Part 30

Book production

January 23, 2022

Formerly, people were concerned with scholarly writings and (official) records. These were copied, bound, and corrected with the help of a transmission technique 204 and with accuracy.

This is because the ruling dynasty was important, along with the things that depend on sedentary culture. All that has disappeared now as the result of the disappearance of the dynasties and the decrease of civilization.

In Islam, it had formerly reached tremendous proportions in the ‘Iraq and in Spain. All of it depends on civilization, on the extent of the (ruling) dynasties, and on the demand existing in (the dynasties) 205 for it. Thus, scholarly works and writings were (formerly) numerous. People were desirous of transmitting them everywhere and at any time.

They were copied and bound. Book production, thus, began. Book producers copy, correct, and bind books and writings. This industry was restricted to the cities of a large civilization.

Originally, copies of scholarly works, government correspondence, letters of enfeoffment, and diplomas were written on parchment especially prepared from animal skins.

Government documents and diplomas were few. This is why the early Muslims restricted themselves to writing on parchment.

The production of books and writings then developed greatly. Government documents and diplomas increased in number. There was not enough parchment for them. That’s why alFadl b. Yahya 208 suggested the manufacture of paper.

Thus, paper was used for government documents and diplomas. Afterwards, people used paper in sheets for government and scholarly writings, and the manufacture of (paper) reached a considerable degree of excellence.

Scholars and government people became concerned with accuracy. This was done through a chain of transmitters leading back to their writers and authors.

  • Statements are thus led back to those who made them
  • Decisions (in legal questions, fatwa) are led back to the persons who decided on them

Wherever the correctness of a text is not established by a chain of transmitters going back to the person who wrote that particular text, the statement or decision in question cannot properly be ascribed to its (alleged author). This has been the procedure of scholars and experts in (all matters of religious knowledge) in all times, races, and regions, so much so that the usefulness of the craft connected with the transmission of traditions came to be restricted to this aspect (of the process of transmission).

The main fruit of the craft concerned with the transmission of traditions is the knowledge of which traditions are “sound,” which are “good,” which “go back in an uninterrupted chain of transmitters to the Prophet” (musnad),which have a chain of transmitters that “skips the first transmitter on the authority of Muhammad” (mursal), which have a chain that “stops with one of the men of the second generation” (magtu), and which have a chain that “stops with one of the men around Muhammad” (mawquf), in order to be able to distinguish (such traditions) from spurious ones.

This is no longer (a subject of investigation). The cream of it has been churned in the principal collections (of traditions) that have found general acceptance by all Muslims.

It would, thus, be a superfluous activity to attempt (to investigate the matter anew).

Therefore, the only remaining result to be gained from the process of transmission and occupation with it is that it can serve to establish a correct text of the principal collections of traditions and other books on jurisprudence used for legal decisions, 210 as well as for other writings and scholarly works.

It also serves to establish uninterrupted connection with their respective authors, so that transmission on their authority or ascription to them is sound. Both in the East and in Spain, this method has been the tried and true path. We find that the copies made in (former) times in those regions are the most exact, well done, and correct. People everywhere at this time possess old copies attesting to the perfection previously reached in this respect. The inhabitants of the various regions have handed them down (and preserved) them to the present, and they do not like to part with them.

At the present time, this method has altogether disappeared in the Maghrib and among Maghribis, because the craft of writing, accuracy, and the transmission technique were cut off there as the result of the destruction of the civilization of (the Maghrib) and its basic 211 desert attitude.

The principal collections and writings were copied in Bedouin script. They were copied by Berber students in such a bad handwriting and with so much corruption and so many clerical errors that they cannot be understood. They remain incomprehensible to those who examine them critically. Only very rarely are they of any use.

Furthermore, this (situation) has caused disintegration in the field of legal decisions (fatwa). Most statements ascribed to the school authorities are not (orally) transmitted but are taken from the writings as they are found there. This has also affected the attempts of some religious leaders to write books.

They know little of the technical side of (authorship) and lack the crafts necessary for realizing the purposes of (authorship). Some slight remnant of this institution has remained in Spain. It is about to disappear. (Religious) scholarship has almost completely stopped in the Maghrib.

We now hear that the craft of transmission (technique) still exists in the East. The sciences and crafts are in demand there, as we shall mention later on, 213 and, therefore, those who want to, find it easy to establish the correct text of writings. However, the script for good copying surviving there is that of the non-Arabs, and found in their manuscripts.

The copying (of books) has deteriorated in Egypt as it has in the Maghrib, and even more so.

31. Singing and music

This sets poems to music by scanning the sounds according to well-known fixed proportions, which causes any sound (complex) thus scanned to constitute a tune, a rhythmic mode.

These modes are then combined with each other according to accepted proportions. The result is pleasant to listen to because of its harmony and the quality (that harmony) gives to the sounds. This is as follows= As explained in the science of music, sounds are in certain proportions (intervals) to each other. A sound may be 1/2, 1/4, 1/5, or 1/11 of another sound. The difference in interval between the sounds that reach the ear transforms them from simple (sounds) to combinations of (sounds).

Not every combination is pleasant to listen to. There are special combinations (that are pleasant). They have been enumerated and discussed by musicologists, as is mentioned in the proper place.

The music produced by the rhythmic modes of singing may be supplemented by scanning other sounds that come from solids and are produced by either beating or blowing into instruments used for the purpose. Such (instrumental music) adds to the pleasure of listening.

Various kinds of instruments are used in the contemporary Maghrib. There is the wood-wind instrument called shabbabah. 215 It is a hollow reed with a number of holes on the sides. One blows into it, and it gives a sound.

The sound escapes from the hollow of (the reed) straight 216 through these holes. It is scanned by placing the fingers of both hands upon these holes in conventionally accepted ways. This creates the proper intervals between the sounds and also combines them harmoniously.

As a result, they are pleasant to listen to when one hears them, because of the harmony we have mentioned. Another similar kind of instrument is the wood-wind instrument called zulami.

It has the form of a reed, with two wooden parts carved (hollow), hollow but not round, because it is made of two pieces put together. It also has a number of holes. One blows into it through a small connected reed which directs the wind to the holes.

This produces a highpitched tone. The fingers are placed upon (the holes) and the sounds are thus scanned in the same way as on the shabbabah. One of the best wind instruments at this time is the bug 218 This is a trumpet of copper (brass) which is hollow, one cubit long, widening toward the opening, the diameter of which is less than 219 the palm of a hand in width.

It has the form of a nibbed calamus. One blows into it through a small reed which conveys the wind from the mouth into it. The sound comes out compact and loud. It also has a number of holes, and (makes) a harmonious tune of pleasant effect, which is produced in the same way (as in the aforementioned instruments), by placing the fingers (on the holes).

Then, there are the string instruments. They are all hollow. They may have either the shape of a section of a sphere, as, for instance, the barbiton and the rebec, or a square shape, such as the ganun.220 The strings are placed upon the surface of (the instrument).

They are tied at the head to pegs that can be turned, so that it is possible to (tighten or) loosen (the strings) as required, by turning them. The strings are either plucked with another piece of wood or (played) with a string fastened between the two ends of a bow that passes over the strings of the instrument after it had been waxed with wax or mastic (kundur). Sounds are scanned throughlightening (the pressure of) the hand that guides the bow over the strings, or through transferring (the bow) from one string to another. Moreover, in all string instruments, the fingers of the left hand can be used to beat or pluck the ends of the strings. Thus, there originate harmonious, pleasant sounds.

Moreover, brass kettles may be beaten with sticks, or pieces of wood may be beaten against each other in a harmonious rhythm. This creates a feeling of pleasure as the result of the music one hears.

What is the cause of the pleasure from music?

Pleasure is the attainment of something that is agreeable. (Such a thing,) in sensual perception, can only be a quality.

If (such a quality) is proportionate and agreeable to the person who has the perception, it is pleasant. If it is repugnant to him or discordant, it is painful.

Agreeable foods are those whose quality corresponds to the temper of the sense of taste. The same applies to agreeable sensations of touch. Agreeable smells are those that correspond to the temper of the vaporous cordial spirit, because that spirit is what perceives and receives them through the (medium of the) sense (of smell).

Thus, aromatic plants and flowers smell better and are more agreeable to the spirit, because heat, which is the temper of the cordial spirit, is preponderant in them. Agreeable sensations of vision and hearing are caused by harmonious arrangement in the forms and qualities of (the things seen or heard).

This impresses the soul as harmonious and is more agreeable to it.

If an object of vision is harmonious in the forms and lines given to it in accordance with the matter from which it is made, so that the requirements of its particular matter as to perfect harmony and arrangement are not disregarded that being the meaning of beauty and loveliness whenever these terms are used for any object of sensual perception that (object of vision) is then in harmony with the soul that perceives (it), and the soul, thus, feels pleasure as the result of perceiving something that is agreeable to it.

Therefore, lovers who are most deeply in love express their extreme infatuation by saying that their spirit is commingled with that of the beloved.

In another sense, the meaning of it is that existence is shared by all existent things, as the philosophers say. Therefore, (existent things) love to commingle with something in which they observe perfection, in order to become one with it.

The object that is most suited to man and in which he is most likely to perceive perfect harmony, is the human form. Therefore, it is most congenial to him to perceive beauty and loveliness in the lines and sounds of the human form. Thus, every man desires beauty in the objects of vision and hearing, as a requirement of his nature. Beauty in the objects of hearing is harmony and lack of discordance in the sounds.

This is as follows= Sounds have certain qualities. They may be whispered or loud, soft or strong, vibrant or constrained, and so on. Harmony between them is what gives them beauty. Firstly, the transition from one sound to a contrary or identical sound as well as the return to the first sound, is not made suddenly but gradually. There must be something to bridge the gap between the two sounds. This may be compared with the fact that linguists consider clusters of sounds of discordant or similar articulation ugly.

This belongs to the same category. Secondly, the sounds must have harmonious intervals, as was mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. The transition from a sound to a sound one-half, one-third, or some other fraction of it, must take place in a harmonious manner according to the rules established by musicologists. When the sounds are harmonious with regard to their qualities, as has been mentioned by musicologists, they are agreeable and pleasant.

Such harmony may be a simple one. Many people are gifted to achieve it by nature. They do not need any (special) instruction or (craft) for it, for we find people who are gifted by nature for the meters of poetry, the rhythms of the dance, andsimilar things. The common people call such an aptitude “musicalness” midmar.

Many Qur’an readers belong in this category. In reciting the Qur’an, they know well how to modulate their voices, as if they were flutes. They thus cause emotion through the beauty of their performance 223 and the harmony of their modes.

Harmony may also result from composition. Not all human beings are alike in their knowledge of it, nor are they all equally able by nature to practice it, if they know it. This is the melodious music with which the science of music has to deal, as we shall explain later on among the sciences.

Malik disapproved of the use of melodies in reciting the Qur’an, 225 and ash-Shafi’i permitted it. Here it is not a question of artistic musical melodies. There can be no difference of opinion as to the fact that they are forbidden. The art of singing is something entirely unconnected with the Qur’an. It is true, in the recitation and pronunciation (of the Qur’an), each letter (sound) requires a certain quantity of sound for its particular pronunciation, in as much as, for instance, the lengthening of vowels in the proper places is concerned, 226 the longer or shorter pronunciation of long vowels, and similar things. Melodious music also requires a certain quantity of sound to materialize, because, as we have stated, its real meaning is harmony. However, considering the one (thing) ruins the other, 228 since they are the opposite of each other.

The recitation of the Qur’an must be given preference, in order to avoid any change in traditional transmission in connection with the Qur’an. Thus, melodious music can, by no means, be combined with the pronunciation under consideration in connection with the Qur’an. As regards the difference of opinion (among authorities as to the permissibility of melodious music for the recitation of the Qur’an), the thing (the authorities) have in mind is the plain music to which nature guides the person who is musical (midmar), as we have stated. Such a person arranges his sounds in certain harmonious cadences, which those who know about singing, as well as others, perceive (as music). 229 This is the point about which the difference of opinion (revolves).

The obvious (fact) is that the Qur’an is (to be) kept free of it, (exactly) as the imam (Malik) thought. The Qur’an is something that causes awe, as it reminds (man) of death and what comes after it. It is not an occasion to give pleasure in the perception of beautiful sounds. It was (in this spirit) that the men around Muhammad recited the Qur’an, as is stated in their biographies.

The statement by Muhammad, “A flute of those belonging to the family of David was brought to him,” 230 does not refer to cadences and melodious music, but it refers to a beautiful voice, a clear pronunciation in reciting the Qur’an, and a clear distinction in the articulation and enunciation of the letters (sounds).

Since we have mentioned the meaning of singing, it should be known that singing originates in a civilization when it becomes abundant and (people) progress from the necessities to the conveniences, and then to the luxuries, and have a great diversity of (luxuries).

Then, the craft of singing originates, because it is required only by those who are free from all the necessary and urgent needs of making a living and care for domestic and other needs. It is in demand only by those who are free from all other worries and seek various ways of having pleasure. In the non-Arab states before Islam, music was highly developed in cities and towns. The (non-Arab) rulers cultivated it eagerly. It went so far that the Persian rulers felt a great concern for musicians. Musicians had a place in their dynasty and attended their sessions and gatherings and sang for them. The same is (still) the case with the non-Arabs at this time in all their regions and provinces.

The Arabs originally had (only) poetry. 231 They composed a kind of speech consisting of equal parts of harmonious proportions, as far as the number ofconsonants with and without vowels was concerned. Within these parts, they divided speech in such a way that each part made sense by itself and did not have to lean upon the other. Such (part of speech) they called verse. It is agreeable to nature first by its division into parts, then by the harmonious arrangements of its parts at the ends and beginnings, 232 and then by the fact that it conveys the intended meaning and uses expressions conforming to (that meaning).

The Arabs appreciated poetry very highly. It was distinguished in their speech through a certain nobility, because it alone possessed harmony. They made poetry the archive of their history, their wisdom, and their nobility, and the touchstone of their natural gift for expressing themselves correctly, choosing the best methods (uslub, of expression). They have continued to do so.

The harmony resulting from (a division of speech into) parts, and (into an equal number of) consonants with and without vowels, is just one small drop in the ocean of sound harmony, as is well known from the literature 234 on music.

However, (the Arabs) did not know anything except (poetry), because at that time, they practiced no science and knew no craft. The desert attitude was their dominant trait.

Camel drivers sang when they drove their camels, and young men sang when they were alone (with each other at times of leisure and recreation). They repeated sounds and hummed them. When such humming was applied to poetry, it was called singing. When it was applied to the praise of God or some kind of recitation (of the Qur’an), it was called taghbir. Abu Ishaq az-Zajjaj 236 explained this word as (derived from al-ghdbir, that is, melodies) reminding one of al ghabir “that which remains,” that is, the affairs of the other world.

When (the Arabs) sang, they often effected a simple harmony between the modes, as was mentioned by Ibn Rashiq at the end of the Kitab al-’ Umdah, 237 and by others. This was called sinad. Most (Arab music) was in the light rhythm (khafif) that is used for dancing and marching, accompanied by drums and flutes. It causes emotion and makes the seriousminded feel light. 238 The Arabs called that hazaj. All these simple types of melodious music are primary ones. It is not unlikely to assume that they can be grasped by nature without any instruction, as is the case with all simple crafts.

The Arabs continued this way during their desert and pre-Islamic period.

Then, Islam made its appearance. (The Arabs) took possession of (all) the realms of the world. They deprived the non-Arabs of their rule and took it over. They had their well-known desert attitude and low standard of living. In addition, they possessed the thriving 239 religion (of Islam) and that (Muslim) religious severity which is directed against all activities of leisure and all the things that are of no utility in one’s religion or livelihood. Therefore, (music) was avoided to some degree.

In their opinion, only the cadenced recitation of the Qur’an and the humming of poetry which had always been their way and custom, were pleasurable things. Then, luxury and prosperity came to them, because they obtained the spoils of the nations.

They came to lead splendid and refined lives and to appreciate leisure. The singers (now) left the Persians and Byzantines. They descended upon the Hijaz and became clients of the Arabs. They all sang accompanied by lutes, pandores, lyres, 240 and flutes. The Arabs heard their melodious use of sound.

They set their poems to music accordingly. In Medina, Nashit al-Farlsi, 241 Tuways, and Sa’ib Khathir, a client of Abdallah b. Jafar (b. Abt Talib), made their appearance. They heard the poems of the Arabs and set them to music. They did it well, and they became famous. Ma’bad and his class of singers, as well as Ibn Surayj and his ilk, learned from them. Continual and gradual progress was made inthe craft of singing.

Eventually, in the days of the Abbasids, (the craft of singing) reached its perfection with Ibrahim b. al-Mahdi, Ibrahim al-Mawsili, (Ibrahim’s) son Ishaq, and (Ishaq’s) son Hammid.

The music and the (musical) sessions of Baghdad during the (‘Abbasid) dynasty have remained a topic of conversation down to the present time.

People at that time constantly had games and entertainments. Dancing equipment, consisting of robes and sticks, and poems to which melodies were hummed, were used. That was transformed into a special kind (of entertainment).

Other dancing equipment, called kurraj, was also used. (The kurraj) is a wooden figure resembling a saddled horse and is attached to robes such as women wear. (The dancers) thus give the appearance of having mounted horses. They attack and withdraw 243 and compete in skill (with weapons).

There were other such games intended for banquets, wedding parties, festivals, and (other) gatherings for leisure and entertainment. There was much of that sort in Baghdad and the cities of the ‘Iraq. It spread from there to other regions.

The Mawsilis had a young (apprentice) servant, by name Ziryab,244 who had learned from them how to sing. He learned so well that they became jealous of him and sent him away to the West. He joined al-Hakam b. Hisham b. Abd-ar-Rahman I, the amir of Spain. He (al-Hakam) honored him greatly.

He rode out to welcome him. He showered him with gifts, fiefs, and allowances. He gave him a place in his dynasty as one of his boon companions. The musical heritage Ziryab left in Spain was transmitted down to the time of the reyes de taifas. In Sevilla, (the craft of singing) was highly developed. After (Sevilla) had lost its affluence, (the craft of singing) was transplanted from there to the coast of Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib. It spread over the cities there. A sprinkling of it is still left there, despite retrogression in the civilization of the region and the decreasing power of its dynasties.

The craft of singing is the last of the crafts attained in civilization, because it constitutes (the last development toward) luxury with regard to no occupation in particular save that of leisure and gaiety. It also is the first to disappear from a given civilization when it disintegrates and retrogresses.

32. The crafts, especially writing and calculation, give intelligence to the person who practices them.

The rational soul exists in man only potentially. Its transformation from potentially into actuality is effected first by new sciences and perception derived from the sensibilia, and then by the later acquisition (of knowledge) through the speculative power. Eventually, it comes to be actual perception and pure intellect. Thus, it becomes a spiritual essence, and its existence then reaches perfection.

Therefore it is necessary that each kind of learning and speculation should provide (the rational soul) with additional intelligence. Now, the crafts and the habit of (the crafts) always lead to the obtainment of scientific norms, which results from habit. Therefore, any experience provides intelligence.

The habits of the crafts provide intelligence. Perfect sedentary culture provides intelligence, because it is a conglomerate of crafts characterized by concern for the (domestic) economy, contact with one’s fellow men, attainment of education through mixing with (one’s fellow men), and also administration of religious matters and understanding the ways and conditions governing them. All these (factors) are norms (of how to do things) which, properly arranged, constitute scientific disciplines. Thus, an increase in intelligence results from them.

In this respect, writing is the most useful craft because, in contrast to the (other) crafts, it deals with matters of theoretical, scientific interest. This is explained through (the circumstance) that writing involves a transition from the forms of the written letters to the verbal expressions in the imagination, and from the verbal expressions in the imagination to the concepts (underlying them), which are in the soul.

The writer, thus, always goes from one indication 250 to another, as long as he is wrapped up in writing, and the soul becomes used to the constant (repetition of the process). Thus, it acquires the habit of going over from the indications to the things meant by them. This is what is meant by intellectual speculation, by means of which the knowledge of (hitherto) unknown sciences is provided.

As the result of being accustomed to the process of going (over from the indications to the things indicated by them) people acquire the habit of intellection, which constitutes an increase in intelligence and provides an additional insight into affairs and a shrewd understanding of them.

This is why Khosraw remarked of his secretaries, when he noticed that they had that kind of insight and shrewd understanding= “Dewaneh,” that is (they are) Satans (devils) and crazy. This is said to be the etymology of diwan (the ministry) of the secretaries. Calculation is connected with (writing).

Calculation entails a kind of working with numbers, “combining” and separating them, 253 which requires much deductive reasoning and speculation, and this is what is meant by intelligence.

“God brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers. You did not then know anything. And He gave you hearing and vision and hearts.” “You are little grateful.”