Teaching Islam with music

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Memorial University of Newfoundland]On: 06 October 2014, At: 10:07Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Ethnography and EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/reae20</p><p>Teaching Islam with musicJenny Berglund aa Department of Curriculum Studies , Uppsala University ,Uppsala, SwedenPublished online: 29 May 2008.</p><p>To cite this article: Jenny Berglund (2008) Teaching Islam with music, Ethnography and Education,3:2, 161-175, DOI: 10.1080/17457820802062409</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17457820802062409</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/reae20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/17457820802062409http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17457820802062409http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>Teaching Islam with music</p><p>Jenny Berglund*</p><p>Department of Curriculum Studies, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden</p><p>We can note a varied use and attitudes to song and music in Islam. In the</p><p>classroom of Sana a primary school teacher of Islamic religious education (IRE)in a Muslim school in Sweden music is an important but not uncontested part ofIRE. The music not only supports themes discussed in the classroom but also</p><p>gives variation to the education. A popular feature is when Sana shows music</p><p>videos of Sami Yusuf, a young Muslim artist in the Eurovision song contest</p><p>genre, who sings Islamic pop songs. It happens that children comment and say</p><p>that the pop music she plays in the classroom is haram, forbidden. Sana seldom</p><p>touches upon the notion of music as forbidden or unlawful in the classroom, but</p><p>nevertheless it is visible in her choices of music and the way she presents the music</p><p>for the children. Outside the classroom, in discussion Sana talks about the</p><p>necessity of finding Islamic role models that attract the young, instead of bearded</p><p>old men that might have interesting things to say but have neither the looks nor</p><p>the language to attract young people. Sanas use of music within IRE is discussed</p><p>to seize the meanings associated with music and understand the educational</p><p>choices Sana makes in relation to music. This paper is based on fieldwork that</p><p>took place during 2005 and 2006.</p><p>Keywords: Islam; music; muslim school; Sweden</p><p>A varied use of and attitude to song and music has always existed in Islam. Today</p><p>song or music is used for worship in diverse contexts ranging from chanted recitation</p><p>of the Quran with the human voice as the only instrument to Hip Hop culture where</p><p>also verses of the Quran are woven into rap texts (Alim 2005).</p><p>This article presents the kind of songs and genres of singing that are used by</p><p>Sana,1 a primary school teacher in a Muslim school in Sweden. The aim is to discuss</p><p>Sanas use of music within Islamic Religious Education (IRE) by focusing on choices</p><p>made in relation to the process of mediating Islam. This article shows a special</p><p>interest in how Sana talks about her educational choices in relation to the use of</p><p>music since certain kinds of music sometimes are considered unlawful within Islamic</p><p>traditions. However, music is often by the majority society perceived as a natural</p><p>part of young peoples lives in Sweden and Sana claims that music helps pupils to</p><p>learn cultural and religious conditions so she chooses to include music in her</p><p>teaching of IRE. For her, the benefits of music in education are greater than the</p><p>disadvantages put forward by the critics.</p><p>This article does not only present different songs and genres of singing but also</p><p>deals with the concept of music and its place within Islamic traditions. How music is</p><p>*Email: jenny.berglund@did.uu.se</p><p>ISSN 1745-7823 print/ISSN 1745-7831 online</p><p># 2008 Taylor &amp; FrancisDOI: 10.1080/17457820802062409</p><p>http://www.informaworld.com</p><p>Ethnography and Education</p><p>Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2008, 161175</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 1</p><p>0:07</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p><p>http://www.informaworld.com</p></li><li><p>defined has a relation to different opinions that exist about the use of music as part</p><p>of IRE.</p><p>Muslim schools in Sweden</p><p>Today (2008), there are 16 schools that could be categorised as Muslim schools in</p><p>Sweden, these schools have between 20 and 250 pupils.2</p><p>Muslim schools as other independent schools with confessional profile in</p><p>Sweden are financed by the state but run privately. According to the Education Act,</p><p>independent schools have to be open to everyone and must be approved by the</p><p>National Agency for Education.3 The education in independent schools (including</p><p>Muslim schools) shall have the same basic objectives as state schools and adhere to</p><p>the so-called fundamental values stated in the national curriculum.4 What</p><p>distinguishes an independent school from a state school is that it adds certain</p><p>subjects such as (in the case of Muslim schools) IRE and Arabic and that it may have</p><p>a specific school ethos.</p><p>Methodological considerations</p><p>Contact was first made by letters that were sent out to all Muslim schools in Sweden.</p><p>In these letters the aim and focus of the study was explained and teachers of IRE</p><p>were asked to become informants. My experience from teaching at a Muslim school</p><p>was brought forward as a background to the project.5 No answers were received. One</p><p>probable reason for this is that the media debate about Muslim schools at the</p><p>moment was very heated due to an on-the-spot TV programme made with hidden</p><p>camera that depicted several problems at the filmed schools. Several Muslim schools</p><p>expressed that they felt unfairly pictured (Berglund 2007).</p><p>Contact was instead made by telephone and several positive answers were</p><p>received. A school with a teacher (Sana) who taught IRE in Swedish was selected for</p><p>fieldwork for this study.6 One day per week (6 h) was spent during the autumn term</p><p>of 2005 and a couple of occasions during the spring term of 2006 in the classrooms of</p><p>Sana.7 My focus was on what Sana said and did although notes on the questions,</p><p>answers and reactions of the pupils were also included. On each occasion an hour</p><p>was spent on a semi-structured interview with Sana. The interview started off with</p><p>questions about the teaching that had come up on previous occasions and thereafter</p><p>turned into informal conversations. The time between the lessons, such as coffee</p><p>breaks and lunches, was also spent with Sana, on top of the time spent in classroom</p><p>and the interview time. On two occasions I participated in events outside school</p><p>when I was invited by Sana to religious festivities where the children performed.The study could be labelled as cross-cultural because it involves the teaching of</p><p>Islam as a minority religion in a secular-Christian majority society. Involvement in a</p><p>cross-cultural study requires knowledge about the culture of those who are studied.</p><p>Johnsson and Castelli (2002) have shown that many researchers who have studied</p><p>Muslim schools in England lack knowledge and previous social interaction with this</p><p>kind of environment. They claim that:</p><p>it is clear that orientalism must be faced head on and that there are important issues</p><p>here for researchers about the achieving of an objectively informed position. This is even</p><p>162 J. Berglund</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 1</p><p>0:07</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>more apparent since the events in the United States of America on September 11, 2001.</p><p>(Johnsson and Castelli 2002, 389)</p><p>Edward Said (1978) has described orientalism as the western style for dominating,</p><p>reorganising and interpreting Islam on western conditions. His critique of western</p><p>observation served to support the argument that traditional ethnographic texts</p><p>benefit the observer and have often reduced and muted the observed. In this study,</p><p>my experience from teaching in a Muslim school, but also from educational settings</p><p>in Muslim majority countries has contributed to knowledge that is benefiting for this</p><p>situation.8 By bringing forward Sanas actions and words in ethnographic accounts</p><p>from the classrooms and the interviews, her opinions and experiences are acknowl-</p><p>edged. Although these accounts are chosen by me who, due to the situation, has a</p><p>privileged position, the goal has been to create a story that gives new knowledge to</p><p>the reader and that does justice to Sana (Kvale and Torhell 1997, 13).</p><p>Theoretical departure point</p><p>The theoretical approach could be described as empirically grounded but using</p><p>sensitising concepts as an inspiration for understanding the situation but also to</p><p>strengthen the systematic analysis (Bowen 2006).</p><p>A central assumption is that those with influence in education, for example,</p><p>policymakers, education leaders and teachers provide different levels of choices as</p><p>well as ideas that are taken for granted and that these notions are always present</p><p>when school subjects are expressed. The choices are deliberate as an expression for</p><p>historical institutionalisation or specific consideration of some kind. Central for</p><p>these considerations is that they offer the students a certain perspective on certain</p><p>phenomena but exclude other possible perspectives.</p><p>Bobby Sayyids way of discussing interpretations of Islam is helpful since it</p><p>suggests that any single interpretation is profoundly influenced by context as well as</p><p>the historical stream from which interpreters attempt to reconstruct the spirit of the</p><p>past. Sayyid also shows that different intellectual trends do not proceed in isolation</p><p>from one another but mutually affect and enrich each other. In this study, these</p><p>assumptions work in line with the assumption that the content of IRE is not set in</p><p>advance but instead shaped in context as well as by history and can therefore be used</p><p>to discuss the educational choices that shape the use of music within IRE (Sayyid</p><p>2003, 43).</p><p>Music: a much discussed phenomenon</p><p>The attitudes towards music within Islam have varied with time, context and</p><p>religious activity. A first step towards understanding the debate about music in</p><p>relation to Islam is to look at how the word music can be understood. Several</p><p>scholars claim that it is not possible to talk about music in universal terms</p><p>(Bjrkvold 2005; Gourlay 1984). One reason for this is that music is often considered</p><p>inseparable from the intention and the occasion when it is produced (Gourlay 1984,</p><p>36). As will be shown in the following, the intentions behind the inclusion of music</p><p>are highly relevant and was also essential to consider when Sana was deciding</p><p>whether the use of music in IRE is lawful or not.</p><p>Ethnography and Education 163</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 1</p><p>0:07</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>The concept of non-music has been suggested for ritual, dance, drama and</p><p>musical sound since non-music (but not music) can be found in all cultures (Gourlay</p><p>1984, 36). The concept of non-music is relevant for IRE since within Muslim</p><p>societies certain kinds of organised sounds are considered legitimate (halal) even by</p><p>critics, for example, Quranic chants, call to prayers and other types of chanting that</p><p>are connected to religious rituals. These activities are considered permitted as they</p><p>are regarded as non-music (Otterbeck 2004, 15). This division between music and</p><p>non-music makes it possible for those who are critical of the use of music to avoid</p><p>excluding certain kinds of singing (chanting) that are included in ritual performance.</p><p>Neither the word music, nor much that could be related to music, is mentioned</p><p>in the Quran. The diverse approaches towards music among Muslims are instead</p><p>often related to hadiths,9 short stories about what the prophet Muhammad did or</p><p>said.10 There are hadiths that are interpreted in support of music as well as hadiths</p><p>that are interpreted to show that music is unlawful. This has led to varied attitudes</p><p>towards music among religiously active Muslims, varying from total prohibition to</p><p>promotion. If one considers the outer points of the discussion it is possible to claim</p><p>that the critics of music and the advocates share a belief in the strong power of music.</p><p>To the critics, the power of music is related to the idea that music distracts people</p><p>from religious duties. For the advocates, music should be used within the religious</p><p>realm for the benefits of Islam (Nelson 2001; Shiloah 1997; Waugh 2005).</p><p>Muslims who advocate the use of music often claim that what is not clearly</p><p>forbidden should be accepted until the opposite is proven. Therefore, the advocates</p><p>claim that music is permitted as there is no reference to music in the Quran, and that</p><p>there are hadiths that can be interpreted both ways (Ramadan 2004, 1823). Somescholars claim that music in itself is permitted but that the lyrics or situation where</p><p>the music is played might make it unlawful, for example, if the lyrics deal with</p><p>unpermitted sexual activities. Negative attitudes towards music among some</p><p>contemporary scholars have also been explained as a reaction against cultural</p><p>imperialism and western hegemony as a lot of music is produced in the Western</p><p>world and that the attention given to western music draws attention from God</p><p>which is considered bad (Otterbeck 2004, 15).</p><p>Authorities: previous articulations</p><p>When discussing the permissibility of music with Sana, she sometimes refers to</p><p>different authorities to justify the way she uses or does not use music in her teaching.</p><p>These authorities are presented in this article as it clarifies the ways Sana adheres to</p><p>previous articulations of Islam. These authorities are scholars that are both</p><p>contemporary and from the past. The ones that are contempora...</p></li></ul>