by Mustafa Davis
I am the producer and director of the film DEEN TIGHT which is a documentary film about this very subject. http://deentight.com/
The Deen Tight film tells this story from the perspective of the artists and ex-artists (those for hip hop and those against it). We give a platform for both sides of this debate to express themselves.
Some people have asked why we did not include the scholars in this film. This was a calculated decision and our main intention behind this was to protect the sanctity of our teachers due to the fact there is not a consensus amongst them concerning this issue. Some scholars have not only expressed acceptance of Muslim Hip Hop, they have actually advocated it and attended concerts themselves. Others have adamantly condemned it and those who participate in it. This can be very confusing for the Muslim masses who rely on the opinion of the scholars to navigate through the murky waters of modern life.
For example: The rap group ‘Native Deen’ won the award for Best Nasheed Artists at the Mahabba Awards in Abu Dhabi in 2006 and 2008. Several of our most renowned teachers of the tradition reside on the Scholars Counsel for this awards show. I am not claiming that this means that any of these scholars advocate Muslim Hip Hop in any way, however; one can see how this could be misleading to someone who goes to these men for religious counsel to then hear another teacher from the tradition condemn a group who performs Muslim hip hop. The Deen Tight film was funded by some of these very scholars for the purpose of gaining a thorough understanding of the issue so they could then get together and discuss it with full knowledge of all the variables.
As someone who has been studying this closely for the past 3 years, speaking with artists, ex artists, teachers and scholars on the subject… I recommend a Muslim Hip Hop Summit where qualified scholarship and the artists sit together and discuss the issues from A – Z. I know that several of the artists have private sanctions from scholars to perform Muslim Hip Hop. I have spent time with other artists who are simply doing it because they want to, sanction or not. I have spent time with scholars who say its something that needs to stop and have discussed the issue with scholars who say its not only ok to do.. but that its absolutely needed. I’m certain that if we are to label something as “Muslim” then there needs to be qualifying prerequisites in place for it to be sound, however; I’m not personally interested in either promoting or condemning Muslim Hip Hop at this time. I’m interested in finding a solution for what is clearly a very real issue in our community. I’m interested in a consensus amongst the scholars so that the masses will know exactly what Islam says about these issues. If that consensus is not reached, then I fear that this problem will only worsen over time as people begin to lose faith in our scholarship for not being able to properly guide them through these trying times. Right or wrong, we can see this trend already happening. I pray that Allah protect us from this because without the guidance of our rightly guided scholars, we will surely falter.
My main point is that if even our scholars are differing about this subject how can we expect the masses to agree on a single course of action?
I would advise people to keep Adab when engaging in this discourse. It is a sensitive issue for many and thus should be handled carefully so that there is no room for Shaytan and the lower self to come into play. I advise our artists to be respectful of our scholarship and dialogue with them in an appropriate manner. I offer advice to our scholars not to fall victim to name calling and arguing. Mentioning specific names in these posts is distasteful and if one is not careful could fall under the category of slander.
Prophet Muhammad said :”Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “God and His Messenger know best.” He then said, “It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked him, “But what if what I say is true?” The Messenger of God said, “If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” (Muslim)
Culture and Islam (in the West) and how it fits within the context of our Deen is something our scholars are still figuring out for themselves. During this process it is imperative that we remain one Ummah and if we disagree… that we do so as brothers who love one another and desire good for each other. The goal isn’t to win a debate… the goal is to do that which is most pleasing to Allah… and Allah knows best.