Music and Singing: Wisdom Behind Its Prohibition by the Shari'ah

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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

Perhaps the most salient feature of the divinely revealed shari'ah is its all-encompassing benefit (maslahah) for the sake of mankind, regarding all aspects of their spiritual and material welfare. Thus, it is, that various ordinances in the form of divine legislation have been given to man, directing him to pious works of worship (ibaadat)and social transactions (mu'aamlaat). Such works lead to spiritual peace and material prosperity. In accordance with Allah's infinite knowledge, wisdom and mercy, it is necessary that He( glorified be His praise) should prohibit certain things whose effects are evil and harmful to His slaves. This principle is perfectly epitomised in the following authentic tradition of the Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings):

"By the One in Whose hand is my soul, there is not a thing which brings you nearer to Paradise and distances you from the Fire, except that I have directed you to it; and there is not a thing which brings you closer to the Fire while distancing you from Paradise, except that I have prohibited it for you."[152]

From the foregoing hadeeth , as well as other texts of the Quraan and sunnah, the scholars of usool[153] have formulated certain vital objectives (maqaasid) of the divine law. Among these is the principle that nothing has been ordained for man except that which is for his own good and benefit, while nothing has been prohibited except that which is harmful and detrimental to his welfare. With this principle in mind, one perhaps can have a general understanding of the infinite, divine wisdom behind the prohibition of music and its adjuncts. Its potential moral, spiritual and social evils are a danger to the Muslim individual as well as the Islamic community at large.

In order to convey some of the divine wisdom behind prohibition, it is useful to quote a few excerpts from the writings of the authoritative scholar, Ibnul-Qayyim,[154] who has dealt with this subject extensively.[155] In the section which exposes Satan's deception of those who claim "spiritual mysticism" (tasawwuf)[156] in their dancing, singing and listening to music, he says, "From among the artful machinations and entrapments of Allah's enemy [Satan], with which he has snared those possessing little good sense, knowledge and deen [faith], and by which he has stalked the hearts of the false and ignorant people, there is the listening to whistling, wailing, handclapping and song to the accompaniment of forbidden [musical] instruments.[157] Such things block the Quraan from people's hearts and make them devoted to sin and disobedience. For song [to musical accompanient] is the Quraan[158] of Ash-Shaytaan (Satan). It is a dense veil and barrier, preventing nearness to Ar-Rahmaaan![159] By way of such song, Satan deceives vain souls, making it appear pleasing to them through his cunning appeal to their vanities. He insidiously whispers false, specious arguments suggesting the 'goodness' in song. These arguments are accepted, and as a result, the Quraan becomes an object of neglect and abandonment."[160]

Ibnul-Qayyim describes in detail the physical and emotional change which overcomes the "Sufis" when they begin to hear such song and music. They begin to strike their feet in time to the rhythm, ans swaying effeminately to the tune, they whirl to a frenzy, screaming and wailing and tearing their clothes, like donkeys around the axis of a grinding mill. Such a laughing stock is the very joy of the enemies of Islam.[161] Yet such people pretend that they are the very "elite"[162] of Islam while taking their deen as an amusement and pastime. Hearing the [musical] instruments of Satan is dearer to them listening to the recitation of the Quraan.[163]

He concludes by saying that "the result of preoccupation with song and music is that you never find its devotee other than astray from the path of guidance, in thought and deed. Such a person develops an aversion to the Quraan and a devotion to song. If he were offered a choice between listening to song/music or the Quraan, he would most certainly choose the former over latter, the audition of which is like a heavy burden upon him."[164]

Later on in his treatise, Ibnul-Qayyim specifies other aspects of the divine wisdom: "Therefore, know song has particular characteristics which faint the heart, causing hypocrisy to sprout therein, just as water sprouts plants. Among its qualities is that it distracts the heart and prevents it from among contemplation and understanding of the Quraan, and from applying it.[165] This is because Quraan and song can never coexist in the heart, since they are mutually contradictory. For verily, the Quraan forbids the pursuing of vanities and ordains restraint of the souls passions and temptations to evil. Song, on the other hand, encourages the very opposite of these virtues, as it excites the hidden inner self and entices the soul to inequity by driving it towards every shameful desire..."

Among the signs of hypocrisy is one's rarely remembering Allah[166] and one's laziness in rising to prayer along with its poor performance. Seldom do you find one infatuated by song except with such blameworthy attributes.

"Furthermore, hypocrisy is based on falsehood, and song contains the falsest lyrics. It attempts to beautify the abominable and encourages it, while seeking to make ugly and discouraging that which is good. Such is the very essence of hypocrisy. A person's addiction to song peculiarly makes listening to the Quraan a heavy weight upon his heart, hateful to his ears. If this is not hypocrisy, then hypocrisy has no reality."[167]

Needless to say, the preceding exposition highlights the negative effects of music and song upon the Muslim. These effects induce in him hypocrisy, vice, neglect, vanity and a host of other attendant evils, the worst of which is its insidious ability to turn the devotee away from remembrance of Allah, His Book and His deen.

The adverse ramifications of music and song and their various attendant evils are well known facts experienced by all enlightened, thinking believers.[168] It is this reality which has convinced a host of prominent American and European musicians and singers who have embraced Islam to leave this vile and ignoble profession[169] {And verily, Allah guides the believers to a straight path.}[170]


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