Q: We have discussed with some of our friends from this town about
the ‘Arda (the national dance of Saudi Arabia, which is a men’s sword dance accompanied by traditional drummers and a poet, who sings the lyrics) that is held in our area of
Ghamid and Zahran.
Some say that it is Mubah (permissible), some consider it to be Makruh (disliked), and others say that it is Haram (prohibited). Evidence used by those who say it is Mubah is that the Ethiopians used to have their games and when
`Umar ibn Al-Khattab
objected to them, the Messenger (peace be upon him) told him to let them carry on, as it would teach
that Islam is a Din (religion) that permits recreation. They say that the ‘Arda indicates manhood and courage, and it is an ancient custom in the village that is approved of by the government. The evidence used by those who view it as Makruh is that it involves wasting money and time, but if it does not distract people from any Faridah (obligatory act) of their Din, they say that it is allowed. Those who say that the ‘Arda is Haram support their view with the following:First: The ‘Arda involves playing the Zir (big drum), which is the work of Satan.Second: All the poets of the region follow the modern artistic styles in their poetry, and so they honor inferior people and degrade honorable ones just to gain money.Third: (Part No. 19; Page No. 127) Holding the ‘Arda involves squandering, as each poet is given up to 5,000 Riyals, or more sometimes, and the Zir player and his band gets a similar fee. So not less than 10,000 Riyals are spent on the ‘Arda in one night, and this sum increases according to the importance of the occasion.Fourth: Most of the people who are involved in the ‘Arda or attend it are conceited, arrogant, and like to show-off. People have now started to film the ‘Arda and show it later on in their homes. The matter has been worsened, as dancing is now being included in the event.Fifth: Women mostly watch the ‘Arda from the roofs of their houses and they watch the videos inside their houses, and this is immoral.Sixth: When the ‘Arda is held at night, which is usually the case, it continues until after midnight, and so most of those who attend miss the congregational Fajr (Dawn) Prayer, except for those on whom Allah has mercy, because they are tired and exhausted.Seventh: Once the Zir starts to be heard, the surrounding area becomes full of cars and people start to gather, among whom are very old men who come to watch the ‘Arda. They even come using their walking sticks (Part No. 19; Page No. 128) to participate in the ‘Arda, as they are able to forget their condition at that time.This is the ‘Arda and the views of different people on it. I have thus represented the matter to you, Your Eminence, and I submit it to your consideration, hoping that you could provide us with a detailed answer. We will strictly apply your Fatwa (legal opinion given by a qualified Muslim scholar), In sha’a-Allah (if Allah wills), as we have great confidence that your Fatwas are based on sound knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet, peace be upon him) - and, indeed, the Truth is more deserving to be followed.
If the reality of the ‘Arda is as you mentioned in the question, regarding the use of musical instruments, and that the poets exceed proper bounds in their poetry by honoring inferior people and degrading honorable ones just to gain money; it involves wasting money, dancing, swinging, vanity, and filming those who participate in it and those who watch it so the film can be shown later in different places; women watching the ‘Arda and all the Munkar (things which are unacceptable or disapproved of by Islamic law and Muslims of sound intellect) that it involves from the roofs of their houses and other places; and that as the ‘Arda continues to midnight all or some of those who attend it miss Fajr (Dawn) Prayer; then the ‘Arda is Haram, because of all the Munkar that it involves. If only some of these things occurred, it would be sufficient to judge it to be Haram. There is nothing in this ‘Arda that indicates manhood, courage, or generosity; on the contrary, it involves shamelessness, (Part No. 19; Page No. 129) lying, enraging those who have been defamed, tempting those who have been excessively praised, squandering, and wasting money on useless matters, wasting time, spreading corruption, following the habits of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic time of ignorance), blindly copying the ancestors, following whims and personal desires, and preferring all of that over the Shari‘ah (Islamic law) with all the praiseworthy morals that it encourages. Regarding what the Ethiopians did, it was a battle demonstration that involved training to undertake the acts of war and use of weapons. The Ethiopians did that on the Day of ‘Eid (Festival), without distracting them from performing any of the Faridah. This type of demonstration was one that showed manliness and heroism, it was done in preparation for Jihad (fighting/striving in the Cause of Allah), without wasting time or neglecting priorities. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.