[Reviewer: For more information on this issue see: AWR, 2007, week 36, art. 2, 3]
Muṣṭafá ‘Ibādah interviewed Islamic preacher Shaykh Yūsuf al-Badrī, who is known as a Shaykh who pursues literary works by filing Ḥisbah lawsuits. Recently, al-Badrī won a court ruling against poet Aḥmad ‘Abd al-Mu‘ṭī Ḥijāzī, editor-in-chief of literature-based Ibdā‘ magazine, for publishing Ḥilmī Sālim’s poem ‘Shurfat Laylá Murād’ [the Balcony of Laylá Murād], which al-Badrī thinks contains language that offends God. [Reviewer: Laylá Murād was a famous singer from the 1940s until the 1960s]
Q: Do you think the poem was widely read and do you fear its influence on people?
A: I have also filed a lawsuit against the minister of culture for rewarding the poem with 50 000 LE [Reviewer: the minister of culture has earlier announced a reward for the poet for his controversial poem. This resulted in al-Badrī also filing a lawsuit against the minister]. This money does not belong to the minister’s, but it is mine, yours and all Egyptians’ who pay taxes. So, you pay taxes to reward someone who insults God.
Q: You oppose a word in a poem at a time when satellite channels are full of immorality and nudity?
A: I oppose what I see and read, but what I do not know is left to God. Am I the Lord of people to know everything?
Q: Are you currently reading any literary works?
A: I have no time to read books.
Q: So, how did you read Sālim’s poem in order to file a lawsuit against it in the first place?
A: A friend of mine brought me a copy of Ibdā‘ magazine where the poem was published as I failed to buy one. He was the one who informed me about the poem in the first place.
Q: Is it the role of a preacher to file lawsuits against literary figures?
A: What do you think his role is? And what does the call for ‘enjoining the right conduct’ and ‘forbidding indecency’ mean? [Reviewer: a Qur’ānic verse: “Ye are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and ye believe in Allāh.” 3:110, ‘The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’ān,’ by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall]
Q: Did you instruct Sālim of the right conduct or just sue him?
A: I have no authority over him but the power of the law. I have no police to arrest him or to confiscate the magazine.
Q: You have the power of word. Why did not you publish your opinion as a response?
A: I have tried many times before, but all of my efforts were in vain. I no longer even consider that to be an option.
Q: Do not you think that cases of corruption or the shortage of public services are more worthy causes than literary issues?
A: It is not one of my interests.
Q: So, why do you only raise your voice about literature?
A: I am free to do what I want. You cannot order me to follow your instructions or interests. Each one of us has our own interests.
Q: Then you violate people’s freedom because they are free to think or say whatever they want, and free to believe in God or become Kāfir?
A: They are free to believe or disbelieve in God only in their houses, but they are not free to do that in a published book that could spread kufr [apostasy] amongst people.
Q: Did the poet force anyone to read his poem or even buy the magazine?
A: He did not, but as it is on the market, it means that people will read it.