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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Stop the music!

Before becoming a Muslim, music was an essential part of my life. One of the most difficult I've ever done was to sell my piano and guitar.
I learned to play the piano when I was a little girl. My mother was a music teacher and I used to sit and play and listen to her teach. Then one day I sat at the piano and started to play. She was surprised I'd picked up so much by just listening in the background. From that time onwards she taught me what she knew, and so my life line was born.

During lonely childhood years I filled my time with playing music, singing and dreaming my dreams. Then the turbulence of adolescence began; the time when childhood fades into an misty cloud of childish dreams and fantasy that cannot be real. The growing up years of gradually understanding the double standards, injustice and foolishness of humanity and my part in it all. Whenever a question arose in my mind, a question to which I could find no answer, I'd turn to the keyboard and sing of truth, freedom and peace, in a world that seemed to thrive on degradation and destruction of the soul of man. Being a rather shy person, it was amazing that I could muster the courage to stand in front of an audience and play the piano and sing without fear - reaching out of my own weaknesses and fears into the realm where truth exists and dreams are realized, spreading my message - yet I didn't know what that message was. I just called out to the hearts of those who wanted to listen and feel my pain, my state of being lost, my desire to know who I am and my determination to never give up.
People would appreciate my song and sometimes cry at the end. They said I had emotion. They had no idea from where it came. For where does such strong emotion come from, in someone so young? You can only feel that truth of someone's words who live those words and feel those words. Art cannot be photocopied. But what a price to pay! I knew deep down that my ability to touch those who listened didn't come from me. I knew I had no control over what I gave or what they received. I felt as if I was in a long dark tunnel but far in the distance was a light and I knew that if only I could keep on going, I would reach the end of that darkness and that one day, I would understand. I kept going.
Singing, playing the piano and the guitar was a means of reaching beyond the reality, that I felt I could never change. In music there was a kind of fulfillment, a feeling of understanding and of being understood. But when the song was over, the reality hit hard - bearing the contrast was heavy on young shoulders. Music strikes at the emotions; at the inner consciousness and plays with us like so many puppets on a string. Only to see us flounce and flop in helplessness when the music stops. When one does not know what life is, or what is expected, how can one live life? There was a slogan when I was young, it went 'Life! Be in it!' I never did quite understand what that meant. Maybe that's why people go shopping to feel happy, or take drugs or smoke drugs or drink - it's a way out of reality. A way to pretend you're not really there.
One day years later, I sat with some friends who read me the chapter from the Qur'aan called Surat Maryam. First they read it in Arabic and then in English. It was my tolerant, multicultural upbringing that made me sit and listen to what they had to say about their beliefs, but when I heard the Arabic recitation, it struck a chord inside, something I knew instinctively, something I noticed straight away. Beauty, and peace. It's possible to know something even though you haven't ever known it. Like if you've always been hungry, you will comprehend satisfaction. If you've been cold, you'll understand warmth. Well, at that time I understood peace, because I'd never felt it. Then came the English translation and my mind started to work, putting together all the missing pieces of what I'd been taught and finding no spaces for argument. The story of Prophet Jesus (p.b.u.h.) so simple, so uncomplicated. I cried. I didn't understand until a bit later that they were tears of joy, for I knew that I'd reached the end of the tunnel.
I'd been a Muslim for a short time when I came to know that music wasn't allowed in the way that I'd known it. I also knew that success and peace depended on my obedience to Allah and I was determined to whatever I had to, in order to gain His pleasure and as a means to say thank you for all He'd given me. I went the next day and sold my guitar and my piano, for a cheap price because money just wasn't important.
I sat in my car and cried until the tears blinded my eyes and I had to pull over. I sat and thought, trying to figure out why I was being such a baby about it all. Finally I worked it out that it wasn't the actual instruments that I'd miss but that they had become a kind of security blanket for me. I'd grown to depend on them and I felt I wasn't really me without them.
That was my first big step towards Allah, for in that helpless, weak and foolish state I called out for help, knowing that He responds to those who call in sincerity and I knew I was sincere. Step by step Allah guided me to learn how to depend on Him. When I felt confused or lost, I'd pick up the Qur'aan instead of heading for the keyboard, and I'd read and those verses always held the meaning that I needed. In prayer I'd submit to my Maker, seeking His forgiveness and Support, knowing that without it, I'd be totally lost. I realized that this life is like walking on a precipice. One false step and you're on your own, without the help of the only One who can help. Later I learned to call it the 'straight path.' Once you choose to leave it, you're on your own. I didn't want to be on my own. I wanted Allah to be pleased with me.
So much time has passed and I've found that in reading the Qur'aan in Arabic and understanding the meaning in English, every corner of my soul is satisfied. No question remains so undaunting that could crush the soul. For the truth that underlines life itself and its meaning, is contained in the Book of Guidance; the Qur'aan. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said that the Qu'raan makes up for many pleasures of life.
Indeed, I've found the greatest measure of joy and peace in its verses and pondering on my own self, the miracles of my life and all the creation around me. It is a joy and peace that doesn't pass when the reading finishing, but is something that stays in the heart, recharging the spirit to face life again.
Now, many years have passed and sometimes if I'm in a shop or any place where they play music, I find it superficial. Sometimes I feel the emotion of the one who sings and pity them, remembering how lost I used to be. I pray for them that one day they too, won't need it anymore.

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