This article discusses the concept of purposeful art (al-fann al-hadif), which is ideologically motivated art that caters to Muslim religious sensibilities, in opposition to lowbrow art (al-fann al-habit) that does not. It compares Gamal al-Banna’s attempt in Egypt to include dance into the concept with the views of the Lebanese Ayatullah Fadlallah, the late ideologue and early mentor of the Shi‘ite resistance movement Hizbullah. The main question is how purposeful art – particularly dancing as an illustration of the sensitivity of body in public space – is legitimized by the jurisprudential notion of hasanat (good deeds) in the Sunni tradition by al-Banna and maslaha (interest, advantage) in the Shi‘ite tradition by Fadlallah and Hizbullah. By promoting resistance art (al-fann al-muqawim), Hizbullah reveals its new face. It contests public space through artistic cultural productions, including dancing, which leave room for the female body to perform on a stage characterized by gender mixing, for a mixed audience. Hizbullah believes that art is humanity and it promotes democracy. al-Banna, Fadlallah, and Hizbullah concur that “Islam”, as it is lived out by its followers, finds a necessary expression in social practices; it is the art form of dancing that is more controversial.
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