Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
What is the ruling in Islam on listening to music?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Music, according to the majority view, is prohibited with the exception of singing that does not contain any external illicit factors (described below). [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
What is Permitted?
Singing that does not contain impermissible content is permissible. If the content entails remembrance of Allah Most High and reminders of good it is praiseworthy, so long as it does not distract from any religious obligations.
Illicit content will return singing to the original ruling of prohibition. Examples of illicit content are as follows:
(1) The words contain elements of disbelief, sin, and corruption, or glorify any of these.
(2) The singing stirs up illicit desires for the opposite gender
(3) The gathering in which singing is attended contains illicit actions, such as drinking alcohol or impermissible gender interactions. [Ibid.]
If the singing is free from the above elements and does not distract one from their religious obligations, it is permissible, especially if it contains admonishments or beneficial wisdom. [Ibid]
Due to the various textual evidence with regard to musical instruments, the scholars differed. Some scholars took a relaxed approach with regard to spiritual music, such as Imam ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi in his Idah al-Dilalat fi Sima‘i al-Alat.
Others, on the other hand, have taken a very strict approach, which is congruous to the mainstream opinion of all four schools.
The Duff Drum
According to the Hanafi school, the Duff Drum is excluded from the general prohibition of musical instruments. [Shaykh Faraz Rabbani adds that the darbuka drum would also fall under the general prohibition.] This is due to the fact that the duff drum was used at the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), sometimes even in His presence without His objection.
Amongst the Hanafis themselves, some restricted the permissibility of the Duff to use in weddings. Others, on the other hand, have given general permission for its use without restriction.
Singing, if the content is permissible, and the use of the duff, either in general or only in weddings, are permitted. The majority of scholars have deemed other musical instruments impermissible; the exception to this is the minority opinion allowing their use in spiritual music only.
Music and Its Potential Harms
Due to music’s profound effect on the heart, scholars were very wary of it. The soul is easily drawn to and affected by music. For this reason, music can be very distracting to the soul.
In this vein, many of the prohibitions of music come.
Allah Most High says, “But there are some who purchase vain amusements, only to lead others away from Allah’s Way—without any knowledge—and to make a mockery of it. They will suffer a humiliating punishment.” [Quran, 31:6]
Imam Qurtubi (Allah have mercy on him) explains this verse as one of three verses in the Quran that the scholars have used as evidence for the reprehensibility of music. [Qurtubi, al-Jam’i li-Ahkam al-Qur’an]
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Song grow hypocrisy in the heart like water grows crops.” [Tabrizi, Mishkat al-Masabih quoting from Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman; Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Dhamm al-Malahi]
What is Prohibited?
Singing that contains any illicit content or is done in an illicit manner or context is unanimously prohibited.
Likewise, the majority position regarding instruments, excluding the duff, is that of impermissibility.
Any singing, playing, or listening that distracts one from fulfilling their religious obligations is also prohibited.
The Blessing Of Hearing
Allah Most High has blessed us with the faculty of hearing. To show gratitude for this blessing, we are obliged to use it only in the manner pleasing to Allah Most High.
The faculty of hearing is to be used in the following ways:
- Listening to the Quran
- Listening to the advice and religious reminders
- Remembrance of Allah
- Spiritual songs
- Religious courses and lessons [Ghazali, Bidaya al-Hidaya]
One can also use this faculty in beneficial ways, even if not religious in nature, such as:
- Non-religious learning
Commanding the Good and Forbidding the Evil
Due to the above difference of opinion, there is no obligation upon you to forbid people from listening to music, unless that music contains any of the illicit (haram) elements mentioned above.
In such a case, your forbidding is directed only to those elements. You are allowed to advise them to take a more cautious position, but you cannot object to them or judge them negatively.
I hope this helps,
Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.