Is Music Haraam in Islam?

The other day a friend told me of someone who tried to convince her that music is Haraam, or forbidden in Islam. There are many people like that in Pakistan, who have listened to Wahaabi or Salafi thinking on the subject and have exchanged their own ability to think for themselves for the extremist ideology of a nation that has done much to erase every pleasure and source of relief to all human beings on the planet.

What a pity that person, a medical professional, was unaware that music was used by great Muslim medical scientists to promote healing in the body and mind. According to Kamran Pasha, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and writer, and also a practicing Muslim, who posted this article on Facebook about Music Therapy in Islam, “Whenever you hear a foolish Muslim tell you that music is haraam (forbidden), you should let them know that historically Muslims were the leaders in music therapy and considered music as a divinely blessed means of using sound and vibration to promote health and psychological balance.”

In the article, we are told how Turkish doctors have revived the ancient Islamic science of playing music to ailing patients in hospitals in Turkey. There is a scientific explanation of the different types of Arabic scales and what effect the early Muslim scientists felt each had on the body. No less than the great Muslim thinker Ibn Sina appreciated and used music for its beneficial properties. Just reading this piece opens your mind to the endless possibilities and blessings that music holds for us – surely something our Creator intended us to enjoy but also to use for the good of humanity.

Pasha goes on to share with us a modern Muslim scholar’s analysis of music in Islamic science and medicine, and says “The fanatics who speak out against music are out of touch with Islam’s great historical and scientific legacy.”

In this article, the PhD and scholar Ibrahim B. Syed says, “Currently there is an aversion to music by some of the Ulema (religious scholars) in the Islamic world. This paper analyzes the Islamic perspective on music and singing. It concludes that utilization of music as a therapeutic agent in Medicine is not haram or forbidden.” 

Syed goes on to say:

[Medical and scientific journals contain] dramatic accounts of how doctors, musicians, and healthcare professionals use music to deal with everything from anxiety to cancer, high blood pressure, chronic pain, dyslexia, even mental illness. During childbirth, music can relieve expectant mothers’ anxiety and help release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, dramatically decreasing the need for anesthesia. Exposure to sound, music and other acoustical vibrations can have a lifelong effect on health, learning, and behavior. They stimulate learning and memory, strengthen listening abilities. Music has been used as a treatment or cure from migraines to substance abuse.

This paper is very long and detailed and contains tons of scientific evidence quoted from many sources about music’s benefits for the mind and body. It is worth a read, especially if you are unsure whether or not music is haraam or halaal.

Certainly music that promotes haraam activities such as drug taking or violence or promiscuity would fall into the former category, but anything that has such a great positive effect on human beings, animals, and indeed all of God’s creations cannot be categorically forbidden. If you are opposed to “Western” or “Eastern” music or music with instruments, you could listen to the singing of Islamic songs using only the human voice, or the recitation of the Quran, which is also a type of music on many levels.

But to ban music altogether is unbalanced, extreme, and makes something “haraam” of what is one of Allah’s many favours to us (“Which of his favours will you deny?”) which is expressly forbidden in Islam. Furthermore, it shows ingratitude to Him in the extreme.

Don’t close your ears and eyes to the many of Allah’s signs. He did not create us with the faculties of vision and hearing so that we could blind ourselves and pierce our own eardrums in order to please Him.

Update: one of my very kind readers has posted a link to another alim’s viewpoint on the permissibility of music in Islam here.  This sheikh says, very wisely: “To say that all music is forbidden in Islam doesn’t seem to agree with the balanced approach of Islam to issues of human life and experience”. 

Amazingly, after I posted the original link of this blog piece on Twitter, someone actually tried to argue with me that my post was invalid because I had not consulted any “alim” or “mufti” on the issue. When I told him that I had included the opinion of a Muslim scholar (the PhD holder Ibrahim Syed), he told me in all seriousness that an alim is not a scholar. 


Another young woman told me that I had mentioned Wahabi thinking but said, and I quote, “kan u even explain wat it is?” 

It’s very simple. I quote the very knowledgeable Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy on the subject:

“Wahabism, which originated in the eighteenth century in Arabia, is a revivalist movement initiated by Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahab (1703-1792). Wahabis are ultra conservative in their outlook and believe in a strictly formal and ritualistic religion, prmoting a view of Islam that is diametrically opposed to the Sufi view, which considers religion largely a matter between Man and Maker. In its early years, Wahabism succeeded in destroying almost all shrines, together witih historical mnuments and relics dating to the early days of Islam for fear that they might take the status of shrine worship.” 


And, hand in hand with Wahabism is the school of thought of the Salafis, who

“seek the ‘purification’ of Islam by returning to the pure form practiced in the time of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and his Companions. Among the most extreme manifstation of Salafism is Takfir-wal-Hijra. In 1996 the group is said to have plotted to assassinate Osama bin Laden for being too lax a Muslim. Pakistani Deobandis, most close ideologically to the Wahabis and Salafis… do not condemn suicide bombings, are strongly pro-Taliban, and many hard-core ones are heavily armed.”

*Please note that I am not an Islamic scholar. I am not giving a fatwa, nor am I authorized to do so. What I am doing is quoting alims/Islamic scholars who have given fatwas on the permissibility of music in Islam. 

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