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Music from a jurisprudential point of view

By Bayynat editor

 The issue of music and singing has always been a subject of debate and discussion especially by our youth. Music can be divided into many genres and styles. It varies in accordance to culture, race, and even periods of time.  While some music is instrumental; composed and intended to be performed by musical instruments solely, other kinds of music include lyrical music, including a singing voice.

The issue has been extensively discussed by His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra). In accordance to his view, the jurisprudential ruling regarding music and singing takes into account the following titles: the melody and lyrics of the song. However, we tend to believe that the music, which does not stoke ones instincts, nor lead to a state of trance, and which does not include sexually arousing themes, is considered religiously permissible.

Accordingly, classical music, and enthusiastic songs and soundtracks, which soothe ones nerves, exhilarate his spirit, and lift his soul up, are permissible.

Jurists who claimed that music is impermissible based their view by referring to the lewd and dissipated (debaucherous) environment evoked by music.

Some argue that the impermissibility of singing is derived from the fact that it is accompanied with music. However, the impermissibility of singing is derived from the nature (or style) of music.  In case the songs content or lyrics is impermissible, then it is a second impermissibility.

Certain jurists, such as Al Mulla Mohsen Al Kashani, claimed that the ruling regarding the impermissibility of music is based on the songs lyrics, not music. However, the majority of jurists disagree with him. When examining the issue of music, we can see that it is all a matter melody. A songs effect is derived from the melody, not the lyrics, even if the latter contains an impermissible content.

When it comes to using instruments, certain Hadith claim that using musical instruments is impermissible. However this Hadith refer  to using musical instruments in lewd environments.  Some scholars believe that it is absolutely permissible to use certain musical instruments, which happen to be used frequently in lewd environments. Nonetheless, we tend to believe that using such musical instruments is permissible, even if the instrument happens to be used in lascivious or libertine environments. 

When His Eminence was asked about his view on classical music, his answer was as follows: I do not have the required knowledge to distinguish the different genres of music. However, it is generally acknowledged that Classical music is the music that inspires sentimentality rather than lewdness and rapture. If so, then Classical music is permissible.

In cases of doubt as whether a certain melody is permissible or not, then the music created by this  instrument is considered permissible on the premise that everything is considered permissible until you know that is it impermissible.

The issue also extends to music played in weddings. Apparently, Hadiths that discuss the impermissibility of music exclude the issue of music in weddings, and do not mention anything regarding using musical instruments. Hadiths that imply the permissibility of singing in weddings are not subject to the restrictions that we have mentioned earlier. Certainly, the lyrics should not contain an impermissible content; however, it might be lewd, with a mirthful melody.

An important note must be brought on the table, that is female singing in the presence of non-mahram company. The Holy Quran discusses the issue in the following verse: be not too complacent of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire. (33:32) In other words, it is prohibited for a woman to deliberately softening her voice, and making her tone more gentle, since that would lead to negative consequences, as implied by the verse.

Some believe that the a womans voice is as intimate as her private parts. However, we tend to believe that such a quote is void, since women used to converse with the Prophet Mohammad (p) and the members of the Household (a.s.). Women have traditionally sought out scholars and asked them questions, and religious authorities never seemed to object against it.

Proponents of the mentioned saying claim that the verbal communication between a man and a woman must be restricted to necessity, that is cases of emergency. 

The Prophets biography relates that women used to move at their discretion: they used to migrate to Al Madina, they were asked to pledge allegiance to the Prophet (p) and ascertain the authenticity of their faiths. It was never mentioned that womens movement and interaction with males was restricted or bridled. Thus, there is no reason to suspect that a womans verbal communication with men must be restricted to emergencies.

The Prophet Mohamad (p) , along with his wives, used to set out to treat the wounded, and offer water to the thirsty; which ultimately demands a kind of interaction with men.

Islam has set several rules so as to make peoples lives easier. After all, Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty. (2:185) Yet, our life should be governed by certain limits which prohibit us from committing evil deeds, and bring us closer to Allahs gratitude.

Excerpts from World of our Youth.



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