Fatwa ID: 352
Title: The Ruling of Listening to Music in the Light of Al-karadawi`s Fatwa
Category: Manners and Ethics
Scholar: AMJA Permanent Fatwa Committee
Date: 2004-07-15

Is the opinion of Al-Qaradawi, in which he allows listening to music, considered an outlying “Shaaz” opinion amongst the early Muslims “salaf”? With the exception of Ibn Hazm, can you mention any of the early scholars who allowed this? Is it permissible for a Muslim to act on this opinion?


Initially it is important to note that there is agreement that any instruments or distractions that are coupled with something haram, taken as a facilitator to haram, or cause someone to fall into haram are themselves haram. Following this we say:

Musical instruments “Maazif” are the subject of extensive debate amongst the scholars, particularly because the texts that explicitly prohibit them are debatable in their authenticity while those that are authentic are not clear in their prohibition. Therefore it is impossible to claim that there is a consensus either prohibiting or allowing them. Scholars have allowed them, prohibited them, or taken specific detailed positions regarding them. (But before delving into the details of this discussion it is critical to emphasize what was mentioned initially; that everything must be understood in light of the fact that this difference of opinion does not include the modern day morally questionable concerts where men and women mix and prohibitions are committed. These events are coupled with haram, facilitate haram, and could lead to haram. No sane person should have any doubt that these are prohibited and that they are not part of the debate referred to here.)

In Al-Mughni by Ibn Qudaama there is a detailed discussion of instruments of amusement in which he concludes that they are of three types: “The prohibited type which includes playing Al-awtaar (string instruments), Al-nayaat (pipes), all wind instruments, oud (type of Arabian guitar), Al-tanbur (type of drum), Al-ma’zafa, Al-rabaat (Iyre), and the like. He states that whoever habitually listens to them will have his testimony rejected. The second type that is allowed includes the duf (classically a one sided hand drum). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Announce the marriage and beat the duff upon it.” (Narrated by Muslim). Our companions (ie. Hanbalis) and the companions of Al-Shafi mentioned that it is disliked in other than weddings and generally disliked for men. As for drumming using Al-Qadeeb (sticks), it is disliked if coupled with something haram or disliked such as clapping, singing, or dancing. If it does not include any of these it is not considered disliked because it is not a drumming instrument, it is not played, nor is it listened to specifically unlike other instruments. The school of Al-Shafi in this issue is of the same opinion as our school” (Al-Mughni: v 10/pg 240 and what follows)

I say: There is no basis for specifying marriage ceremonies due to the authentic report that a black young girl approached the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: Oh Messenger of Allah, I vowed that if Allah brought you back safely that I would beat the duff and sing in front of you. He told her: “If you made such a vow then beat, otherwise don’t.” She therefore beat (the duff) and Abu Bakr entered while she was beating and then Ali entered while she was beating, and then Omar entered upon which she threw the duff under her clothes and sat on it. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Indeed Shaitan definitely fears you Omar!” (Narrated by Ahmed, Al-Tirmizi, Ibn Hibaan, Al-Bayhaqi)

In Badaai’ Al-Sanaa’ by Al Kasaani there is additional detail showing what is allowed from it and what is prohibited. In his introduction to the discussion of whose testimony is accepted and whose is not he said the following: “As for those who play instruments of amusement, if it is determined that they are not reprehensible such as Al-Qadeeb (sticks), the duff (hand drum) and the like, then there is no problem. On the other hand, if they are reprehensible such as the oud (Arabian guitar) and the like, then his moral authority is questionable because none of these are allowed in any way.” (Al-Badaai’: v 6/pg 269) Something similar to this was also mentioned in Haashiyat Ibn Abideen (v4, pg 398) From those whom it was narrated that they allowed musical instruments are: Al-Ghazali in Al-Ihyaa and Abdul-Ghani Al-Nabulsi. The latter was one of the jurists of the eleventh century and he wrote a treatise on the subject entitled: Clarifying the Proofs in Listening to Instruments. In it he concluded that the hadiths that are used to prove the prohibition of instruments, even if they are assumed to be authentic, are limited by the mention of festivals/concerts, as well as by the mention of alcohol, wickedness and lewdness, and almost no (relevant) hadith is without these factors. He then concluded that if listening to these sounds and musical instruments is coupled with anything prohibited, is taken as a path to something prohibited, or leads to falling into the prohibited then it is prohibited. He then states that if it free from all of these, it is permissible to have them present, to listen to them, and to teach their usage.

It is also interesting to note that those who give the most leeway in this subject are the Sufis. They take it beyond merely personal distraction and leisure to considering it an act of worship if done with a good intention. They base this on the effect it has to instill feelings of ecstasy in the self and its ability to awaken feelings of passion and adoration which they claim to dedicate to Allah and His Messenger! Their arguments are reminiscent of the saying: “Everyone sings of his own beloved!”

Al-Shawkani – may Allah have mercy on him – gave a detailed discussion of this topic in his book Neil Al-Awtaar in the eighth volume in the chapter discussing instruments of amusement. He presented the proofs of both those who prohibit and who allow such instruments. He also refuted the claims of consensus related to the prohibition of generally listening to them. He concluded that this issue is from the doubtful things that should be avoided by whoever wishes to protect his religion and honor. He said – may Allah have mercy on him- after an exhaustive presentation of the proofs of both those who prohibit and those who allow: After establishing all of what we have presented from the proofs of both sides, it should be clear to anyone who investigates this issue that even if it does not fall under in the circle of haram, it is within the circle of doubtful matters.

The believers should prevent themselves from transgressing the boundaries of the doubtful matters as mentioned in the authentic hadith: “whoever leaves them (ie. Doubtful matters) has indeed protected his honor and religion but whoever grazes near the boundaries of protected land will risk almost falling into it.” This is even more so if it includes mention of the female body, the cheeks, beauty, flirting, breaking up, yearning to be together,…, ultimately removing the veil of innocence and respect. Listening to things like this will not be free from harm, especially if it speaks about the essence of Allah with improper description! This satanic technique has spilled the blood of countless victims, imprisoned others in the depression of passion, and tied up by adoration. We ask Allah for keep us firm and on the right path. Whoever wishes for more detail on this issue can consult my treatise entitled: Refuting the claims of consensus upon the prohibition of general listening.