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Last Updated: 2013/01/24
Summary of question
Is it permissible for men to listen to a woman’s singing?
I know that Islam differentiates between man and woman, for example, a woman cannot have more than one husband whereas man can have up to four wives. Women have been commanded to observe modest dress and to cover themselves properly in front of non-mahram men (strangers). Now, the question is, how can we accept that there would be no problem in listening to a woman’s singing voice, if it does not entail evil (mafsadah) and does not lead to debauchery? Aren’t we approving of and endorsing her by saying this? Don’t you think that approving of a woman’s singing may cause: 1.Women to lose their modesty and chastity in Islamic society? 2. The female singer’s modesty and chastity to diminish in the eyes of the men who listen to her? 3. The woman to be assaulted more likely because of her delicate and attractive voice? 4. The woman to fall into a sin by abandoning her husband or even getting seduced by non-mahram men. (Marja: Ayatollah Khamenei)
Concise answer
As you have rightly mentioned, men are different from women in a lot of ways. For this reason, different rules have been legislated for each group. When it comes to a woman reciting eulogies and narrating the sad stories of the infallibles, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei says: “If a woman’s voice is provocative and is likely to excite a man sexually, it is not permissible.”[1]  In regards to a lady reciting the Quran in the tartil method, he has said: “If a woman’s recitation in front of non-mahram men entails evil (mafsadah), it is haram irrespective of whether the tartil recitation is made individually or collectively.”[2]
Therefore, if even hearing a woman’s recitation of the Quran, tawashih and collective reading entail evils especially those mentioned in your email (promotion of obscenity and degradation of modesty, assault of the female reciter because of attractive voice, abandoning of husband and getting attracted to other men), they are not permissible. Also, listening to a man’s song is allowed only when it is not included in the category of ghina (haram type of song) and does not entail evil. Those religious authorities, who have said that listening to a woman’s voice is permissible when it does not entail evil, do not include the instances which you have pointed in your message. Certainly, no Mujtahid has said that it is permissible to listen to a woman’s singing voice. For further information please refer to the following indexes:
1. Index: The Islamic law about listening to a woman’s voice in the past and at present, question 3034 (site: 3280).
2. Index: Listening to music with woman voice, question 2832 (site: 3064).

[1] Husseini, Sayyid Mujtaba, Student Resalah, p. 182.
[2] Ibid, Mahmoodi, Sayyid Mohsen, New Issues from the Perspective of Scholars and Religious Authorities, vol.1, p. 124.

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