What Is Music?
What Philosophy Exists
Behind Its Prohibition?
from the book
180 questions by Ayt Makarim Shirazi
There exists no difficulty and difference of opinion as far
as the issue of prohibition of music is concerned, however,
the difficulty lies in discriminating and discerning what is
Are all pleasant and melodious sounds, music?
Undoubtedly such is not the case for it has been reported in
the traditions that the Qur'an and the adhaan should be
recited in a pleasant and melodious voice; in addition, the
conduct of the Muslims too indicates likewise.
Is every such sound, which possesses tarjee’ (coming and
going of sound in the larynx, or technically speaking,
rolling of the sound in it), music? This too is not
The conclusion that can be drawn from the statements of the
(Shiite) jurists and the Sunnite scholars is that joyful
tunes that are bacchanalian, frivolous and futile in nature
are regarded as music.
Expressing it more lucidly, tunes that are commensurate with
wicked and immoral gatherings, and with corrupt and sinning
individuals, are classified as music.
In other words a tune, which stirs up the carnal passions
within man and he, in that state, considers consumption of
intoxicants and indulgence in sexual depravity alongside
that tune to be totally fitting and opportune, is called
It is significant to note that at times, in a composition,
the tune is music and essentially frivolous and futile, and
so also the wordings - like when romantic and immoral poems
are recited in the company of a ravishing tune; at other
times only the tune is music, like when Qur’anic verses,
supplications or poems of a lofty standard are recited in a
tune that is opportune to gatherings of the profligate and
immoral ones. Both forms are prohibited and forbidden (take
It is also necessary to mention that at times, music is
looked upon as possessing two meanings - the general meaning
and the specific one. The specific meaning is the meaning
that we have presented above – tunes, which stir up passions
within man and are germane to immoral and corrupt
gatherings. But the general meaning alludes to every
pleasant and melodious sound, and it is for this reason that
those, who view music in the general meaning, have divided
it into two categories, lawful and unlawful music - the
lawful music being the melodious sounds, which do not incite
immorality and are not appropriate with corrupt and evil
gatherings, whereas the unlawful music being the tunes,
possessing the characteristics mentioned above.
Thus, as far as the prohibition of music is concerned, there
exists no difference of opinion; the disagreement lies in
the manner in which it is interpreted.
Nevertheless, music, like every other concept, also
possesses forms which are dubious and doubtful such that at
times, a person fails to comprehend if a particular tune is
associated with immoral gatherings or not? In such cases, on
the basis of the Law of Baraa’t, it is regarded as being
lawful (of course, after possessing a sufficient awareness
of the conventional meaning of Thus, there appears no reason
to regard those heroic tunes and music, which are associated
with battle, sports or the like, as unlawful.
Nevertheless, there are other aspects too that are related
to this issue, such as exceptions to music, which have been
claimed by some but rejected by others, and which need to be
discussed in books of jurisprudence.
The final point which we feel ought to be mentioned here is
that the discussion presented above was with respect to
singing - however the issue of use of musical instruments
and the prohibition associated with it is one, which is
entirely different and beyond the scope of our present
The Philosophy Behind
the prohibition of Music
A careful study of the meaning
of music together with the conditions mentioned by us
clearly elucidates the philosophy that lies behind its
prohibition. A short study reveals the following evils
associated with it:
Encouragement Towards Moral Degradation
Experience, which is the best witness, has revealed that
numerous individuals, influenced by music, have abandoned
piety and turned towards lust and immorality. Musical
gatherings are usually centers of various evils and it is
music that serves to foment these evils. According to some
reports appearing in foreign newspapers, in a gathering, in
which a group of girls and boys had presented themselves, a
special music was played which induced such excitement
within them that rushing towards each other they began
indulging in such obscene acts that one is ashamed to even
make a mention of them.
The commentary Ruh Al-Ma’ani, narrates that one of the
elders of Bani Umayyah said to them: Stay away from music
for it reduces modesty, increases lust, shatters (one’s)
personality, is a successor and substitute for intoxicants
and leads to the same deeds, which arise out of inebriation.
This goes to show that even they had perceived its evils.
And if the Islamic traditions have repeatedly stated that
music fosters the ‘hypocritical soul’ within man, it is an
allusion to this reality, for a ‘hypocritical soul’ is a
soul that has become polluted as a result of depravity and
being distanced from piety. And if the traditions also state
that the angels do not enter into houses in which music is
played, it is because of this pollution and uncleanness, for
the angels are entities that are pure and seek pureness.
Heedlessness With Respect To The Remembrance Of God.
In some of the Islamic traditions, music has been
interpreted to mean lahw ( amusement, idle sport) - an
allusion to the fact that music intoxicates a person in lust
and passion to such an extent that it makes him heedless of
In a tradition from Imam A'li (peace be upon him) we read:
كُلُّ ماَ اَلهىَ
عَن ذِكرِ اللهِ فَهُوَ مِنَ الْمَيسر
(Every thing that causes man to become
unmindful of God, (and drowns him in lust) is a gamble.
Effects Upon The Nerves
In reality, music is one of the important factors that cause
narcosis of the nerves. Expressing it differently, at times
narcotics enter the body through the mouth, such as alcohol;
or by means of the faculty of smell, such as heroin; or as a
result of injection, like morphine; or, at times, by means
of the ears, such as music.
And it is for this reason that, at times, certain forms of
music lead people into such high spirits that they come to
possess a state similar to inebriety; of course, there are
also times when this state is not reached, but nevertheless
it does induce a state of mild stupor. And this is why many
of the evils of narcotics are also witnessed in music.
A close scrutiny of the biographies of celebrated musicians
would reveal that, in the course of their lives, they slowly
began to suffer from mental and psychological problems –
some of them became patients of psychological disorders;
some others, losing their aptitude and mental acumen,
entered into the realms of lunacy and insanity; a group
turned paralytic and helpless; and some others, while in the
course of their musical performance, suffered sudden cardiac
arrest due to an increase in blood-pressure.
Some of the books written in connection with the detrimental
effects of music upon the human nerves, while mentioning the
biographies of some of the distinguished and celebrated
musicians and singers, state that they, in the course of
their presentations, suffered a sudden stroke and died
instantly in that very gathering.
In short, the extent of the
harmful effects of music upon the human nerves - leading to
the frontiers of insanity, pressurizing the heart and the
blood, and other undesirable stimulations - are in such a
measure that there is no need for any protracted discussion.
The statistics of deaths and fatalities reveal a great
increase in sudden deaths in our era, as compared to the
past; several causes for this phenomenon have been
mentioned, one of them being the increase in song and music,
Music – one of the tools of the colonialists
The world colonialists have
always dreaded awareness on the part of the general masses -
especially the youths – and hence, a part of their extensive
programme for the continuation of colonialism focuses on
submerging societies into unawareness and ignorance, and
increasing unhealthy forms of amusement and entertainment.
Today, it is not just the commercial aspect which motivates
the narcotics trade but rather, it is an important political
tool in the politics of the colonialists. Establishment of
prostitution centers, gambling clubs and other unhealthy
forms of amusements are some of the other tools – one of the
most important amongst these being the expansion of the song
and musical domain; a tool, which they insist on utilizing
for anaesthetizing people’s thoughts and ideas. And it is
for this reason that music occupies a major portion of the
time of global radio services and is one of the principal
items associated with the programmes of mass media.
Tafseer Ruh Al-Ma’ani, vol. 21, pg. 60.
Wasaail al-Shia’h, vol. 12, pg. 235.
 Taatheer-e-Musiqee Bar Rawaan Wa Aa’saab, pg. 26.
pg. 92 onwards.
Tafseer-e-Namunah, vol. 17, pg. 22.
BACK TO MAIN PAGE