Interview with Hülya Kandemir

"God Is the Greatest Artist"

The German-born Hülya Kandemir was a successful singer and songwriter, collaborating with major stars. Then she found Islam and wrote her autobiography "Himmelstochter" ("Daughter of Heaven"). Now she is experiencing a comeback. Nimet Seker spoke with her about art and music in Islam

portrait of Hülya Kandemir (photo: Nimet Seker)
Hülya Kandemir has found a way of reconciling Islam and music

​​ Some Muslims believe that Islam prohibits music. What do you say to that?

Hülya Kandemir: That is absolutely unacceptable for me. In recent years I have intensively explored the issue of music and Islam. God is the greatest artist, Allah loves beauty. Above all, Islam is a religion of the center. God does not want to make things difficult for people, on the contrary. Many Muslims tend to go to extremes and worry about things that are actually unimportant. They forget the important things about faith and only look for prohibitions. They point fingers. In my opinion that is completely un-Islamic. For me, Islam is the opposite: it is mercy, love, openness, and above all the lack of compulsions, even in faith. Islam gives people the freedom to go their way. There are many Hadiths that speak in favor of music.

Many Muslims repeatedly emphasize that a woman's voice is forbidden for men's ears. What do you say to them, as a Muslim woman singer?

Kandemir: In the days of the prophet there were women who rejoiced when the prophet visited their tribe, who sang songs for him and showed their love for him by singing. At the time singing was something completely natural, because it was part of language. Many things were expressed musically, but that has been forgotten today. At that time there were even slaves who sang professionally. The prophet's followers made sure that these women got their money, and they listened to these singers. Some of the prophet's wives were military commanders and teachers; they had a great deal of influence over the people around them. That is impossible without speech. The prophet's first wife was a successful businesswoman. Those were not women who were shut away. That is why I do not understand where these perceptions come from.

Why do Muslims see things differently today?

Kandemir: Islam has become split; there are so many different directions, and there are directions that tend to take people away from the truth. For me there are many more enemies of Islam among Muslims than outside. In my opinion, Muslims hurt one another the most. I do not want to name any groups by name, but there are many that are constantly pointing to haram (prohibition) and bid'a (bad innovation) and thus blocking access to God's mercy.

After taking a break from music, you have started writing songs and performing again. Is there a difference in the music you are doing now?

Kandemir: No. My music was always inspired by God. Strangely enough, I cannot do it any differently. I never experienced as much enjoyment playing the other songs I have composed. God has always been my inspiration, and it has always been my need to express my love for God. For me, love is the biggest theme in my songs. Another theme is the ego. My themes have a lot to do with belief and with the inner struggle we all have to fight.

Is there an Islamic art scene in Germany?

Kandemir: It is in the process of emerging. Last year the Kreativwerk was founded to represent Islamic art. It held a creative competition called "Show Me the Prophet". That was really unique and wonderful. The Kreativwerk tries its best to address Muslims, but it has a hard time. Among Muslims the consciousness for art has regressed severely. Islamic art used to be unique; Muslims produced a lot of art. But various groupings within Islam have done a terrible thing by robbing people of their consciousness for art and aesthetics and convincing them that creating art is haram.

Is that why Muslim artists need to assert themselves again?

Kandemir: Above all they need to free themselves, allow themselves to make art. As a practicing Muslim, you want to do everything right. If you have no knowledge of Islam yourself, it is easy to become misled by other people, and it takes time to gain this knowledge.

Interview: Nimet Seker

© 2008

Translated from the German by Isabel Cole

More about "Show me the Prophet"
"At last! An Islamic Event We Can Relate To"
Last year, a German Muslim organisation initiated the "Show me the Prophet!" competition, asking entrants to portray the Prophet in the form of poetry, prose, songs, or painting. Julia Gerlach attended the unusual awards ceremony

Between Pop and Jihad: Muslim Youths in Germany
"Young, Trendy and Deeply Religious"
In her new book, Julia Gerlach points to a new Islamic youth culture: Pop Muslims. According to Gerlach, the Islam practiced by Pop Muslims may appear modern, but it is far from liberal. Ingmar Kreisl has looked at how the author portrays this new branch of Islam

Muslim Pop in Germany
Pop and Politics of Which the Prophet Would Approve
The most varied aspects of the Islamic community were on view for all to behold at the Inssan Festival in Berlin. Even the Muslim pop star Sami Yusuf and former MTV presenter and Muslim convert Kristiane Backer were there. Ariana Mirza took a stroll around the festival grounds

Hülya Kandemir's Website

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Comments for this article: "God Is the Greatest Artist"

Assallamu alaikim wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatu
Dear sister , I am very proud of you and your choice to practice Islam. I read your story , I felt that I was talking , I was praying with you, many times your words made me cry and shaked my heart. I have one comment that we should not call Allah subhanahu wa taaala only with what he most glorified told us in Quran and correct Sunna . Allah the greatest artist is not what Allah most glorified told us . Allah is: badeea : the originator of heavens and earth as in Stated in Quran:

Sahih International
Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, "Be," and it is.

We can't know Allah only through his own words (Quran )
I opologize for any mistake. I love you for Allah.
With love and respect.

Bayan Ahmed15.03.2015 | 08:50 Uhr