The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing

Blessed are those who hold fast to the way of the righteousness and the piety at a time when the whole world is in a quagmire of evil and vice. Praised are those who remain steadfast in the religion of truth when there are little means to tread its path. , writes Aasif Sultan

In the present world where singing and music have become indispensable part of our lives, it is very hard to envisage our daily life without it. From TV to radio, mobile phones to ipods, everything is filled with musical tunes. Now the discussion at hand is to prove from the Holy Qur’an and the authentic traditions of Prophet(SAW) that singing is also forbidden in Islam.

IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCES

The Holy Qur’an in no less than three different places draws our attention towards the vanity of music and singing;Allah says (the meaning of which is);

Do ye then wonder at this recital?`And will ye laugh and not weep ` Wasting your time in vanities? `But fall ye down in prostration to Allah, and adore (Him)! (Al Qur’an Sura Najm chapter 53 verse 59-62)

The Arabic word used for vanities is “Saamidoon” derived from the root word “Samada” which means leisure or idle play. It also means ‘one who plays idly with musical instruments or other objects of play’. According to the famous sahabee Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA), the great interpreter of the Holy Qur’an the word “Saamidoon” in the verse refers to the pagans Makkan’s habit of singing and playing noisily whenever they heard the Qur’an being recited, in order to drown out the reciter’s voice so that others wouldn’t hear it. Though we don’t do this directly these days, but what we do we begin our congregations and gatherings with songs (which don’t have any fruitful meaning as compared to the holy Qur’an( instead of the recital of the Glorious Book.  Though the above mentioned verse doesn’t explicitly forbid singing (without musical instruments) per se, but what the Qur’an wants to tell us is summed up by Abdullah Yusuf Ali as under;

“The higher issues of life and the hereafter are serious, and therefore all that we do in this life is serious and important. We must shun inanities and frivolities. It is no laughing time. If we only realized our own shortcomings, we should weep. But weeping by itself will not help. E must try and understand Allah and adore Him. Thus shall we be able to understand ourselves and our fellow-men”.

Allah says further (the meaning of which is);
“And befool them gradually those whom you (Satan) can among them with your (seductive) voice, make assaults on them with thy cavalry and thy infantry; mutually share with them wealth and children; and make promises to them. But Satan promises them nothing but deceit”.(Al Qur’an Sura Isra chapter 17 verse 64)

Mark the words ‘your voice’. To understand the verse better we need to go back to verse no. 61 of the same chapter where Satan our avowed and manifest enemy wants to be given respite to the Day of Judgment, so as to led the children of Adam (RA) towards destruction. Allah answers him thus as stated in the above mentioned verse.

Evil has many ways to delude mankind from the right path, but the one put in the foreground is the voice, – the seductive personal appeal that makes the worse appear the better part. The early commentators of the Holy Qur’an interpreted Satan’s exciting mankind with his voice to mean through the use of music, song and amusement. Though the verse forbids that singing which is licentious and leads to disobedience to Allah, but the general implication of the verse can never be overlooked.

To further strengthen the opinion that it also includes that singing in which neither Allah nor His Prophet(SAW) is praised and bereft of any moral lesson, consider the following verse from the Glorious Qur’an;

“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the Path of Allâh without knowledge, and takes it (the Path of Allâh) by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment (in the Hell-fire)”.(Al Qur’an Sura Luqman chapter 31 verse 6)

The words to be considered are ‘the idle talk’. The Arabic word used to describe this is ‘Lahwal Hadeeth’ which is interpreted by the great Sahabee Abdullah ibn Masood thus;“I swear by the One other than Whom there is no god that it refers to singing”

To emphasize his position, he repeated it thrice. The scholar of this Ummah  Ibn Abbas strengthens our opinion by saying that it means singing. The Sahabas were unanimous about the impermissibility of singing coupled with musical instruments, so they mentioned here singing without saying with or without musical instruments.

The great interpreter of the Holy Qur’an Ibn Jarir Tabari mentions in his Tafsir that it means all speech that hinders people from seeing the signs of Allah(SWT) and following His path (1For more details see Tafsir  ibn Kathir vol 7 page 571.) So singing which is licentious, having no moral lesson, taking people away from Allah is also forbidden in the said verse.

ONLY ONE HADITH (PROPHETIC TRADITION)

To shake the very foundation of those who hold to their erroneous view of permissibility of music and meaningless singing, we need to quote them only one Hadith which is authentic reported by Ibn Majah in his sunan Hadith No:4010;

“A people of my Ummah will drink wine, calling it by other than its real name. Merriment will be made for them through the playing of musical instruments and the singing of lady singers. Allah will cleave the earth under them and turn others into apes and swine”.

Listening to moral less and licentious singing is in itself forbidden in Islam and we are being constantly warned against the grievous punishment for doing this act, but when the same comes from the melodious and seditious mouth of a lady, naturally the gravity of the sin increases and so does the punishment.

WHAT IS PERMISSIBLE THEN IN ISLAM?

We can’t create vacuum by saying that each and every kind of singing is Haraam in Islam so don’t indulge in these activities. What we are supposed to do, we need to find permissible means of entertainment within the purview of Islamic Shariah. So in Islam there is certain kind of singing which is permissible under certain circumstances and with particular conditions. The lyrics of the songs must be pure and innocent, and must keep within the moral bounds set by Islamic teachings. Hence, lyrics which are erotic and licentious and sung in a licentious manner (which adversely affects the libidinous instincts of the listener) are undoubtedly forbidden.

Singing by women is restricted to a female audience as the nature of a woman’s singing voice is to excite sexual feelings in the male listener.

SINGING AND LISTENING ISLAMIC SONGS

The option for our brothers having good and melodious voice is that they can sing Isalmic Nasheeds (Songs) whose lyrics are in compliance with Islamic teachings. If it is in the praise of beloved Prophet, it should not exaggerate and eulogize him beyond due limit. Besides singing they can also use tambourine one sided open drum without jingles to heighten the effect of their singing which is permissible in Islam under certain conditions. I myself is having a good and a wide variety of Islamic songs usually sung by reverts from UK and USA. Prominent among them is formerly known Pop star Cat Stevens who reverted to Islam and shunned from every kind of music. He is now known as Yusuf ul Islam.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps  for fair-minded and objective readers  this summary will make it clear that the view that music and singing is permissible in Islam has no firm basis. There are no two views on this matter. So we must spread this message in the best manner, and then take it step by step and denounce music. We should not be deceived by the fact that many Muslims even “Scholars” do listen to music, and no one is worried about its permissibility and impermissibility. Know that Islam began as a strange thing and it has reached the very same state of strangeness. Blessed are those who hold fast to the way of the righteousness and the piety at a time when the whole world is in a quagmire of evil and vice. Praised are those who remain steadfast in the religion of truth when there are little means to tread its path.
Note: The main theme of this article has been taken from the book titled “The Islamic Ruling on Music and singing In the light Of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah” written by Mustafa Kannadi.

(Asif Sultan is a student at MERC, University of Kashmir )

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