From the book MUSIC AND ITS EFFECTS by A.H. Sheriff
WHAT IS MUSIC ?
Music, according to the New National Dictionary, means "Art of combining sounds or sequences of notes into harmonious patterns pleasing to the ear and satisfying to the emotions; melody"
According to the Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary, this combining of sounds is "for reproduction by the voice or various kinds of musical instruments in rhythmic, melodious and harmonious form so as to express thought or feeling and affect the emotion;" and the word is also used for the "sound so produced," and for 'written or printed score of musical compositions." Not so technically, it is also used for "pleasant sound, e.g., song of a bird, murmur of a stream, cry of hounds."
In Islam music is called Ghina, and in Shia sheriat is counted as one of the 'great sins'. At first, it may seem unrealistic to ban every "pleasant sound"; but there is no need to be alarmed. The Sheriat has defined 'Ghina' in a different way. In Islam, vocal music means: "Prolongation and vibration of sound with variation of the pitch to such an extent that people may say that 'he/she is singing'."
It is evident from the above definition that the sheriat does not forbid 'pleasant sounds'; but if someone recites any thing with prolongation of sound and variation of pitch so much so that a common man thinks that he/she is singing, then and only then it will be 'Ghina' and sin. And it makes no difference whether the thing recited was the Qur'an, religious poem or love song.
ORIGIN OF MUSIC
No doubt music is one of the most ancient methods of merrymaking and enjoyment, of expressing feelings and emotions. It is called 'international language', because it encompasses the whole world and does not know any geographical or political boundary.
Let us find out what is the reason for its worldwide prevalence. We have it on the authority of Imam Jafer Sadique (a.s) that when Hadhrat Adam (a.s) died, his infamous son Cain (Quabil) and Satan were very happy. Both gathered at a place and invented some musical instruments to celebrate the death of Hadhrat Adam (a.s). And in the words of Imam (a.s), all such musical things which people now use for merrymaking have originated from that. (Wasael-us-Shia; Babu Tahrim-e-lstimal-il-Malahi).
So, religion and anthropology both agree that musk is a very ancient thing; and therefore, no wonder it has spread widely with the spread of the human race. But how dare a sensible 'child of Adam ' especially if he is a Muslim) "enjoy" music, which is an invention of Satan and Cain, the rebellious and disloyal son of Adam ?
Here one may ask: But what is the harm in music ? Why it has been forbidden in Islam ?
The answer is that music does have harmful effects on nervous system and is the cause of many ailments including ulcer, diabetes and madness. It creates imbalance in human faculties, retards spiritual development, and lowers the ethical values.
For details, read the following chapters.
EFFECTS OF MUSIC ON NERVOUS SYSTEM
Before explaining its effects on nerves it is necessary to briefly describe an intricate and awe-inspiring part of the nervous system itself. These details are quoted here from the "Foundation of Biology" (by William D. McElory & Carl P. Swanson and others; published by Prentice-Hall, Inc; Englewood Cliffs, New Jersyy U.S.A. 1968) and "How your Nervous System Works" (by J.D. Ratcliff; Reader's Digest - Book of Human Body) :-
"Many reflexes that help control the internal environment involve a special part of the nervous system (ANS). This system consists of nerves making up the motor pathway to the heart, stomach, intestine and other internal organs These nerves are not under voluntary control; that is, you can not make your heart beat faster on command."
"The two major divisions of the automatic nervous system are called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems."
Sympathetic nerves leave the middle regions of the spinal cord
"Parasympathetic nerves leave the central nervous system from the upper regions where they travel in cranial nerves (i.e., 12 pairs of nerves attached to the brain and serving head and neck), and from the lowermost regions of the spinal cord where they travel in spinal nerves. "Most internal organs of your body are supplied with both parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve fibres."
"In general, these two types of nerves work in opposite ways. For example, impulses travelling along sympathetic nerve fibres toward the heart increase your heart-beat rate, whereas impulses travelling along the parasympathetic nerves leading to the heart disease its rate. "When we examine the effects of sympathetic stimulation of various organs, a pattern begins to emerge. We find that sympathetic stimulation causes a number of events:
1. Widening of air passage leading to the lungs;
2. Constriction or narrowing of blood vessel in the skin and in the intestinal tract, resulting in blood being shifted from the digestive organs and skin to the muscles;
3. A general slowing down of movements in the intestinal tract;
4 An increase in the force and rate of heart-beat:
5. Release of the blood sugar from the liver;
6. Release of the harmones adrenaline.
All of these activities prepare the human being for emergencies such as running or fighting. The widening of air passages makes it easier for the human being to beathe faster and get more oxygen. Blood is shifted from regions where it will not be needed during the emergency (the intestinal tract, for example) to skeletal and heart muscle which will need oxygen and blood sugar.
The heart beats faster and stronger so that blood circulates through the muscles at a higher rate. Blood sugar is released from storage in the liver into the blood stream where it will be available to supply muscles with energy.
In short, sympathetic stimulation prepares the man for emergencies, and in this process, increases the blood pressure, retards the function of digestive system and increases the sugar contents of the blood.
The function of Parasympathetic nerves system is opposite to the sympatheticsystem "It widens the veins, releases noradrenalin hormones and generally retards activities.
"The two nervous systems run parallel to each other and in co-operation from one part of the body to another. The co-operation of the two systems is essential for maintaining the equilibrium of the body, which in turn has a great bearing and effect on the physical and mental health of man. Should at any time there be a lack of co-operation between these two systems, physical or mental disorders could arise resulting in one disease or another."
Some actions or movements outside human body can adversely affect the natural equilibrium of these two systems. One of those things is music.
A brisk and lively musical programme, particularly if it is accompanied by musical instruments, disturbs this equilibrium of the various systems; digestion is badly affected; palpitation of the heart is increased; blood pressure goes high and abnormal secretion of hormones leaves a lasting bad effect upon general health.
Music stimulates mostly the sympathetic nervous system; and it may create insomnia (lack of sleep); it may cause tempers to flareup; sudden laughter or nonsensical talks are amongst its possible effects. It may even lead to mania (a kind of madness). Such people may be seen to move their hands and feet in dancing pattern even when not listening to music.
Dr. Vollf Adler, who was a professor in the Columbia University, found out that a best melodious record of music can badly harm the nerves of a human body; and the warmer the weather the more the harm. He proved that music upsets the nervous systems unnaturally, and causes considerable fatigue.
This research of Dr. Adler had a widespread effect on many Americans; many stopped listening to music altogether. The belief that music was harmful for a progressive nation like U.S.A., reached a stage when a member of the Senate proposed a resolution to ban the music in the country. Relevant proofs and arguments were put before the Senate. But in a nation steeped in lust and materialism, not many senators could be found to vote for that resolution. (Illustre Dimanche; No. 630; Paris; as quoted in, "Falsafa-e-Tahrim-e-Musiqui", published by the institution "Dar Rah-e-Haqq",Qum, Iran)
SOME OTHER AILMENTS AND MUSIC
It is an accepted fact that mental tension creates many ailments. Excitement and tension are like a fire which destroys the natural functions of human body. And it has already been shown that music creates excitement and tension. Not only madness and nervous breakdown, but even ulcers and heart diseases are caused by mental tension.
It has been mentioned earlier that music releases the harmone 'adernalin' in abnormal quantity. This harmone clots the bloodvessels, and finally leads to heart attack. This relation between excessive release of adernalin and heartattack was discovered in France in 1957. (Falsafa-e-Tahrim-e-Musiqui).
Professor Celie experimented by injecting adernalin into a monkey. Its skin became paralysed and the animal suffered a heartattack (Ibid).
Dale Carnegie quotes Dr. Joseph Montagu to have said that stomach ulcer is caused by mental tension and violent anger. (Ibid).
Many of the presentday common diseases are the legacy of our socalled civilization which creates tension and exhausts the tolerance of physical and mental faculbes. One of the main causes of this tension and exhaustion is music. The ailments, which are caused by such condition, are diabetes, rheumatism, and even the birth of deformed or disabled children. (Ibid).
Concentration on listening to musical concerts or Jazz bands at times causes such violent tension that mental stability is thrown out of window.
The daily 'Kayhan' (Tehran), in its issue No 6626, published a news of the Reuter Agency: About 50,000 youths had gathered in Melbourne (Australia) for a musical concert. The concert overwhelmed them so much that they started assaulting each other with fists and knives. Many were seriously injured; some girls were molested The police was called in and with much difficulty controlled the situation. The point to ponder is this: The youths were so much excited that they did not know what they were doing.
Now that we have come to Jazz, and important finding must be quoted here from The Reader's Digest (Vol. 49, No. 565, May, 1969):
"Otologists say that youngsters are going deaf by blasting their ears with electronic pop music. "
Experts know that prolonged exposure to a noise level above 85 decibels will eventually result in a reduction of hearing acuity in the frequency range most important for understanding human speech. Dr. Charles Lebo, of the Pacific Medical Centre took measuring instruments into two San Francis co dance halls where the cacophony from amplified instruments caused sound intensity from 100 to 119 decibels in the low frequency range.
"Lebo estimates that under such conditions 80 per cent have their hearing sensitivity temporarily reduced by 5 to 30 decibels; 10 per cent suffer a temporary 40 decibel impairment. Some might suffer permanent damage after a year of steady listening. (Time).
In short high bloodpresure, insomnia, emotional instability mania and madness, nervous break downs, ulcers, heart troubles, diabetes, rheumatisms temporary permanent deafness and birth of deformed or disabled babies are the effects of music.
No wonder, Islam, being a religion from Allah, has warmed us against this disabling habit.
FROM PHILOSOPHICAL POINT OF VIEW
According to the philosophy of Islam, man has been endowed with two main
faculties: (i) Intellect; and (ii) Emotions.
Emotions may be divided into two categories: Positive and Negative. We may call them 'Attraction' and 'Repulsion', or 'Love' and 'Hate'; or 'Desire' and 'Anger' respectively. Let us call them here 'Desire' and 'Anger'. Thus, we have three faculties in all :
1) Intellect: Its function is to think and understand;
2) Desire: Through it man tries to attain things which are beneficial to him
or which give him satisfaction and enjoyment;
3) Anger: By this facility man defends himself against, and repulses the
things which he considers harmful to himself.
Of the above three faculties, the first one, i.e., Intellect, has been designed by Allah to guide and control the remaining two, i.e., Desire and Anger. If a man wants to remain on right path, he must ensure that the two perform their functions under the guidance of Intellect.
For example, the ambition to get rich is the result of Desire. But it is the Intellect which guides the man that the wealth should be obtained by honest labour, hard work and not by robbery or fraud.
Likewise, the Anger inspires the man to resist pain. But it is the Intellect that tells him, for example, to submit to the surgical operation, so that he may avoid greater pain in future.
When the Faculty of Intellect is sufficiently developed and dominates over the other two faculties, the man advances spiritually and ethically; and surpasses the angels, because angels have got only the Intellect and do not have to contend with desire and anger.
Uncontrolled desire and anger are dominating factors of animals. If these faculties were to be nourished by the man beyond the ethical limit, and freed from the control and guidance of Intellect, he would sink to the abysmal depth of depravity, and would become worse than animals.
After understanding this principle, it is easy to appreciate the reasons behind laws of Islam forbidding various actions.
It has been already described that the music is among those things which boost the emotions and arouse the sensual powers beyond their natural limit; music gives desire or anger an upper hand, and makes them dominant over the Intellect. As has been shown with a few examples, this state could reach a stage where Intellect ceases to function altogether; man becomes the slave of his emotions - desire and anger. A time comes that he forgets his Creator and does not remember the real aim of his life (which is to know his Creator and obey Him).
The Love and Fear of Allah promotes virtues and good deeds, and restrain the man from sins and evils. Islam aims at producing best of the characters in its followers; and therefore, it has forbidden those things which tend to divert attention from Allah and from man's divine duties. Music is one of those things which have toxic effect on human mind. Therefore, Islam has forbidden not only the playing of music, but also listening to it; also forbidden is participation in musical programmes whether it be in places like theaters, night clubs and cinemas or in one's own home.
Incidentally, the same is the reason behind the law forbidding liquor and gambling.
to be continued...