Music: a Gift from God

By: Belal Yusuf May 2006

Music is a gift from God, for us to enjoy, without which our lives will be dull and dry. A gift that was given to all mankind across the globe. A gift that helped spread religions and became part of our rituals. A gift that makes our lives colorful and bright

Few days ago, during at a casual family gathering, a relative turned to me and said: “I have an audio tape that might interest you. In it, an imam proves that music and singing are Haram… sort of like adultery”.

I froze for a second, stared at him with utter shock, and looked away trying to make sense of that statement.

To explain how painful this was to me, I have to mention that I am a hardcore music aficionado, and that I play many instruments besides singing privately. I managed, years ago, to overcome an earlier assertion that playing instruments keeps a good Muslim from praying or reading Quran. I did so by praying on time and reading Quran regularly. I managed to satisfy my own faithful conscious -which is what really matters- that music is not affecting my religious practice in any way. But now this new challenge was tougher and required a lot of research and pondering. But am I prepared for a negative result? Are you?

To me, the question was how can anyone simply accept this judgment of one of our lives’ dearest and seemingly innocent pleasures? Am I committing adultery with every singer that I listen to? Am I committing a sin by humming an old tune in the shower? Many jokes come to my mind at this stage of the argument, but banning music is not a joking matter. Associating it with adultery is far more serious.

When I tried to seek a judgment on this issue I soon realized the importance of music in our lives. It comes so naturally to humans that every nation in the world plays and listens to it in its own special way. It is so emotional that it could brighten your day or bring you to tears. It goes straight to the heart and that is probably why it was, and still is, practiced along the rituals of every religion. Some religions take it a little far by playing instruments in their place of worship; but in the end it is a way to capitalize on the spiritual power of music.

Take the Arabic word Tarteel for example; Muslims can read Quran to research it and learn from it, but they use Tarteel when reading is a ritualistic practice. Reciting Quran using Tarteel, or listening to a recorded recitation is such an elevated and a heartwarming experience that far exceeds the impact of monotone reading. Some would refrain from associating Tarteel with music, but the fact remains that the tonality of the recited words is a basic musical manifestation.

Athan is another way where music finds a natural place in Islam; five times a day we hear the words Allahu Akbar called with the touching voices of the Mu’ athins. Of course some prefer not to intone their Athans for various reasons, but it’s the ones that do make the most impact. So much so that even a Christian friend admitted getting goose-bumps whenever he heard our Athan.

Another example that comes to my mind is the Arabic poem “Tala’l badru alaina” (The full moon has risen upon us) that was sung by the people of Meddinah to welcome prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is probably the first tune that I memorized when I was a child, and it still sends shivers through my spine every time I hear it. Many people I know also expressed their fondness of that tune.

Music becomes part of our lives from the moment our mothers or grandmothers sing us lullabies to sleep –another worldwide practice. It’s been recently proven that lullabies and light music is soothing and relaxing to the infant. It is that sensation that grows with us makes music such a joy. So if, hypothetically speaking, music was indeed Haram, are we to ban mothers from humming to their babies? Or are lullabies an exception? Where do we draw the line?

This last question brings up an important distinction; innocent music versus the dirty lyrics and imagery that is being propagated today in the name of music and art. There is nothing musical about girls exposing themselves and “dancing” like professional strippers in video clips. There’s also nothing artistic about vulgar sexual references in the lyrics of today’s popular songs. Such vice-infested media should not be put in the same category with a pure tune like Mua’lem. (A popular Islamic song and a video clip about Prophet Muhammad PBUH)

This topic seems to me like another example of the bad guys spoiling it for everybody; Greedy producers selling pornography in the name of art, and giving talented musicians a bad name. That’s why we need to make a distinction between what is acceptable and what is not; Calling to ban vice and sex from music is a call that I strongly support, but to ban music all together is to kill an innocent pleasure by unjust association. An association that is now being exploited by zealous scholars using unconfirmed or misinterpreted material.

Music in its pure and innocent forms is a gift for us to enjoy, without which our lives will be dull and dry. A gift that was given to all mankind across the globe. A gift that helped spread religions and became part of our rituals. A gift that makes our lives colorful and bright. A gift from God which man is trying to take away.

Copyright 2007© Ilm-o-Amal. All rights reserved.