Music and Islam


I’m a big fan of Tariq Ramadan who has done a commendable job of incorporating his very Western personality into his Islamic way of life and I have often quoted him here at Miscellany101.wordpress.com.   He wrote a piece indirectly about music, more directly about Yousuf Islam and there are several points he made that resonated with me which I wanted to share here.

For Muslim women and men around the world, his story embodies a powerful lesson. We hear of “Islamic chants” (anacheeds) that are supposedly “Islamic” because they express religious themes, or because they employ no instruments, or because they are based on traditional or Qur’anic texts. In this light, only such chants are permissible (halal) in Islam, the only form of creativity recognized. There are indeed scholars who hold such a position, but it is far from unanimous. In To Be a European Muslim (written in 1996) I dealt with these views and took a clear position on music in Islam. Not only is it permitted, but Muslim women and men must also reconcile themselves with art, with creativity, and with the imagination in all its dimensions. Guided by their ethical bearings, they must not allow themselves to be enchained by the adjective “Islamic” that ends up isolating them, suffocating them, and depriving them of their creative energy in the universe of art, of music, painting, sculpture and literature. Muslims are constantly justifying themselves; they feel obliged to describe everything as “Islamic” to satisfy and to conform to the norm. But our ethical concerns must not force upon us an obsession with the norms of “licit” and “illicit” (halal and haram).

Seen in this light, any song, any form of artistic expression that celebrates humanity, love, justice, the quest for meaning, and peace is, in fact, in full conformity with Muslim ethics and needs no further qualifiers. Meaning, hopes and human edification are to be felt and to be lived; they have no need of a normative framework that bridles and ultimately annihilates them. The expression of ultimate ethical causes in art transcends the narrow limitations of specific ways of belonging, and brings together the universal quality of all that is most precious to humans, who can feel themselves uplifted, broadened, vibrating, becoming more human, more peaceful; who can feel themselves being regenerated by a voice, a hand, a pen or a brush. Music can be a prayer, a painting a path, a song a story: as long as art speaks to mankind of its heart, its wounds, its hopes, tears, smiles and aspirations, it forms the universal language of humankind and can bring about by way of imagination, emotion and the heart what no dialogue of reason or of civilizations can hope to offer.

Eid al-Adha photos


There are some nice photographs of Muslims celebrating eid al-adha in 2012 the world over.  Photos like this one of Muslims in Lagos, Nigeria nigeriaare worth your attention.  Go here to look at the rest of the pictures that depict the diversity of the Muslim community.

Looka’ here


Found this article floating around Facebook and thought it a harbinger of things to come in America.  Women in western societies are accepting Islam absent male influence; they are deciding on their own to embrace a religion that many see as oppressive to women and women’s rights, yet in doing so making a statement that they want to decide their future, their relationships independently and in their own way.  That’s what western societies offer their citizens…the right to choose, and it seems so long as freedom of religion is not criminalized like other free choices that used to be available to women….the number of women who embrace Islam will most likely increase for the time being.

However, this young woman’s life choices seems to be a precursor to becoming Muslim.  Reading her story might make it easier for objective observers to see why women in America accept Islam

hijabi

I am an American non-Muslim woman who has chosen to wear the hijab. Yes, you did read that correctly! I am not conducting an experiment on what the hijab is like or trying to explore the lives of Muslims. I have made a permanent life decision to only show my face and hands while in public, and I love it!

When I was younger, I found the hijab to be beautiful, but unfortunately I thought that a lot of the myths about the hijab were true, and so I was daunted by it. When I started college I studied Arabic and made friends with the Muslim students in my classes. A few of the girls wore a hijab, and even though I liked the look of it and respected their right to wear it, I thought that it was oppressive.

Unfortunately, around the same time, I began to notice that some of the men at my university would openly speak about their female classmates as though they were moving pieces of meat. I would often have to hear stories that I rather wouldn’t about what these boys would like to do to this girl or that one, and I began to notice their looks. Before entering university, I would catch men looking at me in an inappropriate way from time to time, and I would just ignore it, but after hearing these conversations and feeling their many looks, I couldn’t just ignore it anymore.

I mentioned how I felt to some of my classmates, and often I got responses like “boys will be boys,” or “it’s just their biology, they can’t help their behavior.” At the time, I bought these responses, and I thought that my discomfort was just my problem. I thought that these people had a right to behave the way they were, and I had no right to try and stop them. When I got engaged, this all changed.

My fiance is my soulmate. We met in junior high and were friends for years before we began dating. He had asked me out a few times before then, and even though I turned him down, he always behaved around me in a respectful way. It was because of how he always treated me that I eventually agreed to go out with him. The day he proposed to me is, so far, the happiest day of my life. Once I made the decision to make a lifelong commitment to him and only him, it seemed obvious that no one had the right to treat me like their sex object. Whenever I would notice someone looking at me inappropriately, I no longer felt uncomfortable, I felt outraged! But I still had no idea what I could do about it.

couple

Finally, one day I saw one of my hijabi friends at school and ran over to say hi to her. She started to walk towards me, and for some reason I was just struck by her. She was wearing a scarf and an abayaa like she normally did, but in that moment she looked regal and powerful. In my mind I thought, “Wow, I want to look just like that.” I started researching the hijab, and I learned more about why Muslims wear a hijab, what makes a hijab a hijab, and how to wrap scarves. I watched youtube videos, browsed online hijab shops (including Haute Hijab) and the more I saw the more I was impressed by how these hijabi women exuded class and elegance. I wanted so much be like these women, and couldn’t get the hijab out of my mind. I even started dreaming about it!

There were many things I liked about the hijab. I liked the thought of having so much control over my body and how the outside world saw it, but what I also liked was how well it fit with my feminist beliefs. As a feminist I believe that women and men should be equals in society, and that the norm of treating women like sex objects is a form of unequal and unfair treatment. Women in American society are looked down upon if they don’t dress in order to be attractive for others, but I believe that women shouldn’t have to conform to some ridiculous and unattainable standard of beauty. The hijab is a way to be free of that.

However, the way the hijab best complemented my feminist beliefs was how it was about so much more than women’s clothing. As I understood it, the hijab is about how men and women should interact while in public. Men also dress in a non-revealing way, and both men and women are supposed to treat each other with respect. I was happy to learn that both men and women were expected to be responsible for their own actions, and impressed at how egalitarian the ideals of the hijab are.

At this point, I was certain that I wanted to wear a hijab, but I had a problem. I was afraid that wearing a hijab as a non-muslim would be offensive, and I was too afraid to ask my friends. I found one youtube video on the subject, and though it said that it wouldn’t be offensive, I still wasn’t sure. But eventually, after weeks of thinking about the hijab, I finally asked one of my friends. She told me that she wouldn’t be offended, and then pointed out that Muslims aren’t the only ones who wear headscarves, many Jews and Christians do as well.

I started wearing it off and on for a few weeks after that, and once I felt comfortable I always wore it when I left home. Soon after, I left for an internship in Jordan. I was afraid that the Jordanians would not like that I was wearing a hijab, but quickly after I got off the plane I found otherwise! When I told people that I was an American non-Muslim, they were excited to see that I wore a hijab. People often told me that they thought it was a very good thing that I was wearing it, and some people were touched that I would show such respect to their culture. Best of all, I will never forget the sight of a fully grown man jumping with excitement because I was wearing a jilbab! These memories will always bring warmth to my heart, and they give me strength back in the states when I have to deal with angry glares or awkward questions about my hijab.

Sometimes I will still catch men looking at me in a disrespectful way, but I take joy in knowing that though they may try, they still cannot see what they want to. Because of the hijab, I understand that my body is my right, and I will be forever grateful to the Muslim women who taught that to me.

 

 

“Muslims” have lost their minds


At least those of them who are rioting, pillaging and violently reacting to imagined acts of dishonor towards the Prophet Muhammad. For the longest time, Muslim countries have too often been ruled by street mobs instead of the Book and the Prophet they claim to follow, in which neither condone nor suggest the reaction of today’s Muslims to acts of disrespect shown Prophet Muhammad are justifiable. I have finally found a voice that says that rather clearly and cogently and it needs to be heard.

I don’t think it will make that much difference to the throngs of people who want Islam to rule from the street, but perhaps it will make a difference to those sitting on the sideline who are confused and or wondering where does this rage come from.  Although I can’t answer that question in the affirmative Yusuf definitely makes the case it doesn’t, it can’t come from the example of the Prophet nor from the Book revealed to him.

 

A Christian reflects on why he’s fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan


I thi

dates and a glass of milk during Ramadan to br...

dates and a glass of milk during Ramadan to break fasting at sunset (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

nk his heart is in the right place, although I don’t know if I agree with the the conjugal background for  his reason but that’s for another blog.  However, Huffington Post has a blog devoted to people who are reflecting on why they are or are not fasting during Ramadan….not all of the people who write are Muslim it appears, and it’s worth a look now and then.  I chose this one for reasons of my own.

Why A Christian Is Fasting For Ramadan:

My girlfriend is Muslim, but she is also very supportive in all of my endeavors. So, I decided to do half-day fasts for six days out of the week, and one full day. We live in a pretty rural area where Muslims are few and far between. It’s the closest thing she has to fellowship, aside from her family.

The first day of Ramadan was July 19. It is now July 27, and I am starting to understand why folks fast. I do feel like my thought process changes, and I feel much closer to God. Religion is religion. Christianity and Islam have very similar underlying themes, and most don’t notice we do worship the same God. Just because we call Him a different name doesn’t mean we’re not talking to the same person.

Fasting food every day is easy, but the liquids are what really kill me. I have been very tired during my morning anatomy class, and every time I pass Arnold Palmers in the beverage section in Speedway, a little part of me dies. But, I believe I will come out of the other side of this a better man.

— Matt Schiffbauer

A Tale of Two Americas


We are all familiar with the alphabet language, DUI, DWI and one of the latest acronyms  DWB (driving while black).  They all have to do with the transportation industry and the perils of being on the wrong side of the law while going from one place to the other.  In the case of the first two, DUI or DWI the physical condition of the person in question is what puts them in the legal spotlight.  DWB however is different because no matter how physically fit or in shape one is, how sober or mentally competent one may be or no matter how physically attractive to any law enforcement official if they fit a racial profile they are fair game to have the full force of the law applied against them designed to intimidate, threaten, or harass them not for any specific goal other than the pleasure of the law official on hand to administer such harassment.

DWB is an offense that has nothing to do with any violation of the law. Rather it is a response to society’s stereotypes towards a certain race of people and given the innocuous name racial profiling to make the practice more socially acceptable.  The intent however is to make the victim and by extension all others like him/her aware of their place in society and society’s perception of them; that even if they are not violators of the law at the moment, they are viewed as having a propensity to break the law and thus should fear the full weight of the state could be brought to bear against them at any given moment.

FWM, Flying While Muslim, is the latest anachronism to be inflicted on a group of people, obviously this time Muslims, with the added twist that it can strip a person of his citizenship depending on the time of its imposition. For those Muslims who are outside the US, and you’ve got to wonder how  were they able to “leave” by a plane, but not be allowed to return the same way, being put on a ‘no fly list’ or ‘terrorist watch list’ means not being able to return to your country and if necessary  to defend oneself under the legal system of your citizenship; the State’s way of killing two birds with one stone.  Being able to claim the guilt or innocence of someone without the necessity of that being proven in court and simultaneously perpetuating the canard that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’ is the modus operandi of a racist policy that predates even DWB. So when the government, who is solely responsible for placing people on a list that prohibts them from flying, is called out on this what do  they say?

the government has argued in court that placing somebody on the no-fly list does not deprive them of any constitutional rights. Just because a person can’t fly doesn’t mean they can’t travel, the government lawyers argue. They can always take a boat, for example. “Neither Plaintiff nor any other American citizen has either a right to international travel or a right to travel by airplane,” government lawyers wrote

but the government’s response doesn’t address the reasons why the person was put on the list in the first place nor does it say whether a plaintiff will be allowed back into the country no matter how he/she arrives at its borders.  Indeed, there are allegations that US authorities have argued or persuaded neighboring countries like Canada and Mexico not to let people on an American no fly list into their country and into forced exile

we have other plaintiffs in this lawsuit who tried to travel to the U.S. through Mexico but were turned back, who tried to travel to the U.S. through Canada, but were turned back…… plaintiffs who have tried to fly through Canada or Mexico have not been allowed to board those planes either.

Pastor Steve Stone of HeartSong Church is a breath of fresh air on an otherwise stale public inundated with hatred and fear towards Muslims.  Instead of giving in to all the hysteria about Islam, Stone and members of his congregation have decided to conduct themselves as Christians in answer to the question What Would Jesus Do

Two years ago, the pastor of Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, on the outskirts of Memphis, learned that a local mosque had bought property right across the street from the church. So he decided some Southern hospitality was in order.

A few days later, a sign appeared in front of the church. “Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood,” it read.

The friendship between Heartsong and the Memphis Islamic Center comes at a time when Muslim-Christian relations have been testy. In communities from New York to California, from Wisconsin to Tennessee, proposed mosques have run into angry, organized opposition.

In Cordova, things have been peaceful.

There have been no marches against the mosque or other public opposition. Aside from some angry emails, the two congregations have gotten mostly positive feedback about their relationship.

Pastor Jones is to be congratulated for being a leader, turning swords into plow shares and sowing peace and harmony with his neighbors and fellow citizens of both faith communities. He deserves an attaboy from his country for doing the right thing when it hasn’t been popular to do so.  Perhaps he should run for President in ’12.

America’s corrputed notion of Christianity


The Founding Fathers wanted government to  make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof prescient in their vision that doing so would lead to a fragmented Nation, but racism has driven those who aspire to power to insist that their religion should reign supreme in the body politic of America because it’s what this country was founded on.  We’ve disputed that notion a time or two here.

ConsortiumNews’ writers have weighed in heavily on this subject in a series of thought provoking articles.  This one examines how Christianity has morphed into something that allows its followers to wage war, death and destruction on enemies real and imagined and in the process stray far away from its core values.

The first Christians tried to be faithful to Jesus’s commandments to “put away the sword,” ”do not repay evil for evil,” “do unto others that which you would have them do unto you,” “do good to those who persecute you,” “pray for those who despitefully use you,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” “turn the other cheek,” “love your enemies” and “love as I have loved you.”

Jesus’s earliest followers regarded the human body as the holy temple of God here on earth, and, knowing that violence to a holy place was considered an act of desecration (and therefore forbidden), they refused to kill or maim other children of God, and therefore they also refused, out of conscience, to become killing soldiers for Rome.

Martyrdom, in the first three centuries, was regarded as the ultimate act of social responsibility. And the church flourished!

The Roman Emperor Constantine first recognized Christianity as a valid religion around 311 CE and he made Christianity the official state religion within decades.

He showered the now-legal church with the goodies of the Empire and the Christians accepted them, not aware that property, dominative power, wealth and the tight connections to militarism were eventually to become curse for the church.

Before long Christians began endorsing, and then participating in, un-Christ-like acts of homicidal violence in war.

n 311 CE, you could not be a Christian and be a killing soldier in Rome’s army. By 416, you couldn’t be in the Roman army unless you were a Christian! It had all turned around in 105 years, and Christianity has been a war-tolerating religion ever since….

Massacres of non-Christian “infidels” in the Crusades were soon followed by massacres of fellow Christians. In the Middle Ages, the organized church actively persecuted, tortured and murdered millions of women who were feared as intellectuals, midwives and “witches.”

The use of atomic bombs against the civilian targets of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was perhaps the spiritual low point in Christendom’s history of un-Christ-like cruelty and inhumanity to man.

It is a little known fact that Ground Zero for the second bomb was the largest Christian church in the Orient. The Nagasaki Urakami Cathedral and most of its members were vaporized in nine seconds by an all-Christian bomb crew on Aug. 9, 1945. American Christianity remains unrepentant.

And then there was the horrific example of German Christianity, easily Nazified because of its historical connections to Prussian militarism, and therefore allied to Hitler’s policy of perpetual war.

Many “good Germans” had good-paying healthcare-related jobs but they found themselves obediently participating in the extermination of the mentally and physically deformed “useless eaters.”

Many “good Germans” earned their livings participating in the oppression and extermination of gypsies, homosexuals, trade unionists, liberals, communists and Jews; and many churches consented to those atrocities by their silence.
The Jewish Holocaust occurred in part because the German churches had, for centuries, falsely blamed the Jews for killing Jesus (a myth), ignoring Jesus’s commandment to “love as I have loved you.”

The movements of Gandhi, King and Jesus, as well as a multitude of other examples of successful nonviolent, faith-based resistance movements throughout history, are proof that nonviolence can work, but they are only for the faithful and the courageous.

Far more courage is demanded of unarmed resisters who may be forced to jail or to their deaths, than is asked of modern super-patriotic warriors who do battle using highly lethal, high-tech weaponry that almost guarantees their physical survival.

 

Most likely the founding fathers were good students of history.  They realized that if the State endorsed one religion, Christianity for example, over another it would lead to the corruption of that religion which could be easily pliable in the hands of the omnipotent state and thus loose its religious character and meaning.  Maybe that’s why they weren’t too keen on insisting that America was to be a Christian nation; they possessed crystal balls that allowed them to peer into our future and see how religion could metastasize into large mega churches with their own television stations that would swindle people out of their money and their souls while feeding them into the meat grinder of an expansionist state that needs bodies to fight wars of empire.  This might be one of the endearing legacies of our founding fathers, that in refusing to refer to America as a Christian country they hoped that would make us  more Christian. Sadly, such is not the case.