Spiritual Music as a Means of Promoting Interfaith Harmony
Spiritual music may be underrepresented in modern society, but its importance and potential to contribute to global interfaith harmony are great.
By Michael Vakil Kenton
Music is a fundamental part of humanity, significant in almost every human life. Music can uplift us, connect us, help us to relax and focus. Because of its ubiquity in our society, combined with its ease of transmission, almost everyone can experience the beneficial effects of music.
In 1979, I participated in a meditation retreat led by Pir Vilayat Khan, leader of the Sufi Order International at that time. It was located in the beautiful French Alps, and while I was there I meditated several times per day, and attended talks exploring the wisdom of Pir Vilayat and the teachings of this tradition of universal Sufism founded by his father Hazrat Inayat Khan. While at the retreat and in between periods of study and meditation, beautiful sacred music was played in the large tent where we met. This was entirely new to me, as I had never experienced just how beautiful and relaxing sacred music could be.
Rays of Light from the Same Sun
I found it profoundly uplifting. I was also inspired and really moved by the inclusive interfaith principles of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s universalist teachings, which view all religions as rays of light from the same sun. These teachings are based on the message brought by all the great teachers of humanity: the unity of all people and religions. But it was even more than that unifying message. After the retreat, I felt transformed and found that I was much more relaxed and accepting of myself and other people.
Several years later, I trained to perform The Sufi Order’s Universal Worship Service. This service is designed to attune to, acknowledge and appreciate the religions of the world with readings on a particular theme from the sacred texts of the world’s religions. Music is a vital part of the service, as music enables us to attune to each religion and to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony.
Variety of Sacred Music
Aware that comparatively few people can attend these services and experience this sense of unity and harmony, I created “Sacred Music Radio.”It is based in the UK but broadcasts worldwide, all day every day with the intention of enabling many more people on our troubled planet to experience the beauty and benefits of the incredible variety of sacred music from around the world. That explains why our theme is “Peace through Music”. We now have listeners in most countries of the world. The web site of Sacred Music Radio (sacredmusicradio.org) has an interfaith section and a quote from the site illustrates how we aim to promote interfaith understanding:
One of the properties for which music was most valued in its usage in spiritual traditions was its capacity to bring individuals together, creating a shared space in which participants could feel and think in harmony. The usage of music in this way has never faded.
If music can help us explore other cultures and traditions, it may help us to respect and celebrate our differences and discover the depth of those elements of human life which are of critical importance to all of us but are often unexpressed.
The insight that spiritual music gives us can show us how attitudes which are apparently held by communities are more importantly held by individuals in those communities.
Spiritual music may be underrepresented in modern society, but its importance and potential to contribute to global interfaith harmony are great. Ventures such as the Internet radio station Sacred Music Radio are playing music from a wide variety of spiritual traditions and from performers associated with no particular tradition in order to make this form readily available to the world.
Crossing Linguistic and Personal Barriers
Music can bypass the dogmas which divide us, creating an atmosphere of respect and appreciation and increase our common awareness of spirituality as fundamentally personal and free-flowing. An example of how music is successfully used in this way is with the Abrahamic Reunion, a group formed to promote harmony between the religions of Abraham. As part of an interfaith conference at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem in June 2015, the Abrahamic Reunion provided music performed by Palestinians. This was enjoyed by people of all faiths who attended the conference.
In a time when the need for interfaith dialogue and harmony is so pressing, music and its power to cross linguistic and personal barriers of understanding may help us to better understand the spirituality of others, discovering and focusing on our fundamental similarities rather than our trivial outward differences.
(Michael Kenton is a commentator on interfaith, global peace and harmony and the founder of Sacred Music Radio. For more details or to listen live visit http://www.sacredmusicradio.com)