Music, Banned in Islam?

In no Muslim country, including Saudi Arabia, Music is banned.

This issue is very old and was resolved long time ago. Imam al-Ghazzali, one of the most famous Muslim scholars, writing almost a thousand years ago, reported several Ahadith and came to the following conclusion: “All these Ahadith are reported by al-Bukhari and singing and playing are not haram.” Al-Ghazzali also convincingly answered many critics who had raised such objections in his book, “Ihya Ulum al-Deen.”

Those who are opposed to music, quote this Hadith:

“Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 69, Number 494v: Narrated Abu ‘Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash’ari: that he heard the Prophet saying, “From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, 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.”

It is dangerous to form an opinion on the basis of one or two Hadiths, and Hadith literature should be considered as raw data. Each Hadith should be evaluated and compared with other Ahadith as well as with other historical sources. The problem is that we usually don’t know the context of each Hadith, and it is difficult to know under what circumstances the Prophet (s.a.w) made certain statements.

The above Hadith most likely refers to musical instruments used in drinking parties during the period of “jahiliyaa” (pre-Islamic era) in which even men wore silk clothes and orgies included illegal sexual intercourse. Taken by itself, the Hadith should also ban silk, but that is not the case and silk is permitted for women. That is why it is important to look at all Ahadith and not come to a hasty conclusion. There are other Ahadiths which clearly show that musical instruments are permitted: For example this Hadith:

“Volume 6, Book 61, Number 568:
Narrated Abu Musa:
That the Prophet said to him’ ‘O Abu Musa! You have been given one of the musical wind-instruments of the family of David .’”

Critics also argue that music instruments are ONLY allowed during festivities. They quote this Hadith:

Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 15, Number 72: 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 Apostle !” It happened on the ‘Id day and Allah’s Apostle said, “O Abu Bakr! There is an ‘Id for every nation and this is our ‘Id.”

That Hadith again has to be studied in proper context because the Prophet (pbuh) not only permitted singing on other occasions, he recommended it. “Aishah narrated that when her relative was married to an Ansari man, the Prophet (s.a.w) said: ‘Aishah, did they have any entertainment? The Ansar are fond of Entertainment.” He didn’t say they were fond of entertainment only on festivities or that it was wrong but allowed on some occasions.

In another Hadith, “Ibn Abbas said, ‘Aishah gave a girl relative of hers in marriage to a man of the Ansar. The Prophet (s.a.w) came and asked, ‘Did you send a singer along with her?’ ‘No,’ she said. The Messenger of Allah then said: ‘The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing, ‘here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.'”

Music-haters also reference this Hadith:

“Anas ibn Malik related from the Prophet (saws) that, “two cursed sounds are that of the musical instrument(mizmaar) played on the occasion of joy and grace, and the woeful wailing upon the occasion of adversity.”

It is not difficult to find contradictory Ahadith. However, almost all scholars of Islam are of the view that singing is not only permitted, it is recommended on the occasions of Eid, weddings, births, aqiqahs, and on the return of a traveler. {See Yusuf al-Qardawi’s “The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam.”] Qardawi in the same book also states the following: “It is reported that many Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them) as well as second generation Muslim scholars used to listen to singing and did not see anything wrong with it. As for the Ahadith which have been reported against singing, they all are weak and have been shown by researchers to be unsound. The jurist Abu Bakr al-Arabi says, ‘No sound Hadith is available concerning the prohibition of singing,’ while Ibn Hazm says, ‘ All that is reported on this subject is false and fabricated…he who listens to singing intending neither obedience nor disobedience in doing something neutral and harmless, which is similar to going to the park and walking around, standing by a window and looking at the sky, wearing blue or green clothes, and so on.'”

The best answer was given by Ibn Hazm who quoted another verse: “And what is beyond the truth except error?” (Quran 10:32). In other words, those who are prohibiting something which God has not forbidden, for no apparent reason, are simply falling into error.

Then there are some Muslims who argue that only drums are allowed. That too is false. Note the Hadith that I have quoted above:

“Narrated Abu Musa: “That the Prophet said to him ‘O Abu Musa! You have been given one of the musical wind-instruments of the family of David.'”

That makes it obvious that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) was not opposed to wind instruments. So there goes your “drums are OK” theory. Secondly, what is permitted on Eid day is also permitted on other days. There is not a single Hadith which says that what is permitted for Eid is not acceptable on other days. Muslims have been enjoying Music since the beginning of Islam with no guilt whatsoever.

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3 thoughts on “Music, Banned in Islam?

  1. Herman December 18, 2013 at 9:19 pm Reply

    The desire for music is so strong in humans that even Saudi Arabia’s national anthem is played using musical instruments, despite the warnings of one or two hadtiths.

  2. sincereadvisor December 19, 2013 at 3:54 am Reply

    Once again, it seems that you didn’t read what I had written.

  3. Melanie Dodge March 29, 2014 at 11:28 pm Reply

    It always seemed bizzare to me that music would be considered by some Muslims to be wrong. Wikipedia (/Zabur) states: Zabur (Arabic: زبور‎) is, according to Islam, the holy book of Dawud (David), one of the holy books revealed by God before the Qur’an, alongside others such as the Tawrat (Torah) of Musa (Moses) and the Injil (Gospel) of Isa (Jesus).
    Some scholars equate the Zabur with the biblical book of Psalms. The term zabur is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew zimra, meaning “song, music.” It, along with zamir (“song”) and mizmor (“psalm”), is a derivative of zamar, meaning “sing, sing praise, make music.”

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