Music and the Devil in the West: What Does Islam Say?

The idea of the “deal with the devil” is one of the few religious symbols still present in the secularized Westernized culture, an expression used for someone who basically sells his soul, i.e., his ethics, for quick financial gain.

How quaint that the secular West equates the soul – i.e., substance it should theoretically deny because of materialism – with ethics!

Anyway, this “deal with the devil” is most often associated with the 18th-century Goethe who made it famous with his play Faust, about a German alchemist from the Renaissance who struck a deal with the Devil, exchanging his soul for the pleasures of this world.

Faust, which is considered the most influential work in German literature, would influence many artists to follow in literature, theater, cinema, and music.

Western Musicians Who Sold Their Soul

There are many famed Western musicians who, like Faust, are said to have sold their soul to the Devil.

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What’s more: they’re often associated with the violin, the most popular stringed instrument of pre-modern Europe, or the guitar, the most popular stringed instrument of the modern West.

We might now understand the wisdom of the prohibition in Islam against stringed instruments.

The link between the violin and its “associates” (viola and cello) with Satan seems to have quite an early beginning.

Robert Riggs wrote in the collective book The Violin, that he edited, in pp. 3-4, after citing works that make the connection:

The association of the violin with death and the devil in these works (and there are many more), with their temporal and geographic separation and their acutely divergent musical styles, suggests that we are dealing with a deeply entrenched and widely disseminated cultural tradition. It developed over the course of many centuries and resulted from the confluence of multiple factors, including: the early Christian church’s condemnation of dancing and the instrumental music that accompanied it; medieval representations of the Totentanz, danse macabre (Dance of death) in the visual arts; and the widespread use of the violin, after its development in the sixteenth century, in dance music.

He then writes in p. 15:

During the Baroque period, violinists who displayed exceptional skill and virtuosity were sometimes suspected of having acquired it with supernatural assistance from the devil.

An example he gave is that of Giuseppe Tartini, considered Europe’s most important violinist in his times, who died in 1770:

He dreamed one night, in 1713, that he had made a compact with the Devil, who promised him to be at his service on all occasions; and during this vision everything succeeded according to his mind. In short, he imagined he gave the Devil his violin, in order to discover what kind of musician he was; when to his great astonishment, he heard him play a solo so singularly beautiful and executed with such superior taste and precision, that it surpassed all he had ever heard or conceived in his life.

So great was his surprise and so exquisite his delight upon this occasion that it deprived him of the power of breathing. He awoke with the violence of his sensation and instantly seized his fiddle in hopes of expressing what he had just heard, but in vain; he, however, then composed a piece, which is perhaps the best of all his works (he called it the “Devil’s Sonata”) but it was so inferior to what his sleep had produced that he declared he should have broken his instrument and abandoned music forever, if he could have subsisted by any other means.

Only in Western culture you’ll have an “artist” of such importance naming his sonata after Shaytan!

Another violinist, considered Italy’s or Europe’s greatest ever violinist, Niccolò Paganini, who died in 1840, was also said to make business with Satan, which many at the time said was even reflected in his corpse-like appearance, his story being compared to that of Goethe’s Faust.

Keep in mind all of these violinists were not some rejected renegades, but “stars” of their era with a pan-European appeal; outside Italy they had admirers in France, Germany, Austria, etc.

This says a lot about Western culture, that people with Satanic leanings somehow become stars, as they do today.

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Consider the French filmmaker, and himself a violinist, Bruno Monsaingeon who made a PBS documentary about some famous 20th-century violinists. The title of this documentary? The Art of Violin: The Devil’s Instrument.

The other stringed instrument we mentioned is the guitar, which also has it history with Shaytan. Take the case of Blues musician Robert Johnson, who died in 1938, at the age of 27, in mysterious circumstances.

We read in The Guardian:

The bluesman Son House, a contemporary of Johnson, insisted he was a decent harmonica player but a terrible guitarist until he disappeared for a few weeks. Legend has it that Johnson took his guitar to the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi where the devil retuned his instrument in exchange for his soul. He returned with a formidable technique and a mastery of the blues.

Robert Johnson has been called one of the fathers of Rock music.

Interestingly, conservative Christians for many decades have been calling Rock music outright Satanic, with some sub-genres openly engaging in displays of Satanism.

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We thus see the wisdom of Islam in targeting string instruments in particular, something Judaism and Christianity both seem to have missed because of their reading of Psalm 150 among other things.

1 Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. (NIV

The Neurobiology of Music Addiction

Daniel Levitin is a cognitive psychologist who was himself a music producer and a sound engineer and worked with a lot of Rock bands in Canada.

In 2006 he released a book, This Is Your Brain on Music, explicitly titled The Science of a Human Obsession, where, outside the autobiographical notes and the sometimes too technical discussions (“pitch”, “rhythm”, “timbre”, etc.), he also demonstrates how addictive music really is.

An interesting part is when he says that music not only targets the “primitive” part of the human mind, as most assume instinctively, but also the more “evolved” parts.

He writes in p. 55:

Virtually every culture and civilization considers movement to be an integral part of music making and listening. Rhythm is what we dance to, sway our bodies to, and tap our feet to. In so many jazz performances, the part that excites the audience most is the drum solo. It is no coincidence that making music requires the coordinated, rhythmic use of our bodies, and that energy be transmitted from body movements to a musical instrument. At a neural level, playing an instrument requires the orchestration of regions in our primitive, reptilian brain—the cerebellum and the brain stem—as well as higher cognitive systems such as the motor cortex (in the parietal lobe) and the planning regions of our frontal lobes, the most advanced region of the brain.

Motor cortex, sensory cortex, cerebellum, amygdala, hippocampus, etc. Throughout the book Levitin shows that all parts of your brain, and thus much of your body, react in one way or another to music.

You’re possessed… literally.

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The Islamic Remedy

We thus understand then why it’s often through music and its “rock stars” or “pop stars” that the liberal world imposes its Satanic agenda.

For a representative Islamic position, see Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s book The Evils of Music: The Devil’s Voice & Instrument (available in English).

Therein, he gives the numerous proofs and arguments from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and also the words of scholars on why all of this is forbidden.

Without going through the book as we can’t here for lack of space in such an article, let’s quote from the beginning, where he eloquently summarizes:

From the plots of the Shaytan (Satan) and his traps which he uses to influence those who possess only a small share of knowledge, intellect, and religion—and with this he captures the hearts of the ignorant and the people of falsehood—is listening to whistling (al-muka), clapping (at-tasdiyyah), and singing accompanied by instruments, which are forbidden, that turns the hearts away from the Qur’an and causes them to become preoccupied with disobedi­ence and transgression.

So it is the Qur’an of the Shaytan and the dense barrier that keeps people from the Most Merciful. And it is the enticement of homosexuality and illicit sexual promiscuity. Through it, the immoral lover entices his lover to the very limits of their desires. With it, the Shaytan deceives the astray souls and makes it seem good to them through scheming and delusion.

This sounds so contemporary. A disgusting display of all this can be found in contemporary music, where both explicit Satanism and homosexuality are heavily promoted.

Also, many critics of Islam have accused our religion of being “fun-less,” because it forbids music (and dance, etc.), but isn’t this a proof of how uniquely true Islam is?

Islam stands virtually alone among “world religions” in discouraging something which Western history itself links with the Devil and which Western neurosciences now consider to be a sort of addictive drug.

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Ahmed Ahmed

Great article

Hasanul Banna

informative and useful

ABF

A shareworthy one. Can I translate it into my native language (BN)?