Lebanon's Sayed Hussein Al-Husseini is not your typical Muslim cleric. When he is not practicing and preaching Islamic teachings, Al-Husseini enjoys playing the piano and writing love poems.
Al-Husseini has thus been at the center of a public debate, with many people applauding him for challenging the stereotypical image of a devoted Muslim.
However, not everyone is a fan of his hobbies. Speaking to Reuters, the cleric revealed he was recently expelled from his seminary after sharing a video in which he played the piano.
It all started when he shared a video of his piano playing
Earlier this month, the 38-year-old Shi'ite Muslim cleric, who happens to be a keen pianist, took to social media to showcase his piano skills, hoping to "challenge the traditional image of a cleric."
The video captured Al-Husseini play classical music while donning the traditional turban and robe worn by Muslim preachers.
"I wanted to show that religious study should not be isolated from the world, or from people or from other studies," he explained to Reuters.
The video drew plenty of mixed reactions online and was viewed over 10,000 times within the first hour.
Conservatives did not approve
Al-Husseini faced backlash from some conservatives who considered his video as inappropriate for a man of the cloth, with some religious leaders deeming it as "an insult to the [Islamic] turban."
The religious academy he works at, Al-Thaqalain seminary in Beirut, reacted to the video by expelling him and canceling his stipend, according to Al-Husseini. The seminary has refused to comment on the matter.
Al-Husseini responds to critics
Al-Husseini has spoken to several media outlets about his thoughts on the criticism he has received.
Speaking to Al-Jadeed, he said he believes playing classical music "in a decent manner" is not at odds with Islam, explaining that the religion is open to different forms of "elegance and creativity."
"As long as we've established that it's not haram, then it's my right to practice it as a human," he said, adding that being a cleric does not make him "an alien."
Al-Husseini also spoke to Reuters about the stereotypes surrounding religious figures, saying, "religious men have been forced into feigning a certain way of behaving. They speak slowly. When they move, they move as if they are in the throes of death, to show that they are spiritual."