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Can you please tell me if music is allowed in Islam? And explain to me why and where it is said? So many people tell me it is said in a Hadith that music is forbidden, but as you've stressed, the Qur'an is a more reliable source and well I don't know what to believe. Thank you so much. Your blog is one of my first steps in trying to learn more about Islam.
I’d like to begin this message by saying goodbye to all the followers I’m about to lose after I answer this question. To the anon who asked this, please don’t feel bad, I knew this question was going to come, one day. Insha Allah, I hope that those of you who bother to read this post, will understand where I’m coming from and when/if you disagree, that we discuss it in a civil and respectful way.
That being said, I’d like to thank you for trusting me, and that I hope that I may shed some light on the issue and that I am humbled that you would even consider me as a person to come to when learning about Islam.
That being said, let’s identify what Hadith and what part of The Qur’an people associate with music being impermissible.
While I, previously, have stressed that when discussing an Islamic issue, we should go to The Qur’an first, before the Hadith, in this situation, because we are explaining a certain perception, I will follow their line of reasoning. Thus, it is within the Hadith that we get the following:
“‘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.”
This is an example of a Hadith, that is in Sahih Bukhari but is not considered authentic. Here is why, from a Hadith Science perspective: First, it’s chain of narration is not connected to The Prophet and second, many scholars consider the sub-transmitter, Hisham Ibn Ammar, to be a weak source. Also, the language of the Hadith, creates a space as to whether music (in this context) is transgressing its limits rather than whether it is permissible.
What is the permissible limits of music? To most scholars, that is that, music that has lewd lyrics, etc, is considered something to be forbidden. Scholars then further bifurcate this issue between singing and musical instruments.
Let’s be honest about what singing is: it’s words said with a melody. Can it not be argued that when we recite Qur’an, that we are, in a sense, not singing, but reciting words with a tone that is different than simple recitation or speech? The issue doesn’t become the fact that you are using a different tone, but what you are saying.
As far as instruments, the weakness of the above Hadith means that we must question whether it applies, because, again, the issue (if we even use the Hadith) in the Hadith is the scope not whether it is permissible.
Does this mean, case closed? No, because I’d like to further scrutinize the above Hadith by going back to The Qur’an.
When we look to The Qur’an, nothing about music is mentioned. Many point to an ayah in Surah Luqman, specifically:
“But among men there is many a one that prefer a mere play with words [to divine guidance], so as to lead [those] without knowledge astray from the path of God, and to turn it to ridicule: for such there is shameful suffering in store.” [31:6] (Muhammad Asad)
Another version, to be thorough:
“But there are, among men, Those who purchase idle tales, Without knowledge (or meaning), To mislead (men) from the Path of Allah and throw ridicule (On the Path): for such There will be a humiliating Chastisement.” [31:6] (Saudi IFTA translation)
Many have taken this ayah and have said that it is within this injunction that music is specifically pointed to. This is false.
Whether we take Muhammad Asad, Saudi IFTA, or whatever credible tafseer, it is very clear what is being referenced here: poets.
The miracle of The Qur’an is its poetry, and thus, those who turned people away from The Qur’an are referenced here. The difference between the tafseer is about how specific this verse is. Muhammad Asad argues that it is not about anyone in specific, and that the phrase has “general import.” Saudi’s IFTA, on the other hand, while affirming that the above ayah is referencing poetry, they say that the ayah is referring to Nadhr ibn al-Harith, who “preferred Persian romances to the Message of Allah, and turned away ignorant men from the preaching of Allah’s Word.”
So, other than that ayah, there is nothing in The Qur’an that refers to music. There are other Hadith that concern music, but they are many times, referring to very specific instances or, they support singing as permissible. There is a famous Hadith narrated by Aisha which supports singing and instruments, but I’m going to go a different route.
When The Prophet came into Medina (then known as Yathrib), he was welcomed into the city with a song, known as “Tala’ al Badru ‘Alayna.” If The Prophet thought that singing or musical instruments were sinful, then I’m pretty sure he would’ve said something. There were drums (daf), further proving that instruments themselves are not the problem.
We must understand what “music” meant at the time. Have you seen the movie The Message, about The Prophet and the Sahaba? If so, you might remember a scene where (I’m pretty sure) Hind is bouncing around and tossing herself around and trying to get to some sort of “spiritual realization” through the devotion to some pagan gods in order to know what to do next to the Muslims.
Many times, when there are things that are attributed to Abu Bakr, or other Sahaba, where it seems they are antagonistic to “music,” we must remember that they are coming from that context. The issue that Islam wants people to avoid is the use of anything that will contribute to you losing yourself in some “trance” that is connected to nothing but false idols and superstition.
Anything, in this world can distract you. So the idea that music can distract you is nothing unique to music. Anything can. It can be soccer. It can be computers. It can be tumblr. Anything that you give too much value, can destroy you. Look at what we have in our world, whether its the placebo effect or the disorders that are completely created within our minds, we are susceptible to influence. I’m not denigrating people with mental illnesses, but what I am saying is look at the power of our minds, how destructive they can be, if we do not look after it.
As far as instruments go, there are those who cite wind or stringed instruments. I’m not sure where there are specific injunctions against these instruments. I know there is plenty of scholars, who were alive and active during Caliph Ali’s reign who actually supported the use of these instruments. Oh, and I’m not talking some randos, I’m talking Zahiriyah, who were people who believe in a very strict interpretation of things, and actually reject the use of qiyas.
Even if, wind and string instruments are considered to be impermissible, we must understand that we live in a time where there are new instruments. I’m talking synths, etc. If certain kinds of instruments are to be considered impermissible, then we must categorize these new ones.
A famous example (and a personal favorite) of this (judging new things) is with the Grand Mufti of the Ottoman Empire during Sultan Suleiman’s reign. It was under this period that Muslims first came into contact with coffee. They knew that it altered their state of mind, but they had to seriously question whether coffee would be considered in the same place as alcohol. In the end, the Grand Mufti (Ebuu Saud) ruled that it was permissible, and thus, coffee became a great past-time of Muslims. The point is that there are situations where you don’t have the answer in front of you, and we have to use our judgment to the best of our abilities.
So, with this in mind, if we are to even consider certain instruments as impermissible, how do you judge a synth or other various instruments that do not have any string or wind element to them?
Again, I don’t see credible proof that music is wrong, nor do I see where you can limit music to certain occasions, because that would mean that music, as a whole, is sinful, except in those situations. Does The Qur’an say that alcohol is wrong, except in certain situations? Of course not. There’s only one situation where alcohol is okay: medical uses. I don’t see Weddings in the same place as medicine, but that’s just me.
However, what I do see, is The Prophet warning people of the dangers of getting lost into anything. Especially when you keep in mind the context (think Hind here) it becomes clear that music is permissible and that the constraints around music are like the constraints around anything: keep it in its proper place, and you’ll be fine.
I’d like to add, that perhaps my indifference to music is rooted in the fact that I’ve never paid attention to lyrics. They mean nothing to me, and they’ve never had an impact on me. Music is cool, but I don’t think it’s central to my life, but I respect everyone’s passions. So please don’t think that my stance is influenced by my passion for music, because it really isn’t.
Insha Allah, I hope that I answered your question, and that I was able to clear up whatever issues you might have had. If you or anyone else has any questions about this, or another topic, please do not hesitate to ask me.
*For those who think I’m stupid and useless, or would like to have an even more detailed response to the permissibility of music, I’ll refer you to Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.