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Last Updated: 2012/03/07
Summary of question
Is playing the violin, lute, and other kinds of musical instruments considered haraam? If so, is the lute, along with all other stringed instruments, considered an exception to this rule?
question
Is playing the violin, lute, and other kinds of musical instruments considered haraam? If so, is the lute, along with all other stringed instruments, considered an exception to this rule?
Concise answer

In any given scenario, the obligation of a jurist lies not in dictating the ruling pertaining to a particular scenario, but rather providing a general ruling. After which, the general public is left with the responsibility of practically applying that ruling. Having said this, if a musical instrument isn’t exploited in a haraam manner, its use would not be considered haraam. The legitimacy in using these musical instruments lies in their method of application. In other words, when determining if using a musical instrument is halaal, one should consider the kind of music being played and the environment it is suited to. If the music played is becoming of immoral and corrupt gatherings, it would be deemed haraam. If this isn’t the case, such music would be considered halaal. Furthermore, it is possible for a particular instrument to have been considered at one time an instrument of haraam due to its common use in haraam gatherings. However, in another time, the same instrument may lose that characteristic of being a tool of haraam, and its use – along with the music created by it – would be considered halaal.

Detailed Answer

Generally speaking, musical instruments are classified into two categories:

1) ‘Specific Instruments’: Those musical instruments which are specifically used in immoral gatherings and are considered befitting of depraved gatherings are defined as ‘specific instruments’. Meaning, instruments which are used specifically as a tool of propagating haraam. Accordingly, these instruments have no legitimate benefit. Therefore, their purchase, sale, and use – if even in a manner which does not invoke immorality or corruption – are all considered impermissible.[1]

2) ‘Shared Instruments’: Those musical instruments which are used in manners both halaal and haraam are defined as ‘shared instruments’. Meaning, these instruments have the potential of being utilized as a tool of corruption or for permissible means. Therefore, if the given instrument is played in a manner which encourages immorality and is befitting of haraam gatherings, its use would be considered haraam. However, there is no problem if the instrument is used in another halaal manner.[2]

Based on research, some jurists have mentioned particular instruments which are considered by definition as being ‘specific instruments’. The lute[3] and oud[4], for example, are two instruments which have been mentioned as such.

The oud is a musical instrument similar to the lute, with its larger bowl and shorter neck being the main points of physical difference. This musical instrument is considered to be among the instruments solely used for lahw and depravation.[5]

In contrast, some instruments used nowadays would be considered by definition ‘shared instruments’. Meaning, the ruling of their legitimacy depends wholly on the how they’re played. Therefore, if the given instrument is not played in a manner which encourages immorality, its use would be considered halaal. Instruments such as the drum[6], dulcimer[7], harp[8], organ[9], and violin[10] are all considered as being under this category.

In any given scenario, the obligation of a jurist lies not in dictating the ruling pertaining to a particular scenario, but rather providing a general ruling. After which, the general public is left with the responsibility of practically applying that ruling. Having made this point, if a musical instrument isn’t exploited in a haraam manner, its use would not be considered haraam. The legitimacy in using these musical instruments lies in their method of application. In other words, when determining if using a musical instrument is halaal, one should consider the kind of music being played and the environment it is suited to. If the music played is becoming of immoral and depraved gatherings, it would be deemed haraam. If this isn’t the case, such music would be considered halaal. Furthermore, it is possible for a particular instrument to have been considered at one time an instrument of haraam due to its common use in haraam gatherings. However, in another time, the same instrument may lose that characteristic of being a tool of haraam, and its use – along with the music created by it – would be considered halaal.

For more information on musical instruments, their characteristics, and uses, one should refer to books written on that particular subject. Books of jurisprudence are not reasonable sources for this research.

Below are some rulings from Maraaji‘concerning musical instruments and their use:

 

His Eminence, Grand Ayatullah Sayyid ‘Ali Khaamenei:

Instruments which are – per society’s view – considered amongst the ‘shared’ category, meaning, they can be utilized in a halaal manner are permissible to purchase, sell, and use. Of course, the intention in these acts should be that of gaining halaal benefit from the instrument. However, instruments which are – per society’s view – considered amongst the ‘specific’ tools of lahw , their use, purchase, and sale would be considered impermissible.

The office of His Eminence, Grand Ayatullah Saafi Gulpaygaani:

Yes, it is haraam.

The response of His Eminence, Grand Ayatullah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani is as follows:

No instrument in and of itself is considered haraam. However, if a musical instrument is played in a manner that is sexually arousing and befitting of immoral gatherings, this act would be considered haraam.

For further information, please refer to the following articles below:

“The Reason Behind the Permissibility and Impermissibility of Music”, Question 6964 (Website: 7088)

“What is meant by the disadvantages of Ghinaa and Music”, Question 6185 (Website: 6364)

 


[1] Tabrizi, Jawaad Ibn ‘Ali, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Volume 2, Pages 210 and 214, Qum, First Edition, author and date unknown; Khamenei, Sayyid ‘Ali, Ajwabah al-Istiftaa’aat, Pages 252-255, the Publishing Office of His Eminence, Qum, First Edition, 1424 (A.H.); Imam Khumayni, Istiftaa’aat, Volume 2, Pages 12 and 14, The Office of Islamic Publications, Qum, Fifth Edition, 1422 (A.H.); Faadhil Lankaraani, Muhammad, Jami‘ al-Masaa’il, Volume 1, Page 583, Question 2176, Amir Qalam Publications, Qum, Eleventh Edition, date unknown; Bahjat, Muhammad Taqi, Risaaleh-ye Tawdhih al-Masaa’il, appendages, Page 3, Issue 20, Shafq Publications, Qum, 1428 (A.H.); Naraaqi, Muhammadi Mahdi, Anis al-Tujjaar (annotated), Commentator, Tabatabaei, Sayyid Muhammad Kaadhim and Sadr ‘Aamuli, Sayyid Isma‘il and Ha’iri Yazdi, ‘Abd al-Karim, Page 42, the Publication Office for Islamic Propagation, Qum, First Edition, 1425 (A.H.).

[2] Ajwabah al-Istiftaa’aat, Page 255, Question 1162; Imam Khumayni, Istiftaa’aat, Volume 2, Page 12, Question 25, and Page 14, Question 30; Makaarim Shiraazi, Naasir, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Reasearcher and Editor: ‘Ulyan Nejadi, Abul Qaasim, Volume 1, Page 153, Question 524 and 525, and Volume 2, Question 707 and 710, the Publication of the ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) School, Qum, Second Edition, 1427 (A.H.), and other books of jurisprudence.

[3] Such as: Tabrizi, Jawad Ibn ‘Ali, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Volume 2, Page 214, Question 971; Jami‘ al-Masaa’il, Volume 1, Page 85, Question 271; Safi Golpaygaani, Lutfullah, Jami’ al-Ahkaam, Volume 1, Page 289 and 290, Question 996, Sayyidah Ma’soumah (s) Publications, Qum, Fourth Edition, 1417 (A.H.); Subhaani, Ja‘far, Risaaleh-ye Tawdhih al-Masaa’il, Page 382, Imam Saadiq (a) Institute, Qum, Third Edition, 1429 (A.H.); Bahjat, Muhammad Taqi, Istiftaa’aat, Volume 4, Page 525 and 526, Question 6336, Published by the Office of Ayatullah Bahjat, Qum, First Edition, 1428 (A.H.); Imam Khumayni, Nijaat al-‘Ibaad, Page 222, Issue 5, the Institute for the Collection and Publishing of the Works of Imam Khumayni (r), Tehran, First Edition, 1422 (A.H.), Anis al-Tujjaar (annotated), Page 42.

[4] Tabrizi, Jawaad ibn ‘Ali, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Volume 2, Page 211.

[5] Ghinaa and Music (Its Nature, Ruling, and Consequences), Page 216.

[6] Makaarim Shiraazi, Naasir, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Volume 1, Page 151, Question 515 and 516; Ajwibah al-Istiftaa’aat, Page 255, Questions 1440, 1161 and 322; Jami‘ al-Masaa’il, Volume 1, Page 580, Question 2169, Page 583; Tabrizi, Jawaad ibn ‘Ali, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Volume 1, Page 454, Question 2000, Page 455, Question 2009, Page 458, Question 2019.

[7] Ajwabah al-Istiftaa’aat, Page 251, Question 1144.

[8] Tabrizi, Jawaad ibn ‘Ali, Istiftaa’aat-i Jadid, Volume 2, Page 205, Question 930, Page 208, Question 941.

[9] Jami‘ al-Masaa’il, Volume 1, Page 244, Question 992.

[10] Ajwabah al-Istiftaa’aat, Page 248, Question 1128.

 

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