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 Music in Islam

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Join date : 2011-06-29

PostSubject: Music in Islam   Sat Sep 17, 2011 12:13 am

Music in Islam
Music In Islam

Sheikh Seraj Hendricks - Commenting on the Musical Play "Silence Of The Music" - 22/9/2010 - (Azawiya, Walmer Estate and Lecturer, Studies in Islam, University of Johannesburg.)

In a world threatened by continued polarisation, division, and misunderstanding there can be no greater need for those with a universal interest in the affairs of humanity to join hands in making visible the beauty of human diversity and the potential for that diversity to realize, in a harmonious orchestration of elevated togetherness, the highest values that the human species is capable of. Amongst these values we would count the essential oneness of humanity, respect for the dignity of all, tolerance for and the acknowledgment – in a spirit of engaged pluralism – of the God-given right and freedom to embrace and practice the beliefs of our choice. What better way to realize these ideals than through the creative and artistic medium of a musical-drama? Silence of the Music will resonate loudly, and most powerfully, with those whose hearts are attuned to a compassionate and empathetic need for the establishment of universal harmony, understanding and togetherness. May the sublime fragrances of this Desert Rose production silence the cacophonous, divisive and discordant voices of bigotry, prejudice and hatred.

They have our full support

Music In Islam. - Imam Noor Salie

Music has a big effect on Muslim youth and even on adults today. The most popular form of music among modern youth is rave music and light Classical and even Jazz among adults. Rave is a form of techno- music, which is accompanied by rapid beats and fast body movements.

How should we as Muslims respond to the question of music? According to a well respected modern Contemporary Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qardawi: "Islam permits music as long as it not be in any way obscene or harmful to Islamic morals." Sheikh Qaradawi claims that all of the traditions from the Prophet (Ahaadith) reported against music, are all-weak and have been shown by Islamic researchers to be unsound.

He suggested five criterion on which music should be evaluated.

1.There is nothing wrong in listening to music, but one must be very careful in selecting the kinds of music that one listens to. The subject matter of songs should not be against the teachings of Islam. For example, if the lyrics of the song promoting immoral sexual behaviour, then singing or listening to it is Haraam
2. If the singing were accompanied by suggestive sexual movements it would be Haraam.
3. Islam fights against excess and extravagance in anything, even in worship; how, then, can it tolerate excessive involvement with entertainment, one should not get addicted to songs in such a way that you keep on listening to them day and night.
4. If singing is done in conjunction with Haraam activities—for example, at a party or disco where people are indulging themselves in alcohol or consuming drugs then it is Haraam.
5. Each individual is the best judge of him/herself. If a certain type of singing arouses one's passions, leads him or her towards sin, excites the animal instincts, and dulls spirituality, he or she must avoid it, thus closing the door to temptations.
Singing and music have always been an integral part of people's life expression, and taking this away from them means either to impoverish them culturally or to breed hypocrisy by forcing them to deny their musical inclinations publicly whilst at the same time satisfying them secretly with the material borrowed from other cultures. In other words, to deny a people their musical expression is equivalent to denying them their own identity.

Just as Islam has its own architecture and its own brand of expressive arts, Islam has its own musical expression. The important element in this is, as with many other Islamic activities, its purpose. Music in Islam ought to be uplifting and encourage the reflection of truth and the service of the Creator, and may not be corrupting and inciting base instincts. This applies to the contents of songs as much as to the musical accompaniment. As much as a chandelier from a dancing hall does not befit a Mosque as decoration, the hammering of modern pop music does little to enhance a song with a religious theme.

There is sufficient evidence that whilst the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) denounced corrupting music (Bukhari) or an excessive dedication to music or poetry (Bukhari/Muslim), music as such was NOT prohibited. While digging the ditch around Madinah in preparation for battle, the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions were singing songs (Bukhari/Muslim).

The challenge facing Muslims therefore is to produce music, which conforms to the above five criteria. In conclusion, banning or prohibiting Muslim youth from listening to music is an unrealistic goal.

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In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace

Allah, the Sublime, declares in the Glorious Quran in Sūrah al-Arāf (The Heights), chapter 7, verses 32 and 33: Say (to them O Muhammad [pbuh]): Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) which God has brought forth for his servants, and the good things from among the means of sustenance. Say: They are lawful in the life of this world for believers especially on the Day of Resurrection. Thus do we clearly spell out our messages for those people of knowledge. Say: What my Lord has indeed prohibited are! Shameful deeds, whether open or secret, sinning and unjustified envy and the ascribing of divinity to others beside Allah since he has given no such authority. And attributing unto God that about which you do not know.


The world renowned Muslim musician, Sami Yusuf, recently (17-25 October) toured South Africa, and thousands of people attended his live performances in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. For once, both our local Muslim community radio stations, Voice of the Cape and Radio 786, were united in celebrating the music of Sami Yusuf. Unlike local Muslim nasheed artists, such as Zain Bhikha of Johannesburg, who is cautious about using musical instruments, Sami Yusuf plays no less than five classical instruments from the Muslim world during his shows, mainly, as a means of reintroducing them to his audience. Not surprisingly, Sami Yusuf’s South African tour has reignited and rekindled the longstanding local debate on the permissibility of music in Islam. The purpose of the Friday Khutbah is to guide Muslims with regard to current events. It is with this context in mind that I would like to share with you my views on the contentious topic of the permissibility of music in Islam. I do so in the magnanimous spirit of the great Imām Idrīs al-Shāfi ī (d.744), the founder of one of the leading schools of law in Cape Town, who taught us to hold onto our own interpretive positions and legal opinions with great humility and to be open to the perspectives of others: “My opinion is correct with the possibility of its being in error. An opinion different from mine is in error with the likelihood of its being correct.”

Lack of Consensus

It is important to acknowledge that there exists no consensus (ijmā) among scholars on the question of the permissibility of music in Islam. It is regrettable, however, that often those who hold one or other position on the question do not acknowledge this fact, and proceed to present their views without any reference to the alternative positions. Stating one’s view on the non-permissibility of music in Islam as if it is the only legal position on the matter is intellectually dishonest and disingenuous.

Ethics of Disagreement

It is imperative for Muslim leaders to cultivate an ethic of disagreement (technically known as adab alikhtilāf) on issues such as music on which there exist two or more scholarly opinions. This implies that all sides in the debate need to be provided a fair opportunity to present their positions without fear or prejudice. Moreover, all protagonists need to make their audience aware of the lack of consensus of the issue and to restrain themselves against engaging in extreme polemics.

All Things Permissible

One of the well-known principles of Islamic jurisprudence (uṣūl al-fi qh) is that the essence of all things is permissibility (al-aṣlu fil ashya al-ibahatu). This essentially means that those who advocate that music is Permissible do not require any evidence to support their position. The onus rests on those who declare music to be prohibited (Haraam) to provide clear and unequivocal evidence from the primary sources of Islamic guidance to substantiate their position.

Music is Haraam!

In my humble view, the evidence (Adilah) of those scholars who hold music to be prohibited are not unequivocal, but rather insubstantial and unconvincing. The most primary source of Islamic guidance, the Glorious Qurān, is silent on the subject of music. Yet, those who argue against music cite two verses of the Glorious Quran to substantiate their arguments. They read an indirect reference to music in verse 6 of sūrah Luqmān (chapter 31) and verse 64 of sūrah al-Isrā (chapter 17). 31:6 reads, “there is the sort of person who pays for distracting tales, intending, without any knowledge, to lead others from Allah’s way, and to hold it up to ridicule.” In this verse, the Qurānic words: lahw al- Hadith, literally means “idle talk,” and which I translate as “distracting tales,” are interpreted by some scholars to mean music. 17:64 reads, “entice whichever you can with your voice.” Here, the Quranic word, “ṣawt” literally meaning “voice” and is interpreted by some commentators as singing and music, and it is associated with the work of Satan. Such interpretations are not supported by the literal meaning of the texts, and are tortured. Moreover, in the view of most commentators, the first verse refers to those who mock the Qurān with word play.

The second verse occurs in a passage where Satan is refusing to submit to Prophet Adam (pbuh) – “Shall I submit to whom you have created out of dust”(17:61) – and refers to the voice of Satan. The “voice” here signifies all kinds of desire and temptation and has no reference to music whatsoever. More importantly, those who argue against music -cite a few prophetic traditions (Ahadīth) in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ostensibly warned about the dangers of music and musical instruments. I will quote two Ahadith that are mentioned by the detractors of music. The first one states that: “Music causes hypocrisy to grow in the hearts, just like water causes the crops to grow. ”(Mishkat al-Masabih) Read carefully, the ḥadīth refers to one who is already a hypocrite, and thus can safely be assumed to be listening to music that is in confl ict with Islamic values. It does not appear to be referring to one who has a sound heart, who would by nature not be inclined to listen to unacceptable music. The second Hadith often quoted reads as follows: “Verily Allah, the Most High, sent me as a mercy and as a guide unto the worlds. And Allah, the Most High, commanded me to destroy musical instruments. ”(Musnad Ahmad)

Now we know for certain that the Prophet (pbuh) countenanced the playing of the tambourine (diff ) and so this hadīth cannot be taken as barring musical instruments altogether. Some scholars such as the Andalusian Muslim scholar, Abū Muhammad Ibn Ḥazm (d.1064) have declared the above prophetic traditions to be unsound and weak. Contemporary Muslim scholars such as Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Head of the Faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University in Qatar, agree with the views of Ibn Ḥazm (see his book: Al-Ḥalal wal Haraam fi l Islām).

Permissibility of Music

More significantly, there exists strong evidence that suggests that music is permissible and wholesome. I would like to share two such prophetic traditions. Both of these prophetic traditions come from the two most authentic compendiums of ḥadīth literature, Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri and Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, and both of them are attributed to the wife of the Prophet (saw) Sayyidatina Āisha (ra).

In the fi rst hadīth, Āisha (ra) reports that it was the days of Īd al-Adha and she was at home. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was resting with his head covered by some clothes. Two young girls from the Ansar of Madina were beating the tambourine and singing a traditional Ansari song. Even though it is never explicitly mentioned in the ḥadīth, it is plausible that the Prophet himself might have been quietly enjoying the lively music. At this time her father, the illustrious companion of the Prophet, Abubakr (ra), entered the house and on hearing the music immediately reprimanded her by saying: Musical instruments of the devil in the house of the Messenger of Allah? When the Prophet (pbuh) heard this he uncovered his face and said to Abu Bakr: “Leave them, O Abu Bakr. Indeed every community has celebratory days, and this is our day of our Īd.” The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) basically told Abu Bakr that Īd was a joyous occasion and that singing was a means of enjoyment.

The second Hadith is also narrated by Sayyidatina Āisha (may Allah be pleased with her). A similar and more detailed report is also attributed to the famous ḥadīth narrator, Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him). Abu Hurayra recalls that it was the days of Īd al-Aḍḥā and some Abyssinian Muslims (currently Ethiopia) decided to celebrate this joyous occasion in the African way by performing a cultural dance with spears to the rhythm of their leather beating drums. Abu Hurayra (ra) furthermore informs us that all of this was taking place in Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, the second most sacred sanctuary in Islam after Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah. According to the report of Āisha (ra) she says: “that either I requested to watch the African spear dancing or the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself asked me if I would like to watch. And I said yes.” The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then took Āisha into the crowd and placed her on his back so that she had a better view, and she fondly remembered that her cheek touched his cheek while they keenly watched the African spear dance and drumming.

Shortly thereafter the illustrious companion of the Prophet, Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra), entered the Prophet’s Mosque and on seeing the dancing and drumming was so incensed that he immediately picked up some stones and began throwing the dancers with it to get them to stop. As soon as the Prophet Muhammad (saw) became aware of Umar’s protests he reprimanded him by saying to him: “Leave them alone, Ya Umar”

In another report, most probably in deference to Umar’s intrusion, the Prophet felt compelled to encourage the African dancers by saying: “Carry on with your drumming and dancing, O Bani Arfi da! So that the Jews and Christians know that there is latitude in our religion” (Bani Arfi da was the endearing nickname with which the Abyssinians were known among the Arabs.)

Āisha concludes her narration by informing us that the Prophet allowed her to continue watching the Abysinnian dancing in the Mosque until she had enough. The great classical scholar of Islam, Abū Ḥāmid Al-Ghazālī (d.1111), in his magnum opus, Iḥyā Ulūm al-Dīn, employed these prophetic traditions as evidences in substantiating his view that music was both a permissible and a wholesome activity. Many great philosophers of Islam, including al-Kindi, al- Farabi and Ibn Sina, did not interpret the prophetic traditions nor the Qurān as banning music, and thus wrote profusely on the theory of music and encouraged its performance. Al-Kindi, for example, argued that music can change our ethical qualities and turn anger into calm, grief into joy, depression into a state of relaxation, rage into friendliness, avarice into generosity and cowardice into bravery.

Wholesomeness of Islam

It is vital to remember that Islam is a positive and life affirming way of life. As such we have a moral responsibility to produce wholesome and healthy recreation for especially our youth. It is no secret that many if not most of our young people, and indeed not so young, are listening to music. We also know that many of the lyrics and messages promoted by contemporary music are not wholesome and morally sound. Unfortunately there are hardly any wholesome alternatives on the music market these days. There is no doubt in my mind that the delinquency seen in much of contemporary music culture (and these days in the East as well as the West) embodies hardship for the Muslim youth who are inundated with it wherever they go. In my view it is a social obligation (farḍ kifāyah) to produce wholesome alternatives for our youth. Cultural artists such as Sami Yusuf are filling this need and as such they need to be commended.

Let me refer to two concrete examples of the positive impact that Sami Yusuf’s South African tour have already had on our youth. I found the following two interesting reflections on the blogs of these two young Muslims who attended the Sami Yusuf shows. The first comes from a young man who attended the Durban concert and the second is from a young woman in Cape Town. The young man described his experience as follows:

“… some people will say that this is Haraam, and concerts are imitating the West and we are all going to turn into swines and monkeys but I felt more spiritual tonight than I have felt since coming out of Itikaf. It really was magical. As soon as Sami walked off the stage I hugged my dad. It was that powerful. The young lady was courageous to compare her experience of attending a rock concert to that of Sami Yusuf’s concert. She wrote the following on her blog: “I’m still sitting in awe of Friday night’s concert. Sami Yusuf had me close to tears with his humble and emotional performance. He’s entire show was superb, although many may have felt uncomfortable with the rock concert ambience, given the lighting and accompanying musicians. That said I’d like to give my opinion in favour thereof. I have, regretfully, been to an actual rock concert before and can honestly say that there is a big difference. Beside the clear absence of alcohol and sexual intermingling, at Sami Yusuf’s performance the conscious awareness of the Almighty was tangibly apparent. On Friday night, with the beat of his tombak (goblet drum), I had the name of Allah reverberating in my heart and his rendition of Free reflected my feelings to some people’s reactions of me wearing Hijaab. Throughout the performance, I did not once forget that I am a Muslimah, with La ilaha illa Allah Muhammadu Rasulu Allah, as my theme...While in retrospect, at the rock concert I previously went to, my God consciousness was sadly, Completely non-existent.

Cape Musical Talent

Whilst listening to the great talents of Sami Yusuf I could not help thinking about our many local talented musicians who are being marginalized by our ambivalent attitudes towards music. Cape Town and in particular the Muslim community has been blessed with a great musical tradition. It is a part of our long history and our deep culture. Given the necessary support and encouragement I have no doubt our local musicians would not only equal the great talents of Sami Yusuf but exceed him. In conclusion, not only should cultural artists such as Sami Yusuf be commended for their witnessing to Islam among our youth but our very own local musician, Yusuf, son of al-Marhum Boeta Cassiem and Aunty Fatima Ganief, needs our encouragement and support. Yusuf has established a modest company called Desert Rose Music and together with the expertise of his wife they have already produced a popular musical CD for healing and relaxation titled, The Prayer. So perhaps the next time you go out to buy a music CD for yourself or your children consider whether the music you or your children are going to listen to will heighten or lessen your God consciousness.

I make Duah: that Allah helps us to foster a sense of respect for differing positions on music and other issues; that Allah, the Most Compassionate, blesses and inspires those talented musicians and cultural activists in our community to continue to produce healthy alternatives for our youth; that Allah, the Most Compassionate, protects our youth from all kinds of vice and moral debauchery.

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