The burning music question in Islam: prohibited or not?



The burning music question in Islam

Can we get it straight: Music… is it or is it not allowed in Islam? Is playing music a violation of Islamic law Apparently, there is no simple answer. Because Muslims themselves don’t agree on the subject. While some Muslims see music as a natural part of life, other Muslims attempt to silence all music. Are there any grounds for this in the Qur’an? Who is saying what, based on what, and why?

By Freemuse

A group of young, religious men in Sweden act as if they were an Islamic police force and try to prevent Swedish Muslims – basically of Somali origin – from listening to music. This was shown on SVT, the National Swedish TV, on 25 April 2006. Same thing happened in Denmark on October 9 in 2004 where religious fundamentalists obstructed a concert in N


Related reading
Full story with Shaykh Ibrahim Ramadan Al-Mardini, Islamic scholar from The Beirut Studies and Documentation Center:
‘Islamic scholar rejects religious prohibition on music’

Jonas Otterbeck’s working paper, 22 pages in PDF-format, to be published as a chapter in the book ‘Religion, Media, and Modern Thought in the Arab World’:
‘Islamic reactions to the music of today’

Writings about music prohibition in Islam

Book: ‘The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing’

In 1986, Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi wrote a book entitled ‘The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing’, which was published by Abul-Qasim Bookstore in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The book is online on at least half a dozen different web sites. According to Al-Kanadi’s research
– use of all musical instruments, except the daff drum, is forbidden
– singing voice coupled with music is imbecilic and sinful – lyrics which are erotic and licentious or sung in a licentious manner (which adversely affects the libidinous instincts of the listener) are forbidden
– even innocent songs become forbidden if they are performed in the presence of, or are coupled with, such acts as gambling, drinking and other “deeds of moral depravity”
– singing by women is restricted to a female audience as “the nature of a woman’s (singing) voice is to excite sexual feeling in the male listener”
‘The Islamic Ruling on Music and Singing’

Article in Gulf Times Newspaper 

“…music is a satanic voice that deeply penetrates the human heart and stimulates in it destructive lustful desires, wreaks havoc on mans’ body and soul and fills his ears with obscenities.
Brothers in faith! Let us ask ourselves a question: How can a sane person plunge his noble self into acts of such shameless immorality…”

By Shaykh Salaah al-Budair – 23 March 2007:
‘Obsession with music’

Islam Online – Ask the Scholar 

Muhammad from the Netherlands asks:
“Dear scholars, As-salamu `alaykum. I want to know the Islamic stance on listening to Western music and songs (e.g. Rock and Roll). I do not mean joining the parties but mere listening to such music and songs. Jazakum Allah khayran.”

Excerpt of the answer:
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states the following:
“What is commonly known as Western music is associated with sensuality, lust, and greed, all of which are diseases of the soul, so we cannot approve of listening to music with such an association. But if you’re able to single out and isolate music or songs with noble and pure messages and themes that ennoble the soul and spirit, you may listen to them as an occasional outlet provided that this does not distract you from the remembrance of Allah or performing your obligatory duties.
Muslims living in this part of the world should be creative enough to create music and songs that are totally free from sinful association, by devising halal alternative so that we can dispense with haram altogether. Therefore, we should not have any hesitation in inventing creative arts that are properly Islamic.
Finally, music in itself is merely a tool that can be those of good or bad….”

Islam Online, Questions and Answers – Muhammad and Ahman Kutty – 9 May 2005:
‘Listening to Western Music and Songs’

Islam Online – Ask the Scholar 

“…The whole issue of singing is controversial, whether it is with musical accompaniment or not. Some issues succeeded to gain the Muslim scholars’ agreement, while others failed. All scholars have unanimous view on the prohibition of all forms of singing and music that incites debauchery, indecency, or sin. As for musical instruments, given the weakness of the evidence indicating that they are forbidden, the rule to be applied here is the one states that all things are originally deemed permissible as long as there is no Shari`ah text that prohibits them.
Singing is no more than melodious words; if these are good, singing is considered good; but if they are bad, such singing is deemed bad. Talk that contains forbidden content is prohibited. What if that talk is accompanied with rhythm and melody?
Scholars agree on the permissibility of singing without instrumental accompaniment and where the content is not prohibited. (…)In the subject of musical instruments, scholars disagree on the matter.”

Islam Online, Questions and Answers – Malak and Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi – 13 January 2004:
‘Singing & Music: Islamic View’


Musician’s statements

Isam Bachiri, member of the Danish pop group Outlandish:

“There is the whole issue of music being haram (religiously prohibited). You have to respect that. I have had brothers come up to me in the mosque talking about it and that is cool, it is their opinion. But there are differences of opinion about this. I believe that it is more about intention, do you want to use your message to be famous and get money or is it to tell people about what life is really about or what life should be about? Spread the truth! It is a big business and it has a wide audience and is a big inspiration for a lot of kids, so it all it depends on who is producing.

All this violence and sex is so popular, that you have to look like Paris Hilton to be down or whatever. It’s the whole issue about the industry taking over and the bottom line is that that’s not what Islam is about. Islam puts the person first and money is not the issue, but in the society we live today, money is definitely the first thing that you talk about.”

Full interview with Isam Bachiri


Sami Yusuf:

“The subject of music is one of the most controversial topics in Islamic Jurisprudence. I respect those who consider music to be haram. Yes eminent scholars of our past have opined such. However, I respect and follow the opinion of other eminent scholars – classical and contemporary, who permit singing and the use of musical instruments. The well-established jurisprudential rule states that ‘in matters where there is ikhtilaf (differences of opinion) there is to be no condemnation of either opinion.’ This is from the beauty of the religion of Islam. The diversity of our cultural, legal and social traditions is something we are in dire need of celebrating not condemning.”

Full message by Sami Yusuf

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Read the Freemuse report 
from the Freemuse conference in Beirut, October 2005:

‘All that is Banned is Desired’

See video interviews 
Freemuse has conducted a number of interviews which
put special focus on the situation concerning music and
censorship in the Middle East:

Freemuse interviews about the Middle East

Reports in the media 
from the Freemuse conference in Beirut, October 2005:

The Daily Star: ‘Silence is death – Censorship in the Arab world’

KVMR NEWS: Mike Thornton’s MP3-radio report from the Freemuse Conference

The Daily Star: ‘Ahmad al-Khatib brings Palestine to the Medina’

From the blogosphere 
MySpace profile ‘Islam is true liberation’ posted this message on on 22 December 2006:

‘Music is haraam! (including Islamic nasheed)’

Posted by Siraaj on 19 June 2006:
‘The Ruling on Music’

Click to read about the report

Dig deeper

Read Jonas Otterbeck’s
working paper:
‘Islamic reactions to
the music of today’

Click to read the 22-pages working paper

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