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Last Updated: 2010/11/09
Summary of question
Why is music haram while man’s nature is inclined towards it? Please list the reasons behind the permissibility or impermissibility of music.
question
Why is music haram while man’s nature is inclined towards it? Please list the reasons behind the permissibility or impermissibility of music.
Concise answer

1. Most jurists have given fatwa on the impermissibility of lahvi (vain and licentious) music and they have not considered all kinds of music to be forbidden. Therefore, one cannot say that all types of music are haram.

2. The main reason behind why ghina and certain music is haram, are Quranic verses and hadiths by the prophet (pbuh) and imams that are analyzed in demonstrative jurisprudence (fiqh). Additionally, the spread of evil, obscenity, promiscuity, negligence which makes one oblivious of God and its negative effects on one’s soul, mind and nerves can be counted as some of the rationales behind the impermissibility of music and ghina.

3. It is necessary to differentiate between human nature and materialistic nature (passions and carnal desires); how did you come to the conclusion that man’s human nature is inclined towards all types of music including the impermissible ones, though we do not deny the fact that man’s animalistic instincts and urges favor them?

Detailed Answer

In reply to the foregoing question the following points must be mentioned:

First: According to the Quran, man is a creature having both divine and materialistic natures. The divine nature summons him towards divine knowledge, spirituality and good deeds whereas the animalistic nature calls him towards low and materialistic desires, passions and evil acts. Man’s life is a scene of battle between his divine disposition and materialistic nature. If man’s materialistic nature overpowers his God-gifted nature causing him to tread the path of materialistic nature, then in such a case the Quran describes him as an inverted and misled being. However, if his God-gifted nature overpowers his materialistic nature causing him to tread the path of divine nature, then he is considered to be a man walking in the path of guidance and truth.

The conclusion is that there is a difference between man’s human nature and his materialistic nature (carnal desires). Given that man’s human nature tends towards knowledge and spirituality, it is not possible to prove that it is inclined towards all types of music including the licentious ones.

Second: Clarification of the meaning of music:

“Music” is originally a Greek word which is synonymous to “Ghina” in dictionaries, but in fiqhi terms, there is a difference between the two. Ghina refers to the singing voice in which comes from the larynx and is turned up and down in the throat [like the chirping of birds] that somewhat ecstasizes the listener and brings him joy and is suitable for gatherings of amusement and vanity. As for music, it refers to the sound made by musical instruments. On this basis, it is correct to say that not all things considered music scientifically are considered music according to fiqh.[1]

Third: The reason for the impermissibility of music and ghina:

After studying Quranic verses, hadiths and the observations of psychologists, the following can be considered the reasons for why music (some types) and ghina are haram:

a) They lead to moral corruption:

In a hadith by the prophet (pbuh), he is narrated saying: “Ghina is the ladder to adultery.”[2] Experience shows that many have left taqwa for corruption as a result of listening to ghina. Gatherings in which ghina plays a role in are usually centers of corruption.[3]

b) They deprive one of the remembrance of Allah (swt):

The Quran says: “Among the people is he who buys Lahwal-Hadith that he may lead [people] astray from Allah's way without any knowledge, and he takes it in derision. For such there is a belittling punishment”[4]. This verse looks at Lahwal-hadith as one of the means of straying from the path of Allah (swt). Lahw refers to anything that makes one busy to the extent that it disallows him from engaging in more important affairs and according to hadiths, this term is said to refer to ghina in the verse.[5]

c) Their negative impacts on the mind and nerves:

Taking a look at the biographies of famous musicians shows us that many of them suffered from mental problems and eventually had nervous breakdowns. Some had mental illnesses while others lost their mind completely. Some became paralyzed while others had strokes while playing music as a result of high blood pressures.[6]

d) Music is one of the expansionists’ tools:

Expansionists have always been wary and afraid of the alertness of the people, especially the youth of society. This is why one of their many strategies for the success of their sinister plans and continuation of their rule is to distract and keep them busy through spiritually unhealthy entertainment and amusement. Making centers for corruption, bars and clubs for gambling, etc., and investing in music and ghina, are some of the most important policies they have undertaken in order to keep the people busy and possess their minds.[7]

The reasons stated above are only some of the reasons that we have come up with and cannot be considered the sole reason for their impermissibility, therefore, even in the case of music and ghina having none of these negative impacts on a person, they will still be haram (if all other conditions of their impermissibility are met).

Fourth: The main reason behind why ghina and certain music is haram, are Quranic verses and hadiths by the prophet (pbuh) and imams that are analyzed in fiqh. This short article doesn’t bear the capacity for jurisprudential discussions, but what we can say in brief is:

a) Although Quranic verses don’t directly mention the ruling on ghina and like many other rulings, only speak about it generally, nevertheless, there are some verses that when combined with the prophet and imam’s interpretations, apply to ghina. Some of those verses are as follows:

i) Regarding the verses “Those who do not give false testimony, and when they come upon vain talk, pass by nobly”[8] and “So avoid the abomination of idols, and avoid false speech”[9], Imam Sadiq (as) says: “What is meant are gatherings of amusement and vanity and ghina”.[10]

ii) Regarding the verse “And those who avoid vain talk”[11]the imam (as) says: “What is meant by “vain” in this verse is ghina and malahi.”[12]

iii) Regarding the verse “Among the people is he who buys vain talk that he may lead [people] astray from Allah's way without any knowledge, and he takes it in derision. For such there is a humiliating punishment”[13], Imams Baqir (as) and Sadiq (as) say: “What is meant by “vain” is ghina.”[14]

It must be noted that although these hadiths interpret vain as ghina, there are other hadiths that apply these verses to music as well[15] and Islamic jurists have also applied them to music.[16]

b) The main reason for the impermissibility of music and ghina are the hadiths that directly and explicitly state it. Here are a few:

Imam Baqir (as): “Ghina is something that Allah (swt) has made Hell the punishment of.”[17]

Imam Sadiq (as): “Refrain from and avoid ghina.”[18]

c) There are also hadiths regarding the impermissibility of music:

Imam Sadiq (as): “Musical instruments are from Sheytan; so everything of this type in the world is from him.”[19]

The prophet (pbuh): “I forbid you to use mizmar and kubat (musical instruments).”[20]

d) Since ghina literally refers to the stretching of the voice and any form of singing[21], as Sheikh Ansari puts it: “Clearly none of these things (stretching of the voice and any form of singing) are absolutely haram.[22] (It is clear that when hadiths say that ghina is haram, they don’t mean the word’s literal meaning, because in that case, all forms of singing will become haram, which is surely not true, rather they are referring to a certain genre of the word’s meaning). This is why Islamic jurists have added that the singing be lahwi for it to be haram.[23] As they define it, the term ‘lahw’ means to forget Allah (swt) and be distracted of His remembrance and falling into corruption[24], thus making haram ghina or singing, one that is suitable to be employed in gatherings of amusement, vanity, corruption and entertainment.[25]

Some faqihs have added another condition as well, and that is for the ghina to be ‘mutrib’ (which derives from ‘tarab’).[26] ‘Tarab’ means for the head to become ‘light’, and this is caused by listening to music or singing and takes a person out of his/her normal state. All of what was said above about ghina applies to music as well; some jurists have added the condition of being ‘lahwi’ while others add the other condition of ‘tarab’.[27]

One final point: As was stressed before, precise analysis of these discussions is the responsibility of fiqh and those who don’t possess the expertise (ijtihad) to do so must practice taqlid and follow those who possess it.



[1] Seyyed Mojtaba Hoseini, Porsesha va Pasokha, pg. 169; Imam Khomeini, Al-Makasebul-Muharramah, vol. 1, pp. 198-224; Ali Hoseini, Al-Musiqi, pp.16-17; Tabrizi, Istifta’at, questions 10, 46, 47 and 1048; Fazel, Jame’ul-Masa’il, vol. 1, issues 974, 978 and 979.

[2] الغناء رقیة الزنا Majlisi, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 76, chapter 99, Ghina.

[3] See: Ta’sire Musiqi bar Ravan va A’sab, pg. 29; Tafsir Ruhul-Ma’ani, vol. 21, pg. 6; Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 17, pp. 25-26.

[4] Luqman:6 “و من الناس من یشتری لهو الحدیث لیضل عن سبیل الله بغیر علم و یتخذها هزوا اولئک لهم عذاب مهین

[5] Wasailul-Shia, vol. 12, chapter 99 (what is used in trade).

[6] Ta’sire Musiqi bar Ravan va A’sab, pp. 29 and 92 (quoted by Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 17, pg. 26).

[7] Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 17, pg. 27.

[8]و الذین لا یشهدون الزور” Furqan:72.

[9]و اجتنبوا قول الزور” Hajj:30.

[10] Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 12, chapter 99, what is used in trade, hadiths 2, 3, 5, 9 and 26.

[11]و الذین عن اللغو معرضون” Mu’minun:3.

[12] Tafsir Ali ibn Ibrahim, vol. 2, pg. 88.

[13]Luqman:6.

[14] Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 12, chapter 99, what is used in trade, hadiths 6, 7, 11, 16 and 25.

[15] Ibid, chapter 100, hadith 3.

[16] Imam Khomeini, Al-Makasibul-Muharramah, vol. 1, pg. 2.

[17] Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 12, chapter 99, what is used in trade, hadith 6.

[18] Ibid, hadiths 23 and 24.

[19] Ibid, chapter 100, hadiths 5 and 6.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Imam Khomeini, Al-Makasibul-Muharramah, vol. 1, pg. 299.

[22] Sheikh Ansari, Makasib, vol. 1, pg. 292.

[23] Resaleye Danshjuyi, pg. 171.

[24] Ahmad Sharmkhani, Ensan, Ghina, Musiqi, pg. 14.

[25] Resaleye Daneshjouyi, pg. 171. Absolute impermissibility of listening to good voices is something that is against the nature of man and contradicts the mind and against those hadiths that advise us to recite the Quran with a good voice. This shows that what is meant by singing is a specific type of singing, not any type.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Tawdihul-Masa’el of the maraje’, vol. 2, pg. 813 and 913; Masa’ele Jadid, vol. 1, pg. 47 and on.

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