Playing instruments of Music and Singing Are Greater Sins
By: Ayatullah Abdul Husayn Dastaghaib Shirazi
Playing instruments of music is a Greater Sin. It is Harām to play instruments like guitar, piano, tambourine, drums etc. Listening to music is also a Greater Sin. Music as a Greater sin is reported by Fazl ibn Shazān from Imam ‘Ali ar-Riďa (a.s.): “And to be engrossed in musical instruments is also a Greater Sin.”
All the Mujtahids are unanimous in their opinion that the manufacture, sale and purchase of musical instruments is Harām and the income derived from musical activity is also Harām. The transactions involving these (instruments) are invalid. It is Harām even to keep instruments of music in one’s possession. It is obligatory to destroy them. This is revealed in a lengthy tradition of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) as recorded in the book “Tohafful Uqūl”. Similarly, Shaykh Hurr al-Āmili records the following tradition from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.): “The Almighty Allah has prohibited the manufacture of all such things that are exclusively used in Harām ways; and things that only create evil like pipe, flute, chess and all types of instruments of gambling, images, statues. The manufacture of all such articles is Harām.”
Imam (a.s.) concluded, “Then even learning to sing or play music and teaching it, to sing and play music, to be paid for these things or to be in any way engrossed in these vices is Harām.”
Music, According to the Traditions
Some more traditions prohibiting music are given below.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) reports from the Holy Prophet (S) that he said: “I prohibit for you dancing and playing flute, drums and tabla.” (al-Kāfi)
The Holy Prophet (S) has also said, “The Almighty Allah has sent me as a mercy to the worlds, to guide the people. And He ordered me to eradicate the playing of flute and other instruments of music, all games of vice, idol (worship) and all practices of the days of ignorance.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il, Chapter 79)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “A person who has received blessings from Allah and while having these blessings, he plays flute. It is as if he has been thankless of the blessings.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Every moment of our lives, we are enjoying Allah (S.w.T.)’s unlimited benevolence.
Music Causes Shamelessness and Hypocrisy
The Sixth Imam (a.s.) has also stated, “The playing of violin promotes the growth of hypocrisy in the heart like water assists the growth of vegetation (algae).” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Imam (a.s.) also says, “If drums and cymbals are played at one’s house for forty days, Allah will impose a satan by the name of ‘faqandir’. The satans will infiltrate into every cell of the person’s body. With the spread of this evil, the person loses all sense of dignity and self-esteem. He will then not care as to what he says or what is said about him. Then, this satan blows into this person. As a result, he becomes utterly shameless. So mush so that he is not concerned or affected even if his women are dishonoured.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
It is usually observed that the people in whose homes music is played with regularity either using musical instruments or by radio or cassettes are absolutely shameless and wanton.
Musician and the Song
Muadda Ibn Ziyad says, “I was in the company of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) when a person said, “When I go to the toilet, I can hear the singing girls of my neighbour. Sometimes, I remain (in toilet) longer so that I may listen to more of it.”
Imam (a.s.) said: “Desist from listening to music and songs attentively.”
Then this man further said, “Master, I do not go to music gatherings! I only hear the sounds!”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, “Have you not read this Qur’anic verse... “Surely, the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these shall be questioned about that?” (Surah al-‘Isrā’, 17:36)
The man replied, “I was not aware of this ayat. I regret my actions. I shall not do so in the future. I repent for my past sins and I seek forgiveness from my Lord.”
Seeing his condition, Imam (a.s.) said, “Get up ! Go and perform ghusl and offer Salāt and pray for forgiveness. You have certainly been involved in a deadly sin and a terrible situation. You have repented for it and I thank Allah for that; and I seek forgiveness of Allah for all those things that He dislikes. Certainly, Allah only dislikes the evil things. Leave the evil things to the evil people because there are different people suitable for different things.” (al-Kāfi Chapter of Music)
Divine Bounties (Barakat) are Removed
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says, “Angels do not even enter a house that has wine, drum, tambourine or a flute. Even the prayers of the inhabitants of this house are unacceptable. They are deprived of barakat.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Hazrat Imam ‘Ali ar-Riďa (a.s.) has said, “To listen to a musical instrument is one of the Greater Sins.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
The Blackened Face of the Musician
The Holy Prophet (S) has stated, “A person who possesses a sitar, on the day of Qiyāma will be raised with a black face. His hands will be holding a sitar of fire. Seventy thousand angels with maces of fire will be hitting him on the face and the head. The singer will arise from his grave, blind, deaf and dumb. The adulterer will be similarly raised. The player of flute will also be made to rise in this way as will be the drum player.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
It means that all such people will appear on the field of “Mahshar” (on the day of reckoning) as blind, deaf and dumb.
A House Where Music is Played for Forty Days
Hazrat Imam ‘Ali ar-Riďa (a.s.) remarks, “A person invites Divine wrath when in his house instruments like flute, drum and chess are played for forty days. If this man dies within these forty days, his death would be of a sinner and a transgressor. His place shall be in Hell. And what a dreadful place it is!” (Mustanad al Taraqi)
Music and the Last Period of Time
The traditions concerning the signs of the last stage before the Zuhūr of our Imam (a.s.) mention music: “And you shall see that music will be so prevalent that no one will dissuade others nor will he find in himself the need to do so. And you shall see that music would be openly played even in the two sanctuaries (the city of Makkah and Madinah).” (Mustanade Naraqi)
This is what we see in the present age where obscene music is openly played in the markets, on the streets, in shops and houses and even cars and no one bothers to prevent it!
So far we have mentioned the punishment of the hereafter for the sin of playing or listening to music. Now, we shall discuss the evils of music that affect life on earth. These evils too are numerous. Scholars have compiled complete books on this subject. For example we have the following books in Persian, “Munazrah Doctor-o-Pīr”, “Balahaī Ijtemai”, “Mausīqi-o-Islam”, etc.
Effects of Music on the Nervous System
Expert Doctors, Scientists and biologists have defined two types of nerves, the principal nerves and the arterial nerves. The principal nerves stretch from the neck to all vital organs. The arterial nerves spread from the main nerves to all parts of the body. The secondary nerves are connected to outward parts of the body and convey the messages to the brain. When the veins enlarge the blood pressure decreases. Due to the shrivelling of blood vessels, the blood pressure increases. When the blood pressure varies at different parts of the body it affects the health.
When the secondary nerves work they produce heat whereas the functioning of the central nerves produces the opposite effect. It is due to these nerves that feelings of sloth, sleep, thoughtlessness, forgetfulness, grief, sorrow, fainting, unconsciousness and even death occur. Obviously, when music can affect various nerves, it can give rise to various maladies. Mental diseases as well as physical ailments can occur. These mental effects can destroy man’s reasoning capacity. It is for this reason that one who listens to music is unable to perform work that can be accomplished by a sane person.
Music creates vibrations in the body and these are conveyed to all the parts of the body through the nervous system. As a result of this, indigestion occurs. Music affects the heart in such a way that the heartbeats become irregular. The blood pressure goes awry. All such ailments make a person permanently ill. Consequently, even modern medical science, in spite of its astonishing progress, fails in such a situation. Sometimes, the music is so intense that the listeners lose their sanity. They become dumb and various kinds of mental diseases occur. In places where music is more prevalent, we find that there are more neurotic illnesses. It is for this reason that more mental hospitals are to be found in Europe and America.
Dr. Adlen writes against music, “Even though it seems pleasant, the effect of music is profound upon the nervous system. Especially, when the temperature is high, the ill effect of music is more. This is the reason that ill effects of music are more in the hot areas of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The American people are so disgusted with the bane of music that they have united to demand from the senate a permanent ban on music. It is a pity that the whole world clearly perceives the evils of music and yet adopts music as entertainment.”
The sixteenth Greater sin is singing songs. Traditions have graded it amongst the mortal sins. This fact is clear from the narration of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) as quoted by Amash. Muhammad Ibn Muslim relates that Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said, “Singing is that sin which has been promised a penalty of fire (Hell) by Allah.”
It is evident from numerous reports, that whichever sin incurs Hell as its punishment, is a Greater Sin. Singing too falls in that category.
What is Singing?
Sayyid Murtadha, in his book, Wasīla writes, “Singing is Harām. It is also Harām to listen to a song or to sing for money. However every melodious sound is not a ‘song’. Singing denotes a special way of prolonging the voice and rotating it in the throat. These features are common in sensuous parties. Such type of singing is usually accompanied by music.”
Most of the Shia Mujtahids and the experts of Arabic language opine that ‘singing’ means the turning and rotating of one’s voice in the throat. These types of strains are invariably found in classical music and Qawwalis. A prolonged tune of a-a-a is produced. In the dictionary, ‘Sihah’ it is mentioned that singing is a sound which produces a strange type of sorrow or pleasure in the listener. The other dictionaries almost agree to this definition. In brief, singing or song is a sound that makes a man unusually sad or joyful.
The book Zakhīratul Ebad says: “Every sound that is produced for entertainment and is capable of exciting passion is known as ‘singing.’ It could be produced by making it emanate from the throat like in classical music or by any other means. In brief whatever is understood by common sense as a song is Harām. Consequently it is sinful even to recite the Holy Qur’an, Nauha or Marsiya in the tune of songs. In fact this is more sinful than singing songs for it tantamounts to insulting and degrading the Qur’an and Nauha or Marsiya. It is for this reason that this type of sin deserves double the punishment.
1. Singing is a Greater Sin
When Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said, “Singing is that Sin which has been promised the penalty of fire (Hell) by Allah” he (a.s.) had also recited the following verse of the Holy Qur’an: “And of men is he who takes instead frivolous discourse to lead astray from Allah’s path without knowledge and to take it for a mockery; these shall have an abasing chastisement.” (Surah Luqmān 31:6)
2. “Frivolous discourse” implies Singing
Bringing together the above verse and the tradition of Imam Baqir (a.s.), singing is understood to be one of the ‘frivolous’and ‘evil’ acts. Other worthless acts are aimless talk or action, or poetry which is of no good to the people; all these deprive man of benefit.
In other words, anything that restrains one from following the truth and the Holy Qur’an is a ‘frivolous discourse.’ Anything that leads one astray is ‘frivolous discourse.’ All those things that create passion and sensuality, sin and transgression are ‘frivolous discourse.’ It is a sin whether one sings or listens to a song. The Qur’anic verse quoted above is followed by: “And when our communications are recited to him, he turns back proudly, as if he had not heard them, as though in his ears were a heaviness, therefore announce to him a painful chastisement.” (Surah Luqmān 31:7)
3. The exegesis (Tafsīr) of the term “False Words”
In addition to the phrase ‘frivolous discourse,’ the Holy Qur’an also refers to singing by the term, ‘False words.’ Abu Basir inquired from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.), the exegesis of the following ayat: “... and avoid false words.” (Surah Hajj 22:30)
The Imam (a.s.) replied, “ (It means) singing.”
In explanation to the ayat, “And they who do not bear witness to what is false, and when they pass by what is vain, they pass by nobly.” (Surah al-Furqān 25:72)
Imam Muhammad at-Taqi (a.s.) remarked, “ (Vain means) singing.” (Refer Amali of Shaykh Tusi and also the book al-Kāfi.)
In yet another tradition, when Muhammad Ibn Uthman inquired about the meaning of this ayat, Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.) answered, “It includes the evil words of one who is singing.”
4. “False words” denote singing
The later portion of the same verse says, “... and when they pass by what is vain, they pass by nobly.” (Surah al-Furqān 25:72)
Thus, according to the holy Qur’an when the righteous people pass by, where songs are being played, they pass in a dignified manner, uninfluenced and unimpressed by them.
A similar kind of verse appears in Surah Al-Mum’inūn, as well: “And who keep aloof from what is vain.” (Surah Al-Mum’inūn 23:3)
Both the above verses describe the qualities of a believer. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and later Imam Riďa (a.s.), have both explained the term “vain words” as follows: “Vain words imply music and singing and the true worshipers of Allah refrain from these.” (al-Kāfi)
5. Singing and hypocrisy
The sixth Holy Imam, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, “Listening to music, songs and useless words cultivate hypocrisy in the heart, in the same way as algae grows in water.” (al-Kāfi)
The same book, al-Kāfi mentions a tradition of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) that, “Singing and music is a nest for the bird called hypocrisy.”
The venue of a singing programme is a place where descends divine retribution. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “Do not even enter houses, the inhabitants of which are deprived of divine mercy.”
He (a.s.) is reported to have also said, “The house where music is played is not safe from sudden disasters. Supplications at such a place are not answered. Angels do not enter this place.” (al-Kāfi and Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
It has been established in the preceding chapter that when the divine punishment descends, it does not discriminate. The excuse, “Though we go to places where there is music and song, but we dislike it in our hearts”, seems unlikely to be acceptable. Dislike needs to be expressed by ones action, also. Songs and music should be discouraged.
7. Singing causes poverty
Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says, “Singing creates hypocrisy and causes poverty.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il, chapter 78)
8. Punishment for Singing
The Holy Prophet (S) has explicitly stated, “When the singer shall rise from his grave on the Day of Judgement, he will be blind, deaf and dumb.” (Jameal-Akhbār)
The traditions also state that the singer will be recognised by these very signs, i.e., blindness, deafness etc.
In another tradition Holy Prophet (S) is quoted to have said: “Molten lead shall be poured into the ears of one who listens to songs, intently.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
Deprived of Divine Mercy
Qutub al-Rawandi has recorded from the Holy Prophet (S), “The singer is from that group of people, who would not be looked upon with mercy by Allah on the Day of judgement.”
a fan of a singer
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “One who respects a speaker, becomes his slave. If the speaker calls towards Allah the listener worships Allah, but if he calls towards shaitan, the listener has worshipped shaitan.” (Furu al-Kāfi)
It is also narrated from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said, “Whenever a person begins singing, two satans mount on his shoulders and continue to hit their heels upon his chest, till the time he sings the song.”
Is the one kicked by the satans to be loved and admired?
Melodious sounds of Paradise
Hazrat Imam ‘Ali Ibn Musa ar-Riďa (a.s.) said, “One who avoids songs shall be provided by Allah, a tree, which will produce such a melodious sound as has never been heard by anyone. But the one who has not kept himself aloof from songs will not be able to hear this sound.” (al-Kāfi)
Beautiful songs in Heaven
The following tradition of Allah’s Messenger (S) is recorded in the book Tafsīr Majmaul Bayan, “One who has listened to too many songs will not be able to hear the Ruhānis on the Day of Qiyāma.”
“Who are the Ruhānis, O Prophet of Allah (S)?” someone asked.
The Prophet (S) replied, “They are the melodious singers of Heaven.”
A similar tradition from Hazrat ‘Ali (a.s.) is found in Nahjul Balagha, “Hazrat Dawūd (a.s.) will be the chief of the singers of Paradise.” (Nahjul Balagha)
The people will listen to such melodious songs from Hazrat Dawūd (a.s.) in Heaven, the like of which have never been heard by anyone. However only those who have refrained from listening to songs in this world would be able to hear them.
The Holy Prophet (S) says: “Calamities will befall my Umma as sinking of the earth and rain of stones.”
The people asked, “When would it happen?”
“When the instruments of music become common, singing girls are in great number and the use of intoxicants is widespread. By Allah, many people of my Umma will be such that they shall spend the night in merry-making and sensuality and in the daytime become like monkeys and pigs. It will be the consequence of considering the prohibited things permissible, they will be occupied with singing girls, frequently take intoxicants, devour interest and shall dress in clothes made of silk.”
Singing and fornication
Singing instigates one to commit fornication. The Holy Prophet (S) said: “Singing is the stepping stone to fornication.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
Songs are responsible for awakening the latent sensual desires of man, which are soon manifested. It is the same whether one sings a song or merely listens to it. He forgets Allah (S.w.T.) and is prepared to commit any kind of indecency.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “And all those wasteful pastimes are Harām which make one forgetful of Allah; like songs and playing musical instruments.”
Yes! Music makes one shameless and lacking in self-respect. It also destroys the feeling of love, compassion and mercy, reducing society to a nightmare.
Prohibition regarding songs and singing
There is no difference of opinion among the Shia jurists about the illegality of singing. It can be said that there is ‘ijma’ (unanimity) upon this point. The writer of the book, titled Mustanad says, “To consider singing and music ‘Harām’ is one of the necessities of faith. That is, if a Muslim says that singing is not Harām then he becomes a kafir.” According to the author of Izah, “the traditions that state that music and singing is Harām, are mutawatir (very numerous).”
However a slight difference of opinion exists, as to the meaning and connotation of the word ‘song’. The majority of the Mujtahids believe that any kind of sound, capable of creating a desire for joyful mirth and sensual feelings is a song; and it is Harām.
Reciting Qur’an in tune of songs
As we have stated earlier, it is Harām to recite Qur’an in the characteristics of songs. Similarly it is also Harām to recite Nauhas, Marsiya or Azān in this way; it is immaterial whether it is poetry or prose that is being recited. Rather, rendering of the sacred compositions into songs carries double punishments. One for the sin of singing songs and the other for causing disrespect to a sacred text.
Reciting Qur’an in a melodious voice
Every melodious sound is not a song. If Qur’an or Nauha is recited in a pleasant voice without unduly turning it in the throat, it is not Harām, rather it is desirable to do so. The Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said, “Recite the Qur’an in a pleasant voice, in the style of Arabs. You are ordered to avoid the transgressors and doers of greater sins. Certainly, such people will appear in the world who will recite the Qur’an in a singing manner to make the listeners emotional. It is not allowed to go near these people or to call them near you. The hearts of these people have deviated and those who are influenced by them shall also have their hearts deviated.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Pleasant voice and singing
While describing the signs of the arrival of the Day of Judgement, the Prophet of Allah (S) said: “Such kind of people will appear in the world that they would learn the Qur’an for worldly benefits and will recite it in a singing tune.”
However there are many traditions to the effect that reciting the Qur’an in a pleasant voice is Mustahab (recommended). However we must ensure that its tone is not that of singing.
Singing and music during weddings
Subject to the following Three conditions some of the Mujtahids have allowed women to sing on the occasion of marriages.
1. The first condition is that no grown-up men should be able to hear the singing. Not even those who are mahram (under the prohibited degree).
2. Secondly, the songs must not be loud and also must not be based on false statements.
3. And lastly, the singing must not be accompanied with any kind of music.
A few scholars have permitted playing of the small tambourine (tambourine is a drum with skin on only one of its sides). Shahīd al-Thani and Muhaqqiq al-Thani say that tambourine could be played in a wedding if it does not have tinkles around it.
However, precaution is desirable and hence on the occasion of weddings also women should avoid singing; the playing of tambourine should also be avoided. Shaykh Ansari (r.a.) quotes Shahīd al-Thani in the book, Makasib and Sayyid Murtadha says in his book Wasīla that, “Precaution is the way to salvation.”