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Saudi cleric says nothing wrong with genders mixing, listening to music

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Saudi cleric and former president of the commission for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice branch in Makkah, Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi, has challenged those who oppose his opinions on permitting the mixing of genders, listening to music and for saying that Islam doesn’t restrict Muslims to pray in group.

Ghamdi has asked they engage him in a legitimate discussion and refrain from personal attacks.

In his special interview to Al Arabiya, he said that his edicts are the result of extensive research based on experienced scholars’ clarifications. He expressed surprise at the amount of criticism that he receives on his social networking site, Facebook and accused extremists of resorting to abuse to whoever speaks of revivalism in religion or espouses values that do not conform to theirs.

He said: “I have received both support and criticism for my views, but sadly the debate is not about concepts, the problem exists in the nature of the dialogue. We are not brought up to accept different views, which is an essential component to knowledge growth.”

Ghamdi said that Muslims are not required to pray in group, it is indeed sunna (as done by the Prophet) in the sense that it was how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prayed.

“I didn’t bring anything new in my fatwa of saying pray in group is sunna, I have already published a research paper of 200 pages in which I discussed evidence of what is considered obligatory and then showed evidence of those who said its sunna according to Shafai’i, Hanafi and Maliki, which are narrated from Imam Ahmad and supported by group of scholars like, San’aani and Shawkaani. However, those who say it’s obligatory have narrated from Imam Ahmad and endorsed by Ibn Taymiyah and which is followed in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

In reference to his fatwa against the prohibition of listening to music he said this was nothing new, as senior clerics have ruled on this in the past.

He said: “Let’s ask those who are against music whether they consider ‘duff’ (local instrument) as musical? If they say yes then we have evidence from credible sources about the Prophet listening to ‘duff’, thus he wouldn’t listen or do something forbidden.”

Ghamdi rejects charges that he violated the order of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz who limits official fatwa-issuing to the body under the Council of Senior Scholars, the top Saudi Islamic authority, by saying that what he said was an opinion and not a legitimate fatwa.

He explains: “I did not go against the decision of the King. I don’t issue fatwas; what I came up with was a point of view, everything I said was the result of my studies, I have gained wider knowledge in this field of research and I felt obligated to deliberate it.”

(Translated by Ikram al-Yacoub)