Is Listening to Music Haram? The Real Answer
From our understanding of the Quran, no verse explicitly declares music as haram. Imam al-Ghazzali referred to several Hadith in al-Bukhari and concluded that a specific type of music is indeed permissible.
We’ve put together a number of fatwa and Hadith that discuss music and its halal/haram status in Islam. If you have the question “Is listening to music Haram,” you’ll find a definitive answer by the end of this discussion.
Ibn Abbas, a highly-respected commentator and the cousin of Muhammad, expressed that the “Idle Talk” in Sura Luqman 31:6 refers to music.
Ibn Hazm and Yusuf Al Qaradawi, Muslim jurists from the Thaahiri school, believe music is permitted, provided that it encourages good behavior and closeness to Allah.
What Is the Ruling Concerning Music in Islam?
Music can distract people from the worship of Allah. There’s a clear difference of scholarly opinion over the prohibition of music in Islam. Needless to say, it gives way to careless interpretations by the common people.
So, let’s see what we have gathered from the verses of the Quran and notable Hadith.
In Surah Luqman, Allah said: “And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e., music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allah…” [Luqman 31:6] Prominent scholar Al-Hasan al-Basri said: “This ayah was revealed concerning musical instruments and singing.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 3/451)
Famous scholar Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah have mercy on him) also agreed: this refers to singing. Another scholar, Mujahid (may Allah be pleased with him), added: this means playing the drum or similar instruments. (Tafsir al-Tabari, 21/40)
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“The interpretation of the Sahabah and Tabi’in, or the ‘idle talk’ that refers to singing, is sufficient. It was reported with sahih isnad from Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn Mas’ud. Abu’l-Sahba said: I asked Ibn Mas’ud about the ayah, ‘”And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks’ [Luqman 31:6].
He replied: By Allah, besides Whom there is no other god, this means singing – and he repeated it three times. It was also reported with a sahih isnad from Ibn’ Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) that this means singing.
The Islamic scholars all agreed to the point that “idle talk” in the ayah meant singing, and in their times, that usually meant singing about the stories of Roman and Persian kings about how great they were and so on.
According to the scholars, these songs were distracting the Muslim ummah, so the ayah, like all the other ones, was visionary and led to a perfect lifestyle.
On a more detailed note, the ayah refers to the fact that songs could mislead the people into replacing the holy Quran with idle talk and/or consider them the same.
“[Allah said to Iblis:] And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice …” [al-Isra 17:64] According to Mujahid (May Allah be pleased upon him), the ayah points out to the singing part as the voice of Iblis is falsehood and singing.
“Do you then wonder at this recitation (the Quran)? And you laugh at it and weep not, wasting your life in pastime and amusements (singing)” [al-Najm 53:59-61]
Ibn Kathir (May Allah have mercy on him) was sure that this ayah is a testament to why music is haram. Pastime and amusements referred to music with musical instruments here.
So, all these ayahs and hadiths, alongside the clarification of prominent Islamic Scholars, suggest that music and musical instruments are not permitted in Islam.
Why Is Music Accepted and Practised Among Modern Muslims
Ikhwan as-Safa, a 10th century philosophical group, argues that true audio art is the voice of God, which the Prophet Moses had heard at Sinai. Upon hearing the Voice, Moses moved beyond the charms of earthly music.
Based on this incident, the Ikhwan As-Safa group believes that human music is mere echoes that remind us of true music.
The renowned 13th century Sufi poet Rumi entertains the idea of humans as musical instruments, so much that he opens his famous work Mathnawi with the lines: “Listen to the reed as it tells a tale/ a tale of separation,” the condition of the human heart from losing touch with the Divine.
It is argued that Prophet David, who authored the Psalms, and Prophet Sulaiman, the son of Prophet Dawud, had beautiful voices and sang praises for Allah freely. Drawing from this information, modern Muslims have an overall understanding of the Halal audio arts.
According to a group of Muslims, nothing can be prohibited unless it’s explicitly mentioned in the Quran or forbidden by the Prophet Muhammad.
Contemporary Islamic scholars, including Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini, Sheikh al-Azhar Mahmud Shaltut, and Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, ruled that music that doesn’t encourage people to deviate from Islam may be allowed.
Why Is Music Forbidden in Islam: More Evidence of Prohibition of Music in the Quran and Sunnah
According to Islamic teachings, music is haram in Islam, even when musical wind instruments play it. In our research, we have found a verse from Surah Al-Isra’ [17:64], from which Islamic scholars have made the inference that music, in all its forms, is entirely haram.
“And entice whomever of them you can with your voice, and rally against them your cavalry and your infantry, and share with them in wealth and children, and make promises to them.” But Satan promises them nothing but delusion.” 17:64
The part “entice whomever of them with your voice” (Arabic Saut, which translates to sound) denotes musical lyrics that can have a lasting effect on the human mind.
Moving forward, the English translation of Majmu’ al-Fatawa by Shaykh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah states the following-
“Hence you see that those who have gotten used to it (singing and listening to music) and for whom it is like food and drink will never have the desire to listen to the Quran or feel joy when they hear it. And they never find in listening to its verses the same feeling that they find when listening to poetry.
Indeed, when they hear the Quran, they listen to it with an inattentive heart and talk while it is being recited. But if they hear whistling and clapping of hands, they lower their voices and keep still and pay attention. (Majmu’ al-Fatawa, 11/557 ff)
Objective readers can find that legal verdicts or fatwas do not support music. As Muslims committed to Islam, we should not take part in music that strays us from the path of Allah.
Is Music Traditionally Considered Haram in Islam?
As music and the use of instruments crept their way into the 21st century, it’s good to have a clear idea about the permissible music in Islam. We have mentioned somewhere that the Quran, the primary source of authority for Muslims, does not contain direct references to music.
We observe that when some act is made haram (unlawful) for Muslims, it is explicitly declared in the Quran. As with murder, adultery, and idolatry, a clear verse states gambling and intoxicants are prohibited.
Favorable opinions toward music are based on the premise that there is no command in the Quran that exclusively bans audio arts in all its forms.
What Kind of Music Is Permissible in Islam?
Scholars agree that today’s music can have a bad influence on Muslims. The music videos produced in the vulgar music industry promote alcohol, dancing, and attraction towards the opposite gender.
However, audio arts exclude all uses of musical instruments and contain only the recitation of the Quran and praises to Allah. Nasheeds are devotional Islamic teachings sung solo or in groups. Women do not recite them, nor do they contain a musical instrument and haram speech.
Therefore, nasheed does not resemble the tunes of immoral and promiscuous people. Permissible nasheeds are sung freely without excessive use of vocal effects.
Ibn Abi Shaybah stated that Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmaan said: “The Companions of the Messenger of Allah (SWT) did not speak in devious tones or a gentle manner.
They used to recite verses in their gatherings, denouncing the affairs of their jahiliyyah. But if it were a matter of their religion, they would become very serious and cautious (8/711).
From this evidence, it could be inferred that nasheeds are allowed, whether performed individually or in unison. Poems Composed of Hamd and Naat (Praised to Allah and the Prophet Muhammad) are also permissible. You can hear the music of this particular type, one that prohibits using a musical instrument.
Should I Stop Listening to Music as I’m a Muslim?
If you fear Allah and the humiliating punishment that befalls the deviants, you will try to stop listening to haram music. To practice Islam in our everyday life, we need concentration, willpower, and devotion to Allah. If anyone suggests that music may soften our hearts, there are other, more established ways to cling to our faith.
Al-Qurtubi stated in his book at-Tadhkirah that-
“Remembering death prevents one from committing sins, softens rigid hearts, alleviates one’s indulgence in this worldly life, and lessens the impact of catastrophes.”
According to Ibn Majah, the Prophet Muhammad said-
When the believer commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents and gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. (Ibn Majah)
We can calm our hearts by reflecting on the Quran, doing repentance, performing dua and dhikr, visiting the sick, and remembering death. An Islamic story narrated Aisha, mother of believers, who told a young woman-
“If you remember death frequently, your heart will be softened.”
What Should Muslims Do If They Cannot Stop Listening to Music Immediately?
Understandably, it is hard to let go of this habit if you play musical instruments or follow bands like One Direction and even Deen Squad.
You can make sincere dua to Allah (SWT) to grant you the strength to detach from haram earthly pleasures. Hadith and fatwa explicitly state that a sincere Muslim cannot listen to music or take part in vulgar songs.
The Prophet (SM) said,
“Among my ummah, there will certainly be people who permit zina, shirk, alcohol and musical instruments…” (Narrated by al-Bukhari ta’liqan, no. 5590; narrated as mawsul by al-Tabarani and al-Bayhaqi).
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) reported that: This is a sahih hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, where he quoted it as evidence and stated that it is mu’allaq and majzum. It was narrated concerning those who permit alcohol and call it by another name.
Ignoring the scholarly interpretations and religious texts regarding haram music, dancing, and alcoholic drinks is haram in itself. “And follow not that of which you have not the knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that.” [17:36]
Modern Muslims believe that rulings excluded in the Quran are “Open to interpretation” while they most certainly are not. The Quran is a sacred book that contains Divine guidance for Muslims. Hadiths are traditions that contain the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad along with the accounts of his practices (Sunnah).
There is enough textual evidence that music is not encouraged in the religious texts, and neither is it sunnah.
If it doesn’t comply with your way of life, a bigger crime would be to interpret the above verses in a way that permits music and the use of musical instruments. We shouldn’t speak about Allah and Islam without knowledge.