Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Islam and Hindustani Music

One of the reasons I cannot think of Islam as being a fundamentally intolerant religion is that almost all of my Hindustani music teachers, and many of my favorite Hindustani musicians are Muslim. These men are extremely devout, and see their music as their spiritual practice. They also frequently combine their Islam with reverence for various Hindu deities. Salamat Ali Khan came from a four hundred year old lineage that was commissioned by the Emperor Akbar to perform and preserve Hindu religious songs. Ali Akbar Khan and his father Allaudin Khan were both devotees of the Goddess Saraswati, and there are several portraits of her at the Ali Akbar College of music, including a stained glass window. Bismillah Khan was a devout Shia Moslem. He prayed five times a day, abstained from pork and alcohol, took the pilgrimage to Mecca, and regularly gave alms to the poor. He also abstained from beef to honor the values of Hinduism. However, his family has played in Hindu temples for generations. He is also a devotee of Saraswati, and he onced received a vision of a Hindu avatar while playing. And how does he justify this to the fundamentalist Shia who claim that all music is haraam? (damned). The following quote (from INDIA TODAY, July 15, 1986, pp. 122-131) expresses his integrity and devotion with an eloquence that requires no further comment.

“When maulvis and maulanas ask me about this, I tell them, sometimes with irritation, that I can't explain it. I feel it. I feel it. If music is haraam then why has it reached such heights? Why does it make me soar towards heaven? The religion of music is one. All others are different. I tell the maulanas, this is the only haqeeqat (reality). This is the world. My namaaz is the seven shuddh and five komal surs. And if this is haraam, then I say: aur haraam karo, aur haraam karo (if music be a thing of sin, sin on)."

“I was once in an argument with some Shia maulavis in Iraq. They were all well-versed in their subject and were making several effective arguments about reasons why music ought to be damned. At first I was left speechless. Then I closed my eyes and began to sing Raga Bhairav: Allah-hee....Allah-hee....Allah-hee...I continued to raise the pitch. I opened my eyes and I asked them : 'Is this haraam? I'm calling God. I'm thinking of Him, I'm searching for Him. Isn't this namaaz? Why do you call my search haraam?' They fell silent.”


  1. regarding this isue of certain 'sufi's' who pay homage to hindu deities or might worship hindu deities and who apperantly have 'Muslim' names; well on this one, not only mainstream Islam but literally all Islamic sects look upon such 'Muslims' as heretics who are outside the folds of Islam, for there is a very simple and fundemental principle of Islam that a person has to accept in order for him to belong to the islamic faith, and that is that only ALlah [swt] [the one and only God] is worthy of worship

    Sufism is indeed part and parcel of traditional Islam and here is a link that will explain it's definition and correct place in Islam:


    the one's who call themselves 'sufi's' and worship other deities besides Allah are obviously the fake one's

    Music is considered prohibbited in mainstream Islam too but as there is a minority opinion that it is allowed in spiriutal dhikr's [rememberance of ALlah and meditation], this is why we do not condemn any one who uses music in this way; here are a few links that explains all this in more detail:



    And the following link is an explanation on music, by a great sufi himself, Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller [see vid in link]:


    hope this helps

  2. Perhaps these Men are not Muslims, but I know that they are great souls and great artists.

  3. It's ridiculous to look into some religious books before you sing & Dance..simply ridiculous..

  4. If music were haram God would not have made birds sing---he would not have given us mathematics.......and so on.....
    What God has created is always good---Human beings can use it for benefit or for harm and this changes the value of a thing to good or bad.