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Clapping in Muslim Gatherings And Celebrations
This thought has been going in my mind for quite sometime now since coming back from my studies. Back then in Medina, there were some gatherings such as my convocation and we do not practice clapping as a gesture of congratulations. I knew the reason given by certain masyaikhs but I am relooking at this matter.This note is also triggered by a recent event I attended recently. Instead of clapping, 'Marha, Marha' is used. I also wonder where this 'Marha' comes from. As religious students, our responsibility is to get deep into the matter and research on the truth and never to base our opinions solely on 1 or 2 opinions.Worse if we were to blindly follow the opinion of certain scholars only. I hope this note would clarify certain issues.
Opinions That Forbid Clapping
Following is an example for question asked on clapping:
Question: What is the law of clapping for man in gatherings and celebrations?
Sheikh Ibn Baz
Clapping in gatherings are the acts of Jahiliyyah. I would not say that it is despicable ( makruh ), what is clear from the proofs is its forbiddence (haram) because the Muslims were disallowed from resembling the non-believers.
And Allah SWT had stated on the characters of the non-believers from Mecca in Surah Al Anfal verse 35 :
وَمَا كَانَ صَلَاتُہُمۡ عِندَ ٱلۡبَيۡتِ إِلَّا مُڪَآءً۬ وَتَصۡدِيَةً۬‌ۚ فَذُوقُواْ ٱلۡعَذَابَ بِمَا كُنتُمۡ تَكۡفُرُونَ (٣٥
And their Solah (prayer) at the House ( i.e. the Ka'bah at Makkah) was nothing but whistling and clapping of hands. Therefore taste the punishment because you used to disbelieve (35)
The Scholars state that Muka' is whisling and Tasdiyah is clapping. And the sunnah for a believer when he sees or hears something which impresses him, or even something he despise is to say SubhanAllah, or to say AllahuAkbar as stated by the Prophet pbuh in many hadith.
Answer from the Standing Committee ( Sheikh Salih Al Munajjid )
The Standing Committee was asked about men clapping when they play with children, or children clapping to encourage their classmates. They replied:
This clapping is not appropriate, and at the very least it is intensely makruh ( discouraged ) because this is one of the characteristics of jahiliyyah, and because it is something that is done only by women, to draw attention to a mistake in the prayer. And Allah is the Source of strength. ( From Fataawa Islamiyyah, vol. 4, p. 332-333 )
Children can be encouraged by saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ if they do something that the watcher or listener likes, or one may use other suitable phrases, or raise one’s hands, or raise one’s voice in words of praise such as “Well done!” or “Excellent!” and so on. And Allah is the Source of strength.
Sheikh Abdul Karim Al Khudair
Clapping of hands for woman other than solah is not permissible because this is an act of jahiliyyah and the same goes with whistling.Allah has stated in Surah Al Anfal verse 35:
وَمَا كَانَ صَلَاتُہُمۡ عِندَ ٱلۡبَيۡتِ إِلَّا مُڪَآءً۬ وَتَصۡدِيَةً۬‌ۚ فَذُوقُواْ ٱلۡعَذَابَ بِمَا كُنتُمۡ تَكۡفُرُونَ (٣٥
And their Solah (prayer) at the House ( i.e. the Ka'bah at Makkah) was nothing but whistling and clapping of hands. Therefore taste the punishment because you used to disbelieve.
For Muka' is whistling and Tasdiyah is clapping.
Sheikh Bakr Abu Zaid
The Shari'ah has not allowed clapping in any of the religious matters except for one occassion due to necessity. And it is for the women in Solah when she is faced by the forgetfulness of Imam in the Solah, then it is encouraged to remind him. As for men he reminds the Imam by Tasbih and for the women, she reminds the Imam by clapping. And this is due to the proof of the sunnah where it was narrated by Abu Hurairah ra. that the Prophet pbuh said: The Tasbih is for the men and clapping is for the women.
Then it happen it the 14th century where the Muslims were involved in their gatherings and their celebrations by clapping due to astonishment, resembling the non-believers in clapping for encouragement and astonishment. If the clapping is for matters of worship, then it is innovation that is astrayed as mentioned. If it is done for customary sake in gatherings and celebrations for encouragement and astonishment, it would resemble the non-believers and it is a transgression which should be stopped. This is because: It is known of the teaching of the Prophet pbuh when one is astonished to praise Allah by saying Takbir, Tasbih and Tahlil and the likes. And the hadith on this is many and popular in the books of Sunnah. Imam Bukhari has stated in his Sahih a chapter with the title: Chapter: Tasbih and Takbir when astonished. And the scholars have placed it in their books of azkar ( remembrance) such as An Nawawi in his book Al Azkar and said: Chapter: Permissibility of saying Takbir and Tasbih and its like when astonished. And with such blessed understanding is the path taken by of our previous scholars such as the companions and those who follow them till our present day.
Opinions That Permit Clapping
Following are opinions which allowed clapping by Muslims. They are :
Sheikh Uthaimin:
Sheikh Uthaimin states in his explanation of the hadith of Abu Hurairah ra. that the Prophet pbuh said:
Tasbih is for the men and Clapping is for the women. ( Muttafaq 'alaih )
Sheikh Uthaimin said: If a questioner say: What do you say when it happens due to astonishment for something and he clapped over it ? The answer is: We do not see it as problematic. This is because such term is contemporary and it happens to everyone be they Muslims or non-Muslims. It is a topic on the astonishment of a person for what he heard or seen, and this does not negate the hadith where the Prophet pbuh said: The Tasbih is for men and Clapping is for women. And this is in Solah, and for this, I am of the opinion that a matter which is not in the Shariah must have clear proof to be disallowed, and do not forbid anyone for doing this. And there is no problem if you do not want to do it. And because of this, there is a hadith by Al Bara' Ibn 'Azib ra. who was reminded by one of the narrators when he said: That the Prophet pbuh said: 4 things are not permissible for adhahi ( animals for slaughtering) and he mentioned the handicaps. Then he said: Verily I find it makruh that the age is less or the horn is less. Then he was told: Whatever you find makruh, then it is up to you but do not make it impermissible for others. Sheikh Uthaimin adds: This is an important principle: Something which do not have any basis (proofs), should not forbid people from practicing it.
He then adds :If a person say: Clapping is a contemporary matter, and it goes against the sayings of the Prophet pbuh, and the sayings of the companions with Takbir or Tasbih for something that astonish them...
Then the answer is: We do not see it as contradictory, but whatever you find it as despicable,then leave it but do not forbid it on others. For upon you is a concession of not doing it.
He then adds: If a questioner say: Have not Allah SWT say of the idolaters :
[ و ما كان صلاتهم عند البيت إلا مكاء و تصدية ] ( الأنفال : 35 )
And their solah in the House is nothing other than whistling and clapping.
Muka' is whistling and Tasdiyah is clapping. We say: Yes, definitely Allah had said that. But the Musyriks ( idolaters ) had made it a form of worship. They worship God with such act. And for those who were astonished by certain matter had not made it a form of worship. Just as what is made a reminder for women by clapping, it is done by the musyriks in Masjidil Haram as a form of worship to god. ( Refer to Fathu Zhil Jalali Wal Ikram, Vol 2, hadith 213 )
Sheikh Uthaimin was also asked:
What do you say of some teachers who allow clapping in classes for students as a form of encouragement to their peers?
He answered: Verily for those who see that such matter ( clapping ) is not permissible, then upon him to provide proofs before anything else until we know the law according to the Shari'ah. If he has proofs which could convince us, then it would be impermissible to allow students to do so. Otherwise for those who see it as not problematic, there are benefits in encouraging the students and to spur them, and he should not forbid it on them. As for things that were perform by the non-believers, they were making whistling and clapping as an exchange for Solah and supplication. And they were not doing it as a form of astonishment and istihsan (seeing it good). Until it is said that a Muslim would clap for astonishment over a matter for seeing it good would resemble a non-believer. Verily what Allah had said is: And they had not made their prayers in the House except by Whistling and clapping. For Muka' is whistling and Tasdiyah is clapping, and they have made these as a form of worship.
Answer by Fatwa Management System ( Universiti islam Sains Malaysia )
First of all, it should be clear that Muslims abide by a certain code of ethics in weddings, gatherings, parties, and all occasions. Islamic guidelines should be adhered to and no violation to the Shari`ah-based rulings should take place. By doing so, Muslim gatherings and weddings will be blessed by the grace of Allah, Most High.
In response to your question, Dr. Rif`at Fawzi, professor of Shari`ah at Cairo University, states:
“As far as the question of clapping is concerned, there is nothing in the sources of Shari`ah that prohibits it. Men are only not allowed to clap their hands in Salah (prayer) [when the imam makes a mistake]. Therefore, men may clap their hands in weddings provided that this is not surrounded by Islamically forbidden practices. As for the Hadith that states that clapping is confined to women, this is applicable to Salah.”
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
“Clapping in Salah (for men) or acts of worship is not permitted in Islam since we are not allowed to introduce new ways of worship in Islam. (It’s known that women clap during the prayer if the male Imam makes a mistake.)
If, however, one is resorting to it without any intention of worship, and not as part of worship, but as a way of custom to applaud something or someone, there is nothing in the sources to compel us to declare it as forbidden. It is worth remembering that, as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said, all customs are permitted so long as the Shari`ah has not clearly forbidden them. Since there is no text to forbid it, it shall be deemed as permissible.”
The Interpretation of Surah Al Anfal verse 35
We could see that there are various interpretations by Scholars of tafsir on verse 35 of Surah Al Anfal. Some scholars interpreted the practice of whistling and clapping as acts to distract the Prophet pbuh from performing his solah in Masjidil Haram. The non-believers were trying to block the spread of Islamic as well as preventing the Arabs from ever hearing the recitation of the Prophet near the Kaabah.
1. According to Mujahid (Tafsir Mujahid ):
Muka' is to place their fingers in their mouth which is whistling, and Tasdiyah is clapping.They do this to interrupt the Prophet pbuh in his Solah.
2.According to Abdur Rahman As Sa'di( Taisir Al Karim Ar Rahman Fi Tafisr Kalam Al Mannan )
Verily Allah SWT has made His House Al Haram for establishing His religion and for His sole devotion in worship. The faithful ones are those who accomplish this matter. As for those non-believers who blocks from all these, their prayers do not consist of much form of worship except for whistling and clapping, the acts of ignoramus and fools. They do not have in their hearts the reverence for their god, or knowledge of its required rights, or respect for the best and most honored spot on earth. If this is their form of worship, then what can we say for the rest of their acts of worship.
3. According to Al Baghawi ( Tafsir Al Baghawi - Ma'alim At Tanzil )
Ibn Abbas said: The Quraisy used to circle the Kaabah while they were naked and they would whistle and clap.
Mujahid said: Some members of the Tribe of Abdud Dar used to disturb and make fun of the Prophet pbuh, and they would put their fingers in their mouths and whistle.
Muqatil said: When the Prophet pbuh used to pray in Masjidil Haram, 2 men would stand on his right and whistle while 2 men would stand on his left and clap. This is to interrupt the Prophet pbuh from his prayers and they were from the Tribe of Abdud Dar.
Sa'id Ibn Jubair said: Tasdiyah is to block the Mukmin from Masjidil Haram and from their religion as well as their solah.
Is Clapping Forbidden Out of Solah ?
There are hadith which mentioned the act of clapping by companions out of Solah. This hadith would proof that the mere act of clapping is not forbidden in Islam. It is permissible for man and woman to clap out of solah. The clap could be for the purpose of showing pleasure,astonishment, exultaion as well as for attracting attention. If the act of clapping is forbidden, it would have been stated by the Prophet pbuh. It would also be known by the companions and they would refrain from ever performing it. But the following 2 hadith proved otherwise.
It was narrated by Abu Hurairah ra. that the Prophet pbuh said: "While a man was riding a cow, it turned towards him and said, 'I have not been created for such purpose (i.e. carrying), I have been created for ploughing." The Prophet pbuh added: "I, Abu Bakr and 'Umar believed in the story." The Prophet pbuh went on,: "A wolf caught a sheep, and when the shepherd chased it, the wolf said: 'Who will be its guard on the day of wild beasts, when there will be no shepherd for it except me?' "After narrating it, the Prophet said, "I, Abu Bakr and 'Umar too believe it." Abu Salama (a sub-narrator) said, "Abu Bakr and 'Umar were not present then." (It has been written that a wolf also spoke to one of the companions of the Prophet near Medina as narrated in Fathul Bari: Narrated Unais bin 'Amr: Ahban bin Aus said, "I was amongst my sheep. Suddenly a wolf caught a sheep and I shouted at it. The wolf sat on its tail and addressed me saying: 'Who will look after it (i.e. the sheep) when you will be busy and not able to look after it? Do you forbid me the provision which Allah has provided me?' " Ahban added, "I clapped my hands and said, 'By Allah, I have never seen anything more curious and wonderful than this!' On that the wolf said: 'There is something (more curious) and wonderful than this; that is, Allah's Apostle in those palm trees, inviting people to Allah (i.e. Islam).' "Unais bin 'Amr further said: "Then Ahban went to Allah's Apostle and informed him what happened and embraced Islam.)" ( Sahih Bukhari )
It was narrated by Masruq that he came to 'Aisha rha. and said to her: "O Mother of the Believers! There is a man who sends a Hadi ( animal for slaughter) to Ka'ba and stays in his city and requests that his Hadi camel be garlanded while he remains in a state of Ihram from that day till the people finish their Ihram (after completing all the ceremonies of Hajj), What do you say about it ? Masruq added: I heard the clapping of her hands behind the curtain. She said: "I used to twist the garlands for the Hadi of the Prophet pbuh and he used to send his Hadi to Ka'ba but he never used to regard as unlawful what was lawful for men to do with their wives till the people returned (from the Hajj)." ( Sahih Bukhari )
If Clapping is Haram, then Clapping Hands to Drum is also Haram
Clapping is an act to create sound. It has also been used as a form of entertainment by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They sing and clap as a form of entertainment in special celebrations as well as in common gatherings. There are also many hadith which permit the hitting ( clapping ) of hands to drums to create music. If the clapping of drums are allowed as a form of entertainment, then hitting ( clapping ) a hand to create music should be permissible also.
It was narrated by 'Urwa on the authority of 'Aisha: On the days of Mina, (11th, 12th, and 13th of Dhul-Hijjah) Abu Bakr came to her while two young girls were beating the tambourine and the Prophet pbuh was lying covered with his clothes. Abu Bakr scolded them and the Prophet pbuh uncovered his face and said to Abu Bakr: "Leave them, for these days are the days of 'Id and the days of Mina." 'Aisha further said: "Once the Prophet was screening me and I was watching the display of black slaves in the Mosque and ('Umar) scolded them. The Prophet said: 'Leave them. O Bani Arfida! (carry on), you are safe (protected)'." ( Sahih Bukhari )
Clapping To Show Recognition and Appreciation
Showing recognition and appreciation is allowed in Islam.Different culture and customs have various ways of showing recognition and appreciation. The Arabs would holler by moving their tongues while shouting to express happiness and congratulations. This method of celebratory act is called Ululation.According to Wikipedia:An ululation ( aka ololuge or ololygmos ),( Arabic: زغرودة) is a long, wavering, high-pitched sound resembling the howl of a dog or wolf with a trilling quality. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied with a rapid movement of the tongue and the uvula.
In Islamic gatherings, the Muslims prefer to shout Takbir to express their appreciation. This is understandable when such gatherings are carried out in mosque where a stricter form of decorum is expected. This is also the opinions of many Scholars who forbade clapping in mosque. I myself would concur with those opinions. This is due to the sanctity and reverence we have towards Islamic house of worship. The adab and ettiquettes in mosque are more restrictive than when one is out of the mosque. Otherwise when the gathering is done in halls and auditoriums, some Muslims prefer to shout 'Marha, Marha' to express congratulations and appreciations.
I am personally convinced and firmly believe that Islam is a beautiful religion. It is a religion which can be practiced by all around the world. It should not be so stifling and restrictive that Muslims cannot even enjoy the simple pleasure of clapping to show their pleasure. We also clap to show encouragement to our toddlers and children. I remember when my kids were young that I used to clap when they managed to take the first few steps in their life. I think it would not make much sense for me to say 'Marha, Marha' when they were at that stage. They would not even understand what I say. The delight in their face can be seen when they see me clapping and they are encouraged to make more steps. Clapping is a universal language understood by all. In a gathering attended by various custom and people of various background, they recognize clapping as a show of appreciation. A person who did not clap is seen as unappreciative.For a Muslim living in a majority Muslim country, it would be easy for them to take an austere position for some Islamic rulings. But there are many who live in majority non-Muslim country who are facing pressure and difficulty practicing their religion. We should find answers and explanation for these people too. May Allah guide us in the true path. And Allah Knows Best.
Posted 29th May 2011 by Ustaz Kamal Mokhtar

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