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The Position of Music and Singing in Islam

 This has been a topic of debate among newly arisen factions of Islam’s modernists and sufis on a general basis. We have taken the effort to share some of the classical juristic views of this phenomenon throughout the ages of Islam to show the unified view of it among the ahlu-sunnah wal-jama’ah contrary to the claimed followers of ahlu-sunnah among the heresiological groups among the blind followers of the schools and the sufi and other schools

 Al-Bukhari narrated that Abu Malik Al-Ash’ari heard the Messenger of Allah say, what translated means, “There will be some members of my Ummah who will render as ‘Halal (permis-sible): illegal sexual intercourse, wearing silken garments (for men), consuming alcohol, and Al-Ma’azif (musical instruments). Some of them would camp next to a mountain-side, while their servants are tending their animals, and a poor person would come to them for some of his needs, so they would tell him, ‘Come back tomorrow.’ But, Allah will destroy them at night, as the mountain will collapse on some of them, and Allah will turn the others into swines and monkeys until the Day of Resurrection.”

 

Uthman ibn ‘Affan said,

“I have kept ten good deeds preserved for me with my Lord: I was the fourth person to embrace Islam, I have never practiced Al-Ghinaa’, …” [Ya’qub ibn Sufyan & At-Tabarani].

 

Imam An-Nawawi

also stated that Al-Ghinaa’, even that which is not accompanied by musical instruments, is not allowed. He has also stated that manufacturing musical instruments is ‘Haram (impermissible). Furthermore, he has stated that playing the Kubah, which is a type of drums, is ‘Haram. [Al-Minhaj].

 

 

Ibn Al-Qayyim said,

“The persons whose hearts are still alive and enlightened with the light of Iman, know that Al-Ghinaa’ and musical instruments are the opponents of Allah’s Commands and what He has legislated for His slaves. As for Satan, he has used the mental deficiency that his loyalists have, so he made all this evil fair seeming in their hearts, and they obeyed him. In the meantime, those whose share of Iman and knowledge is minimal, have in turn obeyed the loyalists of Satan. Then, the party and the soldiers of Allah stood up against them in every area and warned against imitating them. The party of Allah includes all the scholars of knowledge, such as the Imams of Hadith, Fiqh, Tafsir, etc.”

Also, Ibn Al-Qayyim said that, “Listening to Al-Ghinaa’, especially if the voices were beautiful and the time permitting, is a strong intoxicant. This intoxication occurs in two forms. It brings about an overwhelming joy that intoxicates the mind. The second, it leads the heart to satisfy what it likes and desires, whatever these desires may be.” He also said that, “… when the joy of listening to musical tunes and the joy of intoxication (because of listening to music) are combined, then the heart becomes much more intoxicated than when one consumes alcohol!” [Madarij As-Salikin].

 

Izz bin Abdu-Salam

(d 660 H ) RA: He is a Shafi scholar who was famous with enjoining good and forbidden evil. Keller rightly said about him:

A Shafi’i scholar and mujtahid Imam…though his main and enduring contribution was his masterpiece on Islamic legal principles Qawa’id al-ahkam fi masalih al-alanam [The bases of legal rulings in the interests of mankind]

We extract the following quote about dancing from that very book:

 “Concerning dancing and clapping, they are considered acts of Khiffah immaturity and foolishness similar to the foolishness of females which is only done by a foolish or a phony person…the prophet SAAWS has said: ‘the best of generations is my generation, then the one that comes after them, and then the one that comes after them’ and none of those –whom people take as role models- used to do any of this (clapping and dancing) . In fact, Satan has taken over people who think that the excitement they experience when listening to singing is concerning Allah ‘Azz wa jalla but verily they lied about this.” 

 

Al-Izz continues:

“It is not becoming from one -who fears Allah and has some respect to Him- to clap or dance. These two (clapping and dancing) originate only from a foolish ignorant. They do not originate from sane and pious. As an evidence of the ignorance of whoever does them is that the Shari’ah (Sacred Law) did not legislate them neither in the Quran nor in the Sunnah, and none of the prophets had done them, nor any of their real followers. They are only performed by the ignorant immature people who confuse truth with desires. Allah SWT said: ‘We have We have not neglected anything in the Book, then to their Lord shall they be gathered’ (Surah 6, verse 38). The early Muslim generations and the pious among the late generations had proceeded without embracing any of that (clapping and dancing)” 

 

 

THE POSITION OF THE COMPANIONS ON THIS ISSUE

A few of the later Shafi’ite scholars related Ibn Taahir’s claim that the sahaabah and taabi’een unanimously agreed upon the permissibility of singing (ghinaa); therefore, those who came after them have no right to challenge their authority. The Shafi’ite scholar, Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami Al-Makki (909-974 H.), mentioned that some went so far as to claim the supposed consensus of ahlul Madeenah on this question. They even accused twenty-four scholars from among the sahaaabah, as well as innumerable taabi’een, their followers, and the four imams and their disciples of singing and listening to song. However, regarding the previously mentioned claim by Ibn Taahir and those who indiscriminately followed him, an authority on Shafi’ite scholarship, Shihaabuddeen Al-Adhraa’i (708-783 H.) refuted such facile reports and insisted that Ibn Taahir was not dependable in such matters. Al-Adhraa’i related that in Ibn Taahir’s book Safwatut Tasawwuf (The Vanguard of Sufism) and his treatise, As-Samaa’a (Listening [to music, singing, etc.]), one finds disgraceful, scandalous things, along with ugly instances of fraudulent presentations of material(in defense of his position on this issue). Al-Adhraa’i further clarified that what has been attributed to the companions could not be established by authentically-related narrations (aaathaar), but rather, their assertions were based on reports of certain companions listening to poetry, chants or songs. This does not substantiate their allegations, for such things are permitted by consensus and fall outside the realm of this area of dispute. Clearly, it was related that some companions performed permitted aspects of singing, etc., however, these actions were distorted out of context by such persons to include every type of singing, without specification or restriction.

Al-Adhaar’i then quoted an authoritative Shafi’ite imam, Abdul-Qaasim Ad-Dowlaqi, who clarifies in his book As-Samaa’a, the vital point which is at the crux of this issue. He says, “It has not been related regarding any one of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) that he listened to the sort of singing which is of the disputed type; nor is it related that gatherings for song were organized for him, nor that people were invited to them – either publicly or privately, nor that he praised such song; rather, it was the companions’ habit to censure and blame such gatherings for the purpose of listening to it.”

Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami concludes his discourse by pointing out that it is clear from what has preceded that it is not permissible to blindly adhere to Ibn Taahir’s views, because he has deviated in both the point of view of his narrations (naql), and his personal opinions (aql). He was also a liar, innovator and a libertine. As for those who relate that the companions and others permitted the disputed types of song, they have committed an ugly mistake and have fallen prey to gross error. The issue of song and music is of two types: the first type is permitted by consensus, and the second type is disputed about as to its prohibition. To intimate that the companions’ listening to certain forms of poetry, singing, chanting, etc. is of the second type is invalid arbitrariness and is not based on the principles of jurisprudence and hadeeth science. Such principles clearly indicate that we must interpret whatever has been related on this issue regarding the companions as that type of song permitted by consensus 

 

Al-Hanafiyyah

Imam Abu Haneefah has perhaps the harshest view of the four famous Imams of jurisprudence. His school of thought is the strictest, for he detested singing and considered it sinful. As for his disciples, they have explicitly confirmed the prohibition of listening to all musical amusements and pastimes, including wind instruments (mazaameer), all types of tambourines, hand drums (dufoof) and even the striking of sticks(al-qadeeb). They have asserted that such actions constitute disobedience to Allah and that the performer of such action is sinful, therefore necessitating rejection of his testimony. They have further stated that it is incumbent upon the Muslim to struggle to avoid listening to such things, even if he were passing by or stationed near them (without any willful intention). Abu Haneefah’s closest disciple, Abu Yoosuf, stated that if the sound of musical instruments (ma’aazif) and amusements (malaahi) were heard coming from a house, the house could be entered without permission of its owners. The justification for this is that the command regarding the prohibition of abominable things (munkaaraat) is mandatory, and cannot be established if such entering rests upon the permission of the residents of the premises.This is the madhhab (position) of the rest of the Kufic scholars as well, such as Ibraheem An-Nakha’i, Ash-Sha’bi, Hammaad and Ath-Thowri. They do not differ on this issue. The same can be said of the general body of jurisprudence of Al-Basrah. 

 

Maalik

It is related by Ibnul-Jawzi that Ishaaq bin ‘Eesaa At-Tabba’a asked Imaam Maalik bin Anas, the leading jurisprudent of Madeenah, about the view of the people of Madeenah regarding singing (ghinaa). He replied, “In fact, that is done by the sinful ones.” Abut-teeb At-Tabari said, “As for Maalik bin Anas, he truly did prohibit singing and listening to it.” He further related that Maalik said, “If one purchased a slave-girl and found her to be a professional singer, he could return her to the original owner for reimbursement on the claim of having found fault in the merchandise.” The ruling of prohibition (tahreem) is generally agreed upon by the scholars of Madeenah. The Maaliki jurisprudence and commentator, Al-Qurtubi, reports Ibn Khuwayz Mandaad as saying that Imam Maalik had learned singing and music as a small boy until his mother encouraged him to leave it for a study of the religious sciences. He did, and his view became that such things were prohibited. Al-Qurtubi confirmed Maalik’s view by saying that the only exception to this general ruling was the type of innocent songs such as those sung to placate the camels during travel, or during hard labor or boredom or during times of festivity and joy, such as the ‘Eed days and weddings – the latter to the accompaniment of a simple daff (hand drum). Al-Qurtubi then said, “As for that which is done in our day, by way of the [blameworthy] innovations [bidah] of the Sufi mystics in their addition to hearing songs to the accompaniment of melodious instruments such as flutes, string instruments, etc., such is haraam [forbidden].

 

Shafi’ee

In the book, Aadaabul Qadaa, Ash-Shaafi’ee is reported as saying, “Verily, song is loathsome [makrooh]; it resembles the false and vain thing [al-baatil]. The one who partakes of it frequently is an incompetent fool whose testimony is to be rejected.” His closest and most knowledgeable disciples clearly stipulate that his position on this issue is that of prohibition (tahreem) and they rebuke those who attribute its legality to him. This is confirmed by the later Shafi’ite scholar, Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami. He related that one of Ash-Shaafi’ee’s disciples, Al-Haarith Al-Muhaasibi (d.243 H) said, “Song is haraam, just as the carcass [maytah] is.” Furthermore, the statement that singing is haraam is found in the treatise, Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer, by the authoritative Shafi’ite scholar, Ar-Raafi’ee (d.623 H.). This is further corroborated by the accomplished Shafiiite jurisprudent, Imam An-Nawawi (d.676 H.) in his Rowdah. Such is the correct view of the dependable scholars of the Shafi’ite madhhab. However, due to limited knowledge and personal fancy and desire, a few of their latter-day scholars disagree with this view.

 

Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah (Islamic rulings issued in India):

al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah is a collection of Islamic rulings issued and compiled by a group of Hanafi scholars from India. This scholarly work was in response to a request by the Muslim king of India and a Islamic scholar in his own standing, Muhammad Aurangzeb. In this collection of Fatawa (Islamic rulings) one finds the following:

“The Sama’ (listening to singing), singing poetry, and dancing that Sufis do these days are impermissible; both going to it and attending it are not permissible. These actions are similar to singing and music

 

 

Ash-Shatibi (d 790 H) said:

‘I wish they stopped at this –which in itself is blameworthy- but on top of that they have progressed into dancing, using wind instruments, whirling, and beating their chests; some bang their heads. How similar this is to the laughable acts of the foolish ones! This is so because these actions of theirs belong to kids and insane, it causes sane people to cry in sympathy for them since this can’t be taken as a path to Allah, and a way to resemble the pious ones.’

 

Abu Bakr al-Aujuree (d 360 H) said:

‘it has to be said to whoever did this (dancing, whirling, etc): know that the most truthful when admonishing, the most sincere to his Ummah, and the one with the softest heart [12] and the best among the people who came after him [13] -with no doubt- never screamed when they were admonished, nor cried out loudly or danced. If these acts were acceptable then they (the companions) are the most entitled to do them in front of the Prophet SAAWS, however (they did not) because it is Bid’ah, falsehood, and evil.’ ”

 

Allah said

And of Mankind is he who purchases idle talks, to mislead mankind from the path of Allah.

In commenting on this ayaah

Hasan al-Basri said “This ayah was revealed concerning singing and musical instruments.

 

Abdur-Rahman bin Naasir as-S’adi said

“This include all manners of haraam speech, idle talk and falsehood, and all nonsense that encourages kufr and disobedience;

the words of those who say things to refute the truth and argue in support of falsehood to defeat the truth, and backbiting, slander, lies, and cursing, the singing and musical instruments of the shaytaan, and musical instruments which are of no spiritual or worldly benefit.

 

there are thousands of other narrations like this from every generation of the ummah till now and the reality only shows, due to what has preceded, that the intellect has left the one who says what Sarhawardi says. In regards to his using the proofs of the digging of the trench, that was a time of jihaad where the songs of war were made permissible by the Messenger and someone with as much knowledge as Sarhawardi is not one to be excused of under the banner of “ignorance” however we seek pardon for him and whoever followed such an erroneous misconception.