Some Muslims believe music is "haram," forbidden in Shariah Law, but one East London Sheikh believes Sufi music can be a passage to God.
The use of music in Islam is not as obvious as it appears in most other religions. Buoyant choirs, classical instruments and ceremonial processions do not accompany prayers as they do in many eastern faiths for example.
This could be due to the fact many Muslims interpret the use of melody and musical instruments as "haram" or forbidden in Islam. Some believe the Hadeeth scripture (words of the Prophet) states that the sounds of bells, in particular, have the devil behind them.
Other reservations include the belief that there is only one possible way to reach God, and that would be on judgement day. However, Sufis believe it is possible to reach God during ones life and that’s through musical meditation.
Sheikh Aleey At-Tohiri
However, Sheikh Aleey, a Malaysian priest based in East London says there is room for music in Islam and that you need to have an understanding of its relevance. He says: -
“We are living in an age of confusion, a very complicated age where people have diverted from their own tradition, they may understand the tradition that they have, but not at its core… people tend to focus on the literal and not beyond literal. …They have a shallow understanding of that aspect.”
"Music is behind life and rules of life, from music springs all life. The whole of creation exists in rhythm."
Hazrat Inayet Khan, Renown Sufi Musician
On Thursday evenings in Leyton, many devout Muslims get together for “Dhikr.” A session whereby the group chant recitations from the Qu’ran and also sing "Naseeds" or praises of the Prophet. Nazia Abbasi attends the Sheikh's sermons and Dhikr regularly, she says the sessions help her to pray. Nazia Abbassi says:
“The recitation of the Dhikr has helped me to focus more internally. It has allowed me to meditate and think about the state of my heart and mind. The advice and Dhikr from the Sheikh has allowed me to become more compassionate towards everyone.”
The Sheikh and his followers are amongst a growing group in the West to appreciate the sounds of Sufi Musicians. Perhaps more so, since being popularised by artists such as the late Ustad Nusret Fateh Ali Khan and currently the likes of Abida Parveen. Historically, Hazrat Inayet Khan and poet Jalaluddin Rumi first drew attention to this mystic tradition.
The ‘daf’ a deep sounding bass drum appears to be the only instrument used in Islamic music. Many artists believe the sound of the daf simulates the sound of a heart beat.