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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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