Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Music + Muslim youngsters

By Rahla Khan
We’ve all seen them: youngsters with i-pods and headphones, eyes closed, humming in time to the beat in their mind; blasting music from cars on the streets or from the confines of their rooms, lost in a world of their own. It’s scary to see the number of Muslim youngsters who are either already addicted to music, or on their way to becoming hopeless junkies who cannot pass even a few hours in relative silence.

If you think this is hyperbole, take a minute to talk to your friendly neighborhood music ‘enthusiast’ and watch them confess that music is their “buzz”, their “high”, or even their “life.” Interestingly, most parents who would be alarmed if their offspring were involved in substance abuse, see no harm in indulging and actively feeding a music addiction, viewing it as a “harmless phase” that they will “automatically outgrow.”

How “harmless” is popular music? How do we identify a music addiction? And most importantly, how does one break the habit if they’re hooked?

What’s the bottomline on today’s music?

It’s no secret that the permissibility of music and singing has been a debated topic among Muslim scholars for centuries, and that there is a difference of opinion that classifies certain kinds of music from Haraam (impermissible) to Mubah (allowed). However, even the most liberal scholars agree that:
• Permissible songs are those that comply with Islamic teachings and ethics.
• Songs that are performed in a manner that arouses sexual excitement and desires – even if the content is ‘permissible’ – renders them prohibited, doubtful or detestable.
• Singing that calls to, or is accompanied by alcohol and drugs, nudity, mixing of men with women is obviously prohibited.

If we are honest with ourselves, it’s clear that these criteria place popular music outside the ambit of ‘permissible.’ Besides, in Islam, over-indulgence is prohibited even in activities and pursuits that are considered ‘permissible.’ The rationale behind this isn’t a “killjoy” mentality, it is protecting oneself from emptiness of the mind and heart that leads one to indulge in destructive passions as opposed to beneficial activities.

On a physical level, listening to loud music for extended periods has the literal effect of “boiling” one’s brains. Researcher Greg Mackay, author of “How Music Affects Your Kids…What Parents Need to Know,” discusses brain damage from harmful music in the light of an experiment where people have put eggs at the foot of the stage in rock concerts and found that the eggs were hard-boiled midway through the concert!

Apparently, this phenomenon was confirmed scientifically by Dr. Earl Flosdorf and Leslie A. Chambers (quoted in the book The Secret Power of Music by David Tame) who found that shrill sounds projected into a protein-based liquid would coagulate the proteins.

Mackay says, “I think about this phenomenon every time I hear a car going by with cement-shaking bass notes blasting from the speaker system. I wonder about the passengers of that vehicle and how much of their mental potential is being scrambled each minute (or in this case hard-boiled) by listening to this kind of music. It is really a shame when you think about it.

“A lot of the lyrics of songs that are popular in the various rock and rap genres complain about the lack of control and the lack of opportunities that so many people face in this world, particularly our youth. It is so ironic that the very music that is conveying these sentiments is part of the process of taking away their control of their lives and their opportunities for a better life and better health.”

Identifying an addiction

Increasingly, music addicts have started realizing – and more importantly – admitting that they have a problem. There are a number of support groups on the internet where people, having recognized the harmful effects of music, encourage each other to “eliminate music from their lives” – and they’re not even motivated by religious considerations. While surfing one such site, I found this quiz that enables you to decide if you have a problem, which is the first step to finding a solution:

• Do you ever indulge heavily in music when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
• Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable when music is not available?
• Has a family member or close friend ever expressed concern or complained about your playing?
• Do you often want to continue playing after your friends say they’ve had enough?
• Do you ever find yourself spending money on music that was budgeted for something else?
• Do you usually have a reason for occasions when you play heavily?
• Have you tried controlling your music habit?
• Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your playing?
• Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you’re playing?
• Do you think about music while you’re at work?
• Does your involvement in music create financial, work, school and/or family problems?
• Do you eat very little or irregularly while you are playing music?
• Do wake up in the morning with a tune in your head or thinking about the next opportunity to play music?
• Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your music?
• Do you ever feel depressed or anxious, before, during or after periods of heavy music indulgence?

A “yes” answer indicates you may be at greater risk for music addiction. More than one “yes” answer may indicate the presence of a music-related problem or musicolism, and the need for consultation with a professional. – SG

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