What Is the Shafi’i Ruling on Listening to Music and Singing?
Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
What is the ruling on paying the drum while making dhikr? Does it have to be a specific kind? What if it is made of animal skin?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him.
Each of the four Schools of Law, the Hanafî, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali Schools, regard song accompanied by musical instruments as unlawful (haram). [Karaan, The Islamic Ruling on Music and Raising Funds via Unlawful Means]
Individual fatawa (legal rulings) have permitted some forms of music within certain restrictions. While there are some differing views and conditions, most scholars opine that beating the duff is permissible, especially on special occasions, and Allah knows best.
Shafiʿi School on Music
Imam Al-Nawawi states in Minhaj at‐Talibin: Singing without musical accompaniment is makruh (disliked), as is listening to it. It is haram (unlawful) to use an instrument that is characteristic of those who consume intoxicants, such as the tunbur (an instrument resembling the mandolin), the ‘ud (lute), the sanj (cymbal), the ‘Iraqi mizmar (a type of flute), but not the yura‘(flute). [This exception is the view of Imam Al‐Rafi’i. Imam Al‐Nawawi disagrees with him, saying:] I say: It (the yura‘) is also unlawful (haram) according to the more correct opinion. According to the more correct view, it is allowed for weddings and circumcision ceremonies, and other (similar) occasions, even if it may have tiny cymbals. It is unlawful to beat the kubah, which is a tall drum with a narrow middle. [Shirbini, Mughni Al-Muhtaj]
The above also explains some of the specifications asked about in the question.
Individual Scholars Who Permitted Music (Within Limits)
Contending that the evidence for the prohibition of music is either weak, ambiguous, or both, scholars such as Al-Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn Al- ‘Arabi, Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, Ibn An-Nahwi, Ibn Tahir, Ibn Hazm, and Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
While the above individual scholars permitted music, their strict rules (such as lawful lyrics and rhythms which do not “intoxicate”) should always be considered. Many contemporary scholars hold this view, which is probably easier in light of current circumstances, and Allah knows best.
Musical Sounds Outside of Our Control
Concerning music beyond our control, such as computer sounds and what we hear in passing, one has no control over the actions of others and will not be held accountable by Allah for their deeds. Allah says: “And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.” [Quran, 6:164]
The Music We Can Control
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whosoever of you sees [or hears] an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
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. [Al-Mawsu’a Al-Fiqhhiyya]
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 regards to musical instruments, the scholars differed.
Some scholars took a relaxed approach with regards to spiritual music such as Imam ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi in his Idah al-Dalalat fi Sama‘ al-Alat.
Others, on the other hand, have taken a very strict approach and this approach is congruous to the mainstream opinion of all four schools.
The Duff Drum
According to most Scholars, the Duff Drum is excluded from the general prohibition of musical instruments. This is because 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. [Al-Mawsu’a Al-Fiqhiyya]
Some have restricted the permissibility of the Duff to use in weddings. Others, on the other hand, have given general permission for its use without restriction. [ibid.]
Singing, if the content is permissible, and the use of the duff, either in general or only in weddings, are permitted. Most scholars have deemed other musical instruments impermissible; the exception to this is the minority opinion allowing their use in spiritual music only. [Ghazali, Ihya Ulum Al-Din]
Most contemporary popular music is unlawful to listen to because they predominantly contain unlawful lyrics and keep one away from the remembrance of Allah. [Baig, Slippery Stone]
We, therefore, urge you to practice caution even when relying on the view that allows some forms of music, and Allah knows best.
I pray that this benefits and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.