“In a struggle against all the musicians of the world”

The nation of Mali has Africa’s richest musical tradition and most vibrant musical talent.  But Muslim radicals have taken control of that country and are stamping out the music–destroying instruments, forbidding singing, and driving musicians out of the country.   The article, linked below, is worth reading in its entirety. But I was struck by this quotation:

“Music is against Islam,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the three extremist groups controlling the north. “Instead of singing, why don’t they read the Koran? Why don’t they subject themselves to God and pray? We are not only against the musicians in Mali. We are in a struggle against all the musicians of the world.”

via In northern Mali, music silenced as Islamists drive out artists – The Washington Post.

Does anyone know where this attitude comes from?  Does the Koran specifically forbid music?  (I understand how its iconoclasm restricts visual art, but music is art without images.)  What is it in the radical Islamic worldview that sets it against music?   And, conversely, what is it in the Christian worldview that has made it so open to music–more than that, so creative and  influential musically?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Booklover

    This is the saddest thing I have read all day.

    “what is it in the Christian worldview that has made it so open to music–more than that, so creative and influential musically?”

    We have been redeemed.
    We love Him because He first loved us.

  • Booklover

    This is the saddest thing I have read all day.

    “what is it in the Christian worldview that has made it so open to music–more than that, so creative and influential musically?”

    We have been redeemed.
    We love Him because He first loved us.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I think the Lord loves music, and the devil hates it.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I think the Lord loves music, and the devil hates it.

  • Joe

    Isn’t this just a natural progression of legalism? Music can be used sinfully therefore you must not engage music. Substitute alcohol and the radical Muslim in Mali becomes a radical Christian in America.

  • Joe

    Isn’t this just a natural progression of legalism? Music can be used sinfully therefore you must not engage music. Substitute alcohol and the radical Muslim in Mali becomes a radical Christian in America.

  • Mary

    “Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite.” Thomas Carlyle.

  • Mary

    “Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite.” Thomas Carlyle.

  • Random Lutheran

    It’s hard to submit when you have reason to dance.

  • Random Lutheran

    It’s hard to submit when you have reason to dance.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Joe said. I’ve been in West Africa, among nominal Muslims, and the music was vibrant. It is the fundamentalist version that hates it.

    I also have a background in fundamentalist Christianity, and they pretty much hate everything that sounds like fun.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Joe said. I’ve been in West Africa, among nominal Muslims, and the music was vibrant. It is the fundamentalist version that hates it.

    I also have a background in fundamentalist Christianity, and they pretty much hate everything that sounds like fun.

  • SKPeterson

    This is from Niger, but this is an example of what would be outlawed.

  • SKPeterson

    This is from Niger, but this is an example of what would be outlawed.

  • http://www.thechifiles.com Tom Lemke

    …what is it in the Christian worldview that has made it so open to music–more than that, so creative and influential musically?

    Possibly one reason is that our Divinely inspired cannon includes a hymnbook, which itself contains the exhortation:

    “Praise [the Lord] with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
    Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
    Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”
    - Psalm 150:3-5

  • http://www.thechifiles.com Tom Lemke

    …what is it in the Christian worldview that has made it so open to music–more than that, so creative and influential musically?

    Possibly one reason is that our Divinely inspired cannon includes a hymnbook, which itself contains the exhortation:

    “Praise [the Lord] with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
    Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
    Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”
    - Psalm 150:3-5

  • Stone the Crows

    I agree with Joe, legalism/pietism is not restricted to Christianity. Islam is rife with examples of how the object of man’s lust and desire are at fault, rather than the sinful heart. If the beauty of a woman can lead a man to sin, then the woman should be covered in black from head to toe. If there are books that cause a man to sin then all books (and even literacy) must be removed. It is all quite demonic and epitomizes how the Devil puts us in greater bondage to sin by convincing us to do everything we can to be free of sin on our own.

  • Stone the Crows

    I agree with Joe, legalism/pietism is not restricted to Christianity. Islam is rife with examples of how the object of man’s lust and desire are at fault, rather than the sinful heart. If the beauty of a woman can lead a man to sin, then the woman should be covered in black from head to toe. If there are books that cause a man to sin then all books (and even literacy) must be removed. It is all quite demonic and epitomizes how the Devil puts us in greater bondage to sin by convincing us to do everything we can to be free of sin on our own.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    What strikes me is that the Islamists are destroying mosques, too.

    For a picture of the historic music of Mali, look up the instrument called the “Kora”. An acquaintance of mine got his doctorate researching the music of Mali, and it’s inexpressibly sad that this is being driven out by these idiots.

    Not much resemblance to SK’s music, though. It’s almost a-melodic.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    What strikes me is that the Islamists are destroying mosques, too.

    For a picture of the historic music of Mali, look up the instrument called the “Kora”. An acquaintance of mine got his doctorate researching the music of Mali, and it’s inexpressibly sad that this is being driven out by these idiots.

    Not much resemblance to SK’s music, though. It’s almost a-melodic.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It seems like there are two ways that Satan tempts us. The first is by distracting us with the things of this world. The second is by convincing us we’re better than others if we abstain from the things of this world. Pagans vs. pietists, you might say.

    Of course, musical legalism is not unheard-of in Christian circles. You know, the Churches of Christ or whatever. But these extremist Muslims go the extra mile, avoiding even singing!

    Regardless, such fanaticism seems unsustainable. Humans obviously love music, regardless of culture. The only real question is what kind of music the hypocrites leading these groups listen to in secret.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It seems like there are two ways that Satan tempts us. The first is by distracting us with the things of this world. The second is by convincing us we’re better than others if we abstain from the things of this world. Pagans vs. pietists, you might say.

    Of course, musical legalism is not unheard-of in Christian circles. You know, the Churches of Christ or whatever. But these extremist Muslims go the extra mile, avoiding even singing!

    Regardless, such fanaticism seems unsustainable. Humans obviously love music, regardless of culture. The only real question is what kind of music the hypocrites leading these groups listen to in secret.

  • TedJ

    Could it be because the Muslims view sin as something outside a man whereas Christians view sin as coming from within? If sin is outside, then to become sinless you must eliminate all the outside influences that cause you to sin. Women should be covered, music eliminated.

    Perhaps this is the reason the radical (conservative?) Muslim world views the U.S. as the Great Satan- look at all the “sin inducing” material create.

  • TedJ

    Could it be because the Muslims view sin as something outside a man whereas Christians view sin as coming from within? If sin is outside, then to become sinless you must eliminate all the outside influences that cause you to sin. Women should be covered, music eliminated.

    Perhaps this is the reason the radical (conservative?) Muslim world views the U.S. as the Great Satan- look at all the “sin inducing” material create.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    What is it in the radical Islamic worldview that sets it against music?

    This is what my son calls the “fun police” because they don’t want anyone to have fun.

    Seriously these dudes and their weird take on the Koran need to develop monasticism and go hold up somewhere together to read the Koran and deprive themselves of wine, women and song.

    @12

    I am not sure. My husband was telling me that some muslims believe that the most holy are those who are pious in permissive and degenerate cultures like ours as opposed to say muslims in Saudi Arabia who have an easier time following rules because of state enforcement.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    What is it in the radical Islamic worldview that sets it against music?

    This is what my son calls the “fun police” because they don’t want anyone to have fun.

    Seriously these dudes and their weird take on the Koran need to develop monasticism and go hold up somewhere together to read the Koran and deprive themselves of wine, women and song.

    @12

    I am not sure. My husband was telling me that some muslims believe that the most holy are those who are pious in permissive and degenerate cultures like ours as opposed to say muslims in Saudi Arabia who have an easier time following rules because of state enforcement.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I seem to recall a joke that had a line sort of like, “the fear that someone somewhere is having fun”

    this situation reminds me of that.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I seem to recall a joke that had a line sort of like, “the fear that someone somewhere is having fun”

    this situation reminds me of that.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Music can be used sinfully therefore you must not engage music. Substitute alcohol and the radical Muslim in Mali becomes a radical Christian in America.

    or alternately

    Music can be used sinfully therefore you must not engage music. Substitute alcohol and the radical Muslim in Mali becomes a radical Muslim in Mali.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Music can be used sinfully therefore you must not engage music. Substitute alcohol and the radical Muslim in Mali becomes a radical Christian in America.

    or alternately

    Music can be used sinfully therefore you must not engage music. Substitute alcohol and the radical Muslim in Mali becomes a radical Muslim in Mali.

  • http://pekoponian.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Note to self- Start practicing piano again and re-string guitar.

  • http://pekoponian.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Note to self- Start practicing piano again and re-string guitar.


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