Why must the guitar and piano be haram?
So goes a statement I read last few days; one produced by a some clerics.
So, help me understand this please. This is getting too much on a Sunday morning when I was reading it
Why use ‘Islamic arguments’ to defend or condemn music ?
Does one need a Theory of Transcultural Taste to enjoy Malaysia’s signature food - the Nasi Lemak?
Why use this to ‘fit data into theory’ and tell the mind what is acceptable what is not?
Why not just listen to any piece of music, or pick up any instrument you can play, and feel what it is like ‘phenomenologically’ as human response to the musical experience, and come up with your own ‘feel for it’ and then theorise.
Muslims and musicians, I ask you this: do you really need ulama from this or that school of thought from this or that time period to tell you what to experience and whether this is halal or haram? What authority do they have when they have not listened to all the genre of music or even read Rolling Stone or DownBeat or Hip Hop World magazines?
Only when ulama can talk about the meaning of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ will I be a willing to dialogue about halal and haram in music? Or what is the point of playing the kompang and gambus all night and reading the Quran daily and supporting the beheadings in Syria and Iraq and idolising the Rightly Misguided Khalifah of the Islamic State at the same time?
Why shouldn't the Rightly Guided Freddy Mercury of the rock group Queen be honoured in Iran and Yemen for promoting peace and love for humanity?
Should we listen to these ulama?
Why should anybody tell us what kind of music is prohibited and what is not?
Agree? I don’t know. Too much religious argument. Not enough common sense these days
How must we live our life in this age of perpetual uncertainty?
A life well-lived is not necessarily one bound and shackled by theories/systems. Guidelines help, but exploring the beauty of it and what human imagination has created is key.
Consumers of other people’s opinions
We have become good consumers of other people’s opinions and become imprisoned by them, not realising that we are born Creators, Sustainers, and Destroyers as well and a life examined will be more enriching if we continue to become more and more human by producing artifacts of our own imagination, breaking new grounds, helping paradigms collapse, and even rejecting traditions no longer useful and in sync with what our existential and cognitive needs call for.
This is also what is happening in Malaysia with almost everything - economic perspectives, political ideologies, religious teachings. We are still moving backwards with too much emphasis on do’s and don’ts imposed on our imagination. Reading the scriptures and trying to memorise them is not what one is supposed to do. Readings must lead people to think and rethink and deconstruct. Parrots memorise things, Human beings transform meaning. I think.
And why must good-hearted musicians earning honest living take heed of the opinion of the clerics?
This, I think is the core of the argument: The ulama are paid to tell people what to do and not what to do... the artist and the musicians are paid to create cultural artifacts to make people think.
No one is holier than the other. To each his/her own. There are those who want to grow up becoming and a well-paid ulam. There are others wishing to be a great music producer. Both are economic beings/homo economicus. The ulama cannot tell the rock musicians that he/she is doing a haram work when the ‘gift’ of producing music is with the rocker and the gift of giving ‘thousand-Ringgit per night’ paid religious talks/ceramahs is the bounty of the ulama.
Both are entertainers. Both are earning a living. Why should one be more superior than the other in terms of what one does for a living? Isn’t this plain logic in a capitalist world - of the class of religious and artistic worker? Aren’t young imams (Imam Muda) also appearing as celebrities on TV these days? Different from the days of Imam Bonjol or Wali Songo in Java those days, I think.
It is a difficult issue/question. That is exactly what the dilemma between the three branches of knowledge - of religion, science, and philosophy. Each has its own logic to be defended, to death in most cases. I have often written about religious teachers needing to learn philosophy and the methods of scientific inquiry, and scientist and philosophers too needing to read the religious scriptures.
This will lead to hybridity, cross-breeding, and the juggling of multiple perspectives or worldviews, so that each will be able to dialogue and make better sense of where society should move towards, instead or arguing endlessly what and who is right, and in the end kill each other over which god is more superior or which mazhab need to be exterminated from the face of the Earth.
Glad that music has no mazhab. You can choose to like Death Metal, Dangdut, Disco, or Dondang Sayang and still talk to your friends and laugh about it. But with the Sunni and Shiite - forget about being alive in an argument. Jihad, Jihad. And more Jihad. This is our world of McJihad versus McDonald’s.
Let me conclude this debate: It is just an opinion from a cult group in a school of thought and not applicable as a universal ruling due to its lack of in-depth analysis of the transcultural nature of music and the phenomenology of musical experience. I have shared my thoughts. I had this argument with some Malaysian religious groups/ustazs in the mid-80s and my opinion still remains the same.