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

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

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. Give us your statement (fetwa) on these questions. as the Koran teaches. although as a rule the sound of 8 strange woman’s voice is forbidden to the Moslem ? 4. It can be seen immediately that there are four prin- cipal points to be considered :- 1. is it permissible to listen to the song of women reproduced in this way.. 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. listen to this recitation. If the phonograph emits mere figures of sounds and not real proper tones. in accordance with the divine law. or is it a forbidden enterprise. and that the intelligent t . We begin by three remarks of introduction. Answer . All things that God created in heaven and on earth have their deep meaning. to Whom alone the power of creating and producing can be attributed.We pray to God for guidance to the true and right thing. of view. and their use. 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. and because it is not fitting for Moslems to delight in the song of women ? 2. 1. from mere curiosity. If phonographic sounds cannot be considered as a real human voice. their particular character. and may Allah give you His reward. as well as believers. because infidels. is quite clear. Is it an honest profession. Know (God guide thee and me) that the problem of the box in question and of the other new invention8 mentioned in the question. ISLAM AND THE PHONOGRAPH 161 relative with whom conversation is allowed). to show to the paying public a phonograph that gives in turn recitations of God’s word and songs of public women .

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

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

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

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

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