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- The Inspirer of Faith -
O you who have attained to faith!
Remember God with unceasing remembrance,
and extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.


Two reeds drink from one stream. One is hollow, the other is sugar-cane. - Jalaludin Rumi

Guard your heart from heedlessness, protect your lower self from desires, guard your intellect from ignorance, and you will be admitted into the company of the vigilant. It is a duty for everyone to seek knowledge; that is, knowledge of yourself. - Jafar al-Sadiq

If someone remarks, "What an excellent man you are!" and this pleases you more than his saying, "What a bad man you are!" know that you are still a bad man. - Sufyan al-Thawri




Further Discussion Regarding Music

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 31:6-9

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:

"Lahw" is something you indulge in and entertain with, and your occupation in desire and show of delight and the like. (15/258)

Allamah Raghib Asfahaani the author of "Mufradaat" writes:

"Lahw" is something which forces you ignore what is important to you and what (meaningful work) you intend to do. (al-Mufradaat al Qur'an p:455)

The word Hadith means "something new" or a piece of news. Lisaan al Arab reads:

The word Hadith connotes what is new among things and (also) a news." (4/133)

Aqrab al Mawaarid reads:

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:

A plaything

Something that makes you forgetful of meaningful activity

Evil thing

Commentators have 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.

"Lahw" 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 3:496-98)

"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 Qur'anic usages:

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 29:64

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 A'raf 7:50-51

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 (sws):

A'ishah (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."

Narrated Umm-i-Salamah: 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, No: 558)

Narrated Al-Sa'ib 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.[3] (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 Music

Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 69, Number 494v:

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 Resurrection."


The above Hadith as narrated by al Bukhari is not fulfilling the requirements of the Sahih in al Bukhari's collection.

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 narrator:
. 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]

Abu 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 true)"

Saalih 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 feeble-minded.


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 Prophet (pbuh).

Our difference of opinion with the four highly respected Muslim jurists should be seen in the light of the foregoing clarifications.

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