British Muslims, Music and Religious Authority: The Contested Ground of Discourse and Praxis

Morris, Carl orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6698-3116 (2023) British Muslims, Music and Religious Authority: The Contested Ground of Discourse and Praxis. In: British Muslims and Their Discourses. Springer, pp. 123-140. ISBN 978-3-031-45012-9

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This chapter delves into the evolving discourse and practices surrounding the intersection of Islam and music among young Muslim musicians in Britain. These artists have been creating Islamically informed popular music since the late 1990s, achieving critical acclaim and developing a Muslim musical subculture. The chapter investigates the debates within the Islamic community about the permissibility of music and its instrumentation, while highlighting the intricate relationship between religious discourse and musical practice. Through original fieldwork conducted between 2010 and 2017, including interviews, participant observation, and an online survey, the chapter examines how Muslim musicians strategically navigate their practice within religious parameters. Despite diverse musical styles, these musicians collectively occupy public roles as advocates for their faith, entwining their music with religious authority. The chapter begins by contextualizing Islamic debates on music, followed by empirical findings that demonstrate a spectrum of opinion on the permissibility of music among British Muslims. It then delves into the ways Muslim musicians engage with religious authority, drawing from Islamic scholasticism while critically interpreting it. This process, combined with their public profiles, positions these musicians as sources of lay religious authority. In conclusion, the chapter observes a shift among British Muslims towards more cautious views on music, particularly concerning the religious permissibility of instrumentation. This transformation might be attributed to religious revivalism, conservative religious thought, or the availability of Islamic alternatives to mainstream instrumental music. In contrast, the musicians maintain stable opinions about music, strategically navigating their religious commitments and creative practices. These ongoing debates reflect the complex interplay between religious discourse and individual agency in the realm of Muslim musical expression.

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