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While Muslims like Zaryab and Ottoman Sultans wrote and performed instrumentals centuries before there was a Joe Satriani, the Ummah became so shallow in understanding Islam that many of them declared all music to be haram. Even today, there are Muslims who hold this view and insist on it as if it was Qatai Thaboot Qatai Dalalah. There is no power except from Allah swt.

Music is just one such issue that people have made controversial from an Islamic perspective. Ikhtilafi issues like music have always concerned me as I know people who heard the one sided opinion of those who declared such art forms with a blanket haram and as a result either wasted their talents or distanced themselves from engaging in activism for Islam. This is such a sensitive issue and without an enlightened leadership is bound to haunt the Ummah till the last day. I have personally heard much worse. Not only music but almost every art form is next to blasphemy for a certain part of this Ummah. Another issue is drawing of pictures. Not only have some Muslims called it totally haram, they even went further and declared photography, videography, television, cable, satellite, VCR/DVD players as haram. While the reality is simple enough. Pictures drawn by hand for purpose of worship or veneration are forbidden but pictures in themselves are not forbidden, because pictures on clothes, pillows, carpets and for education purposes have been allowed. As for photography, videography, television etc, these are not haram in themselves, rather it is dependent on their use.

The following is a draft translation from the book مسائل فقهية مختارة (Selected fiqhi [jurprudential] issues) by the Mujtahid, Sheikh Abu Iyas Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Uweida (May Allah protect him). Please refer to the original Arabic for exact meanings.

Question: What is the Shari’ ruling in singing or listening to songs? What is the hukm of using musical instruments and is its trade allowed? I request you to answer in detail with the evidences?

Answer: The Imams (Mujtahids) and the jurists have differed on the issue of singing and they have varying opinions such as haraam (prohibited), Makruh (disliked) and Mubah (permissible), the ones who have prohibited it are from the ones who hold the opinion of prohibition of singing as a trade or profession, and a similar opinion has been transmitted from Imam Shafi’i, and from the ones who disliked it is Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who disliked the issue and categorised its performance under disliked acts, a similar opinion has been transmitted from Shafi’i’ and Al-Qadhi also. And from those who allowed (permitted) it are Ibn Hazam and Abu Bakr al Khalaal and Abu Bakr Abdul Aziz and Saad Ibn Ibrahim and Anbari and many others from the People of Medina. They took Nasheeds in a different category and removed them from the Hukm and allowed (permitted) it. Ibn Qudama mentioned about it in his book Almughni.

And so that the correct opinion is put forth in this subject let us study the texts (Ayat/ahadith/ijmaa) which are concerned with this subject:

A. The texts used as daleel by the ones who prohibit singing:
It is narrated by Anas bin Malik who said that the prophet (saw) said “Whoever listens to a female singer, molten lead will he poured into his ears on the day of judgement.” Reported by Abdullah ibn Mubarak.
Abu Malik alashari (ra) narrated that he heard the prophet (saw) say: “Indeed, people will change the name of wine to consume it and play with musical instruments, Allah will cause the earth to swallow them and change them into monkeys and swines.” (Narrated by Ibn Majah in his sunan).
It is narrated from Abu Umama who said “Do not sell, buy or teach singing-girls, and the price paid for them is unlawful.” (Narrated by Ibn Majah & Tirmidhi)
Abu Umamah narrates that the prophet (saw) has said:
“Verily Allah azza wa jall has sent me with guidance and as a mercy to mankind and (in spite of this) he ordered me to obliterate musical instruments, idols, the cross and things of ignorance…and their selling is not allowed and neither is their buying, nor its teaching, nor the trade in it, and its price is haram, meaning the beaters (drum beaters) and in another riwayah – the female singers.” (Narrated by Ahmad)

Ibn Abbas narrates that he prophet (saw) said “By the lord in whose hands lies my soul a group of my Ummah will spend a night in food, drinks and party, they would wake up the next morning deformed into swines and monkeys for making halal as haraam and the music and for their drinking of wine and eating of interest and wearing silk” (narrated by Abdullah Ibn Ahmad in Zawaid alMusnad)
Abu Umama narrates that prophet (saw) said: “Never trade female slave singers nor train them in singing as well. It is no good to trade them, and [for you], their price is forbidden, and for this the ayah was revealed:
(From amongst men there are those who purchase ‘lahw al hadith’ without knowledge, to mislead from the Path of Allah and they ridicule it. For them there is a humiliating punishment)). [Luqmân: 6] (Narrated by Tirmidhi and Ahmad and Ibn Majah and al Bayhaqi)

A sheikh who saw Abu Wa’il in a waleema where there was singing and playing going on, so Abu Wa’il sat in an upright manner and said I heard Abdulla say that he heard the prophet (saw) say: “Singing makes hypocrisy to grow in the heart like water makes herbs grow.” (narrated by Abu Dawud)

Abu suhaba says that he asked Ibn Masud (ra) about the ayah “from amongst men there are those who purchase ‘lahw al hadith” he replied that it was singing. (narrated by Ibn Jarir and by Tabari in his tafseer)

It has been reported in the Saheeh Al Bukhari (And ibn Hisham ibn Ammar that Sadaqa Ibn Khalid narrated to him from AbdulRehman Ibn Yazid Ibn Jabir that he heard from Atiya Ibn Qays al Kilabi that he heard from Abdul Rehman Ibn Ghanam al Ashari who said: that Abu Amir narrated to us or Abu Malik al Ashari narrated to us, and by Allah he did not lie to me, that he heard the prophet (saw) say : “There will be from my nation a people who will deem fornication, silk (for men), alcohol, and music to be permissible; and there will be a people who will camp beside a high mountain, when a poor man passes by them and asks for a need, they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ In the morning Allah will make the mountain fall upon them and the others (who are saved) are transformed into apes and pigs, until the Day of Judgement.” (narrated by Tabarani)

B. The texts which are depended upon by the ones who permit singing or dislike it.

‘Aamir Ibn Sa’ad narrates: I approached Qarazah Ibn Ka’ab & Abi Mas’oud Al-Ansari (ra) during a marriage ceremony when there was singing going on around and said to them: “You are the companions of the Prophet (saw) as well as you participated in the battle of Badr, and yet this (singing) is going on around you? They said: If you like sit and listen to it with us, and if you like, go away. This vain act is permitted for us during marriage ceremonies.” [Narrated in Nasa’i and authenticated by Hakim].

Narrates Sa’ib Ibn Yazid: A woman came to the Holy Prophet (saw). He asked ‘A’ishah (ra): ‘Do you know her?’ ‘No, O Prophet (saw) of Allah’ she replied. He (saw) said:”This is the female professional singer of such and such tribe. Do you want her to sing to you?” Aishah said:”Yes”, so the woman sang for her, then the Prophet (saw) said “the devil blew in her nostrils.” (narrated by Ahmad and Tabarani)

Narrates Jabir (ra): The Holy Prophet (saw) asked A’ishah:”Have you sent the bride to her house?’ ‘Yes’, she replied. He (saw) asked:”Did you send any singer with them who could sing for them?” ‘A’ishah (ra) replied in the negative. The Holy Prophet (saw) then remarked: It would have been better if you had sent a singer with them who would sing that we have come to you so welcome us, because the Ansar are a people who love singing.” (narrated by Ahmad with a Sahih chain, and by Bukhari on the authority of A’ishah with the words) “that she sent a bride for marriage to one of the men of the Ansar, the prophet asked her “O A’ishah” don’t you have lahw? the Ansar love Lahw” (narrated by Hakim and Dhahabi has approved it).
Narrates ‘A’ishah (ra): Abu Bakr as Siddiq (ra) came to her residence while two female singers were singing and beating (instruments). The Holy Prophet (saw) had covered his face with his dress. Meanwhile Abu Bakr (ra) entered and [seeing the singers] rebuked me thus: ‘Satanic musical instruments in the presence of the Holy Prophet (saw)?’ On hearing this God’s Messenger (saw) turned towards him and said: ‘Leave them, these are days of the Eid.” (narrated by Muslim)

Abdullah Ibn Buraidah narrates on the authority of his father: The Holy Prophet (saw) returned from some of his military expeditions. A black slave girl approached him and said: ‘I had vowed to beat the Daff before you if Allah brought you back safe and unhurt’. The Holy Prophet (saw) replied: ‘If you had vowed, then proceed, otherwise do not’. She started beating the Daff. Meanwhile Abu Bakr (ra) came while she was beating the Daff. Then ‘Usman (ra) and ‘Ali (ra) came and she continued beating the Daff. Then came ‘Omar (ra) and she covered her instrument under herself and sat over it as soon as she saw him. At this the Holy Prophet (saw) commented: ‘Omar, even Satan fears you, I was sitting and she was beating the Daff, and then Abu Bakr entered and she continued beating and then Ali entered and she continued beating and the Uthman entered and she continued beating but when you entered O ‘Omar she stopped the Daff’ (narrated by Tirmidhi and he said this is a Hasan Ghareeb hadith and Ahmad narrated it with a Saheeh chain and Abu Dawud & Al Bayhaqi also narrated it.)

Yahya bin Salim said that I said to Muhammad Ibn Hatib “I married two women and there was no voice, i.e. there was no Daff in the marriage, so Mohammad Ibn Hatib said: the holy Prophet (saw) said: ‘the thing that distinguishes the allowable act (i.e. Nikah) from the forbidden one (fornication) is the beat of the tambourine and open declaration of the Nikah.’” (Al Hakim narrated and Dhahabi approved it, Ahmad also reported it with a Saheeh chain, and Ibn Majah narrated and Nasai as well did, and Tirmidhi narrated it and graded it as Hasan).

Narrates Rabi‘, daughter of Mu‘wwadh (ra): On the morning of my marriage, the holy Prophet (saw) came to visit us while two slave girls were beating the Daff and singing in lamentation of my forefathers who had been killed during the battle of Badr. The girls were singing: “Among us is the Prophet (saw) who knows what will happen tomorrow”, he (saw) said: ‘Do not say this, as no one knows what will happen tomorrow other than Allah (swt).” (narrated by Ibn Majah, and Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi also narrated it and said that this hadith is Hasan Saheeh”

Narrates ‘A’ishah (ra): Abu Bakr as Siddiq (ra) came to her residence while two female Ansari singers were singing and beating (instruments) the songs of Bu‘ath. Meanwhile Abu Bakr (ra) entered and [seeing the singers] rebuked me thus: ‘Satanic musical instruments in the presence of the Holy Prophet (saw)?’ On hearing this Allah’s Messenger (saw) turned towards him and said: ‘O Abu Bakr, for all people there is a Eid, and this is our Eid” (narrated by Ibn Majah)

Anas Ibn Malik (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) passed through Madeenah and saw in a certain locality that some people were beating their Daff and singing: “We are the people of the Bani Najjar; We welcome Muhammad as our neighbour.”

The Prophet (saw) said: “Know that I love you all.” (Ibn Majah narrated through authentic chain).

Nafe’ (ra), the servant of Ibn ‘Omar (ra) narrates that Ibn Omar (ra) heard the sound of flute and pushed his fingers into his ears and diverted his path while saying: “O Nafe’!” Do you hear? So I said to him: “Yes” and he kept on repeating this until I told “No”. Only then he removed his fingers from his ears and reverted to the earlier path, and said: “I saw the Prophet (saw) who heard the flute sound and did similarly.” [Narrated in Musnad Ahmad with an authentic chain, also narrated by Ibn Majah and al-Khallal].

‘Uqbah Ibn ‘Aamir (ra) says that the Prophet (saw) said: “Learn the book of Allah and abide by it and recite it well, by the One in whose hand is my soul, it (meaning, the Quran) is easier to lose (from memory) than a camel from its rope.” Narrated in Musnad Ahmad, al-Darimi, al-Nasai, and in Sunan al Kubrah with a different wording and identical meaning.

Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, “he is not from us who does not sing in the Quran” (narrated by al-darami and Ibn Majah)

We now examine the Isnad of the Ahadeeth narrated under the first opinion in order to conclude whether these are conclusive to rely upon or not?

The first hadith which was narrated by Abdullah ibn Mubarak from Anas bin Malik has a broken Isnad (chain), as four of its narrators are weak or unknown, and they are Ibrahim ibn Uthman, Ahmad Ibn Ghamar, Yazid Ibn AbduSamad and ‘Obaid Ibn Hisham alHalabi, therefore the hadith cannot be relied upon as evidence.

The second hadith was narrated by Ibn Majah from Abu Malik al-Ash’ari and in this chain is Malik Ibn Abi Mariyam and Dhahabi said about him: he is unknown, and therefore is a unknown narrator, in addition to the narrator Mu’awiyah Ibn Saleh, who was unaccepted by many of the scholars of Hadeeth because of his weakness, therefore the hadith is very weak and is abandoned.

The third Hadith which is narrated by Ibn Majah from Abu Umama in its chain exist Abu Muhallab Mutrah ibn Yazid who has been weakened by Abu Zar-al-Razi and Abu Hatim al-Razi. And Ibn Mu’in said: he is nobody, and Bukhari said: he is a refuser of hadith, and also in the chain is ‘Obaidulla al-Afriqi who has been classified as a weak narrator by Ahmad and Darimi and Darqutni. And ibn muin said: he is nobody. And ibn Madeeni said: he is a refuser of hadith. And Abu Mish’ar said: he is a companion of every problem. The hadith therefore is very weak and is not accepted.

The fourth hadith which has been narrated by Ahmad from Abu Umamah , in its chain exists Ali Ibn Yazid al-Alhani and he is weak. And similarly Qasim is also weak and therefore the hadith is very weak and is hence not accepted.

The fifth hadith which has been narrated Abdulla Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal in Zawaid al-Musnad, in this chain exists Farqad as Sabakhi, Haithami in Majmu’a azzawaid said: Farqad is weak; al-Munziri also said that the hadith is weak. This hadith was also narrated by Saeed Ibn Mansur and in his chain there are three weak narrators, therefore the hadith is weak and hence is not accepted.

The sixth hadith which has been narrated by Tirmidhi from Abdullah Ibn Zahr from Ali Ibn Yazid from Qasim ibn abu Umama, from Ali Ibn Yazid, Tirmidhi said (some of the scholars of knowledge spoke against Ali Ibn Yazid and they claimed he was weak) and Bukhari said that he was a refuser of hadith and Nasaee said: is not trustworthy. Darqutni unaccepted it. And Shawkani claimed ‘Obaidulla Ibn Zahr and Qasim to be weak. Therefore the hadith is very weak and hence is not accepted.

The seventh hadith has been narrated by Abu Dawud from a sheikh whom Abu Wail had seen and it is clear that there is a unknown narrator who has not been named and he is the sheikh whom Abu Wail had seen, therefore the hadith is weak and is not accepted.

The eighth hadith which has been narrated by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his tafsir is a qawl (saying) of ibn Mas’ood and is not a marfoo’ hadith, and the sayings of Sahaba are not evidence (daleel), and they are ahkam shari’a for them and for those who do taqleed to them from the Muslims, and it is not obligatory for all the Muslims to do taqleed to it, and this is the saying of Ibn Mas’ood (ra) and his understanding from the ayah, in fact it is the sharh of (lahw) and it is a correct understanding as the has been quoted in the first hadith in the second section which says: “This vain act is permitted for us during marriage ceremonies.” i.e. singing is permitted during marriage ceremonies. As for the Prophet (saw)’s saying in the third hadith, when he (saw) asked ‘Aishah (ra): “Did you send any singer with them who could sing for them, because the Ansar like it”, i.e. they like singing. An observer in this would easily notice that singing is dispraised or censured because of its linkage (Qareenah) to being distractive from Allah (swt)’s path. If it were not so, there would be no censure. Any linkage to distraction from Allah (swt)’s path in any saying renders it to be dispraised while the act itself remains permissible. Singing is similar, it is permissible like any other permissible act unless linked to being distractive from Allah (swt)’s path. Hence this interpretation is not an evidence of its prohibition.

There is one hadith remaining which was reported in Sahih al-Bukhari which is a mu’allaq hadith, and this is one of the evidences for the ones who say that music and musical instruments are not allowed, we shall look into this hadith in some detail:

This hadith although narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari, it would be not correct to say that Bukhari narrated this hadith since Bukhari does not say (he informed us) or (he told us) or something of the similar words, he reports in a mu’allaq manner in the format (and Hisham ibn ‘Ammar said) and the mu’allaq Ahadeeth in Sahih al-Bukhari are not obliged to be taken as evidence although they can be referred to. The Ahadeeth mua’llaqa means that one narrator or more are not mentioned in the chain, and thereby the hadith is Munqat’i (unconnected), and I question: why did not Bukhari mention the one who narrated this hadith to him? Does this not indicate Imam Bukhari’s suspicion on the narration and the narrator, and therefore this hadith falls down from the level of being Saheeh.
Hisham bin ‘Ammar is a man of trust but when he became old his condition changed, his sayings could not be taken doubtlessly, Abu Hatim arRazi says (when Hisham became old he changed, he would read whatever was given to him and whatever was dictated to him, he would accept) and Abu Dawud from whom Al-’Ajari narrated (Hisham narrated four hundred Ahadeeth but his chains do not have a base), and he also said that Hisham would take the Ahadeeth from Abu Mish’ar and then narrate them, and after this he i.e. Abu Dawud said (I was afraid he would create doubts in the matter of Islam itself). Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: “He was somewhat fickle” and also said: “If you happen to pray behind him, repeat your prayers.” It is not correct to take Ahadeeth from such a narrator, moreover, Sahih Ahadeeth refute what he narrated.

Abu Dawud narrated in his Sunan with a good chain, starting with Hisham bin ‘Ammaar: (Abdul Wahab bin Najdah narrated to us, that Bashar bin Bakr narrated to us, from Abdul Rahman Ibn Yazid Ibn Jabir, that ‘Atiyah Ibn Qays narrated to us: I heard Abdul Rahman Ibn Ghanam al’Ash’ari say: Abu Amir narrated to us or Abu Malik, I swear by Allah another oath that he did not believe me that he heard the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) say: There will be among my community people who will make lawful (the use of) khazz and silk. Some of them will be transformed into apes and swine till the day of judgement”. And this has a strong chain with out any doubt but there is no mention of musical instruments and female singers, so it is obvious as to which of these narrations is preferred?
The Shari’a came inline with the innate nature of man and there is no proof to say that it is in conflict with the nature of man, and the singing as all of us know, is from the nature which I cannot comprehend that a man who lives for four years or more and does not listen to songs, our children from a very young age tend to sing and dance, so has Islam come to prohibit what is part of our nature?

In the end I say, if this was a hadith, with no contradiction with the other Saheeh Ahadeeth which we have presented, we would have relied upon it over weaker Ahadeeth. But the issue here is different, that there are many Ahadeeth which are Saheeh and Hasan and contradictory to this hadith, so how do we take it?

For these 5 reasons I do not take this hadith as an evidence for prohibiting singing and musical instruments.
And after we have finished discussing the Ahadeeth from the first section and we have demonstrated their weakness, let us now look at the Ahadeeth in the second section, and all of which are Sahih to take into consideration as evidence, from these we will derive the hukm for singing.

The first hadith permits singing in marriage ceremonies.

The second hadith permits the singing in other than marriage with musical instruments.

The third hadith permits singing and this occurred during a marriage ceremony.

The fourth hadith permits singing with a beating instrument and that can be the Duff and that happened at the day of Eid al Adha.

The fifth hadith permits singing with a Daff by a woman in the presence of men. It cannot be said that this does not amount to permission to sing; rather it allows compliance with one’s vow (nadhar), since if there was no vow, there would be no singing. This view is not correct because if the vow (nadhar) were to be for a sinful act, its compliance would not be permitted at all. If singing were to be sinful, the Prophet (saw) would not have permitted, for it is reported by ‘Aishah (ra) that he (saw) said: “Whoever vows that he will obey Allah, he must obey Him, and whoever vows that he will disobey Allah, he should not disobey Him.” This is reported by Bukhari, Abu Dawud and Nasai. Also since the Prophet (saw) is reported by ‘Imran Ibn Hussain (ra) that he (saw) said: “There is no compliance of a vow (nadhar) for a sin.” This is reported by Muslim. Thus since singing is permissible, the Prophet (saw) allowed the woman to comply with her vow because the Prophet (saw) had returned safely from the battle.

The sixth hadith indicates that singing combined with the Duff is mustahab in a marriage, and not only permissible (mubah), so singing is mandub (recommended) in the marriage and not permissible only.

The seventh hadith gives daleel for the permissibility of singing with the acceptance of the Prophet (saw) on the condition of not uttering haram things, the singing occurred during a marriage.

The eighth hadith gives daleel of permissibility of women singing in front of the Prophet (saw) and that happened on the day of Eid.

The ninth hadith makes singing with good word mustahab with the evidence that the Prophet (saw) permitted the singers and beaters (of Duff) when he said “by Allah I love you” and that is for motivating the singers and he did not restrict this time of singing to marriages or other occasions only.

The tenth hadith permits singing with a flute with the evidence the Prophet (saw) did not prevent the shepherd to sing with the flute, although he plugged his ears as a choice of his and not as an obligation, similar to the incident where he was presented with the meat of locust but he did not eat from and let the others eat form it. The people understand from this act of the Prophet (saw) to indicate that singing is makruh (disliked), but although they happen to have a (doubt) shubhah in this, they have erred. Singing was not specifically permitted for marriage ceremonies or Eid days, rather the permission is general.

The eleventh hadith gives daleel that the singing the book of Allah is Mustahab (preferred), and had singing been haram it would not have been recommended to be performed for the book of Allah.

The twelfth hadith urges singing in the book of Allah (swt).

From these discussions we come to a conclusion which does not have any shubhah (doubt), that singing is mubah (permissible), and is mandub (recommended) in marriage, and it perhaps is obligatory (fard) in Quran. After presenting these Sahih and Hasan Ahadeeth, is it correct to say that singing or listening to songs is prohibited?
The correct shari hukm is that singing is allowed and not haram in marriages and in the eids and on all occasions whether it is sung or listened to, and whether musical instruments are accompanied with it or not.

As for singing in a mixed gathering, or girls dance showing their charms, then this is haram and it is not permitted; not because of the prohibition of the singing, but rather because of what is combined with singing i.e. free mixing and dancing and display of their charms (tabarruj). And I say this in respect of singing which leads to sin or evil talk and kufr ideas, like the songs which Abdul Haleem Hafiz sang (قَدَرٌ أحمقُ الخُطا). Such singing there is no doubt in its prohibition, but as for the ones other than this, they are permissible generally, and recommended in marriages, and could be obligatory for Quran, but it is absolutely incorrect to say that it is haram.

Translated by Maulana Abu Khalid al-Hejazi