Boys and Media: Music (Part 2)

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.





About jamilahk

Jamilah Kolocotronis is the mother of six boys. She is also a novelist. Her books focus on family issues.
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4 Responses to Boys and Media: Music (Part 2)

  1. Hanan Alabdalla says:

    Assalamu Alaikum
    I understand completely the hardships of music. I have been trying for years to stop listening to music and I turned 18 not too long ago. Music has been like a life support for me. Whenever I wanted to feel happy, content, or just wanted to ponder some lyrics, music has been there. But that is why it is so dangerous. Music corrupts the mind and body. It gives us false emotions and clouds our mind to the point where we can’t think of anything else but another song to listen to. Songs constantly running through your head and sticking like a disease until you feel crazy and want to get the song out of your head but can’t. The music blocks everything out, the good and the bad, and sadly that includes the feeling of wanting to listen to the Quran. Since as far back as I could remember music wasn’t allowed in the house until, like with your boys, my older brother and I started listening to it when we got older. Now, like u mentioned, music has become quite common and though me and my family try and stop listening to it, we always get sucked in again because of friends, colleagues, or even family that play a song we like or find interesting and we’re sucked in again. And sadly our society is run by music. There are those moments when I break and listen to a song or two and then two more and then I’m back to music, only to struggle all over again. This has been a continuous cycle since I was a junior in high school and now I’m a freshman in college. In the end the only way to kill the beast is to kill its source of life, in this case it’s our connections to music in general. I can’t pretend it’s easy or entirely possible but it’s only way to completely destroy the control this music has on us, the sooner the better. Alhamdulillah I’m getting better at handling my music I have stopped trying to completely cut my ties off with music all at once. I am going slowly. I allow myself 2 songs sometimes 3 songs a day. After a while I find myself ending days where I haven’t listen to music for nearly half the day and some days less, but the excitement of being able to control how often I listen has been amazing and I feel free. For some reason whenever I listen to a song, after a few minutes, I feel angry and frustrated and can only feel better by listening to more music. If that isn’t proof that music is bad then I don’t know what is. Two signs of the Day of Judgment are: Female singers and musical instruments will become popular (at-Tirmidhi) and Singers become common (Al-Haythami). We can tell the end is close so being aware is important. I have rambled and made this HUGE comment but I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with you, and thank you for an inspiring and interesting story about your experiences with music. I truly enjoyed reading about them. ^_^ Thank you. Assalamu Alaikum.

    • jamilahk says:

      Walaikum assalaaam,
      That’s a great comment, Hanan, and I completely agree. I think I am where you are in terms of music. Actually, I turn on the radio and listen to the oldies station while I’m washing dishes, but since the songs are from the ’70s and ’80s now sometimes I hear things I never liked or never even heard before–which is good because then it’s very easy to turn off the radio. I’ve never had an mp3 player and don’t plan to get one. And there are some days when I feel like listening to a certain song so I find it on YouTube. Other days I completely forget. You’re right about the freedom of being in control. That’s great.

      • Hanan Alabdalla says:

        Thanks, and that is what i told my friend the other day. She asked why don’t I get an MP3, and I said it’s hard enough as it is without the MP3 player with it it’ll be a nightmare. Also that is great that you aren’t attached to the music to not be able to turn it off. The 70’s and 80’s aren’t my thing but once in a while when I’m trying to stay away from the more addicting songs these days I choose from the 90’s selection. It’s a struggle but then again what isn’t in this world. I just hope that inshallah it gets easier.

  2. Safiyyah says:

    Salaams Jamilah Dear

    When you said about music being everywhere in the world, it made me think of one of the iReports I saw on CNN about the Japanese tsunami. When all those houses, trucks, cars, etc., were crashing and booming and clanging together like bumper cars in a carnival ride, it eerily sounded like percussion. Because I am a drummer (play daf), I hear percussion everywhere.

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