Is Islam Still Alive with the Sound of Music, with Songs That Have Been Sung for a Thousand Years?

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The title of this blog was borrowed from a 1965 musical entitled, The Sound of Music. While its theme is about the transformational power of music, there is an ongoing debate within Islam about whether or not it is a permissable form of expression.

Although not expressly addressed in the Koran, Islamic militants such as the Taliban have used Mohammed’s alleged hostility toward music to enforce brutual punishment against people singing and dancing at weddings.

Many moderate Muslims, on the other hand, believe that Islam forbids music when played in public places such as bars and taverns, where alcohol is consumed. Muslim musicians such as Salman Ahmad, from a Pakistani-American band, Junoon, and Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, believe that musical expression has a place in Islam. Ahmad draws inspiration from Sufi poets, who subscribe to the less well-known denomination of Islam. Ahmad is regarded as the Bono of the muslim world, in his lobbying for Third World development, and building bridges between the islamic and western worlds.

Cat Stevens had stopped recording music after he first converted to Islam in 1978. After a lot of time and reflection, he concluded that there are no real guidelines about instruments, or the business of music in Islam. “Whenever one is confronted by something that is not mentioned in the scriptures, one must observe what benefit it can bring. Does it serve the common good, does it protect the spirit, and does it serve God?”

From the YouTube link below you can hear a song sung by the Pakistani band, Junoon, about the theme of world peace

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Before There was King Elvis, There was King David

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As Rabbi Avraham Ariel Trugman put it in his book, The Mystical Power of Music, “music is a cosmic language that unites the physical and spiritual, body and soul, universal and particular, while simultaneously transcending time and temporal space altogether.” King David is considered to be the first to introduce what is considered to be music today as psalms.

Psalms were written as lyrics for the human voice. As the “sweet singer of Israel” David, before he became king, would be summoned to play an instrument and sing lyrics that would successfully calm a troubled soul. The harp and lyre were the instruments he would play.

Psalms were later introduced into Christianity’s services and ritual.  Martin Luther, the famous Protestant reformer, once said that “music is the best gift from God.” Paul, one of Jesus’ disciples, stressed the importance of singing lyrics and psalms to God.

Music’s role in Islam is a more complicated story. The earliest writing on Islamic music goes back to the ninth century, when a man named Lamak, in order to express sorrow for the loss of his son, made the first musical instrument of a lute from the leg of his son.

Mohammed was believed to have been hostile toward music and musicians. Yet he chose a singer to chant many of the verses in the Muslim call to prayer.

You can hear an interpretation of what were the sounds of the “sweet singer of Israel”, David, from the YouTube link below:

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.