Poets: Description of poets in the Qur'an

Q452 :Is it permissible to read literary works such as novels, plays, short stories, poems, etc.? The subject matter of such works may be fictitious. If you say it is permissible, how can we reconcile this permissibility with the description of poets in the Qur'an?

A452 : Let me begin by referring to the description of poets in the Qur'an, because many people tend to think that Islam discourages poetry and support their view by referring to this description. Allah says at the end of the surah entitled "Poets" that poets are normally followed by people who go astray because poets are given to exaggeration and they profess things that they do not do and preach what they do not practice. However, an exception is made in the case of those who "believe and do righteous deeds and remember Allah frequently and (use their talent) to avenge injustice." Therefore, we cannot say that Islam discourages poetry altogether. It discourages the sort of vain poetry which many Arab poets in pre-Islamic days used to favor. On the other hand, we find that the Prophet referred approvingly to certain types of poetry. He listened attentively to Ka'ab ibn Zuhair, when he recited his poems, before his declaring his change of attitude towards the Prophet and toward Islam. The poem begins with a few lines in which the poet mentions his beloved girl and how he misses her after she departed with her family. This was in line with all Arabic poetry of the time. Moreover, the Prophet encouraged Hasan ibn Thabit, a famous poet, to reply to the campaign of abuse which Quraish poets had launched. Indeed, poetry was an important weapon in the campaign against polytheism in the early Islamic periods. Islam indeed encourages literature and the Prophet describes fine style as particularly attractive. What may classify certain books as reprehensible or even forbidden to read is their subject matter and the way it is treated. We can put a rule that any work which is intended to encourage sinful practices or bring out something foul or evil in the reader or in society is either reprehensible or forbidden to read, according to its effect. Otherwise, it is perfectly permissible to read literary works.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )