Music Is Not Haram
The Almighty has created man
with the best physical and intellectual abilities. Desires for beauty and
stateliness of thought and practice are found in his nature. He is well-disposed
to choose good to the exclusion of evil, and prefer piety to sinfulness. He
professes virtues of love, fidelity, truth, purity, justice and equality, and
shuns hatred, falsehood, injustice and inequity. He yearns for enlightenment and
shuns ignorance; he goes for fragrance and evades fetidness; he craves for
beauty and dislikes ugliness. All cultural advancement and progress in
civilization, in fact, owes itself to this very natural desire in man for beauty
and grandeur. Every small step he has taken for advancement testifies to his
inclination towards the best.
He needed nutrition for his growth for which he could have done with brambles
and potherbs, but he innovated a variety of delicious foods as an essential part of his meals.
His sense of modesty required that he cover his private parts, for which
he could have wrapped himself up in sackcloth, but he went for silk,
brocade and satin. He needed shelter. Caves, tents or huts scattering
through forests and deserts could have satisfied this need, and yet he
chose to build cities and bejewelled them with magnificent palaces. In
social life, he needed an effective means of communication. But he did not
feel content with simple signs and symbols or even a plain discourse;
instead he coined such eloquent styles of expression that language
developed into poetry and literature.
The history of mankind - in the realm of social and cultural progress -
sufficiently evidences the fact that in his very nature, man longs for
beauty and grandeur in all activities that emanate from him. His physical
and psychological senses, and their necessary characteristics, mirror his
interest in beauty. Therefore, we see that his appreciation for the
ambience of life and its vivid images drives him to decorate his
surroundings. His command on expressing himself leads him to take ordinary
words, and develop their rhyme and meanings into poetry. This is because
of his appreciation for a beautiful voice that he infuses passion in his
utterances and uses the high and low pitches in composing enchanting
musical tones. His yearning to hear pleasing sounds draws him towards the
captivating resonance in his environment and forces him to invent musical
instruments to master and reproduce these sounds. Music is nothing but the
manifestation of his beauty of utterance and taste for pleasing sounds.
Therefore, music satisfies his want of beauty and affords him an
opportunity to delight his innerself.
commonly believed that the Islamic Shari‘ah prohibits music and
musical instruments altogether. However, we understand that this view
cannot be substantiated from the basic sources of religious knowledge in
Islam. Only the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah have the sole
authority to render something allowed or forbidden. Nothing can be added
or deducted from the list of the allowed and forbidden articles of the Shari‘ah.
to identify the Shari‘ah directives regarding a certain matter,
Muslim scholarship has generally sought the two authentic sources: the Qur’an
and Sunnah. An inquiry into the Hadith literature
ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) follows this. If the issue is addressed
in these narratives, they are also to be benefited from in the light of
the established principles of sense and reason, and religious knowledge.
The previous Divine scriptures are also resorted to when necessary.
Opinions ascribed to the companions, exegetical works, Hadith
and Fiqh are also consulted in such analytical study.
following these acknowledged principles of research, we have attempted to
conduct a thorough inquiry to find out the Islamic stance on music. Our
study led us to believe that the Holy Qur’an does not have any
direct or indirect, explicit or implicit directive that can evidence the
prohibition of music. Likewise, the list of Sunan (i.e. practices
established by the Holy Prophet (sws) as part of the religion) also does
not offer any basis for the assumed prohibition of music in Islam. The Hadith
literature contains many Sahih 1 and Hasan
2 narratives ascribed
to the Holy Prophet (sws), which allude to the allowance of music.
However, some narratives depict it as a prohibited activity, but scholars
of the science of Hadith have declared most such narratives Da‘if
Furthermore, a close examination of the narratives that are presented as
basis for the prohibition of music show that it is only the involvement of
drinking, nudity, and other moral depravity that renders the entire event
forbidden. As for the previous scriptures, the Holy Bible explicitly
refers to the fact that the Prophet David (sws) was gifted with a very
pleasing voice. He would glorify God in his psalms, which he sang
accompanied with enchanting music. The Zabur (i.e. Psalms), the
book revealed to him, is a collection of such songs that he sang on a
harp. Different views of the Companions on the issue have been recorded in
the Hadith and the exegetical literature. As for the works
of the researchers and scholars of the past, many of the commentators of
the Qur’an understood some Qur’anic words to be
referring to music. Based on their interpretation of the Qur’anic
references, they maintained that it is prohibited in Islam. As we have
already mentioned, scholars of the science of Hadith consider that
most of the narratives which are often presented to establish the
prohibition of music are Da‘if and unreliable. Some of these
scholars declare that there is no Sahih Hadith in the entire
corpus of the Hadith literature that proves the prohibition
of music. However, the majority of the jurists have declared that music is
an activity forbidden in Islam. They base their argument on narratives
discarded as Da‘if by the scholars of the science of Hadith.
studied all these sources of religious knowledge and have tried to
determine the status of music in Islam. Our thorough research has led us
to the conclusion that music is one of the permissible natural gifts of
God. The Islamic Shari‘ah does not forbid it. One can use the
musical tones in hymns, encomia, odes or tragedy, epic and comedic poems.
However, if any of these literary poetical compositions contain any
polytheistic or atheistic subject matters or is prone to promote impiety
and sinfulness, then of course, it must be condemned and rendered
unallowable. But it must be understood, this is only the content of the
poetry recited that is being condemned in this case not the art of music
itself. If the content of the poems and all literature is endorsed by the Shari‘ah
and does not offend man’s moral values, then music can be used in
poetry, prose, oratory, writings and recitals. If the message conveyed
through the rendered contents does not conform to religious and moral
principles, then all such indulgences shall necessarily be forbidden. For
example, if a poem written in praise of a messenger of God is contaminated
by verses expressive of polytheistic ideas then that very poem is to be
forbidden, not the art of poetry. Similarly, songs that contain immoral
utterances should be condemned. However, once again, this is done merely
because the contents of these literary genres contain debauchery and the
literary activity itself cannot be prohibited based on this. Still, if any
such permissible thing has become associated with an evil thing, it can be
temporarily banned in order to block the way for that inseparable evil.
Music and the Holy Qur’an
Holy Qur’an is the last episode of the religious guidance
divulged by God to man. Initially implanted in human nature in the form of
intuitive knowledge of certain basic facts, this religious guidance
culminates in the Holy Qur’an. Over the course of history,
different Prophets (sws) of God added different rites, rituals and
practices to the treasure of Divine guidance.
Prophet Abraham (sws) gave these practices (known to all as Sunat-i-Ibrahimi)
a well-defined and concrete shape. On the other hand, Divine books like
the Torah, Psalms and the Gospels further explained various aspects of the
Shari‘ah directives and the wisdom behind them. Then, finally,
came the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and the Holy Qur’an. Thus, the
Holy Qur’an is the last version of the religious guidance and not
the first. It would mean that besides the Holy Qur’an, the
sources of religious guidance include dictates of nature, Abrahamic
practices and previous scriptures.
religious precepts are termed as Ma‘ruf and Munkar in the
Holy Qur’an. The word Ma‘ruf signifies all such acts as
are inscribed in the human nature as praiseworthy, and the word Munkar
is applied to the ones considered evil. Man’s ability to tell the nature
of the deeds enables him to distinguish good from evil. This is the very
yardstick by which he can identify the moral and immoral aspects of
certain acts. Therefore, relying on this human knowledge, the Holy Qur’an
does not provide an exhaustive list of good and bad deeds. Generally, it
only provides principal guidance. Detailed guidance is only considered
necessary where humans tend to err in a specific matter and clarifications
are rendered inevitable.
light of the above explanation, we can conclude that the Holy Qur’an
does not pass a verdict on all human thoughts and actions. Rather, it
leaves the matter to men to decide for themselves in the light of primary
sources of religious knowledge, referred to above as innate guidance and
established religious practices. In some matters, it gives only principal
guidance and/or slight hints. In others, it provides necessary details. As
for music, the matter has not been directly addressed in the Holy Qur’an.
No single Qur’anic verse clarifies its religious status.
Rhyme and Rhythm in Qur’anic Verses
The Holy Qur’an
contains unparalleled aural beauty and the best stylistic expression.
Though a literary masterpiece, it cannot be identified with the well-known
literary genres like poetry, prose or oration. Yet, the element of rhyme
in its verses exhibit that the Author has given special attention to it in
order to give it a tint of rhythm. The rhyme element in the Qur’an
creates an enchanting effect on the listeners - commoners or scholars,
Muslims or non-Muslims alike. It was only this aspect of the Qur’anic
discourse because of which the Quraysh were able to say that the
Holy Prophet (sws) was a poet and the Qur’an, a poetic
composition. Since the Almighty has beautified the Qur’an with
rhyme and rhythm, we can conclude that He loves rhyme and rhythm in words,
and beauty in their sounds. Music no doubt is a form of this assonance
created by a certain order of words and their sounds. For that account,
the Holy Prophet (sws) encouraged the believers to recite the Qur’an
with a beautiful and pleasing sound. He is reported to have said:
who does not recite the Qur’anic verses in a beautiful tone does
not belong to us. (Bukhari, No: 7089)
your recitation of the Qur’an with your beautiful recitation. (Ibn
Khuzaymah, No: 1556)
The Prophet David (sws) and his Psalms
When the Prophet David (sws) would sing God’s
praises, the birds and mountains would join him. This has been referred to
in Surahs Anbiya, Saba and Suad of the Holy Qur’an.
We caused the mountains and the birds to join with David. They would
praise God with him. (21:79)
the verse, the verb ‘sakhr’ has been employed, which means to
subject something, subdue it, and bring it in conformity with something
else. Though it is not clear from different usages of the word in the Qur’an
that the Prophet David (sws) would sing his hymns, yet if seen in the
light of the Biblical texts, it becomes clear that he certainly did. The
Bible clearly mentions that the Prophet David (sws) would beautifully sing
his psalms on a harp.
come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of
our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make
a joyful noise to Him with psalms. (Psalms 95:1-2)
sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the
Lord, bless His name; show forth His salvation from day to day. (Psalms
will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing
praises to You. (Psalms 144:9)
famous Muslims scholar, Abu’l Kalam Azad has taken the referred
to Qur’anic verse to mean that David (sws) would sing his psalms
in praise of God. He writes:
Prophet David (sws) had a very sweet sound. He is the first to compile
Hebrew music and he developed the Egyptian and Babylonian harps into more
sophisticated musical instruments. A study of the Torah and Jewish
tradition reveals that when he would climb the mountain tops and sing the
praise of his Lord on his harp, the trees and stones would join him
enraptured. Exegetical narratives also corroborate this fact.
‘Subjecting the birds to David (sws)’ can signify either that all
kinds of birds would flock to his palace or his songs would enrapture
them. The book of Psalms comprises a wonderful collection of songs that
David (sws) composed with Divine inspiration 4.
Qur’anic exegete, Amin Ahsan Islahi too has explained the
verse of Surah Anbiya in the light of the Biblical
narrative. He writes:
(sws) cherished a deep communion with God. At nights, He would set out for
the mountains and sing the praises of God. The pleasing sound of his songs
would echo through the mountains and the birds would join him. It is
noteworthy that the Torah clearly mentions that David (sws) not only had a
very sweet voice but his voice revealed strong passion. Furthermore, all
these hymns are in the form of songs and poems inspired by God. These
inspired hymns cast such deep effect on the listeners that even successive
translations have left only little poetical element in them, they still
fully captivate the audience. The heart leaps for joy upon hearing them.
Imagine a person with so sweet a sound as David (sws) singing the praises
of God amid the serene mountains in the stillness of early dawn. You would
no longer doubt that the mountains would echo and the birds would respond
to his utterances. One should not entertain the thought that it is only a
poetical reverie. Nay, it stands an irrevocable fact. The Holy Qur’an
makes it clear that everything in this universe exalts the Lord. It is our
lack of understanding, due to which, we cannot comprehend these
thanksgivings. Their yearning to praise God is inflamed when someone else
starts singing their heart’s voice. They feel enraptured by such a song
in the surroundings and join the singer in his utterances. Our inability
to comprehend the thanksgiving offered by each and every creation should
not lead us to conclude that none else could understand it. All such
people as have molten hearts can. Mawlana Rum has beautifully
expressed the thought in the following verses:
philosopher belies the incident of Hananah. He is not familiar with
the (extraordinary) senses of the Prophets.
famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib says:
your end is the problem that you do not know the secrets being unveiled to
you. Something that seems a curtain before you is in fact the pardah
from which the music flows 5.
commentary of the relevant verses of Surah Suad reflects the fact
that David (sws) alone was able to comprehend the praises of the mountains
and birds because it was a special favour of God on him. He writes:
everything in this universe sings the praises of God. It is only the
humans who cannot understand their utterances. Our failure to understand
their praises does not necessitate that none could understand them. The
Almighty had bestowed upon David (sws) not only the sound sweet enough to
enrapture the birds and the mountains, but also the perceptive ears which
could enable him to understand the hymns of the mountains and birds 6.
2. Music in the Bible
The Bible is a collection of the Torah, Psalms,
Gospels and other Divine scriptures. Basically, it contains God’s Shari‘ah
and His wisdom. Although different followers of the Book have lost
many parts of this Divine book and altered some others because of their
mutual differences, yet it treasures invaluable assets of Divine guidance.
If seen in the light of the final revelation - the Holy Qur’an -
the contents of the Bible afford us very precious guidance.
We find numerous references to music and musical
instruments in the Bible. This means that in the religion brought by the
Prophets of God, music and musical instrument have never been disallowed.
In the Bible, one finds many places where music accompanies the praises of
God. Besides, at many other places, the Bible positively mentions the use
of music in expressing delight, sorrow, as well as in the context of war.
i. Worship Rituals and Music
When the Pharaoh and his people were destroyed in the
sea by the command of God, as mentioned in Exodus, and Moses (sws)
successfully delivered his people from the Egyptian captivity, all the
Israelites embraced the faith and believed in God and His Messenger. On
that occasion, Moses (sws) and the believers accompanying him praised
Then the sons of Moses and Israel sang this song to
the Lord, and spoke, saying, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for He has
triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider, He has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation’.
Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like
You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus
What follows this is the reason that occasioned
the singing. Maryam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, it has been
told, played a tambourine.
For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his
chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again
the waters of the sea upon them. But the sons of Israel went on dry land
in the middle of the sea. And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron,
took a timbrel (a musical instrument similar to tambourine) in her hand.
And all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And
Miriam answered them, Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.
The horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15: 19-21)
According to Chronicles, when the Prophet Solomon
(sws) got back the Ark of Covenant, the whole Israel stood before it and
offered sacrifices to express their delight and sang praises to their
And they were as one to the trumpeters and to the
singers, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord;
and as they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and
instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good, for
His mercy endures forever, the house was filled with a cloud, the house of
the Lord. (2 Chronicles 5:13)
As for the book of Psalms, it comprises a
wonderful variety of inspired pieces of music and songs. There are
numerous internal testimonies to the fact that the Prophet David (sws)
sang these songs with the help of musical instruments. Inscriptions to
many chapters of the book read, ‘To the Chief Musician, for stringed
instruments. A Psalm of David (sws).’ The contents of the Psalms
also evidence this fact.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a
joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence
with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise to Him with psalms. (Psalms
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord,
all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; show forth His salvation
from day to day. (Psalms 96:1-2)
I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp
of ten strings I will sing praises to You. (Psalms 144:9)
ii. Music as Expression of Gladness on the
Most Joyous Occasion
We learn from the Bible that the
Israelites used music to celebrate joyous occasions. According to the book
of Kings, Solomon’s kingship was proclaimed with joyful music and songs.
And all the people came up after him, and the
people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth
was torn with their sound. (1 Kings 1:40)
iii. Music in the Context of Wars
According to the book of Numbers, the Almighty
commanded Moses (sws) to make two silver trumpets to call the assembly,
and to signal instructions in regulating movements of the troops in times
And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘make two
trumpets of silver for yourself. You shall make them of beaten work. And
they shall be used for the calling of the assembly and for causing the
camps to go forward.’ (Numbers 10:1-2)
1. A Sahih Hadith is transmitted through
an unbroken chain of narrators all of which are of sound character and
memory. Any Hadith should not clash with a more reliable report and
must not suffer from any other hidden defect.
2. A Hasan Hadith is transmitted through
an unbroken chain of narrators, all of whom are of sound character but
weak memory. This Hadith should not clash with a more
reliable report and must not suffer from any other hidden defect.
3. A Da‘if Hadith is that which cannot
gain the status of Hasan because it lacks any one or more elements
of a Hasan Hadith. (e.g. if the narrator is not of sound
memory and sound character, or if there is a hidden fault in the narrative
or if the chain of narrators is broken).
4. Abu’l-Kalam Azad, Tarjuman Al-Qur’an,
Vol. 2, (Lahore: Islamic Academy, 1976), p. 480
Amin Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 5,
(Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 173-4
was one of the favourite cultural traditions of the Arabs in the days of
the Prophet Muhammad (sws). Music and musical instruments were frequently
used in worship rituals. It was also employed in the expression of delight
and sorrow. Music accompanied wars and festivals too. A study of the
traditions ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) reveals that not only did he
express his likeness for Music but he also encouraged others to play it on
festive occasions. Some reliable narratives in this regard make it clear
that the mother of the believers, ‘A’ishah (rta) listened to
songs in the very presence of the Holy Prophet (sws). The Holy Prophet (sws)
himself is reported to have encouraged people to use music on wedding
ceremonies. On his migration from Makkah to Madinah, the
women sang welcome songs on the Daff and the Holy Prophet (sws)
expressed his approbation of this. At another occasion, a professional
female singer and musician approached him and requested him to listen to
her song. The Holy Prophet (sws) not only himself listened to her song but
also took ‘A’ishah (rta) to listen to her. The mother of the
believers leaned on the Holy Prophet’s (sws) shoulders and enjoyed the
performance for a considerable time. During journeys, the Messenger of God
showed his likeness for the Hida, a kind of desert song. He is also
reported to have appointed a Hadi for his camels who was endowed
with a very sweet sound. He also emphasized beating the Daff in
order to announce Nikah. Various traditions have been recorded in
the books of Hadith on these issues. A study of some of these
i. Music on the ‘Id Festivals
(rta): The Messenger (sws) of God came to my residence while two
female singers were singing the songs of Bu‘ath.1
The Holy Prophet (sws) lay down and turned his face to the other side.
Meanwhile Abu Bakr (rta) entered and [seeing the singers]
rebuked me thus: ‘Satanic musical instruments in the presence of the
Holy Prophet (sws)?’ On hearing this God’s Messenger (sws) turned
towards him and said: ‘Let them [sing and rejoice]’. When Abu Bakr
was engaged in some other business, I signalled to the girls [to go out]
and they left. It was on the ‘Id day.2
(Bukhari, No: 907)
can conclude from this narrative the following points:
· The Mother of the believers, ‘A’ishah (rta),
was listening to songs on ‘Id day.
· The songs were being sung in the residence of
the Holy Prophet (sws).
· A professional singer was performing.3
· The song was not a hymn to God; rather a relic
of a war fought before the advent of Islam.
· The mother of the believers did not stop
listening to the song even after the Holy Prophet had arrived.
· The Holy Prophet (sws) did not forbid her from
listening to the song.
· He did not stop the female singers either.
· He himself was not
attracted to the performance but he must have heard the song as he could
hear Abu Bakr’s comments.
· Abu Bakr (rta) condemned the practice at
first sight and declared that these were satanic instruments.
· When he tried to stop the singers and
censure the listeners, the Holy Prophet (sws) stopped him from doing so.
The report evidently
proves that the Holy Prophet (sws) allowed singing music during religious
festivals. This is evidenced by the fact that Holy Prophet’s (sws) wife
enjoyed singing and music. Although Abu Bakr (rta) tried to
stop the function, the Holy Prophet (sws) did not interfere with it, and
let the performers and the audience enjoy themselves. Therefore, in light
of this evidence we can conclude that music can justifiably be considered
allowable in Islam.
The following narrative also
deals with the issue:
A slave girl belonging to Hassan Ibn Thabit (rta) came to us on ‘Id
al Fitr. Her hair was unkempt and she carried a tambourine and was
singing [some song]. Umm-i-Salamah rebuked her. But the Holy
Prophet (sws) said to her: ‘Ummi-i-Salamah, let her [sing and
rejoice]. Certainly every nation has an ‘Id and this day is our ‘Id’.
(Mu‘jam Al-Kabir, No: 558)
ii. Music on Wedding
Narrates Ibn ‘Abbas: ‘A’ishah
(rta) arranged the marriage of a close Ansari girl. The Holy
Prophet (sws) also came to attend the ceremony. He inquired from the
people: ‘Have you sent forth the bride?’ ‘Yes’, they replied.
‘Did you send any singer with her?’ He asked. ‘A’ishah (rta)
replied in the negative. The Holy Prophet (sws) then remarked: ‘The Ansar
cherish singing. It would be better that you sent along with her a singer
who would sing’ 4
have come to you; we have joined you. Peace be upon us. Peace be upon
(Ibn Majah, No: 1900)
delineates the following points:
· The way the Holy Prophet (sws) inquired about
singing and playing music on this occasion reveals that it was customary for the Arabs to
send a singer with the bride when sent to join the bridegroom.
· The Holy Prophet (sws) was not pleased to
hear that the custom was abandoned on that occasion.
· He encouraged people to adhere to the
· He suggested some couplets to be recited
on such occasions though he did not sing them.
· He referred to the characteristics of the
Ansar and did not express his disapproval of the same.
The narrative proves
that the Holy Prophet (sws) approved of singing and playing music on
marriage ceremonies. Some other versions of the narrative reveal that the
Prophet (sws) noticed that there was no singing or music being played in
the house where the marriage ceremony was being conducted. He felt strange
and inquired about the reason. Consider the following text of the
‘A’ishah (rta) reports: An Ansari girl lived
under my guardianship and I arranged her marriage. The Holy Prophet (sws)
came to my house on the day she was married and did not hear any songs or
any other joyful activities. [Observing this] he asked of me: ‘Did you
people sing to her or not?’ ‘This is the tribe of the Ansar who
like singing,’ he added. (Ibn Hibban, No: 5875)
iii. Use of Music
on Joyous Occasions
narrates: When the Holy Prophet (sws) came to Madinah, the women
and the children started singing: ‘The Moon has risen upon us from the
hillocks of Wida‘. We owe gratitude [to God] as long as those who
call God continue doing so. O Prophet (sws) you have brought a religion
that is worthy to be followed’. 6
Narrates Anas Ibn Malik:
[Having entered the city], the Holy Prophet (sws) passed through a certain
part of the town. Suddenly some slave girls appeared singing on the Daff
the following ditty: ‘We are the slave girls of Bani Najjar.
How lucky! This day the Holy Prophet (sws) has come to be our neighbor’.
At this the Holy Prophet (sws) remarked: ‘God knows that I love you
(Ibn Majah, No: 1899)
These narratives deal with the Holy Prophet’s arrival
in Madinah after his migration from Makkah. Their content
can be summarized in the following points:
Holy Prophet’s arrival in Madinah was an extremely joyous
· People expressed their joy by singing joyous
· Slave girls were also from among the singers.
· They had musical instruments to play with their
· The Holy Prophet (sws) and the Companions (rta)
heard these songs but they did not express their disapproval.
· The Holy Prophet (sws) expressed his love and
kindness for singing women.
other similar narratives sufficiently prove that when the Holy Prophet (sws)
reached Madinah after his migration from Makkah, he received
a warm welcome. The city had a festive appearance. Every one was filled
with joy on the Holy Prophet’s arrival. Women, slave girls, singing
women and children expressed their joy by singing welcome songs and
playing the Daff. The Holy Prophet (sws) appreciated this.
Therefore, one cannot deny the fact that the Holy Prophet (sws) sanctioned
celebrating joyous occasion by singing melodies using musical instruments.
iv. Use of Music
Ibn Al-Akwa‘: ‘We set off for Khaybar in the
company of the Holy Prophet (sws) at night. A man from the group said to ‘Amir:
‘O ‘Amir, would not you let us hear your poetry?’ ‘Amir
who was a Hida poet got down and started reciting for the people
[the following verses]: ‘O God, were not it for your guidance, we could
not have been able to offer the Salah and pay the Zakah. So
please forgive our sins that [we have committed] and the ones we may
commit in future. We are ready to offer our lives for your cause. Grant us
perseverance when faced [with the enemy] and pour down your mercy upon us.
[We are the people] who refuse to surrender when the enemy challenges us
to fight. And [we leave them] to cry for help against us’.
The Holy Prophet asked: ‘Who is that signer?’
They replied: ‘‘Amir bin Al-Akwa‘’. ‘God bless him’,
prayed the Holy Prophet (sws) 9.
(Bukhari, No: 3960)
We learn from the narrative that:
· The Companions were along with the Holy
Prophet (sws) on his way to Khaybar.
· Some of the Companions requested ‘Amir
(rta) to sing from his Hida (i.e. song sung primarily to drive
camels, which correspond to their walk). He complied with the request and
began his recitation with such a loud voice that the Holy Prophet (sws)
could hear him.
· The Holy Prophet (sws) inquired about the
· Since he had recited good verses the Holy
Prophet (sws) prayed for him.
Hida is a
form of the desert poetry. The verses in this kind of poetry are rhymed
corresponding to the pace of the footsteps of the camels. Ancient Arab
camel drivers would sing this kind of poetry while travelling through the
desert. Though the primary purpose of this singing was to encourage the
camels to walk speedily yet the camel drivers themselves enjoyed it a lot.
Many Hadith narratives refer to this practice of the time and
evidently prove that the Holy Prophet (sws) and his Companions would enjoy
this kind of poetry.
According to other
narratives on the same subject, the Holy Prophet (sws) had appointed Anjashah,
who had a very pleasing voice, to serve as a Hadi (i.e. camel
driver) during his travels in the desert. During one of the travels, the
camels started to pace very quickly affected by the sweetness of his
sound. The Holy Prophet (sws) stopped him lovingly from singing Hida.
He asked the singer not to force the beasts to walk at a faster pace so
that female riders do not fall down. ‘Anas Ibn Malik reports:
Prophet had a Had, Anjashah. He had a very sweet sound.
[During one of his journeys] the Holy Prophet (sws) said to him: ‘Slow
down, Anjashah, lest you should break the delicate goblets. Qatadah
explained that the Prophet (sws) was referring to delicate women. (Bukhari,
According to the scholars Hida’
definitely is a type of singing. Dr. Jawwad Ali writes:
Hida is of the oldest type of singing in Arabia that was
specifically used during travels and is still used in contemporary Bedouin
society. Besides, since the Hida songs suit sorrowful situation,
this type of singing was used in mourning etc. as well. The Holy Prophet (sws)
got a Hida singer appointed for him called Al-Barra’ Ibn Malik
Ibn Nadar Al-Ansari who would drive camels for male riders. Another Had
of his was Anjashah who had a very melodious tone. He was a black
slave of the Holy Prophet (sws) who was employed to serve as a Had
for the camels of the wives of the Holy Prophet (sws). 10
He further writes:
Al-Hida’ actually is the singing used among the desert dwellers
… this kind of singing corresponds with the tones cherished by the
desert dwellers and also with their simple and natural mourning songs that
please the nomadic tastes of these Bedouins. 11
Khaldun writes in his book, Muqaddamah, that the basic purpose
of Hida was not only to please the caravan members but also to urge
the camels to proceed faster.
This feeling of joy is
even found in speechless animals not to mention humans. Therefore we
see that the camels respond to the Hida of the riders, and the
horses are affected by the whistles and shrill sounds. We already know
that animals receive effects of the songs if they are rhythmical, and
correspond to the rules governing the art of music. 12
Narrates Rabi‘, daughter of Mu‘wwadh: On the occasion
of my transfer to my husband’s home after marriage, the Holy Prophet (sws)
came to visit us and sat down on my bed just as you [the next narrator]
are sitting before me now. Some slave girls were beating the Daff
and singing in lamentation of their forefathers who had been killed during
the battle of Badr. Then one of the girls sang: ‘Among us is the
Prophet (sws) who knows even what will happen in coming days’. At this,
the Holy Prophet (sws) said: ‘Do not say this, but go on singing. 13 (Bukhari, No: 3779)
learn from the narrative that:
· The Holy Prophet (sws) attended a marriage ceremony
where some slave girls were singing.
· Singing was not stopped on his arrival.
· The singers used the Daff with their singing.
· The Holy Prophet (sws) heard
them [this is evident from the fact that he stopped them from uttering
· He however ordered them to continue with what they
were singing before.
effectively proves that the Holy Prophet (sws) did not impose any
restriction on using the Daff, a common musical instrument used in
that society. Keeping in view the information we received through the
above mentioned narratives we can conclude that Arabs of the times of the
Holy Prophet (sws) would use musical instrument to accompany their singing
on joyous occasions. This has been done in the presence of the Holy
Prophet (sws) to which he did not object. Some other narratives even tell
us that the Holy Prophet (sws) even ordered the people to use musical
instruments at the occasion of marriage.
The Holy Prophet (sws) said: ‘the only 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. 14 (Ibn Majah, No: 1896)
no doubt is an old musical instrument to be played by hand, which remained
in use from ancient times. In this regard, Dr. Jawwad ‘Ali writes:
The Daff is one
of the most well known primitive musical instruments. It is used to
express joy and high spirit. Women also play it. The Arabs would commonly
use it on their most joyous occasions. When the Holy Prophet (sws) reached
Madinah he was welcomed with the singing of songs and playing of
the Daff. Usually, the Arabs would use it on joyful ceremonies like
weddings, and would sing songs along with it. 15
The Bible also
contains references to the Daff as a musical instrument at various
occasions. One of the Urdu Bible dictionaries, Qamus Al-Kitab,
defines the instrument thus:
It was a
kind of narrow hoop musical instrument which was held in [one] hand and
played [by striking it with the other.] It was used to create rhythm while
singing and dancing. It would offer much cheerfulness in celebrations and
vi. Art of Music
Narrates Sa’ib Ibn Yazid: A woman came to the
Holy Prophet (sws). He asked ‘A’ishah (rta): ‘Do you know
her?’ ‘No, O Prophet (sws) of God’ she replied. ‘This is the
female professional singer of such and such tribe. Do you want her to sing
to you?’ So the woman sang for her. 17
(Bayhaqi, No: 8940)
learn from the narrative:
· A woman connected with the art of music 18 came to the Holy Prophet (sws).
· She expressed her desire to sing to ‘A’ishah
· The Holy Prophet (sws) did not express dislike for
this nor did he rebuke her.
· He introduced her to ‘A’ishah (rta).
· With the permission from the Holy Prophet (sws), the
singer sang to ‘A’ishah (rta).
narrative evidences that the Holy Prophet (sws) did not consider singing
evil in its nature. Had it been the case he would have hindered the woman
from doing so or at least he would not have allow ‘A’ishah (rta)
to listen to her song. Some other narratives tell us that such
professional singers and dancers, both men and women, were common among
the Arabs of that time, and the Holy Prophet (sws) did not deem it
undesirable to enjoy their performance.
Consider the following
(rta): The Holy Prophet (sws) was present among us when suddenly we heard
children creating noise. The Holy Prophet (sws) stood up. [We found out]
that a black slave woman was dancing encircled by children. The Holy
Prophet (sws) [called me] saying: ‘‘A’ishah (rta), come and
watch’. I came [to him] placed my chin over the Prophet’s shoulders
and watched through the space between his shoulders and head. The Holy
Prophet (sws) asked many times: ‘Have you not got enough of it?’ In
order to know how he cares for me I continued replying in the negative.
Meanwhile ‘Umar (rta) came and the gathering disbursed [seeing
him]. At this the Holy Prophet commented: ‘I see that the devils from
among the Jinn and the humans have fled at ‘Umar arrival.’ 19
(Tirmidhi, No: 3691)
Ibn Buridah narrates on the
authority of his father: The Holy Prophet (sws) 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 God brought you back
unhurt’. The Holy Prophet replied: ‘If you have, then proceed’. She
started beating the Daff. Meanwhile Abu Bakr (rta)
came and she continued beating it. Later when ‘Umar (rta) came
she covered her instrument under herself as soon as she saw him. At this
the Holy Prophet (sws) commented: ‘‘Umar, even Satan fears
you’. (Bayhaqi, No: 19888)
overall situation depicted in the above narratives makes it clear that the
word ‘Habshiyyah’ and ‘Jariyyah Sawda’u’
connote professional singer slave-girl. For it would not be possible for a
common lady to perform before the general public.
The word ‘Qaynah’
in the above mentioned narrative from Sunan Al-Bayhaqi
connotes a professional female singer. The context does not permit any
other explanation. Besides, it is a known fact that in the Arabic language
the word has been used as a term for a professional female singer. The
author of Lisan Al-‘Arab writes, ‘and the word ‘Qaynah’
means female slave singer.’ 20
Black male and female slaves
excelled in the art of dancing and music. Many narratives provide
sufficient evidence that they exhibited their skill in the presence of the
Holy Prophet (sws) at numerous occasions and he did not condemn it.
Anas (rta) narrates: Black slaves were dancing in front of the Messenger (sws)
of God and sang the following words: ‘Muhammad (sws) is a pious
person’. The Holy Prophet (sws) [did not understand their utterances]
and asked what they were saying. The people replied: ‘they say that
Muhammad (sws) is a pious person’. (Ahmad, No: 12562)
We learn from the narrative
· Some black slaves were dancing in the presence
of the Holy Prophet (sws).
· They were singing the praise of the Holy Prophet (sws).
· The Holy Prophet (sws) did not stop them from doing
· He was interested in their performance. This is
revealed by his question about their utterances.
The Hadith literature
contains enough evidence to the fact that professional dancers from among
the Abyssinian slaves used to perform before the Arabs. The nobles of
Arabia would not consider enjoying such performances as undesirable.
Therefore they would invite such artists to perform on their festive
occasions. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali writes:
The Abyssinians were famous for their love of
dancing. The people of Makkah and of other territories of Hijaz
would call upon them to perform their special dances and sing songs
whenever they would hold joyous ceremonies like marriage, circumcision and
other similar festive occasions. 21
Many Hadith narratives
show that ‘A’ishah (rta) enjoyed the dancing feast of the
Abyssinian slaves along with the Holy Prophet (sws).
(rta): Once on an ‘Id day the Abyssinian slaves came and started
dancing in the mosque. The Holy Prophet (sws) called me. I placed my
head on the Holy Prophet’s shoulder and started watching their
performance. [The Holy Prophet did not stop me] until I myself got tired
of watching them and turned away. (Muslim, No: 892)
Prophet’s Praise for a Melodious Voice
Musa: The Holy Prophet (sws) [heard him recite the Holy Qur’an]
and commented: ‘O Abu Musa, you have been given one of the
musical wind-instruments of the nation of David’.
narrative tells us:
Holy Prophet (sws) liked reciting the Qur’an in sweet sound.
rendered it analogous to using musical instruments.
appreciated the musical instruments used by people of David (sws).
This markedly shows
that the Holy Prophet (sws) liked melodious utterances. The words of the
narrative shows that the reason the Holy Prophet (sws) praised Abu Musa’s
recitation was the sweetness of his voice. Obviously, this sweetness of
sound should always be considered a desirable thing; not only this
sweetness will be enjoyed while reciting the Holy Qur’an but also
other poetry, for example, poetical compositions in praise of God and
exalting Him and in expressing other good subjects or poetry. In all these
things, a beautiful voice should be equally considered a virtue. The art
of music and singing is nothing but rhythmical melodious themes. There is
no doubt that the principles of reciting the Qur’an beautifully
are different from the ones used in common musical notes. However, this is
equally true that the treble and bass and beauty and delicacy of utterance
are elements common in the Qur’anic recitation and other types of
singing. Seen in this perspective, both arts have a common trait of some
Furthermore, the narrative
approves of the musical instruments of David (sws). Thus the Holy Prophet
(sws) recognized Biblical accounts regarding David (sws) and his followers
about their use of music and musical instruments in singing the praises of
God. That is the reason the great exegetes of the Qur’an have
recorded this Hadith narrative in connection with the Qur’anic
verses dealing with David’s praises of God. While commenting on verse 79
of Surah Anbiya, the celebrated commentator of the Qur’an,
Ibn Kathir writes:
And this was because
of his reciting the Psalms in a melodious voice. When he would sing it the
birds would stop in the air and sang in response to David; so did the
mountains. It is for this reason that when the Holy Prophet (sws) passed Abu
Musa Ash‘ari (rta), when he was offering his night prayer, he
stopped and listened to his recitation for he had a very beautiful voice.
The Holy Prophet (sws) said: ‘Indeed he (Abu Musa) has been
bestowed one of the musical instruments of the people of David (sws)’.
Hearing this, Abu Musa said: ‘Had I known that he [the Holy
Prophet] was listening, I would have pleased him more’. Abu ‘Uthman
Nahdi says that he did not find any drum, flute or a reed sound more
pleasing than the voice of Abu Musa. 22
Therefore it may
safely be concluded that the Holy Prophet (sws) believed in the fact that
David (sws) had a melodious voice.
1. War fought between the two tribes of the Ansar,
namely Aws and Khazraj, before the advent of Islam.
2. This Hadith is Sahih (authentic).
3. The word ‘Jariyah’ used in the narrative
is usually taken to mean young girls. Although the word connotes young
girls in certain contexts but there is little room to accept it as such.
In this context, the word connotes a slave woman who is a professional
singer and well known for her profession. This is evidently proved by the
context in which the word is used here, and by the fact that another
version of the same narrative has the word ‘Qaynah’ ( i.e. a
professional female singer) has been used instead of Jariyah.
The text of the narrative follows:
narrates that once Abu Bakr (rta) came to her on the day of ‘Id
Al-Fitr or ‘Id Al-Adha in the presence of the Prophet (sws).
There were two female singers with her, singing the songs which the Ansar
had sung on the day of Bu‘ath. Abu Bakr remarked
twice: the ‘Why these satanic instruments?’ The Prophet heard him and
said to him: ‘Let them sing. Every nation has an ‘Id and this
day is our ‘Id’. (Bukhari, No: 3716)
4. In Bukhari, the narrative has been worded
reported that once she married a woman to an Ansari man. The
Prophet (sws) said: ‘O ‘A’ishah, what is it that there is no
singing and playing whereas the Ansar take delight in this’. (No:
5. This Hadith is Hasan.
6. ‘Ali Ibn Burhan al-Din Halbi, Al-Sirah
Al-Halbiyyah fi Sirah Al-Amin, 1st ed., vol. 2, (Beruit: Dar
Al-Marifah, 1400 AH),
7. It would not be correct to translate the word ‘Jawari’
as young girls. Some other version of the narrative has the word ‘Qaynat’
(a woman who is a professional singer) instead of ‘Jawari’.
Anas Ibn Malik narrates that when the Prophet (sws) passed by a clan
of Bani Najjar, he noticed some slave girls were singing on Daff:
‘We are the singers of Bani Najjar. We are lucky enough to
have the Prophet (sws) as our neighbour today’. Then the Prophet (sws)
said: ‘God knows that my heart feels affection for you people’. (Al-Mu‘jam
Al-Saghir, No: 78)
8. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic).
9. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic)
10. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh
Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah
Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 116
11. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh
Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah
Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 117
12. Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddamah, 1st
ed., (Beirut: Mu’assasah Al-‘Alami li Al-Matbu‘at), pp. 258
13. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic).
14. Secret marriage contract is not considered valid in
the Islamic Shari‘ah. Thus open declaration of the marriage is
one of the basic requirements for the validity of a Nikah. That is
why the Prophet (sws) rendered it desirable to beat the Daff on
this occasion during his time. Consider the following narrative:
narrates: ‘Once the Holy Prophet (sws) and his Companions passed the
tribe of Bani Zariq. He heard singing sounds and music.
‘What is this?’ he inquired. People replied: ‘Messenger of God, the Nikah
of such and such [person is being conducted]’. ‘His religiosity now
reaches the zenith’ said the Prophet (sws). ‘This is the prescribed
way of Nikah. Neither adultery nor secret marriage is allowed until
one hears the sound of the Daff or watches the smoke rising. Husayn
said: ‘I was also informed by ‘Amr Ibn Yahya Al-Mazani that the
Prophet would disapprove of secret marriage [and would not accept it]
until the Daff was played’. (Bayhaqi, No: 14477)
The Prophet (sws) held it necessary for the Arabs
of his time to use the Daff to announce the wedding considering the
prevailing custom and cultural traditions of the Arabs of that time. In
current times, the purpose can be met through any other available means.
15. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh
Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah
Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 108
16. F.S. Khayrullah, Qamus Al-Kitab, 5th
ed., (Lahore: Masihi Kutub Khanah, 1993), p. 978
17. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic).
18. Here the word Qaynah has been used which
stands for a professional female singer.
Some people present this narrative
to prove that the art of music is evil in nature. They base their argument
on the prophetic saying, ‘I see that Satan from among the Jinn and the
humans have fled when ‘Umar arrived’. They claim that the
Prophet (sws) related music with Satan and thus expressed his dislike for
it. We understand that the sentence is only expressive of sarcasm, which
he used to express the harshness of ‘Umar’s disposition. If the
words are taken in their literal meaning then one wonders what explanation
is to be given for the presence of the Prophet (sws), ‘A‘ishah
(rta) and Abu Bakr (rta).
20. This is the well acknowledged meaning of the word.
The word has been used in this implication before and after the advent of
Islam. Imra’ Al-Qays says:
worry if I have grown sorrowful. How many delicate singing slave girls did
I employ on playing a Kiran. They had such musical instruments in
their hands which on being stirred by the hands gave heavy sound that
spread through the whole band of troops.)
21. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh
Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah
Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 122
22. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, vol. 3, (Lahore: Amjad Academy, 1982), p. 187
Refernce: Al-Mawrid, Institute of Islamic Sciences