Reciting poetry in the Masjid

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One of the prominent practices among Muslim communities during the month of Rabi-ul Awwal and the day of birth of our Prophet ﷺ (as well as otherwise) is to hold gathering in which poetry is recited in praise of the Prophet ﷺ. One of the clear evidence for this as cited by scholars is the practice of the Sahabi Hassan Bin Thabit رضى الله عنه who was known to be skilled in reciting poetry in defense and praise of the Prophet ﷺ.

Imam Muslim in his Sahih, mentioned a number of hadiths under the header “The Virtues Of Hassan Bin Thabit رضى الله عنه”. The first two of the narrations are quoted below:

دَّثَنَا عَمْرٌو النَّاقِدُ، وَإِسْحَاقُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، وَابْنُ أَبِي عُمَرَ، كُلُّهُمْ عَنْ سُفْيَانَ، قَالَ عَمْرٌو حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، عَنْ سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ عُمَرَ، مَرَّ بِحَسَّانَ وَهُوَ يُنْشِدُ الشِّعْرَ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ فَلَحَظَ إِلَيْهِ فَقَالَ قَدْ كُنْتُ أُنْشِدُ وَفِيهِ مَنْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِنْكَ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ الْتَفَتَ إِلَى أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ فَقَالَ أَنْشُدُكَ اللَّهَ أَسَمِعْتَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏“‏ أَجِبْ عَنِّي اللَّهُمَّ أَيِّدْهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ اللَّهُمَّ نَعَمْ ‏.‏

Abu Huraira reported that ‘Umar happened to pass by Hassan as he was reciting verses (i.e., poetry) in the mosque. He (Hadrat ‘Umar) looked towards him (meaningfully), whereupon he (Hassan) said: I used to recite (poetry) when one better than you (the Holy Prophet) had been present (here). He then looked towards Abu Huraira and said to him: I adjure you by Allah (to tell) if you had not heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: (Hassan), give a reply on my behalf; Allah help him with Ruh-ul-Qudus (Gabriel). He (Abu Huraira) said: By Allah, it is so (i. e. the Prophet actually said these words).

حَدَّثَنَاهُ إِسْحَاقُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَافِعٍ، وَعَبْدُ بْنُ حُمَيْدٍ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّزَّاقِ، أَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، عَنِ ابْنِ الْمُسَيَّبِ، أَنَّ حَسَّانَ، قَالَ فِي حَلْقَةٍ فِيهِمْ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ أَنْشُدُكَ اللَّهَ يَا أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ أَسَمِعْتَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏ فَذَكَرَ مِثْلَهُ ‏.‏

Ibn Musayyib reported that Hassan said to a circle in which there was also Abu Huraira: Abu Huraira, I adjure you by Allah (to tell) whether you-had not heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying like this.

Imam Nawawi in his commentary to Sahih Muslim, comments on these narrations:

قوله : ( إن حسان أنشد الشعر في المسجد بإذن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ) فيه جواز إنشاد الشعر في المسجد إذا كان مباحا ، واستحبابه إذا كان في ممادح الإسلام وأهله ، أو في هجاء الكفار والتحريض على قتالهم ، أو تحقيرهم ، ونحو ذلك وهكذا كان شعر حسان . وفيه استحباب الدعاء لمن قال شعرا من هذا النوع . وفيه جواز الانتصار من الكفار ، ويجوز أيضا من غيرهم بشرطه . وروح القدس جبريل صلى الله عليه وسلم .

http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?bk_no=53&ID=1158&idfrom=7370&idto=7381&bookid=53&startno=0

Imam Nawawi here says that it is permissible to recite poetry in the masjid, and mustahabb (recommended/virtuous deed) if the recitation is in praise of Islam and its people.
 The following are relevant points to be noted:
  • Poetry was read in the masjid during the presence & life of the Prophet ﷺ as well as after.
  • Poetry was read in presence of a circle/gathering (as mentioned in the second narration) which included the prominent companion Abu Hurayra رضى الله عنه.
  • This was not just a permissible practice but a sunnah & rewarding deed when done in praise and defense of Islam, the Prophet ﷺ and the people of Islam.
  • It is mustahabb/recommended to make dua for those who recite such poetry, as mentioned by Imam Nawawi above.
  • Prophet ﷺ actively encouraged Hassan Bin Thabit رضى الله عنه as well others from the companions to recite such poetry, as seen in another following narration from Sahih Muslim where the Prophet ﷺ sent for a number companions such Ibn Rawiha رضى الله عنه and Ka’b bin Malik رضى الله عنه to recite poetry in defense of Islam.
  • Prophet ﷺ prayed and informed Hassan Bin Thabit رضى الله عنه  that he was supported by Angel Jibril عليه السلام while in another narration that the Angel Jibril عليه السلام will continue to support him as long he continues to defend Allah and His Messenger.
  • Finally the Sharia has not limited this practice to any fixed form or fixed day and therefore does not prohibit such gathering on Rabi ul Awwal and on the day of the birth of our Prophet ﷺ.
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