CAIRO - Offering Muslim youth a halal alternative, an Islamic center in Sacramento, California, is planning a first of its kind concert that will host Muslim hip-hop artists, poets, singers and classical musicians.
"It's kind of risky. It's something we have not done before," Imam M.A. Azeez of Salam Islamic Center, which organized the evening at the Crest, told The Sacramento Bee on Saturday, June 15.
"It represents a paradigm shift in the Muslim community.
Kids are listening to this stuff, so why not be proactive and expose them to beautiful, inspiring music that promotes love of religion and country?"
Held today at the Crest Theatre, the concert is titled "An Islamic Expression of Traditional & Contemporary Art."
The event was first suggested to bridge the generation gap and show the community that all kinds of music from punk to traditional can be found in Islam nowadays, event organizer Rihana Ahmad said.
The event is the first of its kind for American Muslims.
But, it has faced opposition from imams of Sacramento's two biggest mosques who said that music is not permissible in Islam.
"It's a chain reaction - when people listen to music, they ask for alcohol, which will lead to adultery," said Imam Mahmoud Abdel of Masjid Annur Islamic Center.
"One step leads to another in the majority of cases. It's well known that anybody who listens to music a lot will be distracted from his or her mission, which is worshipping God Almighty."
Imam Mumtaz Qasmi of Sacramento's Downtown Mosque said there's not a mosque in the world that allows music.
"So how can we allow it outside the mosque?" he asked.
The imam added that the only instrument the Prophet Muhammad allowed was a tabla, or drum
The tabla - which will be played at the Crest - "can make you feel relaxed, but nowadays there are hundreds of instruments, and music actually makes you high, 100 percent," Qasmi said.
"Music has magic, it gets in your blood and makes you want to get up and dance and forget your personality. Your butt is shaking and she's going to get up and her butt is going to shake - where is the religion then?"
Despite imams' opposition, the event organizers confirmed that there is no Muslim-world consensus on music.
"Music certainly has the power to change your state of mind like drugs, and can motivate you to do things you might not normally do," said community leader Rashid Ahmed, a former president of the Downtown Mosque.
He added that the prohibition against music is not nearly as strict as that against alcohol or pork.
"Even the Prophet Mohammed allowed children to sing for him, and permitted music at weddings or other special celebrations, Ahmed said.
Azeez noted that waterfalls, winds and birds all make music.
"Why would God be angry with the beautiful sounds of nature? There's nothing conclusive in the Quran that states music is inherently wrong."
There are stories of how political leaders used singers to sway people from following the Quran, or settings where music was performed "and really bad things took place, like the inappropriate mingling of genders, drinking or fornication," Azeez said.
He added that there will be no dancing at the Crest performances which is not acceptable in Islam.
"Why not present an alternative? Instead of listening to rap music filled with filth, why not listen to clean rap?" Azeez asked.
The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
Islamic music has proved a great success among youth in the west over the past decade.
The huge success of Islamic songs among youth in the west started when Awakening, which has its UK head office in Swansea, signed its first artist, Sami Yusuf, in 2003.
Yusuf, a British Muslim singer of Azerbaijani origin, was described by Time magazine as "Islam's biggest rock star" after the success of his first two albums Al-Mu'allim (The Teacher, a reference to the prophet Muhammad) and My Ummah (My Muslim Community).
Muslim young artists like Raef and Maher Zain, a Swede of Lebanese heritage, were also scoring huge success among youth, particularly in the west, by rewriting international lyrics to be 'faith-inspired' songs.
music is an issue that has been hotly debated by scholars of the past and the present.
According to Muslim scholars, music that is deemed to be free of un-Islamic and unethical themes and messages, the same is true of musical instruments so long as they are not used for the above, have been considered as permissible.
But, Islam clearly prohibits mixed dancing of males and females.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net