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
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, a month that holds great significance for many Muslims around the world, including Shias and Sunnis. Literally meaning “forbidden, banned or prohibited,” this month is one of the four sacred months in Islam during which warfare is strictly forbidden. But what is that thing that makes this month, particularly the 10th day of it (Ashura), so special for many Muslims and generally a significant number of people throughout the history?!
About fourteen hundred years ago, on the 10th of Muharram, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP), Imam Hussain ibn Ali (AS) together with his family members and close companions were ruthlessly slain on the plain of Karbala.
Yazid, the son of Muawiyah, was illegally appointed as the leader of the Muslim community by his father. After Muawiyah’s death, Yazid started to take allegiance from the most influential tribal leaders. He also called upon Imam Hussain (AS) to swear the oath of obedience to him and accept him as the rightful leader.
Imam Hussain (AS) refused to do so as Yazid lacked the minimum qualities required for an ordinary Muslim let alone a Muslim leader. Anyhow, Yazid ordered his governors to either take allegiance from Imam Hussain (AS) or make him surrender by any means, even at the cost of taking his life. Imam Hussain (AS), however, did not give away to their unjust request and unkind pressure. So finally he was martyred along with his sincere companions by Yazid’s forces and their wives and children were taken as captives.
Since the 10th of Muharram of 61 A.H., millions of Muslims all over the world hold yearly mourning ceremonies throughout Muharram to commemorate the loss of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH & HP) grandson, Imam Hussain (AS). In their religious gatherings, each year, speeches are given about the life and merits of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions, the sufferings they went through and the sacrifices they made. People recall the incident of Karbala many times and try to keep the message and purpose of this greatest martyrdom in the history of humankind alive through their sorrow and tears. Not only that, but lots of people are also engaged in charitable activities like blood donation, giving food to their fellow brothers and sisters, and helping the ones in need to follow their Imam’s lead.
You might wonder what the real cause of this incident was that still evoke great emotions in the hearts of Muslims and generally anyone who gets the opportunity to hear about it, despite the passage of centuries! The most important purpose for which Imam Hussain (AS) was martyred was his faith. He fought in an unjust battle to revive his grandfather’s religion, the invaluable merits, and values that had been violated and taken for granted all those years. He, along with his companions suffered great miseries and sacrificed all they had for the sake of the principles of Islam, which they believed to be a lot more precious than anything else even their own lives. They practically showed the humankind of all times that sacrifice and martyrdom are essential when the cause is just.
Now, throughout centuries, in the month of Muharram, Muslims turn over a new leaf in their lives by remembering Imam Hussain (AS) and the incident of Karbala. They answer Imam Hussain’s (AS) call for help by expressing their anger to Yazid and the likes. They follow their Imam’s footsteps in fighting the Yazid within themselves and generally resisting any violent oppression and injustice out there in the social and political levels.
As a result, Muslims fully comprehend the core message of Islam, which is the Quranic principle of Tawhid; that there is no one but Allah, and we all need to be committed to Him; that even ordinary Muslims deserve more than a figure like Yazid, and they should always remain defiant against him and any oppression or injustice. The month of Muharram is an opportunity for all of us to remind ourselves of the right belief and the true Islamic teachings that never harmonize with any kind of oppression.
There is no doubt among us that after our dear Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP), our twelve Imams (AS) are the most important figures of our religion. On that account, today we want to get to know more about our first imam and the first male convert of the religion birth matter and conditions.
The faithless say, ‘You have not been sent [by Allah].’ Say, ‘Allah suffices as a witness between me and you, and he who possesses the knowledge of the Book’
The Holy Quran (13:43)
And among the people is he who sells his soul seeking the pleasure of Allah, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants
The Holy Quran (2:207)
If the two of you repent to Allah... for your hearts have certainly swerved, and if you back each other against him, then [know that] Allah is indeed his guardian, and his supporters are Gabriel, the righteous among the faithful and, thereafter, the angels...
The Holy Quran (66:4)
If we seek the true meaning of these three verses above of our holy book, they all seek Ali (AS) as their primary target and guide us to some aspects of his life. our dear imam has been implicitly described by The Quran many times that shows us His great importance in our religion.
No one can fully describe the contributions of Imam Ali (AS) to his religion and the people and if anyone dares to do so, he can merely show a drop of the sea. That said we are about to speak about the first question that may occur to our mind: how was our first Imam born?
Thirty years after the “year of the elephant” (*) occurrence, in the 13th of Rajab (March 8), when Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP) was 30 years old, 10 years before our dear The Prophet (PBUH&HP) received the first revelation from the angel Gabriel and 23 years before the great migration of Muslims from Mecca to Medina.
At this time, our dear imam's pregnant mother (Fatima Daughter of Asad) was praying at Kaaba. She felt an immense amount of delivery pain that she fled to Kaaba from that pain. Suddenly the wall of Kaaba has moved apart and given shelter to her for 3 whole days. After these days, she came out of Kaaba with her dear son, our first imam, Ali b. Abi Talib (AS). Imam’s delivery was a great honor that happened to no one And after yet; walls moving apart, mother’s presence in the holy site of Islam, and the unique birth in Kaaba were all the signs of the greatness of son of Kaaba.
Fatima Daughter of Asad was the second woman that converted to Islam (after Prophet’s wife, Khadija” SA”). She had the honor of taking care of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) from the age of eight until his youth in her (Abu-Talib) house. Their relation was as much close that Prophet (PBUH&HP) called she “mother” So we can see the early strings of Prophet (PBUH&HP) calling Imam Ali (AS) his brother.
1.Sheikh Mofid (died in 413th AH): our first imam, Ali b. Abi Talib (AS) was born on Friday the 13th of Rajab and thirty years after the year of the elephant in Mecca. No one ever has been born in Kaaba before and after him. His delivery was the great honor that God granted him to show his dignity over other men of his age.
2. Allamah Al-Hilli (died in 726th AH): Imam Ali (PBUH) was born on Friday the 13th of Rajab and thirty years after the occurrence of the year of the elephant. No one before and after him, was born in Kaaba at that time, The Prophet (PBUH&HP) was thirty years old.
Many of the Sunni scholars Believe that Imam’s birth routine was in Kaaba and some of them even think this matter exclusively was only for the Imam.
We will name some of them briefly and look at their point of view:
1. Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri (died in 658th lunar year): a lot of Consecutive narrations have pointed that Fatima bt. Asad have delivered Ali b. Abi Talib in the Kaaba.
2. Sibt ibn al-Jawzi Hanafi (died in 654th lunar year): It has been narrated that when Fatima bt. Asad was pregnant and doing tawaf around the Kaaba, she sensed an immense delivery pain that she fled to Kaaba from the pain; when suddenly Kaaba’s door got opened to her so she went into the Kaaba and gave birth to his child.
Syed Ismail Himayari (who died in 173th AH) was one of the greatest poets of Arabic literature. He wrote a poem about this unique birth:
His mother gave birth to him in God’s safe site; God’s house and masque was his birthplace
He was pure and noble; her mother, her child, and her birthplace too
In one of the darkest nights, he appeared with lunar purity
No child other than Amine’s child is honored like him
- Kitab al-Kafi (first Volume – page 452)
- Kitab al-Irshad (first Volume – page 5)
- I'lam al-Wara bi A'lam al-Huda (first Volume – page 306)
- Bihar al-Anwar (35th Volume – page 182)
- Description of Nahj al-Balagha (first Volume – page 6)
- Manaqib Ale Abi Talib (third Volume – page 307)
- Rawżat al-Vaeezin (page 81)
* In that year, Kaaba invaded by faithless king Abraha and his great elephant army and ironically saved by Allah himself with an army of birds carrying small stones by their pecks that penetrate the elephant's body and skull and all of them got killed, and Kaaba was saved.