Music = vulgarity?

Music classes in government schools spark protests - but why? Is music really a sin?

Anam Gill June 04, 2011
Conservative elements have always spoken against music. I remember the introduction of music classes at Punjab University stirred up a storm among the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT). The IJT also threatened to “physically resist” music classes on campus. It was heart wrenching to see them marching hand in hand to condemn art.

What would life be without music? It is a reminder of how things once were, an indication of how things are, and a view of where society is headed.

Music is being successfully taught at some colleges including Kinnaird College, where I am one of the students studying Indian Classical Music. I sometimes wonder how it spreads vulgarity. There is a thin line between freedom and being offensive, and if the equilibrium is maintained than why worry? Music not only gives me a sense of being complete but also teaches me to believe in myself. It’s the food of the soul indeed.

The level of ignorance shown by the conservative elements has always faltered the growth of performing arts in this part of the world. I remember being enthralled by a BBC Channel Four’s documentary, Sufi Soul: The Mystic Music of Islam.

During this fascinating program, William Dalrymple talked to a traditional Islamic religious leader about their attitude to music. He asked why music was so frowned upon when the Islamic world had produced some of the most talented musicians in the world. The man half-smiled sadly and said that they were wrongdoers and would be punished.

Perhaps the lasting power of Sufi music will drown out the less tolerant interpretations and visions of Islam. Some orientalist scholars believe that Sufism was essentially the result of Islam evolving in a more mystic direction. For example, Annemarie Schimmel proposes that Sufism in its early stages of development meant nothing but the internalisation of Islam. Louis Massignon states:
"It is from the Qur’an, constantly recited, meditated, and experienced, that Sufism proceeded, in its origin and its development."

“Sufism’s dynamic and diverse musical traditions have made it accessible and meaningful to a wide audience within and beyond the Muslim world, as with mystical traditions in all religions, the pursuit of unification with the divine brings the rigorous demands of asceticism and contemplation, abandonment of materialism and of the self.”

I question the conservative claim that music spreads vulgarity. It’s high time to change these mindsets and think with reason. The walls of ignorance encircling us should be broken. Let the rays of enlightenment nourish the deprived souls.
Anam Gill The writer is a social activist and journalist from Lahore. She is the founder of Dialogue Café, a creative space bringing people together to interact and engage in debates. Her writings have appeared in several renowned Pakistani and international news outlets, including Dawn, Express Tribune and Deutsche Welle.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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