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Life Story: Music of my Soul

Wrote: American Muslima Writer |


I understand that many believe Music is Haram. I know there are certain texts forbidding certain things in certain ways with certain conditions. I do know this in my heart. But applying most of them has been one of the hardest jihads I've had to make as a Muslim.
Music has been such a big part of my life and I'd like to share that experience with all of you. Grab a cup and a comfortable cushion.

It is an amazing feeling; sound. You can feel the vibrations of it through your body. It accelerates your pulse and drifts your mind into a new realm of thought.
As a young child I never knew songs. They were forbidden. My biological mother is Jehovah's Witness. It was only when placed in Foster Care that I learned about this fascinating subject. One home in particular really broadened my exposure. They had the radio pumping almost 24/7. I had never heard music or a radio before so I asked them about it. I was 4 then.
"What is that sound? Why do you dance to it? What are you doing? What is it saying?"
The teenagers gawked at me.
"It's Music. Haven't you heard music before? We are singing and dancing with it for fun. The songs say special things to make people think hard. Come listen! Try to sing with us!"
::When the night, has come, and the land is dark, and the moon, is the only, light we'll see, no I wont, be afraid, no I wont, shed a tear, just as long, as you stand, stand by me, stand by me. If the sky, that we look upon, should tumble and fall, or the mountains should crumble tot eh sea, no I wont, be afraid, no I wont be afraid, just as long as you stand, stand by me.:::into instrumental chorus:::
So I sang and sang! OH HOW I SANG this over and over. Soon I was learning more and more songs as I absorbed the radio. This was the year 1988. Then they introduced me to heavy metal. They'd get together with their guitars and loudly turn up Guns N Roses' "Paradise City". They'd belt out the lyrics until I too had memorized them and they cheered me on as I sang :::take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, oh wont you please take me home!:::
The next foster home listened to a different kind of music I'd never heard before called Oldies. They had the car and house radios firmly fixed to the Oldies Station and I learned all about the Beatles, Elvis, and other classics.
Another foster home later about 1991 for a Christmas present I got a personal hand held battery stereo which I carried around all-day everyday and even fell asleep listening to the new age of music "The 90s" Salt N Peppa told me I don't want no short short man, Kriss Cross will make me Jump Jump, Sir Mix A Lot assured me that if my butt ever got really fat that's ok cause men like it like that. Mariah Carey stole my breath away, Paula Abdul taught me to watch out for cold-hearted playboys, and to look into his eyes, he's been telling lies. Oh and who can forget I'm too Sexy for my shirt!?!?! I used to strut down the empty neighborhood street radio to my ear Jamming "I'm too sexy for my shirt too sexy it hurts! And I do my little turn on the catwalk!"
Vanilla Ice was the coolest ever and THEN i went to the neighbors house and she had someone called Madonna posters everywhere. I fell in love! She was my new favorite for Soooo long.
After this I moved in with my parents and got used to their brand of music, Oldies, Soft Rock, and Easy Listening. Also my dad had a love for cowboy themed music. So I learned a whole bunch of new singers while remaining true to my 90's new stuff.
I managed to find a free music video channel and watched so many of the songs I had known and loved. A few times I heard something called rap but back then it was just the scratching of records more than lyrics for me and I wasn't into it. I also heard something called Country around this time while station hopping and it was always so sad and slow and I preferred to jam it. Until I met my childhood best friend Nicolette. Her family (which I practically grew up with) was heavily into country. Soon it entered my heart too. We would giggle and dance the night away to "Who's bed have your boots been under". Her brother though favored Rap. While listening to him blast it every weekend I started liking it too and as it re-entered mainstream radio I got to like it more and more.
My paternal grandparents though had a large influence on my music tastes. They loved classical and really old stuff from the 40's. I watched old Musical Movies and fell head of heels with Opera and Musicals. My grandparents have a large piano Organ with a set of Pipes too in the living room. They also had an upright piano they let me bang on. I was so fascinated. They told stories of glory days when they had organ Clubs and my Grandma sung in a choir as a beautiful Soprano. They showed me pictures of when I was just 1 or 2 years old visiting them and playing on the same Organ in their house. Under one picture of my biting my lip in concentration it reads the caption "Future Musician?" My family has a long history of Musical Talent. Which delighted me because with my low-self-esteem I needed SOMETHING to be good at!
in 4th grade we had the option to take Orchestra or Band Class at school. The shiny Trombones and beautiful high pitched flutes appealed to me but my mom kinda put a cork in those dreams. "Ohhh No, do you know what those sound like played badly? Please spare our ears!" So we went next to the Orchestra presentation. I again liked the high violin but Mom warned me again it's squeaky when played wrong but she liked it's size and that it was the cheapest instrument. I, being above pricing my love of items at the time, disdained it cheaper price. The viola was close in size and sound but it didn't attach my heart. Next came something amazing!
He (the teacher) SAT down to play the Cello. As soon as he ran the bow across those mello strings I again was in love. He played the Jaws theme song and I though that was cool the violins couldn't do it Justice only the Cello. After that came the double bass. It was so awesome but the teacher said he didn't have any available for student use (it's a poor public school) and someone would have to rent one which could be expensive. By my parent's exchanged looks i could tell they were about to convince me not to take that one. So I chose the Cello to play and was one of three girls to learn it and the Bass Clef needed to play music for it. It was my outlet for creativity and I was always excelling in this class. I had found something I was good at and I practiced as much as I could. Every year (except 6th which didn't have an orchestra) I played Cello and practiced on it until 12th grade. That was 8 years I played it and I won a few awards and was allowed to play in a Honor Orchestra.
But as I got older the competition grew as more cellists invaded my territory. I managed to beat for half a year the best player in 8th grade to keep my position as "1st Chair" the leader. But when we hit high school with MORE players and some of them MUCH better than me I became discouraged. If i wanted to do something I wanted to be the best at it I could be. After some orchestra drama between me and some of the fellow cellists who i fiercely hated because they were idiot boys who liked to make fun of me I decided to try something new that was offered.
"We only have one bass player and we really need more to round out the sound so if any cellist would like to take up Bass this year I will keep you in this advanced class since you can already read the bass clef." I took my chance and raised my hand to switch. I was the only one to do so. I met my music stand partner Anthony (Tony). He and I were to be casual friends over the next four years that I played bass. he was a chilled out part italian guy who didn't care who was first chair and although he was really good he preferred to stand in the second chair spot. So I got the glory at the concerts but we both knew when he beat me for first chair off and on it was fair though sometimes I did win. I was able to join the Symphonic after school orchestra and then my favorite part was playing in the Orchestra Pit (as the only Bass!) for the school Musical Oklahoma. At one point it was me, the piano, and the lead male vocal going together in harmony on his solo. It was one of the most special moments of my life. I was sooo proud that I was good at something MUSIC.
Meanwhile in 9th grade we moved into my grandparents home and I played almost daily on their piano learning to read the higher treble clef and singing along. In high school my friends and I also joined the choir and would spend our days wandering the halls with songs in our heads. I was known as the "locker-room singer" (by a few girls) because I had PE right after choir class and I could never stop singing and I'd get some other girls to go in too. It was fun.
At this time in 9th grade also I loved Rock on the radio and did my punk rebel thing with the black lipstick and spiky hair lol.
Besides drawing in Art, Music let me express my emotions in a way i wasn't able to with just words. The feel of dragging the thick rosined bow across the heavy deep resonating bass strings and having the purring waves run through the back of the instrument to my side and stomach and flying my fingers across the fingerboard was so fulfilling. It was peaceful. You felt in touch with the world. At concerts it was awesome putting all those sounds together to make something amazing that moved the audience. I loved concert nights. My friends and I getting dolled up and playing with all our hearts. There was something elegant about orchestra that band never had. They were awesome too but i was at home in the strings.
Until my last year of high school when I became Muslim.
I read online that strings were haram and music was Haram but I was in denial and unable to give up my passions. I continued in Orchestra. But religion and politics and high school drama don't mix! One of my close friends turned half the orchestra against me and Amanda. It was drudgery going to class. I still loved to play but my heart was slowly loosing interest. I had to wear these silly dresses at concerts and i had to hijabify them and everyone though I looked like a freak being the only arm and head covered girl on the stage and again I was standing next to a tall bright loud instrument... very visible. Soon as my Senioritis got worse I started ditching even Orchestra and got my first C in years in that class. I didn't go to the end of the year concert. Tony got the glory that night. Tony didn't even sign my year book though because of the orchestra Drama. Oh well. I had bigger plans in the mix, i was meeting my future Husband then.
After Highschool there was just the radio to consolidate my not being able to play anymore since I couldn't afford a stringed instrument. I did buy a wooden bamboo flute from the Renaissance fair which i tried to master over the years but my heart was glued to strings.
In Lebanon they only had a not well received radio station so I didn't even manage to get that much music for a while. I had my tapes and CDs but it wasn't the same. i was out of the "up to date" music loop. Most of me didn't care. The other part of me was hurting. i was a talented Musician and my talents were going to waste. i couldn't do vocal exercises anymore without my piano and though I still sing It's not with the awesome 4 octave range I used to have. I think somewhere an octave got misplaced.... Friends when they learned I play music would encourage me to learn more about Nasheeds. I heard a few beautiful ones with their awesome harmonies. Don't get me wrong they ARE awesome. Especially all the different kind of drum beats. But some groups frown on Islamic Women Singers so I wasn't going to start into that hornets nest. And women drummers in Lebanon were few and far between. i heard from the group I was learning from that synthesized sounds were Halal like those on an electric keyboard. So I stuck to this and once in a while when i visited my grandparents house I'd madly play the keyboard. Also I sometimes go over my old cello and bass music practicing the fingerings and bowings in the air.
My husband's co-worker Who is not a practicing Muslim and though Syrian doesn't know a thing about real ISLAM, brought over his guitar one day and started playing in the garden then he came into eat dinner bringing in his guitar. For the first time in 6 years there was a stringed instrument in my house. It was torture. He played it weekly on visits to my husband and they both know I gave up strings for the sake of Allah but one day in the garden I picked it up and strummed it a bit. it felt deliciously good. No bow which sucks but whatever a string is a string.
But he's gone back to Syria now saving me from further temptation alhamdulillah. Although I do have lots of my favorite composer Beethoven's CDs I rarely listen to them anymore. I rarely listen to anything anymore. But when someone downloads something and sends it to me I check it out and most likely love it but I'm not current in the latest music at all and that's ok with me. Sometimes when I catch a new video like stupid Britney Spears' Womanizer's song on YouTube I am glad to be away from such Haram. Other times I'm pulled to using Music to help me like with doing chores. I have to have a custom dance and rock Cd on to get energized to clean with my ADD.
Sometimes when I pray I get the feeling to just purge it all. Just delete it all from the PC and break my Cds in half and toss them in the bin... I feel so strongly to do this and it feels right. Then a song will turn on and I loose my resolve and start Jamming and jumping off the couches having fun expressing my inner self. I've asked different people about hadiths or Qur'an related to music but so far I haven't come across any that are really clear that LISTENING to string instruments is Haram (not makrouh) not just PLAYING THEM. I don't play them anymore, but I'm so weak in listening still. And it hurts me SO SO SO SO SO badly when I see Muslims playing Stringed Instruments like Sami Yusuf's second CD. I could probably get a decent paying job playing bass or cello part time to put some money in my pocket but I fear Allah. So I don't and I don't think they should be doing it either but I'm not sure about listening.
Anyone got links to awesome Nasheeds I can switch to that are Halal. Or texts concerning Music? Or links to peeps with texts. I'm all ears.

16 intelligent thoughts:

Lisa said...

American Muslima Writer,

I finally made it over after praying I wouldn't get yet another white screen. Yay!

I loved ths post! Very insightful and I love how musically inclined you are. I am proud of you for giving it up. What I like about you Brandy is that it seems like you jumped into this new identity and stayed with it. You are brave and incedibly strong. I think that for me I jumped in as well, but then things peetered out when I realized I missd the music and some of the haraam things.

I found the part about the Syrian guitarist friend very interesting. We are tempted but I'm glad you keep perservering Brandy.

Michelle's mom is also a Jehovah's witness. Brandy, what a long road for you. I see the pain that Michelle has been through with that religion everyday.

Thanks for reminding me of Vanilla Ice and Kris Kross. What about that awful Tag Team song "Whoop There It Is?" I think it's good you've left music behind :)

As you know, I'm an 80's girl at heart. I can't handle Color Me Badd and Paula Abdul. I wonder if your watching American Idol?

Love you!

star said...

ahhhhh i know exactly how you feel... okey so i'm only 17, but still, music has become this major part of my life, and everytime i try to give it up it seems to creep back in. i listen to music all the time, in school they keep a radio in the common room and my friends are always sending me links that i cant resist opening. it doesnt help that i have virtually no muslim freinds so they dont understand about not listening to music. i guess what it comes down to is that i just have to keep trying.... :(

Banafshe said...

You've been awarded Dear!

أم ترافيس said...

I almost never listen to nasheeds (and def not music) but today I put on a cd I bought from UAE (Ahmed Bukhatir) and truly it did the same for me as music did, simply because I never listened to it! You can download stuff on youtube :)

I like these ones too so so so much! They are all without any music at all in sha Allah

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6c2JiaF_gU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qdd605GhVk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuRby1s8x7o

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=ahmed+bukhatir&aq=f

American Muslima Writer said...

Lisa, Lol glad it worked for you to view it!
Thanks for your sweet words. Makes me more curageous. But listen just because we miss haram things sometimes in Islam doesn't mean we have to give up on the whole Idea of Islam. It's not all or nothing. As long as people have the basic AQEEDAH beliefs they are still Muslims even if they are doing Sins. There is a saying that the greatest SIN a person can do is to deny Allah and what He Decreed and Created. It's worse tahn Murder, Rape, Alcohol, Music etc... If you get past the first and Ultamate Sin by believing in Allah and the issues of Aqeedah then you can work on not doing the rest, ie, not to kill people unjustly, not to take someone's virture unjustly, to avoid the forbidden things of this life, and so on and so forth but those that can't even conquor the first and biggest Sin, can't be expected to do as well withthe others. This is not directed just to you Lisa but to all who are confused in this world. All who struggle with Sins. We must keep striving to rid ourselves one by one of greater sins down to minor sins down to tiny sins. Insha'Allah to almost no sins (though No one has NO SINS that is alive).

LOL the syrian guitarist, arg I'm soooo glad he's gone for now. Wish he would just move permanatly to Syria, word is though he might be back in a few months...make du'a everyone that he gets a job that makes Him to busy to hang out with my husband. I just really dislike this guy lol. He's debating with my husband the existance of two Gods, My husband is doing His best to guide him in good way but still I wish the dude just stays in Syria.
Really Michelle's Mom too!?!?! SubhanAllah looks like she and I have lots in common ;) I Miss her blog.
LMAO@ Whoop there it is! Forgot that one alhamdulillah! It's worth forgetting really. most of these silly songs are.
Lol 80's music is interesting and most of it I like but i usually can't go more than like 4 hours listening to "80's Day" then I'm just like AHHH it's blurring into one another turn it off!!! But as I was born in '84 I wasn't into that era. The early 90's got my attention.

American Muslima Writer said...

Star thanks for taking the timet o comment. I'm so happy to see people under 20 on blogs. I was gonna post about this topic of young bloggers soon. Yeah may Allah make it easy for you to be strong when surrounded by so much temptation. You can't even go shopping without music lol.

American Muslima Writer said...

Banafshe:
MASHA'ALLAH not only am i touched by recieving this award but the way you did it was awesome! Just purely Good for the benefit of all of us. For those that didn't check it out She awarded her fav. Butterfly Coolest Blog Award around BUT instead of writting a little bit of why she likes each of us bloggers as we all did when we got it, she did something just AWESOME and wrote an ayah of Qur'an for each of us and made it what she felt we need to hear and take into our hearts from the Qur'an. Masha'Allah I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT! GO CHECK IT OUT!

American Muslima Writer said...

Thanks so much Umm Travis!!!

I will check out those links for sure! I'm glad you're so strong to resist it all. masha'Allah.

Silvara said...

Hi there...first time coming to ur blog.

Am curious to why something as beautiful as music would be considered shameful and a sin?? You would think that a religion thatt truly cares about would want you to enjoy and explore what makes you happy and yet you can't listen to something as simple because it has strings in it???!!

Why would you give up something that obviously gave you joy and you were good at??

It's a bit hard to understand that's all I am saying. I have many Muslim friends who hang out with us when we go for after work drinks (they don't drink and that's fine) or who listen to all types of music. They also do take time out of work to do namaz and eat only halal. So what makes one type of Muslim more 'REAL' than another??

My take on religion that all Gods are one - whether it is Allah, Jesus or Krishna - just people have different ways of worshipping. Some people might not even believe in that, but have faith that there is SOMETHING. And that is ok too. I'm glad your Syrian friend is debating the existence of two Gods, because it opens up healthy discussion about religion. You may have your opinion and he his. And that is totally ok. There is no ONE way or RIGHT answer. We all learn from other people and their experiences.

Life is very dreary without music darl...I hope you realise what you are missing.

All the best :)

Ms.Unique said...

Masha Allah! nice post ... May Allah reward U for ur efforts in this word and the hereafter Ameen .... It sure is a difficult temptation for many to overcome except for whom Allah has made it easy .... There are Zain Bhikha nasheeds and Dawood Warnsby without music though some of their songs have duff ... but most are vocal ... pls chk it on youtube or their personal sites ...

Anonymous said...

I've stood by you since we first met in 8th grade. And nothing, especially stupid mean kids, would ever change that.
Everyone's life is their own journey, and I'll see you through till the end.
~Amanda

Anonymous said...

please read:

http://nimis540.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/freedom-of-expression-and-moral-police-in-islam/

American Muslima Writer said...

Silvara thanks for coming to my blog! I welcome you and your very open opinions.

Music is Beautiful and Allah did create it for a reason. But He ordered Prophet Muhammad to ban it (strings, winds, etc.) fora reason. One big reason is it takes away from spirituality. Where you love the music more than you love Allah. Where you are so into the music you forget about God. Some people think Music brings them towards God and that's fine I understand how music can lift a person's soul higher. But again music takes time and energy to listen to and TO PLAY. Do you know how long a musician needs to practice for concerts and to stay in synch? HOURS. Hours that could better be spent praying and worshiopping Allah and helping those in need. Also the climate that most music promotes is not good. Normally rock concerts, where people are free-mixing, grinding, drinking, and forgetting totally about God. Even symphanies have disadvantages. I'm just pointing out though I love music and I loved to play and I never thought in a million years I'd ever stop playing there is a reason for it and a reason I beleive in. Allah has ordered it.
I will obay what Allah commands. I mean do you really want to disobay the creator of the swealtering sun? erm not me lol.
Each Muslim has their own levels of piety and I'm just trying to strengthen mine by giving up what keeps me from God.

we do have very different ideas about God and life but that's ok too. You are entitlted to your opinion but I still respect you for your openness to discussions.

And as umm travis has pointed out thre are beautiful alternatives! So life doesn't have to be dreary.
Plus I may not have strings but I do have my God Given Voice. Nothing can turn that off.

American Muslima Writer said...

Ms Unique, thanks dearest for your input and suggestions of alternatives!

Amanda darling, I'm so glad you chimed in. Sometimes I wish Jen would too but I guess she disagrees with most the things i say lol. I'm glad you're always there for me and I'm always there for you girl no matter the location or time. I'm wishing you the best.
Weren't those last days in orchestra dreary! SOMEONE sure made it that way for me! Though I wonder what she's doing these days sometimes. Ah my ever curious mind lol.

Sacrifice4Allah said...

I'm a little late on this topic.

Ahmed Bukhatir has good nasheeds.
http://www.haqaonline.com/multimedia/audio/Nasheeds/ahmedbukhatir.php

I absolutely love listening to Abu Ali from time to time. His nasheeds are almost exclusively about Jihad but he has other beautiful ones too. Here's a good link:
http://nasheed.worldofislam.info/

Kamal Uddin he sings in English.

I love the nasheeds of Zain Bhikha.
http://www.zainbhikha.com/04_songs.html

Talib al-Habib (his pen name):
http://www.nuralhabib.com/

Sacrifice4Allah said...

Some scholars use Surah Luqman verse 6, as evidence of Music being haraam:

"And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e.music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the Path of Allah without knowledge, and takes it (the Path of Allah, the Verses of the Qur'an) by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment (in the Hell-fire)."

Hasan al-Basri (Allah be pleased with him) said:
“This verse was revealed in relation to singing and musical instruments.” (Tafsir ibn Kathir, 3/442).

Abu Malik al-Ash’ari (Allah be pleased with him) reports that he heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) say: “There will appear people in my Ummah, who will hold adultery, silk, alcohol and musical instruments to be lawful.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari)

Ali ibn Talib (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When my Ummah begin doing fifteen things, they will be inflicted with tribulations, and (from those 15 things He said): “When female singers and musical instruments become common.”
(Sunan Tirmidhi)

Imam an-Nawawi, the great Hadith and Shafi’i scholar states:

“It is unlawful to use or listen to musical instruments, such as, those which the drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute. It is permissible to play the tambourine (daff) at weddings, circumcisions and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the Kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is also unlawful.”
(Mugni al-Muhtaj, 4/429, & Reliance of the traveller, 775)

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