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Music & The Bahá'í Faith
Recognition of the arts is a key feature of community life in the Bahá'í Faith, and music is considered an important form of expression, as well as a source of inspiration. "...although sound is but the vibrations of the air which affect the tympanum of the ear, and vibrations of the air are but an accident among the accidents which depend upon the air, consider how much marvelous notes or a charming song influence the spirits! A wonderful song giveth wings to the spirit and filleth the heart with exaltation...." -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Compilation on Music, in Vol. II of The Compilation of Compilations, p. 75
In the Bahá'í Faith, "Music is regarded as a praiseworthy science...use spiritual melodies, songs and tunes, and to bring the earthly music into harmony with the celestial melody. Then thou wilt notice what a great influence music hath and what heavenly joy and life it conferreth." -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, ibid p. 5)
Artists, however, are cautioned to remember that music -- or any of the arts -- should not be used for negative or destructive purposes. "We have permitted you to listen to music and singing. Beware lest such listening cause you to transgress the bounds of decency and dignity….We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high. Change it not into wings for self and passion." Bahá'u'lláh, The Book of Laws, ibid p.73
Like any other tool known to us, music can be misused through ignorance or malice, but just because a child may use a hammer to dent the car or smash the dog's tail does not mean we abandon either the child or the tool! No, we generally seek to educate the child in the proper uses of a hammer. And when we do that, a large part of the instruction has less to do with the tool than with the reasons it would be better to use it constructively and not to hit the car or the dog!
"Music is an important means to the education and development of humanity, but the only true way is through the Teachings of God. Music is like this glass, which is perfectly pure and polished. It is precisely like this pure chalice before us, the Teachings of God, the utterances of God are like the water. When the glass or chalice is absolutely pure and clear, and the water is perfectly fresh and limpid, then it will confer Life; wherefore, the Teaching s of God, whether they be in the form of anthems or communes or prayers, when they are melodiously sung, are most impressive…. In this Cause the art of music is of paramount importance.
"In short, musical melodies form an important role in the associations, or outward and inward characteristics, or qualities of man, for it is the inspirer or motive power of both the material and spiritual susceptibilities. " 'Abdu'l-Bahá, ibid pp. 77-78
I remember from my childhood, that certain kinds of music always made me happy, and I was lucky enough to have parents who loved and provided many kinds of music for their children. We were not a religious family, in the sense of belonging to one or another church, but I have always loved happy church music. The Biblical admonistion to "Make a joyous noise," has got to be one of the best pieces of advice out there, because it can unify a crowd of folks who might otherwise never even speak to one another.
Language is not as important as the melody, I have learned in traveling. The right kind of music, the right purpose in the heart of the musician, can bring out smiles and good spirits in listeners. Or better, can move the audience into joining the song!
For a more in depth study of what Bahá'í Writings on the importance and use of music in spiritual development, there is a compilation of extracts from them online at: Bahá'í Library
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