Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dale (Jamaluddin) Marcell - And Some Thoughts About Music in Islam

Sound Vision has announced the passing of our Muslim brother Dale (Jamaluddin) Marcell who was the leader of the Fletcher Valve Drummers.

Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon.

The Sound Vision article states, "The layers of rhythm and energetic percussions of the Fletcher Valve Drummers brought a new dimension to the live Nasheed / Musical stage in the Muslim community. Dale and his group were the all-time favourites at MuslimFest in Canada and at several major events in the UK, as they shared the stage with renowned Muslim performers, including Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Native Deen, 786, and Ashiqe Rasul."

YouTube has two of his live performances here:

Apparently, Brother Jamaluddin publicly declared Shahada while live on stage with his drumming group and Dawud Wharnsby during MusicFest 2005!

Interesting to me is the mention in the article that Brother Jamaluddin was often disappointed that the Muslim community did not appreciate his art. However, he drummed on.

Being a drummer myself, I can relate to the Brother's disappointment. The Muslim community is split when it comes to music.

My main drum is the daf. In the purest sense of Islam, the playing of the daf is only permitted for specific occasions like Eids and weddings. It is only permitted to be played by women.

I do own a djembe (like the drum Brother Jamaluddin can be seen performing with in the videos, strapped around his waist). The djembe is a drum most commonly played in West Africa, however, many people around the world play it. I bought the djembe because I live in a very small town and a local teacher was offering lessons. I figured that once I learned to drum in a formal kind of way, through lessons, that I could then teach myself the rhythms of the daf.

And I have done this, Alhamdulillah.

But deep down, I always feel a little bit anxious. Why? Because I know that music and musical instruments (other than the daf) are a controversial topic in Islam. Some scholars say that it is all absolutely forbidden. Yet others say that, like anything, it is permissible if it doesn't distract a person from their Islamic duties and if the music doesn't promote the haraam.

I then read an essay on the Internet written by Brother Yusuf Islam (formerly "Cat Stevens") called Music: A Question of Faith or Da'wah. He did so in response to the criticism and controversy that occurred after he returned to the music industry after a long absence. These words stuck out for me:

"Different opinions about music indicate that it is not to be taken as a question of faith ('Aqidah), but is simply a matter of understanding (fiqh)."

I agree with Brother Yusuf. I have really thought about this, talked to Muslims, and most importantly, I have prayed about it. Some of my Muslim sisters think I "rock" because I play drums. Yet others think that I am an open sinner with no shame. Ya Allah. It is truly distressing.

(Me - Drumming With My Teacher For a Children's Class)

So I can understand the trepidations of Brother Jamaluddin.

Insha Allah, the Almighty (swt) will judge us all and forgive us all/Ameen.


Son of Adam عليه السلام‎ said...

Inna lillahi wa inna ilyahi rajioon. May Ar-Rahman shed His Mercy upon our dear brother. Ameen.

On the issue of music, it should be known that our beloved prophet, Muhammad, salallahu alayhi wa salaam, is recorded to have mentioned in Bukhari, the most authentic compilation after al-Qur'an, a time would come when some of the people among his followers would make halal what was decreed haraam, among these things were: men wearing silk, consumption of khamr, zinna and the playing of musical instruments. I'm one with particular fondness of music myself, but who am I, who are we, to muddle this hadith to justify regressing to our own lowly desires?

I believe in our heart of hearts we know that music is haraam. Most scholars agree it is even the tool of Shaitan to distract people from the remembrance of Allah.

Consider how music permeates in our hearts and throughout our bodies, whelming us with a sense of soothe and solace. But it is Allah who said what means that it is the Believers whose hearts find content in the recitation of the Qur'an. And music can influence and affect us to a point where we'll actually prefer music over the Qur'an to content our hearts.

May we seek protection from Allah subanahu wa ta'ala from that and may we instead look forward to the the music Allah promised the abodes of Jannah which we can bet is far superior and pleasurable than any melody we can muster here in dunya.
Ameen ya Rabbil'alameen wa iyaaka.

Norma Kassim PhD said...

Salam, am sure would like to listen you drumming away.... :)

Anonymous said...

"I am an open sinner with no shame", umm, it's seriously such a big word for as minor a thing as this, there are much worse things in the muslim ummah (community) that these people should be concerned about, besides, we all have our minor flaws, so had we better not start with ourselves before nitpicking at other people's so called flaws..
did i just deflect from the main point of this post? well this what came to my mind when i read it, and i am sure that many will dislike my reasoning.
Guess that adds me to the group of people who think you rock :)

Mo-ha-med said...

So music is haraam because it would be diverting us from our religious duties..
By the same logic, wouldn't every other kind of non-religious multimedia entertainment - from books to films to newspapers - also fall under the same rule? Which seems all the more absurd, in my opinion.

I just read the Yusuf Islam article you linked to and enjoyed it very much.

And i, too, would love to hear you drum any day!

Son of Adam عليه السلام‎ said...

The daf is the only halal instrument, the others are haraam without question. So don't get me wrong, I too think you rock in regards to your talents using this hand drum. Ma'sha'Allah.

As to other forms of music, they have been forbidden by our prophet salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam not by any scholar, sheikh or imam, but Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam himself. So anyone having a problem with this as an issue, their problem obviously isn't with me or anyone else. It's impermissiblity goes beyond mere distraction, it inarguably has a way into the heart, attaching itself therein and subjecting one to addiction.

Bottom line, there are many reasons and explanations as to why the Prophet salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam forbade it, but there is no excuse superior or worthy of submission than the very fact the Prophet salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam forbade it in the first place.


أبو سنان said...

I love the usual religious experts that come and claim to want to tell everyone what is haram and halal.

Everything can be haram, even religion, if it is done in extreme. If you want to use hadith, and one must be careful because many "hadith" are pretty dodgy, then it is clear that the Prophet (PBUH) said Islam is about moderation, not extremism.

I would think that banning all music, or most of it anyways, is extreme.

It is your intention that counts and dont let anyone tell you any different, unless of course, they plan to stand in your place on the Last Day.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Everyone:

I agree with Brother Abdul Vakil that the daf is the only halal instrument.

In my work as a Muslim chaplain in the prison, I have always told the inmates that if a matter in Islam is "controversial" perhaps it is better to leave it off. After all, it should be our goal to have the best character and to have other Muslims think well of us, Insha Allah.

Here is an example of how these things have the potential to become something more than originally intended:

I joined the African drumming class. Well, there is a male member of this class along with about 4-5 females. My practice is not to mix with males unless I have a legitimate reason (shopping in public, those I work with, etc.) My drumming with this man makes me feel uncomfortable.

Also, the teacher was so excited to have a decent group of drummers that she started to accept little public performances, i.e., at the parks in the summer, etc. So, here I am drumming in public. One one occasion, she scheduled a "performance" during Ramadan. I told her that I could not appear in public drumming during Ramadan. It made me feel uncomfortable. To which she replied, "Why not? Many of the West African drummers are Muslim, including my old teacher." Ya Allah!

More: I have taken to "hiding" my drum when most of my Salafi sisters come to my home. Why? Because like Brother Abdul Vakil suggested, "deep down" I believe I am crossing a line that makes me feel uncomfortable as a Muslim.

I have been compromising my Islamic values.

Our Messenger (saw) said that (roughly translated) if one has no shame they should do as they like.

Drums other than daf are indeed a jihaad for me. I do understand with the viewpoints of those like Brother Yusuf Islam, but it has always been my way to try to do the "right thing" regardless of what I believe or feel when it relates to Islam. That is the "sacrifice" or jihaad of the dunya.

My drumming teacher is going to Africa in January and won't be back until the spring.

Insha Allah I intend to tell her that I will not be a part of her group anymore. I now have what I need to properly play the daf.

It is my intention, Insha Allah, to start a daf ensemble with the Muslim inmates at the prison. We can "perform" for the other female inmates for both of the Eid celebrations, Insha Allah.

Jazaka Allahu Khayrn for a great discussion everyone! I valuable EVERYBODY's opinions. They are always welcome on my blog!

xey said...

Assalaamu alaykum, thanks for the comment sister. :)

As far as music is concerned, I am a music fan. I am. I enjoy music of many sorts with many instruments. Honestly, in some way, I feel that music gave me some of my first exposures to Islam (ie, Yusuf Islam, and rappers who talk about Islamic themes). Insha'Allah, though, I hope to get to a point where music doesn't preoccupy as much of my time as it currently does.

As far as musical instruments go, I often wonder how differently musical instruments would be viewed if the Prophet (saws) had been from another part of the world where different musical instruments were common. In fact, I wonder how many things would be viewed if that were the case.

Lazeena Umm Yusuf said...

inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.
subhanAllah I've never even heard of this brother before!

Umm Layth said...

as salamu 'alaykum Safiyyah
I agree with you and believe it is better to avoid the doubtful matters. Although many look at the ikhtilaf as a way to follow one or another, I prefer to follow the safer opinion just in case. But it's so hard when anasheeds are full of instruments (other than the duff) to stay away 100%.

Son of Adam عليه السلام‎ said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum, x_l:

Know that Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam existed in a time and place many musical instruments, many of which we have today, were prevelant. Aside from this, Muhammad did not speak from his own desires or rule according to his own pleasure or displeasure, rather it was revelation from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala as Allah himself mentioned in the Qur'an. This is the guidance we (should) follow unconditionally.

And it seems the fact the hadith quoted from which Muhammad salallahu 'alayhi wa salaam forbade musical instruments is from Bukhari, the most authentic book after the Qur'an. So this is not as one said, a "dodgable" hadith. Let us humble ourselves , fear Allah and take heed brothers and sisters.

Wallahu 'alam and may Allah guide us all. Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Salaam Aalikum,

What a lovely discussion. Masha Allah, I feel you have well described the inner conflicts we have as we try to reconcile our deen, with our everyday lives.

I think we all deal with such feelings on various issues. Alhamdulilah, there are different opinions on different topics and ultimately we have to make our own choices.

iMuslimah said...

Assalamu alaykum sister!!!

Music- a controversy. I sometimes dont know what to make of it. How can authentic hadith be argued? That said, I find myself loving music, of all kinds. I dont find that it distracts me from anything. Its nice to hear in the car on the way to work. That is the only time I listen. Nasheeds are chock full of all kinds of what do I make of that? I watched an interview with Yusuf Islam, which I believe is where your citations came from. I found him to be reasonable and well balanced.

I admire your decision to stop your lessons, I know for sure that is a very personal jihad. So I hope inshaallah that Allah swt makes it easy for you. Please know that you are not alone in your struggle.



Safiyyah said...

Salaams Everyone:

When I came to Islam, I attempted to give up certain things almost immediately. And I accepted certain things almost immediately. For example, I said the Shahadah in the home of a sister who had given me strong dawah. Her husband helped me to say the Shahadah. Before I left her home that day, she gave me an amira hijab for a gift. I put it on and have worn hijab to this day, Alhamdulillah.

When I came to Islam, my understanding was that it is a complete package. My understanding is that one cannot cherry-pike what she likes about Islam and reject what she doesn't like.

I also read the following which stuck in my mind:

"O you who believe! Obey Allâh and obey the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allâh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), if you believe in Allâh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination." (An-Nisa' - 4:59)

The music issue has been my jihaad from almost the beginning. I did pack up all my music CDs and stored them. I usually listen to talk radio in the car or listen/learn from an Islamic CD.

I have been a musician since I was a small child, so you can understand why this issue is so tough for me and Muslims like Brother Jamaluddin. Both the Brother and I accepted Islam late in life (for me, in my late 40s).

But Alhamdulillah! Allah (swt) always provides us with a "way out" like He tells us in the Qur'an. He has left me the daf!

Hijabee said...

Inna Lilahi Wa Ina Ilayhi Rajiun. May Allah forgive him and grant him Jannah inshAllah.

As far as music is concerned, Mashallah what a wonderful discussion sister. One can truly feel through your comments that Allah has indeed guided you. It's been my personal jihad as well, I used to listen to music a lot, nowadays I try to stick to nasheeds. Sometimes I sing along on songs that come on the radio and I kinda feel bad coz something in my heart always tells me I'm wrong. InshAllah I will keep on trying and when you leave something for the sake of Allah swt, He always replaces it with something better. May He reward you for your dear efforts.

Anonymous said...

You should be the most sought after wedding musician/accompanist in the Ummah! Maybe you need to do some marketing ;)
Love and Peace,

Anonymous said...

sis, assalamu alaikum!

your word-tunes are always a pleasure to see on my blog! :) Please keep them coming.

Thank you for coming by, and yes, I am a proud owner of a djembe drum too :) though i can never say i know how to use it. One day. One day inshAllah.

Best salams!


Safiyyah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum and Greetings;

Ya Allah everyone! Witness this ugly exchange concerning the topic of music and Islam:

May Allah (swt) reward and protect our dear sister, Umm Adam/Ameen.