Mainstream Music, Muslim Style

Musician Dawud Wharnsby melds Islamic spirituality into inspiring mainstream music. This is an artist you'll want on your iPod.

"Hesham's iPod" is an occasional column about what's hot, what's spiritual, and what's buzzworthy in the world of Muslim music, and about the nature of Muslim artists.

There was a time when I shunned and rejected all music and singing as haram, or forbidden by Islam. But after many years of study and reflection, I now realize that my previous position--although out of pious devotion-- was not entirely correct, and my life is now enriched by music. True, I still do not listen to any music that is vulgar, indecent, and irreverent, but I no longer subscribe to the notion that Islam prohibits music altogether. In fact, I have found God in many modern songs, and my life is all the better because of it.

But there are many Muslims who believe that music and musical instruments are forbidden, and I do not criticize their beliefs in the least. These Muslims interpret certain verses of the Qur'an and statements from prophetic and scholarly tradition as prohibiting most forms of music. Seeking to cater to that still large group of Muslims, many Muslim singers have emerged who perform either acapella or with only drums, which many devotees believe to be the only acceptable musical instrument. Their songs are wonderful, and I do enjoy them. Yet frequently I find myself wanting more--more than simple acapella singing, or even someone singing just "Allah" with a guitar in his or her hand. I find myself asking the question: Can music be thoroughly Islamic without overtly mentioning Allah, the prophet, or Islam in it?

My answer? Most definitely.

Muslim singer Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, does a good job at portraying the spiritual nature of Islam without properly mentioning it, and his latest album "An Other Cup," released last year, is a perfect example of this. But there is another, less well known Muslim singer/songwriter who also does this masterfully: Dawud Wharnsby. Originally from Canada, Wharnsby is a Muslim convert who has been writing and singing songs since he was 17 years old. I was first introduced to his music through the Muslim media company Soundvision, when he sung Islamic children's songs without instruments. His songs were truly wonderful, and ever since then I have been a staunch fan.

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