Sheikh Mubarak al-Bathali of Kuwait recently objected to the name of the late Egyptian singer, Umm Kalthum (1904-1975), widely regarded as the greatest female singer in Arab music history. He insisted that “Umm Kalthum is the [name of the] daughter of the Messenger of Allah and lord of humanity [Muhammad], and so she [the singer] should be called “Umm al-Thum” [“mother of garlic”], since garlic comes from a sly tree that harms others,” in reference to the fact that many Muslims who listen to her non-Islamic music are deluded.
Because trees play a role in Islam, especially eschatology, al-Bathali infuses his attack on the dead singer with cosmic significance. For instance, this fatwa, after quoting Muhammad banning Muslims from mosque prayers after eating garlic, “for the angels will be offended,” continues:
The trees (all except the Gharqad) which will show the Jews to the Muslims so that they may kill them during the great battle at the end of time. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The Hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will say: “˜O Muslim, O slave of Allah! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!” All the trees will say this except for the Gharqad (box-thorn), for it is one of the trees of the Jews.”
Such are the matters that concern the rich sheikhs of Kuwait like al-Bathali””dead Egyptian singers, garlic offensive to angels, and evil trees.