We understand that
some of the Muslims scholars of the past 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. They also
present these narratives to support their view. If it were the Hadith only
then we have many other more reliable narratives that prove the allowance
of music. The scholars of the science of Hadith consider most of the
narratives that are often presented to establish the prohibition of music
as Da"if (i.e. weak) 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.
Our approach to religious
matters is a little different. We do not think it appropriate to draw
conclusions from individual narratives. Rather, all the individual
narratives should be studied in the light of the Qur'an. Our scholars have
studied all the sources of religious knowledge and tried to determine the
status of music in Islam. Their research has led them to the conclusion
that music is not prohibited in itself. The Islamic Shari'ah (i.e.
Law) 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, atheistic or any such
subject matter that promotes immorality and unethical behavior then of
course they must be condemned and rendered unallowable. Thus, only the
content of the literature recited is to be condemned not the art of music
itself. If the content of the poems is endorsed by the Shari'ah and
does not offend moral values then music can be used in all such
communications such as poetry, prose, oratory, writings and recital. If
the message conveyed through the rendered contents does not conform to the
religious and moral principles of Islam 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 communicative of polytheistic
ideas then that poem is to be forbidden, not the writing of poems itself.
Similarly, songs that contain immoral utterances should be condemned.
However this is merely because the contents of these literary genres
contain debauchery and the literary activity itself cannot be prohibited
based on this. Still however, if any such permissible thing is necessarily
associated with a moral evil, it can be temporarily banned in order to
block the way for that evil.
Let us start with the
Qur'anic verse you have quoted and which is often presented to prove the
illegality of music.
There are some who buy
"frivolous talk" so that they, without knowledge, lead men away
from the path of God and hold it (i.e. the verses of God) up to ridicule.
For these there shall be shameful punishment. When our verses are read out
to them they turn their backs in scorn as though they never heard them. As
if their ears contained deafness. Proclaim a woeful punishment to them.
But those that embrace faith and do good works shall have gardens of
delight, where they shall dwell forever. This promise of the Almighty
shall be fulfilled and He is the Mighty the Wise One. - Luqman
We will study the verse
keeping it in its proper context and according to the classical Arabic
language in which the Qur'an was revealed. No scholar has authority over
Qur'anic assertions. The key words in this verse used to infer prohibition
are "lahw al Hadith" (i.e. idle/frivolous talk).
This is an accusative compound word composed of the words "lahw"
and "al-Hadith." The word "lahw"
connotes something that is used as a distraction (via amusement or
entertainment) and which diverts you from meaningful activities.
The author of Lisaan
al `Arab writes:
is something you indulge in and entertain with, and your occupation in
desire and show of delight and the like. (15/258)
Raghib Asfahaani the author of "Mufradaat"
is something which forces you ignore what is important to you and what
(meaningful work) you intend to do. (al-Mufradaat al
The word Hadith
means "something new" or a piece of news. Lisaan al Arab
The word Hadith
connotes what is new among things and (also) a news." (4/133)
Aqrab al Mawaarid
The word al-Hadith
connotes the new or the news/narrative. (1/170)
According to the
lexicographers the phrase can be taken to connote the following things:
Something that makes
you forgetful of meaningful activity
differed a lot on the meaning and implication of the phrase. Different
people have suggested different things including singing, musical
instruments, polytheism, evil talk, something that hinders you from the
way of God and so on.
A careful study of the
exegetical literature in this regard reveals that Abdullah Bin Masuood
and Abdullah Ibn Abbaas took these words to connote
singing. Jabir, `Ikramah, Saeed Bin Jubair,
Mujahid, Makhool, Amr Ibn Shoab, Ali
Ibn Bazeemah also hold the same view. Hassan Basari is reported
to have said that these words refer to musical instruments. Zahhaak
said that these refer to polytheistic activity whereas Qataadah
opined that these refer to evil talk.
Ibn Jarir Tabari
has recorded almost all these sayings and then gives his own
interpretation in the following words:
And the correct view in
this regard is that these words imply every such activity that can
hinder you from the way of God and listening to that which has been
prohibited by God and His Messenger. This I say because God has not
mentioned any specific things rather He used a comprehensive expression
"lahw al Hadith." Therefore this is a general directive
unless and until some other evidence proves specification. Singing and
polytheism are also one of the implied meanings. (21/74)
Allamah Zamakhshari and
Imam Razi have also given almost the same meaning.
includes every evil thing that makes you unmindful of the good and
purposeful activities. And "Lahw al Hadith" would
include things like spending nights in listening and narrating stories
and baseless narratives, silly talks, joking and laughter, purposeless
and nonsense conversation, singing and learning music and the like. (Al-Kashaaf
"Lahw al Hadith"
means abandoning wisdom and indulging in some other evil talks. (Raazi,
al-Tafseer al Kabir 25/140)
Keeping in view the
above explanation we can safely conclude that we cannot declare music haraam
on the basis of the words "Lahw al Hadith" occurring in
the Holy Qur'an. The usage in the Qur'an does not accept this
interpretation of the word. The word Lahw has been used in many
other places in the Qur'an. A study of the context of the verses where
the word has been used reveals that nowhere in the Qur'an does the word
specifically connote "singing or playing music."
Consider the following
This life of the world
is but a pastime and a game. Lo! The home of the Hereafter that is Life,
if they but knew. - Al Ankaboot
And they say: True life
is only our life of the world, and we shall not be raised again. If you
could see when they will be set before their Lord! He will say: Is not
this real? They will reply: of course, by our Lord! This is really
happening to us. He will say: Taste now the retribution for that you
used to reject. They indeed are losers who denied their meeting with
Allah until, when the hour will come upon them suddenly, they will cry:
Alas for us, that we neglected it! They will be bearing upon their back
their burdens. Beware, evil is the burden that which they will bear! And
this life of the world is but a pastime and a sport. Far better is the
abode of the Hereafter for those who are God conscious. Would not you
understand? - Al An'am 6:29-32
And leave those who take
their religion for a pastime and a jest, and who are deceived by the life
of the world. - Al An'am 6:70
And the dwellers of the
Fire will call the dwellers of the Garden; bestow on us some water or some
of that with which God has provided you. They will reply: He has forbidden
both to disbelievers. The ones who took their religion for a sport and
pastime, and who were utterly deceived by the life of the world.
Therefore, this day we will ignore them even as they did disregard the
meeting of this Day and as they used to deny Our revelations. - Al
Believers, when the call
is made for the prayer of the day of Jumu'ah, haste towards
remembrance of God and abandon your trading. That is better for you if you
know. When the prayer is over, disperse in the land and seek of God's
bounty, and remember God much, so that you may prosper. [On the contrary
the attitude of these weak Muslims shows that] when they see some
merchandise or interesting thing they break away to it and leave you
standing. Tell them that what is with God is better than pastime and than
merchandise, and God is the best of providers. - Al Jumu'ah 62:9-11
If we replace the word
"Lahw al Hadith" with the word "singing or
music" in all the above passages we will see that it does not fit in.
Therefore, we cannot say that the word has been specifically used to
connote music in verse 31:6. If properly studied in the light of the
context in which the verse occurs, the common use of the word in the
Qur'an and the principles of Arabic language the word obviously means all
things that have the potential to misguide people, which the miscreants
were spreading through the masses in order to divert people's attention
from the Qur'anic message. Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
The compound words
"Lahw al Hadith" are structured exactly the same
way as the expression "zukhruf al Qaul". In this
context the word has been used in contrast with Qur'anic verses. Thus
the words connote all the activities that the miscreants would spread
among the masses in order to divert their attention from the Qur'an. The
Holy Qur'an aimed to bring the realities of life before the eyes of
people but its opponents were out to keep them indulged in the nonsense
they were engrossed in. The verse alludes to this state of affairs and
the words express astonishment. The implication is that God has revealed
a Book of wisdom for the guidance of the people but most of them would
prefer nonsense that they have been engaged in. These indulgences only
match their evil natures and confirm their deviations. The miscreants
put their efforts in this way merely because they want to keep the
people away from the path of God despite the fact that they have no
foundation to verify the way they themselves are treading and are invite
others to follow it leaving God out of their concern. They are daring
enough to hold in ridicule the verses of God and fabricate tons of lies
to establish their claims. They will be put through a very shameful
punishment. [Tadabbur al Qur'an 6/123]
The mischief-makers might
have offered oration, games (like gambling), recitation of poetry and
musical shows etc. to distract people from the Qur'anic message. These are
the only favorite pastimes in that culture. Although all these forms of
art are basically allowable, nonetheless, they can never be allowed in
distracting people from the Qur'an. Every God conscious person is expected
to personally avoid this abuse of the arts and to create the same
awareness in others as well.
Now I would like to
mention some of the narratives where music has been allowed by the Prophet
(rta) narrates that once Abu Bakr (rta) came to her on the day of Id-al-Fitr
or Id-al Adha while the Prophet (sws) was present. There were
two female singers with her, singing the songs which Ansar had
sung on the day of Buath. Abu Bakr remarked twice, "Why
these satanic instruments?" The Prophet heard him and said to Abu
Bakr, "Let them sing for every nation has an Id (i.e. festival) and
this day is our Id."
A slave girl belonging to Hassan Bin Thabit (rta) came to us on
the "Id day. Her hair was unkempt and she carried a tambourine and
she was singing (some song). Umm-i-Salamah rebuked her. But the
Holy Prophet (sws) said to her, "Ummi-i-Salamah, leave her
(sing and rejoice). Certainly every nation has an "Id (i.e.
festival) and this day is our "Id." (Mu'jam al-Kabir,
Bin Yadheed: A woman came to the Holy Prophet (sws). He asked "A"ishah
(rta), "Do you know her?" "No, oh Prophet (sws) of
God" she replied. "This is the singer of such and such tribe.
Do you want her to sing to you?" so the woman sang for her.
(Sunan al-Bahaqi al-Kubra, No: 8940)
I do not find it hard to
see that in the above narratives music is not employed to announce a Nikah
ceremony, but rather, is purely for entertainment purposes. How to
reconcile between the narratives that make us believe that music is
forbidden and the ones where it is depicted as allowable? We understand
that the Holy Prophet (sws) is reported to have rendered music an
objectionable activity in a specific context. A study of the Prophetic
sayings on the topic evidently proves that the Prophet (sws) commanded the
believers refrain from such forms of music that involve immoral activities
such as polytheism, drinking and nudity.
Idolaters of pre Islamic
Arabia would use music in their worship rituals. Dr. Jawwad Ali writes:
Arabs of the days of
ignorance would use singing in their worship rituals to express gladness
they felt while worshipping their gods and to earn closeness of those of
their gods who, they thought, could be pleased through these songs.
Commentators of the Holy Qur'an claim that the polytheists of Arabia
would circumambulate the House of God whistling and clapping. Relying on
this we can say that the Arabs had introduced a form of singing in the
ritual of circumambulation. ("Al-Mufassal Fi Tarikh-al-Arab"
vol. 5, p. 111)
We know that the basic
mission of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) was to uproot all forms of
polytheism. For that very reason he prohibited all such activities on the
basis of the prohibition found in the Qur'an for the associated
polytheistic activities or its manifestation through any medium. The most
prominent thing in this regard was sculptures and paintings of the gods.
Therefore, the Prophet (sws) forbade making sculptures and painting such
pictures. Similarly he stopped all forms of music, which were used in
idolatrous worship rituals.
The Holy Prophet (sws)
also prohibited music played in gatherings where people would gather
together for drinking and merry making. Hadith literature, books on
history and classical Arabic poetry offer sufficient evidence to the fact
that at that time some forms of music were used in such gatherings.
Therefore we hold that
the view of the scholars who understand the narratives prohibiting music
referring to that kind of music that involves polytheism, drinking and
nudity etc. is correct. These are crimes of first degree in Islam and
anything that happens to promote these should be considered unallowable.
Vulgar songs and songs expressive of polytheistic ideas and the like must
always be considered immoral activities and should not be allowed under
banner of entertainment programs. However, music in itself is not to be
considered haraam for the Shari'ah has never declared it to be.
Authenticity of Ahadith About
Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 69, Number
Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari
that he heard the Prophet saying, "From among my followers there
will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the
wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical
instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay
near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to
them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to
him, 'Return to us tomorrow.' Allah will destroy them during the night and
will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them
into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of
The above Hadith as narrated by al
Bukhari is not fulfilling the requirements of the Sahih in al Bukhari's
Al Bukhari in Hadith al Ma'azif himself
narrated the Hadith to be of a broken chain of narrators in which there is
a gap between al Bukhari and the second narrator, so he drops the first
narrator in his chain. That is called Mu'allaq. Some scholars tried to
connect the chain through other means like whan ibn Hajar did in his
dissertation (connecting what is disconnected) in which he connected the
Isnad of this Hadith. But still, one of the main narrators whose name is
Hisham ibn Ammar as profiled in Tahthib at-Tahthib by ibn Hajar is not
reliable enough for some scholars to be a source of a narration that
depends on somebody like him.
Regarding Hisham the
. The following extracts have been taken from a very well known book
on the subject. [Tahdheeb al Kamaal volume 30 page
242 and onward under the entry on Hisham bin Ammar]
Dawood said Abu Ayyub (i) is better than him (Hisham).
He (Hishaam) has narrated four hundred Ahadith all of Musnad
which have absolutely no basis (that is, hadith which are not
Bin Muhammad al Asadi said he (Hishaam) used to take money
for narrating hadith".
Abdullah Bin Mohammad
Bin Sayyaar said that he Hisham used to - - and he used to
take a dirham for reporting two pages of hadith".
Abu Bakr al
Maroozi said that Ahmad Bin Hanbal mentioned Hisham
Bin Ammar and said he was reckless/impetuous and
Following One of the Four
Imams & the Opinion regarding Music
As far as I know that all four Imams
consider any type of singing and musical instrument as haraam. I also know
that you have to follow at least one Imam, if possible, in totality. Does
this mean that you do not agree with any one of them regarding singing? Or
I am wrong about following of any of the four imams is necessary?
There are a few points
that require some clarification on the issue:
Firstly, a Muslim is not
bound by the Shari`ah to follow any other individual except for the
Prophet (pbuh). A person may disagree with any one or all of the four more
well known Muslim jurists.
Secondly, besides the
Prophet (pbuh) no one else - not even the most respected scholars of Islam
- holds the position, which commands total or even partial submission from
others. It is only the position of the prophets of God, as representatives
of God to the humankind, which demands that others submit to their
directives and teachings.
Thirdly, all Muslim
scholars have presented their understanding of the directives of Islam and
in the light of their respective understandings, have placed the various
actions in the categories of Halaal, Haraam, Makrooh
etc. This placement and understanding is based on specific verses of the
Qur'an and/or on teachings ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). Obviously, if a
person's understanding or interpretation of a Qur'anic verse or of a
saying ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) differs from that of another person,
then, as a corollary, there will exist a difference of opinion regarding
the directives derived from such Qur'anic verse or saying ascribed to the
Our difference of opinion
with the four highly respected Muslim jurists should be seen in the light
of the foregoing clarifications.