Why music is forbidden in Islam
a’azif is the plural of mi’zafah, and refers to musical instruments (Fath al-Bari, 10/55), instruments which are played (al-Majmo’, 11/577). Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) narrated from al-Jawhari (may Allah have mercy on him) that ma’azif means singing. In his Sihah it says that it means musical instruments. It was also said that it refers to the sound of the instruments. In al-Hawashi by al-Dimyati (may Allah have mercy on him) it says: ma’azif means drums (dufof, sing. daff) and other instruments which are struck or beaten (Fath al-Baari, 10/55).
Evidence of prohibition in the Qur’an and Sunnah:
Allaah says in Surat Luqman (interpretation of the meaning):
“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allah…” [Luqman 31:6]
The scholar of the ummah, Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: this means singing. Mujahid (may Allah have mercy on him) said: this means playing the drum (tabl). (Tafser al-Tabari, 21/40).
Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) said: this ayah was revealed concerning singing and musical instruments (lit. woodwind instruments). (Tafser Ibn Kather, 3/451).
Al-Sa’di (may Allah have mercy on him) said: this includes all manner of haram speech, all 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, insults and curses; the singing and musical instruments of the Shaytaan; and musical instruments which are of no spiritual or worldly benefit. (Tafser al-Sa’di, 6/150)
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The interpretation of the Sahabah and Tabi’in, that ‘idle talk’ refers to singing, is sufficient. This was reported with saheh isnads from Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn Mas’ood. Abu’l-Sahba’ said: I asked Ibn Mas’ood about the ayah (interpretation of the meaning), ‘“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks’ [Luqman 31:6]. He said: By Allah, besides Whom there is no other god, this means singing – and he repeated it three times. It was also reported with a saheh isnad from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) that this means singing.
There is no contradiction between the interpretation of “idle talk” as meaning singing and the interpretation of it as meaning stories of the Persians and their kings, and the kings of the Romans, and so on, such as al-Nadr ibn al-Harith used to tell to the people of Makkah to distract them from the Qur’an. Both of them are idle talk. Hence Ibn ‘Abbas said: “Idle talk” is falsehood and singing. Some of the Sahabah said one and some said the other, and some said both. Singing is worse and more harmful than stories of kings, because it leads to zina and makes hypocrisy grow (in the heart); it is the trap of the Shaytan, and it clouds the mind. The way in which it blocks people from the Qur’an is worse than the way in which other kinds of false talk block them, because people are naturally inclined towards it and tend to want to listen to it.
The ayat condemn replacing the Qur’an with idle talk in order to mislead (men) from the path of Allah without knowledge and taking it as a joke, because when an ayah of the Qur’an is recited to such a person, he turns his back as if he heard them not, as if there were deafness in his ear. If he hears anything of it, he makes fun of it. All of this happens only in the case of the people who are most stubbornly kafirs and if some of it happens to singers and those who listen to them, they both have a share of this blame. (Ighathat al-Lahfan, 1/258-259).
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“[Allah said to Iblees:] And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience)…” [al-Isra’ 17:64]
It was narrated that Mujahid (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice” – his voice [the voice of Iblees/Shaytan] is singing and falsehood. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: This idafah [possessive or genitive construction, i.e., your voice] serves to make the meaning specific, as with the phrases [translated as] “your cavalry” and “your infantry” [later in the same ayah]. Everyone who speaks in any way that is not obedient to Allah, everyone who blows into a flute or other woodwind instrument, or who plays any haram kind of drum, this is the voice of the Shaytan.
Everyone who walks to commit some act of disobedience towards Allah is part of his [the Shaytan’s] infantry, and anyone who rides to commit sin is part of his cavalry. This is the view of the Salaf, as Ibn ‘Abi Hatim narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas: his infantry is everyone who walks to disobey Allah. (Ighathat al-Lahfan).
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Do you then wonder at this recitation (the Qur’an)?
And you laugh at it and weep not,
Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)” [al-Najm 53:59-61]
‘Ikrimah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: it was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that al-sumood [verbal noun from samidoon, translated here as “Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)”] means “singing”, in the dialect of Himyar; it might be said “Ismidi lana” [‘sing for us’ – from the same root as saamidoon/sumood] meaning “ghaniy” [sing]. And he said (may Allah have mercy on him): When they [the kuffar] heard the Qur’an, they would sing, then this ayah was revealed.
Ibn Kather (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning) “Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)” – Sufyan al-Thawri said, narrating from his father from Ibn ‘Abbaas: (this means) singing. This is Yemeni (dialect): ismad lana means ghan lana [sing to us]. This was also the view of ‘Ikrimah. (Tafser Ibn Kather).
It was reported from Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Do not sell singing slave women, do not buy them and do not teach them. There is nothing good in this trade, and their price is haram. Concerning such things as this the ayah was revealed (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allah…’ [Luqman 31:6].” (Hasan hadeth)
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Among my ummah there will certainly be people who permit zinaa, silk, alcohol and musical instruments…” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari ta’leeqan, no. 5590; narrated as mawsool by al-Tabarani and al-Bayhaqi. See al-Silsilah al-Sahehah by al-Albani, 91).
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This is a saheh hadeth narrated by al-Bukhari in his Saheeh, where he quoted it as evidence and stated that it is mu’allaq and majzom. He said: Chapter on what was narrated concerning those who permit alcohol and call it by another name.
This hadeeth indicates in two ways that musical instruments and enjoyment of listening to music are haram. The first is the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “[they] permit” which clearly indicates that the things mentioned, including musical instruments, are haram according to share’ah, but those people will permit them. The second is the fact that musical instruments are mentioned alongside things which are definitely known to be haram, i.e., zina and alcohol: if they (musical instruments) were not haram, why would they be mentioned alongside these things? (adapted from al-Silsilah al-Sahehah by al-Albaani, 1/140-141)
Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) (may Allah have mercy on him) said: This hadeeth indicates that ma’azif are haram, and ma’aazif means musical instruments according to the scholars of (Arabic) language. This word includes all such instruments. (al-Majmoo’, 11/535).
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: And concerning the same topic similar comments were narrated from Sahl ibn Sa’d al-Saa’idi, ‘Imran ibn Husayn, ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr, ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Umamah al-Bahili, ‘Aa’ishah Umm al-Mu’mineen, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, Anas ibn Malik, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Sabit and al-Ghazi ibn Rabee’ah. Then he mentioned it in Ighathat al-Lahfan, and it indicates that they (musical instruments) are haram.
It was narrated that Naafi’ (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Ibn ‘Umar heard a woodwind instrument, and he put his fingers in his ears and kept away from that path. He said to me, O Nafi’, can you hear anything? I said, No. So he took his fingers away from his ears and said: I was with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he heard something like this, and he did the same thing. (Saheeh Abi Dawood). Some insignificant person said that this hadeeth does not prove that musical instruments are haram, because if that were so, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would have instructed Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) to put his fingers in his ears as well, and Ibn ‘Umar would have instructed Nafi’ to do likewise!
The response to this is: He was not listening to it, but he could hear it. There is a difference between listening and hearing. Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Concerning (music) which a person does not intend to listen to, there is no prohibition or blame, according to scholarly consensus. Hence blame or praise is connected to listening, not to hearing.
The one who listens to the Qur’an will be rewarded for it, whereas the one who hears it without intending or wanting to will not be rewarded for that, because actions are judged by intentions. The same applies to musical instruments which are forbidden: if a person hears them without intending to, that does not matter. (al-Majmoo’, 10/78).
Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: the listener is the one who intends to hear, which was not the case with Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both); what happened in his case was hearing. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) needed to know when the sound stopped because he had moved away from that path and blocked his ears. So he did not want to go back to that path or unblock his ears until the noise had stopped, so when he allowed Ibn ‘Umar to continue hearing it, this was because of necessity. (al-Mughni, 10/173)
(Even though the hearing referred to in the comments of the two imaams is makrooh, it was permitted because of necessity, as we will see below in the comments of Imaam Maalik (may Allaah have mercy on him). And Allaah knows best).