Music: Islamic Viewpoint

Arts in Islam: (Q & A)
By Culture & Entertainment Editor

In our series Islam and Arts (Q & A), we will try to find answers to many questions that spark controversy about arts in Islam. For example, what kind of arts is permitted? And what kinds are not? On a weekly basis, we will highlight a question from one of our readers along with its answer by Wael Shihab, deputy managing editor of the Shari`ah Department (English) at OnIslam.net. Shihab graduated from Al-Azhar University and later received his MA in Islamic Studies, with a major in Islamic jurisprudence and its principles. Now a PhD student, he is working on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence at the same university.  

Q: Are singing and listening to music against the Islamic teachings? Why? Now, a lot of artists follow the trend of Sami Yusuf and Yusuf Islam and perform what they call nasheeds. How does Islam view this kind of music?

A: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and may peace and blessings of Allah be upon Prophet Muhammad, his family, his Companions, and all those who follow his guidance until the Day of Judgment.

First of all, I would like to express my appreciation and esteem to my sisters at the Art & Culture Department, wishing them all success in presenting and defending Islam through their important efforts.

Thanks for this good question. Although the issue of listening to music and singing is subject to differences and disagreement among scholars, I adopt the juristic view that allows the act of listening to music or singing provided the following conditions are met:

  * It does not involve a theme that promotes immorality, indecency, or evil.

  * It is not accompanied with haram practices.  

* It does not incite evil desires within oneself.  

* It does not waste one's time.  

* It does not lead to neglecting one's duties.  


These general guidelines also apply to the nasheeds of any person. However, I do not want to judge the works of any singer. Here, I only state the general rules, through which one can judge different cases.  

To support my argument on this issue, I would like to refer to a Prophetic hadith. It was narrated that `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) attended a wedding of one of her female relatives from the Ansar (Muslims of Madinah), and then the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) asked her, "Have you sent a girl with her [the bride] who can sing and beat the duff [tambourine]?" `A'ishah then said, "What would she say?" The Prophet said, "She can say, 'Here we come; to you we come; greet us as we greet you'' (Al-Shawkani, Nayl Al-Awtar). Also, it is well known that the Ansar welcomed the Prophet's arrival to Madinah with the following nasheed, which most of us have memorized at an early age:

See the bright moon soar over us Through the valley of Wada And our gratitude should be for the cause Now that the call is to Allah

Upon reading the Prophet's biography, we can see many incidents in which the Prophet, along with his companions, said some nasheeds, such as the incident when they were digging the trench during the battle of Al-Khandaq.

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with them both) that the Muhajirun (Immigrants to Madinah) and the Ansar started digging the trench around Madinah, carrying the earth on their backs and saying, "We are those who have given a pledge of allegiance to Muhammad that we will accomplish jihad [striving for Allah] as long as we shall live." The Prophet kept on replying, "O Allah, there is no good except the good of the hereafter, so confer Your blessings upon the Ansar and the Muhajireen."

Having stated the above, I still do advise my dear brothers and sisters not to indulge in listening to music or singing to the extent of ignoring or giving a short time to listening to and reciting the Qur'an. We should give due regard to reading and listening to the Qur'an and to reading about Islam and Muslim affairs.

Although listening to music or singing in a way that meets the above conditions is not objectionable, our young Muslim brothers and sisters should observe their priorities in relation to time. Let's be balanced in leading our lives, organizing our priorities on the basis of duties, requirements, and benefits.

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