Assalamu alaikum, OK so yeah music and moon sighting are kinda different topics to be blogging about in the same post, however, as I’ve (once again) been reflecting on both of those topics as of late, it occurs to me that those two topics, among Muslim circles anyway, along with hijab of course, tend to generate the most debate/comments/controversy. And I’m not trying to add to that, but just to put out there a few things I’ve been thinking. Which is to say that I don’t think that music and moon sighting are two things that we as Muslims are going to agree on any time soon. And because of that, I’ve just been thinking that whatever opinion/position one adopts, and I’m speaking as a layperson here, I just can’t think that one could be considered “wrong” in any case.
And I’m not sure why I’m putting the issue of music and the issue of moon sighting in the same box. I’m sure that some will argue with me that they are two different issues, but I guess they are the same to me in that they have the potential to cause endless debate when both topics are brought up. And for me, these are two issues that I’ve struggled with because I can see the validity of both sides of the argument, as it were.
Let’s start with music, for example. I definitely can see why scholars (and others) would deem it to be haram, especially given the kind of music we have today, and I’m speaking of a lot of popular music here. Because to me, that is clearly haram, just because of the sbuject matter alone. However, what I don’t get about music being haram is that not only is music haram, but only a certain kind of drum, and I’m thinking only a drum from a particular place mind you, is allowed, and only on specific days, i.e., Eids, weddings, feasts, etc. And I just have a hard time getting my mind around that. If music is haram, than why only certain instruments, and why only a certain kind of drum is allowed? I mean, what if you live in a place where you don’t have that certain kind of drum? And if that certain kind of drum is only allowed on certain kind of days, why? Why is it allowed on some days and not on others? And the verse in the Qur’an that talks about “idle tales”, couldn’t “idle tales” just as easily refer to, hmmm, I don’t know, backbiting, gossip, endless chatting, etc.? Why is that used only as it refers to music? And I’m not trying to “please my own nafs” here, I’m saying that while I can definitely see why music would be haram, some of the arguments for the why of it just don’t make sense to me, and when we talk about how Islam is balanced, etc., there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of “balance” here. Having said all of this, though, I’ve definitely cut back the amount of time I spend listening to music, and I’m definitely careful of the kinds of things I listen to, whether it be music, TV, radio, other people’s talking, etc. However, I’m not going to act like someone just told me they committed zina or that they just downed a 6-pack of Budweiser if they hapen to mention that they listen to music or that they just heard the latest Lupe Fiasco track. And believe me I’ve had that happen to me. I tried to mention to a sister my struggle with the “whole music thing” because it was said “hey ya know music is haram don’t you?”, and I said “well I’m struggling with that”, and I got the “shhhh, sister, don’t expose your sins”. Huh? You’re oging to tell me that my enjoymen tof Chopin, or my husband’s enjoyment of Baba Maal or Bob Marley or Peter Tosh or my mother-in-law’s enjoyment of a traditional kora musician with the accompanying griot singers is akin to committing zina? Something clearly and unambiguously prohibited? I’m sorry I don’t think so. What I’m saying is that I respect the opinion of msuic being haram, I really do, and I can at lest see some of the arguments as to why it might be so. However I admittedly listen to music from time to time. I try to make sure that it’s nothing haram, I try to not let it waste my time, but then again, I’d do the same thing if I was reading a book, or watching a movie, or taking a walk, or whatever. But what makes me uncomfortable about this whole thing is that it reenforces the idea that when you’re around other Muslims you have to hide parts of yourself from them, lest you get the “tsk tsk tsk” treatment, or the gasps of “oh sister don’t you know that’s haram?”
Now on to moon sighting. What can I say here that I’ve not already rehashed a million times already? It would be sure nice if everyone tried to go out to sight the moon, it’s a Sunnah and all of that, but I’ve never heard anyone in my masjid say as much. I’ve heard about not shaking hands with the opposite sex, I’ve heard about women needing to be careful in prayer lest their wrists or ankles or feet become uncovered and their prayers are invalidated, etc., however I’ve never heard anyone discuss moon sighting in the masjid. The only thing close was my husband just before last Ramadan telling me about how the imam talked about moon sighting in the Friday khutbah, and how he took the decision to start Ramadan very seriously and how one could follow whatever one wanted, however for the sake of not causing fitna one should follow the community/local masjid, etc., this was after I’d just casually said that no matter what the masjid did, I was going to continue to do what I did every year since probably 2003 or so, and that was to wait for a verifiable sighting, and if it coincided withthe local masjid Alhamdulillah, but if it didn’t Alhamdulillah too, but I just didn’t feel comfortable going with a Saudi sighting, for a huge number of reasons I want go into here, and I’d definitely not go with a pre-calculated, pre-determined calendar. The problem with this is, though, that if everyone in your own household is doing something different than you, and everyone in your local community is doing something different, and you don’t have the option to go to another masjid, what do you do then?
Because this would mean that you’d get to have Eid all by yourself, and for a convert that, for me anyway, is down right painful, not to mention of it kinda smacking of arrogance. I mean, for me I feel like I’m saying “hey I’m right and you’re wrong, and I’m going to do my own thing because I don’t think you have any idea what you’re talking about so I’m gonna have my own Eid”, and that really bothers me. Because it’s like you’re saying by your actions that the people in your community that are following ISNA, or Saudi, or whoever, are wrong, that their fast and their Eid, etc., is invalid, and if you choose to follow them too, just for the sake of unity too, that your fasting and Eid are invalid too, and I just can’t quite get my head around that either. I mean, to think that because the restof my family followed the local masjid and they followed Saudi, that their fasting and Eid and sacrifice and zakat is/are invalid? Just because they didn’t follow what someone considered to be a “valid” moon sighting? I’m sorry that’s just too painful to even think about.
I just think there is something to be said for “leadership” whoever that may be, taking responsibility here and the rest of us, Inshallah, being let off the hook so to speak. Meaning that if Saudi says that someone sighted the moon, and then masajid and countries follow them as a result, and at the same time, other organizations, masajid, and people decide not to follow that decision, that Inshallah, whatever a Muslim decides to do, that Allah will except their deeds and fasting and charity, etc., Inshallah. Because it’s not like a Muslim can always “secretly do their own thing”, and the Eid is meant to be a communal celebration, not to be celebrated alone in a whole city full of Muslims because “they did their Eid on the wrong day”. Every Ramadan and Eid I always make dua that everyone’s moon sighting coincides, and that if it doesn’t, that Inshallah I’m not doing anything wrong, whatever I decide, and that I handle that almost yearly ensuing controversy with grace and wisdom, something I’ve not always done.
Part of the reason for me posting my “moon bits” series is so that people are not only aware of the movement of the Hijri calendar not just for Ramadan and Shawwal and Dhul Hijja and Muharram, but so whoever happens upon this blog can have as much info as possible and make the best decisions for themselves. I don’t want to lecture or dictate or tell anyone else what to do, because I think there are good and cogent arguments for all of the varying opinions on this subject, even though I may have serious misgivings about some of them.
And to try to connect music and moon sighting, I think there is room for a wide variety of opinions on both of these issues, especially in the kind of world that we live in, and I think there is something to be said for “intention” and “getting what we intended” here.