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Music in Islam

By : Muhammad Farooq Rana

Islam is a natural Din (practical and complete code of life) which enjoins tolerance and moderation in everything that matters. The Holy Qur'an states explicitly:

Kuloo waishraboo wala tusrifoo innahu la yuhibbu almusrifeena.

"Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters." (7:31)

Salat (prayer), fasting, zakat (obligatory charity) and hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) are all ritual practices of worship but these too are characterized by moderation. There are occasions when offering prayer is forbidden by Shariah. The observing of fast is tempered by sahr and iftar (having pre-dawn and post-sunset meals before and after fasting). The Shariah has imposed strict restraint on constant fasting without taking recourse to sahr and iftar at a stretch. In order to safeguard one's chastity the institution of marriage has been made compulsory so as to realize the natural urges of biological need. Spending in the cause of Allah is a laudable act but it is conditioned by limits so as to ensure a balanced approach that one may not squander away all and go himself a begging.

There are religions which preach monasticism. But Islam shows complete aversion to this practice and lays stress on familial relations with wife, children, brothers, sisters and parents. It attaches great significance to family values and interacting socially with people at large. It believes in good ethics and morality inwardly as well as outwardly in social, political, cultural, spiritual and other affairs in a beautiful manner. The Holy Prophet (saw) once said: "Nobody with an iota of pride and arrogant will enter paradise."

These words were attributed to him.

"Verily Allah is beauty and likes beauty. Pride amounts to denial of truth and looking down upon the people."

Quran has termed the braying of an ass as the harshest of all sounds. It is stated:

Inna ankara al-aswati lasawtu alhameeri.

"For the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass." (31:19)

As contrary to this the melodious voice of Dawud (as), David, has been described as highly praise-worthy:

Inna sakhkharna aljibala maAAahu yusabbihna bialAAashiyyi waal-ishraqi. Waalttayra mahshooratan kullun lahu awwabun. Washadadna mulkahu waataynahu alhikmata wafasla alkhitabi.

"It was We that made the hills declare, in unison with him, Our Praises, at eventide and at break of day, and the birds gathered (in assemblies): all with him did turn (to Allah). We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and sound judgment in speech and decision." (38:18-20)

It is said of David that when he recited in remembrance of Allah, the mountains joined him and he understood their rhyme and rhythm. As per Muhammad ibn Ishaq the musical voice of David made the hills and bird sing in unison with him when he recited praises in remembrance of Allah. It is also said that Allah bestowed upon him the voice that surpassed all other voices and when recited the psalm the wild beasts would come close to him so much that he could catch them by their neck. David's melodious voice which was gifted to him by his Lord proves beyond doubt that making use of good voice for songs and praises of Allah Almighty is virtuous and rewarding, there being no harm in display of skill of music and melody on joyful occasions.

This is also borne out by the Ahadith. The traditions of the Holy Prophet (saw). Rabi', the daughter of Mu'awwiz ibn 'Afra, said that the Holy Prophet (saw) came to me on the day of my wedding and seated himself on my bed just like other kith and kin. So our Ansar sisters began to play on 'Daf' (musical instrument) and sing in praises of martyrs of Badr. When one of the girls began singing in praise of the Holy Prophet (saw) he stopped her and asked to carry on singing as before.

A'isha Siddiqa narrates that a woman was married to an Ansari man. The Prophet (saw) intervening inquired of the women gathered there whether any of them knew anything of any sport or music.

A'isha Siddiqa narrates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said:

Let this 'Nikah' ceremony be pronounced loudly on 'Daf' and be held within the premises of mosque.

Playing of 'Daf' (musical instrument) and singing make difference of halal (lawful) and haram (forbidden) with regard to the legality of Nikah by publicizing it openly. Muhammad bin Hatim narrates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said:

The 'halal' is the state of lawfulness of 'Nikah' by openly publicizing it with 'Daf' and singing songs (while haram means doing it secretly and stealthily).

There are people with little knowledge of Shariah who erroneously arrange 'Nikah' silently without producing sound of 'Daf' or songs and they consider it a virtuous act. This is wrong. Virtue lies in obeying the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (saw) observing complete silence on the occasion of marriage and rejoicing not only negates the Sunnah but it also tantamount to violation of the Sunnah as the Holy Prophet (saw) has made it a distinction between the lawful wedding and adultery. The point underlying this provision is abundantly clear that the act of marriage should be publicized so as to let the people know that the man and woman with each other are husband and wife. This purpose is best served by singing songs and playing musical instruments as per practice in vogue. Moreover expressing joy and making merry on such occasions are natural display of pleasure.

A'isha says:

I had an Ansari girl with me. I arranged her marriage. The Holy Prophet (saw) came and asked: "O A'isha! Why is there no song? This Ansari tribe has liking for singing songs on this occasion."

Ibn 'Abbas narrates the tradition that A'isha made arrangement of marriage of one of the Ansari girls related to her. The Holy Prophet (saw) came on that occasion and said: "Have you prepared the bride?" She replied in the positive and he further asked, "whether any singing girl has also been sent along to celebrate the wedding." A'isha replied in negative. At this the Holy Prophet (saw) remarks: "The Ansar people have special liking for songs. You had better send a singing girl to say that we have here come to you and may Allah grant you and us with long life. Practice of the Companions."

Aamir bin Sa'd says:

On a wedding occasion I happened to be with Qarza bin Ka'b and Abu Mas'ud Ansari and saw a party of singing girls there engaged in songs. I addressed the Ansar Companions saying: "O Companions of the Prophet, and warriors of Badr! What is this going on before you?" They replied: "This is all right if you are interested stay and listen to and if not you can leave from here as permission has been give us to sing and make merry on wedding occasions.

Another Hadith is attributed to A'isha. She says:

Allah's Apostle came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Bu'ath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, i.e. Khazraj and Aus, before Islam.) The Prophet reclined on the bed and turned his face to the other side. Abu Bakr came and scolded me and said protestingly, "Instrument of Satan in the presence of Allah's Apostle?" Allah's Apostle turned his face towards him and said, "Leave them." When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I waved the two girls to go away and they left. It was the day of 'Id when negroes used to play with leather shields and spears. Either I requested Allah's Messenger or he himself asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then he let me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, "Carry on, O Bani Arfida (i.e. negroes)!" When I got tired, he asked me if that was enough. I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave.

Conclusion

In the light of Quranic injunctions and the sayings of the Holy Prophet (saw), it is amply clear that singing good songs, reciting healthy poetry, playing musical instruments and beating drums on the occasions of marriage and rejoicings over happy festivals do not contravene the Islamic injunctions and this has been the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (saw) and the practice of the Companions all along. This is all but natural outburst of joy and gives genuine opportunities of making outlets of their joys and pleasure. This is also the cultural need of the people with sorrows and afflictions. Everything that according to Quran and Sunnah is commendable needs no further justification to validate the expression of legitimate feelings of joy on the part of the people.

However, some precautions and constraints must be observed positively. The excess of the limits of propriety should not be allowed and case be taken that vulgar and obscene practices are not indulged in and mixed gathering of man and woman be avoided on such occasion. Islam teaches morality and practice of moderation and balance tempered by good and virtuous acts on all occasions.

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