music in Islam

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.

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 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.]

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:

https://archive.islamonline.net/?p=25

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