Discussing the issue of music in Islam sounds a bit controversial. If we suppose that music is food for the soul, we cannot easily say if it is allowed (Halal) or not. Unlike the issue of meat in Islam that is precisely explained in the Holy Quran, the issue of music has never been mentioned in the Quran. However, we cannot say that because God has not directly spoken about music, therefore it is allowed (Halal) or forbidden (Haram). Because music is something that does exist in this world and God has not left us without guidance in such matters.
Since there is no explicit information about music in the Quran, people keep questioning if the music is allowed in Islam or not.
Therefore, the goal of this article is to explain the characteristics of lawful (Halal) and forbidden (Haram) music in Islam, based on the rulings from jurists.
In the description of the music, it is said that “Music is the technique of mixing sounds and voices in a pleasant way that makes the listener enjoy as well as making an internal revolution for his/her soul” .
To distinguish between lawful (Halal) and forbidden (Haram) music, it is easier to find out what forbidden (Haram) music is. Then any kind of music that does not include the characteristics of forbidden (Haram) music is lawful (Halal).
Before explaining forbidden (Haram) music, it is useful to get familiar with a few related phrases:
Mutrib music: a sort of music that causes impulsive movement for the listener.
Lahwi music: a sort of music that is common or suitable for frivolous gatherings and carouses.
Apart from these descriptions, and to provide a better conceptual understanding for the phrases above, we could say that mutrib or lahwi music is that which due to its characteristics keeps human beings away from Allah, and away from moral merits and drives them towards sinful acts and carelessness.
The forbidden (Haram) type of music is suitable for dissolute gatherings of sin. Any music which is lahwi and mutrib in the common view is forbidden (Haram). Distinguishing the subject of this ruling depends on the view of each religiously responsible individual (mukallaf ), and there is no objection to listening to a song if it is distinguished as Halal; keeping in mind that the personality of the musician, the vocalized words accompanying the music, the venue, and all other circumstances may contribute to placing it in the category of forbidden (Haram), lahwi, mutrib music, or another forbidden (Haram) category; e.g., if the music, due to the mentioned things, leads to certain corruptions .
We Should Recognize Which Music Is Forbidden (Haram) for Us
In the controversial case of music, it is up to the Muslim person to realize if the music he/ she is listening to is forbidden (Haram) or not.
When we want to listen to a song we should see:
If it is mutrib music (immaterial)
If it is lahwi music and suitable for carouses (Irrespective of whether it contains the element of excitement or engenders in the listener a state of melancholy and crying.)
If it contains ghina in its singing
If it contains vain and useless concepts that create distance between God and us.
For example, the musician may disagree with the listener’s point of view. In this case, what the Muslim person regards as lahwi and suitable for gatherings of sin is forbidden (Haram) for him to listen to. As for the sounds which fall in a grey area, the ruling in their regard is that it is permissible to listen to them .
Any music that does not include the above characteristics is lawful (Halal), and there is no objection to listening to such music in Islam.
There is no objection in using musical instruments to play non-lahwi tunes if it is for revolutionary or religious chanting or carrying out useful cultural and other programs aiming at rational and lawful (Halal) purposes, provided that it results in no bad consequences.
At the same time, using musical instruments to play lahwi and /or mutrib tunes is not permissible .
Learning and teaching music for the above-mentioned causes are allowed (If it is for revolutionary or religious chanting or carrying out useful cultural and other programs aiming at rational and lawful (Halal) purposes).
Musical instruments which, according to the common view, are of dual - lawful (Halal) and forbidden (Haram) - purposes can be used in a non-lahwi manner for lawful (Halal) purposes. Instruments, which the common view regards as special to the production of lahwi music, are not permissible to use .
Also, in itself, there is no problem in teaching and learning music for the purposes mentioned above .
There is no problem in buying and selling musical instruments that serve dual purposes [i], intending to use them in playing non-lahwi tunes.
Accordingly, it is not permissible to buy, sell, or distribute CDs that contain mutrib and/ or lahwi music that is suitable for gatherings of carouse, regardless of the language it is composed in or the country of origin .
There is no harm in the use of musical instruments to play tunes for revolutionary chanting, national anthems, or any other lawful (Halal) and useful pursuit provided that it does not entail rapture and frivolity suitable for the gatherings of carouse and falsehood.
But with regards to singing with music, the musician should make sure that the music will not be accompanied by ghina .
Therefore, any type of music that is branded for gatherings of carouse is forbidden (Haram), even if it does not arouse sexual temptation. As a result, any kind of music that is not common for such gatherings is lawful (Halal), such as martial music.
Making these types of lawful (Halal) music for the use of Muslims and for the improvement of the community, or for spreading good values is lawful (Halal).
Overall, any kind of music that creates a distance between the soul and God is forbidden (Haram).
[i] Musical instruments are divided into two groups; 1- specific instruments, 2- dual-purpose instruments. The first group is those instruments that are known to be specifically used in carouse gatherings, while dual-purpose instruments are those which can be used for both lawful (Halal) and forbidden (Haram) purposes. Most jurists have named a few instruments as dual-purpose instruments such as a chime, drum, piano, dulcimer, etc. but in the case of specific instruments, they have not named any and have left the recognition to the Muslim person .
- Rouhollah Khaleghi, An overview on music, p.4
- music in Islam
As a person who has grown up a Muslim, I don’t understand why this question may come up for some people; can Muslims have fun and joy?
Before anything, Muslims are human beings with the same needs that all human beings have, such as eating, sleeping, working, earning money for a living and enjoying their life. It is after having all these primary needs that they choose to follow a specific framework in their life; Islamic lifestyle.
As far as I have observed and studied the issue of fun, entertainment, and joy in non-Muslim cultures, it is usually based on weekends at bars or nightclubs, spending all time gossiping, chattering or dancing and coming home drunk and tired.
Or some families go out for a family meal at a restaurant. Some may go on a picnic or camping in nature. Some families plan parties at home with friends or relatives.
Another activity which is called fun in non-Muslim cultures is having fun and spending time with the opposite sex. Some youth would like to have their personal vehicles to play their favorite music tracks and hang around with friends in their cars. Staying home and watching movies or playing video games is also another form of entertainment.
Now, let’s see what the status of fun and entertainment is in the Islamic lifestyle! And what the difference between Islamic and non-Islamic lifestyle is.
There are many verses in the holy Quran that mention this worldly life is nothing but play and diversion [i]. But does it mean that we have to take this life as fun and entertainment? Of course not. The aim of calling this worldly life as play and diversion is to draw our attention towards a more important lifestyle: a useful lifestyle that guides us towards success in this world and the afterlife. Allah says in the Quran:
“Leave alone those who take their religion for play and diversion and whom the life of this world has deceived …” (6: 70).
Therefore this world should not entertain us so much that we forget why we have come to Earth, where we are going after death, and what the whole goal of living in this world is.
Talking about the goal of life does not mean that Muslims should spend all their time working and praying. There are many narrations that recommend Muslims to divide their day into four parts. Imam Reza (AS) says: “try to divide your day into four parts; one part for praying and communicating with your Lord, one part for earning lawful (Halal) money for a living, one part to communicate with your religious brothers who will help you know your deficiencies, and a part to entertain your soul with lawful pleasure, and in the fourth part you will gain liveliness to fulfill other three duties.” 
Therefore Muslims should set aside a part of their time to have fun, rest and have lawful (Halal) pleasure, as well as spend some considerable time with their family, talking to children to find out if they have any issues, reading different books and keeping themselves up to date. Specifying some time to pleasure and entertainment helps people have a more organized plan to fulfill their duties.
Muslims should plan their lives in a way that they would find no spare time. Spare time makes people feel useless, and then they would try to find some ways to get rid of those times. That is usually where aimless entertainment enters one’s life.
Allah says in the Quran: “So when you are done, appoint,” (94: 7), that in some interpretations means when you finish one task, you have to start a new one.
That new task might be planned as having fun, of which I will bring some examples later on in this article. So, it is important that Muslims plan their lives in a way that they find no spare or unused time in their day.
The most important point in having fun from the Islamic point of view is that one should choose a sort of entertainment that does not harm one’s self and others.
So if you have a careful look into the Quranic verses that name some kinds of pleasure forbidden, you can realize that those may lead into harm for the person him/herself and people around him/her.
Therefore, any entertainment in which people use drugs or alcohol, such as parties in which alcohol or drugs are used, or even nightclubs and bars that are the exact places for these kinds of entertainment are totally rejected in Islamic lifestyle.
Also, any Entertainment related to gambling is forbidden (Haram), simply because in gambling there is harm for at least one person. Also, all kinds of entertainment that divert our attention from a Godly life are forbidden (Haram).
The type of entertainment that a Muslim chooses should not be against the laws of Islam such as modesty. A Muslim should not have an aimless pleasure and as mentioned in the Quran; “Indeed Allah does not like the boasters.” (28:76)
The least usefulness that a form of entertainment should have for a Muslim is to refresh his/ her soul and to strengthen his/ her body.
See the second part: What is Lawful (Halal) Fun?
[i]“The life of the world is nothing but play and diversion, and the abode of the Hereafter is surely better for those who are God-wary…” (6:32)
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol.75, p.346
For those who believe in the afterlife, there is often this concern that whether they go to heaven or hell. Some Muslims believe that being a Muslim suffices for entering heaven, but is that true? If so, what happens to those who are born to non-Muslim families? Some believe that all Muslims are Arab or to become Muslim one should be whether Arab or know Arabic. Then, they might ask about what will happen to those who do not know Arabic. Since no one chooses where to be born, is it fair to send those born among disbelievers (Kafir) to hell? What will happen to converts because of their past before conversion to Islam? These and other questions are all answered here.
Some people believe that God has created mankind to send some of them to heaven and the rest to hell! But, it is not true at all. One is totally free to follow the divine guidance and reach heaven or to deny it and go to hell. Hence, everyone determines him\herself where he\she goes after death.
According to the Quran, God will curse those who are disbelievers and die while they are still disbeliever (2:161). They will remain in hell forever, their punishment will not be alleviated, nor will they be reprieved (2:162). On the contrary, those who are faithful to God and do righteous deeds (98:7) will be rewarded the Gardens of Eden. God will be pleased with them, and they will be pleased with Him (98:8).
Knowing that not having faith will end in hell, what will happen to believers? Will they all enter heaven?
Islam recognizes the freedom and other rights of the followers of the previous religions; also, has ordered Muslims to hold them in considerable respect . Moreover, Islam knows those followers eligible for salvation; it all depends on one’s deeds and faith in God. In Surah al-Baqarah it is said that: “Indeed, the faithful, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabaeans—those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously—they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:62). In other words, according to the Islamic principles, it is disagreeable to punish those who have not received the message of Islam either before its rise or after that, and God will never do that.
In Surah Al-i-Imran it is said that anyone who follows a religion other than Islam will be among the losers in the Hereafter (3:85). So, being a Muslim, on its own, is the prerequisite for entering heaven; but it is not enough. The key to the eternal salvation and heaven is doing good deeds. Whoever submits to Islam but does not do any good deeds will not go to heaven. On the contrary, there are people who are not Muslim, as we call it, but they will accept Islam if they receive its message and therefore, they might enter heaven. In other words, one should have faith and submit to God, and this should be manifested in one’s acts.
In Surah al-Hujurat, the difference between belief and submission is clarified (49:14). By saying the two testimonies (Shahada), one submits to Islam, but being faithful is more than that. To have faith in God deep in the heart, one should obey God and his messenger, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) (49:14), and this should be reflected in one’s conduct .
It is also stated that the noblest of people before God is the most righteous of them (2:13). This is logical, too. We also, as human beings, naturally like and appreciate those who are good and do good deeds. Hence, what is important is one’s deeds. Skin color, race, language, nationality, gender, age, and social class do not solely lead to salvation and heaven. Two clear examples in this regard are the son of Prophet Noah (PBUH) and the wife of Prophet Lot (PBUH) who both did not believe in prophet’s message and were thus condemned to Hell. Their stories warn that in spite of being a member of the family of the prophet, one might deviate, disobey God and move towards hell.
Among disbelievers (Kafir), there are those who deny the truth and will never submit to the divine guidance. These will never enter heaven, as mentioned earlier. There are also non-Muslims who have not received the message of Islam, and they are not responsible for not receiving it, but they will surely accept Islam as soon as they know about it. These will not be punished and will not go to hell since the Quran says: “We do not punish (any community) until We have sent (to them) an apostle” (17:15).
- Monotheistic faith
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “Tafsir al-mizan”, (2 :14).