Music and Singing: Synopsis of Shari'ah Texts along with Conclusions

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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

Musical Instruments (Ma'aazif)[edit]

The use of all musical instruments[238] is forbidden. This ruling has been arrived at through an analysis of the texts of authentic hadeeths narrated by Al-Bukhaari and Ibn Maajah, in which the word al-ma'aazif (musical instruments) occurs. Since the wording of the text is general ('aammun), its directive encompasses all types of musical instruments except the daff, whose permissible use is a specification (takhsees) of the general text or an exception to the general ruling. These two texts are sufficiently clear proof which establish a general, all-encompassing prohibition. However, to remove the grounds for all possible specious arguments regarding this all-inclusive hukm (ruling). And in order to clarify it beyond a doubt, the shari'ah has conveyed a number of other texts which categorize the various possible types of musical instruments and prohibit them. The categories of musical instruments are as follows: (a) wind instruments,[239] (b) string instruments,[240] (c) percussion instruments[241] and (d) a combination of two or more of the above.[242]

The first category is represented by the previously-mentioned narrations of Al-Bayhaqi and Al-Haakim, wherein the terms mizmaar (flute) and mazaameerush Shaytaan (Satan's wind instruments) are mentioned respectively. The second category is indicated by one of Ahmad bin Hanbal's narrations wherein the word qinneen (lute)[243] appears. The third category is epitomized by another tradition collected by Ahmad in which bothe the terms koobah and tablah (i.e. drums) are recorded.[244]

At this point, some clarification regarding the daff (a type of drum and a percussion instrument) is necessary. Since its use is permissible only by virtue of its being an exception to the general rule of prohibition of musical instruments, certain stringent conditions are to be observed in reference to it, such as its size, shape and form, and the circumstances under which its use is permitted (as indicated by the texts wherein it is mentioned). As for the occasions upon which its use is permitted, a clear exposition has preceded in the first section of the previous chapter. Concerning the former two conditions, the daff should not exceed its general size as determined by common usage ('urf)[245] and it should somewhat resemble the tambourine with the skin drawn tight on one side[246] of the wooden frame; except that, by consensus of the scholars,[247] it is to be devoid of the rattles (jallaajil) common to tambourines. These conditions are based on certain principles[248] (qawaa'id) established in the science of usoolul fiqh. Thus, when there is an exception (istithnaa) to a general ruling (hukm), one is restricted to the exact conditions and circumstances relating to that exception, without exceeding the bounds set by the text which describes it. The following example from the shari'ah clarifies this point.

It is an established fact that wearing of silk clothing is generally prohibited for males. However, there are a few specific and limited exceptions to this ruling, among which is the permissibility of adding silk trim to the sleeves and hem of one's garment. The width of this band of silk trim is specified as a finger's length.[249] Thus, one would not be allowed to increase this designated measure to say, two or three fingers' length. The condition of an exception to a general ruling of prohibition must be observed meticulously, since that exception is only allowed by virtue of those very specific and stringent conditions. By the same token, it would not be permissible to apply this specific exception regarding silk (for males) to another prohibited material, say for example, garments made from pure golden threads.[250] Although both silk garments and pure gold woven garments are prohibited for men, it would not be correct to say that a finger's width band of such gold trim may be applied to male garments just as a finger's width band of silk trim may be.

Along the same lines of reasoning illustrated in the above-mentioned example, it follows that another instrument appearing to be similar to the daff (since it is of the same name [drum] and category [percussion instrument]) cannot be used in its place. According to the rules of usool,[251] analogy (qeeyaas) cannot be made in the case of an exception (mustathna) to a general ruling.[252] Rather, there must exist an original, established text (asl) on which analogy can be validly based. In this case, other drums (such as bongos or congas) cannot be used in place of the daff because the original ruling (asl) regarding musical instruments in general, and percussion instruments in particular, is prohibition. The daff is an exception, bot the rule. And therefore, fails to meet the criterion required for sound, valid analogy.

It further warrants mentioning that the Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings) designated the use of the daff and strongly encouraged it[253] during the marriage feast. As was shown earlier, it was also allowed on various other occasions while other existing percussion instruments (such as the koobah, tabl and tablah)[254] were not designated for use but rather were prohibited. The wisdom behind this precise restriction of instruments to the daff lies in the fact that it sufficiently satisfies the need for proclamation, provides moderate rhythm which enlivens, and results in joy for the partakers, At the same time, the drum's otherwise negative percussive potentials are muted and controlled in this particular instrument.

In concluding this issue, it must be stressed that it is one's duty to bring all thoughts and deeds into consonance with both the spirit and the letter of the divinely-revealed shari'ah. All musical instruments must necessarily fit into one or another of the three, previously-mentioned broad categories; otherwise, they constitute a combination thereof. As for instruments like the synthesizer or other electronic gadgets which simulate the sounds of conventional musical instruments, the ruling regarding them is precisely the ruling established regarding the instruments they imitate – namely, prohibition. The same ruling applies to the human voice if it is able to simulate an instrument from any one of the foregoing categories.

Singing (Ghinaa)[edit]

Preceding texts of the sunnah designated the general ruling of prohibition regarding singing under certain circumstances. The narration of Al-Haakim described the singing voice coupled with music as imbecilic and sinful. Naturally, singing to musical accompaniment is forbidden since it is coupled with music.[255] As for innocent singing to the accompaniment of just the daff, this has been allowed on only specific occasions.[256]

Singing without musical accompaniment is permitted under certain circumstances and with particular conditions. The lyrics of the songs must be pure and innocent, and must keep within the moral bounds set by Islamic teachings. Hence, lyrics which are erotic and licentious[257] and/or sung in a licentious manner[258] (which adversely affects the libidinous instincts of the listener) are undoubtedly forbidden. Moreover, even innocent songs become forbidden if they are performed in the presence of, or are coupled with, such prohibited acts as gambling, drinking and other deeds of moral depravity. Singing by women is restricted to a female audience as the nature of a woman's (singing) voice is to excite sexual feeling in the male listener. Generally speaking, these songs should be pure and innocent although they need not be restricted to Islamic themes. They may express simple joys, wisdom, etc. They may be in praise of such attributes as courage, fearlessness and strength; or the lyrics may commemorate historical incidents such as battles against the enemy, etc. Among the best songs are those which encourage piety through good deeds done for the sake of Allah.

Related Issues Proceeding from the General Rule of Prohibition[edit]

Dancing[edit]

Dancing to musical instruments is prohibited since that which is coupled with a prohibited thing becomes forbidden. As for dancing without music, or to the accompaniment of the daff only, such is restricted solely to women and children and is not befitting the role of males. The accomplished muhaddith and jurisprudent, Izzuddeen bun Abdis-Salaam,[259] says in reference to men dancing, "As for dancing and handclapping in a light and frivolous manner resembling the frivolity of females, none would do it except the light-headed or affected ignoramus. The proof of his ignorance is that such a thing is not mentioned in texts of the shari'ah, the Quraan or sunnah; nor did any of the prophets of disciples do it. Rather, it is done by ignorant fools who have mistaken mere fancies for real truths.[260] Scholars have prohibited clapping for men due to the Prophet's saying,[261] 'Clapping is for women.'"[262] At another place Izzuddeen bin Abdis-Salaam says, "Dancing is a bid'ah [blameworthy innovation]; none partakes of it except the foolish [who are short of sense], and it is bot befitting except for women."[263]

It must be pointed out that even dancing by women has its conditions. No music other than that provided by the daff and the human voice is allowed. Women must be properly clothes[264] and are restricted to the company of women and children only. Even in the presence of women, the female is prohibited from dancing licentiously[265] and from using sexually arousing lyrics or manners. Hence, women's dancing should be a simple, natural rhythmic swaying free from very form of obvious or covert vice.

Professions Connected with Music and Its Adjuncts[edit]

It follows from what has preceded that the profession of music, singing, dancing and instrument making and selling are all forbidden.[266] In an Islamic state such instruments may be seized[267] from their owner and destroyed with recourse to indemnity.

The Muslim's Duty Regarding It[edit]

It is the duty of a Muslim that he avoid listening to music and singing in so far as it is within his power and jurisdiction (e.g. in his home, office, car, etc.). As for what he hears from his neighbor's yard, or when he passes through the streets or markets, that is not a sin upon him,[268] nor is it his responsibility to try to stop it unless he has the power and authority to do so. He may advise such unfortunates in a gentle, admonishing tome, using wisdom and good convincing arguments so that perchance they may see the light and fear Allah.

In certain circumstances a person may be forced to hear music without the will or desire to do so, in which case he is not to blame. For example, a person may require clothing or foodstuffs from a certain store or shopping center where music is constantly played over the public address system; or a person may sit at the television or radio in order to hear the news or to watch a certain documentary or otherwise useful film because of its educational benefits. Obviously, music and singing are often interspersed throughout such educational and informative audio-visual materials and cannot be avoided. So long as other similar materials devoid of music and singing are not available, it is permissible to use materials in which the music is merely incidental and not the sole object. However, it must be with the sole intention of deriving benefit from the information contained therein and not for the purpose of seeking pleasure in hearing the music. Needless to say, it is the duty of Muslim educators and Islamic institutions to develop audio-visual materials in all fields of education which fulfill the need of the Muslim ummah while remaining within the confines of the divinely-revealed shari'ah.

As for so-called "therapeutic purposes," such as listening to music in order to relax after a long, tense day at work or as a medium for "sensitivity" training session or as a stimulant for "creative writing" or anything else of that nature, the ruling is prohibition since music in such cases is an object in itself, and since there is not real necessity (daroorah) or even any need (haajah) for it.

The Varying Gravity of the Sinfullness of Music and Singing[edit]

The gravity of the sinfulness of music and song varies widely according to its type, the way it is performed, by whom it is performed and under what circumstances it occurs. It is also conditioned by these variables. Thus, {Every soul will be held in pledge for what it has earned.}[269]

Some Acceptable Alternatives to Prohibited forms of Music and Singing[edit]

It is the duty of every Muslim to strive his utmost to find acceptable (lawful) alternative to the prohibited forms of music and song as delineated in the treatise. No doubt, for every unlawful thing there is a lawful alternative available. Some suggestions follow.

Recitation of and Listening to the Reading of Allah's Book[edit]

Recitation of and listening to the reading of Allah's Book, so aptly described by the English translator of the Quraan, Muhammad M. Pickethall, is "that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy."[270] In a number of authentic traditions, the Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings) stressed that the Quraan was to be chanted or sung in a sweet and melodious voice:

Aby Hurayrah reported that Allah's Messenger said, "Whoever does not chant the Quraan isn ot one of us."[271]

In another hadeeth it is reported:

Al-Baraa bin Aazib related that Allah's Messenger said, "Adorn the Quraan with your voices."[272]

It is incumbent upon Muslims to learn how to recite Allah's Book in a beautifully sweet and melodious voice in consonance with the rules of tajweed, to constantly practice its reading and to listen to others; for nothing like the Quraan uplifts the spirit and puts peace and tranquility in one's very heart and soul.

Singing and Listening to Islamic Songs[edit]

Islamic songs (anaasheed Islaamiyyah) contain moving lyrics which fire enthusiasm and desire for jihaad and encourage noble Islamic manners, morals and practice in all aspects of the Islam faith. There is presently a great surge of these anaasheed flooding the world of the Arab Muslim youth, and there is no reason why such inspiring songs should not be composed on various pertinent subjects by the enlightened western, English-speaking youths of today.[273]

Remembrance of Allah (Dhikr)[edit]

Some often claim that they listen to music occasionally in order to cool them down or to relax them. It is suggested that as believers, they habituate themselves to remembrance of Allah (dhikrullah) and to the mentioning of His praises (tasbeeh) as well as petitioning Him for forgiveness (istighfaar). The sunnah is replete with a myriad of adhkaar (formulas of repeated recitation). It is the remembrance of Allah which brings peace and tranquility to the human soul, not music which is fleeting and superficial. The glorious Quraan says, {Yes, verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find tranquility.}[274]

Healthy Physical Sports[edit]

One of the best alternatives to music and its attendant evils is the engagement in healthy physical sports which brings benefit by developing physical and mental acumen. The Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings) has encouraged certain sports, among them swimming, horseback riding and the art of marksmanship.[275] The martial arts is another important field for developing physical and mental prowess.

Conclusion[edit]

It is trusted that what has preceded constitutes for the reader a sufficiently explicit analysis and exposition of the Islamic ruling regarding music and song, leaving him/her with a perfectly clear understanding of this serious issue. It is hoped that many of the common misconceptions regarding music and song have been addressed and removed in a lucid, convincing manner, resulting in surety and tranquility for the reader's soul and conscience. I pray that this is {a plain statement to men, a guidance and instruction to those who, fearing Allah, ward off evil.}[276]


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