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Can we listen to music?

Question:

What do the scholars of Shari’ah say about listening to music, is it permissible?

Qari Abdal Majeed Burton UK

Answer:

Although there is no direct reference to music in the Quran, most commentators think that in verse 64 of Surah Al-Isra “persuade whoever you can among them with your enchanting voice” refers to singing and music.

Persuade whoever you can among them with your enchanting voice, win them over with your soldiers on horseback and on foot, share in their wealth and children and make promises; the promises of the Satan are only deceptions. But you will have no power and influence over My true servants, Your Lord will be their true Guardian. (Surah Al-Isra:61-5)

Latest research shows that music can have both a positive and negative effect on health and personal well-being. Muslim scholars have recognized this impact of music on health so have stipulated conditions. Nizamuddin Auliya (d. 1368 CE) is a scholar and spiritual guide who was criticized for listening to devotional singing. One day some one bad-mouthed him and was rude to him. Nizamuddin said: “God regards aggressive and harsh people as enemies.” He asked “do you know what is listening to devotional songs? It is hearing what is heard, the hearer and the instrument.” Then explained as follows: “the singer should be a mature male and not a young boy or a female. The sound that is heard, the lyrics should not be indecent or shameful. The listener should hear to gain Divine nearness, there is no restriction what kind of instruments are used.

The singing is a voice, how can this be Haram, how can the sounds and lyrics be Haram? Finally, there is the heart, that is touched and moved by it. How can this be Haram if it brings the listener closer to Allah? (Pg. 444 – Fawaid al Fawad)

Studies show that certain type of music can sustain mood, protect against depression, and improve sleep, ease pain, and lower the stress hormone cortisol. Music seems to activate the neurochemical pathways associated with positive mood, emotions and attention, memory. However, Music that is chaotic, up tempo tunes agitates and adversely affect heart rate, trigger stress, even anger. But music with slow tempo, drawn out notes tends to be calming.

Islam is a natural way of life – according to the fitrah. The human soul yearns for beauty and is ever eager to express that beauty. It wants to see beauty and hear beautiful voices and tunes. Entertainment like singing which comforts the soul, pleases the ear, and creates a pleasant and joyous atmosphere is commendable particularly on festive occasions like Eid, wedding parties and birth parties.

Aisha, the mother of believers, narrates an incident where girls were singing. She reports: “On Eid al-Adha there were two girls playing on a hand drum and singing in her apartment, the Prophet was laying down and listening to them, his head covered under a shawl. Then Abu Bakr entered and reprimanded the girls. The Prophet uncovered his face and said, “Let them play Abu Bakr, these are days of Eid.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The scholars are agreed that music is allowed if the following recommendations are observed:

  1. The contents of the songs should not clash with teachings of Islam. For example, explicit love songs, which arouse sexual passions and adulterous behavior.
  2. Suggestive sexual movement should not accompany the tone and manner of singing.
  3. If singing is accompanied by Haram activities like drinking or mixed gatherings, then such singing is Haram. The Messenger of Allah warned “some people of my nation will drink wine calling it by another name, while they listen to singers accompanied by musical instruments. Allah with the earth will swallow them and will turn some of them into monkeys and swine (Ibn Majah).

The Sufis (spiritually enlightened group of Muslim Scholars) have successfully used music to spread the teachings of Islam. They recognized the power of inspiration that music has, the way it can affect human emotions and state of mind and body. Music is capable of inspiring lofty ideals, quelling depression and exciting the tear glands. The Military bands can refresh the weary and tired soldier. Music can change moods and thoughts and thus religious music can bring one close to God.

The Qawwali (religious singing) was initiated by the great Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in India, in the 6th century after Hijrah. It has such moving tones and lyrics that it moves the serious listener to ecstasy and enriches his spirituality. Qawwali’s were and important instrument in the conversion of thousands of Hindus. And this beautiful tradition continues to bring spiritual enlightenment to thousands in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. In North Africa, the Sufi’s use music whilst performing Dhikr (the utterance of divine attributes).

Music has a powerful effect on people, it can move one to tears or laughter, it can make one dance with joy. It can also bring one close to Allah ﷻ . But it can also put a person in the clasps of the devil. This is precisely what the vulgar English and Asian pop music does, its contents often frivolous and sexual, the tempo and style and loudness often offensive. Undoubtedly such addictive and soporific music is Haram because of its negative influence on the listeners’ emotions and spirituality.

Allah ﷻ knows the best.

This Fatwa is written by Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari Translator of Majestic Quran, www.majesticquran.co.uk