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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Texas Faith – Why music is central to Christmas or any religious story?

Music is one big part of the harmony that binds people; it is a reflection of one's moods. When we are joyous, we have to give expression to that sentiment to bring a sense of fullness to the feeling. 

Every week a dozen of us respond to the question at Dallas Morning News and here is my response:

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Humans are programmed to seek harmony and the spiritual masters of every religious tradition have crafted unique rituals to bring a balance in our lives and put us in sync with the people and environment that surround us.

Music is one big part of the harmony that binds people; it is a reflection of one's moods. When we are joyous, we have to give expression to that sentiment to bring a sense of fullness to the feeling.

However, the puritanical among us have opposed music and even singing, although music has been a major part of the tradition among many of us. In the early Judaic history, halakhic prohibitions on music on Sabbath observances prevailed. During Cromwell's government in England, the practice of singing Christmas carols was banned as a pagan ritual and thus sinful.

Thank God we are growing out of those attitudes now. Indeed, celebration of Christmas was legally abolished in 1645 and declared as an offense by the Parliament in 1647. It was restored in 1660. Muslims are no exception to the pie, God said, bad music is bad and the puritans among Muslims call all music is sinful.

Music will continue to be a major part of our cultural and religious traditions. Ganesh festivities among Hindus are celebrated with weeklong musical evenings; Prophet Muhammad's birth is celebrated by many Muslims by singing the Milaad Naats to appreciate the prophet. And today, December 13th, festivities begin by singing Khushali Mubarak, the birth celebration of HH Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. A month ago, the Sikhs celebrated Gurpurab, singing Kirtans honoring Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Music makes one happy and it is a part of most celebrations.

The essence of Christmas is hope; it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and a sense of completeness is achieved by sharing that joy with loved ones and the ones in need. Christmas carols are a big part of the festivities. Without them, Christmas is not complete. We look forward to the big day by counting each day. Christmas without carols is like driving without a seat belt (discomfort and guilt).

I have spent a few Christmas evenings with Mrs. Swaran Latha and Mr. Roberts while growing up, and one of my fond memories was falling off a stool while tinkering with a Christmas LP. It was Jim Reeves and I was barely five years old. I have enjoyed participating in Christmas celebrations with the Blauvelt family and my own family for many years after I came to the United States and continue to celebrate it with my family as a cultural celebration now.

Way back in the late nineties, when we organized the Foundation for Pluralism, one of our goals was to celebrate the birthdays of spiritual masters of every religious and non-religious tradition with music and learning about the good they have brought to the world. I have not been able to do that, but have always found time to write a tribute about them. Jesus is indeed my mentor, and as a Muslim I accept him as one of my guides and will talk and write about his significance to the world. And in my own tradition I will recite his virgin birth story dedicated to Maryam, Mother Mary in Chapter 19 of Qur'an and pray on his birthday.

Merry Christmas y'all.

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Mike is committed to building a cohesive America, where no American has to live in anxieties, discomfort of fear stemming from a fellow American. He will be happy to share the mission and goals of the organization in the making. Mike’s work is fully indexed at  www.mikeghouse.net and all his articles are at www.Theghousediary.com

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