Listening to Spiritual Music with instruments.

Q. “Spiritual Music with Instruments?” Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani Question: Truth be told I had left music but then re-started listening to it again, in part because of some spiritual Islamic CDs that contain musical instruments including violins, different types of drums. Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah, Sidi, I don’t know what reasoning the CD was based on. Allah knows best. There is difference of opinion on this issue, but the position conveyed by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari is the very same as that mentioned in the relied upon works across the Sunni schools of fiqh, and held by most traditional Sunni scholars now and in the past [see, for example, the entries on Music in the Reliance of the Traveller]. Some scholars did, in fact, allow instruments if not used for vain purposes, including in this the use of some Sufis and others of instruments for ‘spiritually uplifting’ purposes, as long as this was free of other impermissible matters (such as impermissible song content, female singing for non-females, free-mixing at such gatherings, etc.). This remains a minority opinion, however, and religious precaution would indicate avoiding it, for the many reasons, explained by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam in his answer. At the same time, Ibn Abidin explains in his Radd al-Muhtar [6.349, Ilmiyya ed.], one should not condemn to those (like upright Sufis) who have noble intentions in their listening to such songs and are far from vain purposes (lahw), as long as nothing else impermissible is conjoined with the listening. As such, religious caution and following sounder legal opinion (and the outward purport of the prohibitions of the Qur’an and Sunna) would indicate scrupulously avoiding music and singing with instruments besides the duff. However, one should not condemn others about this because of the difference of opinion regarding this. And Allah knows best. Wassalam,Faraz Rabbani.

After this response, what is the OFFICIAL POSITION of the Hanafi madhhab on the spiritual instrument, the saying of Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is it correct with the hanafi madhhab?

A. According to that which is mentioned in many of the authoritative works of the Hanafi Fiqh, Sama (listening to spiritual songs with musical instruments) is totally haram (unlawful) in Islam. Although there have been quotations from Allama Ibn Abideen Shami in your question, it must be understood that at the end of the entire discussion of the said topic, he Allama (Ibn Abideen Shami) has written in Raddul Muhtar, ‘The summary (of this discussion is that there is no allowance for Sama (listening to spiritual songs with instruments) in our times. It is so because the great scholar and Shaikh, Junaid (AR) (at his time ) repented from Sama’.(Raddul Muhtaar vol.6 pg. 349).

The great 11th century Hanafi Faqeeh (legist/jurisprudent), Allama Ala’udeen Al Haskafi (author of Ad Durrul Mukhtar) has also condemned all sorts of musical instruments and has mentioned:- ‘And in As Siraj, the Mas’ala indicates to the fact that all types of musical instruments are totally haram, and in Fatawa Al Bazzaziyyah it is stated that listening to musical instruments like beating with a stick etc. is haram. This is on account of the statement of the Messenger of Allah (SA) who said, ‘Listening to musical instruments is a sin, sitting for it is transgression, and enjoying it is kufr (ingratitude)’ because putting our organs to the use for which they were not created is ingratitude. So it is obligatory, totally obligatory, that one should refrain (from such listening) as it is reported that the Messengers of Allah (SA) placed his fingers in his ears when he heard such sounds. (Ad Durrul Mukhtar-Raddul Mukhtar vol. 6 pg.349).

Allama Ibn Abideen Shami has also given the statement which has been mentioned in Al Jawhara. He says, ‘And in Al Jawhara it states, ‘And whatever the Sufis do in our times (listening to spiritual songs/instruments) is haram. It is not permissible to attend it, and it is not permissible to sit listening to it’. (Raddul Muhtar vol. 6 pg. 349).

In fatawa Al Hindiya (a renowned and well accepted book that explains the religious verdicts of the Hanafi Mazhab), it states, ‘Sama (listening to spiritual songs/instruments) and Qawl and Spiritual dance, which the Sufis of our times do, are all haram (unlawful). It is not permissible to listen to it or to sit for it. Both the Ghina (song) and Mazamir (instruments) are equally prohibited’. (Fatawa Al Hindiyah col, 5 pg. 352- Book: Disliked actions; chap.17)

In the famous commentary of Sahih Al Bukhari, Umdatul Qaari written by the great Muhaddith and Hanafi Faqeeh (legist) of the 9th century Allama Badrudeen Al Aini, mentioned has been made of the prohibition of songs/instruments which have been allowed by some Sufis. In this regard, while commenting on the hadith of Aisha which spoke about the two young children (girls) who sang the song of Bu’ath, Hafiz Badruddeen Al Aini writes, ‘Imam Qurtubi writes, As for (Ghina) songs,  there are no differences(among the scholars) that it is totally haram, since it is from vain things and blameworthy entertainment. (there is unanimity upon this). As for that which is free from haram (unlawful things) then a small amount of it is permissible in weddings and Eid, and the likes. However, the Mazhab of Imam Abu Hanifa on this is that it is also haram on these occasions, and this is the fatawa of the scholars of Iraq. The Mazhab of Imam Shafi and Imam Malik is that it is Makrooh on these specific occasions (and haram at all other places)’. Hafiz Badruddeen Al Aini continues by saying, ‘ A party of the Sufis have taken a proof from the afore mentioned hadith upon the allowance of songs and Sama, with instruments and with out instruments. The scholars however refuted them (for this), saying that the singing of the young immature children was for war and bravery and what occurred in battles. It is for this reason, the Prophet(SA) allowed it’. (Umdatul Qaari- commentary of Sahih Al Bukhari vol. 6 pg. 271)

Hafiz Badruddeen further writes, ‘There is no consideration to that which the ignorant ones from the Sufis have innovated in this regard. For certainly, if you investigate their statements in this, and you see their actions (practices), you will observe the signs and traces of free thinkers and unbelievers. And from Allah comes help (Umdatul Qaari vol.6 pg.271).

In Fath Al Qadeer, the famous commentary of Al Hidaya (in Hanafi Fiqh), the great scholar and reputed legist Allama Ibn Al Humman writes, ‘The jurists have clarified that singing such poetry is haram that consist of impermissible text. Singing other poetry is permissible. However, ‘when such permissible poems are sung with Malahi (musical instruments) then they are prohibited. Even songs full of religious admonition and wisdom are prohibited when sung with music. But in this case the reason for the prohibition is musical instruments and not the song’. (Fathul Qadeer- Book on Testimony vol.6 pg.472).

In another authentic and reliable book of the Hanafi Fiqh, Al Bahr Ar Ra’iq, the great Hanafi legist Allama Ibn Nujaim writes, ‘The Mas’ala indicates to the fact that every type of musical instrument is totally Haram (unlawful) to the extent that songs accompanied with the beating of sticks. The Prophet (SA) said, ‘There shall be people of my Ummah who will make Halal, silk, intoxicants and Musical instruments (Bukhari) ‘.

(Al Bahr Ar Ra’iq vol. 8 pg. 188). At another place, Allama Ibn Nujaim writes, ‘listening to the sounds of musical instruments (Malahi) is totally haram like beating with sticks etc. The Prophet (SA) said, ‘listening to musical instruments is a sin, sitting for it is transgression and enjoying it is kufr’. (Al Bahr Ar Ra’iq vol. 8 pg. 189).

In another famous and well accepted book of the Hanafi Fiqh, Khulasatul Fatawa, the great Faqeeh (jurist) Tahir bin Abdur Rasheed Al Bukhari wrote ‘and in Al Fatawa, ‘listening to the sound of musical instruments like the beating of sticks etc. is haram (unlawful), because these are from the Malahi (musical instruments) and the Prophet (SA) said, ‘ listening to the sounds of musical instruments is a sin, and sitting for it is transgression and enjoying it is form kufr’. (Khulasatul Fatawa vol. 4 pg. 345).

It is to be noted that in the above mentioned fatawas (religious verdicts), listening to musical instruments have been condemned in a general manner, these great Fuqaha (jurists) who have been well accepted among all scholars of the Hanafi Mazhab have made no exceptions to the prohibition. It means that no sort of allowance has been given by these great jurists for one to listen to spiritual musical instruments. In reality, there is nothing known as spiritual instruments. What has happened is that some people have taken string instruments, flutes, harp etc. etc. and accompanied them with religious songs for religious purpose. As we have seen in some of the Fatawas, all sorts of musical instruments have been condemned without exception. Other Fatawas which have been quoted above, clearly identifies the prohibition of Sama religious songs etc. with musical instruments, deeming them to be totally haram.

All the above mentioned quotations have been taken from the sound and authentic books of the Hanafi Fiqh, from which religious verdicts (Fatawa ) are issued. It is thus, clearly established from these texts that the official and strong position of the Hanafi mazhab is that spiritual songs with musical instruments and /or spiritual instruments are totally haram (unlawful).

This position is not that of the Hanafis Mazhab alone, but it has been adopted by the other Mazahib and also by many of the great sheikhs of Tasawuf.

In this regard, we have the statement of Fuzail bin Iyad (died 187 AH) who said, ‘Ghina (songs) is the charm of fornication’. (Dhann Al Malahi-Ibn Abi Dunya ). Another eminent Sufi Shaikh and author of many books, Abu Abdullah Al Harith Ibn Asad Al Muhasibi (died 243 AH)   writes, ‘Ghina (song) is prohibited just like the meat of carrion’. (Kashf Al Qina – Abul Al Qurtubi).

Ibn Taimiyah has mentioned that renowned Sufis and Shaikhs from the first three centuries avoided Sama (that is spiritual songs with and with out musical instruments). This was the position adopted by the great Shaikhs of Tasawuf from all parts of the Islamic would like Hijaz, Sham, Yemen, Egypt, Magrib, Iraq, or Khurasan. Great personalities like Ibrahim bin Adham (died 161AH), Maruf Al Karkhi (died200AH), Abu Sulaiman Al Darani (died 215AH), Ahmad Ibn Al Hawari (died230AH) and As Sini (As Saqti died 253AH) were from among those who refrained fully from religious songs/spiritual instruments. It has also been mentioned by the great scholar Ibn Hajar Al Haythami that the original Shaikhs of Tasawuf were never involved in those forms of music that were prohibited or controversial. In this regard, he said, ‘we assert that it never happened with any of the masters of Sufism-those who combined knowledge and gnosis(ilm and Marifah)- that they were involved in listening to stringed instruments and others that were prohibited by consensus. And because of their avoidance of dubious things to the best of their ability, they did the same regarding musical practices about which there is disagreement. As for those who hover around dubious things and listing out of deep desires, they have nothing from Tasawuf except its form, and nothing for, knowledge except its name. And all good, honor and nobility is in following the Prophet (SA) (Kaff-Al Ra’a-Al Haythami) –Chapter 1: prohibited forms of Ghina).

Mullah Ali Qaari (died 1014 A.H) also criticized the actions of some Sufis. He stated that the use of duff, shabbabah, dances and clapping done by some Sufis in his lime was a great evil and every on ewas responsible for fighing this wrong with his hands or tongue, to the extent of his ability’. (Al Sama – Mulla Ali Qaari).

The famous shaikh and sufi of the 12th century, Shaikh Ali Nuri (died 1118A.H) wrote against the notion that one can achieve nearness to Allah by playing musical instruments. In this regard, he wrote, ‘Allah’s remembrance should be from the bottom of one’s heart, not from playing an instrument of diversion–.’ It is not hidden from any wise person who goes through the pages of the Quran and Sunnah, and the accounts of the pious elders, and the statements of earlier and later scholars, that playing instruments is being rude to Allah and is not possible to gain nearness to Him through it’. (Risalah fi Hukm Al Sama). At another place Shaikh Ali Nuri went on to write, ‘what brings us closer to Allah is His fear, keeping our limbs busy in His worship like Salaah and fasting, abandoning transgression, suppressing desires by minimizing food and drink to the extent possible, keeping quiet except when saying good words… and other virtuous qualities…(Risalah fi Hukm Al Sama).

All these quotations give a clear understanding that besides the Hanafi Mazhab, (as well as the other Mazahib), even the famous and renowned sheikhs of Tasawuf have condemned and prohibited religious songs with musical instruments/spiritual instruments.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan