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in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

Is it permitted to listen to musical instruments?

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Background

It is one of the most intensely discussed topics and has long been regarded by many Muslim scholars. With the emergence of a whole new wave of Muslim artists who are seeking to combine their work with their culture, this has taken on extra significance.

The ruling on Music

The love of singing is a human instinct, such that we watch the infant in his cradle silenced from his crying by the gentle rhymes of his mother. It is why mothers, those lactating and nannies have sung to their children from ancient times.

If the love of singing is an instinct, has the deen come to combat and abuse instincts? No, it came to refine them, to transcend them, and to point them in the right direction.

Ibn Taymiyyah said:

"The prophets were sent to complete and decide the fitrah, not to replace it and to change it."

Whilst the hadith cite:

أن رسول الله -صلي الله عليه وسلم- قدم المدينة ولهم يومان يلعبون فيهما، فقال: "ما هذان اليومان؟" قالوا: كنا نلعب فيهما في الجاهلية: فقال عليه السلام: "إن الله قد أبدلكم بهما خيرًا منهما: يوم الأضحي ويوم الفطر" - رواه أحمد وأبو داود والنسائي
When the Prophet (saw) arrived in Medinah, he asked about their days of celebration. On being told they had two days for them, he said: "What are these two days?" They replied: We used to rest and play in pre-Islamic times: then he said: "God has replaced this with something better than that: the day of sacrifice and the day of the fast breaking feast." (Nasa'i)

Singing is a topic where conflict and expression emerged among the scholars of Islam from the earliest times, such that they decided on places and disagreed with others.

They agreed to prohibit all singing that includes obscenity, debauchery or incitement to disobedience, and to allow singing to be free of music instruments and excitement for legitimate pleasure, such as the wedding, the arrival of the absentee, provided that the singer is not a woman in presence of foreign men.

Islamic scholars have decided that the basic principle of things is permissibility based on the Almighty saying:

(قوله تعالى: هو الذي خلق لكم ما في الأرض جميعًا (البقرة: 29
He is the one who created for you what is all on earth (Qur'an 2:29)

And there is no prohibition except with a valid and explicit text from the Qur'an, or the Sunnah, or fixed consensus Certainly, if there is no text or consensus. Or there is an explicit text that is not true.

وقال رسول الله –صلى الله عليه وسلم-: "ما أحل الله في كتابه فهو حلال، وما حرم فهو حرام، وما سكت عنه فهو عفو، فاقبلوا من الله عافيته، فإن الله لم يكن لينسي شيئا" - رواه الحاكم
The Prophet (saw) said: "What God has permitted in his book is permissible, and what is forbidden is forbidden, and what is not mentioned is an amnesty, because God did not forget anything.'' (Hakim)

The most famous and direct religious text often used by those who prohibit music is the following hadith found in Bukhari:

From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. (al-Albani)
لَيَكُونَنَّ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَقْوَامٌ يَسْتَحِلُّونَ الْحِرَ وَالْحَرِيرَ وَالْخَمْرَ وَالْمَعَازِفَ - الألباني


However, Bukhari's hadith is Mu'allaq - of a broken chain- which is why Ibn Hazm did not consider it an evident "daleel". In addition to that, further examination would reveal that silk is not haram for every Muslim, it is halal for women and for some men in specific cases.

The other major text used to prohibit music is the Quranic verse:
ومن الناس من يشتري لهو الحديث ليضل عن سبيل الله بغير علم - سورة لقمان
And of the people is he who buys the amusement of speech to mislead [others] from the way of Allah without knowledge and who takes it in ridicule. Those will have a humiliating punishment. (Qur'an 31:6)

Some early scholars such as Ibn Mas'oud reported the amusement of speech (lahw al-hadeeth) to be singing, but Qaradawi refuted this for being an interpretation of a companion which differs from others.

In the end, it could be said that the texts prohibiting music are either saheeh but not explicit, or explicit but not saheeh.

Abu Bakr Ibn Al-Arabi states in his book Ahkam al-Qur'an:

"None of the hadiths maintaining that singing is prohibited are considered authentic"


References

Ibn Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur'an
Ghazali, Ihya Ulum al-Din


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