Playing guitar as a hobby
My question is of a personal nature. I was born in a religious family and was good to begin with. However, when I grew up, things happened in my life which led me to doubt my faith. So I spent my adolescence in not some very pleasant activities. Secondly, I also found that the sort of religious instruction I received at school, college and in society, etc. was intellectually lacking, logically unconvincing and more ritual in nature than practical. However by the grace of God, attending the “Islamic Studies” course at LUMS answered all of my questions and restored my faith so completely that I can say without pride and while being grateful to Allah and ‘Allah ‘walay’ ‘ that I will die a Muslim. Well, cutting a long story short, coming back to Islam meant a major turn around and leaving the addictions I had fallen prey to. I had bought a guitar just prior to my rediscovery of Islam. I was in doubt about the opinion of Islam on musical instruments in particular. So being careful, I cast it aside for six months. (I had originally tried to sell it, which now I think was a selfish thing… to encourage others to do a thing which I myself found doubtful). However, I then found that I was drawn to the previous indulgences which were much more heinous in nature when I had any sort of free time on hand. I tried to get material on ‘entertainment in Islam’ which in effect led me to believe that the most preferable leisure time activities for a Muslim guy were to be with his wife or to rear horses. Since I did not see myself in either position, I restarted playing my guitar (and am getting pretty good at it after playing for three months.) I pray regularly, recite the Quran and ponder over its content ‘Alhumdulillah’. I am doing well in my studies and my studies aren’t suffering because of my guitar playing. I also have no intentions of playing for money, playing at parties etc. In short my guitar playing is a personal past time (normally Asar to Maghrib daily) and I intend to keep it that way (atleast till I get married or buy horses!). However i am being criticized by some friends and family as being a hypocrite … a religious player of the Devil’s instruments and likewise. And it is starting to get on my nerves. Please give me SOME CONCLUSIVE argument to decide for me whether I am right or wrong. I have read the question relating to Music on the site and find it helpful but still vague. I, as a matter of fact, want YOUR OPINION ON THE CONCEPT OF ENTERTAINMENT IN ISLAM. Is there really any truth in Khomeini’s statement that ‘There is no fun in Islam’?
Playing guitar to me in your case is undesirable (makruh) i.e. if you do not do it, you’ll earn the pleasure of Allah Almighty, but if you do it within limits you are not committing a huge sin. Obviously, I am assuming that you are playing it to yourself and there are no additionalities involved. I would like you to make every effort to convert your passion for music towards a more religiously desirable direction. Recitation of the Quranic verses, for instance, is one area you can look towards to satisfy your inner taste more meaningfully. I am obsessed by a Quranic recitaton done by the Imam of Ka’ba these days. I have heard it more than thirty times in the last two days and yet my thirst for it doesn’t seem to have been adequately quenched. It is simply out of this world. In other words, instead of leaving music on the instigation of someone else, make alternative plans of your own to phase your exit from it gradually, to move into something similar but more meaningful.
As for those who call you hypocrites, I would ask them to be more worried about their own faith, because who is a ‘Munafiq’ and who is not is going to be decided by Allah Almighty and, thankfully, not us. Allah Almighty is All Knowledgable, Kind, Wise, and Just. He knows that ‘Munafiqat’ is to do things wrong that one knows are clearly wrong and to create an impression on others that what one is doing is absolutely right. What has that got to do with your situation? My advice to you in the case of such people is to take only the good aspects of their statements seriously. Otherwise, just ignore them and remain patiently commited to your correct religious understanding.
Islam has given no details of the kind of entertainment it allows to its followers. That is not the way Islamic teachings approach worldly matters. Its teachings inform us only what is haram and what is undesirable. The rest is all allowed unless it happens to go against the spirit of any of its teachings. All good things of this world are for us to benefit from. We are encouraged to enjoy the worldly life within Islamic limits, acknowleging it to be Allah’s blessings on us. The Quran says:
“Ask them:’Who forbids your adornment that has given to His creatures and the good things He has provided?’ Tell them: ‘They are meant for the believers in the world, and will be theirs on the day of judgement.’ That is how We explain our signs to those who know”. (7:32)
The prophet, salalahu alihi wasallam, is reported to have said:
“Eat whatever you like and wear whatever pleases you. Just bear in mind two things: Don’t be lavish or arrogant.”
In fact, unless we do full justice with this life, we will not be able to thank God Almighty properly.
Note: The answer above reflects Dr. Khalid Zaheer’s views that have changed since the time this question was raised. Dr. Zaheer now believes that it is permissible in Islam to play and listen to music that is not obscene or gives rise to baser instincts.