Chris Daughtry’s song "Home" struck me straight in the heart. It is a beautiful song, and it soothes anyone who is homesick and yearns to go back to the "place where love and feeling good don't ever cost a thing." Yet, to me, the song is about something completely different.
"I'm staring out into the night, Trying to hide the pain," the song starts. My sense of it is that the person is dying, literally or figuratively, and he is finally succumbing to the weariness that afflicts him. In death, he goes to the "place where love/And feeling good don't ever cost a thing/And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain." Thus, when he goes home, he goes "Back to the place where I belong/And where your love has always been enough for me…"
Whose love? God's love, I believe. And His love is the only thing that can sustain anyone through anything at all. His love is the only love that can truly fulfill. His love will take you to the greatest heights.
Isn't this amazing? That I gleaned this from a song, which is presumably about someone coming home after being far away, is the hallmark of a truly great song, one that can mean a great many things to a great many people. It is just like a beautiful painting: the experience of each beholder is different, and he or she can walk away from the same painting with completely distinct conclusions. It is what makes art enduring, and not just a fleeting distraction of this world.
My experience of "Home" by Daughtry's band reminds me of how wonderful music can be, and it reminds me how ignorant I was in shunning music in the past, out of my perceived pious religiosity. There have been (and still are) many Muslims who categorically ban music outright as haram, or forbidden. Yet they base this opinion on an incorrect reading of the Sacred Text, along with reliance on weak or even fabricated sayings of the Prophet (pbuh).
Sadly, and I admit this with utter shame, I believed and preached the same thing at one time in my life. And all I did was isolate myself from a universally beautiful human experience: that of music and the comfort and inspiration it brings to the soul. I have been blessed to understand differently today, and my life is all the more rich and fulfilling because of it.
Muslim singer and songwriter Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, underwent a very similar experience. When he first converted to Islam, he stopped recording music altogether for years on end. In an interview he gave to a Muslim magazine in 1980, Islam said that he suspended his musical activities "for fear that it may divert me from the true path." Many people, including myself, took that to mean that he believed Islam prohibited music.
Yet, he added that "I couldn’t be dogmatic and say I’ll never make music again. There's nothing in the Koran that says music is forbidden..." I had no idea he'd said that. In fact, when he re-released his Cat Stevens album in 2000, he told The Globe and Mail, "This issue of music in Islam is not as cut-and-dried as I was led to believe…I relied on heresy, that was perhaps my mistake." In 2006, he released his first pop album in decades, An Other Cup, and the world is a much better place because of it. (To watch video from An Other Cup, click here.)
The full religious argument for the permissibility of music in Islam can be found here. And, of course, if the music one listens to speaks of that which is vulgar, sinful, and irreverent, it is not permitted. Nevertheless, the bottom line is this: Islam is the religion of the primordial human spiritual tendency, or fitrah. To be Muslim is to be in tune with the most natural of human spiritualities. Music has been part and parcel of the human condition ever since it was present on this earth. To enjoy music is to be human, and anyone seeing a young child swaying to music will attest to this.
It is inconceivable, then, that Islam--the religion of fitrah--would unilaterally and universally ban all music and singing for all time. It just does not make any sense whatsoever. And I ask God's forgiveness for all the times that I told others that very same falsehood.