music in Islam

The Islamic view of listening to Rihanna, Beyoncé and Adele

SalamunAlekium,I'm from Germany and I'm listening USA and UK artist like Rihanna,Beyoncé,Adele... And some members of family says "They're nude all the time and they sing dirty songs,you shouldn't listen them,it's a sin,if you listen or love you are gonna be like them" is that true? I just love all the types of music and I like their personalities,does Islam or Quran says anything like that?

Listening to music in general is permitted in Islam as discussed here. Regarding listening to songs by those singers, it is not a clear-cut issue between it being forbidden or permitted. While one song might not contain anything morally harmful, another might contain much that is disliked in Islam. The following hadith sheds some light on this:

I went to Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and he asked me, "Have you come to inquire about piety?" I replied in the affirmative. Then he said, "Ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdicts on such matters again and again." (Riyad al-Salihin Book 1, Hadith 591)

It is your obligation to develop a close relationship with God (such as through Quran-reading and tahajjud). Once you have a close relationship with God, you can tell for yourself whether something is harmful or not. You will feel it in your heart when something conflicts with your piety and decreases God’s respect for you. So focus on God and start judging things from that perspective.

Personally I strongly dislike all songs that celebrate casual sexual relationships, drinking and drugs, and I consider them harmful to a Muslim’s soul to engage in listening to them.

As your character develops through study and worship, you will start to feel too much respect for yourself to allow yourself to be subject to such questionable pleasures. These singers are often rather pitiable humans with broken lives and little to no wisdom and high character. A person who recognizes these facts will naturally feel repulsed by their songs since they come from a lowly place that is beneath him. I do not say that this applies to all songs and singers. But personally I naturally feel repulsed by most pop songs and could never sit to enjoy them, while I generally have no trouble with classical Western and Persian music.

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 [ra]. 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 PBUH–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 PBUH.

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.

The morality of sharing music on social media

Assalamualaikum, I saw a thread on twitter that said things like sharing music for example is a sin that will accumulate even after you die? Because people will still listen or share it once you're gone and you're responsible for that. Atm I follow the consensus that listening to music as long as it's not excessive or dirty is fine. But what is your thoughts on this? What hadiths are there about sins which carry on after you die? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The Quran says:

So let them carry their loads complete on the Day of Resurrection, and some of the loads of those they misguided without knowledge. Evil is what they carry.

The Prophet PBUH repeats the same message in this hadith:

He who called (people) to righteousness, there would be reward (assured) for him like the rewards of those who adhered to it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who called (people) to error, he shall have to carry (the burden) of its sin, like those who committed it, without their sins being diminished in any respect. (Sahih Muslim 2674)

As far as I can find there are no explicit hadiths that deal with the issue of sins that continue to harm a person after death. But from the above, and from narrations that talk about good deeds that continue to benefit a person’s record after death, scholars conclude that bad deeds that continue to exert their efforts after one’s death will continue to harm that person’s record too.

Music is merely a set of ordered sounds, similar to speech (and similar to the songs of birds). And similar to speech, it is neither good nor bad by itself. It is only once we examine its purposes, effects and uses that we can decide whether it is a good thing or bad thing. Sharing music on social media is therefore similar to sharing anything else, such as a speech, picture or quotation.

Music that is beautiful (such as some classical Western or Middle Eastern music) carries a positive value according to Islamic aesthetics, meaning that it is not just morally neutral, it is morally good and beneficial. (See my essay Beauty as Pointer: An Islamic Theory of Aesthetics). There is also music that is neutral or negative in its value. Most pop music combines both music and poetry of negative value to create a message that positively goes against a pious and God-fearing state of mind.

There are also types of music that serve a utilitarian purpose, such as upbeat music for exercising. There is nothing wrong with that.

For more on music please see my article: Listening to Music is Permissible in Islam

Listening to Music is Permissible in Islam

Is music really haram? I'm not talking about the Rihannas "Wild Thoughts" kind of music, more of peaceful piano, flute, violin, ancient music. The kind of music that doesn't give off sexual vibe and stuff, but the music that adheres peace, you know?

[Below is a quick survey of opinions on this matter gleaned from Arabic-language sources. I may eventually write out a full essay on this, although it is not one of my topics of interest, since the permissibility of music is such an obvious thing that it is almost not worth talking about.]

It is mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet PBUH tolerated musical instruments played by some girls and did not prohibit them.

Narrated Aisha:

Abu Bakr came to my house while two small Ansari girls were singing beside me the stories of the Ansar concerning the Day of Buath. And they were not singers. Abu Bakr said protestingly, "Musical instruments of Satan in the house of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) !" It happened on the `Id day and Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "O Abu Bakr! There is an `Id for every nation and this is our `Id."

Sahih al-Bukhari 952

The musical instrument referred to here is the daff (tambourine) according to other narrations:

This hadith has been narrated by Hisham with the same chain of transmitters, but there the words are:

" Two girls were playing upon a tambourine."

(Sahih Muslim 892 b)

There is also no evidence from hadith that the Prophet ever issued a statement prohibiting musical instruments. The following hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari has been used to argue that musical instruments are forbidden in Islam:

Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari:

that he heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, khazz (a type of clothing), the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, 'Return to us tomorrow.' Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection."

(Sahih al-Bukhari 5590)

That hadith comes from an extremely precarious chain (it has no supporting chains), so it has no power to override other hadiths that mention the Prophet PBUH tolerating musical instruments. This hadith is easily one of the lowest-quality hadiths mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari. It is strange that Imam al-Bukhari chose to include it. It seems almost certain that he recognized its low quality but included it for polemical reasons (because he himself believed music to be haram).

In order for a hadith to prove a point beyond reasonable doubt, it should come to us in the form of a binary tree chain, as follows:

But al-Bukhari 5590 comes to us like this (the reds indicate missing transmitters, I did not fill in all the missing transmitters because the diagram would have become very large, there are 120 missing transmitters and only 6 existing transmitters):

When the missing transmitters far outnumber the existing transmitters, this is strong reason to doubt the authenticity of a hadith.

Another reason for considering the hadith unreliable is that it mentions khazz (a kind of clothing) among the things that misguided Muslims will consider halal. Imam Abu Dawud says regarding this clothing:

Twenty Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) or more put on khazz. Anas and al-Bara' b. 'Azib were among them. (Sunan Abi Dawud 4039)

This strongly suggests the hadith is fabricated since the evidence from the Companions tells us this clothing is halal, while the hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari says misguided Muslims will wear it.1

All in all, the hadith is unworthy of being in Sahih al-Bukhari and its doubtfulness means that it cannot be used as a basis for any argument against music. The evidence for the Prophet’s toleration of music is much stronger, so that evidence must be given preference over this strange hadith.

Many Islamic scholars reject the idea that music is prohibited. The scholar Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE, creator of the “fifth” school of Islamic jurisprudence) considers every hadith that has been used to make music haram fabricated, and considers listening to music the same as taking joy from a nature walk.

The scholar al-Shashi (d. 976 CE) says that Imam Malik permitted music. Imam al-Shafi`i says that there is no clear evidence to prohibit music.

The scholar al-Mawardi (d. 1058 CE) says that Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik and al-Shafi`i did not prohibit music.

The respected theologians Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ibn Daqeeq, Izz al-Din ibn Abd al-Salam (famous Shafi`ite scholar, known as the Sultan of Scholars in his time, d. 1262 CE), Abdul Ghani al-Nablusi, Ibn Qutaybah, al-Maqdisi, al-Dhahabi, Abu Talib al-Makki, Ibn al-Arabi al-Maliki and Imam al-Shawkani consider music permissible.

Among modern scholars who reject the prohibition on music are the Azhar scholars Muhammad al-Ghazali and Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, Hasan al-Attar, Mahmud Shaltoot, Ali al-Tantawi and Muhammad Rashid Radha.

For a very detailed discussion of the relevant evidence on both sides of the debate, see the following (Arabic) article:

Certain types of music can be considered forbidden due to things associated with the music, but that is a different matter.