Dialogue – 90 (Music)

“Is music halaal or haraam…?…”

“Not clearly haraam…. But defininetly not halaal….”

“Can you provide a reference…?…”

“Nabi e Pak (PBUH)’s life / sunnah / seerat is the reference…”

“No, I mean written reference…”

“……. So you need an argument… Sure, I’d provide you with that… But first, tell me, is the argument of Sunnah not enough…?… Do you find a single time Prophet PBUH singing, or playing a musical instrument…?….”

“It is right… But you see, we have differing opinions on this…”

“Indeed it is right… But then, as a matter of fact, we have read so much about our beloved Prophet PBUH’s life, that it is easy for a Muslim to imagine, what would be his response towards music, singing or such other pursuits…. …Hmm, as per your wish, let me narrate to you, some authentic narrations on the subject:-

  • A hadees is attributed to Ayesha RA, who said: “The Prophet PBUH, entered my home when I had two maidens singing some songs. He reclined on the bed and turned his face away. Abu Bakr RA came in and rebuked me, saying: ‘What! Satan’s horn (a wooden instrument) at the Prophet’s place!’ The Prophet PBUH, told him to leave them alone, as it was Eid day. When he slept I signaled them to leave.”
  • There is a Hadees attributed to Abdullah ibn Omar RA, which says that: “Prophet PBUH was walking with his companion, when he heard some singing. He placed his fingers in his ears. A short while later, he asked his companion if he could still hear the singing, and Abdullah confirmed that he did. They walked on with the still putting his fingers in his ears. Again he asked his companion if he could still hear, and the answer was the same. They walked on before the asked the same question the third time. Abdullah said that he could not hear. Then Prophet PBUH took his fingers out of his ears.”
  • Another hadees is frequently quoted as: “There will be in my community people who will treat as lawful: fornication, the wearing of silk, wine and ma’azif (or
    musical instruments).”

“So… What does that all explain…?…”

“That definitely does not explain everything. However, certain clarity is there, like:-

  • There is no mention of prohibition of music in Quran.
  • There is no clear mention of prohibition of music, singing or use of musical instruments in Hadees.
  • Music has always been subject to sharp controversy, with distinguished scholars supporting both views of permissibility and prohibition.
  • What we can say is that music, which encourages un-Islamic practices, is forbidden.
  • Music that is considered to be relaxing or is supposed to have a healthy effect on the listener is permissible in some schools-of-thought, however I’d touch that later.
  • We today equate the Arabic word ma’azif with musical instruments, but when we look it up in a reliable Arabic dictionary, we find that it does not have this meaning. The whole entry of the root azafa, from which the word is derived, speaks of something else, which means ‘to turn away from something, abandon, become distracted, etc.’ This was certainly the primary meaning for which the word was used at the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Hence, ma’azif, as used in the last hadees above, means ‘things those distract a person’ – which is an umbrella term.
  • The other point that the last hadees raises is that these four items are not equal in their degree of prohibition. No one has ever equated the wearing of a silk garment with such cardinal sins as fornication and wine drinking. Wearing silk is perfectly permissible to half of the Muslim community, namely women. In certain cases it is also permissible for men who have a reason for exemption. The same applies to distractions. Each is considered on its own.
  • The final point is that this hadees does not signify prohibition. The way it is phrased makes it informative. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is simply telling us that such people will exist who see nothing in such matters and consider them permissible. A prohibition must be phrased in a clear way, free from ambiguity. This is not the case here. However, the hadees is clear in telling us about such people whose action of approving such things is certainly reprehensible, but it may not be taken as evidence of prohibition.
  • The second hadees above does not indicate a prohibition of singing or music. Had it been so, the Prophet PBUH would have told his companion to follow his example. The fact that he let his companion continue to hear indicates that what he heard was not forbidden. It is only a case of hearing what he disliked.
  • One thing is clear and certain: The Prophet PBUH was not fond of music, singing or use of musical instruments, nor encouraged it, nor practiced it.”

“And what else you said you would explain..?..”

“To me, a student of physics / vacuum engineering / mechanical vibrations, the music is all about frequencies and their effects. You would appreciate that frequency, time period, pitch and amplitude are intertwined into a relationship called resonance. Resonance is the:-

  • Reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighbouring object.
  • The condition in which an electric circuit or device produces the largest possible response to an applied oscillating signal.
  • The condition in which an object or system is subjected to an oscillating force having a frequency close to its own natural frequency.
  • The property of having a molecular structure which cannot adequately be represented by a single structural formula but is a composite of two or more structures of higher energy.
  • The attribute of a short-lived subatomic particle that is an excited state of a more stable particle.”

“So, what does that signify…?…”

“To me, resonance is more than the abnormal amplitude variation due to natural frequency…. To me it is even more then its physical manifestation in the form of raag
malhaar (rain) and raag deepak (fire) through musical tunes, opening of a soda bottle lid (through use of guitar strings) or breakage of a bridge (due to marching soldiers). Even a layman can understand its effects, like in case of a swing, pushing a person in a swing in time with the natural interval of the swing (its resonant frequency) makes the swing go higher and higher (maximum amplitude), while attempts to push the swing at a faster or slower tempo produce smaller arcs. This is because the energy the swing absorbs is maximized when the pushes match the swing’s natural oscillations.”

“Ahan… So how does music relates to resonance…?…”

“Yes, that’s where I’d conclude…. Music is a combination of frequencies, sounds and vibrations. When we listen to music, it either does or does not come in sync with our natural time period, or our natural frequency. Hence, we like certain music, and dislike some other. At times, we like a music, by listening to it again and again, through an evolutionary process that I’d call adjustment of our natural frequency. In all cases, listening to music has one or more of the following effects on us:-

  • We do not remain the same, as we were before listening to music.
  • Our moods, emotional balance and attention span / focus changes.
  • We are drawn into it.
  • We travel to the past, when we listen to an old song.
  • We get overly excited, extremely sad, very nostalgic, over-joyed or easily emotional, depending upon the type of music.
  • We get distracted while listening to it, or get very very focused (to the extent of addiction, hence some of us need it to get focused).
  • The large amplitude surge is the result of frequency resonance between the music and our body.
  • Now, because this resonance is totally artificial and synthetic, its effects are also same. Music thus results into distraction, lack of focus, weak attention span / control and weak emotional balance.

Then there are social concerns too….

  • There has been tremendous research on music. It makes us want to dance, soothes us when we are feeling sad, and gets on some folks nerves in the elevator. From infancy to adulthood music is an important part of our lives. Mothers sing lullabies to babies, toddlers and children play “ring around the rosy,” and teenagers become absorbed in songs they believe help better define them during their rocky transition into adulthood. Yet there is some music that communicates harmful health messages, especially when it reaches a vulnerable audience.
  • Today’s music and lyrical content is questionable with regard to sex, drugs, and violence.
  • Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato said, “Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited”. Abraham Lincoln said, “who writes the nation’s songs shapes the nation’s souls”.
  • Heavy metal lyrics often have themes of alienation, retribution, and angst.
  • Music is important to our cultural identity, and thus must respect social and sub-cultural boundaries. Today’s generation faces far more difficulties and dangers than their counterparts did just a generation ago.
  • More than one-thousand scientific studies have concluded that significant exposure to violent music and lyrical content increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children and adolescents. The explicit lyrics desensitize the listener to violence and give the impression that the world is a meaner place than it really is (American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Public Education).
  • The average American teen spends far more time listening to music than listening to mom or dad. The average American teen is spending more time alone with music, with less parental oversight and involvement. The average young viewer is exposed to fourteen thousand sexual references each year, with music albums and videos showing interpersonal violence, hypo-dermic needles, priming, and other anti-social behaviors. Other themes include Satanism, suicide, gay-bashing, substance abuse, sexual violence, etc. In the fashion side of the music industry, half-skirts and mini-skirts are prevalent. Same is becoming our case too.
  • Recent best-selling albums have included graphic descriptions of murder, torture, and rape. For example, Nine Inch Nails released “Big Man with a Gun”. Music lyrics have an impact too. Up to seventy-five percent of concept music videos contain sexually suggested material, romance, strong love / hate and depression messages. Same things are observed in Pakistani / Bollywood music too.

Hence, I must say, music is certainly NOT a preferred activity. It may not be prohibited altogether, but it is not liked any way in our Deen. It was not promoted, encouraged or given a pat / nod. It was not in the practice of our Prophet PBUH and his Companions (Sahaba) RA…….”

“Well, they say that music is food to soul… Ye rooh ki ghizaa hai….”

“You are right… To me, ye achee roohon ki ghizaa hargiz nahin hai….. Coz it lets us out of balance… Khushi, ghami aur har doosri cheez ko ye bohat barrhaawaa de deta hai…. Iss liye, mein yehi kahoon ga, kay ye buri roohon ki ghiza hai… Achee rooh ki ghiza Allah ka zikr hai….. Wo kiya kehtay hein, ‘taajjub hai, tujhay mouseeqi rulaati hai, pur Tilaawat e Quran nahin rulaati….!!’…..”



Consulted links:

  1. ‘Our Dialogue’ – Arab News, Jeddah

  2. http://www.positivemusicassociation.com/resources/article_lijequist1.htm

  3. http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonance



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