As I said in Part 1, my husband and I provided a mostly music-free household for our boys because we wanted them to concentrate on learning the Qur’an. In addition to lullabies and wind-up toys, I also began letting them listen to nasheed, though there wasn’t much available yet in the ’90s.
In spite of our best intentions, though, our boys still found a way to learn about music. By the time my oldest started listening to stuff, he was 17 or 18. At that point I told him that he was old enough to make his own decisions. And when our second and third sons followed in his footsteps, I could live with it. (Though one of them, I think it was our second son, liked heavy metal for a while. I told my kids that I really didn’t like heavy metal–I couldn’t even stand it when I was a teenager.)
A year after our oldest graduated from high school and set out to explore the world, I decided to quit teaching so I could concentrate on writing. Once I was at home, away from the daily pressures of school, I began to relax. I don’t remember why I started listening to music. It could have been because I found writing to be difficult and I needed something to help me focus. Music did that. In fact, I now develop a playlist for every book I write and sometimes just listening to the music helps me forget the distractions and get the words down.
I became a Muslim in 1980 so I decided to only listen to music that was made before 1980, the songs that still make me feel younger. (Though I have added Owl City and a couple of other things from later times.) These soundtracks have worked well for me and helped clarify my ideas.
There was a problem though. Our Islamic school had a very conservative group of parents and teachers who were also judgmental. I drove over to the school to pick up the kids, with the oldies station on, but I shut off the radio before pulling into the parking lot. It felt hypocritical, but I knew the danger of the tongues and had already fallen victim in the past. I didn’t want to risk another incident.
Our three younger kids have grown up with a much more liberal attitude toward music, though they haven’t really taken advantage of it. Two of them like classical music and songs from other countries. But I do have a rapper–my fifth son, whom some of you probably know as Sheeplocks.
Rap has been a whole other hurdle. At first I hated it. But Sheeplocks, or Salahuddin as he’s known here at home, took pains to introduce it to me. He determined what rap styles bothered me (those with the really heavy beats) and what I could live with, and then pulled out the ones he thought I would like. We listened to a lot of rap as I drove with him through Lexington when he had his permit and was preparing to get his license. And I’ve come to appreciate some of it. Not all, but some. (Don’t ask me to name any artists. Salahuddin could tell you which ones I like and which ones I still can’t stand.) My favorite rappers are still Native Deen. And Sheeplocks, of course. His raps are intelligent and socially-conscious so I do enjoy them when I can understand the words.
Music has been a huge issue in the ummah. There are two reasons, really, for allowing it back into our lives: first, music is natural to children; and second, the world is full of music, and I don’t mean the commercial kind. When my youngest was little he used to go around the house making up little songs. I remember one of them: Drink water, drink water. Over and over again. And it was sweet. In terms of the world being full of music, just close your eyes on a spring morning and listen to the birds. You can add the loud claps of thunder, the howling of the wind, the sound of sleet on the windows.
I could add that I studied the history of music back in high school and I know that our modern day instruments–most of them, anyway–had not yet been invented at the time of Prophet Muhammad (S). But I’ll leave you with the images of the birds. It’s almost spring. They’ll be here soon, insha Allah.