‘Music in a World of Islam’ Response

By Joyce Lee. Ms. Lee is a student in Denise Rotavera-Krain’s FYS Class: Questions of Identity Through World Music.

John A Maurer IV’s essay, Music in a World of Islam discusses the role of music in Islam. He describes that the concept of Islamic music differs from western music. There are followers of Islam who believe that music does not appropriately address the worship of God, as well as followers who believe that music enhances the spiritual connection to God. These notions also correlate to western musical expression. From a Christian perspective, I think that music can be a very spiritual act of worship that connects one to God when cathartics are taken out of the equation.

Music is a display of the Creators beauty that should be recognized and reflected back to the Creator. Some Islamic followers believe that music creates an environment of worldly feelings that detract from the character and tawhid (“unity with God”). Therefore, Islamic music is very detached and repetitive; leaving no space for individuality. I understand that focusing on the creation and beauty of music is the goal, but I also think that there is an intimacy and honor that comes with The Creator giving the creation the ability to create something beautiful. The responsibility of the individual is to recognize their ability and reflect their work as worship to the Creator.

I think the individual should recognize that music is an incredible medium for worshiping a Creator. Many Muslims believe that music is a “powerful intoxicating force, capable of creating excitement in listeners that can potentially cause them to lose control of their reason, diverting them from their devotional life and inviting sinful behavior”. Maurer also mentions that sometimes the “listener’s interpretation of music can be evil”. This is the only way I can see music hindering the worship of God. I agree to an extent that music can evoke many emotions that detract from focus on the Creator and bring attention to how the worshiper feels.

I found it interesting that Islamic music heavily relies on detaching oneself from the music itself. I understand that this allows the creation and beauty of music to be acknowledged and reflected to God, but I again think that we miss out on the value the Creator bestows upon us in order to create art and music. Techno, ambience, and trance follow the idea of detachment and static repetitiveness in western music. However, artists are often recognized for their work or stylistic approaches to music. If we applied this to say, Christianity, one could recognize the gifts and abilities God gave the artist to create something beautiful such as music. I believe that the same concept could be applied to Islam.

Overall, I see the effects of music being detrimental or valuable to Islamic worship of God. Nevertheless, I think that music has the greatest potential to respectfully bring praise unto a Creator without bringing the focus solely on oneself. I do think that some notice should be placed on the artist because their talent is a gift and reflection of the Creator’s beauty. It shouldn’t be in a conceded way or one that seeks attention or praise, but an attitude of humble appreciation and gratitude.