Music, The Bible, Rumi & The Brain

Music is universal, profound, stimulating, fundamental and something that seems to be rooted within our DNA. It can seem transcendent, reminding us of something heavenly, while connecting us to something deeper within us.

rumiIn the Bible, Revelations 14:2 talks about the sounds in heaven being like that of harps. While the Muslim poet and mystic Rumi wrote: “When I am silent, I fall into the place where everything is music.”

According to Paul Gladstone Reid, a British singer and composer, rhythm has the ability to send you into the trance [i], which is well known in many African cultures. Music’s intoxicating affect is powerful, but not always, of course, in a good way. 

lawrenceparsonsA couple of years ago I spoke to Lawrence Parsons, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield. He has spent many years studying the affects of music and dancing on the brain. “With the rise of the Ipod and Iphone, people are increasingly going into their own little bubble, detaching themselves [from the wider world],” he says. “People use music as a form of self-medication and to put us in a particular mood.”

What does he think about the crude and weird music of people like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and others? “The main thing that is driving people like that is capitalism. The capitalist system wants a product to be talked about and this is done by making something new or outrageous,” he says.

“Rihanna and Gaga are good musicians but that isn’t enough to make a lot of money. To be talked about they have to do things that are new and demand attention. I don’t think they want to be that way, I think they know they just have to be that way otherwise they won’t get attention,” he says.

Music can convey meanings that ordinary language can’t and has the ability to promote trust, sexual attraction and bonding between people. According to Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and music producer, music not only stimulates more parts of the brain than any other form of communication it also activates the most primal parts of the brain [ii]. In other words, it can affect our very core. Music is something we are deeply interested in, enjoy and, quite often, can’t live without. That’s, perhaps, why you read this.

[i], [ii], What Makes a Masterpiece, Channel 4 (2012)

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6 Comments

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  1. Salam.
    Music in Islam is allowed as long as it does not make people negligent Allah’s in daily life.
    I listen to music to make some motivations in my study and work.
    The brain is stimulate with the music that you choose where sometimes it could change your mood too.
    This is my ten cents opinion and good things come from Allah.
    Salam
    Iena Mariena.
    Malaysia.

  2. Asalaamualaikum even 😉

  3. It seems that every Muslims who works in the industry / listens to music, seeks to justify listening to music.

    The overwhelming majority of scholars from the time of the prophet to the present day have deemed it impermissible. None orthodox minority opinions even from respected poets will never be the mainstay of the religion.

    If you want to quote the bible why not quote;

    “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools”. Ecc 7:5

    ”Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen”. Amos 5:23

    There are many more…

    Its easily to select obscure opinions from history, if you return to the textual evidences and the understanding from the majority of scholars you will find clarity.

    “O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy” Quran 2:208

    A deeper and fuller connection can be gained with people, without additional percussion.

    The reality of this world is that the distraction of music, reducea the time we have with people, increases nonsensical romantic notions of spiritual connections with another person through the medium of shared musical experience.

    Strip away the accompaniments and orchestra and the connection two people can have is beyond the realms of jingle writers and digital wizardry. Going back to basics people have to connect and truly connect as individuals rather than faux spirituality based on “primal” auditory senses.

    Music is a quick fix for those who do not want to take the time to truly engage with their partners preferring to utilise a created mood of synthesised love.

    If you want to write an article about Music I will ignore it, but when you try to endorse it through religions you know very little about, expect a scathing response.

    • This blog was not about whether music is allowed or not in Islam, it was about what music is and what is does to people. In fact, find me one part of this blog that Islam disagrees with, with evidence.

      • Asalaamuakaikum brother, Think of it more as a general response to your Islamic illiteracy. It is usually expected that the writer evidence their position, your response is akin to the pseudo Salafi “Wheres your evidence akhi?” I’m not responsible for your lack of primary research on the subject.

        Heres a start for you….Hadhrat Ali Bin Abi Taalib (RA) narrates that Rasulullah (SAW) said: “When my Ummah indulges in fifteen misdeeds, calamities will settle o­n them. Among these are singing girls and musical instruments.” (Tirmidhi)

        You might want to consider your “within our DNA” comments in light of the orthodox position of Islams prohibition of music.
        By making such comments you are presuming the position of the Lord of All the worlds, a wealth of opposition to such statements is available if you research a little further.

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