With increased Westernisation, new practices are entering the Muslim world, increasingly visible at functions like weddings. Music and dancing is one such issue that evokes significant controversy.
Despite scholarly disagreement on the ruling of dancing in general as moving and shaking the body revolving around permissibility and reprehensibility, they unanimously agree that any dancing accompanied by anything prohibited is prohibited. Thus, when scholars discuss the issue of dancing they are speaking about dancing devoid of any unlawful matters.
Mixed weddings, where unrelated males and females interact, are generally forbidden, the Prophet (saw) always segregating the sexes at such functions.
1. عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم جَالِسًا فَسَمِعْنَا لَغَطًا وَصَوْتَ صِبْيَانٍ فَقَامَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَإِذَا حَبَشِيَّةٌ تُزْفِنُ وَالصِّبْيَانُ حَوْلَهَا فَقَالَ " يَا عَائِشَةُ تَعَالَىْ فَانْظُرِي " . فَجِئْتُ فَوَضَعْتُ لَحْيَىَّ عَلَى مَنْكِبِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَجَعَلْتُ أَنْظُرَ إِلَيْهَا مَا بَيْنَ الْمَنْكِبِ إِلَى رَأْسِهِ فَقَالَ لِي " أَمَا شَبِعْتِ أَمَا شَبِعْتِ" . قَالَتْ فَجَعَلْتُ أَقُولُ لاَ لأَنْظُرَ مَنْزِلَتِي عِنْدَهُ إِذْ طَلَعَ عُمَرُ قَالَ فَارْفَضَّ النَّاسُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " إِنِّي لأَنْظُرُ إِلَى شَيَاطِينِ الإِنْسِ وَالْجِنِّ قَدْ فَرُّوا مِنْ عُمَرَ " . قَالَتْ فَرَجَعْتُ – الترمذي 49/ 4055
A'isha (ra) narrated the Messenger of Allah(saw) was sitting and we heard a scream and the voices of children. So he arose and saw it was an Ethiopian woman prancing around with children playing around her. So he said: "O A'isha, come (and) see." So I came, and I put my chin upon his shoulder and I began to watch her from between his shoulder and his head. He then said to me: "Have you had enough?" I kept saying: 'No' to see my status with him. Then Umar appeared. So they dispersed. So the Messenger (saw) said: "Indeed I see Satan among men and jinn have run from Umar." She said: "So I returned." (Tirmidhi 49:4055)
2. عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ دَخَلَ عَلَىَّ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَعِنْدِي جَارِيَتَانِ تُغَنِّيَانِ بِغِنَاءِ بُعَاثَ، فَاضْطَجَعَ عَلَى الْفِرَاشِ وَحَوَّلَ وَجْهَهُ، وَدَخَلَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَانْتَهَرَنِي وَقَالَ مِزْمَارَةُ الشَّيْطَانِ عِنْدَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَأَقْبَلَ عَلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ ـ فَقَالَ "دَعْهُمَا" فَلَمَّا غَفَلَ غَمَزْتُهُمَا فَخَرَجَتَا. وَكَانَ يَوْمَ عِيدٍ يَلْعَبُ السُّودَانُ بِالدَّرَقِ وَالْحِرَابِ، فَإِمَّا سَأَلْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَإِمَّا قَالَ "تَشْتَهِينَ تَنْظُرِينَ". فَقُلْتُ نَعَمْ. فَأَقَامَنِي وَرَاءَهُ خَدِّي عَلَى خَدِّهِ، وَهُوَ يَقُولُ " دُونَكُمْ يَا بَنِي أَرْفِدَةَ ". حَتَّى إِذَا مَلِلْتُ قَالَ " حَسْبُكِ ". قُلْتُ نَعَمْ. قَالَ " فَاذْهَبِي ". (البخاري 13/2)
A'isha (ra) narrated Allah's Messenger (saw) came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Bu'ath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Aus, before Islam). The Prophet (saw) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, "Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (saw)?" Allah's Messenger (saw) turned his face towards him and said, "Leave them." When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signaled to those girls to go out and they left. It was the day of Eid, and the Black people were playing with shields and spears; so either I requested the Prophet (saw) or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet (saw) made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, "Carry on! O Bani Arfida," till I got tired. The Prophet (saw) asked me, "Are you satisfied (Is that sufficient for you)?" I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave. (Bukhari 13:2)
دعهم يا عمر، ليعلم اليهود أن في ديننا فسحة. وقال: إني بعثت بحنفية سمحة – أحمد 3.25431،24334
O Umar, Let them so the Jews may know that in our deen there is a fus'ha (entertainment, latitude, relaxation, etc), and he added: I was sent (as a prophet to preach for) a hanafiyya samha (a lenient deen). (Ahmed 24334،25431)
Scholars disagreed on the ruling of dancing. The majority of scholars (Hanafis, Malikis and Hanbalis) held dancing is makrooh (disliked) arguing that dancing is a sign of meanness, silliness and exhibiting inferiority of manly virtues. In addition, it is a kind of lahw (entertainment). (Ibn Abidin,Hashiyat ibn Abidin, Vol. 3, p. 138; Sawi, Bulghat al-Salik, Vol. 2, p. 138; Bahwati; Kashaf al-Qina, Vol. 5, p. 186)
Shafi'is however, argued the general ruling (asl) of dancing is that of permissibility. But they stipulated that such dancing should be devoid of any sexuality or effeminacy. (Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj, Vol. 8, p. 282)
قَال فِي الرَّوْضِ: وَبِالتَّكَسُّرِ حَرَامٌ وَلَوْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ – نهاية المحتاج 8/282-283، وحاشية الجمل 5/381، وحواشي التحفة 10/221
The author of al-Rawd stated: But (affectedly) bending the body is prohibited even in respect of women. (Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj, Vol. 8, p. 282-283; Al-Jamal, Hashaya al-Jamal, Vol. 5, p. 381; Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Hawashi al-Tuhfah, Vol. 10, p. 221)
Shafi'is used as evidence of permissibility the two hadiths mentioned in the above section reported on the authority of A'isha (ra). These hadiths mention the story of the Abyssinians who were dancing and playing with spears in the Prophet's mosque in his presence. The Prophet (saw) did not deter them or command them to stop dancing, rather he requested they should continue by saying: "دُونَكُمْ يَا بَنِي أَرْفِدَةَ – Carry on, O Bani Arfidah". When Umar (ra) entered he criticised them so the Prophet (saw) intervened directing Umar to leave them alone, as mentioned in the third hadith.
But Muslim scholars unanimously agree dancing is prohibited when it is accompanied by any sinful acts such as drinking alcohol, unveiling awrah (the parts of the body that a person must cover), mingling between the two sexes, etc. The Muslim also should be moderate and not be excessive in dancing. (Al-Mausu'ah Al-Fiqhiyah Al-Kuwaitiyah, Vol. 23, p. 11)
The narration of the Abyssinians mentioned above supports the position of the Shafi'i scholars indicating the general rule regarding dancing is that of permissibility as the Prophet (saw) let the Abyssinians dance. This incident is from the sunnah taqririyyah (the approval of Prophet (saw) regarding actions which occurred in front of him, whether when he kept silent and he did not oppose it, or he showed his pleasure and smiled at it showing his approval). (Ibid, Vol. 23, p. 10)
Some may claim the dancing and playing of the Abyssinians in the mosque of the Prophet (saw) was a kind of a military show and cannot be used as evidence for the permissibility of dancing in general. In response, one should review the context of the hadiths reported.
Firstly, the story took place on the Day of Eid where people were celebrating this occasion. The Prophet (saw) thus called A'ishah to watch the display and children were watching too. When Umar (ra) attempted to stop them, thinking what they were doing was prohibited, the Prophet answered him that our religion does not prohibit this kind of lawful lahw (entertainment). Thus, if the dancing of the Abyssinians was a kind of military exhibition, Umar (ra) would not have objected. Therefore, all these aspects suggest the Abyssinians were dancing as a form of entertainment and not undertaking a military display.
This story also indicates it is permissible for men to dance in the presence of women as long as this is not accompanied by sinful acts. In the hadiths mentioned above the Prophet (saw) let A'isha watch the dancing of men in the mosque. If it was impermissible, he would not let her watch their dancing.
However the dancing of a woman in front of men is prohibited, except in front of her husband in the privacy of their home.
There is no clear textual proof in the Qur'an or Sunnah that prohibits dancing. According to the Shafi'i madhab dancing is permissible and the rest argue it is makrooh.
Based on the story of the Abyssinians dancing and playing with spears in the Prophet's mosque in his presence, it is permissible for men to dance at the ceremonial occasions such as weddings in the presence of woman, as long as this is devoid of any sexuality, effeminacy and unaccompanied by any sinful acts.
Al-Jamal, Hashayat al-Jamal
Al-Mausu'ah Al-Fiqhiyah Al-Kuwaitiyah
Al-Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj
Bahwati; Kashaf al-Qina
Ibn Abdin,Hashyat ibn Abdin
Ibn Hajar al-Hitami, Hawashy al-Tuhfah
Sawi, Bulghat al-Salik
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