by Amina Ashraf
Like most Muslims, I used to listen to music a lot. I was in chorus for four years and girls’ ensemble for a year. We performed for the school and different competitions. I studied music for a very long time. Then one day I was reading the Quran and noticed in the commentary the following hadith:
It was reported in Saheeh al-Bukhaari and elsewhere that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said that there would be among his ummah those who would allow zinaa, silk, alcohol and musical instruments, and he said that they would be transformed into monkeys and pigs.
I was completely shocked. Okay, maybe listening to music wasn’t as good as listening to Quran, but was it really that bad? Was it really haraam? Why did the Prophet (S) list it with such major sins like zina and alcohol?!
After doing more research on music, I realized that musical instruments are haraam in Islam, with the exception of the duff (read below for evidences). So to make it easier to stop, I threw away my CDs, cassette tapes (I know, I’m old), and deleted the songs off my computer. Even then it was hard to get away from music because it was everywhere! You hear it in the stores, at weddings, on the phone when you’re put on hold for 2 hours, etc.
In sha Allah we will only be held accountable for what we can control. Even though we can’t stop the music all over the world, we need to do the best we can and make sure we don’t make an effort to listen to it ourselves. Even in the stores, I do my best to think of something else or do dhikr to drown out the music. But you know what the scary part is? It’s still going in your subconscious! The scholars have called music the voice of Shaytan. Can you imagine Shaytan taking over your brain and you don’t even realize it?!
So instead of listening to music, I started listening to nasheed (Islamic songs without music). Unfortunately, I started getting nasheeds stuck in my head while I was forgetting verses of the Quran I had memorized. So alhumdulilah I stopped listening to nasheeds as well and stuck with the Quran. May Allah help us all do what is pleasing to him. (Note: Nasheed with no haraam wording or music are only allowed under certain conditions. Please watch Abu Mussab’s lecture below for details.)
I remember doing a research paper for my Psych Lab course in college about the effects of music vs. the Quran on the brain. I found studies that had correlations between music and negative behavior and emotions. When people listened to rock music with negative lyrics, the listeners became violent themselves. Some songs that were very depressing and spoke of suicide influenced people to become depressed or commit suicide themselves!
I came across four studies that showed that the Quran helps the brain relax and can be more effective than music and other sounds for therapy. These were the findings:
- Baharudin and Sumari (2010) studied Malaysian working women’s level of stress and found that they felt more relaxed and less stressed when listening to Quran than listening to nature sounds.
- Abdullah and Omar’s (2011) experiment revealed from brain imaging that the brain was most relaxed when listening to Quran compared to when listening to hard music or just resting.
- Ahmad et. al (2010) showed that a group of students had increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions after listening to the Quran compared to the group that listened to music.
- Zulkurnaini et. al (2012) conducted a similar experiment as Abdullah and Omar, but instead of hard music, they compared EEG signals from Quran and classical music. They also found that there were more alpha waves during the Quran recitation, meaning the brain was more relaxed.
But some forms of music showed some benefit and that is why they are used in music therapy. We have to remember even when studies show that music is beneficial that Allah said in the Quran:
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” (Surah Baqarah 2:219)
So even if some benefits are found in music, the harm is far greater. Plus, one of my non-Muslim friends who works as a music therapist told me it’s not necessarily the music that heals, but the fond memories from the music that helps people feel better.
I’ll end by sharing two true stories. There was a young man in a Muslim country who had the habit of listening to the Quran in the car. One day he had a terrible car accident and was taken to the hospital. His family urged him to say the shahadah when he was dying, and alhumdulilah he died reciting the Quran. Similarly, there was a Muslim youth who always listened to music in the car. He also had a fatal accident. When his family encouraged him to say the shahadah, he passed away singing songs. Think about it: one of the guy’s final deeds on earth was listening to Allah and the other listening to Shaytan. Which one will we choose?
*Let me know if you want to read the four studies on music and Quran. I can email them to you in sha Allah
*If you’re interested in learning more, there are many lectures on youtube. Here are two good ones alhumdulilah.
End of Music by Kamal el-Mekki: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vtkXdi61k0
The Classical Hit by Abu Mussab: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp5KFGFl1hU
Praise be to Allaah.
MEANING OF MUSIC
Ma’aazif is the plural of mi’zafah, and refers to musical instruments and singing.
“And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allaah…” [Luqmaan 31:6]
Al-Sa’di (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: this includes all manner of haraam speech, all idle talk and falsehood, and all nonsense that encourages kufr and disobedience; the words of those who say things to refute the truth and argue in support of falsehood to defeat the truth; and backbiting, slander, lies, insults and curses; the singing and musical instruments of the Shaytaan; and musical instruments which are of no spiritual or worldly benefit. (Tafseer al-Sa’di, 6/150)
“[Allaah said to Iblees:] And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allaah’s disobedience)…” [al-Israa’ 17:64]
It was narrated that Mujaahid (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice” – his voice [the voice of Iblees/Shaytaan] is singing and falsehood. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This idaafah [possessive or genitive construction, i.e., your voice] serves to make the meaning specific, as with the phrases [translated as] “your cavalry” and “your infantry” [later in the same aayah]. Everyone who speaks in any way that is not obedient to Allaah, everyone who blows into a flute or other woodwind instrument, or who plays any haraam kind of drum, this is the voice of the Shaytaan. Everyone who walks to commit some act of disobedience towards Allaah is part of his [the Shaytaan’s] infantry, and anyone who rides to commit sin is part of his cavalry. This is the view of the Salaf, as Ibn ‘Abi Haatim narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas: his infantry is everyone who walks to disobey Allaah. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan).
Allaah says: “Do you then wonder at this recitation (the Qur’aan)? And you laugh at it and weep not, Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing)” [al-Najm 53:59-61]
It was reported from Abu Umaamah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not sell singing slave women, do not buy them and do not teach them. There is nothing good in this trade, and their price is haraam. Concerning such things as this the aayah was revealed (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allaah…’ [Luqmaan 31:6].” (Hasan hadeeth)
It was reported in Saheeh al-Bukhaari and elsewhere that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said that there would be among his ummah those who would allow zinaa, silk, alcohol and musical instruments, and he said that they would be transformed into monkeys and pigs… None of the followers of the imaams mentioned any dispute concerning the matter of music. (al-Majmoo’, 11/576).
It was narrated that Naafi’ (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Ibn ‘Umar heard a woodwind instrument, and he put his fingers in his ears and kept away from that path. He said to me, O Naafi’, can you hear anything? I said, No. So he took his fingers away from his ears and said: I was with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and he heard something like this, and he did the same thing. (Saheeh Abi Dawood).
Al-Qaasim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Singing is part of falsehood. Al-Hasan (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: if there is music involved in a dinner invitation (waleemah), do not accept the invitation (al-Jaami by al-Qayrawaani, p. 262-263).
The exception to the above is the daff – without any rings (i.e., a hand-drum which looks like a tambourine, but without any rattles) – when used by women on Eids and at weddings. This is indicated by saheeh reports. Shaykh al-Islam (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: But the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made allowances for certain types of musical instruments at weddings and the like, and he made allowances for women to play the daff at weddings and on other joyful occasions.
And Allah Knows Best.