The Islamic Perspective on Arts and Aesthetics
09/16/2015
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Since the discovery of accurate cave paintings illustrating in quite thorough detail the every day lives of Stone – Age residents –it has been understood that humans from centuries ago have exercised an ability to express themselves artistically. This understanding has been compounded by several other discoveries, for example the meticulous illustrations found within the burial chambers of pyramids from the time of the ancient Egyptians; detailing the psyche of the ancient civilisation.
Similarly, it is known that earlier civilisations valued the importance of games and physical activities. Othe oticeable pass times in previous nations include the writing of poetry and literature, as the old Arabs from 1500 years ago did.
The unearthing of such mannerisms within the earlier civilisations has emphasised the belief that the need for arts and crafts, hobbies and physical activities play a significant role within the human race. However, the question that is posed is: how does Islam looks at issue of hobbies, physical activities, arts and crafts?

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Physical Activities:

There is no doubt that physical health and strength is something desirable within Islam. The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated that the strong believer is better and more beloved to God than the weak believer, even though both have within them goodness. The meaning of strength within the statement comprises two aspects; strength in a person’s inner belief within his heart, his faith in his Lord, the Creator, God – and this is the primary meaning of the statement –, as for the second aspect, it is the strength of a person physically within his body.

It may be inferred from the second aspect that it is desirable for an individual to exercise and maintain physical fitness. Therefore, activities such as jogging or running, bike-riding, perhaps even walking and climbing and the likes are all activities desirable within Islam. Furthermore, an individual is rewarded if the intention behind such activities is the maintenance of good physical strength in order to worship God, through helping the poor and weak.
In reality, many physical activities that were practiced in that time were fundamentally accepted; be it canoeing, or skiing, or caving, or orienteering…Islam does not prevent an individual from performing such activities. However, an individual is permitted to perform such activities as long as he/she is performing in accordance to other Islamic principles, such as ensuring the prayers are prayed on time and that undue time is not unnecessarily wasted, ensuring excessive money is not depleted in the pursuance of such activities, ensuring the locations for the performance of such activities are suitable etc. If such principles are respected, then Islam permits such recreational activities.
Moreover, there are certain activities that Islam has specifically encouraged Muslims to perform. It is mentioned in a statement of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that he encouraged the Muslims to pursue three specific competitive hobbies; horse-riding, archery and camel racing, in another statement swimming was also mentioned. These are all physical activities that can be taken as hobbies, particularly since horse-riding and archery are popular amongst people at that time.
Furthermore, the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also mentioned that wrestling is recommended due to the physical benefits an individual receives. It is appropriate to highlight here that certain forms of sports are not permissible, in specific activities that require each competitor to strike the face of the other, for example boxing. This is due to the fact that Islam does not promote in any way such sports whereby striking the face of the opponent is required.
Likewise, activities that, such as certain forms of judo, karate, taekwondo that require the competitors to mutually bow upon commencement of the dual.
Sports however, are principally permitted; be it hockey, tennis, basketball etc, Islam permits an individual to participate in such sports.

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Hobbies & Skills:

Islam is a religion that requires an individual to live his life in the worship of his Creator; henceforth, Muslims are encouraged to enjoy every day of their lives as if it could be the last. The meaning of this is that a Muslim strives to worship his Creator to the best of his ability every day; attempting to use every day of his life for worship. Therefore, when a Muslim takes up a hobby, or decides to learn a new skill or craft, it must be within this framework.
It must, therefore, be a hobby that will not occupy the Muslim’s whole day, not leaving time for other responsibilities, such as the prayers, working and taking care of social responsibilities. It must also be a hobby or skill that is in itself fundamentally consistent with Islamic teachings; that in reality is a vast ranging criteria allowing for various forms of arts and crafts to enter.
Art in itself is in principle permissible, as long as it does not incorporate the drawing of living objects, be it humans or animals. As for anything besides this, for example, natural landscapes and still art, then all of that is permissible for a person to engage in as long as it does not consume the individual’s time excessively. The same is said with regard to sculpture art, or paper mache, or any other form of physical art, it is all permissible in Islam as long no living objects are portrayed. This is due to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) having explained that God is the sole Creator and he has indeed created everything meticulously with finite detail and precision. It is known that in ancient time drawing or sculpturing living objects led, centuries later, to idol worship.
From amongst the permissible forms of art is calligraphy. This is something that has been mastered by nations from long ago, including the Muslims; incidentally if an individual was to look into the Qur’an it would appear that it is printed, however the reality is that it is handwritten from the beginning to the end. Calligraphy may be used in varying forms of artistic illustrations and it is a skill that can be learned and implemented. Muslims resort to calligraphy to avoid the restriction of painting living objects.
Similarly, sewing and textiles, cooking, observing nature and so forth are all permissible. However a Muslim is advised to occupy his time with activities that are beneficial, activities that yield fruits.
Fruitful activities include, for example, participating in first aid courses since that will clearly benefit the individual and others. Also, activities such as camping and orienteering are useful since they bring about a physical benefit to the individual as well as other health benefits due to the natural surroundings. In addition to that an individual learns several key skills in terms of survival and outdoor techniques.

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Literature:
A popular pass time in reading. Essentially, reading is a skill or hobby that is highly recommended by Islam, since an individual who occupies himself with that increases in understanding and knowledge. It also helps develop literary skills as well creative ability.
However, Islam encourages the reading of books that entail within them benefit, the most beneficial being the Qur’an itself, since it is the words of the Creator, God. The Arabs at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an were masters of the Arabic language and yet they were unable to match the strength of the Qur’an. It is a work that cannot be matched. A book that has been memorised by thousands across the world, children as young as four or five have memorised it.
Within it are stories of nations past and present, the lives they lived, and the varying episodes of occurrences during the history of humans. The story of Adam and Eve is detailed in several places within the Qur’an, their existence in Paradise and consequent exit from it resulting from the seduction of Satan. Qur`an then depicts the incident that occurred between the sons of Adam whereby one of them killed the other and what resulted from that. Thereafter, the story of Noah (PBUH) and what occurred regarding the great flood and his ark is detailed, the story of Abraham (PBUH), the story of Moses (PBUH) and what occurred between him and the Israelites, and what occurred with the idol worshippers including his own father, the story of Jesus (PBUH) and what God granted him form miracles and the thorough detail concerning how he was not crucified, and of course the prophecy of the last prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is comprehensively covered. This holy history of the prophets shows how right win over wrong and clarify that God has bestow victory to the true believers.
Similarly, history books, for example the history of previous followers of prophets and thei ations; histories that are filled with great turbulent events, stories of courage and bravery, stories of grief and sorrow, stories of great battles that occurred. These stories are helpful in teaching good and denouncing the evil.
Similarly, an individual is encouraged to delve into the history of Islam. This again will provide substantial benefit to the reader in understanding that Islam is a religion of peace and equality, since the Muslims would not oppress any nation upon Fath of them.

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Poetry:

The reading of poetry is a wide spread hobby and leisure activity. In its basis once again, it can be said that this is permissible in Islam, however the poetry should not incorporate false notions.
In reality, there is an extensive amount of poetry written on moral topics; poetry that elucidates the Islamic religion and its fundamental concepts, poetry depicting biographies of illustrious historical personalities of the past and present, poetry revealing the purpose of creation and the meaning of life and death and much more.
Moreover, the reading and writing of poetry is an affair that was prevalent at the time the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived. The Arabs were masters in this field and much of the poetry from those early days is still present amongst us recorded in books today. Poetry has been employed by Muslims as a technique for learning for centuries up until this very time, since it aids in simplifying memorisation of what may be complex ideas and concepts. A similar concept is utilised in nurseries whereby the young child is taught new information, whether it be the alphabet or otherwise, in the form of short rhyming poetry.
Islam, therefore, permits this, however an individual must abide by moral principles when engaging in poetry. Further, the permissibility of this is based upon an individual not becoming engrossed within this and consequently neglecting other Islamic duties.

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Closing Thoughts:

Islam is a religion that incorporates all aspects of life; it is a guide to life and all that an individual may encounter within it. It is a religion of sincere and devoted worship to the One Who created all creation, however simultaneously it caters for and understands the individual’s need for some respite, leisure and recreation. Islam, therefore, encourages the practice of a wide range of physical sports and activities, as well calling for individual to engage in relaxing activities such as leisurely reading.
This is ultimately the object, that an individual leads a balanced life, in opposition to those individuals who pursue hobbies to the extent that their whole life is based around it. All of their wealth and time is based in the pursuance of their hobby, or in the pursuance of perfection in the aesthetic appearance.
Islam encourages an individual to be balanced, balanced between worshipping his Creator and also living in a manner whereby leisure is possible. It is for this reason that Islam is the balanced religion from amongst the religions, striking the balance between spiritual and mental aspects of life.
It is therefore incumbent upon the one who desires and seeks a composed calm life filled with tranquillity and peace, a life of stability and organisation, a life of happiness that he/she searches for.

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