Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: Is it permissible to listen to a nasheed (Islamically-themed song) that incorporates musical instruments or to instrumental music without words?
Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Merciful.
The relied-upon position in the Hanafi school, as well as the three other schools of jurisprudence, is that musical instruments (except the duff [a specific type of frame drum]) are impermissible. While there is some difference of opinion, including that of some notable jurists, one should remain within what is relied upon.
Some scholars did, however, allow instruments, if not used for vain purposes, including the use of instruments by some Sufis and others for “spiritually uplifting” purposes, as long as this was free of other impermissible matters (such as impermissible song content, female singing for non-females, free-mixing at such gatherings, etc.).
This remains a minority opinion, however, and religious precaution would indicate avoiding it. Even those who permitted instruments did so with strict conditions, rarely met by “Sufis” of our times, let alone others.
At the same time, Ibn Abidin explains in his “Radd al-Muhtar” [6.349, Ilmiyya ed.], one should not condemn those (like upright Sufis) who have noble intentions in their listening to such songs and are far from vain purposes (lahw), as long as nothing else impermissible is conjoined with the listening.
As such, religious caution and following sounder legal opinion (and the outward purport of the prohibitions of the Qur’an and sunna) would indicate scrupulously avoiding music and singing with instruments besides the duff.
However, one should not condemn others about this because of the difference of opinion regarding this.