Posted by: Dawud Israel | October 17, 2007

Musical Questions

There are some questions stirring regarding Music in my mind. This originally came up because of this discussion on the Ummah Films Forum which resulted in the creation of a ‘Film-making Fiqh’ section where the main discussion has been so far in regards to the use of music.

A few issues have been raised including, what is music? The one Islamic work that is being discussed is an incomplete book written by a scholar, Mustafa al-Kanadi on this topic. Most people are of the opinion of music being haraam and will say, “I would rather remain on the safe side” or “Better safe than sorry” but the issue with these statements is we risk making the halaal into haraam:

“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah)…” (Quran 9:31)

Other issues come up, specifically in the area of Fiqh of Minorities for those who live in non-Muslim countries. You walk into a mall and there is music playing overhead or when you drive down the street and hear some teens blasting their music or you walk into an elevator and there is a elevator music playing or even in a subway while people wait for their ride there is classical music playing or when you call a company and they put you on hold there is music playing or in watching television or radio there will be music in the most odd places such as news broadcasts. In all these situations music becomes unavoidable.

The main issue is the effects of music. When I listen to music, I can feel my heart palpitating in my chest telling me, “This is hurting me.” One can easily say they do not prefer music, rather than declaring it halaal or haraam. Most Muslims realize that music is an intoxicant and has that effect on you–can it be made haraam because of that? Even the artists I listen to claim that they make their music best under the influence of narcotics. Music has been known to also be used in wars as a way of psyching up soldiers and getting them ‘intoxicated’. It serves the same purpose in dance clubs. And perhaps this is the exact same reason why Muslims wish to use it. Historically Muslims were known to have sang nasheeds during times of war and stress–infact, most of the nasheeds we listen to today originated from those dire situations. Not only that but Eid and weddings are seen as times when music is permissible in many Muslim cultures. Perhaps this is stressing the sacred value of nasheeds, that music cannot be made for mere entertainment purposes, but rather it must be harnessed for a purpose that connects back to Allah, a form of worship.

Using it in Dawah films is where this issue gets a little more complex. It does add to the actual film and sets the climate of the film but if there is a risk of haraam, than it defeats the purpose of Islamic work. Also even if one says it’s halaal–you have the issue of the average Muslim viewing the film and rejecting the film on the basis of music being present, again defeating the purpose. But perhaps this simply underlines the need of Muslim education regarding this matter.

Most practicing Muslims prefer not listening to music. Instead they replace it with a diet of audio Qur’an (memorizing Qur’an simultaneously), Islamic lectures and nasheeds. Nasheeds for the most part are seen as being halaal–but the term ‘nasheed’ has been misconstrued and when you look at the artists who make these new breed of nasheeds, you realize that they themselves are not ideal Muslim role-models and although they may sing about Palestine, they may be doing so while dancing in a club while wearing some form of Islamic clothing. That sounds real bad and I won’t go and say it’s hypocrisy, giving them the benefit of the doubt, but one can’t help but think it is. One brother put it aptly saying, “Nasheed boy-bands are the Muslim version of Christian rock,” and that makes my stomach cringe. It isn’t rare to find brothers who listen to these new brand of nasheeds alongside the latest hip-hop tune. ?

I like to see things in a different way. One of the things I have learned is Muslims have a very negative attitude–we focus on what we can’t do, rather than what we can. And I think perhaps if music is haraam or even not preferred by Muslims, Allah put this there for a due reason. We can see this as a challenge, rather than a defeat. Case example would be how Islam prohibits drawing of caricatures and faces, and while that may immediately seem like a downside for the artist, it has only pushed him harder into the artistic world, not settling for the art that everyone else is engaged in, but the art that none has touched. The ‘next level’ of art which can be seen in Muslim architecture around the world and known to be the best type of art anywhere in the world. An example of this is Yusuf Islam have using his musical talents in creating audio works based on Hisnul Muslim and the Hadeeth, bring a personal, down-to-earth spirituality that is totally original and Islamically effective.

So what alternatives are there to music in Dawah films? Although, I have no fatwa to back me up on this, it seems logical that one can always employ natural sounds such as rainfall, thunder, street noises etc. Beatboxing which is the generation of music using only the human voice box is seen as halaal by some shaykhs and is also seen as socially ‘cool’. Poetry is an area that also has not been explored as thoroughly as one would wish. And also Qur’an and nasheeds are always there, alhamdulillah, although the few ‘ideal nasheeds’ out there have been so overused, new material is needed.

Another thought that occurred to me was that due to the portable music boom, if this continues, and the non-Muslim becomes addicted to music, then we Muslims won’t have to listen to their cars blasting music. Or it may even reach a point where we can go as far as having the adhaan played in the West without irking non-Muslims. A Muslim can dream, can he not? 🙂

Whether music or it’s subcategories are halaal or haraam, at the end of the day we are reminded that anything we do is for Allah. And that has to be clear both in our methods and our results. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing sight of the distant other-worldly goal that we must be constantly reminded of. Why would you go and seek the help of Shaytaan inorder to serve Allah?

You can visualize a straight line and an angle that goes off even one degree from this line will deviate forever in that direction. A brother put it nicely, “This religion is a Straight Path. Even if you go off this path just a little bit, you will keep going in that direction until you have gone too far away to even dream of coming back.” May Allah protect us from going astray and grant us His Jannatul Firdous. Ameen.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdik ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.

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