Muslims listen to music

Are Muslims allowed to listen to music?


Muslims have debated listening to music for centuries. For fundamentalists, listening to music is generally haram. But the majority of Muslims say halal and assess the specific situation, the content, the effect and the inner attitude.


The prophet hears music and singing

There is no place in the Koran in which singing, dancing, making music or listening to music is generally prohibited. The prophet David is even praised with his biblical song texts, the psalter (psalms) and with his musical gifts:


“We distinguished some of the prophets from others (by special grace). And we gave David a psalter. "(Sura 17:55)


According to numerous traditions (hadith / Pl. Ahadith) of the Sunnah, the Prophet Muhammad often listened to music and singing, was happy about it or prevented others from forbidding it. You can find them e.g. B. with al-Bukhari (died 870), Muslim (died around 875) and Ibn Abbas (died around 688). [1]


Thus, according to Ibn Abbas, the Prophet Muhammad asks Aisha on the occasion of a marriage whether she has sent singers with him. When she denies this, the prophet rebukes her:


“The Ansar are people who like poetry. You should have sent someone along to sing: Here we come, we come to you, greet us as we greet you. "[2]


Listening to music, singing and dancing are therefore expressly allowed, especially on festive occasions such as the Festival of Sacrifice (Id al-Adha), weddings, births and the return of travelers.


Listening to music between haram and halal

Nonetheless, a long-lasting debate has arisen between Islamic theologians (alim, pl. Ulama). Sunnis and Shiites, even Islamic mystics (Sufis), take part in it. The reason for this is given by some critical traditions about the frivolous pre- and early Islamic musical culture:


"Certainly, Allah had condemned female singers (qaina, Pl. Qina) as sinful, as well as their sale, their price and their teaching." [3]


These singers are associated with alcohol consumption, fornication, ecstasy and songs whose statements are morally offensive. Nor can it be ruled out that the theologians' personal experiences with the musical culture of their time influenced their judgments. Some theologians therefore set conditions for listening to music in a permitted manner, while others express a blanket ban on singing, music and musical instruments.


The arguing camps agree on one art: pure singing with a beautiful voice is almost undisputed. This has led to a strong emphasis on spoken chant (nashid) in religious Islamic music.


Basically, two positions can be distinguished: rejection and a “conscious yes”.


Total rejection of music: Wahhabis and Salafists

Fundamentalists, such as Wahhabis and Salafists, are most radical in their judgment of music. Only the Nashid is allowed, for other music the devil is the author. Often they argue with traditions that don't directly mention music:


“And among the people there is also (some) one who (in exchange for serious conversations about questions of faith) bargains for light entertainment (w. Buys) in order to let (his fellow men) stray from the path of God in (his) ignorance and thus make his mockery (ie with the way of God, or with the verses of the Koran?). Such people have to expect a humiliating punishment ”(Sura 31: 6)


With regard to this sura, for example, the Wahhabi scholar Ibn Baz (d. 1999) judges:


“Singing is forbidden according to the majority of the People of Knowledge. If the singing is accompanied by music such as the lute (oud) or another instrument, it is haram and there is consensus (idjma) about it. "


For whom it is consensus (idjma) and for whom it is not and who the "majority of the people ..." are, Ibn Baz leaves that open.


Conscious listening to music: al-Ghazali

Al-Ghazali (d. 1111) argues against the long tradition of banning music and singing from a differentiating point of view. For him, the inner attitude, the intention, the content and the situation are important criteria for listening to music. He expressly allows music when it is played in a context free of vice and fornication and especially when it is used as a means of meditation and healing. He devotes a detailed chapter in his work "Ihya ulum ad-din" to the opponents of music and song [4]


Do Muslims Listen to Music Today?

Yes. Since early Islamic times, Muslims have been creating a rich, lively musical culture in a variety that extends in the Islamic world from Indonesia to India to North Africa and Central Asia. Their ideas have significantly influenced the development of music in Europe and many modern instruments such as the guitar and the trumpet. Festivals or music performances take place in almost every country in the Islamic world. Even in restrictive Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, millions attend the annual al-Jenadriyah festival.


Music is also promoted and taught at conservatories in Islamic states such as Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt. The Royal Omani Symphony Orchestra plays in a new modern opera house in Oman's capital, Muscat. Abu Dhabi is planning a large international cultural and music center. Muslim musicians such as the Palestinian trio Joubran or Rabi Abou Khalil fill large concert halls beyond the Islamic world.