Question # 160: What is ruling in Islam with respect to music and musical instruments?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Music is a kind of entertainment that Shaytaan makes appear attractive and enjoyable, and distracts people and leads them in doing something, which Allah hates and has decreed haraam. Music and all musical instruments are evil and it is not permissible to listen or play them. It causes sickness in the heart and leads to immorality and makes listening to the Qur’an and Sunnah burdensome. The word ‘Lahw Al-Hadith’ appearing in Soorah Luqman includes music (singing and listening); Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has censured this and threatened those using it with severe punishment. Also, in the Sunnah, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) condemned those who seek to legalize entertainment using musical instruments and listening to them. Also, the view of the four imams is that all musical instruments are haraam.

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[1]) on certain occasions like on battlefield and in marriage and on the occasion of ‘Eid (for young girls only) are permissible. However, the drum, covered on both sides, called tabl is not permissible.

Long Answer: Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Music and other kinds of entertainment are all evil, but they are things that the Shaytaan makes appear attractive and enjoyable, and he calls people to them so as to distract them from the truth by means of falsehood, and so that he can lead them away from that which Allah loves, towards that which Allah hates and has decreed haram. Music, the ‘ood (a kind of stringed instrument), and all musical instruments are evil and it is not permissible to listen to them… Music is not a remedy, but it is a disease. It is a kind of entertainment that causes sickness in the heart and leads to deviation of morals… Music… is something that gets people accustomed to falsehood and makes them even sicker. It makes listening to the Qur’an and Sunnah and useful exhortations burdensome for them…” (Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz) (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)

Further, he (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Every male and female, young or old, is prohibited from listening to singing, whether in the home, the car, or anywhere else, for doing so indicates a desire to participate in that which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has forbidden: “And of mankind is he who purchases (Lahw Al-Hadith) idle talks to mislead from the Path of Allah without knowledge, and takes it by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment.” (Soorah Luqman, 31:6)

Singing is a form of Lahw Al-Hadith, since it entices people toward evil and takes them away from good, causing them to uselessly waste their time, so for these reasons it falls under the generality of the term Lahw Al-Hadith. Included along with singing and listening to it, is purchasing such Lahw to mislead oneself or someone else from the way of Allah. Allah has censured this and threatened those who use it with severe punishment. Just as the Qur’an has a general prohibition against singing and listening to it, so the Sunnah also has proven that. Among the texts related, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “There will be from my Nation a people who will deem fornication, silk (for men), alcohol, and the use of musical instruments [ma’aazif] to be permissible; and there will be a people who will camp beside a high mountain when a poor man passes by them and asks for a need, they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ In the morning Allah will make the mountain fall upon them and the others (who are saved) are transformed into apes and pigs, until the Day of Judgement.” (Al-Bukhari)

…Here music is accompanied with other major sins… This shows that listening to music is unlawful…” (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

The word of consequence [in the above hadith] is the Arabic term ‘ma’aazif‘. In order to discover what it implies, one must turn to Arabic dictionaries of hadith terms and other scholarly works. According to Lisaanul Arab, ma’aazif is the plural of mi’zaf or ‘azf, and indicates objects or instruments of play or leisure which are beaten 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) 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.

…In another hadith, it is reported by Al-Haakim in his Mustadrak that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) took the hand of the companion, Abdur-Rahmaan bin ‘Awf (رضي الله عنه), 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 hadith’s degree is hasan, and it has been strengthened by another narration related by Abu Bakr Ash-Shaafi’i in his work, Ar-Rubaa’eeyat. (‘The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing’ by Abu Bilaal Mustafa al-Kanadi)

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The view of the four imams is that all musical instruments are haram.” (Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa)

Having established beyond a doubt the general ruling of prohibition regarding this issue, it should be stressed that Islam does not totally forbid all music and song. There are occasions when certain forms of music and song are lawful. The following are the examples of occasions specified by the Sunnah:

  • During battles, songs are of great spiritual and moral benefit to the warriors. In such circumstances, song incites heroism and valor and excites the Muslims. Al-Baraa reported that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) carried earth on the Day of the Ditch until his stomach was covered with dust, while he chanted these verses: “By Allah, if not for Him we never would be guided, nor have been charitable, nor have prayed. So send down peace and tranquility upon us, and make the feet firm if we meet [our enemy]. Verily, the others rebelled against us. When they (disbelievers) desired discord [fitnah], we refused, we refused.” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) raised his voice with the refrain, “we refused, we refused.” (Reported in the compilations of Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • During the days of two Eids which mark the celebration of the great Islamic festivals, innocent singing and beating on the daff (simple hand drum) as a rhythmical accompaniment is permissible as indicated by a number of texts of the authentic Sunnah. Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) mentioned that [her father] Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) came to her during the days of Mina. There were two young girls with her, beating upon the daff, while the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was covered with his cloth. Then Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) began scolding the girls, hereupon the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) disclosed his face [from under the covering] and said, “Leave them, Oh Abu Bakr, for these are the days of the ‘Eid festival.” (Al-Bukhari)
  • During the wedding feast, it is permissible to let the women and young girls sing and beat upon the daff during the wedding feast. The singing must be innocent and not describe love or acts of immorality. Singing and beating upon the daff serves to proclaim the occasion of the wedding and brings joy to the wedding guests. Muhammad bin Haatib Al-Jumahi relates that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “The demarcation between the unlawful and the lawful [in marriage] is the daff and the voice.” (This authentic hadith was related by At-Tirmidhi and others) There are numerous other traditions that indicate the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) encouraging women to sing and beat the daff. Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) related that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Proclaim this marriage, solemnize it in the mosque and beat the daff upon its occasion.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibbaan, and others, with an authentic chain of narrators) It should be stressed that the aforementioned singing and playing upon the daff is restricted to women and young girls and is not meant for men.

(‘The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing’ by Abu Bilaal Mustafa al-Kanadi)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The drum that is covered on both sides is called the tabl, and it is not permissible, because it is a kind of musical instrument and all kinds of musical instruments are haram, except that for which there is evidence that it is halal, which is the daff at weddings.” (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.


[1] It is a small hand drum which is like the tambourine except that it does not have the steel objects which rattle. It consists of a narrow wooden rim. Around one side of it, a thin animal hide is bound tightly. Sound is evinced by tapping it with the fingertips or palm of the hand.