Maher Zain: A Muslim Musician

Muslims around the world are using multiple media to express their identities. For many Muslim artists, music has become an important space to talk about their faith and the struggles they face. The music ranges from the overtly political to the spiritual. The focus of this post is Maher Zain, a Swedish Muslim of Lebanese descent who rose to fame in 2009 and just released his most recent album Forgive Me this past April. Zain’s music is influenced by his faith and has strong religious overtones. Continue reading

Al-Andalus: A Meeting of Cultures

Alhambra in Spain

Alhambra in Spain

Yesterday, I attended a lecture put on by Dialogue International about the musical tradition of Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. Ethnomusicology professor Dwight Reynolds talked about the history of what is now called Andalusian classical music and how it is preserved in the present day.

Performance played in the lecture

According to Prof. Reynolds,  the period of Al-Andalus was defined by tolerance, diversity, intercultural exchange, and innovation. One clear example was the music in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims all contributed. While this music was Arab in that the songs were sung in Arabic, there was a move away from regional traditions in the Arab world to a cosmopolitan tradition where a new class of professional musicians, from numerous backgrounds, came together and produced a new style  of courtly music.  Eventually, the people of Al-Andalus started to think of themselves as an important cultural center that rivaled Baghdad in the East. Continue reading

Review of “Reclaiming Islam”

Mosque in Duisberg, Germany. Photo from Archi Press

Mosque in Duisberg, Germany. Photo from Archi Press

I recently listened to a show from “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” a sister program to Inside Islam’s Here on Earth on Wisconsin Public Radio. The show titled “Reclaiming Islam” aired on June 12th, 2009, and featured a number of interesting guests: Reza Aslan, Tissa Hami, Christopher Caldwell, Youssou N’Dour & Chai Vasarhelyi, and Kamran Pasha (who will be joining Inside Islam on July 21st). I was impressed by both the vastness of the content and the coherence of the idea that underlay all of the guests’ contributions: the diversity of how Muslims relate to Islam. Echoing our message here on Inside Islam, “To the Best of Our Knowledge” nicely showed that there is no one manifestation of Islam and no one medium to explore what it means to be Muslim. Continue reading