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Is Music Prohibited in Islam?

Question: Is music haram (forbidden) in Islam?
Sima’ is of two types: permissible sima’ and impermissible one. The misconception that there are also lawful musical instruments in Islam stems from the fact that some individuals mistranslate the word sima’ that appears in fiqh books as musical instruments. All the pieces of information hereunder have been quoted from the books of scholars of Islam, with references at the end of each quotation. There is not a single sentence belonging to us.

“Singing without any instrumental accompaniment is called sima’. The human voice to the accompaniment of a musical instrument is called ghina’ (music). Ghina’ is haram.(Durr-ul Ma’arif)

Scholars stated that the words lahw-al hadeeth in the sixth verse of Surat Luqman referred to music and musical instruments. Hadrat Ibn Mas’ud swore that what was meant by lahw-al hadeeth was musical instruments and music. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafsir-ul-Madarik) [What can be said to those people who do not believe such a great person as Ibn Mas’ud?]

In the book Mawahib-i ‘Aliyya, the Qur’anic verse in question is interpreted as follows:
“Give the news of Hellfire to those who hinder people from listening to the Qur’an al-karim by writing false stories and paying songstresses to get them to sing for the public.” (Tafsir-i Mawakib)

Besides, it is stated in a hadith-i sharif:
(Every lahw is false except three things.) [Daylami]

It was stated so as the word lahw referred to games, amusements, and musical instruments.

Exegetes (mufassiroon) interpreted the 70th verse of Surat al-An’am as follows: “Stay away from those who make their religion play and amusement [with songs and music].”

(Now, are you amazed at this statement
[the Qur’an]? You are laughing instead of crying, and you negligently occupy yourselves in games and amusements.) [An-Najm 59-61]

The words antum samidoon that appears in the abovementioned verse is explained in Tafsir-i Madarik: “They, upon hearing the recitation of the Qur’an, would resort to taghanni [hubbub by way of singing songs] and dancing in order to prevent people from listening to it.” Hadrat Ibn Abbas and Hadrat Mujahid said that these words referred to song. (Ighasat-ul-Lahfan)

Now, let us look at the Qur’an al-karim:

(Obey whatever the Prophet commands you to do, and refrain from whatever he forbids.) [Al-Hashr 7]

(Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah.)
[An-Nisa’ 80]

(That Prophet makes good things lawful; bad and impure things unlawful.) [Al-A’raf 157]

(They can have no faith unless they make you a judge in what they disagree and accept your decision without hesitation.) [An-Nisa’ 65]

(We have sent down the Qur’an to you so that you may explain it to humans.) [An-Nahl 44]

Now, let us see how our Master the Prophet explained the abovementioned verses:

(The Devil was the first one to make taghanni.)

(The Devil will haunt him who raises his voice with ghina’.) [Daylami]

(Angels of Compassion do not enter a place where there is a jaras [a bell, rattle].) [Nasai]

(Angels of Compassion do not come near to a caravan where there is a dog or a bell.) [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi]

(Jaras is the mizmaar of the Devil.) [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasai]
[Mizmaar herein refers to a musical instrument.]

(It is haram to listen to a songstress or to look at her face. Her money is haram, too. The flesh that is nourished on haram sources is deserving of Hellfire.)

(A time will come when some people of my Ummah will consider committing fornication, wearing silken garments, consuming alcohol, and mizmaar [musical instruments] to be lawful [halal].) [Bukhari]

(Music leads to fornication.) [Maktubat-i Rabbani, Vol. 3, Letter 41]

(Music causes discord in the heart.)

(Just as water makes herbage grow, so songs, games, and amusements make discord in one’s heart grow. By Allah, just as water makes herbage grow, so the Qur’an and remembrance [dhikr] makes the faith in one’s heart grow.) [Daylami]

(My Rabb has made haram for me alcohol, gambling, the goblet drum, and songstresses.) [Imam-i Ahmad]

The Messenger of Allah forbade people from earning money through musical instruments. [Baghawi]

(There will be some people from my Ummah who will drink alcohol, calling it by other than its real name. They will enjoy themselves with songstresses and musical instruments. Allahu ta’ala will make them sink into the earth and will disfigure them into pigs and monkeys.)
[Ibn Majah]

(If the following five things appear, my Ummah will be deserving of annihilation: cursing
[la’nah] each other, drinking alcohol, wearing silken garments, musical instruments, homosexuality and lesbianism.) [Daylami, Hakim]

(I have been sent to also do away with musical instruments
[mizmaar] and idols.) [Imam-i Ahmad, Abu Nu’aym, Ibn Najjar]

(After Iblis descended to Earth, he said, “O my Rabb, give me a home.” It was said to him, “Public baths are your homes.” He wanted food. It was said to him, “The foods eaten without uttering Basmala are yours.” He wanted a muazzin. It was to him, “Musical instruments are your muazzin.” He was told, “Tattoos are your writing. Lies are your words. Soothsayers and fortune-tellers are your messengers. Women are your traps.”)
[Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya, Ibn Jarir]

(Iblis asked, “What is my book?” It was said to him, “Your book is a tattoo. Your drink is every intoxicant. Your loyalty is lies. Your muazzin is musical instruments. Your mosque is marketplace.”)

(Two sounds are cursed: [sound of] musical instruments at the time of attaining a blessing and [sound of] wailing at the time of a calamity.) [Bazzar]

(The following are the things that incur the wrath of Allahu ta’ala: to eat without getting hungry, to sleep without feeling sleepy, to laugh if there is no something strange, to wail at the time of a calamity, to play musical instruments at the time of attaining a blessing.) [Daylami]

(When songstresses and instrumentalist women become prevalent and alcohol is consumed everywhere, there will occur sinkings into the earth and stones will rain from the sky.)
[Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Imam-i Ahmad]

(Hasten to do good deeds before you are overtaken by these things: before debauched people become leaders, before security forces multiply, before religious rulings are sold with bribes, before murder is taken lightly, before the stopping of visiting relatives, before the recitation of the Qur’an using musical instruments, and before those who recite the Qur’an like singing a song come to the fore.) [Tabarani]

(When the Qur’an is recited with musical instruments, die if you can.) [Tabarani]

(Allah curses those who recite the Qur’an using musical instruments.) [Musamara]

(When the following 15 evils are committed, my Ummah will be afflicted with tribulations:

1. When people are disloyal with regard to loot,

2. When your trust is regarded as loot,

3. When zakat is considered a fine,

4. When a man obeys his wife,

5. When a child is disobedient to his/her parents,

6. When a person obeys his/her friend,

7. When a child treats his/her father badly,

8. When voices are raised at gatherings,

9. When the most despicable person becomes the leader,

10. When a person is treated with respect out of fear that some harm he may do,

11. When alcohol is consumed everywhere,

12. When men wear silken garments,

13. When songstresses become popular,

14. When musical instruments become common,

15. When the latter ones curse and speak ill of the former scholars.

(Fornication of eyes is to look at
[what is haram]. Fornication of ears is to listen to [what is haram].) [Muslim]

In a hadith-i sharif related by Ibn Hibban, it is reported that the Messenger of Allah took off the bells tied round the necks of camels, though the bell does not cause a person to feel sexual desire. Angels of Compassion do not enter a place where there is a bell. Then think about the case with musical instruments. Shaikh al-Islam Hadrat Ahmad Ibn Kamal Effendi states in his book Kýrk Hadis (Forty Ahadith):

“What is meant by the word mizmaars that appears in the hadith-i sharif “I have been sent to break mizmaars and to kill pigs” is all musical instruments. This hadith-i sharif prohibits all kinds of musical instruments and the eating of pork.”

“One day, Hadrat Abu Bakr saw two small female slaves singing a song to the accompaniment of a tambourine. He scolded them saying, ‘Are you playing the instrument of the Devil?’” (Bukhari)

Hadrat Ibn ‘Umar said “May Allah not accept your act of worship” to a person who was singing a song at a gathering composed by people wearing ihram. (Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya)

Hadrat Anas bin Malik said, “The dirtiest earning is the one gained through song and musical instruments.” (Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya)

Hadrat Ibn Abbas stated, “Musical instruments are haram.” (Bayhaqi)

“When our mother Aisha saw someone singing a song in a house, she said, ‘Woe to you. He is the Devil. Take him out,’ and they took him out.” (Bukhari)

Hadrat Fudayl bin Iyad stated, “Music and song lead to fornication.” (Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya)

Hadrat Shaikh Muhammad Rabhami said:
“Playing stringed instruments, the tambur, the tambourine, the ney (end-blown flute), and the other musical instruments means not to obey the command of Allahu ta’ala.” (Riyad-un-Nasihin)

Hadrat Imam-i Sharani stated:
“In a hadith-i sharif reported by Hakim-i Tirmidhi in the book Nawadir-ul-Usul, our Master the Prophet stated, ‘Whoever listens to the sound of a song, he will not be allowed to listen to incorporeal ones.’ Someone there asked, ‘O the Messenger of Allah, who are the incorporeal ones?’ He answered, ‘They are the reciters of the people of Paradise.’” (Mukhtasar-i Tazkira-i Qurtubi)

Hadrat Imam-i Birghiwi said:
“You must protect your ears from listening to stringed instruments.” (Risala-i Birghiwi)

Even Ibn Taymiyyah, who did not follow any madhhab, said, “Song and music are one of the foremost things that arouse satanic feelings.” (Majmu-ul-Fatawa)

“Song has been prohibited by the Kitaab [Qur’an al-karim] and Sunnah [hadith-i sharifs].” (Imam-i Qurtubi)

“There is ijma’ [consensus] that song and musical instruments are haram.” (Ibn Salah)

Hadrat Imam-i Rabbani stated:
“Imam-i Ziya Ad-Din ash-Shami says in the book entitled Multaqit, ‘Not a single scholar ever said that taghanni was lawful.’” (Letter 266)

“It is haram to recite the Qur’an al-karim melodiously.” (Bazzaziyya)

“It is established by ijma’ [consensus] that playing musical instruments is haram.” (Makamat-i Mazhariyya)

“A person who recites the Qur’an to the accompaniment of a musical instrument becomes a disbeliever [kafir].” (Targhib-us-Salat)

It is stated in a hadith-i sharif, “Announce nikah [Islamic marriage contract] to the public. For this purpose, perform it in a mosque and play the tambourine.” Hadrat Imam-i Munawi explains this hadith-i sharif, “The tambourine should not be played in mosques. This hadith-i sharif orders that tambourines should be played outside the mosque and only nikah should be performed in the mosque.” (Hadiqa)

“It is never permissible to play any other musical instruments in mosques while it is prohibited to play even tambourines, which are otherwise certainly permissible outside the mosque.” (Radd-ul-Mukhtar)

"It is haram to whirl, to play the goblet drum, the end-blown reed (ney), and stringed instruments, which are the practices of today’s people of tariqah." (Commentary on Tahtawi)

“One has to repeat the salat one has performed behind an imam who recited with taghanni.” (Halabi)

The Qur’an al-karim should be recited with a beautiful voice and in accordance with tajwid rules. It is stated in a hadith-i sharif reported by Abu Dawud, “Recite the Qur’an with a beautiful voice.” It means “Recite it fearing Allah,” which can be achieved by reciting it according to tajwid rules. Otherwise, taghanni by altering letters or words or spoiling the meaning or verse is haram. (Bariqa)

Taghanni is haram. (Tibb-un-Nabawi)

Reciting the Qur’an al-karim with taghanni and listening to such a recitation is haram.

Burhan-ud-din al-Marghinani stated:
“A person will lose his/her faith (iman) if he/she says ‘How beautifully you recite’ to a qari who is reciting the Qur'an al-karim melodiously. He/she will have to renew his/her faith. Quhistani, too, wrote the same.” (Durr-ul-Muntaqa)

Hadrat Ibn Abidin states:
“It is haram by consensus to sing to people to entertain them or to earn money. It is a major sin to dance to the accompaniment of music. It is not a sin to sing to oneself to dissipate one’s worries. As for musical instruments, only women are allowed to play tambourines at wedding parties.” (Radd-ul-Mukhtar)

It is haram to play musical instruments and to listen to them at places where sins are committed and alcohol is consumed. Although the Messenger of Allah plugged his ears with his fingers upon hearing the shepherd’s flute, he did not order ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar, who was with him, to do likewise. This event shows that it is not haram to hear the sound of a musical instrument unavoidably. It is haram to play musical instruments for entertainment at places where there is alcohol, playing, dancing, and women. It is permissible to play the drum at eids, in wartime, on the way to pilgrimage, at sahur time, and at wedding ceremonies. [It is permissible to have musical bands play at schools or at national and political functions.] (Hadiqa)

“It is sinful to keep tambourines or other sorts of musical instruments in one’s home or shop or to sell them or to give them as presents or to hire them out, though one may not be using them oneself.” (Bariqa)

It is permissible to sell only those musical instruments played for mehter (Ottoman military band) marches.

Sufi music has no connection with Islam. Music is nourishment to the nafs while it is poison to the soul. It blackens the heart. (Durr-ul-Ma’arif)

“It is bid’at to sing nasheeds to the accompaniment of musical instruments and the ney. A person who says halal for something haram or who mixes something haram into an act of worship becomes a disbeliever.” (Se’adet-i Ebediyye)

Hadrat Imam-i Ghazali narrates:

“In a house, small black girls [female slaves] were playing tambourines and singing songs. When our Master the Messenger of Allah came in, they stopped singing and playing tambourines and started lauding the Messenger of Allah. Upon this, he said, ‘Quit it. Do not eulogize me while making merry. Eulogizing me [mawlid and nasheeds] is an act of worship. It is not permissible to do acts of worship when making merry and playing.’” (Kimya-i Sa’adat)

[Some people, basing their argument on the abovementioned hadith-i sharif, claim that it is permissible to play musical instruments and for women to sing song. However, those females singing a song were slave girls (jariya). The parts of the body that a jariya has to cover are the same as those parts that a man has to cover. Her voice is not awrah, either. (Ihya)]

“It is haram to listen to all kinds of musical instruments.” (Fatawa-i Bazzaziyya, Hadiqa, Ahlaq-i ‘Alaiyya)

“Music is a major sin in all religions.” (Durr-ul-Muntaqa)

“It was priests who subsequently introduced music to Christianity, though it was prohibited by the Bible.” (Commentary on Mawahib-i Ladunniyya by Zarkani)

“The origin of the word music has connections with the name Mousa given to the nine statues which were believed to be the statues of the daughters of Zeus, the great idol of the ancient Greeks. Since corrupted religions could not nourish their souls, they thought music had a spiritual effect, whereas in fact it is just a pleasure for the nafs. Today’s western music originated from church music. Music has become a kind of worship in all corrupt religions all over the world. With music, the nafses are pleased, and the voluptuous animal instincts are soothed, whilst the holy acts of worship which nourish the soul and purify the heart are forgotten. Music motivates a man to lead an indolent life like that of alcoholics and drug addicts, and thus causes people to be deprived of endless bliss. To protect man against this calamity and endless disaster, Islam has made distinctions between different kinds of music and has prohibited the harmful ones.” (Se’adet-i Ebediyye)

Some Islamic programmes contain the sound of the ney (end-blown flute) in the background. Is the ruling regarding the ney different?
It is not different. The ruling regarding the ney is the same as the ruling regarding the other musical instruments. It is a graver sin to mix musical instruments and the other sins into acts of worship. Similarly, Sufi music has no place in Islam. Hadrat Nafi’, one of the greats of the third generation of Muslims, related:

“I, together with Abdullah bin ‘Umar, was walking. We heard the sound of the ney. He closed his ears with his fingers. Then we walked away quickly. He asked, ‘Is the sound still audible?’ I replied, ‘No, it can no longer be heard.’ He took his fingers from his ears and said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, too, had done so.’” Then Nafi’ added, “I was only a child then.”

This means that he did not order Nafi’ to plug his ears because he was a child. Hadrat Nafi’ added the explanation that he was a child then to prevent such a misinterpretation that Abdullah bin ‘Umar plugged his ears out of his taqwa. (Ashi’at al-Lama’at)

Date of Update
20 Ocak 2017 Cuma
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