Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- A new fatwa issued by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, has fuelled controversy among Muslim scholars, dividing them into supporters and opponents of this religious ruling. The Fatwa calls for Muslims not to use Quranic verses or the call to prayer as mobile phone ringtones.
Dr. Ali Gomaa stated that “it is highly inappropriate to use Quranic verses as mobile phone ringtones because the sanctity and glorification of the Holy Quran is far away from such a use, which ought to be forbidden…” Gomaa however indicated that it was permissible for Muslims to substitute Quranic mobile phone ringtones or the call to prayer with Islamic songs or praise of the Prophet that suit the length of the ringtone.
Dr. Gomaa said that he considered the use of Quranic verses or the call to prayer as mobile phone ringtones to be a violation of the sanctity of the Holy Quran revealed by God Almighty. Egypt’s Grand Mufti said “We are ordered to reflect on the verses of the Holy Quran and understand their meanings…such use trivializes the sanctity of the verses, which are for prayer, invocation and recitation and are not to be used illegitimately.”
Dr. Gomaa argues that recitations of the Holy Quran are abruptly ended when a telephone call is answered, and this could lead to the distortion of Quranic verses meaning and could misinform the listener. Dr. Gomaa maintained that this also applies to the call to prayer.
The Egyptian Grand Mufti said that it is unsuitable for the call to prayer to be used as a mobile phone ringtone because this indicates prayer times, and my cause confusion regarding the actual time for prayer. Gomaa stressed that the Word of God should be treated with the respect that it deserves.
In response to the fatwa, Dr. Moahmmed al Dessouki, Professor of Islamic Shariaa at Cairo University and a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, argued against the belief that using short Quranic verses or the call for prayer as mobile phone ringtones violates and demeans the sanctity of the Holy Quran. He said that this use of religious material can act as a reminder, or advocate Islam, particularly now when Islam is facing attack and censure. Dr. al Dessouki used the following Quranic verse to stress his point: “And continue to remind, for surely the reminder profits the believers,” [Surat Adh-Dhariyat, Verse 55].
Dr. al Dessouki further stated: “Saying that answering a call might lead to interrupting the verses or distortion of their meaning or even cutting off the recitation in order to answer the telephone call is not a strong enough justification against the use of Quranic verses or the call to prayer as mobile phone ringtones simply because the verses that are used as ringtones are usually short ones. Moreover, we should not preoccupy people with such trivial issues. Instead, we should focus on issuing fatwas that tackle more important matters that require the concerted efforts of Muslim scholars. Scholars should not disagree over secondary issues. It would be more beneficial to concentrate on more important matters like reminding people of religious fundamentals so that they try to adhere to them in a practical and faithful manner. Scholars should also encourage people to try and face serious problems like family breakdown, unemployment, extremism and militancy and other important matters.”
However, Sheikh Youssef el Badri, an Islamic preacher and a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, supports the fatwa issued by Egypt's Grand Mufti. Sheikh el Badri said, “The Holy Quran was not revealed to serve as a decoration on a wall or a mobile phone ring tone. The sanctity and glory of the Holy Quran must be protected against misuse. Therefore, it is prohibited to use Quranic verses or the call to prayer as mobile phone ringtones because answering a call could lead to an abrupt end to the recitation of the Holy verses and distortion of their meaning or even to their alteration once someone presses the button to answer a call. For instance, look at a Quranic verse like ‘Ta Ha. We have not sent down the Quran to thee to be an occasion for thy distress. [Surat Ta-Ha; verse 1-2].’ If we cut off right after ‘Ta Ha, We have not sent down the Quran to thee…’ the whole meaning is altered to convey a misleading message that the Holy Quran was not revealed.”
Sheikh el Badri pointed out that the same rule also applies to the call to prayer. If a mobile phone ring tone is set as the call to prayer, some might think that it is actually time to pray and this could create confusion.
It is worth mentioning that during a meeting last month the Islamic Research Academy that is led by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi, issued a fatwa prohibiting the use of Quranic verses as mobile phone ringtones as a result of a request by Mustafa al Shakaa – also a member of the Islamic Research Academy – to Tantawi for a fatwa forbidding this. Al Shakaa argued that using Quranic verses as mobile phone ringtones violates the sanctity of the Holy Quran and interrupts Quranic verses before they end.