The grand mufti whose words against music ended the short career of an all-girl teenage pop band in Kashmir last month made me wonder: is music really un-Islamic? He said that if women indulge in indecent, immoral acts such as singing, it would be a step toward their destruction. Is it really that simple in Islam? Of course it isn’t.
On one hand, you find words in the Qur’an such as “Zoor” – an Arabic word used for “falsehood” and musical expressions; “Laghv” – vain words and actions, useless entertainment; ”Ghina” – prolonged sonic vibration, with pitch changes to such an extent that it might as well be “singing”, and of course, it’s sinful. According to another interpretation, singing, reciting poetry and playing instruments is allowed on occasions such as weddings and other festivals. Then there is debate going on all the while.
Music is also said to affect the body in a negative way – increasing blood pressure, impeding digestion, releasing adrenaline. All this could excite men’s lust and desire, and destroy their brotherhood and make them angry. If women do it, they should do it only around other women. And then there are videos like this, which clearly demonstrate another point of view.
While the Qur’an is read in a lyrical way, interpretations of how good or bad music is tend to depend on pitch, content, musical instruments, gender, situation and occasion. Some Muslim scholars say classical music is OK, or any music that is not meant for entertainment. For some, it invites divine wrath. In Sahih Bukhari, one of the six major hadiths of Sunni Qur’an, a musical instrument belongs to Satan.
From interviews I conducted with a variety of people, there seems to be little support for the idea that Islam and music can’t exist together.