Islamic Studies

Muslims Gone Wild

Asalamu alaykum,

I was asked to comment on the hadith of Aiesha [ra], related by al-Bukhari and Muslim, that mentions the singing of songs on ‘Eid day and the “Dancing” of the Ethiopians in the Prophet’s masjid.

A few comments:

Regarding the hadith of ‘Aiesha about “entertainers” one should be very careful here in extrapolating a meaning that is not intended. It is found in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim with Muslim’s narration including the reference to the Ethiopians who “Danced” in the Prophet’s mosque. However this is, to say the least, a very problematic translation. First, the majority of the scholars who explained the text at hand such as:

Ibn al-Batal al-Maliki
Qadi ‘Iyad
al-Qurtubi in his al-Mufhim
Ibn Hajar

clearly state that what the Ethiopians were doing was “Sword play.” If any of you have been to the Gulf states you will still find such entertainment amongst the Arabs. It is graceful, breathtaking and truly, in all its glory, Arab. I say this because I’ve seen it and found it to be something remarkable. However, it is by no means equal to what Beyonce does, nor Shakira. For that reason the scholars got into a discussion surrounding one doing military exercises in the masjid. The outcome of this is that the general intent, behind the Ethiopians’ exercise was entertainment.

As for the two girls who were singing, what is clearly stated in the beginning of the hadith is that “Two young girls” played the duff and sang songs. It is understood from the word used, “jawari”, that these girls were not pubescent [see fath al-Bari]. Imam al-Tabarani even mentions their names and others made great strides to make that point clear. The songs that were sung were old songs of war between the Aws and the Khazraj. Scholars such as Ibn Hajar noted that Abu Bakr’s response was a form of istishab [meaning he understood the original ruling to be that of prohibition]. For that reason the Malikis hold that such acts are restricted to the ‘Eid celebration and Walimah. The majority of scholars, save a few, hold singing songs with instruments to be prohibited as well, save during those times and under certain conditions with certain instruments. This was also the opinion of some of the Companions [ra]. However, Ibn Hazim, as articulated by Sh. al-Qaradawi, Sh. al-Juda’y and Dr. Abdul Karim Zaydan hold that music is permissible. This is also the opinion of  other great scholars. However, that opinion has conditions:

1. That one does not become so engrossed in music that he/she neglect the Quran and remembrance of Allah. When practicing Muslims ask me about nashid and music, I personally enjoy using the response of Sh. al-Ghazzali [the recent one] who said, “let’s say that Music is Halal. Now, let us look at  the condition of the world and the Muslims in general. Who from amongst you has time to listen to music?” For that reason I think we have to differentiate between the well grounded, well experienced Muslim worker and someone who is coming back to the din. As our scholars said, “The worker is strict on himself and easy on others.”

2. That there are no words which go against the general guidelines of the Sacred Law.

3. Most held that a woman should not sing in front of strange men.

It should be noted that al-Ghazzali [ra] [the older one] held that Music that brought one closer to Allah, was acceptable.

Thus, there is no consensus on this issue and it is one that is open to interpretation. Therefore, there should be width in our dealing with it. However, as Sheikh al-Azhar Muhammad Khidir al-Hussein stated, “Very few issues exist where good and evil are clear. Most issues are a mix.” Thus, as the Prophet [sa] stated, “The Haram is clear and the Halal is clear and between them are issues of doubt which only a few people know about.” [a sound hadith found related by N’uman al-Bashir [ra]. Thus, issues of entertainment should be done under the guidance of the scholars because they fall under that delicate grey area that require training, for one to suspend his/her nafs and allow knowledge to take over. Although it is not easy to submit to the words of a scholar, it is safer for one’s Hereafter.

I’ve seen a number of recent Muslim films that contain some clear mistakes from a Shariah point of view. I’m not talking here about issues of flexibility, but extremely tight clothes on women and men and, in some sad situations, people making fun of our faith. These are issues that do not fall under fiqh of minorities, rukhas or taysir, these are issue in which there exist a clear agreement about their prohibition. We must understand that Islamic Work is based, first and foremost, on a disciplined commitment to Allah; avoiding what He prohibited and running towards what pleases Him. In the name of dawa, at times, if we are not careful, we could be following our desires. Thus, the safe way is to ask. Allah says, “Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.”

About the translation: To translate this statement using the a general word such as entertainers is dangerous as it gives a general meaning which is not found in the text. At the same time, as Ibn Ashur [ra] mentioned, this hadith points to the general permissibility for one to enjoy one’s self and relax during festive times. The safer, and correct method, is to consult the people of knowledge and insure that one’s entertainment is pleasing to Allah and His Messenger. There is an excellent book by Dr. Qaradawi on this subject where he lays out the conditions for such entertainment and fun.

Before someone tears my head off I would like to make it clear that these are only my thoughts on this issue. They could be wrong and subject to scrutiny. I’m not here to say I’m a super scholar or impose my opinions on others. I trust our leadership enough to know that they have gone through the right steps. However, as a person I have a right to express my opinion with adab, love and concern.

I ask Allah to bless us,


About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


  • Not to put too much of a damper on the subject, and not to invite to much controversy, but I personally wouldn’t accept the opinions of the scholars who said that music was permissible. With all due respect to them, and may Allah have Mercy on all of them, but some of the opinions of these scholars aren’t sound.

    Ibn Taymiyah (ra) referred to al Ghazali (ra) when he said: “If we assume that someone narrated the view of the salaf but what he narrated is far removed from what the view of the salaf actually is, then he has little knowledge of the view of the salaf, such as Abu’l-Ma’aali, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Khateeb and the like, who did not have enough knowledge of hadith to qualify them as ordinary scholars of hadith, let alone as prominent scholars in that field. For none of these people had any knowledge of al-Bukhari and Muslim and their hadiths, apart from what they heard, which is similar to the situation of the ordinary Muslim, who cannot distinguish between a hadiith which is regarded as sahih and mutawatir according to the scholars of hadith, and a hadith which is fabricated and false” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, part 4, p. 71) (see Wikipedia entry for Ghazzali).

    I have heard Imam Malik (ra) said that Imam Abu Hanifah (ra) was an “orphan” in hadith classification and Imam Bukhari never referred to him as a muhadith. Unfortunately, I do not have a reference.

    Sheikh Nasiruddin Albanee (ra) declared Qaradawi’s book “The Lawful and the Prohibited” to have far too many errors, and very many of Qaradawi’s fatwas and opinions conflict with those of the majority of the scholars.

    Furthermore, the vast majority of Salafi scholars consider musical intruments (except for the daff drum for little girls on special occasions such as Eid and weddings) to be haram. Vocals alone, however, are considered permissible as long as the content is free from anything unIslamic, and that one does not commit too much time or allow listening to become habitual and divert one’s attention from Qur’aan. I have found this opinion to be very consistent.

    For more information, see: *** *** (see “A look at Nasheed”).

    • How DARE you insult Imam al-A’dham (radi Allah anhu) like that! Imam Abu Hanifah (radi Allah anhu) is a giant in the field of hadith and you even insult Imam Malik and Imam Bukhari (radi Allah anhuma) by attributing this to them. Be careful when talking about the awliya of Allah, Allah does not like His beloveds to be insulted!

  • As salamu alaykum
    I have read Imam Ghazali’s Ihya the section on Sama and it seems that all Imam Ghazali is encouraging is the use of different kinds of drums along with Singing and possibly a partuicular type of flute. He states that stringed instuments are prohibited. Maybe you can shed some light on the actual position of imam Ghazali

  • Assalamu Alaikum,

    From my understanding, the context of this article is not to prove/disprove the permissibility of music. It is to encourage that no matter what effort one undertakes within the general vicinity of this art-form, one should consult the ‘ulama. In addition, it is to invalidate certain incorrect interpretations of certain ahadith, which have been used in ways that would not be in accordance with Islam.

    From the above:
    “The safer, and correct method, is to consult the people of knowledge and insure that one’s entertainment is pleasing to Allah and His Messenger.”

    inshAllah, when read in this context, it should help us to understand what the point is.

    wa alaikum assalam
    Abdul Sattar

  • Asalamualaikum wa rahmatallah,

    Jazakumallahu khairan Sh. Suhaib for the reminder to always refer to the Ulema and not make judgements on our own. If a person seeks out a reputable scholar, whom he trusts, then he takes from him, he has done right. You are right that many people make judgements on their own without reference to the Ulema. These ahadith are just a couple of the many examples.

    Also, I am glad you spoke out against the ridiculing of the religion that is sometimes used for humor. We need to take these things seriously, or else they may really hurt our relationship with Allah.

    In the West, we have many efforts that are being made to revive, or simply reach our youth who have lost touch with their deen, but if they are not built on Fiqh, they will be short-lived or not succeed, or end up on a new path that is not the path of our predecessors. Thus, all of our efforts need to fulfill two conditions to be successful: 1. Good intentions, and 2. Right action in accordance with the Sunnah (ie. in consultation with the Ulema.)

    I pray that your good words reach all those seeking to make efforts for Islam, and serve as a reminder to seek Fiqh in all of our endeavors for this deen.

  • As-Salaam ‘Alaykum

    Thanks for the guidelines on an issue in which my life has been steeped as far back as I can remember. I’m glad that I could proceed in a safe manner.

  • قَالَ رَجُلٌ لاِبْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رضي الله عنهما : مَا تَقُولُ فِي الغِنَاءِ ؟ أ حَلاَلٌ أمْ حَرَامٌ ؟ فَقَالَ : لاَ أقُولُ حَرَامًا إلاَّ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ فَقَالَ : أفَحَلاَلٌ هُوَ ؟ فَقَالَ : وَ لاَ أقُولُ ذَلِكَ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ : أرَأَيْتَ الحَقَّ وَ البَاطِلَ إذَا جَاءَ يَومُ القِيَامَةِ فَأيْنَ يَكُونُ الغِنَاءُ ؟ فَقَالَ الرَّجُلُ : يَكُونُ مَعَ البَاطِلِ فَقَالَ لَهُ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ : إذْهَبْ فَقَدْ أفْتَيْت نَفْسَكَ

    A man said to Ibn ‘Abbaas, may Allah be pleased with them both, “What do you say about music? Is it permissible or prohibited?” He said: {I do not say that it is prohibited except for what is in the Book of Allah.} So the man said, “So it is permissible then?” He said: {I did not say that either.} Then he added: {When the Day of Judgment comes and you see truth and falsehood (presented), where will music fit in?} The man said, “It will be with falsehood.” Ibn ‘Abbaas said to him: {Go, for you have given your self the ruling.}

  • JazakAllahu khairun for a much needed post.
    I think all in all it is safe to conclude, that at most (or min :p) music is a doubtful matter. And insha’Allah let us avoid that which is doubtful 🙂

  • This reminds me of the famoud mortgage fatwa, which included several conditions and recommendations, one of which is that Muslims buy homes clsoe to the masjid to develop their communities and neighborhoods. Of course, it was taken as a license to buy the dream home in a subdivision 20 minutes from the closest masjid.

    But on this topic, does “art” take the same ruling as “entertainment”? Does artistic expression with social value and commentary have any more leeway than the aforementioned jiggling starlets? I think this is one of the reasons that young people do not listen to sheikhs on these issues. They (young people) sense that there is no appreciation for what they really value in music, media, etc.

  • Go perform salat and memorize quran which are much better than nasheed for your account of your day of judgment.

    Alhamdulillah our scholars who are upon the manhaj of salaf has clarified this issue for us. Please do beneficial for your limited time in here, learn tauhid and sunna.

    I couldnt say better than aboo imraan (strong quote), shariif (good post) may Allah reward you both.

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Sh. Yusuf al-Qaradawi responded to the insightful commentary of Sh. Alban [ra]. One of the most stricking points made was that many of the hadith declared Da’if by Sh. Al-Bani in Sh. Yusuf’s book, Sh. al-Bani declared Sahih in his own books? This take nothing away from Sh. Al-Bani’s greatness, nor his scholarship. However, as many have stated, perhaps we need a tahqiq of his tahqiq. There is an article on this site that explains the position of some of the scholars towards Sh. Albani’s work. I would enourage you all to read it. Thanks for your important comments. Finally, about Imam Abu Hanifa, if you are not able to refrence such a quote, then you should shouldn’t quote it. I would encourage you to read al-Dhabiy’s siyar or any other major biographical work on the scholars. Inshallah, by doing so, your contention about the Imam will be corrected. May Allah reward you all for your comments.


  • Ustadh Akram Nadwi has recently published a book entitled Al-Fiqh Al-Islami on the Hanafi Madhab giving sound evidences from the ahadith on Imam Abu Hanifa’s fiqh. Look it up at:

    Interestingly, the word fiqh means ‘understanidng’. it is not the rule itself. It is the understanding of the rules. In other wordst is the ‘fiqh’ or understanding of the scholars, and scholars’ understanding can be right or wrong. They have no divine status.

  • As-salamu alaikum,
    To my dear brothers who are beating their chests with the minhaj of the salaf talk. Let us realize the implications of us saying what was the manhaj of the salaf based upon what SOME scholars interpreted as to what was their manhaj and/or opinion on certain issues and exluding others scholars understanding.

    On this subject if there was an Ijma’a it would be known thus being the opinion of the salaf in toto and an establsihed ruling in Islam
    ما علم من الدين بالضرورة.

    It is easy to say what was the aqeedah of the salaf, but a much more difficult task as far as fiqh hence the 4 established madhhabs through 13 centuries.

    As far as the establsihed principles اتقوا الشبهات أو الخروج من الاختلاف مستحب
    Sٍtaying away from doubtful matters and Steering clear of matters of disagreement thus taking the opinon closer to taqwa.
    Suhaib indirectly mentioned them.

    The point is that it is not for us to say that someone who listened to music which DOESN’T lead one astray (leaving salah, not seeking knowledge/loosing thier Muslim identity, wasting much of their time in it etc..) is on munkar. But we can call them to what we see is better and the rest is in Allah’s hands most importantly ours and their judgmnet.

    Da’wa is done in stages just as Allah did in revealing the Qur’an. If you have reached the understanding that music is Haram then more power to you as it is well known that none of the early generations were listening to music, but we can’t expect everyone to be Sahaba especially when first calling them to Islam. This goes aginst the whole understanding we get from reading the seerah and how Allah and His Messenger (saws) changed the arabs oever 23 years.

    And Allah knows best

  • Asalamu alaikum,

    Jazakullahu Khairan Ustadh for this small taste of the scholarly discourse regarding such a crucial topic. One thing I would like to bring to light is the ever-growing popularity of music at our Islamic gatherings, particularly our conferences. Likewise, we see many of our performing artists (some of whom raised us with their children songs) adopting more controversial musical instruments into their songs.

    Regarding these matters I think we should leave all Fiqhi contention aside and simply value and respect the opinions and values that many of the Muslim population contain regarding music. It is a lot more harmful to disrespect the sensitivities of a large population of Muslims by playing controversial music than LEAVING out music from our public performances. You don’t offend anyone by leaving music out, but you DO offend people by playing music at our events. So given this understanding, I think our major organizations and their gatherings should be mindful of such sensitivities.

    I apologize for not being too articulate with my writing, but I pray I made sense.

    Jazakumallahu khairan,

  • Assalamu alaikum

    Esteemed Sheikh.I am bit confused as to your interpretation of Ethiopians dance as swords play.
    What the Ethiopians did can never be compared to what the so called dancers of our age is doing…however
    I have never come across (may be I am wrong) any Ethiopians playing with Swords the way Arabs do,the Ethiopians dancing is unique and that’s why they are performing..otherwise why would Arabs (experts in Sword play) watch Ethiopians in the first place?

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