As far a music and religion is concerned I’m aware of the controversial references made my Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kanye etc. and I’m aware of religious music like gospel rock. All related to Christianity. I racked my mind and could not think of an equivalent intersection of music and religion for my own religion i.e. Islam.
After much intensive research (okay I just googled) I found Sami Yusuf. An Iranian-born British singer-song writer. Labeled as Islam’s Biggest Rockstar by Time Magazine (2006), Yusuf creates what I like to call “Muslim Music”. So far he produced four albums and tours all over the world.
The content of his songs range from praises of Allah and Prophet Muhammad, to teachings of Islam and even Islamic narratives. The songs are in English with Arabic mixed. What I like about his music is that the content is not only diverse but that the songs are actually melodious!
With the current inaccurate/negative projection of Muslim in the media I feel it is necessary to expose artists like Sami Yusuf to the world.
His music videos are also noteworthy as they depict diverse identities of muslims, something that is lacking in media today. In addition to his own website Yusuf also has a twitter and instagram account making him more like the usual pop star. I feel this is a significant point as there aren’t many strong Islamic figures in the media today that Muslims of my generation can relate to.
In his documentary on Orientalism, Edward Said points out how images of Muslims in Hollywood function to reinforce negative stereotypes thus making Islam synonymous with terrorism. Thus, the western world should be introduced to artists like Yusuf so that they can hopefully get a better understanding of our peace-loving religion through a medium that resonates well with them i.e. music.
Similarly, Muslims who seem to have lost touch with Islam and fallen towards a type of extremism can also learn from the well-balanced example of Sami Yusuf.