I’ll start this post with a disclaimer. I am not qualified to issue a scholarly opinion on this topic and that’s not what this is meant to be. I simply want to share my experiences and my own insights based on those experiences. Please do not debate the issue of music in Islam on this blog.
Music was always a part of my life while I was growing up. My mother often kept the radio on–sometimes for the music and sometimes to listen to a discussion or even (rarely by those days) a drama. In addition, during the Christmas season we played Christmas albums (you know, the vinyl stuff). When I got older I was in the parochial school choir, always as a soprano even when the other girls’ voices changed. I also remember going caroling at a nursing home for those who were both needy and elderly. And I started buying albums (vinyl) about the time I began attending high school. (My favorite artists were Simon and Garfunkel.) Oh, and I almost forgot–two of my sisters and I took piano lessons for five or six years. One of my sisters now gives piano lessons, and so does her oldest daughter. (I tried to play the flute but that was before I got braces and it wouldn’t work with buck teeth. I also tried to guitar, but never really got the hang of it.)
So by the time I came into Islam, at the age of twenty-three, I had a very full musical background. I know the lyrics to probably thousands of songs and I know the precise notes and rhythms of many classical pieces.
But not too long after my conversion someone told me that music was not allowed. So I gave it up, right there. Instead of listening to the radio or cassette tapes I tried to learn the Qur’an instead. In the first year after my conversion I memorized fifteen short surahs.
After I was married and had children, my husband and I continued to run a music-free household. The boys did have a couple of wind-up musical toys, and I sometimes sang them to sleep, but that’s as far as it went. We wanted our sons to learn the Qur’an instead.
This approach was reinforced as our oldest son’s personality developed and we saw that he had an amazing memory. I used to call him a tape recorder because he truly could repeat everything he heard. (He’s now fluent in Spanish and Arabic, and probably French, and he knows quite a bit of Urdu.) Of course, we wanted him to repeat the Qur’an rather than the lyrics of songs. (That’s also why we became involved in Islamic education, but I’ll save that for another post.) Alhamdulillah, he is now studying to become a hafiz.
Each of our sons started learning the Qur’an when they were three or four. They also learned to read Arabic at the same time they were learning to read English. We worked hard to keep the spirit of Islam in their hearts and keep other things out.
But as they grew older, things changed. . .