Evidences of the Prohibition of Music in the Light of the Qur’an and Sunnah

Bismillâh, wa -l-hamdulillâh, wa -s-salâtu wa -s-salâmu `alâ rasûlillâh

Quranic Verses

1️⃣ Allâh (سبحانه وتعالى) says: ” And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks to mislead [men] from the Path of Allâh without knowledge, and takes it by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment. ” (Qur’an Luqmân [31]:6)

The companion `Abdullâh ibn Mas`ûd (رضي الله عنه) states in the explanation of the word ‘idle tales’: “By Allâh its meaning is music.” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi, 1/223 & authenticated by al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, 2/411)

Imâm Ibn Abî Shaybah (رحمه الله) related with his own transmission that he (Ibn Mas`ûd) said: “I swear by Him besides Whom there is no God that it refers to singing.” (132/5)

The Companion and mufassir of the Qur’ân, Abdullâh ibn `Abbâs (رضي الله عنه), states: “The meaning of the word is music, singing and the like.” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi, 1/221& Musannaf Ibn Abî Shaybah, 132/5)

He also stated: “Music and the purchase of female singers.” (Musannaf Ibn Abî Shaybah, 132/5)

Hasan al-Basri (رحمه الله) said: “This verse was revealed in relation to singing and musical instruments.” (Tafsîr ibn Kathîr, 3/442)

The same explanation has also been narrated from Mujâhid, Ikrimah, Ibrahim Nakha’i, Mak’hul and others (رضي الله عنهم).

As for those that say, the verse refers to things that prevent one from the remembrance of Allâh (سبحانه وتعالى) and not music, they do not contradict the aforementioned explanation. The interpretation of the verse with ‘things that prevent one from the remembrance of Allâh’ is a more general interpretation which includes music and song, as one of the foremost things that stop you from the remembrance of Allâh is music. This is the reason why the majority of the exegetes of the Qur’ân have interpreted the verse with music only, or with all those acts that prevent one from the truth with music being at the forefront.

2️⃣ Allâh (سبحانه وتعالى) says in description of the attributes of the servants of the Most Merciful: “ And [they are] those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity .” (Qur’an al-Furqân [25]:72)

Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas relates from Imâm Abû Hanîfah (رحمه الله) that the meaning of “falsehood (zûr)” is music & song. (Ahkâm al-Qur’ân, 3/428)

3️⃣ Allâh (سبحانه وتعالى) said to Shaytân: “ And incite [to senselessness] whoever you can among them with your voice” (Qur’an al-Isrâ’ [17]:64)

One of the great mufassirîn, Mujâhid (رحمه الله) interpreted the word ‘voice (sawt)’ by music, singing, dancing and idle things. (Rûh al-Ma`ani, 15/111)

Imam Suyûti (رحمه الله) quoted Mujâhid as saying: “Voice (in this verse) is singing and flute.” (al-Iklil fi istinbât at-tanzîl, 1444)

Another mufassir, Dahhak (رحمه الله), also interpreted the word ‘Sawt’ with flutes. (al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li Ahkâm al-Qur’an, 10/288)

Here also, a general interpretation can be given, as indeed some commentators of the Qur’ân have done, but this, as mentioned earlier, does not contradict the meaning given by Mujâhid and Dahhak, as it is included in the more broad and general meaning.

Ahâdîth (Prophetic Traditions)

1️⃣ Sayyiduna Abû Mâlik al-Ash`âri (رضي الله عنه) reports that he heard the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) say: “ There will appear people in my Ummah, who will hold adultery, silk, alcohol and musical instruments to be lawful.” (Sahîh al-Bukhâri, 7/494v)

2️⃣ Abû Mâlik al-Ash`ari (رضي الله عنه) narrates a similar type of Hadîth, but a different wording. He reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ Soon there will be people from my Ummah who will consume alcohol, they will change its name [by regarding it permissible], on their heads will be instruments of music and singing. Allâh will make the ground swallow them up, and turn them into monkeys and swine. ” (Sahîh Ibn Hibbân & Sunan Ibn Mâjah, with a sound chain of narration)

In the above two narrations, the word ma`âzif is used. The scholars of the Arabic language are unanimous on the fact that it refers to musical instruments. (Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, V.9, P.189)

The prohibition of musical instruments is clear in these two narrations. The first Hadith (recorded in Sahîh al-Bukhâri) mentions that certain people from the Ummah of the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) will try to justify the permissibility of using musical instruments, along with adultery, silk and alcohol, despite these things being unlawful in Sharî`ah.

Moreover, by mentioning music with the likes of adultery and alcohol just shows how severe the sin is. The one who attempts to permit music is similar to the one who permits alcohol or adultery.

The second Hadîth describes the fate of such people in that the ground will be ordered to swallow them and they will be turned into monkeys and swine (May Allâh save us all). The warning is specific to those that will hold music, alcohol, silk and adultery to be permissible. It is something that should be of concern for those who try and justify any of these things.

Also, to say that music will only be unlawful if it is in combination with alcohol, adultery and silk is incorrect. If this was the case, then why is it that the exception is only for music from the four things? The same could also be said for adultery, alcohol and silk. One may then even justify that alcohol and adultery is also permissible unless if they are consumed in combination with the other things!

Thus, the above two narrations of the beloved of Allâh (ﷺ) are clear proof on the impermissibility of music and songs.

3️⃣ Imrân ibn Husayn (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ This Ummah will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones” . A man from amongst the Muslims asked: “O Messenger of Allâh! When will this be?” He said: “ When female singers and musical instruments appear and alcohol will (commonly) be consumed .” (Recorded by Imam at-Tirmidhî, Imam Ibn Mâjah in their respective Sunan collections, and the wording here is of Sunan at-Tirmidhî)

4️⃣ Sayyiduna `Ali ibn Abî Tâlib (رضي الله عنه) reports that the blessed Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ When my Ummah begin doing fifteen things, they will be inflicted with tribulations, and [from those 15 things he said]: “When female singers and musical instruments become common.” (Sunan at-Tirmidhî)

5️⃣ Nâfi` reports that once Abdullâh ibn `Umar (رضي الله عنهما) heard the sound of a sheppard’s flute. He put his fingers in his ears, turned his mule away from the road and said: “O Nâfi`! Can you hear? I (Nafi`) replied with the affirmative. He carried on walking [with his fingers in his ears] until I said: “the sound has ceased” He removed his fingers from his ears, came back on to the road and said: “ I saw the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) doing the same when he heard the flute of the sheppard. ” (Recorded by Imâm Ahmad in his Musnad and Abû Dâwûd & Ibn Mâjah in their Sunans)

6️⃣ Sayyiduna Abdullâh ibn `Umar (رضي الله عنهما) reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ Verily Allâh has forbidden alcohol, gambling, drum and guitar, and every intoxicant is harâm. ” (Musnad Ahmad & Sunan Abî Dâwûd)

7️⃣ Abu Umâmah (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ Allâh Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affairs of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance .”(Musnad Ahmad & Abû Dâwûd Tayalisi)

8️⃣ Sayyiduna Abdullâh ibn Mas`ûd (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage. ” (Sunan al-Bayhaqî)

9️⃣ Sayyiduna Anas (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ On the day of Resurrection, Allâh will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.” (Recorded by Ibn Asakir & Ibn al-Misrî)

🔟 Sayyiduna Abû Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) said: “ Bell is the flute of Shaytân.” (Sahîh Muslim & Sunan Abî Dâwûd)

There are many more narrations of the Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) in prohibition of musical instruments and unlawful singing, though only a few have been mentioned here.

The great Imâm of the Shafi`i school, Imâm Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (رحمه الله) gathered all these Ahâdîth which approximately total to forty in his excellent work ‘Kaff al-Ra’a an Muharramat al-Lahw wa -s-Sama’, and then said: “All of this is explicit and compelling textual evidence that musical instruments of all types are unlawful.” (2/270)

Statements of the Scholars (رحمهم الله)

The great Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Kasani (رحمه الله), states: “If a singer gathers people around him only to entertain them with his voice, then he will not be considered an upright person (adil), even though if he does not consume alcohol, as he will be considered the leader of sinners. If however, he only sings to himself in order to eradicate loneliness, then there is nothing wrong in doing so.

“As far as the one who uses musical instruments is concerned, if the instruments themselves are not unlawful, such as the bamboo and tambourine, then there is nothing wrong with that and he will still be considered upright. However, if the instrument is unlawful, such as the lute and the like, then he will not be considered an upright person (to be a witness in the court. m), as these instruments can never be considered lawful.” (Bada’I al-Sana’i, 6/269)

It is stated in Khulasat al-Fatâwâ: “Listening to the sound of musical instruments is unlawful, as the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Listening to songs is a sin.” (4/345)

Imâm Ibn al-Humam (رحمه الله), the great Hanafi Mujtahid, makes a decisive statement in his famous Fath al-Qadir: “Unlawful singing is when the theme of the song consists of unlawful things, such as the description of a particular living person’s beauty and features, the virtues of wine that provoke wine-drinking, the details and particulars of family affairs or those songs that mock and ridicule others.

“However, songs that are free from such unlawful things and they consist of descriptions of the natural things, such as flowers and streams, etc… will be permissible. Yes, if they are accompanied by musical instruments, then it will be unlawful even if the song is full of advice and wisdom, not because of what the songs consist of, rather due to the musical instruments that are played with it. And it is stated in the al-Mughni of Ibn Qudamah (Hanbali Madh-hab) that musical instruments are of two types:

1) Unlawful, Such as those that are specially designed for entertainment and singing, like the flute and mandolin, etc;

2) Lawful, like the playing of the tambourine (daff) at weddings and other happy occasions.” (See: Ibn Humam, Fath al-Qadir, 6/36)

The same has more or less been mentioned in the other Hanafi works also, such as al-Ikhtiyar, al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, al-Fatâwâ al-Hindiyyah and others.

Imâm an-Nawawî (رحمه الله), the great Hadîth and Shâfi’î scholar states: “It is unlawful to use or listen to musical instruments, such as, those which the drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute. It is permissible to play the tambourine (daff) at weddings, circumcisions and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the Kûba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is also unlawful.” (Mughni al-Muhtaj, 4/429, & Reliance of the Traveller, 775)

In the book, Âdâbul Qadâ, Ash-Shâfi`î is reported as saying, “Verily, song is loathsome (makrûh); it resembles the false and vain thing [al-bâtil]. The one who partakes of it frequently is an incompetent fool whose testimony is to be rejected.” (See: Tafsîr al-Qurtubî vol. 14, p. 55)

It is related by Ibn ul-Jawzi that Ishâq bin `Îsâ at-Tabba’a asked Imâm Mâlik bin Anas about the view of the people of Madînah regarding singing (ghinâ). He replied, “In fact, that is done by the sinful ones.”

Conclusion

In the light of the above evidences from the Qur’ân, sayings of our beloved Messenger of Allâh (ﷺ) and texts of the various Fuqahâ’, the following is the decisive ruling with regards to music:

Musical instruments that are solely designed for entertainment are unlawful, with or without singing. However, to play the tambourine (daff) at weddings (and other occasions according to some fuqaha) will be permissible.

As far as the songs are concerned, if they consist of anything that is unlawful or they prevent one from the obligatory duties, then they will be unlawful. However, if they are free from the abovementioned things (and they are not accompanied by instruments), then it will be permissible to sing them.

And Allâh Knows Best

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