What is the view of the four madhhabs on music?

The Details of the Question

- What is the preferred view of each of the 4 madhhabs regarding music?
- I know that all 4 madhhabs regard musical instruments as haram.
- Is it permissible to sing according to the 4 madhhabs?
- What about def (tambourine)?
- Is it always haram to play the tambourine according to the 4 madhhabs? Or is it only permissible on eid days and weddings?
- What is the preferred view?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Music (sama, ghina) includes all branches of the known art performed by a woman or a man with voice and instruments. There is a difference between these branches and forms in terms of the Islamic decree. In addition, the place and purpose of the music has an effect on the decree.

Before moving on to the evidence that determines the decree on music, let us summarize the views of the fiqh madhhabs:

1) According to the Hanafi madhhab, performing and listening to music is haram. This decree includes even striking a stick in a harmonious way and regards it as haram.(1)

There are some exceptions to the decree: Kos (big drum) played in the war and def (tambourine) played in weddings.

According to Imam Sarakhsi, if the music is made not to make others listen to it, but to relax oneself and to ward off loneliness, it is permissible; according to Marghinani, it is haram too.(2)

They asked Imam Abu Yusuf: What is your view on playing the tambourine outside of the wedding, for example, a woman and a child in their own house? He replied: It is not makruh. If there is excessive play and taghanni, I regard it as makruh. (3)

The view of Hanbali madhhab is like Hanafi madhhab - in general terms - in this regard.

2) Two views were reported from Imam Shafii and Imam Malik.

According to one of them, those two imams regarded music as makruh, while according to the other, they regarded it as permissible unless a haram was committed or it was used as means leading to haram.

The views of Ghazali from Shafii madhhab sect and Kattani from Maliki madhhab will be given later.

3) Zahiriya madhhab and Sufi orders generally defend the view of permissibility of music in all its forms. (4)

Although the fiqh scholars who expressed their opinions for and against music used some verses (see Luqman, 31/6; az-Zumar, 36/18) as evidence, it is not certain that they are related to music.

As for the hadiths, it is based on sound narrations that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) approved of the music performed on occasions such as weddings, eid days and greetings, and that he encouraged it at weddings.

In addition, it is said that there is no sound hadith stating that music - only instrumental and vocal music without being used as a means leading to haram - is prohibited. (5)

Moroccan Abdulhay al-Kattani, allocated 25 pages to music in his two-volume work (at-Taratibul-Idariyya), which mentions the culture and civilization of the era of the Prophet (pbuh); he brought evidence showing that it is permissible in all its forms and gave the names of 20 works written on the issue.(6)

According to the determination of this author, it is narrated that the Companions such as Umar, Uthman, Abdurrahman b. Awf, Ubayda b. Jarrah, Sad b. Abi-Waqqas, Abu Masud, Bilal, Abdullah b. Zubayr, Hassan, Ibn Amr and al-Mughira b. Shuba listened to music.

Imam Ghazali allocated 35 pages of his book Ihya to the issue, analyzed all that was said, compared the evidence and reached the following conclusion:

Music, whether with voice or instrument, does not depend on a single decree: It can be haram, makruh, permissible and mustahab.

1) It is haram for young people who are filled with worldly desires and lust if the music they listen to provokes only those feelings.

2) It is makruh for a person who spends most of his time on it and makes it a habit.

3) Music is permissible and licit for anyone who gets no feeling other than enjoying a beautiful voice.

4) It is mustahab for a person who is overwhelmed with the love of Allah and in whom music provokes only good attributes. (7)

While continuing his analysis, Ghazali states the following:  Music is either permissible or mandub depending on the situation, and that what makes it haram is not music itself but five external causes:

1) If the singer is a woman and if the listener is afraid that the woman’s voice will provoke his lust, it is haram for him to listen. The decree of haram is based on the voice of the woman, not the music. In fact, a woman’s voice is not haram; however, if it provokes lust, it will be haram to listen even to the recitation of the Quran from her.(8)

2) If the musical instrument is one of the symbols of the drinking meetings, it is haram to use it; other instruments are permissible.

3) If the lyrics of a song are corrupt and contrary to Islamic belief and ethics, it is haram to sing or listen to it with or without music.

4) If a person, who is a prisoner of sensual feelings due to being young, falls into music excessively and if music provokes only his sexual desire, he must stay away from music.

5) If music does not provoke an ordinary person’s lust or divine love but if it takes all of his time and prevents him from other works, it is still haram.(9)


1) al-Marghinani, al-Hidaya (Karahiya issue).
2) Ibn al-Humam, Fathul-Qadir, 6/36.
3) al-Ayni, Umdatul-Qari, 3/359.
4For a good summary, see Süleyman Uludağ, İslâm açısından Mûsikî ve Semâ, İstanbul. 1976, pp. 168-187.
5) Shawkani, Naylul-Awtar, 8/107.
6) Kattani, at-Taratib, 2/120-145.
7) Ghazali, Ihya, 2/302.
8) Hanafi scholar Ayni, who wrote explanations for Bukhari, reached the same conclusion acting upon the fact that “the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr listened to the song sung by two female singers on an eid day. Umdatul-Qari, 3/360.
9) Ghazali, Ihya, 2/279-281. (summarized)

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