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Is Listening to Music Haram?

Nasheeds are a staple in Ramadan as we replace Drake and One Direction with Maher Zain or even Deen Squad. Recently, however, as I scrolled through the comments on Deen Squad’s rendition of God’s Plan, I saw a lot of mixed emotions towards the post. Thus, I wanted to explore the various viewpoints that the Islamic community has taken towards music. Some are positive, some are negative, and some are in between.

All musical instruments are haram

Scholars who claim that all musical instruments are haram have cited the following hadith: The Prophet (pbuh) said “From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful” (Imam Al-Bukhari) and as such many scholars argue that all musical instruments are haram. Scholars who agree with the opinion above typically associate listening to music with drinking and clubbing. Mufti Menk, an acclaimed contemporary scholar, argues that beats promote the movement of the body in a way that eventually leads to dancing movements which are haram. He also believes that many of the lyrics of today’s musical industry are not salvageable as halal within the teachings of the religion. Watch a quick four minute video on it here. 

As such, music that is particularly vulgar or inappropriate is seen as a distraction from Islam and the fulfillment of duties. This view is also supported by the fact that the modern musical industry of today deviates significantly from Islamic teachings. So if singing is permissible which circumstances is it allowed under? I found that most scholars agree that singing is permissible during certain occasions such as Eid and weddings, and that some scholars even assert that singing as an activity that brings enjoyment is permissible as long as the activity does not encourage non-islamic actions such as drinking. Scholars who follow this opinion generally believe that music can distract Muslims from fulfilling their Islamic duties. Mufti Menk also argues that to prevent any sin, all music should be replaced with the Qu’an.

Musical instruments are not haram

Scholars who do not agree with the absolute prohibition of singing and music believe that there is not enough textual evidence or clearly conclusive evidence to support complete prohibition. They also argue that singing and music do not always lead to more sinful activity. These scholars also maintain that as long as the content is appropriate, and is not accompanied with other forbidden activities, then the music is acceptable. These “other forbidden activities” then present another point of contention. Mufti Menk has also stated that some scholars believe there is certain permissibility in music such as Islamic songs or the use of the duff, a one sided drum. But he is strictly against the musical industry as a whole, and believes it to be unclean. He also makes a statement that says “Those (Scholars) who say that (music is allowed) within a certain scope….none of them say that the musical industry of today is permissible.”  

Music is haram if it deviates you from the path of Allah

Generally, if the music you are listening to is clearly dictating a message far from that of Islamic teachings, it may be in one’s best interest to be aware, and listen accordingly.  So where does music like Deen Squad or Maher Zain fall? And what constitutes the “path of Allah”?

I am by no means a scholar, and have simply tried to lay out some of the knowledge I have attained, including personal experiences. For example, many times in Ramadan I would find myself listening to Arabic versions of Maher Zain songs, and I don’t speak Arabic. Thus, I felt like I was listening to the song simply for the beat, and honestly because I didn’t feel like reading the Qur’an, or listening to a lecture in those moments of Ramadan. So I feel like even though music and nasheeds might not be explicitly “haram,” they can as the scholars said above, “distract you from fulfilling your religious duties.”  And if you find yourself doing that, use your judgement and opinion to make the best decision for yourself in that moment.

Overall however, followers of Islam must read extensive arguments of scholars on topics like music and dancing, and reach their own opinion on the matter. There are definitely core values that Islam stands on, and if music or any other facet of your life conflicts with those core values, it might be time to reassess your conclusions. Issues like music are important in the Islamic community and must be addressed through use of text, debate, and presentation.  What’s your opinion on listening to music? 


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