Published on April 16th, 2012 | by Alan Cross


Changing Music for the Islamic World

Last week, I was in Doha, Qatar, during a sandstorm.  With little to do until what seemed like half of Saudi Arabia blew threw, I went shopping at an OTT mall called Villagio.  The place had the usual amenities of malls in this part of the world:  a skating rink, some kind of water feature (in this case, a replica of a Veneitan canal) and, lo and behold, a Virgin Megastore.  

Yes, they still exist, albeit not in the form they used to.  The place is filled with computers, t-shirts, DVDs, computer games, audio gear, iPod accessories, magazines, books, headphones, small appliances, TVs, posters and plenty of Spongebob Squarepants plushies (they seem to be really big in Doha for some reason).

CDs?  Yeah, a few.  There were four aisles of very short racks way, way in the back corner.  The Rock and Pop section took up just one of these.  This didn’t stop me from asking one of the clerks about the local music scene.  What I learned was rather interesting.

It’s the belief of some Muslims that music is technically prohibited by Muslim law.  To get around this little issue, many artists take western pop songs and substitute religious lyrics.  The melodies stay intact.  Yes, it would seem there are some copyright issues involved, but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

Take Raef, for example.  Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is more-or-less okay because Friday is the Muslim holy day and needs just a few tweaks to make it more acceptable.  But he also covers Chris Brown’s “With You.”  Those lyrics become

My Lord, no one else will do

With every test you put me through, miracles you help me do

If I have you, I don’t need money, I dn’t need cars

Lord, you’re my all.



About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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