What does the Quran say about music?

Although there is no direct reference to music in the Quran, most commentators think that verse 64 from Surah Isra refers to singing and music. “Persuade whoever you can among them with your enchanting voice, win them over with your soldiers on horseback and on foot, share in their wealth and children and make promises; the promises of the Satan are only deceptions. But you will have no power and influence over My true servants, Your Lord will be their true Guardian” (Al-Isra: 64-65).

The latest research shows that music can have both positive and negative effect on health and personal well-being. Muslim scholars have recognised this impact of music on health so have stipulated conditions. Nizamuddin Auliya (d. 1368 CE) a scholar and spiritual guide who had an interesting opinion on music. His adversaries criticised him for listening to devotional singing. One day someone bad-mouthed him and was rude to him. Nizamuddin said: “God regards aggressive and harsh people as enemies.” He asked “do you know what is listening to devotional songs? It is hearing what is heard, the hearer and the instrument.” Then explained as follows: “the singer should be a mature male and not a young boy or a female. The sound that is heard, the lyrics should not be indecent or shameful. The listener should hear to gain Divine nearness, there’s no restriction on what kind of instruments are used. The singing is a voice, how can this be Haram, how can the sounds and lyrics be Haram? Finally, there is the heart, that’s touched and moved by it. How can this be Haram if it brings the listener closer to Allah?” (Pg 444 – Fawaid al Fawad).

Studies show that certain type of music can sustain a mood, protect against depression, improve sleep, ease pain and lower the stress hormone cortisol. Music seems to activate the neurochemical pathways associated with positive mood, emotions, attention and memory. However, Music that is chaotic, up-tempo tunes agitate and adversely affect heart rate, trigger stress, even anger. But music with a slow tempo, drawn-out notes tend to be calming.

The scholars are agreed that music is allowed if the following recommendations are observed:

  1. The contents of the songs should not clash with the teachings of Islam. For example, explicit love songs, which arouse sexual passions and adulterous behaviour.
  2. Suggestive sexual movement should not accompany the tone and manner of singing.
  3. If singing is accompanied by Haram activities like drinking or mixed gatherings, then such singing is Haram. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) warned “some people of my nation will drink wine calling it by another name, while they listen to singers accompanied by musical instruments. Allah with the earth will swallow them and will turn some of them into monkeys and swine” (Ibn Majah).

Music has a powerful effect on people, it can move one to tears or laughter, it can make one dance with joy. It can also bring one close to Allah. But it can also put a person in the clasps of the devil. This is precisely what modern pop music does, its content is often frivolous and sexual, the tempo, style and loudness often offensive. Undoubtedly such addictive and soporific music is Haram because of its negative influence on the listeners’ emotions and spirituality.

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