Is music haram? Can you learn an instrument in Islam?

Is music haram? Can you learn and instrument in Islam?

This is a full course. Music is a very controversial and very disagreed on topic. There has been much written about it and there are many books on it.

Let me summarise it. We need two things in order for something to be prohibited – authentic evidence (qatay suboot) and definitive meaning (qatay dalala). In the absence of clear evidence, something cannot be called haram, it is less than that.

In the Quran

No ayah in the Quran talks specifically about the prohibition or the permissibility of music. Some people say that the statement of Ibn Abbas about the ayah in Surat Luqman refers to music:

And of the people is he who buys the amusement of speech to mislead [others] from the way of Allah without knowledge and who takes it in ridicule. Those will have a humiliating punishment. (31:6)

However this ayah is not about music, it is referring to speech (hadith).

In the sunnah

The critics of hadith collected all the hadith pertaining to music. There are some interpretations of these hadith by the companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) but it is not incumbent on us to follow their interpretation.

The prohibition of music does not stand the critique of the scholars of hadith. The majority of these narrations are weak and some are even fabricated.

There are some good narrations but their meaning is not clear. The most quoted hadith in connection with music is narrated in Bukhari but is mu’allaq (disconnected), meaning that it does not have a complete chain. Therefore it is not sound and cannot be used to pronounce music haram. The main issue with the hadith is the narrator, Hishaam ibn Ammaar.

Even if we look at the hadith, its meaning is not clear.

Abu ‘Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash’ari narrated that he heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying,

وَقَالَ هِشَامُ بْنُ عَمَّارٍ حَدَّثَنَا صَدَقَةُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ يَزِيدَ بْنِ جَابِرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَطِيَّةُ بْنُ قَيْسٍ الْكِلاَبِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ غَنْمٍ الأَشْعَرِيُّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو عَامِرٍ ـ أَوْ أَبُو مَالِكٍ ـ الأَشْعَرِيُّ وَاللَّهِ مَا كَذَبَنِي سَمِعَ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ لَيَكُونَنَّ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَقْوَامٌ يَسْتَحِلُّونَ الْحِرَ وَالْحَرِيرَ وَالْخَمْرَ وَالْمَعَازِفَ،

“From among my followers there will be some people who will consider hirr, the wearing of hareer, khamru (intoxicants) and the use of ma’azif, as lawful. (Bukhari 5590)

The meaning of this hadith is not clear due to the words hirr, hareer and ma’azif: hirr is a woman’s private parts, hareer is silk, and ma’azif is music.

A woman’s private parts are not prohibited. They are only prohibited in the context of pre- or extra-marital sex, meanwhile silk is not prohibited, except to men. Intoxicants are clearly prohibited. Ma’azif here is not music in general but music which is morally reprehensible and therefore prohibited.

Music is neutral – it is halal or haram depending on its content and sound

Without a clear prohibition, music is neutral, neither halal nor haram. It is halal or haram depending on its usage, like television, which is halal if the programme being watched is halal, or haram if the program being watched is haram.

Classical music would be considered halal, gentle background music, nasheeds, and music with good lyrics. Music should not replace one’s connection with the Quran and the remembrance of Allah. It has an addictive quality, so one should not listen to a lot of music.

If the lyrics are inciting to haram then that music is haram. If its sound is hard, rough and has negative hidden messages then it is not permissible. If someone is addicted to music they should wean themselves off it.

Are we allowed to learn musical instruments?

Yes. It’s allowed, though this opinion is not agreed upon, nevertheless it is very valid.

Protect the 6 doors of your heart – hearing

Though music is permissible one should be careful of having excessive music in one’s life.

Imam Al Muhasibi wrote in his Risala al Mustarshidin (Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance) that the wise men (i.e. himself) said:

The heart is like a house with six doors. If you let anyone enter through these doors without your knowledge then your valuables are at risk. Hence these six doors need to be fully protected.

The doors to the heart are the tongue, sight, hearing, smell, hands and feet.

Imam al Muhasibi said we should keep these locked to protect the health of the heart and to ensure that our valuables are not stolen. Just like we have to guard our tongue and sight, the third door is the hearing. We should not listen to anything that clouds our heart. For instacne, good and bad words impact the heart positively or negatively, therefore, listening to backbiting is damaging. Similarly spending hours listening to music is not beneficial.

Listening to music excessively

Qasim bin Muhammed, the son of Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) asked his father about music, and Abu Bakr said that Allah would categorise everything as either haq and batil (truth and falsehood), and music would fall under batil (falsehood). Songs fill your heart and get stuck in your head.

It is better to free the heart from music and replace it with dhikr and focus on Qur’an and what pleases Allah Almighty.  Some might say they have completed their salah and tasbih and recited the Qur’an and cannot occupy their time with it 24/7, but those who are connected to Allah Almighty, shouldn’t have music on their list. It is not a question of halal and haram, but prioritisation, in his book Adab an Nufus, Imam Muhasibi is saying you only live once so why waste your time with anything that you would regret. Choose what will be fruit on the Day of Judgement. You can’t bring back time.

Can women recite the Quran or sing in public?

Many people say that a woman’s voice is her awrah and therefore she is not allowed to recite, speak or sing in public. However, we have many women reciters who have recited in international competitions in front of male and female Qaris in the Arab world and South Asia. Though people may object, there is no evidence to suggest that they may not do so. If there is a need women can recite in public but reciting the Quran is not meant to be a show or entertainment.

Women are permitted to sing in public, provided the songs and their lyrics are decent, for example, singing the national anthem. As long as there is nothing that contains temptation, (which some nasheeds do), and the circumstances around the singing are decent and within the shariah, it is permissible. The Prophet (peace be on him) himself was present when women sang, and he would listen to the lyrics and correct them if they went against the Shariah, for example, when he heard them sing, ‘Rasul Allah knows what is in tomorrow.’

The voice is a tool of attraction – be careful not to misuse it

A woman’s voice is not her awrah, but can lead to temptation and fitnah. If a woman speaks normally and is not beautifying her voice, or using a special tone then that is perfectly fine. She has not been silenced by Islam, nor has she been barred from public positions or public speaking.

The voice has the potential to used for good or bad. The way you use your voice can gain compassion and attract others. When a woman softens her voice with a salesman, she is more likely to get a cheaper price than a man. Women should be careful not to use their voice or laugh to attract men.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Culture vs Islam (Western Culture) 2020

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.