Is playing the guitar permissible in Islam?

Details of the Question
Is playing the guitar permissible in Islam?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Playing the guitar is religiously permissible. Islam permits having fun and playing instruments in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) because people sometimes need such things. Religious music is like food for the spirit. Religious hymns and carols are of this kind. A publicly known expression “music is the food for the spirit” is correct in a sense if it is considered in legal bounds.

However, to what extent is music acceptable? What are the general rules for this? We can list the general rules that Islam introduces regarding this issue as follows.

- Any kind of instrument that stimulates lust and immorality

- Playing instruments with men and women together

- Letting women on the stage and let them sing

-Any sort of fun and instrument which damages the concepts of industriousness, worship and consideration and which leads people to frivolousness and to wasting time is forbidden. 

The following kinds of music and instruments are permissible:

- Relaxing music; spirit-feeding and religious music,

-Any songs or instruments which remind people of Allah, the hereafter or which stimulate the love for the country and nation and which engrain the spirit of heroism.

-Women’s singing songs or playing instruments among themselves within the bounds of morality,

-Men’s arranging such acceptable entertainment within the same bounds is acceptable unless they hinder worshipping and working.

For this reason, the interpreters of Islamic jurisprudence set this decree in a general sense: 

Songs or poems are acceptable unless they are immoral, exceed divine bounds and lead the lust to illegal ways. However, if they praise alcohol, women or similar things, they are makrooh (abominable). (al-Muhit - Radiyuddin Sarakhsi)

Playing tambourine or goblet drum or similar instruments on weddings:

These instruments are permissible to be played on weddings or meetings. Likewise, it is recorded in various narrations that women used to gather around and play such instruments on festivals at the time of the Prophet (pbuh). Even one day, while some women gathered and were having fun playing tambourine in the house of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), the Prophet entered the house without saying anything to them; he wanted have a rest in the house. Meanwhile, Abu-Bakr Siddiq entered the house and became sad hearing the voice of the instrument and scolded them; he warned them saying “Is it suitable to play instruments when the Prophet is present?” So, the Prophet removed the covering over his face and stated this was not excessiveness, saying to Abu-Bakr “O, Abu-Bakr! Everybody has their own festivals and they have fun right then. Give up, let them enjoy their festivals”. 

While the Prophet entered Medina after emigrating from Mecca, he was greeted with a rapturous cheer and there were girls and women who were reciting poems aloud, among that crowd. The Prophet did not regard it odd for that day. Afterwards, he forbade women to sing songs among men.

Playing instrument and dancing excessively is considered to be makrooh. Imam Abu Yusuf thinks that way. (Al-Muhit – Radiyuddin Sarakhsi)

In the work titled Hizanatu’l Muftin, the following is stated: “It is not religiously wrong to play tambourine or similar instruments on festivals or similar days.”

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