This Is Why Music Is Forbidden In Islam
If there was ever a reason for Muslims to avoid listening to music, this collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West does it. I’ve written before about the disputed belief that music is haraam (forbidden) in Islam. While I’ve never been on the fence myself (I’m squarely convinced it is), I’ve always avoided the debate and left it up to my readers to decide for themselves.
I did this primarily because there is some disagreement among Muslims scholars whether it really is forbidden or not. But this song “No Church In The Wild” by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring The Dream and Frank Ocean should pretty much seal the deal. And if it doesn’t, hopefully I can convince you by the end of this article.
It All Started With The Grammys
I’ve never even heard of this song until my iPad started sending me all sorts of notices about winners at the recent Grammy Awards ceremony. I haven’t watched the Grammys in years and I have little desire for today’s music.
But the constant push notices on my iPad and Nokia Lumia 920 piqued my curiosity enough to follow the breadcrumbs back to the CNN headlines about the big show. For the most part, there were a lot of stories about a lot of people I’ve never heard of.
Yes, I’ve heard of Jay-Z and Kanye and Rihanna and Chris Brown and Kelly Clarkson and others. But I’ve never heard of Frank Ocean or Fun. or the Black Keys until today. What can I say? This stuff holds no meaning for me.
Anyway, one of the stories talked about a live performance of a song called “No Church In The Wild” at the Grammy Awards show. Even though I had no idea who Frank Ocean and The Dream were, I definitely knew about Jay-Z and Kanye “Big Ego” West.
And I succumbed to my appreciation of good rap music (I grew up in Brooklyn, New York listening to real rap music). I know Jay-Z can spit (i.e. rap very well) and Kanye West has had some good beats in the past. Plus, I found the title “No Church In The Wild” very intriguing.
I knew there had to be some religious references in the song and just had to find out what they were.
The Meaning Behind The Lyrics
Well, I was both disgusted and disappointed. When it comes to rap, I’ve heard better from Jay-Z. Even though that disappointed me, that’s not what I really want to talk about. If you want a critical review of the song itself, I’m sure you can find a bunch of them on the countless music and pop culture websites littering the internet.
But the message behind the lyrics of this song are very disturbing. The hook of the song goes like this:
Human beings in a mob. What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a god? What’s a god to a nonbeliever? Who don’t believe in anything?
To break it down, these lyrics are saying that protesters, even though they may form a riotous mob, mean very little to the government, or “a king.”
However, a king, or government, though powerful, means nothing to Allah (God). And to go even further than that, Allah (God) has no power over a nonbeliever, one who has no religion, no affiliation, and no restraints except what he puts upon himself.
These lyrics attempt to make Allah lower than mankind. As if Allah’s might and power is derived from our belief in Him. It is as if the only reason Allah has any authority in this world is because mankind gives Him that authority.
This is similar to the Western concept of democracy. The only power the government has is the power given to it by the people. And the people, supposedly, have the power to take that power away if they feel the government is abusing its authority.
Likewise, according to this song, the people have the power take the power away from Allah if they simply stop believing in Him. In my opinion, this smacks of pure, unadulterated, atheism, the enemy of all faith, and Satan’s ultimate victory.
The Message Behind The Video
As if the music wasn’t bad enough, the video to this song is almost as disturbing. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s readily available on YouTube (though I’m not encouraging you to watch it). Anyhoo, the video depicts a mass riot with a large group of protesters attacking and being attacked by uniformed police officers in riot gear.
The entire video is basically a large group of young men (interestingly, no women) fighting the police. This video is obviously trying to draw on the Arab Spring protests from the past two years as well as the Occupy movement from 2011.
In fact, the video ends with a young man engulfed in flames running towards the police barricade. If you remember, it was a young man emulating himself that was the initial spark of the Arab Spring. But that’s not the point.
The point is that video is obviously painting a picture of the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” The good guys are the protesters and the bad guys are the cops. Throughout the video there are religious images of statues.
But what I find most troubling is that the video seems to purport that the protester is always right and the government is always wrong. It also seems to suggest that any wrong the protester does is a result of government aggression and overreach. By the way, what’s the deal with the elephant?
What I find most interesting about the video are the constant images of the Kafayeh. Throughout the video, there are several glimpses of young men wearing kafayehs either around their necks or covering their faces.
The Kafayeh is widely known as a symbol of Arab/Muslim resistance. It is especially known for Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation and oppression. The Kafayeh has become more popular of late since the United States has invaded two Muslim countries and its soldiers have found them useful in their respective climates.
I’ve seen pictures videos soldiers wearing the Kafayeh while fighting Iraqis and Afghans also wearing the Kafayeh. The irony. Like many Muslim men, I’ve been wearing kafayeh’s since I was a kid. It’s strange to see this simple scarf is now a fashion statement.
The Bottom Line
To me, the song and video seems to encourage young people to rebel against authority, primarily religious authority. Besides calling people to sin (there’s a reference in the song to a “threesome” and masturbation), there’s an obvious message that the individual is not in need of any authority, whether that be religious or governmental.
The song specifically mentions several religious themes like “the church” and “priests” that relate to Christianity. There are no specific Islamic references, but I believe the consistent use of the Kafayeh is meant to encourage young Muslims to turn against Islamic teachings and embrace atheistic, secular values.
Like most pop music today, “No Church In The Wild” is a call to young people to ignore their inhibitions and live like animals. It’s just one more reason why Muslims should educate themselves and not rely on mass media for their information.
They don’t have your best interests in mind.