Ramadan is one of the most sacred of all Islamic holidays. With music playing such an important role in our lives, it is essential to know what is and is not permitted during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
For many Muslims who practice Islam, fasting is much more than not eating food or drinking water. It is abstaining from activities that are part of daily life that take you away from your faith. And naturally, for some, it also includes not being able to listen to or play music.
The Islamic faith has many different denominations. A lot of Muslims live in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. With the many different cultures and ethnicities that live out the Islamic belief structure, you are inevitably going to find differences of opinion when it comes to the playing of music (and many other daily activities) during the month of Ramadan.
As the Holiest month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a renewed commitment to both Allah and one’s faith. During this sacred time, individuals are not to eat or drink anything in public from dawn to dusk. At dawn, prayer and fasting begin.
Many think of music as haram or forbidden. In school, students have even excused themselves from music classes during the holy month of Ramadan.
However, there are differing opinions about music in sufism and whether or not it is appropriate during Ramadan. People are unclear about music and its status in the month of Ramadan, left wondering, “Can you listen to music while fasting?” Or, “does listening to music break my fast?”
Is Music Forbidden During Ramadan?
While there is no place in the Quran that expressly forbids listening to music during Ramadan, several sects and Islamic religious leaders believe that listening to any kind of music will take your focus off of prayer and the celebration of Ramadan.
Others claim that listening to tambourine and daf music is acceptable. More modern followers believe that you can listen to music during Ramadan if it is played at a low volume and behind closed doors or when wearing headphones. Playing loud music is often seen as sinful behaviour because it leads to idle talks and sexual activity.
For many, it is more in how the scriptures of the Quran are interpreted. There are scholars who believe that it is not the music that is forbidden, it is the elicit behaviors associated with the music as it is played. Many within the Muslim community are divided over the topic.
What Are the Restrictions Concerning Music and Ramadan?
In many Muslim communities, playing loud music is frowned upon by the council. Some sects will allow singing, but the playing of musical instruments is considered to be haram.
The restrictions concerning music and Ramadan vary from region to region, and culture to culture. While some sects choose to believe that any type of music is strictly haram or forbidden, others embrace it, claiming the songs are devotional and used in facilitating their prayer and worship services.
Sufis, for example, embrace music as an integral part of how they worship. And singing their devotional hymns and dhikr are an important part of their prayer.
Does listening to songs break fast? For some, singing is the only music that is allowed. It is recommended by many elders in the community that Muslims abstain from playing any music during the Holy month of Ramadan.
Modern Interpretation of Music by Major Sects of Islam
Sufism is a well-known Islamic sect that embraces music on a very spiritual level. Sufis and Shia Muslims consider Qawwali music part and parcel of their religious practice and this music is embraced by many as an integral part of Islam. For many Muslims who play Qawwali music during Ramadan, this is a group activity. In other sects, listening is an individual exercise in which headphones may be permissible. For many Muslims, listening to music is a sacred experience.
Sahelian and Saharian forms of Islamic music tend to have fewer restrictions in that region, than the sects from the Middle Eastern Islamic countries. The same is true for other sects that follow the more modern styles of music, like Chaabi and Rai. As long as the music is played at a low volume or with headphones in your own private space, music is not haram.
It should be acknowledged that everyone is not open to music. Teachers of Sunni Islam would be against music in general. This is especially the case within the Holy month of Ramadan.
What Does the Holy Quran Say About Music and Ramadan? Verses and Interpretations
There are two primary quotes that religious leaders rely on to validate their beliefs on whether or not music during Ramadan is prohibited. The first quote found in Hadith 2:72 has to do with Abu Bakr and his lenience toward two young Ansari girls who he allowed to sing in front of him during the Day of Buath.
The second passage is from Volume 7, Book 69, Hadith 494, which continues to be brought up during these debates. This has the opposite interpretation. It states that there are many followers who believe that illegal sexual intercourse, alcohol consumption, and the playing of any musical instruments are allowed by law. However, Allah does not find them as lawful.
Hadith vs the Teachings of the Quran
While the Quran is based on the teachings of Allah as given to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Hadiths are comprised of the teachings of Allah himself. There is little explicit mention of music, singing, or dancing being prohibited in the Hadiths or the Holy Quran.
Much of what is interpreted can be taken either way depending on the religious views of those Muslims doing the interpreting. Within the Islamic community, people must choose between the word of Allah in the Hadith and how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) interpreted the teachings within the Quran.
Throughout the rest of the year, singing and playing musical instruments may be allowed. It is up to the individual and their beliefs as to whether they find singing or the playing of instruments permissible in their private space.
Should the views of the controversial Zakir Naik on Music Be Considered?
The views of Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, a South Asian Islamic televangelist, are listened to by many because of the reach of his television channel. He believes it to be haram. While he believes that music should be forbidden, it is because music has the ability to take your focus off of prayer during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
He admits that music brings joy to those who use it to further their spiritual journey through the use of devotionals. He makes explicit mention of this joy in many of his lectures and seminars.
Much of what Naik says is followed by the more strict adherents of the faith. The main difference, however, is that he believes that if music is going to be played, it should be played quietly and in the confines of a person’s home.
Scholarly Muslims who have differing opinions from Naik are plenty. Not everyone believes it is a bad idea, especially if a person can play music to be more devout in prayer and in communication with God.
So, the question of ‘Can you listen to music during Ramadan?’ may depend on who you consider as your Teacher or Spiritual Guide within the Muslim community.
Are Certain Types of Music More Acceptable Than Others During Ramadan?
Depending on the Islamic community, different genres and types of music are more acceptable than others. In some, singing is allowed but the use of instruments is not. Within the Muslims in the Middle East, the tambourine and daf (or duff) can be played, but not the playing of stringed instruments.
The area in which Muslims live, and the surrounding culture will determine what is allowed during Ramadan and what is not. Are you allowed to listen to music during Ramadan? While there are broad implications imposed by the denomination of Islam one follows, the answer concerning music during Ramadan will differ from region to region.
Other Activities That May Be Haram During the Holy Month of Ramadan (Ninth Month)
There are many different activities that are considered to be haram and sinful. The playing of board games, spreading gossip, chewing gum, swearing, and sexual behavior, are all included in this list.
It is believed that when Muslims choose to listen to music during Ramadan, it takes them away from their focus and communication with God during the holiest month. This is also true of eating too much food and drinking as much water as they want when a person should be focused on fasting and prayer.
Muslims who celebrate Ramadan and the Islamic faith are very committed to their beliefs. With many denominations adopting more modern views, many practices have changed, including whether or not music is acceptable during Ramadan. During Ramadan, many Muslims who are dealing with medical problems choose to focus on their prayer and communication with God.
For a deeper understanding of the faiths, the individual denominations of Islam must be studied more closely. You may wish to consult with the Muslim council or Mosque in your locality to get personal clarity. ‘Can YOU listen to music during Ramadan’ will be a choice you as the individual will make depending on you interpretation of the holy text, your teachers, your culture, and your denomination.