COMMENT: Insulting the arts and the artist —Naeem Tahir - Saturday, February 05, 2011

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Mr Siddiqul Farooq needs to ponder and do some soul-searching because if he thinks that his remarks have any sort of religious sanction then he is sadly mistaken, and so is anyone else who considers artistic creativity less than respectable in religious terms

Some people think that insulting the arts or the artist is casual, normal behaviour. An example of this mindset was given by Mr Siddiqul Farooq of the PML-N during a television programme recently. Involved in this kind of behaviour are usually persons belonging to the extreme right, those possessing Talibanised attitudes and their sleeper cells in society. But Mr Siddiqul Farooq disappointed me more than Mr Nisar Chaudhry when he recently issued below-the-belt remarks against the MQM and ended up being called Mr Bean himself!

This is how the latest event transpired: Mr Farooq of the PML-N was in a meaningless political squabble on a TV channel with Mr Fawad Chaudhry of the APML. As the argument intensified and, as Mr Fawad Chaudhry supported the policies of Mr Pervez Musharraf, suddenly Mr Farooq lost his cool and said contemptuously, “Do not talk of him, he is a singer...he sings!” Mr Farooq showed his feelings for singing as being a lowly activity and, therefore, Musharraf as a lowly person and not a leader. Musharraf can defend himself but one should not overlook such derogatory remarks against the arts. My disappointment became more profound because this gentleman had visited me a couple of times in Islamabad and sought some help for his daughter who had chosen to study a performing arts subject. By taking interest in the study of liberal arts by his daughter, he gave me the impression of being an enlightened individual. Alas it was not to be.

This gentleman, by his appearance, gives the impression of being pious. But did he get carried away? Did he want to be more loyal than the king himself, i.e. the barrey Mian Sahib? Does he know that his Quaid also sings? I am sure he is aware of the stories making the rounds, but I have no objection as these are strictly his personal matters. I wish him luck and hope he can sing better. But Mr Siddiqul Farooq needs to ponder and do some soul-searching because if he thinks that his remarks have any sort of religious sanction then he is sadly mistaken, and so is anyone else who considers artistic creativity less than respectable in religious terms. “God is beautiful and loves beauty/aesthetics,” is a famous Hadith and the arts emerge from aesthetics.

I would also like to remind him of some contents of the Quran-e-Pak. “He is Allah, the Creator, The Evolver, the Bestower of forms (or colours),” Surah Al Hashr, ayat 24, para 28. There are about 300 ayats in the Quran, which refer to beauty and aesthetics — 32:7 Surah As-Sajda and 40:64 Surah Ghafir, which says, “It is Allah Who has made for you the earth as a resting place, and the sky as a canopy, and has given you shapes, and made your shape beautiful,” and so on. Another reference is significant: “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16:125). Furthermore, God talks about the appropriate manner of speech, “Tell My bondmen to speak that which is kindlier” (17:53). If Mr Siddiqul Farooq, apparently a pious person, looks at his manner of speech, he may realise that he fell short of the preferred benchmarks. He may have done it to please his master, barrey Mian Sahib but then he overlooked the command of the master of the whole universe.

It is also pertinent to understand the place of music in particular. The Quran clearly and repeatedly recognises all other prophets and advises respect for the word of God revealed through the books of Taurat, Zabur and Injil. The Quran also recognises a multitude of prophets who are not specifically mentioned. But those prophets who have been honoured by His message have a special status. It is recorded in the Quran “Verily, We have sent the revelation to you (O Mohammad PBUH) as We sent the revelation to Nuh and the prophets after him; We (also) sent the revelation to Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq, Ya‘qub and Al-Asbat (the offspring of the 12 sons of Ya‘qub), Isa, Ayyub, Yunus, Harun and Sulaiman; and to Dawud We gave the Zabur (Psalms)” (4:163). “And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee (Mohammad PBUH), and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter. They are on (true guidance), from their Lord and it is these who will prosper” (2:4 and 5).

It is beyond any doubt that Muslims are instructed to believe, follow and respect the Quran as well as the other holy books revealed to the earlier prophets. Needless to say, the Zabur contains the message of the Lord as revealed to Dawud (AS).

Let us refer to some of the ‘psalms’ as the contents of the Zabur are called. Psalm means ‘a song’. The revelations are like songs because of their musical quality and the prophet, being endowed by the Almighty with a great voice, understood the magic of music and the ability to recite musically. It must be noted that these were His preferred qualities that the Almighty endowed his messenger with. Does it become us, or anyone else, to ridicule or insult the act of singing? Whosoever does that needs to seek His forgiveness.

Mr Siddiqul Farooq is free to criticise the policies of Mr Pervez Musharraf but should not venture to insult the arts or the artists. I would be happy if Mian Sahib or Pervez Musharraf sing and improve, as I would for anyone else because it helps people to become better human beings.

Mr Siddiqul Farooq has hurt and annoyed hundreds of artists and has done no service to himself or his party. People who exhibit unacceptable behaviour exist in all segments of society like lawyers, doctors, politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and even some artists. But any person who singles out the artist shows a questionable attitude. Artists in this country have made more contributions to national causes than others. This fact must be remembered and respected.

The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actor

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