Partaking in love poetry contest
Fatwa No: 327949

Question

Assalaamu alaykum. My college is arranging a poetry recitation competition in which the winner will be awarded a certain sum of money. I read in one of your fatwas that love poems about indefinite women are allowed. Can you please tell which body parts of a woman can be described for the poem to remain lawful? If I recite such a poem and become the winner, can I take the money? Another point to be noted is that there will be men and women present together during the competition, though in separate rows and in a decent atmosphere, without physical contact. Nevertheless, some girls might not be wearing a proper hijab. Does this make it haram for me to take part in the competition? Please discuss this in detail.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

It is permissible to recite poetry that does not cause Fitnah (temptation) or encourage immorality. It is permissible for poets to describe some aspects of the beauty of an anonymous woman (without using erotic or improper language) such as the beauty of the eyes, the fairness of the skin, and the like, as in the poem of Kaʻb ibn Zuhayr  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him that he recited in the presence of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ). Part of it says:

What was Suʻaad the morning they set off,

but a faint song, languor in the eyes, kohl.

Revealing as she smiled side teeth wet

as a first drought of wine or a second.

Ibn ʻAabideen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"Chapter on reciting poetry: the disliked kind of poetry is perhaps what is continuously engaged in and what is made into a kind of profession to the point where it overcomes one and busies him from the remembrance of Allaah and religious knowledge, and that is how the hadeeth (against frivolous poetry) is interpreted … so there is no harm in a little of it if one intends bringing up anecdotes, subtle niceties, high metaphors and noble meanings, even if there is the description of 'cheeks and physiques', because the scholars of metaphoric writing would quote the poems of 'muwalladeen' (poets who came after Islam and adopted news methods of poetry other than the classical ones) and others when they wrote about infatuation ... the prominent scholar Ibn Al-Humaam (from the Hanafi School of jurisprudence) mentioned, in the chapter of testimony/witness of Fat-h Al-Qadeer, that the unlawful part of poetry consists of those words themselves that are unlawful to use, like describing handsome boys or a specific living woman, or describing intoxicants in arousing ways or bars, or disparaging a Muslim or non-Muslim member of society, if the speaker intends to disparage them … As for the permissibility of describing the physical beauty of an anonymous woman in poetry, it is evidenced by the fact that Abu Hurayrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him recited a poem to this effect while in a state of Ihraam (ritual state of consecration assumed for Hajj and 'Umrah), and so did Ibn ʻAbbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him ... Moreover, Kaʻb  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him recited the following poetic verses in the presence of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ):

What was Suʻaad the morning they set off,

but a faint song, languor in the eyes, kohl.

Revealing as she smiled side teeth wet

as a first drought of wine or a second.

In addition, this is recurrent in the poetry of the honorable Companion Hassaan ibn Thaabit  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him. He once recited the following verse before the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) 'Your heart has been infatuated in a dream by a very shy woman who gives the sleeping one besides her a drink from her smiling cool lips'..." [Radd Al-Muhtaar ʻala Durr Al-Mukhtar]

As for the religious ruling on reciting poetry in gatherings in which both men and women are present without improper intermixing, it is allowed. The basic principle is that all things are lawful unless proven otherwise by evidence. This is, of course, provided that the poetry being recited in such gatherings does not promote immorality or entice desires and the like. The Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Islamic Jurisprudence reads:

"Ibn Hajar  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, 'In brief, scholars underlined that it is permissible to recite poetry, provided that it is not recited frequently, in the mosque, and provided that it is void of prohibited defamation, excessive praise, lies, and prohibited erotic love poetry. Ibn ʻAbd Al-Barr  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him cited the scholarly consensus on the permissibility of reciting poetry.' He  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him cited ahaadeeth in support of his view and the fact that some poems were recited in the presence of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) and that he did not forbid it. Ibn Sayyid an-Naas  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him listed the names of the poets whose poetry was reported by the Companions pertaining to the Prophet, in particular. It has been narrated that ʻAa'ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her said, 'Poetry is both good and bad. Take the good and leave the bad. I have related some of the poetry of Kaʻb ibn Maalik that included an ode of forty verses and some less than that.' [Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]..."

Masrooq  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him narrated that Hassaan came to ʻAa'ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them and recited the following love poetry, "A chaste pious woman who arouses no suspicion, she never talks against chaste heedless women behind their backs." [Al-Bukhari]

Al-ʻAyni  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, "The Arabic verb 'yushabbib,' mentioned in this hadeeth to describe Hassaan means, 'he recites love poetry,' or the like of it." [ʻUmdat Al-Qaari Sharh Saheeh Al-Bukhari]

For more benefit, please refer to fatwa86913.

As for awards, we have previously discussed their permissibility in fataawa 89570 and 88053.

Allaah knows best.

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