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The Issue of Music in Islam

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Dear members

This topic is where you can read about and discuss the issue of music and singing in Islam. Discussing it elsewhere is not allowed.

 

Before we move to the real talk, that of scholars, let me just say a few words.

Musical instruments are tools. And like any other tool, it could be used beneficially or harmfully. Take the computer for example, you can spread the words of Islam with it, or you can use it to a complete waste of your time, or even learn or teach harmful stuff. Its not the tool which is haram or halal then, its what you do with it. Music can be educating, it can bring innocent pleasure to your ears (Allah :D created us with a sense of appreciation when we listen to the harmony in music) it can bring graceful feelings to the hearts, fun to children, and joyful moments in social occassions, and can leave you with calm and tranquility. On the other hand, it can accompany semi-naked dancers that arouse haram feelings in you, or accompany some singer with seducing lyrics.

 

But don't take it from me. Let's see what different scholars say about music.

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Question: Is instrumental music lawful in Islam? Which musical instruments does Islam permit?

 

Answered by Sheikh Ahmad `Abd al-Latîf, professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh

 

Al-Salâm `Alaykum wa Rahmah Allah wa Barakâtuh.

 

The majority of Muslim scholars prohibit music and musical instruments. It is mentioned in Sahîh al-Bukhâri that Abû Mâlik al-Ash`arî said: “I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say: “There will be a group of my people who will legalize for themselves adultery, pure silk, intoxicants, and stringed instruments."

 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I was ordered to avoid two foolish and vile sounds; a sound of a musical tunes and Satan’s musical instruments, and cries made on account of a calamity.” [sunan al-Tirmidhî]

 

The only exception to this ruling is the duff, a tambourine without bells, which only women are allowed to use among themselves as an accompaniment to their singing at weddings and on other festive occasions. This was permitted by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

 

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fatwa issued by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi:

 

The whole issue of singing is controversial, whether it is with musical accompaniment or not. Some issues succeeded to gain the Muslim scholars’ agreement, while others failed. All scholars have unanimous view on the prohibition of all forms of singing and music that incites debauchery, indecency, or sin. As for musical instruments, given the weakness of the evidence indicating that they are forbidden, the rule to be applied here is the one states that all things are originally deemed permissible as long as there is no Shari`ah text that prohibits them.

 

Singing is no more than melodious words; if these are good, singing is considered good; but if they are bad, such singing is deemed bad. Talk that contains forbidden content is prohibited. What if that talk is accompanied with rhythm and melody?

 

Scholars agree on the permissibility of singing without instrumental accompaniment and where the content is not prohibited. This sort of singing is allowed only in certain occasions such as: weddings, feasts, welcoming a traveler, and the like. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) that states: “He (peace and blessings be upon him) asked, ‘Have you given the girl (i.e., the bride) anything as a present?’ They (the attendants) replied, ‘Yes.’ He asked, 'Did you send a singer along with her?' 'No', said `A'ishah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then said, 'The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing: Here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.'" In this case, we can say that a woman can sing only in front of women and her non-marriageable male kin.

 

In the subject of musical instruments, scholars disagree on the matter. Some of them permit all sorts of singing, be it accompanied with musical instruments or not, and even consider it recommended. A second group of scholars permit singing only when is not accompanied with a musical instrument. A third group declare it to be prohibited whether it be accompanied with a musical instrument or not; they even consider it as a major sin. In supporting their view, they cite the hadith narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Malik or Abu `Amir Al-Ash`ari (doubt from the sub-narrator) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 'From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk (clothes), the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful.' Although this hadith is in Sahih Al-Bukhari, its chain of transmission is not connected to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and this invalidates its authenticity. Ibn Hazm rejects it for that very reason. Moreover, the sub-narrator, Hisham Ibn `Ammar is declared ‘weak’ by many scholars of the Science of Hadith Methodology.

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Besides, this hadith does not clearly prohibit the use of musical instruments, for the phrase 'consider as lawful,' according to Ibn Al-`Arabi, has two distinct meanings:

 

First: Such people think all these (the things mentioned) are lawful.

 

Second: They exceed the proper limits that should be observed in using these instruments. If the first meaning is intended, such people would be thus disbelievers.

 

In fact, the hadith in hand dispraises the manners of a group of people who indulge themselves in luxuries, drinking alcohol and listening to music. Therefore, Ibn Majah narrates this hadith from Abu Malik Al-Ash`ari in the following wording: "From among my followers there will be some people who will drink wine, giving it other names while they listen to musical instruments and the singing of female singers; Allah the Almighty will make the earth swallow them and will turn them into monkeys and pigs.†(Reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih)

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Conclusion on Permissibility of Musical Instruments

 

In the light of the above, it is clear that the religious texts that stand as a basis for those who maintain that singing is haram are either ambiguous or inauthentic. None of the hadiths attributed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is valid as evidence on the judgment of prohibition. Moreover, all these hadiths are declared ‘weak’ by the followers of Ibn Hazm, Malik, Ibn Hanbal, and Ash-Shafi`i.

 

In his book, Al-Ahkam, Al-Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn Al-`Arabi says, “None of the hadiths maintaining that singing is prohibited are considered authentic (by the scholars of the Science of Hadith Methodology).” The same view is maintained by Al-Ghazali and Ibn An-Nahwi in Al-`Umdah. Ibn Tahir says, “Not even a single letter from all these Hadiths was proved to be authentic.”

 

Ibn Hazm says, “All the hadiths narrated in this respect were invented and falsified.”

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Proofs of Those Who Maintain that Singing is Halal:

 

First: The Textual Proofs:

 

They base their argument on some authentic hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). One of these hadiths is the following:

 

`A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him, came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Bu`ath (a story about the pre-Islamic war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Awus). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) laid down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, ‘Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)?’ Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) turned his face towards him and said, ‘Leave them.’ When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signaled to those girls to go out and they left.†(Reported by Al-Bukhari)

 

This indicates that these two girls were not so young as claimed by some scholars. If they were, Abu Bakr would not have been angry with them in such manner. In addition, in this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wanted to teach the Jews that Islam has room for merriment and that he himself was sent with a moderate and flexible legislation. There is also another important lesson to learn here. It draws our attention to the fact that one needs to introduce Islam to others in a good fashion, along with displaying its moderateness and magnanimity.

 

Moreover, we can also cite as corroborating this Allah’s words that read, “But when they spy some merchandise or pastime they break away to it and leave thee standing. Say: That which Allah hath is better than pastime and than merchandise, and Allah is the best of providers.†(Al-Jumu`ah: 11)

 

In this verse, Allah Almighty joins pastime with merchandise. He does not dispraise any of them, He just only rebuked the Companions who left Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone giving the khutbah (Friday Sermon), when they all rushed to attend to the caravan and beating of the drums celebrating its arrival.

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Second: In Respect of Islam’s Spirit and Basics:

 

It is a fact that Allah had prohibited for the Children of israel some of the good things of this worldly life as a punishment for their misdeeds.

 

He says, “Because of the wrongdoing of the Jews, We forbade them good things which were (before) made lawful unto them, and because of their much hindering from Allah's way. And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it, and of their devouring people's wealth by false pretences. We have prepared for those of them who disbelieve a painful doom.†(An-Nisa’: 160-161)

 

Before sending Prophet Muhammad, He Almighty referred to him in the earlier scriptures as, “Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul.†(Al-A`raf: 157)

 

Thus, Islam left nothing good or sound but declared it to be halal (lawful). This is a sign of mercy to this Ummah (nation or community), moving along the line of its comprehensive and eternal message. Allah Almighty says, “They ask you (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you.†(Al-Ma’idah: 4)

 

If we are to delve deeply into this matter, we will find that love for singing and melodic voices are almost a human instinct. We can observe an infant lying in his cradle soothed and sleeping by the sound of a lullaby. Mothers and nannies are always in the habit of singing for babies and children. Moreover, birds and animals respond to nice voices and rhythmic melodies.

 

Thereupon, if singing is thus a human instinct, it is not for Islam to defy humankind’s instincts. Islam came to refine and promote the human instinct. Ibn Taymyiah says, “Prophets were sent to polish and discipline man’s instinct and not to change or modify it.†This is pursuant to the hadith that reads, “When Allah’s Messenger came to Madinah, he found them (i.e., the people of Madinah) celebrating two days. He said, ‘What are these days?’ They replied, ‘We used to rejoice in these days during the pre-Islamic era.’ He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Verily, Allah Almighty has given you two alternative days which are much better: these are Al-Adha and Al-Fitr days (`Eids).’†(Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i)

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Moreover, if singing is to be considered rejoicing and play, these are not haram; this is in pursuant to the famous idea that man needs some time to relax a bit and rejoice. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Hanzalah who thought himself to be a hypocrite for his attendance to his wife and children and the change that affected him when he was apart from Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “O Hanzalah! Part of your time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and part of time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation).” (Reported by Muslim)

 

`Ali Ibn Abu Talib says, “Amuse yourselves for some time, for if hearts are exposed to too much strain, they turn blind.”

 

Abu Ad-Darda’ said, “I refresh myself with some amusement in order to make myself stronger on the path of right.”

 

Imam Al-Ghazali answered someone who asked him: “Isn't singing some kind of play and rejoice?” He said, “Yes. But, all that exists in this present life is mere play and rejoice. All that takes place between a husband and his wife is play, except sexual intercourse that is the direct cause of reproducing children. This has been reported from Allah’s Messenger and his honorable Companions.”

 

In fact, leisure time is refreshing to the heart and alleviates its tensions at the same time. Excessive strain and efforts render the heart bored and blind. Amusing the self refreshes and renews its strength and vigor. One who continuously works hard at something should take a break for a while in order to restore and regain his energy and firm will lest he totally collapses in future. When one takes a break, he thus restores his strength and vigor. Only Prophets can stand absolute seriousness. Having leisure time is a form of treatment for diseases of the self, weariness and boredom. But, leisure should not be excessive. This will go against the whole issue of rejoicing hearts to make them able to go on.

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One who is familiar with and experienced in the nature of the human heart and self knows for certain that recreation and relaxation are necessary treatments for one’s well-being.

 

These proofs on the permissibility of singing are extracted from the texts and rules of Islam, and these are sufficient to clarify the issue.

 

In addition to this, the people of Madinah, who were very pious and God-fearing, the Zahiriyyah, who were very literal regarding the textual proofs, and the Sufis, who were very strict and rigid, were all quoted to have declared the permissibility of singing.

 

Imam Ash-Shawkani says in his book “Nayl Al-Awtarâ€, “The people of Madinah and those who agreed with them from among the Zahiriyyah and the Sufis maintain that singing is permissible, even when it is accompanied by a musical instrument such as the lute or the flute. Abu Mansur Al-Bughdadi Ash-Shafi`i narrate that `Abdullah Ibn Ja`far saw nothing wrong in singing, and he, himself, used to compose the music for his own slaves who used to sing these melodies in his presence. This took place during the time of Commander of the Faithful, `Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Abu Ja`far Al-Bughdadi narrates the same after Al-Qadi Shurayh, Sa`id Ibn Al-Musaiyb, `Ata’ Ibn Abu Rabah, Az-Zuhri and Ash-Shi`bi.â€

 

Ar-Ruwaiyani narrates on the authority of Al-Qaffal that Malik Ibn Anas maintained that singing with musical instruments is permissible. Also, Abu Mansur Al-Furani quotes Malik as maintaining that playing the flute is permissible.

 

Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir narrates, “The people of Madinah never disputed over the permissibility of playing the lute.â€

 

Ibn An-Nahwi narrates in his “Al-`Umdahâ€: “Ibn Tahir said, ‘The people of Madinah showed consensus over this (issue). Also, all the Zahiriyyah maintained the same.'â€

 

Al-Mawardi attributes the permissibility of playing the lute to some of the Shafi`i followers and students. This has been narrated also by Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir after Abu Ishaq Ash-Shirazi; and it is narrated by Al-Isnawi after Ar-Ruwaiyani and Al-Mawardi. Again, this is narrated by Al-Adfuwi after Sheikh `Izz Ad-Deen Ibn `Abd As-Salam. It is also narrated after Abu Bakr Ibn Al-`Arabi.

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All these scholars consider singing that is accompanied by musical instruments permissible, but as for singing that is not accompanied by musical instruments, Al-Adfuwi says, “In some of his jurisprudence-related books, Al-Ghazali narrates the consensus of the scholars on its permissibility." Also, Ibn Tahir narrates the consensus of the Prophet’s Companions and those who succeeded them on this very topic. Ibn An-Nahwi states in Al-`Umdah that singing and listening was deemed permissible by a group of the Companions and the Followers.

 

Conditions and Terms:

 

There are some conditions and terms that should be observed regarding listening to singing, as follows:

 

1. Not all sorts of singing are permissible. Rather, the permissible song should comply with the Islamic teachings and ethics. Therefore, the songs praising the tyrants and corrupt rulers disagree with Islamic teachings. In fact, Islam stands against transgressors and their allies, and those who show indifference to their transgression. So, the same goes for those songs that imply giving praises to such attitude!

 

2. Also, the way the song is performed weighs so much. The theme of the song may be good, but the performance of the singer – through intending excitement and arousing others’ lusts and desires along with trying to seduce them – may move it to the area of prohibition, suspicion or even detest. The Glorious Qur’an addresses the wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, “O you wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech." (Al-Ahzab: 32) So, one has to show caution to music when there is softness of speech accompanied with rhyme, melody, and special effects!

 

3. Singing should not be accompanied with something that is prohibited such as alcohol, nakedness, mixing of men with women that is common in pubs and nightclubs, etc.

 

4. Islam has declared excessiveness as prohibited in everything. The same goes for excessiveness in leisure and recreation even though these things are permissible ! This indicates that the emptiness of the mind and heart has to be observed and tackled during man’s short-term life. One should know that Allah Almighty will ask every one about his life and his youth in particular.

 

There are some things in which one is to be his own judge and Mufti. If there is some kind of singing that arouses his own lust or desire, and takes him away from the real life, he should avoid it then and block that very gate from which the winds of trial and seduction may come and erase his religion, morals and heart. If he does this, he will live in peace and tranquility.

 

 

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Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid on music

 

Praise be to Allaah.

 

Ma’aazif is the plural of mi’zafah, and refers to musical instruments (Fath al-Baari, 10/55), instruments which are played (al-Majmoo’, 11/577). Al-Qurtubi (may Allaah have mercy on him) narrated from al-Jawhari (may Allaah have mercy on him) that ma’aazif means singing. In his Sihaah it says that it means musical instruments. It was also said that it refers to the sound of the instruments. In al-Hawaashi by al-Dimyaati (may Allaah have mercy on him) it says: ma’aazif means drums (dufoof, sing. daff) and other instruments which are struck or beaten (Fath al-Baari, 10/55).

 

Evidence of prohibition in the Qur’aan and Sunnah:

 

Allaah says in Soorat Luqmaan (interpretation of the meaning):

 

“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allaah…” [Luqmaan 31:6]

 

The scholar of the ummah, Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: this means singing. Mujaahid (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: this means playing the drum (tabl). (Tafseer al-Tabari, 21/40).

 

Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: this aayah was revealed concerning singing and musical instruments (lit. woodwind instruments). (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 3/451).

 

Al-Sa’di (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: this includes all manner of haraam speech, all idle talk and falsehood, and all nonsense that encourages kufr and disobedience; the words of those who say things to refute the truth and argue in support of falsehood to defeat the truth; and backbiting, slander, lies, insults and curses; the singing and musical instruments of the Shaytaan; and musical instruments which are of no spiritual or worldly benefit. (Tafseer al-Sa’di, 6/150)

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Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The interpretation of the Sahaabah and Taabi’in, that ‘idle talk’ refers to singing, is sufficient. This was reported with saheeh isnaads from Ibn ‘Abbaas and Ibn Mas’ood. Abu’l-Sahbaa’ said: I asked Ibn Mas’ood about the aayah (interpretation of the meaning), ‘“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks’ [Luqmaan 31:6]. He said: By Allaah, besides Whom there is no other god, this means singing – and he repeated it three times. It was also reported with a saheeh isnaad from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) that this means singing. There is no contradiction between the interpretation of “idle talk†as meaning singing and the interpretation of it as meaning stories of the Persians and their kings, and the kings of the Romans, and so on, such as al-Nadr ibn al-Haarith used to tell to the people of Makkah to distract them from the Qur’aan. Both of them are idle talk. Hence Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Idle talk†is falsehood and singing. Some of the Sahaabah said one and some said the other, and some said both. Singing is worse and more harmful than stories of kings, because it leads to zinaa and makes hypocrisy grow (in the heart); it is the trap of the Shaytaan, and it clouds the mind. The way in which it blocks people from the Qur’aan is worse than the way in which other kinds of false talk block them, because people are naturally inclined towards it and tend to want to listen to it. The aayaat condemn replacing the Qur’aan with idle talk in order to mislead (men) from the path of Allaah without knowledge and taking it as a joke, because when an aayah of the Qur’aan is recited to such a person, he turns his back as if he heard them not, as if there were deafness in his ear. If he hears anything of it, he makes fun of it. All of this happens only in the case of the people who are most stubbornly kaafirs and if some of it happens to singers and those who listen to them, they both have a share of this blame. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan, 1/258-259).

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Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

 

“[Allaah said to Iblees:] And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allaah’s disobedience)…†[al-Israa’ 17:64]

 

It was narrated that Mujaahid (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice†– his voice [the voice of Iblees/Shaytaan] is singing and falsehood. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This idaafah [possessive or genitive construction, i.e., your voice] serves to make the meaning specific, as with the phrases [translated as] “your cavalry†and “your infantry†[later in the same aayah]. Everyone who speaks in any way that is not obedient to Allaah, everyone who blows into a flute or other woodwind instrument, or who plays any haraam kind of drum, this is the voice of the Shaytaan. Everyone who walks to commit some act of disobedience towards Allaah is part of his [the Shaytaan’s] infantry, and anyone who rides to commit sin is part of his cavalry. This is the view of the Salaf, as Ibn ‘Abi Haatim narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas: his infantry is everyone who walks to disobey Allaah. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan).

 

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

 

“Do you then wonder at this recitation (the Qur’aan)?

 

And you laugh at it and weep not,

 

Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)â€

 

[al-Najm 53:59-61]

 

‘Ikrimah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: it was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas that al-sumood [verbal noun from saamidoon, translated here as “Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)â€] means “singingâ€, in the dialect of Himyar; it might be said “Ismidi lanaa†[‘sing for us’ – from the same root as saamidoon/sumood] meaning “ghaniy†[sing]. And he said (may Allaah have mercy on him): When they [the kuffaar] heard the Qur’aan, they would sing, then this aayah was revealed.

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Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning) “Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)†– Sufyaan al-Thawri said, narrating from his father from Ibn ‘Abbaas: (this means) singing. This is Yemeni (dialect): ismad lana means ghan lana [sing to us]. This was also the view of ‘Ikrimah. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer).

 

It was reported from Abu Umaamah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not sell singing slave women, do not buy them and do not teach them. There is nothing good in this trade, and their price is haraam. Concerning such things as this the aayah was revealed (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allaah…’ [Luqmaan 31:6].†(Hasan hadeeth)

 

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

 

“Among my ummah there will certainly be people who permit zinaa, silk, alcohol and musical instruments…†(Narrated by al-Bukhaari ta’leeqan, no. 5590; narrated as mawsool by al-Tabaraani and al-Bayhaqi. See al-Silsilah al-Saheehah by al-Albaani, 91).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This is a saheeh hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari in his Saheeh, where he quoted it as evidence and stated that it is mu’allaq and majzoom. He said: Chapter on what was narrated concerning those who permit alcohol and call it by another name.

 

This hadeeth indicates in two ways that musical instruments and enjoyment of listening to music are haraam. The first is the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “[they] permit†which clearly indicates that the things mentioned, including musical instruments, are haraam according to sharee’ah, but those people will permit them. The second is the fact that musical instruments are mentioned alongside things which are definitely known to be haraam, i.e., zinaa and alcohol: if they (musical instruments) were not haraam, why would they be mentioned alongside these things? (adapted from al-Silsilah al-Saheehah by al-Albaani, 1/140-141)

 

Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This hadeeth indicates that ma’aazif are haraam, and ma’aazif means musical instruments according to the scholars of (Arabic) language. This word includes all such instruments. (al-Majmoo’, 11/535).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: And concerning the same topic similar comments were narrated from Sahl ibn Sa’d al-Saa’idi, ‘Imraan ibn Husayn, ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr, ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Umaamah al-Baahili, ‘Aa’ishah Umm al-Mu’mineen, ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, Anas ibn Maalik, ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Saabit and al-Ghaazi ibn Rabee’ah. Then he mentioned it in Ighaathat al-Lahfaan, and it indicates that they (musical instruments) are haraam.

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It was narrated that Naafi’ (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Ibn ‘Umar heard a woodwind instrument, and he put his fingers in his ears and kept away from that path. He said to me, O Naafi’, can you hear anything? I said, No. So he took his fingers away from his ears and said: I was with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and he heard something like this, and he did the same thing. (Saheeh Abi Dawood). Some insignificant person said that this hadeeth does not prove that musical instruments are haraam, because if that were so, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would have instructed Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) to put his fingers in his ears as well, and Ibn ‘Umar would have instructed Naafi’ to do likewise! The response to this is: He was not listening to it, but he could hear it. There is a difference between listening and hearing. Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Concerning (music) which a person does not intend to listen to, there is no prohibition or blame, according to scholarly consensus. Hence blame or praise is connected to listening, not to hearing. The one who listens to the Qur’aan will be rewarded for it, whereas the one who hears it without intending or wanting to will not be rewarded for that, because actions are judged by intentions. The same applies to musical instruments which are forbidden: if a person hears them without intending to, that does not matter. (al-Majmoo’, 10/78).

 

Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: the listener is the one who intends to hear, which was not the case with Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both); what happened in his case was hearing. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) needed to know when the sound stopped because he had moved away from that path and blocked his ears. So he did not want to go back to that path or unblock his ears until the noise had stopped, so when he allowed Ibn ‘Umar to continue hearing it, this was because of necessity. (al-Mughni, 10/173)

 

(Even though the hearing referred to in the comments of the two imaams is makrooh, it was permitted because of necessity, as we will see below in the comments of Imaam Maalik (may Allaah have mercy on him). And Allaah knows best).

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The views of the scholars (imaams) of Islam

 

Al-Qaasim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Singing is part of falsehood. Al-Hasan (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: if there is music involved in a dinner invitation (waleemah), do not accept the invitation (al-Jaami by al-Qayrawaani, p. 262-263).

 

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The view of the four Imaams is that all kinds of musical instruments are haraam. It was reported in Saheeh al-Bukhaari and elsewhere that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said that there would be among his ummah those who would allow zinaa, silk, alcohol and musical instruments, and he said that they would be transformed into monkeys and pigs… None of the followers of the imaams mentioned any dispute concerning the matter of music. (al-Majmoo’, 11/576).

 

Al-Albaani (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The four madhhabs are agreed that all musical instruments are haraam. (al-Saheehah, 1/145).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The madhhab of Abu Haneefah is the strictest in this regard, and his comments are among the harshest. His companions clearly stated that it is haraam to listen to all musical instruments such as the flute and the drum, even tapping a stick. They stated that it is a sin which implies that a person is a faasiq (rebellious evil doer) whose testimony should be rejected. They went further than that and said that listening to music is fisq (rebellion, evildoing) and enjoying it is kufr (disbelief). This is their words. They narrated in support of that a hadeeth which could not be attributed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). They said: he should try not to hear it if he passes by it or it is in his vicinity. Abu Yoosuf said, concerning a house from which could be heard the sound of musical instruments: Go in without their permission, because forbidding evil actions is obligatory, and if it were not allowed to enter without permission, people could not have fulfilled the obligatory duty (of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil). (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan, 1/425).

 

Imaam Maalik (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about playing the drum or flute, if a person happens to hear the sound and enjoy it whilst he is walking or sitting. He said: He should get up if he finds that he enjoys it, unless he is sitting down for a need or is unable to get up. If he is on the road, he should either go back or move on. (al-Jaami’ by al-Qayrawaani, 262). He (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The only people who do things like that, in our view, are faasiqs.†(Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 14/55).

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Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Among the types of earnings which are haraam by scholarly consensus are ribaa, the fee of a prostitute, anything forbidden, bribes, payment for wailing over the dead and singing, payments to fortune-tellers and those who claim to know the unseen and astrologers, payments for playing flutes, and all kinds of gambling. (al-Kaafi).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, explaining the view of Imaam al-Shaafa'i: His companions who know his madhhab (point of view) stated that it is haraam and denounced those who said that he permitted it. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan, 1/425).

 

The author of Kifaayat al-Akhbaar, who was one of the Shaafa’is, counted musical instruments such as flutes and others, as being munkar (evil), and the one who is present (where they are being played) should denounce them. (He cannot be excused by the fact that there are bad scholars, because they are corrupting the sharee’ah, or evil faqeers – meaning the Sufis, because they call themselves fuqaraa’ or faqeers – because they are ignorant and follow anyone who makes noise; they are not guided by the light of knowledge; rather they are blown about by every wind. (Kifaayat al-Akhbaar, 2/128).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: With regard to the view of Imaam Ahmad, his son ‘Abd-Allaah said: I asked my father about singing. He said: Singing makes hypocrisy grow in the heart; I do not like it. Then he mentioned the words of Maalik: the evildoers (faasiqs) among us do that. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan).

 

Ibn Qudaamah, the researcher of the Hanbali madhhab – (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Musical instruments are of three types which are haraam. These are the strings and all kinds of flute, and the lute, drum and rabaab (stringed instrument) and so on. Whoever persists in listening to them, his testimony should be rejected. (al-Mughni, 10/173). And he said (may Allaah have mercy on him); If a person is invited to a gathering in which there is something objectionable, such as wine and musical instruments, and he is able to denounce it, then he should attend and speak out against it, because then he will be combining two obligatory duties. If he is not able to do that, then he should not attend. (al-Kaafi, 3/118)

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Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Among the types of earnings which are haraam by scholarly consensus are ribaa, the fee of a prostitute, anything forbidden, bribes, payment for wailing over the dead and singing, payments to fortune-tellers and those who claim to know the unseen and astrologers, payments for playing flutes, and all kinds of gambling. (al-Kaafi).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, explaining the view of Imaam al-Shaafa'i: His companions who know his madhhab (point of view) stated that it is haraam and denounced those who said that he permitted it. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan, 1/425).

 

The author of Kifaayat al-Akhbaar, who was one of the Shaafa’is, counted musical instruments such as flutes and others, as being munkar (evil), and the one who is present (where they are being played) should denounce them. (He cannot be excused by the fact that there are bad scholars, because they are corrupting the sharee’ah, or evil faqeers – meaning the Sufis, because they call themselves fuqaraa’ or faqeers – because they are ignorant and follow anyone who makes noise; they are not guided by the light of knowledge; rather they are blown about by every wind. (Kifaayat al-Akhbaar, 2/128).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: With regard to the view of Imaam Ahmad, his son ‘Abd-Allaah said: I asked my father about singing. He said: Singing makes hypocrisy grow in the heart; I do not like it. Then he mentioned the words of Maalik: the evildoers (faasiqs) among us do that. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan).

 

Ibn Qudaamah, the researcher of the Hanbali madhhab – (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Musical instruments are of three types which are haraam. These are the strings and all kinds of flute, and the lute, drum and rabaab (stringed instrument) and so on. Whoever persists in listening to them, his testimony should be rejected. (al-Mughni, 10/173). And he said (may Allaah have mercy on him); If a person is invited to a gathering in which there is something objectionable, such as wine and musical instruments, and he is able to denounce it, then he should attend and speak out against it, because then he will be combining two obligatory duties. If he is not able to do that, then he should not attend. (al-Kaafi, 3/118)

 

Ibn Abi Shaybah (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported that a man broke a mandolin belonging to another man, and the latter took his case to Shurayh. But Shurayh did not award him any compensation – i.e., he did not make the first man pay the cost of the mandolin, because it was haraam and had no value. (al-Musannaf, 5/395).

 

Al-Baghawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) stated in a fatwa that it is haraam to sell all kinds of musical instruments such as mandolins, flutes, etc. Then he said: If the images are erased and the musical instruments are altered, then it is permissible to sell their parts, whether they are silver, iron, wood or whatever. (Sharh al-Sunnah, 8/28)

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An appropriate exception

 

The exception to the above is the daff – without any rings (i.e., a hand-drum which looks like a tambourine, but without any rattles) – when used by women on Eids and at weddings. This is indicated by saheeh reports. Shaykh al-Islam (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: But the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made allowances for certain types of musical instruments at weddings and the like, and he made allowances for women to play the daff at weddings and on other joyful occasions. But the men at his time did not play the daff or clap with their hands. It was narrated in al-Saheeh that he said: “Clapping is for women and tasbeeh (saying Subhaan Allaah) is for men.†And he cursed women who imitate men and men who imitate women. Because singing and playing the daff are things that women do, the Salaf used to call any man who did that a mukhannath (effeminate man), and they used to call male singers effeminate – and how many of them there are nowadays! It is well known that the Salaf said this.

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In a similar vein is the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), when her father (may Allaah be pleased with him) entered upon her at the time of Eid, and there were two young girls with her who were singing the verses that the Ansaar had said on the day of Bu’aath – and any sensible person will know what people say about war. Abu Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “Musical instruments of the Shaytaan in the house of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)!†The Messenger of Allaah had turned away from them and was facing the wall – hence some scholars said that Abu Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him) would not tell anybody off in front of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), but he thought that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was not paying attention to what was happening. And Allaah knows best. He (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)) said: “Leave them alone, O Abu Bakr, for every nation has its Eid, and this is our Eid, the people of Islam.†This hadeeth shows that it was not the habit of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his companions to gather to listen to singing, hence Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq called it “the musical instruments of the Shaytaanâ€. And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) approved of this appellation and did not deny it when he said, “Leave them alone, for every nation has its Eid and this is our Eid.†This indicates that the reason why this was permitted was because it was the time of Eid, and the prohibition remained in effect at times other than Eid, apart from the exceptions made for weddings in other ahaadeeth. Shaykh al-Albaani explained this in his valuable book Tahreem Aalaat al-Tarab (the Prohibition of Musical Instruments). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) approved of young girls singing at Eid, as stated in the hadeeth: “So that the mushrikeen will know that in our religion there is room for relaxation.†There is no indication in the hadeeth about the two young girls that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was listening to them. The commands and prohibitions have to do with listening, not merely hearing, just as in the case of seeing, the rules have to do with intentionally looking and not what happens by accident. So it is clear that this is for women only. Imaam Abu ‘Ubayd (may Allaah have mercy on him) defined the daff as “that which is played by women.†(Ghareeb al-Hadeeth, 3/64).

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An inappropriate exception

Some of them make an exception for drums at times of war, and consequentially some modern scholars have said that military music is allowed. But there is no basis for this at all, for a number of reasons, the first of which is that this is making an exception with no clear evidence, apart from mere opinion and thinking that it is good, and this is wrong. The second reason is that what the Muslims should do at times of war is to turn their hearts towards their Lord. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

 

“They ask you (O Muhammad) about the spoils of war. Say: ‘The spoils are for Allaah and the Messenger.’ So fear Allaah and adjust all matters of difference among you…†[al-Anfaal 8:1]. But using music is the opposite of this idea of taqwa and it would distract them from remembering their Lord. Thirdly, using music is one of the customs of the kuffaar, and it is not permitted to imitate them, especially with regard to something that Allaah has forbidden to us in general, such as music. (al-Saheehah, 1/145)

 

“No people go astray after having been guided except they developed arguments amongst themselves.†(Saheeh)

 

Some of them used the hadeeth about the Abyssinians playing in the Masjid of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) as evidence that singing is allowed! Al-Bukhaari included this hadeeth in his Saheeh under the heading Baab al-Hiraab wa’l-Daraq Yawm al-‘Eid (Chapter on Spears and Shields on the Day of Eid). Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This indicates that it is permissible to play with weapons and the like in the Masjid, and he applied that to other activities connected with jihaad. (Sharh Muslim). But as al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: whoever speaks about something which is not his profession will come up with weird ideas such as these.

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Some of them use as evidence the hadeeth about the singing of the two young girls, which we have discussed above, but we will quote what Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, because it is valuable:

 

I am amazed that you quote as evidence for allowing listening to sophisticated songs the report which we mentioned about how two young girls who were below the age of puberty sang to a young woman on the day of Eid some verses of Arab poetry about bravery in war and other noble characteristics. How can you compare this to that? What is strange is that this hadeeth is one of the strongest proofs against them. The greatest speaker of the truth [Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq] called them musical instruments of the Shaytaan, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) approved of that appellation, but he made an exception in the case of these two young girls who had not yet reached the age of responsibility and the words of whose songs could not corrupt anyone who listened to them. Can this be used as evidence to allow what you do and what you know of listening (to music) which includes (bad) things which are not hidden?! Subhaan Allaah! How people can be led astray! (Madaarij al-Saalikeen, 1/493).

 

Ibn al-Jawzi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) was young at that time; nothing was transmitted from her after she reached the age of puberty except condemnation of singing. Her brother’s son, al-Qaasim ibn Muhammad, condemned singing and said that it was not allowed to listen to it, and he took his knowledge from her. (Talbees Iblees, 229). Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: A group of the Sufis used this hadeeth – the hadeeth about the two young girls – as evidence that singing is allowed and it is allowed to listen to it, whether it is accompanied by instruments or not. This view is sufficiently refuted by the clear statement of ‘Aa’ishah in the following hadeeth, where she says, “They were not singers.†She made it clear that they were not singers as such, although this may be understood from the wording of the report. So we should limit it to what was narrated in the text as regards the occasion and the manner, so as to reduce the risk of going against the principle, i.e., the hadeeth. And Allaah knows best. (Fath al-Baari, 2/442-443).

 

Some people even have the nerve to suggest that the Sahaabah and Taabi’een listened to singing, and that they saw nothing wrong with it!

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Al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve him) said: We demand them to show us saheeh isnaads going back to these Sahaabah and Taabi’een, proving what they attribute to them. Then he said: Imaam Muslim mentioned in his introduction to his Saheeh that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Mubaarak said: The isnaad is part of religion. Were it not for the isnaad, whoever wanted to could say whatever he wanted to.

 

Some of them said that the ahaadeeth which forbid music are full of faults. No hadeeth was free of being criticized by some of the scholars. Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The ahaadeeth which were narrated concerning music being haraam are not full of faults as has been claimed. Some of them are in Saheeh al-Bukhaari which is the soundest of books after the Book of Allaah, and some of them are hasan and some are da’eef. But because they are so many, with different isnaads, they constitute definitive proof that singing and musical instruments are haraam.

 

All the imaams agreed on the soundness of the ahaadeeth which forbid singing and musical instruments, apart from Abu Haamid al-Ghazzaali, but al-Ghazzaali did not have knowledge of hadeeth; and Ibn Hazam, but al-Albaani (may Allaah have mercy on him) explained where Ibn Hazam went wrong, and Ibn Hazam himself said that if any of (these ahaadeeth) were saheeh, he would follow that. But now they have proof that these reports are saheeh because there are so many books by the scholars which state that these ahaadeeth are saheeh, but they turn their backs on that. They are far more extreme than Ibn Hazam and they are nothing like him, for they are not qualified and cannot be referred to.

 

Some of them said that the scholars forbade singing because it is mentioned alongside gatherings in which alcohol is drunk and where people stay up late at night for evil purposes.

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Al-Shawkaani (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The response to this is that mentioning these things in conjunction does not only mean that what is haraam is what is joined together in this manner. Otherwise this would mean that zinaa, as mentioned in the ahaadeeth, is not haraam unless it is accompanied by alcohol and the use of musical instruments. By the same token, an aayah such as the following (interpretation of the meaning):

 

“Verily, he used not to believe in Allaah, the Most Great,

 

And urged not on the feeding of Al‑Miskeen (the poor).â€

 

[al-Haaqqah 69:33-34]

 

would imply that it is not haraam to disbelieve in Allaah unless that is accompanied by not encouraging the feeding of the poor. If it is said that the prohibition of such things one at a time is proven from other reports, the response to that is that the prohibition of musical instruments is also known from other evidence, as mentioned above. (Nayl al-Awtaar, 8/107).

 

Some of them said that “idle talk†does not refer to singing; the refutation of that has been mentioned above. Al-Qurtubi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This – the view that it means singing – is the best that has been said concerning this aayah, and Ibn Mas’ood swore three times by Allaah besides Whom there is no other god, that it does refer to singing. Then he mentioned other imaams who said the same thing. Then he mentioned other views concerning the matter. Then he said: The first view is the best of all that has been said on this matter, because of the marfoo’ hadeeth, and because of the view of the Sahaabah and the Taabi’een. (Tafseer al-Qurtubi).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him), after quoting this Tafseer, said: Al-Haakim Abu ‘Abd-Allaah said in the Tafseer of Kitaab al-Mustadrak: Let the one who is seeking this knowledge know that the Tafseer of a Sahaabi who witnessed the revelation is a hadeeth with isnaad according to the two Shaykhs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim). Elsewhere in his book, he said: In our view this hadeeth has the same strength as a marfoo’ report. Although their tafseer is still subject to further examination, it is still more readily acceptable than the tafseer of those who came after them, because they are the most knowledgeable among this ummah of what Allaah meant in his Book. It was revealed among them and they were the first people to be addressed by it. They heard the tafseer from the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in word and in deed. And they were Arabs who understood the true meanings of (Arabic) words, so Muslims should avoid resorting to any other interpretation as much as possible.

 

Some of them said that singing is a form of worship if the intention is for it to help one to obey Allaah!

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Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: How strange! What type of faith, light, insight, guidance and knowledge can be gained from listening to tuneful verses and music in which most of what is said is haraam and deserves the wrath and punishment of Allaah and His Messenger? … How can anyone who has the least amount of insight and faith in his heart draw near to Allaah and increase his faith by enjoying something which is hated by Him, and He detests the one who says it and the one who accepts it? (Madaarij al-Saalikeen, 1/485)

 

Shaykh al-Islam said, discussing the state of the person who has gotten used to listening to singing: Hence you find that those who have gotten used to it and for whom it is like food and drink will never have the desire to listen to the Qur’aan or feel joy when they hear it, and they never find in listening to its verses the same feeling that they find when listening to poetry. Indeed, if they hear the Qur’aan, they hear it with an inattentive heart and talk whilst it is being recited, but if they hear whistling and clapping of hands, they lower their voices and keep still, and pay attention. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 11/557 ff)

 

Some say that music and musical instruments have the effect of softening people’s hearts and creating gentle feelings. This is not true, because it provokes physical desires and whims. If it really did what they say, it would have softened the hearts of the musicians and made their attitude and behaviour better, but most of them, as we know, are astray and behave badly.

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