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Addendum to Opinion on Music

Addendum to Opinion on Music


Do you believe that your views regarding music are reconcilable with any of the imams of the four schools of law? I mention them in particular because arguments that differ with their opinions are typically predicated on a (conveniently) small selection of the hadiths that they use. As you might guess by now, I differ with your view on that topic – even though I admit to listening to music myself. In any event I very much respect and admire your efforts. May Allah bless you and your family. Amen

Salaam alykum,

I do not think that I need to reconcile my views with any of the Imams, because it is unfortunate that on the internet their positions have been gravely simplified to the notion that, in unison, they simply said “music is Haram.”

That idea is factually incorrect. The debate between them is over what is the appropriate time and place for music (if at all), and whether instruments were acceptable or not, and if so, what instruments. This must be understood first before we continue further.

For instance, Imam Shafi’i wrote, “On account of tradition, playing at backgammon is disliked more than playing on any kind of musical instrument. And I do not like playing at chess; I dislike all the games which men play, because play does not belong to the actions of people of religion and manly virtue.” Notice that it is a question to what degree it is disliked (not Haram, mind you), and this isn’t about music, in general, but rather, playing instruments.

Furthermore, as argued by Abu Ali Muhammad bin Al-Husayn (ad-Dinawari), companions of The Prophet listened to music, where the following companions have been noted as those who listened to music: Abdullah ibn Ja’far, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, and Mughira ibn Shu’ba.

Furthermore, the famous Islamic Jurist, Ibn Jurayj was not fond of music, and was asked once “Will this be brought on the day of resurrection among thy good deeds or thy evil deeds?” To which Ibn Jurayj responded: “Neither in the good deeds nor the evil deeds, for it is like idle talk, and God Most High has said, God will not blame you for idle talk in your oaths [2:225]”

Furthermore, in Al-Ghazali’s treatise on music he writes the following:

“…hearing a pleasant sound ought not to be forbidden in respect that it is pleasant, but is lawful by statute and by analogy. By analogy, because it can be reduced to a pleasing of the sense of hearing by perception of that which is assigned exclusively to that sense. Man has reason and five senses; and to each sense belongs a perception, and in the things perceived by that sense is what gives pleasure. the pleasure of seeing is in the beautiful things seen, such as greenness, flowing water, or a fair face, and, in general, all beautiful colors which are opposed to what is disliked of dull ugly colors. Smelling has pleasant scents, and these are opposed to disagreeable stenches. Taste has pleasant foods, such as gravy-meat and sweet-meat, and sour things, and these are opposed to nauseous bitters. Touch has the pleasure of softness and tenderness and smoothness, and these are opposed to roughness and jaggedness. And reason has the pleasure of knowledge and science, and these are opposed to ignorance and stupidity. So, too, the sounds perceived by hearing divide into those that are regarded with pleasure, as the voice of nightingales and musical pipes, and those regarded as disagreeable, as the braying of the ass and such. Then what a manifest analogy there is between this sense and its pleasures and the other senses and their pleasures!

And as for statute, the allowableness of hearing a beautiful voice is shown by the fact that God has granted such to His creatures, since He said, ’He increases in His creatures that which He Wills, [35:1] and it is said by exegetes that the thing increased here is beauty of voice.”

The Scholars of Tafseer that Al-Ghazali is referring to are az-Zuhri and Ibn Abbas.

However, Al-Ghazali writes of the limits of music, and what instruments one can and cannot use, in which Al-Ghazali (who is a Shafi’i Jurist) makes a differentiation between the various drums that are acceptable and what are not, and furthermore, what settings are acceptable and what are not.

So, when you look at the total tradition of Islam, you come to realize that the issue here is whether you are using music (or anything for that matter) to remove yourself from your Faith and from doing righteous action, or from using music (or anything other than prayer and devotion to Almighty God) as a means towards reaching decisions, which was the common practice for the non-Muslims during The Prophet’s time.

Finally, whenever I hear this argument (that music is Haram), there is always a massive issue that no one addresses: What about “Tala al Badru Alayna,” the song that was sung for The Prophet Muhammad when he entered Yathrib (Medina), why would The Prophet permit this to happen? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer that addresses this issue, which underlines how those who continually pushed to simplify the tradition of Islam ignore simple events, while accusing others of doing the same, which actually bothers me.

This will be my last post on the subject of music, as both this post, and my previous post are sufficient to explain my position, and I hope that we can speak about more substantive issues in the future, because I find the Muslim obsession with legalistic answers to issues without an interest in understanding legal thinking to be worrying, because it destroys the tradition of Islam and of the Usul al-Fiqh, relegating it to a simplistic mechanism to provide answers with minimal effort on the part of the one who asks the question.

If you can understand Arabic, I would suggest you listen to Sheikh Sharaawy on the issue of music, because I understand why people are cautious when listening to me, which they should be, and I am glad that they are, and I hope that they continue to challenge me, my positions, and to push for me to provide sources and proof, because that is the sign of the greatness and intelligence of Muslims, and I just ask that they apply this skepticism and push for proof not only to the things that they disagree with, but more importantly, to the things they agree with.

Thank you for your well-wishes, I truly appreciate them, and I can only hope to actually earn your respect in the future, and ask that you pray for me to come to Truth, and I pray that this reaches you and your family in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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