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Singing and playing musical instruments is permissible in Islam

assalamu aleikum, is it haram to play instruments? like violin or the piano

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Since there is no irrefutable evidence banning singing and playing musical instruments, the mainstream opinion is that they are permissible. There is some evidence that certain early authorities strongly disapproved of them or prohibited them, but that evidence is counterbalanced by strong evidence of early jurists and hadith scholars approving of it. Since this is a matter of debate, and since there is no conclusive evidence for a prohibition, and since both singing and playing musical instruments can have wholesome and beneficial uses, the reasonable conclusion is that they should be permitted.

In this article I will only mention the evidence that supports the permissibility of singing and playing musical instruments. I use an essay on IslamOnline (a website belonging to the famous mainstream scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi) as the source for these opinions. See the essay (linked below, Arabic) for discussion and refutation of evidence that supports prohibiting these things.

Among scholars who permit singing and playing musical instruments are: the Shafi`i theologian Abu Mansur Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi (d. 1037-1038 CE) who lived during the time of Ali bin Abi Talib . According to al-Shawkani (d. 1839 CE), some early Medinan jurists also approved of singing and playing instruments.

According to al-Shawkani, among the jurists who approved of singing and musical instruments are:

  • al-Qadi Shurayh (important judge in Kufa during the reign of Ali bin Abi Talib)
  • Saeed b. al-Musayyab (a great early hadith transmitter and one of the most revered figures among the Salaf / Pious Predecessors)
  • Ataa bin Abi Rabah (d. 732 CE), important early jurist and hadith scholar
  • Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri (d. 741-742 CE), important early Medinan jurist (born the year that Aisha–wife of Prophet Muhammad –died, may God be pleased with her)
  • Aamir bin Sharahil al-Shaabi (d. 723), a jurist, hadith scholar and member of the Pious Predecessors.

According to Imam al-Juwayni (d. 1085 CE) and Ibn Abi Dunya (d. 894 CE), the young Companion Abdullah b. al-Zubayr (d. 692 CE), nephew of Aisha, had musical instruments.

Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE) mentions narrations that mention Ibn Umar (son of Umar b. al-Khattab) approving of musical instruments.

The Shafi`i scholars al-Ruyani (1100-1101 CE) and Abu Mansur al-Azhari (d. 981 CE) mention that the Malikis approved of musical instruments.

It is mentioned that al-Minhal bin Amr (early hadith scholar, d. c. 729-733 CE) listened to music.

According to Ibn Tahir al-Qaysarani (d. 1113 CE), all Medinan jurists agree that playing musical instruments is permissible.

Al-Mawardi mentions that some Shafi`i jurists approve of playing the oud. According to him the Companions and Successors were all agreed on the permissibility of singing.

Source (Arabic): Archived PDF

Assalamualaikum warrahmatullah wabarakatuh. Regarding the musical instruments, since it is in a "grey" area (i.e. some prohibit, some don't ), isn't it better to just stay away from it, then?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

If it was in a gray area according to the Quran or Sunna, it would have been good to avoid it. But it is only in a gray according to the culture of the Muslims that came after the Prophet .

Some of them had a very negative view of musical instruments because they knew of no wholesome use for them. To them it was always associated with dancing and drinking alcohol, for this reason they considered them evil by association.

In Islam we should not blindly follow the opinions of past scholars. We should instead try to work out the evidence that they relied on for their opinions. When we do such a study, we find that it was all a matter of cultural biases.

Generally, according to my understanding, to put something in a gray area there needs to be two things: first, evidence from the Quran and Sunna and second, something in our reason and conscience that tells us that thing is not good. When it comes to musical instruments both of these are lacking. There is neither enough evidence to put it in a gray area, nor is there anything in our reason and conscience that makes musical instruments repulsive in themselves.

As a person who enjoys both classical Persian and Western music, I tend to agree with Bach when he says:

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

All beautiful music celebrates God (as I discuss here: The two salvations: How erotic beauty is a false category of beauty) according to my theory of Islamic aesthetics. So music is not just neutral, it actually has positive value in helping us connect with God (I am not referring to religious music specifically, any music whose beauty moves us helps us experience God).

Music can also have utilitarian benefits that give it a positive value, such as music that a programmer listens to to enhance focus (I personally listen to certain video game soundtracks when programming, such as that of Half Life and Medal of Honor Underground) or that is used during exercise.

Of course singing and music can be taken to excess or be done in inappropriate ways. And the celebration of beauty causes too many people to think that their appreciation for it somehow takes away their duty to submit to God and abide by His restrictions. But what I am saying here is that it is possible to be a devout and conservative Muslim who reads the Quran daily and who has a place for music in their lives.

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