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  • October 2009
    S M T W T F S
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Music is Forbidden

A man playing some Arabic music

Image by Gopal Venkatesan via Flickr

I was helping two new high school students from a Middle Eastern Country as they settled into our Central New York School.

Each day as we passed the music building I asked my students the question in a different way. “Do you play an instrument? Do you enjoy music? Would you like to learn to play an instrument?” Always the answer was a pleasant but decisive, “No”.

Finally, today, it occurred to me to ask, ” Is music allowed in your country?”  The answer was immediate, “No, it is Haram.” One of the teens confided, “I’ve always liked the guitar, though.”

Ah! I see. My mind went immediately to men with guns, beards and turbans riding around in white pick up trucks. I know that the father of these teens claims to be a progressive man, but to forbid music. I’ve finally reached my cultural wall.

I have no problem anymore with the men refusing to shake my hand. Even when I cooked non-Halal chicken soup for a sick friend and found he couldn’t eat it because it was Haram..I understood, even going out of my way to drive to a chicken farm so he could slaughter his own chickens.

I accept that the women can’t wear hand-me-down slacks because they are considered under garments and defiled by another person.

But, the beautiful Arabic music that I’ve been hearing in the Middle East, forbidden? I’m sure this is a cultural tradition, not a religious tenet of their faith. I’ve even checked it out with others of their faith. It’s something that I will grapple with, while also coming to grips with their constant TV watching and internet game playing.

What does it mean to be a devout person of faith? How critical is the outward obedience to rules of modesty, humility, and purity? God looks on our hearts for sure.

I wonder what our faith practices look like to people from another religion? We walk around with our shoes on in church and sing loudly. We write in our Bibles and put things in them. Some people even lay Bibles on the floor. We wear whatever we want in church, and sometimes very little clothing in summer. (I’ve heard Muslims remark about this.) Our prayers are said on the go, sometimes in the car as we drive along.

An international student remarked once, “Americans seem to carry their God on their wrist, because whenever you ask them if they can do something, they look at their wristwatch”.

With such cultural and religious differences is it any wonder we have wars?


One Response

  1. What a great quote!
    (An international student remarked once, “Americans seem to carry their God on their wrist, because whenever you ask them if they can do something, they look at their wristwatch”.)

    What a great quote! I would never have guessed that this was the impression we give off when we are so concerned about time and deadlines! Such a completely different message from what we actually mean! Thank you for your insight.

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