Discourse about music in Islam
Refer to websites specializing in various Topics in Islam
The Qur'an says nothing explicit about music, but certain verses are interpreted as supporting or condemning music and singing.
Likewise, the Hadith contains various texts, which may be interpreted as either supporting or condemning music.
Sufism and Sufi poetry are full of music.
There is an extensive discourse on music in the Islamic tradition, including the use and effects of music in religious ritual (especially the sama`, spiritual audition), and the legality of music generally. While the Qur'an neither explicitly proscribes nor allows music, various passages have been interpreted as implying either position. The second principal sacred source for Muslims, Hadith (descriptions of sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad), occasionally refers to music and singing, but once again passages may be located to support either position. Thus the legality of music depends on the perspective of the interpreter. Such interpretation continues to the present day, as is evident from the large number of web sites devoted to this topic.
Polemics on music: is music haram or halal?
- Islamic religious (metaphysical) discourse concerning music's legitimacy, as an entertainment/artistic practice, or as a spiritual practice
- Secular practice (entertainment/art) of ghina - issue of haram (forbidden) or halal (accepted)
- Spiritual practices, including tilawa (Qur'anic recitation), sama` (spiritual audition), dhikr(chanting Names of God), inshad (religious-poetic chant) - issue of bid`a (innovation)
- Sacred Muslim sources
- Qur'an: no clear verdict; verses are subject to highly subjective interpretation (e.g. Luqman 31:6 as anti-music, Fatir 35:1 as pro-music, Al Zumar 39:18 as pro-music)
- Hadith: evidence can be brought on either side, e.g.:
- Bukhari :: Book 2 :: Volume 15 :: Hadith 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." (which has been marshalled as evidence for both sides), or
- Sunan Ibn Majah, Chapter No. 11, The Chapters on Marriage, Hadith No: 1901: I was with Ibn Umar, and he heard the sound of a drum, so he put his fingers in his ears and turned away. He did that three times, then he said: "This is what I saw the Messenger of Allah (saw) do.' ", or
- Sunan Abi Dawud » Book of General Behavior (Kitab Al-Adab), 43:60: Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: Nafi' said: Ibn Umar heard a pipe, put his fingers in his ears and went away from the road. He said to me: Are you hearing anything? I said: No. He said: He then took his fingers out of his ears and said: I was with the Prophet (ﷺ), and he heard like this and he did like this. AbuAli al-Lu'lu said: I heard AbuDawud say: This is a rejected tradition.
- For next time, locate a relevant hadith in the canonical Hadith collections: e.g. see...
- Polemic on music and sama` among Muslim scholars:
- Debate arises over whether to adopt a conservative position ("preventive ban") or place responsibility on the music user (according to principle of niyya, intention)
- Ibn Abi al-Dunya (d. 894): In Dhamm al-malahi, condemns music, ma`azif (instruments), and especially singing girls (qiyan) as a form of illegal malahi (entertainment), a diversion from piety.
- Many authors condemn stringed instruments (linked to secular music and its contexts), but accept percussion; sometimes the flutes (e.g. nay) are also acceptable. Or they condemn mixed gender gatherings, or singing girls (qiyan, jawari).
- sober work and travel songs, old Beduin songs, and religious recitations are typically accepted.
- Sufi authors often allow sama` (spiritual audition), subject to conditions (place, time, people -makan, zaman, ikhwan) but condemn secular music, e.g.:
- "Listening [sama`] is a power that creates divine influence which stirs the heart to seek Allah". Dhu'l-Nun al-Misri (9th century Sufi)
- "Music does not produce in the heart what is not in it; hence it should be forbidden for those who are subject to mere intoxication". Abu Sulaiman al-Darani (d. ca. 820)
- All four legal schools reject music as entertainment when there is no spiritual purpose.
- Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (d. 1111), the great theologian who reconciled Sufi practices with the Muslim mainstream: Music is to be used for spiritual purposes, to remember God. Legitimacy is related to the listener, and context. Music evokes what is in the soul, fans the flames of love. Importance of context: ikhwan, zaman, makan (brethren, time, place). Acceptable music: pilgrimage songs, battle songs, certain lamentations, spiritual applications. Unacceptable music: female singers in public; forbidden instruments (strings); improper lyrics; when listener is ruled by lust; listening to music for its own sake.
- The debate continues: there is a rich lode of contemporary sama` polemic on the web, both pro and con. I've compiled some of it here. Try to find your own examples...
- Moderate position: music is allowable, under proper conditions – music is conditionally halal (e.g. Egyptian Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi: “Singing is no more than melodious words; if these are good, singing is considered good; but if they are bad, such singing is deemed bad.”)
- Salafi reformist position: music leads one away from God, often is associated with forbidden things (sex, alcohol) that lead one further into the forbidden, therefore: music is haram (forbidden) – “the Devil’s Qur’an” (e.g. American Sheikh Abu Amaar Yasir Qadhi)
- See these videos on our shared Drive site
(note: some of these links may have broken - I will be finding new sites if the old ones are down...)
Relatively tolerant position towards music:
Relatively anti-music position:
- Some Mistakes Of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
- The Islamic ruling on Music and Singing by Abu Bilal Mustafa al-Kanadialso in wiki format
- Hypocrisy in the heart
- Musical instruments
Musical metaphors in mystic poetry
Here the circle is completed in the connections between text and context, poetry and performance; mystical images of music in Sufi poetry refer to the ritual of sama`; when performed in ritual, such poetic symbolism refers to itself...
Music in the sacred ayin ceremony of the so-called whirling dervishes, the Mevlevi Sufi order founded upon poetry and teachings of the mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273], who so loved the sama`...
Listen to the reed flute and its cry of separation...
Jalal al-Din Rumi's musical imagery:
Poetry by Shaykh Abu al-Huda al-Sayyadi (19th c), as sung by Shaykh Yasin al-Tuhami of Egypt.