Tag Archives: music

Shaykh Nazim on media, ourselves, and our youth

Bismillahi l-Rahmani l-Rahim

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate One, the Most Merciful:

Our teacher, Shaykh Nazim, passed away in May – oh Almighty God, mercy him, be pleased with him, and bless his sacred heart!

It has been very hard. I believe that he lives on: through his awesome spirit, awake, alive, and active; through those that he trained, perfecting their manners; and through his large body of published work, largely in the form of recordings and transcriptions of his near-daily extempore lectures (suhbaat) regarding the path to self-knowledge and to knowing and pleasing Almighty God (tariqah). This is the path of the prophet Muhammad and, indeed, of all God’s messengers – may He shower them and all their families with abundant peace and blessings forever!

Tonight we read to the children from a talk he gave in his beloved Damascus in the spring of 1980 to some of his students, many of whom were Westerners. He spoke about the heavy trial of media – of television and magazines – as it was 34 years ago. I share his words here for us to reflect about our devices and what they earn us: will those earnings stand in our favour or be arrayed against us at our end?

Once somebody came to our Grandshaykh [Abdullah al-Fa’iz al-Daghistani] and asked him about television. What place, if any, should this new instrument that the twentieth century has created have in our lives?

What do all people want? They want to keep their brains busy so that they don’t have to use them for thinking. In the Holy Qur’an this is referred to as, “All talk that diverts your mind from Allah Almighty.” The greatest affliction of our time is brought about through television. Television is used to show young people sick behaviour and to occupy them in distraction.

My Grandshaykh answered the man, “You may watch that which you may learn from.” To look at a sex film is no doubt prohibited, as is everything which results in immorality.

No one – especially not young people – keeps to this rule of only watching what is useful and what does not provoke immorality. This is the answer of true religion: if it makes a harmful impression on your character, it is forbidden to watch; otherwise, one may watch in order to derive a hidden wisdom or to learn from it.

I have heard that in the West there are some channels that show only documentary films and other educational programs; however, virtually no one watches these channels – perhaps one person in a thousand. From this, it can be easily determined for which reasons people watch television. There exist magazines in which documentary articles are found, but people skip these pages and look for the pictures of women. In such a case, television and other media destroy good character among people and the relation between friends and in the family.

In Islam, we judge each matter according to its usefulness. If someone can find something good an useful in a given thing, that thing is permitted – otherwise not. You must use this criterion for everything: watch whether your ego finds pleasure in it; if so, then leave it. That which your ego does not like, you must keep it. Maybe you like to watch television when it shows such vulgar films and your ego is so happy with it; your soul, however, is very sorrowful. Therefore, after every enjoyment of your ego follows complete sorrow in your heart. Surely, most of you have experienced this. For instance, as someone is leaving the theatre, movie or opera house, a black cloud befalls his or her heart. Everyone knows that the enjoyment coming from outside is only temporary, and that the true place of joy is our soul. When our soul is really satisfied, it remains so forever.

Nowadays, people demand pleasure from without; however, they are wrong in this. Therefore, the whole world is full of outward pleasures, but no one is really satisfied. Perhaps a man is sitting in prison – but if his heart is free, he is happy and content. Another may be sitting on a throne, surrounded by all the pleasures in the world – but his heart is in prison, so he cannot find real happiness.

Someone asking for pleasure from without is like a thirsty person who drinks salt-water: he will never be satisfied. A cup of fresh-water will quench your thirst. but whole oceans of salt-water will never satisfy. Now, oh Western people, now that you have reached the peak of your enjoyments, if you do not give your souls from the pure spring water, you will never quench your thirst. Therefore, stop and pause to reflect one minute upon this point. Come to the true source and quench your thirst; otherwise, you will die without satisfaction or joy and without peace in your hearts.

Shaykh Hisham, Shaykh Adnan, and Shaykh Muhammad.
Shaykh Hisham, Shaykh Adnan, and Shaykh Muhammad.

Reflect, for these are huge cannonballs being fired upon the bastions of the devils.

– from Mercy Oceans’ Hidden Treasures, 2nd ed. 1988. Sebat: Konya, Turkey.

Indeed. Let’s recite a prayer – for the souls of the prophets, their families, their successors, our pious teachers, for our families and friends, and for all people of good intention – that Almighty God aid them, guide them on the straight path to peace and satisfaction, and keep them from the path of anger and misguidance. I’ll recite the prayer with which Almighty God begins His Glorious Recitation, the noble surat al-Fātihah.

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i want to rock and roll all night…

In an imaginary but psychologically emotion-laden domain, the listener who
remembers a hit song will turn into the song’s ideal subject, into the person for
whom the song ideally speaks. At the same time, as one of many who identify
with that fictitious subject, that musical I, he will feel his isolation ease as he
himself feels integrated into the community of “fans.” In whistling such a
song he bows to a ritual of socialization, although beyond this unarticulated
subjective stirring of the moment his isolation continues unchanged… The
comparison with addiction is inescapable. Addicted conduct generally has
a social component: it is one possible reaction to the atomization which, as
sociologists have noticed, parallels the compression of the social network.
Addiction to music on the part of a number of entertainment listeners would
be a similar phenomenon.

from Theodor Adorno

you can catch me at the club…

If exposed long enough to the tomtoms and the singing, every one of our
philosophers would end by capering and howling with savages. Assemble a
mob of men and women, treat them to amplified band music, bright lights,
and in next to no time you can reduce them to a state of almost mindless
subhumanity. Never before have so few been in a position to make fools,
maniacs, or criminals of so many.

from The Devils of Loudun by Aldus Huxley (1952)

(mis)education

Physiology and psychology afford fields for scientific technique which
still await development. Two great men, Pavlov and Freud, have laid the
foundation. I do not accept the view that they are in any essential conflict, but
what structure will be built on their foundations is still in doubt. I think the
subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology…. Its
importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modern methods
of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called “education.”
Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the press, the cinema, and
the radio play an increasing part…. It may be hoped that in time anybody will
be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and
is provided by the State with money and equipment.
…The subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under
a scientific dictatorship… The social psychologists of the future will have a
number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods
of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will
soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second,
that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of
ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective.
Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid
taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate. It is for future scientists to make these
maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make
children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make
them believe it is dark gray.
…Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined
to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its
convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every
government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able
to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.

from The Impact of Science on Society by Bertrand Russell (1951)