Music and Singing: Critical Analysis of the Hadeeth Literature

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The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing
By: Abu Bilal Mustafa al-Kanadi
Preface
Analysis of Quraanic Texts and Commentaries
Critical Analysis of the Hadeeth Literature
Consensus of Companions, Taabi'een, and others
Wisdom Behind Its Prohibition by the Shari'ah
Exceptions to the Rule of Prohibition
Synopsis of Shari'ah Texts along with Conclusions
Footnotes

A meticulous, critical analysis of the relevant texts from the hadeeth literature reveals that, contrary to the commonly-held belief, there are a number of authentic narrations from the prophetic sunnah which clearly point to the indisputable fact that music, instruments, singing to accompaniment, etc. are objects prohibited by the Islamic Shar'iah. The exceptions to this general rule are specific, limited types of innocent singing or chanting without any instrumental accompaniment or to the accompaniment of the simple hand drum (daff) on certain occasions designated by the sunnah. Their details require discussion later.

Unfortunately, due to certain modern scholars' blind imitation (taqleed) of a few earlier scholars, many Muslims entertain the misconception that all the hadeeths relating to music, singing, musical instruments, etc. are either weak (da'eef) or forged (mowdoo'). A critical analysis of the available hadeeth literature clearly reveals that this is an untenable position. In order to substantiate this claim and to dispel such false notions, it is necessary to quote a number of authentic traditions along with the translation of their meanings.

The Traditions and their Degree of Authenticity[edit]

The Narration of Al-Bukhaari[edit]

The translation of the hadeeth follows: The Prophet (Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) said, "There will be [at some future time] people from my Ummah [community of Muslims] who will seek to make lawful: fornication, the wearing of silk,[46] wine-drinking and the use of musical instruments [ma'aazif]. Some people will stay at the side of the mountain and when their shepherd comes in the evening to ask them for his needs, they will say, 'Return to us tomorrow.' Then Allah will destroy them during the night by causing the mountain to fall upon them, while He changes others into apes and swine. They will remain in such a state until the Day of Resurrection."[47]

A Critical Discussion of its Isnaad[edit]

Prior to a discussion of the meaning of the part of this hadeeth relevant to this treatise, it is necessary to refute certain unfounded criticisms of its authenticity directed at it by a few scholars of the past and present, struggling under unfortunate misconceptions.

At the beginning of the isnaad,[48] Imam Al-Bukhaari related, "Qaala Hishaamu-bnu Ammaar..."("Hishaam bin Ammaar said...") This statement was misconstrued by Ibn Hazm to indicate that there is a missing link between Al-Bukaari and the next narrator (i.e Hishaam),[49] implying that the hadeeth's isnaad is disconnected (munqati') and therefore not valid as proof in the prohibition of music, song, musical instruments, etc. This type of isnaad, termed mu'allaq, contains a missing link. However, Al-Bukaari's hadeeth is authentic, because there exist fully-connected chains for it which fulfill the condition of authenticity. This was stated by the great critical scholar of hadeeth, Shaykh Ibnus-Salaah, in his celebrated work, Uloomul Hadeeeth (his treatise on the science or methodology of hadeeth criticism and assessment). In his commentary of Saheehul Bukhaari, entitled Fat-hul Baari, Ibn Hajar mentioned Ibnus Salaah's meticulous refutation of Ibn Hazm's statement.[50]

Among the other great critical scholars of hadeeth who mentioned that the isnaad is soundly connected (mowsool) is Ibn Hajar's shaykh, Al-Haafidh Al-Iraaqi. He stated that the isnaad is found connected in Al-Ismaa'eeli's work, entitled Al-Mustakhraj, which collects together other chains of narrators (or similar ones) for the same hadeeths mentioned in Al-Bukhaari's collection.

And finally, there is Ibn Hajar's distinctive work, Taghleequt Ta'leeq, a rare and stupendous masterpiece, which brings together connected, authentic chains (asaneed) of transmitters for those traditions which appear in Al-Bukhaari's compilation in the form of the disconnected (mu'alliq) type of hadeeth, thereby dispelling accrued misconceptions regarding the claim of "weak" hadeeths occurring in the text (matn) of Al-Jaamis As-Saheeh.[51]

After quoting other complete, authentic chains[52] for the tradition under study, along with the sources wherein such chains of transmitters are mentioned,[53] Ibn Hajar concludes by emphasizing (in reference to Al-Bukhaari's narration):

"This is an authentic hadeeth. It has no deficiency or defect, and there is no point of weakness for any attack to be made on it. Abu Muhammed Ibn Hazam labeled it as defective by virtue of his claim that there is a break [intiqaa'] in the chain between Al-Bukhaari and Sadaqah bin Khaalid and because of the difference of opinion regarding the name of Abu Maalik[54] As you've seen, I have quoted nine fully-connected chains of transmission (asaneed) whose narrators are thoroughly dependable. As for the difference regarding the kunyah of the companions, they are all of impeccable repute. Further more, in Ibn Hibbaan's narration, the transmitter stated that he heard from both of them...[55] I have in my possession yet other chains which could be presented here, however, I would not like to prolong this subject further by mentioning them. In what we have stated there is enough proof for the sensible, thinking person. And Allah is the grantor of success."[56]

In short, this particular narration of Al-Bukhaari is authentic and consequently constitutes a valid and binding text to be referred to in determining the ruling (hukm) regarding music.

It should be mentioned that certain modern-day writers, who blindly imitate previous scholars by quoting their views without applying the critical sciences of hadeeth research, have merely parroted the position of Ibn Hazm, and due to this, have caused many unwary persons to go astray regarding this issue. For example, Yoosuf Al-Qardaawi, in his popular book, entitled Al-Halaal wal Haraam fil Islam,[57] says in regard to the extant hadeths on music: "As for what has been mentioned by way of prophetic traditions [relating to the subject of music], all of these have been assessed to have some point or another of weakness according to the fuqahaa of hadeeth and its scholars.[58] The Qaadi Abu Bakr Ibnul-Arabi said, 'There is no authentic hadeeth prohibiting singing.' And Ibn Hazm said, 'Every hadeeth related [prohibiting music and singing] is false and forged."[59]

Unfortunately, the statement that "all" the narrations are weak according to "scholars of hadeeth" is a gross error on Al-Qardaawi's part and is not the result of meticulous critical research. Rather, it is due to an uncritical, blind acceptance of the words of Ibn Hazm and Ibnul-Arabi. Ibn Hazm was no doubt a virtuous, sharp-minded scholar; however, in the area of hadeeth assessment and verification (as is the case in many aspects of his school of Dhaahiri fiqh), he has certain untenable and unfounded, even some very abnormal views.[60] The accomplished hadeeth scholar and student of Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Haafidh Ibn Abdul-Haadi, says of Ibn Hazm that "he often errs in his critical assessment of the degrees of traditions and on the conditions of their narrators."[61] In fact, there is unanimous consensus among the most reputable critical scholars of hadeeth regarding Ibn Hazm's erroneous assignment of a ruling of d'af (weakness) to Al-Bukhaari's hadeeth. Regarding the degree of this hadeeth, the views of Ibnus-Salaah, Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalaani and Al-Haafidh Al-Iraaqi have already been mentioned. Among the qualified scholars who also agree with his assessment are the great scholars, Ibnul-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyyah. Ibnul-Arabi is similar to Ibn Hazm in that he is quick to give a ruling of forgery or weakness on a hadeeth, without the necessary, detailed analysis and synthesis of all extant chains of narration relating to the subject. Had he executed such an analysis, undoubtedly he would have arrived at a sound decision and avoided much blame and censure.

Having established the authenticity of the aforementioned narration recorded in Imam Al-Bukaari's compilation, the meaning of his hadeeth and its stand as an indisputable proof of the unlawfulness of music may now be discussed.

Commentary on Al-Bukhaari's Hadeeth[edit]

The portion of Al-Bukhaari's hadeeth, which is presently of concern, is that segment whose text states:

"There will be a people of my ummah [nation] who will seek to make lawful: fornication, the wearing of silk, wine-drinking and the use of musical instruments..."

The word of consequence here is the Arabic term 'ma'aazif'. In order to discover what it implies, one must turn to Arabic dictionaries of hadeeth terms and other scholarly works. According to Lisaanul Arab,[62] ma'aazif is the plural of mi'zaf or 'azf,[63] and indicates objects or instruments of play or leisure which are beat upon for their sound. If the singular form is used (mi'zaf), it specifically means a type of large wooden drum used mainly by the people of Yemen. The noun 'azf also stands for the act of playing with ma'aazif, i.e. hand drums (dufoof)[64] or other instruments which are struck upon. Al-Jowhari, the author of the ancient dictionary, As-Sihaah, asserts that ma'aazif signifies musical instruments, al-'aazif indicates one who sings, and the 'azf of the wind is its voice.[65] In the famous Taajul 'Aroos min Jawaahiril Qaaamoos, besides quoting the above-mentioned meanings, the commentator Az-Zabeedi says that ma'aazif are instruments of leisure which are drummed upon or played, like the lute ('ood), the drum (tanboor), the small hand drum (daff) or other such musical objects.[66] And finally, in the famous dictionary, An-Nihaayah fee Ghareebil Hadeeth,[67] Ibnul-Atheer mentions the meaning of ma'aazif as it is used in various hadeeths. He comments, "By 'azf is meant playing with ma'aazif, consisting of dufoof [hand drums] or other instruments which are beat upon." He also mentions the derived noun form, 'azeef, which means "sound" or voice", while 'azeeful jinn signifies the ringing of the jinns' voices. It is said that the people of the desert imagined the shrill ringing of the winds in the desert air to be the voice of jinns.[68]

The commentaries of the scholars of hadeeth also agree on the above-quoted meaninings for the term maazif mentioned in Al-Bukhaari's narration. In Ibn Hajar's exhaustive commentary of Saheehul Bukhaari,[69] he adds that an earlier hadeeth scholar, named Ad-Dimyaati, says that the word 'azf is also used to describe singing (ghinaa).[70]

Such a detailed analysis of the meaning of the term ma'aazif, as mentioned in the most authoritative dictionaries of the Arabic language, is necessary to refute any others' possible attempts to "explain away" or "interpret" it in a matter suiting their preconceived notions or opinions. It clearly has been established that the word ma'aazif - according to correct Arabic usage - indicates a specific number of things: (a) musical instruments, (b) the sounds of those musical instruments (music) and (c) singing to instrumental accompaniment.

Analysis of the Text as a Proof of Prohibition[edit]

An analysis of the hadeeth's wording clearly indicates the unlawfulness of music. In the text it is said that people from the Prophet's ummah will "seek to make lawful" that which is termed ma'aazif. This statement ("seek to make lawful") is derived from the verb yastahilloona, whose first part, yasta, is the conjugated addition to the root ahalla. The conjugated form ista means to seek, try, attempt, desire, etc., while the root ahalla means to make lawful. Taken together it means "to seek to make lawful". Obviously, one can only seek, desire or attempt to make lawful that which is not lawful. For if something is already lawful, it is nonsensical for one to seek to establish it. Other things which people will attempt to make lawful are named along with ma'aazif. These additional matters are definitely prohibited in Islam - namely, illegal sexual intercourse, the drinking of wine or liquor and the wearing of silk (for males). Had ma'aazif[71] not been prohibited, they never would have been associated with other prohibited objects in one and the same context.

In order to dispel the common misconception prevalent among certain Muslims that "only one hadeeth" in Al-Bukkhaari's compilation stands as proof of prohibition regarding this issue, it is necessary to mention a sample of other authentic hadeeth. The fact that the majority of traditions regarding music, instruments and singing are weak and rejected (munkar) does not negate the existence of an appreciable number whose degree is saheeh (authentic) or hasan (of good, acceptable quality).

The Narration of Ibn Maajah[edit]

There is a narration by Ibn Maajah in Kitaabul Fitan[72] in the chapter on punishments. The translation is:

The messenger of Allah said: "A people of my ummah will drink wine, calling it by other than its real name. Merriment will be made for them through the playing of musical instruments and the singing of lady singers. Allah will cleave the earth under them and turn others into apes and swine."

This is an authentic hadeeth. It was also narrated by Al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Asaakir with the same wording. The renowned scholar of hadeeth and fiqh, Ibnul-Qayyim, authenticated it as mentioned in the famous hadeeth commentary of the 'allaamah, Abut-Teeb Muhammad Shamsul-Haqq Al-Adheem-Aabaadi.[73] Furthermore, it was given a degree of saheeh by muhaddith of our era, Shaykh Muhammad Naasiruddeen Al-Albaani. He mentioned its detailed, critical evaluation and assessment in his Silsatul Ahaadeeth As-Saheehah[74] and in his Saheehul Jaamis Sagheer.[75] It is further mentioned and authenticated in his Ghaayatul Maraam, Takhreejul Halaali wal Haraam.[76]

The Narrations Ahmad bin Hanbal[edit]

There are a number of narrations proving the prohibition of music and instruments in Ahmad bin Hanbal's Musnad. Although many of them are weak, two narrations from his compilation, which have been verified to be authentic, follow.

The First Text[edit]

The translation is:[77]

The Prophet said: "Verily, Allah prohibited wine, gambling and al-koobah; and every intoxicant is prohibited." Sufyan said, "I asked the narrator, Ali bin Badheemah, 'What is al-koobah?' He answered, 'It is the drum.'"

The Second Text[edit]

It is translated thus:[78]

Allah's Messenger said, "Verily, Allah has prohibited for my ummah: wine, gambling, a drink distilled from corn, the drum and the lute;[79] while He supplemented me with another prayer, the witr."[80]

These narrations have also been related by other compilers, such as Al-Bayhaqi in his Shu'ubul Eemaan with an authentic isnaad and At-Tabaraani in Al-Mu'jam Al-Kabeer with a jayyid (good) isnaad. The detailed proof of their verified authenticity are mentioned in Al-Albaani's Saheehul Jaami'is Sagheer.[81] It is further authenticated in his Mishkaatul Masaabeeh[82] and in his work, Al-Ahadeeth As-Saheehah.[83]

The Narration of Al-Haakim and Others[edit]

It is reported by Al-Haakim in his Mustadrak[84] that the Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings) took the hand of the companion, AbdurRahmaan bin 'Owf, and they proceeded to visit the Prophet's ailing son, Ibraheem. They found the infant in the throes of death, so the Prophet took him to his breast and held him until his spirit left him. Then he put the child down and wept, whereupon Abdur-Rahmaan asked in astonishment, "You are weeping, Oh Messenger of Allah, while you prohibit crying!?" The following is the Prophet's reply:

"Verily, I did not prohibit weeping [per se] but rather, I forbade two voices [sowtayn] which are imbecilic [ahmaq] and sinfully shameless [faajir]: one, a voice [singing] to the accompaniment of musical amusement [lahw] and Satan's [wind] instruments; the other, a voice [wailing] due to some calamity, accompanied by striking of the face and tearing of garments. But this [weeping of mine] stems from compassion, and whosoever does not show compassion will not receive it."

This hadeeth's degree is hasan,[85] and it has been strengthened by another narration related by Abu Bakr Ash-Shaafi'ee in his work, Ar-Rubaa'eeyat.[86] Its abbreviated text follows.

The Narration of Abu Bakr Ash-Shaafi'ee[edit]

Anas bin Maalik related from the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) that "two cursed sounds are that of the [wind] instrument [mizmaar][87] played on the occasion of joy and grace, and woeful wailing upon the occurrence of adversity."[88]

A similar text with slightly different wording is related by Al-Bazzaar in his collection[89] of hadeeths. Al-Haafidh Nooruddeen Al-Haythami mentioned it in his Majma' Az-Zawaaid[90] and indicated that the narrators of this isnaad are all dependable. Thus, these last three narrations prove the illegality of music and singing to musical accompaniment, especially wind instruments (mazaameer), which are referred to as "flutes of Satan" in the tradition related by Al-Haakim.

The traditions quoted are not the only available authentic hadeeths which establish prohibition. There are others,[91] however the scope of this treatise does not allow a more detailed exposition. The sample mentioned is sufficient proof, for {verily, therein is a reminder for any who has a heart or who gives ear and earnestly witnesses [the truth].}[92]


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