For several years now, I’ve been listening to certain nasheeds that really inspire me. Right now, I’m listening to a particular favorite, ‘Naseem Al Shawq’ by Ahmed Bukhatir. The words are so deep and show the beauty and richness of the Arabic language. If you really focus on the simple advice, given in a poetic style, it’s hard to walk away without feeling inspired to change.
When I first began to ease off the regular kind of music, which I was very, very, very much into, I was surprised to discover there were many Muslims who were actually producing simple songs and poetry, while staying within what was permissible in Islam. I don’t intend to go into the fiqh details here on the position of music in Islam and what is, or isn’t allowed. What I learned, though, and tried to adopt for myself was that there shouldn’t be ‘string instruments’ used and of course, it should be good poetry. I remember there was this very popular Indian song from the movie ‘Taal’ that actually contained incredibly blasphemous lyrics that we all hummed or sang without giving a second thought to it. Sometimes, I’d just skip on that part but still, the song would go on…
At first, it wasn’t easy moving away from the titillating melodies I was so addicted to. I admit, one Ramadan, there were many nights I would fall asleep with the earphones plugged in and woke for Suhoor to the the same sounds. The reason I say it now is to show how deep I was into it, yet, today… Alhumdulillah, I am not. And that shows nothing is difficult or impossible to imagine, if you really want to do it for Allah(swt)… and He takes you through. Sure, it isn’t that easy to begin with… the first step was pretty hard. I loved some of the songs, their lyrics and how they made me forget everything else and disappear into another world… but, there was something wrong with that picture. And I learned that only after I discovered there was something much, much higher than that… more satisfying, peace-giving… over-and-beyond more precious than all I had ever experienced with Sting or Bryan Adams’ melodies.
There were several nasheeds that I discovered over time, in both Arabic and English. The ones I love the most are the Arabic ones, almost all of them by Sharjah-based Ahmed Bukhatir, the younger brother of the widely known Qari Salah Bukhatir. The reason I love his nasheeds, despite them being in a language that I just understand to get by, is because of the beauty of that language. His poetry is very full of meaning and thought-provoking, in fact, I like it even better than his own English nasheeds. And this is what shouldn’t be forgotten – that the reason behind a person listening to such poetry isn’t to ‘pass time’ or just entertain themselves… it’s the message that’s important. What was the point of leaving the other kind of music then if one is still looking for a ‘pass time’, although with a kind of ‘Halal’ label?
I know, in some ways, nasheeds still aren’t the best alternative and many people point out flaws in them too. However, they’re definitely worlds apart, even diametrically opposite, to much of what today’s generation calls ‘music’ and goes gaga over. I try to remind myself why I listen to nasheeds in the first place (this blog post is a reminder too) and also that I shouldn’t get so involved that they become like ‘background music’ that I cannot go without. And the most important thing is that, however nice the nasheed be in terms of the poetry it contains, it cannot, and never should be allowed to, take the place of the Qur’an in the heart. This is something I personally see as a struggle and an issue, which makes me refrain from listening to new singers or popular groups so that there’s less to be distracted by.
As far as the outcome goes… I can’t describe the difference between how I used to feel when I was deep into music, and how I’ve felt and still feel ever since I gave it up some years ago. I definitely wouldn’t blame music for all the personal issues I had back then, but it definitely wasn’t helping and the peace I feel today, the tranquility within, that I always sought to seek with music but never attained… it’s priceless and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Sometimes, people look at me as if pitying me for not being able to listen to music, but they don’t know how I willfully gave it up and, if I do get to hear a favorite from yesteryear playing somewhere, it barely registers as more than a distant memory. Yes, I might miss the odd lyric or so… and hum it to myself for a few moments if it pops up in my mind… but to go back to it when I am so much better without it (even if we were to leave aside the ruling on music for a second) is just not what I want. And I thank Allah(swt) for allowing me to experience a higher standard of existence… a happier life, within and around myself too… where I derive joy from all the simple things that remind me of Him and the highest example. Alhumdulillah.
I’ll end by sharing what I have just been listening to…
A translation can never do justice to Arabic poetry but here it is…
“Longing runs through the veins
Love of giving is the best trait
Be generous and you will live gracefully
And will find happiness in the after world
Be generous and noble
These are among the finest attributes
And let not shadow sway you from light
Be patient if the end nears
Life is dear, however dearer
Is the blessing of Almighty Allah
Life is only a mirage
And this is one of the obvious situations
Do not hold it dear, and
Ensure it has no place in your heart
Soar gracefully like a full moon
And reflect light everywhere
And let wise advice adorn your sayings
For this is the best you can offer
Stay away from the impudent, and
Avoid gazing at women’s charms
Cheap is the unveiled beauty, and
Cheaper are the remaining covered parts
With faith comes the real truth, and
Save yourself the embarrassment
Adhere to true faith, and
Treasure it deep at heart
Be a man of defiance, and
Refrain from spreading secrets…”
(Ethereal Melodies, the title of this post, was also the name of my first blog, back in 2005.)