Rules concerning playing Musical instruments

Question 110: Assalamu Alaikum! What is the Shi’a stand on musical instruments, I started out as Sunni and was told I could not play them, thanks in advance for you time! Allahu Akabar!

Answer 110: In any given scenario, the obligation of a jurist lies not in dictating the ruling pertaining to a particular scenario, but rather providing a general ruling. After which, the general public is left with the responsibility of practically applying that ruling. Having said this, if a musical instrument isn’t exploited in a haraam manner, its use would not be considered haraam. The legitimacy in using these musical instruments lies in their method of application. In other words, when determining if using a musical instrument is halaal, one should consider the kind of music being played and the environment it is suited to. If the music played is becoming of immoral and corrupt gatherings, it would be deemed haraam. If this isn’t the case, such music would be considered halaal. Furthermore, it is possible for a particular instrument to have been considered at one time an instrument of haraam due to its common use in haraam gatherings. However, in another time, the same instrument may lose that characteristic of being a tool of haraam, and its use – along with the music created by it – would be considered halaal.

Sayyid Sistani (ha) says: music is an art that has spread far and wide during these days. Some varieties of this art are permissible while others are forbidden; therefore, it is permissible to listen to the first while it is forbidden to listen to the latter.

Music that is permissible is the music that does not entail entertainment in gatherings held for that purpose. Forbidden music is the music that is suitable for entertainment and amusement gatherings.

The expression “the music or the song that is suitable for entertainment and amusement gatherings” does not mean that the music or the song’s tune amuses the heart or changes the mental state because there is nothing wrong in it. The expression actually means that the person listening to the music or the song’s tune —especially if he is an expert in these matters— can distinguish that this tune is used in the entertainment and amusement gatherings or that it is similar to the tunes used therein. (See the question-answer section below.)

It is permissible to visit places where halãl music is being played, and it is permissible to listen to it as long as it is halãl.

It is permissible to visit public places where music is being played, even if it is suitable for entertainment and amusement gatherings, provided that one does not intentionally listen to it: for example, passengers on course, waiting areas for visitors, public parks, restaurants and cafes, etc —even if the music played there is suitable for entertainment and amusement gatherings— because there is no problem in hearing forbidden tunes without intending to listen to it.

It is permissible for adults as well as children to learn the art of halãl music in music schools or other places as long as their visits to such places do not have any negative effect on their proper upbringing.

Singing (al-ghinã’) is harãm: doing it, listening to it, or living of it. By “singing — al-ghinã’,” I mean an amusing statement expressed in the tunes that are suitable for those who provide entertainment and amusement.

It is not permissible to recite the Holy Qur’ãn, supplications (du‘ãs), and words of praise in tunes that are commensurate to entertainment and amusement gatherings.

Based on obligatory precaution, one must refrain from reciting other non-amusing statements, in poetry or prose, in that tune. (See the question-answer section below.)

The prohibition of intentionally listening and giving ear to harãm songs and music has beenmentioned in the holy tradition. The Messenger of Allãh (s.a.w.) said, “And the person with the [sin of] singing (al-ghinã’) will be raised [on the day of resurrection] blind, deaf and dumb. The person with [the sin of] adultery, of wood-wind, and of drum will also be raised in the same way.”[1]

He also said, “Whoever listens to the entertainment (song and music), lead will be melted inside his ear on the Day of Judgment.”[2] He also said, “Singing and music are enchantment for adultery.”[3] That is, it is a stepping stone or a way that leads to adultery. It is permissible for a woman to dance in front of her husband to please and arouse him. But it is not permissible for her to dance in front of other men; based on obligatory precaution, she must not dance in front of other women also. (See the question-answer section below.)

It is permissible to applaud in a marriage ceremony, religious gatherings, seminars, and other functions. This is equally permissible for women and men[4]. [5]

For further information in this regards, please read the following answer:

Index: Rules concerning music use in graduation party, answer 087.

[1] . As-Sayyid al-Khu’I, al-Masa’ilu ‘sh-Shar’iyya, vol. 2, p. 22.

[2] . Ibid.

[3] . Ibid, p. 23.

[4] . The official website of the office of Sayyid Sistani (ha), rules concerning Music, singing & dancing » General Rules.

[5] . Adopted from answer 087 (Index: Rules concerning music use in graduation party).