Singing and the
Sounds of Music
Are They Legal?
Here is an excerpt
from The Emergence of Islam by Dr. M. Hamidullah
From Questions and Answers on
You mentioned that the Prophet
(peace be upon him) taught Bilal how to call the faithful to prayer. He
taught him how to prolong certain words and to shorten others. Thus he
taught him the sounds of music. In the light of this statement, what are
the possible limits of music in lslam?
Not only this. There are
many other instances which indicate that music is not at all forbidden
in lslam. What is forbidden is music during prayers or music which is usually
considered decadent as a form of entertainment. Let me give you a few examples
which prove that music as such is not forbidden. The Prophet (peace be
upon him) on returning from a marriage feast remarked to 'A'ishah that
there was no music in the wedding party given by one of her relatives and
he wondered why. The implication is clear. Music and wedding celebrations
Here is another example.
It relates to the Farewell Pilgrimage. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
was camping in Mina. 'A'ishah relates that a few girls were playing on
duff, a musical instrument, in her tent where the Prophet (peace be upon
him) lay, taking rest with a piece of cloth on his face. Abu Bakr, 'A'ishah's
father, came to call on the Prophet (peace be upon him) and scolded the
girls who were indulging in music. The Prophet (peace be upon him) who
was not asleep, lifted his head and addressing Abu Bakr said that it was
the day of 'Id. In other words, he suggested that the girls were perfectly
within their right to celebrate the occasion with music.
Yet another example relates
to 'Id during the year 2 or 3 AH. 'A'ishah narrates that there was some
noise in front of the house on the 'Id day. The Prophet (peace be upon
him) got up to see what it was. 'A'ishah also got up to see the spectacle.
There was an Abyssinian quarter in Madinah. They used to display their
feats of javelin throw[ing] in the streets, especially on 'Id days, and
people used to pay them some money in appreciation. The Prophet (peace
be upon him) did not stop the Abbysinians. On the contrary, he asked 'Aishah
to witness the show. She saw it to her heart's content and left only when
she felt tired.
When the Prophet (peace be
upon him) migrated to Madinah, he halted at Quba. The entire populace,
Muslim and non-Muslim, turned out in strength to welcome him as a mark
of hospitality. The Abyssinian boys were among the crowd. They entertained
the Prophet (peace upon rum) with javelin feats. The Prophet (peace he
upon him) appreciated their gesture and received them with consideration
and kindness, and possibly gave them some money.
The recitation of the Qur'an
is also a form of music. The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered Ihat the
Qur'an should not be read like ordinary prose. It should be recited melodiously.
He added that God had not given a greater sanction to any branch of music
than the recitation of the Qur'an. There is a hadith that God does not
lend His ear so much to any sound as to a melodious rendering of the Qur'an.
In brief, there is no ban in principle on music provided it has a good
objective and does not interfere with the discharge of our obligation of
prayer. There is a whole chapter devoted to this subject in al-Ghazali's
Ihya Ulum al-Din. He deals in detail with the status of music in
Websters Dictionary defines
'music' as : (a) the science or art of ordering tones or
sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to
produce a composition having unity and continuity and (b) vocal, instrumental,
or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.
And/or the recitation and
listening to the reading of Allah's Book so aptly described by the English
translator of the Qur'an (Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall), as:
symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy."
(Symphony in Webster's
dictionary means: "an extended musical composition in sonata form for full
In a number of authentic
(sound) Tradition's, the Prophet p.b.u.h. stressed that the Qur'an was
to be CHANTED or sung in a sweet and melodious voice
(Chanted in the dictionary
means: "to utter in a singing voice -- a repetitive singing utterance.")
"Abu Huraira reported that
Allah's Prophet said:
does not chant the Qur'an is not one of us. (Bukhari)
In another hadith:
Abu Baraa bin Aazib
related that Allah's Messenger said: "Adorn the
Qur'an with your voices." (Abu
Dawood and Ahmad bin Hambal)
It is therefore incumbent upon
Muslims to learn how to recite Allah's Book in beautifully sweet and melodious
voices in accordance with the rules of tajweed, to constantly practice
its reading and to listen to others. For nothing like the Qur'an uplifts
the spirit and puts peace and tranquility into one's heart and soul.
The Qur'an must be recited
in accordance with the rules of TAJWEED, the precise science which
details the rules for Quranic recitation. The notes are to be extended
(al-madd) according to a certain number of beats. The letters 'noon'
and 'meem' are melodiously held and then notes emphasized, etc.
One is required to learn this method of recitation. Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi'
(i.e. of Canada) states in his work Music and Singing under the heading
"Singing and listening to Islamic songs:
"Islamic songs (anasheed
Islamiyyah) contain moving lyrics which fire enthusiasm and desire
for jihad and encourage noble Islamic manners, morals and practices
in all aspects of the Islamic faith. There is presently a great surge of
flooding the world of the Arab Muslim Youth, and
there is no reason why such inspiring songs could not be composed on various
pertinent subjects by the enlightened Western, English-speaking youth of
today. He expresses his views and opinions on this subject in these words:
He also asserts that:
"I could certainly
encourage the likes of Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens) and others
to use this medium for Islamic revival and as a means for da'wah (invitation
of non-Muslims to the path of Allah)."
"it is the duty
of every Muslim to strive his utmost to find acceptable (lawful) alternatives
to the prohibited forms of music and song," as suggested above.