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The Role of Music in Today's World

By Naseema Mall

Youth 4 the Future Correspondent South Africa


Sounds! We hear all sorts of them. The sounds of nature: the rustling of leaves in the wind, the patter of rain, and the crashing of waves against the rocks. We also hear the sounds created by people: roaring engines, mobile phones, drills, and beeping horns. Whether we will it or not, sounds have an impact on us and affect our mood.

Put sounds together and create a tune, and we have music. For millennia human beings have been listening to music, and while the types of music may have changed, we are still moved in some way by what we listen to.

Positive and Negative

Music is a powerful tool that can influence people's ideas and opinions either positively or negatively. Today nasheeds (Islamic songs), particularly English nasheeds, are having a greater positive influence on young Muslims than the other music available. Through their lyrics, Zain Bhikha, Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Native Deen, and Sami Yusuf, to name a few popular artists, have allowed people through their lyrics, to reflect more on their identity as Muslims and have helped bring them closer to Allah. A more recent phenomenon that is having an impact on younger people is William Yeomans, also known as Iron Sheik. His music draws attention to the follies and fallacies of governments and media, and condemns their policies and bias. Iron Sheik's music has made younger people more aware of current events around the world.

Other singers may not be as famous as the international stars but they play an important role in their communities and are able to bring joy and hope to many whose lives are bleak. For instance, Khadija Mataai of South Africa, a talented singer, was once part of the internationally renowned Ipitombi music and dance group, with whom she toured much of the world entertaining people. When she found Islam, she left Ipitombi and diverted her talents to teaching music and dance to orphans in South Africa.                           Heeding the Message

People listen to music for a number of different reasons. Many are seeking inner peace, relaxation, and escapism. Many teenagers listen to what's considered hip or cool to feel part of the gang.

As it did in the past, music today can influence people to stand up and be counted in their respective societies. Music can transmit a message so that people strive against injustice. Music has been an important element in leading some people to rid themselves of passivity and become more active. Perhaps Iron Sheik's song "Impeach Bush" might actually lead to the day when George Bush faces trial at the Hague for committing crimes against humanity!

To Listen or Not to Listen

A few months ago there were nasheed concerts held in the UK and in South Africa. While the GPU event in the UK was much larger than the event in South Africa, they were both successful in attracting large crowds, including many young people Some may argue that music is haram. But while acknowledging that there are differences of opinions, both events provided an alternative to bad music that encourages people to indulge in negative behavior.

The increasing popularity of English nasheeds are influencing the dynamics of the music world. Nasheeds have let people reevaluate their lives and the direction they want to take. A young doctor in Egypt I spoke to some time ago said to me, "I used to love listening to Nancy Agram (a Lebanese singer); now I've turned my attention to nasheeds which make me want to be a better Muslim. I still listen to Western music, but my choice of songs has changed. I listen to songs with meaningful words that talk about life and have a clear message in them. I'm no longer attracted to the songs that preach trash."

Here to Stay

Music will be around till the end of time. Music and life will continue to influence each other. Life and circumstances influence lyrics, and lyrics influence people's perceptions. Music today has turned many people's attention to the serious conditions we face: war, poverty, environmental issues, oppression, and injustice. Music like the songs of the Kuwaiti singer (also Qur'an Reciter) Mashaari bin Raashed has also brought to people's realization that the spiritual is not independent of the temporal.

As with everything else in our lives, when we choose to listen to music we have to choose wisely and listen to what moves us towards good and not to what encourages us to stray from the right path.


Naseema Mall is from South Africa and works as a freelance journalist. She can be contacted at




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