Lebanon: Islamic scholar rejects religious censorship of music

14 October 2005

“There is no ban on music in the Qur’an, and those talking about which music is haram (forbidden/bad) and which music is halal (allowed) have very weak evidence,” says a renowned Islamic scholar from The Beirut Studies and Documentation CenterBy Ole Reitov, Freemuse 

While authorities in Iran are ready to imprison those defending the right of women to sing in public, a renowned Islamic scholar, Shaykh Ibrahim Ramadan Al-Mardini from the Beirut Studies and Documentation Center in Lebanon, is ready to defend the viewpoint that the Qur’an gives no basis for banning music nor distinguish between male and female music.

Al-Mardini questions the sources invoked to ban music in Islam: “There is no Qur’anic text banning music”, he insists:
“In Islam the Sultan only intervenes when humans deviate from God’s judgement; the sultan and faqih [jurists] are symbiotic”. And for example, 80 hadiths have been used to prove music unlawful but of these 70 were dhaif [weak] or very weak.

“On balance censorship,” Mardini notes critically, “exists to preserve regimes.”

Mardini says that he completely rejects censorship, arguing that it is not the mission of the faqih [jurist] to condemn things; his job is merely to guide the faithful. Mardini points out that Islamic fundamentalism does not have a religion. A fatwa is no good unless it develops. It must not be static. The faqih has to be flexible. The faqih must be with the times and understand them.

Panel at the Freemuse Conference in Beirut.
From left: Ass. Professor Jonas Otterbeck (School of Int. Migration and Ethnic Relations, Sweden), Ole Reitov (Freemuse, Denmark), Shaykh Ibrahim Ramadan Al-Mardini (Beirut Studies and Documentation Center, Lebanon) and Bashar Shammout, (Freemuse, Palestine/Germany)
© October 2005. Photo: Marie Korpe


He stated this at a recent Freemuse conference on ‘Freedom of Expression in Music’, held in Beirut in October 2005. During a session dealing with “Conservative interpretations of music in Islam – the theoretical perspective” the Shaykh said that “a music culture is necessary for people to develop themselves”.
He added that “any limitation on the arts is the opposite of what the religion calls for” – and added that “music doesn’t know male or female”, and that it is not for religious scholars to control people but to guide them.

“The individual has to rule his/here own life through their own judgement”, the Shaykh Ibrahim Ramadan Al-Mardini said, and noted that Islamic scholars in the former century often had a very good knowledge of culture and art, and that “culture is something owned by everyone, and not something that a few persons should decide upon.”

Mardini argued that “culture is something owned by everyone, and not something that a few persons should decide upon” and pointed out that Islamic scholars in the last century often had a very good knowledge of culture and art. In Islam tradition reading was traditionally accompanied by music.The ‘ulama interpret the rules and correct people when they go astray. When justifying music Mardini quoted the Prophet saying to one of his Companions, “You came with a very good ear”. The mufti [Shari’a judge] is entrusted with disclosing the judgements of God, basing his views on the Qur’an, the Hadith and the Sunna. Music is not banned in Islam; strong counter evidence exists showing that it is allowed.

Shaikh Ibrahim Ramadan Al-Mardini works at the Beirut Studies and Documentation Centre in Lebanon and as a religious scholar he gave his perspective on Music an Islam at the Beirut conference.

Read more about the conference: 

Beirut Conference on Freedom of expression and music in the Middle East

Click on picture to go to
© 1987 Original watercolor painting by Tarik Banzi
from Morocco. Tarik Banzi is a composer, musician,
visual artist, and artistic director of Al-Andalus,


Context: The socalled ‘Islamic Ruling on Music’

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’


Musician’s statements

Isam Bachiri, member of the Danish pop group Outlandish, says:
“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

Somali singer and musician Maryam Mursal

Watch video statement

Pakistani musician and singer Salman Ahmad
Watch video statement


Shaykh Ibrahim Ramadan Al-Mardini, Beirut Studies and Documentation CenterPhoto: Marie Korpe
Home / News / Lebanon: Islamic scholar rejects religious censorship of music

Check Also

Islamic central advisory council in Jammu and Kashmir state’s Kishtwar district banned music at weddings, threatening a “social boycott” for non-compliers.

India: Advisory council bans music at weddings

The Islamic central advisory council in Jammu and Kashmir state’s Kishtwar district banned music at weddings, threatening a “social boycott” for non-compliers.