There is no doubt that Islam does not permit us to listen to certain forms of music. But why do believers continue to do so? It is obvious that we enjoy it, and other reasons for this may include passing time, seeing it as a cool habit, or for “relaxation” purposes.
(Editor’s Note: The remainder of this article is addressing prohibited forms of music and singing in Islam. For clarification on what is considered prohibited, please consult your own Marja Taqleed.)
Before we try and justify to ourselves or to others that music is ok to indulge in, we must first understand the concept of Halal and Haram. Human beings can adapt to different situations very easily, so it may not seem like everyone reacts to a particular influence in the same way. However, Islam as we know is a religion for all people. Therefore, if there is something that affects a large number of people in an undesirable manner, such as alcohol causing drunkenness and disorder, or music causing inappropriate actions due to excitement and loss of self-control, then Islam will make it Haram. It is better to stop something bad happening in the first place than being forced to deal with the consequences after it happens; prevention is always better than cure.
Without a doubt, and as proven by science today, music has an effect on the mind. Some music is slow and calming, while other types are played in gatherings such as parties, discos, and nightclubs, where the mind becomes almost possessed. People dance and move to the rhythm of the music, allowing it to control them and their desires, until they effectively begin to lose control. Losing all restraint, they give in to their desires and engage in lustful behavior without shame. Many singers while performing today make gestures which are clearly very inappropriate. They have male and females dancing together with provocative clothing to attract our gazes. Indeed, music is prohibited in Islam because of this shamelessness and hypocrisy that it inevitably leads to.
Music is very addictive; if one listens to it, the effect is like that of drugs or smoking – you want more and more, and pretty soon it becomes very difficult or seemingly impossible to stop.
Muadda Ibne Ziyad says: I was in the company of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) when a person said, “When I go to the toilet, I can hear the singing girls next door. Sometimes I remain (in the toilet) longer so that I may listen to more of it.” Imam said in reply: “Desist from listening to music and songs attentively.” The man further said: “Master, I do not go to music gatherings! I only hear the sounds!” Imam replied: “Have you not read this Qur’anic verse? – ‘Surely, the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these shall be questioned about.'” (17:36) The man said: “I was not aware of this verse. I regret my actions. I shall not do so in the future. I repent for my past sins, and I seek forgiveness from my Lord.”
Seeing his condition, Imam said: “Get up! Go and perform Ghusl and offer Salat and pray for forgiveness. You have certainly been involved in a deadly sin and a terrible situation. You have repented for it, and I thank Allah for that; and I seek forgiveness of Allah for all those things that He dislikes. Certainly, Allah only dislikes the evil things. Leave the evil things to the evil people, because there are different people suitable for different things.” (Al-Kafi)
This incident teaches us that no matter where we are, no matter how attractive the voice may be, we should restrain ourselves from listening to music – even if we are faced with it without initially intending to listen to it.
Some Other Narrations on Music
Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has said: “Angels do not enter a house that has wine, drum, tambourine, or a flute. Even the prayers of the inhabitants of this house are unacceptable. They are deprived of barakat (divine blessings).” (Wasail al-Shia)
Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) was with his companions when he said: “Calamities will befall my nation as sinking of the earth and rain of stones.” The people asked “When will it happen?” He replied: “When the instruments of music become common, singing girls are in great number, and the use of intoxicants is widespread. By Allah, many people of my Ummah will be such that they shall spend the night in merry-making and sensuality, and in the daytime become like monkeys and pigs. It will be the consequence of considering the prohibited things permissible, they will be occupied with singing girls, frequently take intoxicants, devour interest, and shall dress in clothes made of silk.” (Greater Sins)
Thus, when female singers become widespread, and people spend their nights indulging in immoral pleasure, showing laziness in the daytime like monkeys and pigs due to the actions of the previous night, great calamities will befall us. We see such things happening today in the societies we live in.
Imam Ali al-Ridha (peace be upon him) said: “A person invites Divine wrath when in his house instruments like flute, drum, and chess are played for forty days. If this man dies within these forty days, his death would be of a sinner and a transgressor. His place shall be in Hell. And what a dreadful place it is!” (Mustanad al-Tariq)
The narrations relating to the harmful nature of music and songs, along with their effects and consequences, are many. Refer to chapters 17 and 18 in Ayatollah Dastaghaib Shirazi’s book Greater Sins, available online, to learn more.
Whilst living in a Western society especially, we must all make efforts to keep away from music and singing as best as we can. We should never attend gatherings where it is played and encouraged, even if this means not attending a relative’s wedding or a good friend’s birthday party. Obedience to Allah is always our first priority, and we should not let Shaitan influence us otherwise. We should keep our nafs (soul) strong, and think about what will help us in our Hereafter, on the Day of Judgment and beyond, instead of thinking about what will give us pleasure now.
And as with all things in life, we know Allah permits and forbids things only for our own benefit. Knowing that He has made music forbidden is then enough of a reason to keep well away from it.
Sajjad Masood is a student at Panjtan School in Melbourne, Australia. He is 12 years old.