. The
decision given in Java in regard to the phonograph is typical. In
spite of all Fetwas, however, the phonograph and the cinematograph
are over-running the Moslem world everywhere, and for good or ill
Llam must reckon with them 8 9 with Western civilisation in genera1.-
ED.]
THE phonograph is one of the most recent inventions
that have come from Western lands to the countries of
Islam. Its first public appearance on the Isle of Java
was received with much aatonishnierit by the Arabs, and
before long a sayyid in Batavia bought such an instru-
ment in order to show it to the public for money, using
Arabic and Malayan records. Some verses of the Koran
were included, especially the Futihah,, the Moslem “ Our
Father.” They were reproduced by the “ wonder box ”
to the great delight of the audience, which was mainly
composed of Arabs, Chinese arid natives. Scrupulous
people arid scribes as a rule remain away from such
exhibitions, if only because of their dislike of a company
composed of so niany dements. The fame of this
wonderful instrument,, however, aroused their cu rioyit y ,
and some of them had it .rliowii to them in smaller,
private gatherings. Those of a worldly turn of mind
listened to the records with great delight, and in their
enthusiasm they even spoke favourably of phonographic
recitation of the Koran ; and some suggested that a
phonographic Azhn might in future be used instead of
the human voice for the call to prayers which is ordered
by law. Others shook their heads in disapproval and

Soon he wrote a fetwu in the usual form regarding the use of the phonograph. Question: What is the statement of the scribes (whose wisdom may Allah allow us to enjoy continually !) concerning the box ( s a n d y ) . each one preserving its own kind. We give below. in similar manner the song of a singer or a musical composition are received by the box. he wrote a. When the owner of the box wishes to hear any one of the sounds received. taking payment from the people who wish to hear the contents thereof. the “ seer of the bowels ” (Rontgen rays). and such repro- duction of the Koran verses a profanation of the Word of God. and then the sounds are reproduced so that every one hears them who puts the wire of the box to his ear. his recitation is drawn into this box . of a woman who is neither the listener’s wife nor a . In such manner all the sounds are collected inside. in which there are instru- ments that draw into its interior sounds created in its neighbourhood ? If. the contents of both his tracts and of some other fetwas on the same subject. a person goes near such a box while he recites the Koran. for instance. and when several objections against the fetwa were heard. What then is the decision of the scribes concerning the exhibition of this box for payment. and a. partly as a translation. This wonder- ful box excites the astonishment of the people as do electric lights.e. he puts the instrument connected with those certain sounds in motion. The owner of such a box travels with it from one place to another. and other new inventions.160 THE MOSLEM WORLD called the phonograph a useless toy. partly as an abbreviated resume. and what is the teaching of the sacred law regarding the hearing of such sounds as are received mechanically ? Does the Moslem who hears recitations of the Koran reproduced in this way deserve any reward for the hearing ? Is it permissible for Mos- lems to listen to the sounds of musical instruments thus reproduced. detailed essay to silence his opponents. or to songs sung by an unknown woman (i.. and among the audience there are non-Moslems as well as Moslems. visit he paid to the owner of the instrument only deepened his conviction. Sayyid Othman also was of this opinion. tlic electric tram.

and because it is not fitting for Moslems to delight in the song of women ? 2. listen to this recitation. is then the prohibition of music according to the Moslem law to be applied to the musical soiinds received in the phonograph and repro- duced by it ? Let us now hear how Srtpyid Othman discusses these questions from a legal point. or is it a forbidden enterprise. as well as believers. and their use. We begin by three remarks of introduction. to show to the paying public a phonograph that gives in turn recitations of God’s word and songs of public women . to Whom alone the power of creating and producing can be attributed. and that the intelligent t . Give us your statement (fetwa) on these questions. Is it an honest profession. their particular character. of view. It can be seen immediately that there are four prin- cipal points to be considered :- 1. All things that God created in heaven and on earth have their deep meaning. and may Allah give you His reward.We pray to God for guidance to the true and right thing. ISLAM AND THE PHONOGRAPH 161 relative with whom conversation is allowed). Know (God guide thee and me) that the problem of the box in question and of the other new invention8 mentioned in the question.. Answer . If phonographic sounds cannot be considered as a real human voice. The deepest meaning and the greatest utility of all things lies in the fact that they testify to the Oneness of the All-wise Creator. is it permissible to listen to the song of women reproduced in this way. although as a rule the sound of 8 strange woman’s voice is forbidden to the Moslem ? 4. 1. as the Koran teaches. because infidels. in accordance with the divine law. If the phonograph emits mere figures of sounds and not real proper tones. is quite clear. Are the sounds reproduced in this manner so much the same aa the original sounds that the heavenly reward which Allah promised for the hearing of the Koran will also be given to him who listens to the phonographic recitation ? 3. from mere curiosity.

and secondly for one’s living. The command is further passed on to us to be moderate in the seeking of one’s living. the kernel. The apostle of God said : “ Reasonable is he who believes in God. aud who works for the other world. and said. and only he that believes in God and His prophet posses- ses it. such as we find among non-Moslems. It is incumbent on Moslems to be concerned about their living as well as the other world. because the latter . in the natural reason that is implanted in the human race. is meant by the word of the Koran “ l u b b ” (ie.” Finally.’’ That is reason which.o Him. 187). Non-Moslems have a share. The perfect reason. 2. however. is the spiritual enlightening which is put in the heart of the believer and which brings him to eternal happiness. where God says : “ Herein are the signs for those gifted with reason ” (Le.” Out of these two reasons and because of the lack of co-operation. the interior. when he says: “ Kayyis is he who keeps himself far from the domain of cares. this is the reason which the infidels owned that they lacked when they saw eternal punishment. “ Had we listened and had we possessed reason we would not now be among the people of hell ” (Surah lxvii. and to occupy their minds with both. the reason- able). there are only few Moslems nowadays that have the time and the zeal necessary for the investigations and examinations by which new inventions are produced. 10). (Surah iii.. QS well as Moslems. Many verses of the Koran and many traditions testify to the fact that one has to care first for the other world. He whose part is great and who gets help from others. 3. and which enables man to understand sciences and to produce works of hidden and thoughtful art.. the inner sense or reason).162 THE MOSLEM WORLD and those gifted with perfect reason may give Him thanks for His material and spiritual benefits. acknowledges His apostle and renders obedience t. as the prophet of God said: “Fear God and be moderate in your earnings. The owner of such reason is defined by God’s apostle by the word kayyis. is able to create works of art and produce inventions which another less fortunate and without help may not be able to accomplish. according to the exegetes. the marrow.

and when the hearers are Mo- hammedans. The sounds have come away from the mouth of the reciter and are separated from him. There can be no question of a Koranic recitation. is decent. then it is permitted (ntubah). The following answer applies also to the question. etc f ” When the box is brought to a place that does not serve for mere plertsure. where the recitation of the Koran may produce derision and mockery. Such are the results that they (the infidels) obtain by their science. whose conduct while they listen to the reproduction of a Koranic selection. and also because they do not possesa the peculiar. from which may Allah preserve us. Here. Does the Moslem who hears the Koran reproduced in this way deserve heavenly reward ? the answer is: No. and in whom the hearing of these particular sounds does not excite sensual temptations. When. so that no heavenly reward can be given to the hearer. and because they help each other. legdly demanded qualities. They are thus able to produce new and wonderful things. or when non-Moslems are present. however. The same is the case when the instrument is shown in a place of amusement. We have permitted ourselves this threefold digression in order to secure a proper understanding. and they arise anew from this instrument. it is to be feared that the use of the box tends to unbelief. Even to him who listens to a real recitation of the Koran. the hearing of which is commanded to us by God. and that aatonishment and mistakes may be put aside. “What is the opinion of the Moslem scribes concerning the showing of the box mentioned. because the sounds of the Koran are no longer produced by the organs of speech destined for each one of them. then it is forbidden (haram). To the question. no reward shall be given m long as the reciter does not fulfil the rules fixed by the masters of the . for the thing heard is not the voice of man that recites the Koran. ISIAM AND THE PHONOGRAPH 163 apply both body and soul to retllise their worldly pur- poses by investigations and researches. the hearing of it is not attended by decency. such as the box in question and similar inventions. and when i t arouses lustful passions.

Objections were made to t. Othman ibn Abdullah ibn Aqil. and where the hearer takes to heart the warning con- tained in the verses he heard. the same aa the act of such a reciter itself. Our imams also clearly teach that to behold the image of a strange woman in the mirror is permitted where it is not accompanied by erotic imaginations. forbidden ? the answer shall be : Where the listening awakens sexual desire.164 THE MOSLEM WORLD tujwid (instruction of Koran recitation) . because such recitation is considered as crookedness and deviation from the right way of the Koran. If the teaching is so clear that the hearing of Koran recitations which do not conform to the fixed rules bring no reward.his fetwu by a learned Arab at Singapore. thereby awakening tempting. may Allah forgive him. Allah give His benediction and His salutation of peace to our Sayyid Mohammed. Is the listening to the song of a strange woman. 29). and praise be to God the Lord of the world. Where that lust is absent the hearing is not forbidden. and Allah’s words are quoted here : “ An Arabic Koran without crookedness (fault).! This seems to me the proper answer to the question previously mentioned. the recompense of his conaideration may be given him. These we give in condensed form : . just as men are forbidden to look upon the shadow of a strange woman or to gaze a t her reflection in a mirror. And the reason of it is that such defective recitation is a deviation from the right way of the Koran. &s the texts of the authorities inform us. Rut Allah knows best. Amen. and to his relatives and associates. although my scientific knowledge is not great. then it is forbidden because of that lust . This has been written by the humble servant of God. in the beginning and a t the end . or to the sounds of musical instruments reproduced in this way. what then can we expect of these crooked sounds which come out of the crookedness of these newly- invented and misleading instruments ? A t most one might say that. such hearing is in many cases forbidden (harum). and my position is of a modest kind. where the sounds are right and clear. yea.” (Surah xxxix. To the question.

namely. there can be no legal objection to sub- stituting the phonographic a m n €or that of the voice. ISLAM AND THE PHONOGRAPH 166 1. “ None shall touch them but the purified. . who first travelled around Java with his phonograph. they are to be regarded with the same respect and awe as that due to a written Koran. Every new invention is heresy.”] Meanwhile the sayyid.” And. has made a good business of it. for the best Koran reciters are far from being distinguished by their piety. and every error leads t o hell-fire. 3. Hurgronje. the proper responses and prostra- tions are also incumbent upon those who hear. finally. 4. even this will not prevent their use in this respect. 2. but. The hearing of Koran recitations carries with it religious merit. SNOUCK HURQRONJE. whether we hear the actual voice of the one who first spoke the words or the echo of the sounds. and is naturally in the negative. and many of the Javanese have since then introduced the phonograph into their drawing-rooms. The only result of the fetwas has been that those who consider themselves specially pious refrain from listening to phonographic records of the Koran. University of Leyden. When the phonographic sound is considered as that of one who reads. In regard to the records of the phonograph. The hearing of sounds reproduced on the phono- graph is allowed. is given in extenso by Dr. every heresy is error. [The reply of Sayyid Othman to these objections. and quotes the familiar Moslem tradition : ‘‘ The most evil things are those that are newly invented.