The Reliance of the Traveller by Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib and Noah Ha Mim Keller is approved by al-Azhar in Egypt as authoritative, it narrates “There will be peoples of my Community who will hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful ..." Another quote says that: "On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress." Another legal ruling says that "It is unlawful to use musical instruments - such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute - or to listen to them. It is permissible to play the tambourine at weddings, circumcisions, and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is unlawful."
Muslims in the days of Omayyad's and Abbasids had access to Greek musical theory, yet they decided not to concentrate on the Greek creative bequest. It was integration of music and pictorial arts into religious worship in Christian Europe that yielded into De Vinci and Michelangelo, or music that eventually culminated in the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven centuries later. This never happened in the Islamic world; calligraphy and chanting of holy book replaced real art and music. The Ottomans' resistance to the printing press was based on religious authorities' monopoly in providing legitimacy through loyalty because the transmission of knowledge depended on 'oral technology.' Mullahs' chanting and control of the source book gave them the control over the Faithful.
The Gregorian chants and the growth of polyphonic music in medieval European monasteries and cathedrals established the musical tradition and notes. The invention of musical notation enabled musicians to build upon the work of the past.
Without these there would be no Mozart or Beethoven. Yes, it makes no difference if a society does not have Mozart or Beethoven but a society that fails to deliver Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven also fails to deliver Copernicus, Galileo or Newton. A society that bans music and art resigns itself to humiliation of medievalism. The medieval mindset is the curse and nuisance which is innate and hereditary, it has to be broken for that is the only way the mind of man can be free from dogma and backwardness. He needs to rebel against the doctrine that embeds him in cohorts with desert norms that are comprehensively antiquated and archaic.
Expansion and development of musical expression helped discovery of the connection between mathematical ratios and musical intervals that is attributed to Pythagoras. According to Charles Murray, “Just as linear perspective added depth to the length and breadth of painting, polyphony added, metaphorically, a vertical dimension to the horizontal line of melody.”
The lack of freedom of mind led to coercion and lack of expansion on all fronts. Let's see some other instances, for example of Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham) who wrote optics; history of optics without mentioning Alhazen is unthinkable. At the time the only regions in the world where clear glass was extensively made was the Middle East and Europe, but the theory of optics was used by Europeans to create eyeglasses for the correction of eyesight, and later for the creation of microscopes and telescopes and thus the birth of modern medicine and astronomy. Middle Eastern Muslims could have done so, but they didn't. (Encyclopaedia Britannica )
Had they done so instead of wasting their time on 'Alchemy and Puritanism,' who knows the 'Telescope' that would show the moons of Jupiter to Galileo could have helped the descendents of Al Hazen. Similarly Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan) did good work in alchemy for his time and may have been the first person to create some acids, but there was no follow-up.
Today the Spring revolutions in Middle East are the product of the embracing of new technology:
'Clergy helped the rulers in controlling the limited number of books available for public use in libraries, scrutinizing their contents and ensuring the suppression of items that could threaten loyalty (Göçek, 1987: 109).
Many within the crescent of Islam find convenient explanations such as 'colonialism and poverty' as the major cause of disorientation within ranks of the faithful that finds random use of 'terror' a part and norm of ideological promotions, however, repugnance to the new technology has been deeply rooted based on protection of the faith. Though guns were accepted, printing presses were a big no for centuries by the Ottomans. Guns helped victories and expansion instantaneously whereas books change a society within that takes a while to sprout.
The Ottoman Empire was one of the first states to put gunpowder weapons in strategic use. The famous Janissary corps of the Ottoman army began using matchlock muskets as early as the 1440s. The army of Mehmet the Conqueror, which conquered Constantinople in 1453, included both artillery and foot soldiers armed with gunpowder weapons. The Ottomans brought to the siege sixty-nine guns in fifteen separate batteries and trained them at the walls of the city. The barrage of Ottoman cannon fire lasted forty days, and they are estimated to have fired 19,320 times. ''The siege lasted from Friday, 6 April 1453 until Tuesday, 29 May 1453 (according to the Julian Calendar), when the city was conquered by the Ottomans. The Fall of Constantinople marked the end of the final remnant of the Roman Empire, an empire which had lasted for nearly 1,500 years; it was also a massive blow to Christendom. After the conquest Mehmed made Constantinople the Ottoman Empire's new capital. Several Greek and non-Greek intellectuals fled the city before and after the siege, migrating particularly to Italy. It is argued that they helped fuel the Renaissance. Some mark the end of the Middle Ages by the fall of the city and empire.''
The victory based on guns implodes but a victory based on books lives on. The next fifty years will change the thinking landscape of the Middle East; Egyptians and others will soon realize that the success of revolution now depends on policies that are short on ideology and long on practicalities. Will of Allah alone does not change the state of the nation; it has to be the work that is put in.
A primary enigma of technological record is why some societies have foregone progress and chosen backwardness by failing to adopt technological advancements. Although the Ottomans were quick to adopt advancements in military technology, they waited almost three centuries to allow the first book to be printed in Arabic script. Imagine if the Internet was disallowed for 3 centuries! What would have been the status of freedom in the Middle East? No revolution is possible without knowledge. Assad, Qaddafi and Mubarak never realised that in an open connected world, the first victims would always be their chained populace. Openness is the nemesis of all closed societies.
In adopting the printing press and gunpowder weapons, often considered the most important inventions of the late Middle Ages, the Ottomans reacted quite in a different way, moving like a pendulum between closeness and openness. The introduction of the printing press was potentially a significant threat to the stability of this process and to the ability of religious authorities to provide legitimacy. Once adopted, mass printing altered the technology of transmitting knowledge and diminished the comparative advantage of religious authorities. The general public could obtain knowledge directly from books or from literate individuals not necessarily affiliated with religious authorities. The authorities lost their monopoly in the transmission of knowledge and their power in convincing the public on the legitimacy of the ruler. Young Turks were products of such a rare openness.
One question every Muslim should always ask is how the Middle East went from being a global hub of civilization to being the global epicentre of terrorism and ruthless killing as it arguably is today. American evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond in his bestselling book Guns, Germs, and Steelhas listed smallpox, or because zebras are more difficult to domesticate than water buffaloes, for some societies to fail; in case of the Middle East, it is the software that needs an anti viral dose. The main cause of the backwardness is the mindset of the region. The abhorrence of fine arts and preference of violence and conquest over logic and reason as a matter of holy cause and injunctions have led 1.5 billion to be a part of a stifled society that detests beauty of expression, expressive art or music.