Sufis and Music


Dear Sufi Brothers and Sisters,

I am living in the UK, I know to live in the Western countries is a great spiritual challenge. Thus having Muslims meet together and perform spiritual practices is a very great job, and is a solace for the souls. I want to thank you for your great activities. However, I have noticed that you are using musical instruments like guitar which is not permitted in Islam, especially for Sufis is a little bit strange to use. Could you please explain why are using these musical instruments, or is there any proof for legality of using them.

Kind regards


Wa `alaykum salam,

Some `ulama have allowed musical instruments in limited circumstances, when the music is not in any way sexually tempting or inciteful to drinking and sin.

For the fatwa see Shaykh Qardawi’s fatwa online here.

We cite from it here:

In addition to this, the people of Madinah, who were very pious and God-fearing, the Zahiriyyah, who were very literal regarding the textual proofs, and the Sufis, who were very strict and rigid, were all quoted to have declared the permissibility of singing.

Imam Ash-Shawkani says in his book Nayl Al-Awtar, “The people of Madinah and those who agreed with them from among the Zahiriyyah and the Sufis maintain that singing is permissible, even when it is accompanied by a musical instrument such as the lute or the flute. Abu Mansur Al-Bughdadi Ash-Shafi`i narrate that ..Abdullah Ibn Ja`far saw nothing wrong in singing, and he, himself, used to compose the music for his own slaves who used to sing these melodies in his presence. This took place during the time of Commander of the Faithful, `Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Abu Ja`far Al-Bughdadi narrates the same after Al-Qadi Shurayh, Sa`id Ibn Al-Musaiyb, `Ata’ Ibn Abu Rabah, Az-Zuhri and Ash-Shi`bi.”

Ar-Ruwaiyani narrates on the authority of Al-Qaffal that Malik Ibn Anas maintained that singing with musical instruments is permissible. Also, Abu Mansur Al-Furani quotes Malik as maintaining that playing the flute is permissible.

Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir narrates, “The people of Madinah never disputed over the permissibility of playing the lute.”

Ibn An-Nahwi narrates in his “Al-`Umdah”: “Ibn Tahir said, ‘The people of Madinah showed consensus over this (issue). Also, all the Zahiriyyah maintained the same.'”

Al-Mawardi attributes the permissibility of playing the lute to some of the Shafi..i followers and students. This has been narrated also by Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir after Abu Ishaq Ash-Shirazi; and it is narrated by Al-Isnawi after Ar-Ruwaiyani and Al-Mawardi. Again, this is narrated by Al-Adfuwi after Sheikh `Izz Ad-Deen Ibn `Abd As-Salam. It is also narrated after Abu Bakr Ibn Al-`Arabi.

All these scholars consider singing that is accompanied by musical instruments permissible, but as for singing that is not accompanied by musical instruments, Al-Adfuwi says, “In some of his jurisprudence-related books, Al-Ghazali narrates the consensus of the scholars on its permissibility.”

You may also ask the same question of our respected brothers who do sing to the accompaniment of instruments, such as Yusuf Islam, Maher Zain, Sami Yusuf and others.

Yusuf Islam states on his website:

There are some references to musical instruments in certain reported sayings, but the definition is not clear as to exactly what instruments the word, ma’azif (the word quoted in the Hadith) refers to in the most authentic source, Al-Bukhari. It is well known that the Prophet (peace be upon him) allowed the drum and even the flute to be played in his presence without ordering them to be broken or destroyed, so it leaves a question open.

Taher Siddiqui

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