Many Muslims are under the impression that music is halaal. Some scholars are also of this opinion, which is wrong and creates fitna amonst the ordinary Muslim, who can’t work out who is right and then is in danger of following their desires. Music is haraam and more details and evidences for this can be found in two books that you can download for free from my blog:
The Prohibition of Music
The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing by Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi
I have included some excerpts from these books that I hope you will find enlightening and hopefully lay to rest any confusion around whether music is halaal or haraam.
Allah says in Surah Luqman (interpretation of the meaning):
“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allah…” [Luqmaan 31:6]
The scholar of the ummah, Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: this means singing. Mujaahid (may Allah have mercy on him) said: this means playing the
drum (tabl). (Tafseer al-Tabari, 21/40).
Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) said: This ayah was revealed concerning singing and musical instruments. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 3/451).
Al-Sa’di (may Allah 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)
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah 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 ayah (interpretation of the meaning), ‘“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks’ [Luqmaan 31:6]. He said: By Allah, 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 Allah 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 Quran. 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 Quran 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 ayat condemn replacing the Quran with idle talk in order to mislead (men) from the path of Allah without knowledge and taking it as a joke, because when an ayah of the Quran 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)
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“and befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience)…” [al-Israa’ 17:64]
It was narrated that Mujaahid (may Allah 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 Allah 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 ayah]. Everyone who speaks in any way that is not obedient to Allah, 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 Allah 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 Allah. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan).
THE VIEW OF THE TAABI’EEN IMAMS AND SCHOLARS AFTER THEM
The view held by the companions was generally adhered to by the taabi’een and their followers, the four imams and the great majority of dependable Islamic scholars up to the present time. From among the taabi’een and their followers, there are such authorities asMujaahid, Ikrimah, An-Nakha’i and Al-Hassan Al-Basri.(*107)
IMAM ABU HANEEFAH:
Imam Abu Haneefah(*108) has perhaps the harshest view of the four famous Imams of jurisprudence.
His school of thought is the strictest, for he detested singing and considered it sinful. As for his disciples, they have explicitly confirmed the prohibition of listening to all musical amusements and pastimes, including wind instruments (mazaameer),(*109) all types of tambourines, hand drums (dufoof)(*110) and even the striking of sticks(al-qadeeb). They have asserted that such actions constitute disobedience to Allah and that the performer of such action is sinful, therefore necessitating rejection of his testimony.(*111) They have further stated that it is incumbent upon the Muslim to struggle to avoid listening to such things, even if he were passing by or stationed near them (without any willful intention). Abu Haneefah’s closest disciple, Abu Yoosuf, stated that if the sound of musical instruments (ma’aazif) and amusements (malaahi) were heard coming from a house, the house could be entered without permission of its owners.(*112) The justification for this is that the command regarding the prohibition of abominable things (munkaaraat) is mandatory, and cannot be established if such entering rests upon the permission of the residents of the premises.(*113) This is the madhhab (position) of the rest of theKufic scholars as well, such as Ibraheem An-Nakha’i, Ash-Sha’bi, Hammaad and Ath-Thowri. They do not differ on this issue. The same can be said of the general body of jurisprudence of Al-Basrah.(*114)
It is related by Ibnul-Jowzi that Ishaaq bin ‘Eesaa At-Tabba’a asked Imaam Maalik bin Anas,(*115) the leading jurisprudent of Madeenah, about the view of the people of Madeenah regarding singing (ghinaa). He replied, “In fact, that is done by the sinful ones.” Abut-teeb At-Tabari said, “As for Maalik bin Anas, he truly did prohibit singing and listening to it.” He further related that Maalik said, “If one purchased a slave-girl(*116) and found her to be a professional singer, he could return her to the original owner for reimbursement on the claim of having found fault in the merchandise.”(*117)
The ruling of prohibition (tahreem) is generally agreed upon by the scholars ofMadeenah. The Maaliki jurisprudence and commentator, Al-Qurtubi, reports Ibn Khuwayz Mandaad as saying that Imam Maalik had learned singing and music as a small boy until his mother encouraged him to leave it for a study of the religious sciences. He did, and his view became that such things were prohibited.(*118) Al-Qurtubi confirmed Maalik’s view by saying that the only exception to this general ruling was the type of innocent songs such as those sung to placate the camels during travel, or during hard labor or boredom or during times of festivity and joy, such as the E’ ed days and
weddings – the latter to the accompaniment of a simple daff (hand drum). Al-Qurtubi then said, “As for that which is done in our day, by way of the [blameworthy] innovations [bidah] of the Sufi mystics in their addition to hearing songs to the accompaniment of melodious instruments such as flutes, string instruments, etc., such is haraam [forbidden].(*119)
In the book, Aadaabul Qadaa, Ash-Shaafi’ee is reported as saying, “Verily, song is loathsome [makrooh]; it resembles the false and vain thing [al-baatil]. The one who partakes of it frequently is an incompetent fool whose testimony is to be rejected.”(*121) His closest and most knowledgeable disciples clearly stipulate that his position on this issue is that of prohibition (tahreem) and they rebuke those who attribute its legality to him.(*122) This is confirmed by the later Shafi’ite scholar, Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami. He related that one of Ash-Shaafi’ee’s disciples, Al-Haarith Al-Muhaasibi (d.243 H) said, “Song is haraam, just as the carcass [maytah](*123) is.” Furthermore, the statement that singing is haraam is found in the treatise, Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer, by the authoritative Shafi’ite scholar, Ar-Raafi’ee (d.623 H.). This is further corroborated by the accomplished Shafiiite jurisprudent, Imam An-Nawawi (d.676 H.) in his Rowdah.(*124) Such is the correct view of the dependable scholars of the Shafi’ite madhhab. However, due to limited knowledge and personal fancy and desire, a few of their latter-day scholars disagree with this view.(*125)
IMAM AHMAD BIN HANBAL:
Imaam Ahmad’s(*126) position regarding this issue has been narrated in detail by the Hanbalite jurisprudent and Quranic commentator, Abul-Faraj Ibnul-Jowzi (d.597 H.) in his treatise, Tablees Iblees (Satan’s deception). He tells us that ghinaa during Ahmad’s era consisted primarily of a rhymed, rythmical chanting (inshaad) of poems(*127) whose purpose was to lead people to a pious, abstentious way of life. However, when such chanters began to vary their simple style to one of a throbbing, affected melody, the narrations regarding Ahmad began to differ. His own son and student, Abdullah, relates that his father said, “Singing(*128) sprouts hypocrisy in the heart; it doesn’t please me.” The scholar, Ismaa’eel bin Ishaaq Ath-Thaqafi, reports that Ahmad was questioned regarding one’s listening to those poems (qasaaid) to which he replied, “I despise it, for it is a bid’ah [innovation]. Don’t sit down to listen to its reciters.” Abul-Haarith relates that Ahmad said, “At-taghyeer(*129) is an innovation,” whereupon it was said, “But it sensitizes and softens the heart.” Ahmad rejoined, “It is a bid’ah [blameworthy innovation].” Yaqoob Al-Haashimi narrates that Ahmad said, “At-taghyeer is a recent innovation,” and Yaqoob bin Gayyaath reports him as saying that he despised at-taghyeer and prohibited one’s listening to it.(*130)
Ibnul-Jowzi then mentioned some narrations related by Abu Bakr Al-Khlallaal and Ahmad’s son Saalih, which indicate Ahmad’s not being averse to poetry sessions. It is related that Ahmad heard a singer (qawwal) a didn’t reproach him, whereupon Saalih said to him, “Oh father, didn’t you used to criticize and censure such a thing?” Ahmad replied, “That was because I was told that they were doing reproachable things, so i despised it; as for this, I do not dislike it.” Ibnul-Jowzi commented at this point, “Some of the scholars of our [Hanbalite] school mention that Abu Bakr Al-Khallaal (d.311 H.) and his disciple, Abdul-Azeez, permitted singing [ghinaa]. Such a statement refers to the spiritual poems [qasaaid zuhduyyaat] which were prevalent during their time. This is precisely the type of singing which was not disliked by Ahmad [as previously mentioned].(*131) Ahmad bin Hanbal attests to this in the instance where he was asked regarding a deceased person who left behind him a son and
a [professional singing] slave-girl.(*132) The son then needed to sell her. Ahmad said that she was not to be sold on the basis of her being a singer. Upon this it was said to him that, [as a singer], she was worth thirty-thousand dirhams, whereas if she were sold only on the basis of her being simply a slave-girl, she would perhaps be worth only twenty dinars. Ahmad reaffirmed that she was allowed to be sold only on the basis of her being simply a slave-girl.” Ibnul-Jowzi explained, “The reason Ahmad
said this is because the singing slave-girl doesn’t sing spiritual poems [qasaaid zuhdiyaat]; rather, she sings throbbing lyrics which incite passion in one’s being. This is proof that such singing is haraam, for if it were not so, the incurred loss of the orphans son’s wealth would not be permissible.(*133) Furthermore, it is reported by the jurisprudent Al-Mirwazi that Ahmad bin Hanbal said, “The earnings of the effeminate [mukhannath] singer are foul [khabeeth] because he doesn’t sing spiritual poems, but rather, he sings erotic poetry [al-ghazal] in a licentious, cooing manner.” Ibnul-Jowzi concluded that it is obvious from what has preceded that the variant narrations relating to Ahmads dislike of (karaahah) or permission for singing depended upon the type of singing that was meant. As for the type of singing which is popular today,(*134) it would be forbidden according to Ahmad’s view. If only he could see what the people have added to it by way of innovation.(*135)
In conclusion, the general consensus of the companions, taabi’een and the following generations of Islamic scholars up to the present day, including the four Imams, points to the ruling of prohibition of music and song (other than the exceptions to be mentioned later).
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