Is Music Haram?

Music is found in Islam. The way that the Azaan is read may be categorized as musical. However, this question is important for those of the Muslim faith. The music we know today as Sufi music originated from the Islamic empire and many people think of it as a form of worship (Islam). There is debate whether music is allowed in Islam. Is music in Islam really haram? If music is haram, does that mean listening to music is haram? Which instruments are haram, are instruments life Duff or wind instruments haram as well?

This blog post will explore the history of music in Islam and what it says about music being haram or not.

Musical Instruments are Haram, per Hadith

Music is haram because it is a way for the Shaitan to get a hold of your thoughts. It is an intoxicating tool. Those who believe music has no place in Islam are those that believe Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) declared it so or acted in such accordance.

The Prophet is to have said, “There will be among my Ummah people who will regard as permissible adultery, silk, alcohol, and musical instruments.” There are those, like Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Sa’id ibn Hazm (from present-day Spain, 10th Century), who believe that this quote is inauthentic.

To start off with, there are many types of music. One can not blanket this question. Some music is considered permissible while other music is considered haram. Music, according to this school of thought, can be categorized into 4 categories.

  • Music with forbidden lyrics, and forbidden instruments
  • Music with forbidden lyrics, but permissible instruments
  • Music with permissible lyrics, with use of musical instruments (of Sufis) that are forbidden
  • Music with permissible lyrics, and permissible instruments

According to this classification, qawwali and Sufi music do have permissible lyrics. That is the lyrics praise Allah, Prophet Muhammad, and Ahl al-Bait. That singing is good. The use of instruments is what makes it haram. String instruments are haram as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. But, that is confusing. Because qawwali, it doesn’t use stringed instruments (i.e. violin, sitar).

Music is Halal, with historical examples

Nothing in the Holy Qur’an explicitly speaks to music. The question of music’s permissibility in Islam has been debated for centuries, with the first recorded instance being Abu Sulayman al-Darani. The sage of 2nd–3rd/8th–9th century is held in high regard by Sufis. He was the one to develop the concept of ‘ma’rifa,’ as well as preach ‘hope over fear.’

Music has been an integral part of Islamic culture since its inception and as such has had many different meanings to Muslims over the years. Muslims that believe this is permissible refer to the Hadith when Abu Bakr was when in front of the home of Prophet Muhammad’s wife. Two girls were playing music and Abu Bakr criticizes them. To which, the Prophet said, “Let them be.”

Scholars have stated that there is no clarity in the Qur’an or Hadith that definitively rules out the use of music. Within the Muslim world, Shia Muslims believe music can encourage a person to spirituality. This is exemplified in signers like Sanam Marvi and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Riyaaz Qawwali