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Prophetic Sayings on Music
Social Issues
Manzoor ul Hassan
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)


Music was one of the favourite cultural traditions of the Arabs in the days of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). Music and musical instruments were frequently used in worship rituals. It was also employed in the expression of delight and sorrow. Music accompanied wars and festivals too. A study of the traditions ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) reveals that not only did he express his likeness for Music but he also encouraged others to play it on festive occasions. Some reliable narratives in this regard make it clear that the mother of the believers, ‘A%’ishah (rta) listened to songs in the very presence of the Holy Prophet (sws). The Holy Prophet (sws) himself is reported to have encouraged people to use music on wedding ceremonies. On his migration from Makkah to Madinah, the women sang welcome songs on the Daff and the Holy Prophet (sws) expressed his approbation of this. At another occasion, a professional female singer and musician approached him and requested him to listen to her song. The Holy Prophet (sws) not only himself listened to her song but also took ‘A%’ishah (rta) to listen to her. The mother of the believers leaned on the Holy Prophet’s (sws) shoulders and enjoyed the performance for a considerable time. During journeys, the Messenger of God showed his likeness for the Hida, a kind of desert song. He is also reported to have appointed a Hadi for his camels who was endowed with a very sweet sound. He also emphasized beating the Daff in order to announce Nikah. Various traditions have been recorded in the books of Hadith on these issues. A study of some of these traditions follows.

i. Music on the ‘Id  Festivals

عن عائشة قالت: دخل علي رسول الله وعندي جاريتان تغنيان بغناء بعاث فاضطجع على الفراش وحول وجهه ودخل أبو بكر فانتهرني وقال مزمارة الشيطان عند النبي فأقبل عليه رسول الله عليه السلام فقال دعهما فلما غفل غمزتهما فخرجتا

Narrates ‘A’ishah (rta): The Messenger (sws) of God came to my residence while two female singers were singing the songs of Bu‘ath.1 The Holy Prophet (sws) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Meanwhile Abu Bakr (rta) entered and [seeing the singers] rebuked me thus: ‘Satanic musical instruments in the presence of the Holy Prophet (sws)?’ On hearing this God’s Messenger (sws) turned towards him and said: ‘Let them [sing and rejoice]’. When Abu Bakr was engaged in some other business, I signaled to the girls [to go out] and they left. It was on the ‘Id day.2 (Bukhari, No: 907)

  • We can conclude from this narrative the following points:

  • The Mother of the believers, ‘A’ishah (rta), was listening to songs on ‘I%d day.

  • The songs were being sung in the residence of the Holy Prophet (sws).

  • A professional singer was performing.3

  • The song was not a hymn to God; rather a relic of a war fought before the advent of Islam.

  • The mother of the believers did not stop listening to the song even after the Holy Prophet had arrived.

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) did not forbid her from listening to the song.

  • He did not stop the female singers either.

  • He himself was not attracted to the performance but he must have heard the song as he could hear Abu Bakr’s comments.

  • Abu Bakr (rta) condemned the practice at first sight and declared that these were satanic instruments.

  • When he tried to stop the singers and censure the listeners, the Holy Prophet (sws) stopped him from doing so.

The report evidently proves that the Holy Prophet (sws) allowed singing music during religious festivals. This is evidenced by the fact that Holy Prophet’s (sws) wife enjoyed singing and music. Although Abu Bakr (rta) tried to stop the function, the Holy Prophet (sws) did not interfere with it, and let the performers and the audience enjoy themselves. Therefore, in light of this evidence we can conclude that music can justifiably be considered allowable in Islam.

The following narrative also deals with the issue:

عن أم سلمة قالت دخلت علينا جارية لحسان بن ثابت يوم فطر ناشرة شعرها معها دف تغني فزجرتها أم سلمة فقال النبي دعيها يا أم سلمة فإن لكل قوم عيدا وهذا يوم عيدنا

Umm-i-Salamah narrates: A slave girl belonging to Hassan Ibn Thabit (rta) came to us on ‘I%d al Fitr. Her hair was unkempt and she carried a tambourine and was singing [some song]. Umm-i-Salamah rebuked her. But the Holy Prophet (sws) said to her: ‘Ummi-i-Salamah, let her [sing and rejoice]. Certainly every nation has an ‘I%d and this day is our ‘Id’. (Mu‘jam Al-Kabir, No: 558)

ii. Music on Wedding Ceremonies

عن بن عباس قال أنكحت عائشة ذات قرابة لها من الأنصار فجاء رسول الله فقال أهديتم الفتاة قالوا نعم قال أرسلتم معها من يغني قالت لا فقال رسول الله إن الأنصار قوم فيهم غزل فلو بعثتم معها من يقول أتيناكم أتيناكم  فحيانا وحياكم

Narrates Ibn ‘Abbas: ‘A’ishah (rta) arranged the marriage of a close Ansari girl. The Holy Prophet (sws) also came to attend the ceremony. He inquired from the people: ‘Have you sent forth the bride?’ ‘Yes’, they replied. ‘Did you send any singer with her?’ He asked. ‘A’ishah (rta) replied in the negative. The Holy Prophet (sws) then remarked: ‘The Ansar cherish singing. It would be better that you sent along with her a singer who would sing’4 

‘We have come to you; we have joined you. Peace be upon us. Peace be upon you.’5 (Ibn Majah, No: 1900)

The narrative delineates the following points:

  • The way the Holy Prophet (sws) inquired about singing and playing music on this occasion reveals that it was customary for the Arabs to send a singer with the bride when sent to join the bridegroom.

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) was not pleased to hear that the custom was abandoned on that occasion.

  • He encouraged people to adhere to the custom.

  • He suggested some couplets to be recited on such occasions though he did not sing them.

  • He referred to the characteristics of the Ansar and did not express his disapproval of the same.

The narrative proves that the Holy Prophet (sws) approved of singing and playing music on marriage ceremonies. Some other versions of the narrative reveal that the Prophet (sws) noticed that there was no singing or music being played in the house where the marriage ceremony was being conducted. He felt strange and inquired about the reason. Consider the following text of the narrative:

عن عائشة قالت كان في حجري جارية من الأنصار فزوجتها قالت فدخل علي رسول الله يوم عرسها فلم يسمع غناء ولا لعبا فقال يا عائشة هل غنيتم عليها أو لا تغنون عليها ثم قال ان هذا الحي من الأنصار يحبون الغناء

‘A’ishah (rta) reports: An Ansari girl lived under my guardianship and I arranged her marriage. The Holy Prophet (sws) came to my house on the day she was married and did not hear any songs or any other joyful activities. [Observing this] he asked of me: ‘Did you people sing to her or not?’ ‘This is the tribe of the Ansar who like singing,’ he added. (Ibn Hibban, No: 5875)

iii. Use of Music on Joyous Occasions

عن ابن عائشة لما قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم المدينة جعل النساء وصبيان يقلن:

طلع البدر علينا

من ثنيات الوداع

وجب الشكر علينا

ما دعا لله داع

أيها المبعوث فينا

جئت با لأمر المطاع

Ibn ‘A’ishah narrates: When the Holy Prophet (sws) came to Madinah, the women and the children started singing: ‘The Moon has risen upon us from the hillocks of Wida‘. We eowe gratitude [to God] as long as those who call God continue doing so. O Prophet (sws) you have brought a religion that is worthy to be followed’.6


2. عن أنس بن مالك أن النبي مر ببعض المدينة فإذا هو بجوار يضربن بدفهن ويتغنين ويقلن:

نحن جوار من بني النجار

يا حبذا محمد من جار

فقال النبي الله يعلم إني لأحبكن

Narrates Anas Ibn Malik: [Having entered the city], the Holy Prophet (sws) passed through a certain part of the town. Suddenly some slave girls appeared singing on the Daff the following ditty: ‘We are the slave girls of Bani Najjar.7 How lucky! This day the Holy Prophet (sws) has come to be our neighbor’. At this the Holy Prophet (sws) remarked: ‘God knows that I love you people’8 (Ibn Majah, No: 1899)

These narratives deal with the Holy Prophet’s arrival in Madinah after his migration from Makkah. Their content can be summarized in the following points:

  • The Holy Prophet’s arrival in Madinah was an extremely joyous occasion.

  • People expressed their joy by singing joyous songs.

  • Slave girls were also from among the singers.

  • They had musical instruments to play with their songs.

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) and the Companions (rta) heard these songs but they did not express their disapproval.

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) expressed his love and kindness for singing women.

These and other similar narratives sufficiently prove that when the Holy Prophet (sws) reached Madinah after his migration from Makkah, he received a warm welcome. The city had a festive appearance. Every one was filled with joy on the Holy Prophet’s arrival. Women, slave girls, singing women and children expressed their joy by singing welcome songs and playing the Daff. The Holy Prophet (sws) appreciated this. Therefore, one cannot deny the fact that the Holy Prophet (sws) sanctioned celebrating joyous occasion by singing melodies using musical instruments.

iv. Use of Music during Travels:

عن سلمة بن الأكوع رضي الله عنه قال خرجنا مع النبي إلى خيبر فسرنا ليلا فقال رجل من القوم لعامر يا عامر ألا تسمعنا من هنيهاتك وكان عامر رجلا شاعرا حداء فنزل يحدو بالقوم يقول:

اللهم لولا أنت ما اهتدينا

ولا تصدقنا ولا صلينا

فاغفر فداء لك ما اتقينا

وثبت الأقدام إن لاقينا

وألقين سكينة علينا

إنا إذا صيح بنا أبينا

وبالصياح عولوا علينا

  فقال رسول الله من هذا السائق قالوا عامر بن الأكوع قال يرحمه الله

Narrates Salama Ibn Al-Akwa‘: ‘We set off for Khaybar in the company of the Holy Prophet (sws) at night. A man from the group said to ‘Amir: ‘O ‘Amir, would not you let us hear your poetry?’ ‘Amir who was a Hida poet got down and started reciting for the people [the following verses]: ‘O God, were not it for your guidance, we could not have been able to offer the Salah and pay the Zakah. So please forgive our sins that [we have committed] and the ones we may commit in future. We are ready to offer our lives for your cause. Grant us perseverance when faced [with the enemy] and pour down your mercy upon us. [We are the people] who refuse to surrender when the enemy challenges us to fight. And [we leave them] to cry for help against us’.

The Holy Prophet asked: ‘Who is that signer?’ They replied: ‘‘A^mir bin Al-Akwa‘’. ‘God bless him’, prayed the Holy Prophet (sws)9. (Bukhari, No: 3960)

We learn from the narrative that:

  • The Companions were along with the Holy Prophet (sws) on his way to Khaybar.

  • Some of the Companions requested ‘A%mir (rta) to sing from his Hida (i.e. song sung primarily to drive camels, which correspond to their walk). He complied with the request and began his recitation with such a loud voice that the Holy Prophet (sws) could hear him.

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) inquired about the singer approvingly.

  • Since he had recited good verses the Holy Prophet (sws) prayed for him.

Hida is a form of the desert poetry. The verses in this kind of poetry are rhymed corresponding to the pace of the footsteps of the camels. Ancient Arab camel drivers would sing this kind of poetry while travelling through the desert. Though the primary purpose of this singing was to encourage the camels to walk speedily yet the camel drivers themselves enjoyed it a lot. Many Hadith narratives refer to this practice of the time and evidently prove that the Holy Prophet (sws) and his Companions would enjoy this kind of poetry.

According to other narratives on the same subject, the Holy Prophet (sws) had appointed Anjashah, who had a very pleasing voice, to serve as a Hadi (i.e. camel driver) during his travels in the desert. During one of the travels, the camels started to pace very quickly affected by the sweetness of his sound. The Holy Prophet (sws) stopped him lovingly from singing Hida. He asked the singer not to force the beasts to walk at a faster pace so that female riders do not fall down. ‘Anas Ibn Malik reports:

كان للنبي حاد يقال له أنجشة وكان حسن الصوت فقال له النبي رويدك يا أنجشة لا تكسر القوارير قال قتادة يعني ضعفة النساء 

The Holy Prophet had a Had, Anjashah. He had a very sweet sound. [During one of his journeys] the Holy Prophet (sws) said to him: ‘Slow down, Anjashah, lest you should break the delicate goblets. Qatadah explained that the Prophet (sws) was referring to delicate women. (Bukhari, No: 5857)

According to the scholars Hida’ definitely is a type of singing. Dr. Jawwad Ali writes:

ولحداء هو من اقدم انواع الغناء عند العرب و يغنى به في الاسفار خاصة ولا زال على مكانته و مقامه في البادية حتى اليوم. و يتغنى به في المناسبات المحزمة أيضا لملائمة نغمته مع الحزن. و قد كان للرسول حادى هو البراء بن مالك بن النضر الأنصاري و كان حداء للرجال. و كان له حداء آخر, يقال له انجشة الحادي و كان جميل الصوت أسود, و كان يحدو للنساء النبي, و كان غلاما للرسول.

Hida is of the oldest type of singing in Arabia that was specifically used during travels and is still used in contemporary Bedouin society. Besides, since the Hida songs suit sorrowful situation, this type of singing was used in mourning etc. as well. The Holy Prophet (sws) got a Hida singer appointed for him called Al-Barra’ Ibn Malik Ibn Nadar Al-Ansari who would drive camels for male riders. Another Had of his was Anjashah who had a very melodious tone. He was a black slave of the Holy Prophet (sws) who was employed to serve as a Had for the camels of the wives of the Holy Prophet (sws).10

He further writes:

والحداء هو في الواقع غناء أهل البادية, … هذا النوع من الغناء مما يتناسب مع لحن البوادي و نغمها الحزينة البسيطة التي تطرب بها طبيعة البداوة نفس الأعراب

Al-Hida’ actually is the singing used among the desert dwellers … this kind of singing corresponds with the tones cherished by the desert dwellers and also with their simple and natural mourning songs that please the nomadic tastes of these Bedouins.11

Ibn Khaldun writes in his book, Muqaddamah, that the basic purpose of Hida was not only to please the caravan members but also to urge the camels to proceed faster.

This feeling of joy is even found in speechless animals not to mention humans.  Therefore we see that the camels respond to the Hida of the riders, and the horses are affected by the whistles and shrill sounds. We already know that animals receive effects of the songs if they are rhythmical, and correspond to the rules governing the art of music.12

v. Musical Instruments

عن الربيع بنت معوذ قالت دخل علي النبي غداة بني علي فجلس على فراشي كمجلسك مني وجويريات يضربن بالدف يندبن من قتل من آبائهن يوم بدر حتى قالت جارية وفينا نبي يعلم ما في غد فقال النبي لا تقولي هكذا وقولي ما كنت تقولين

Narrates Rabi‘, daughter of Mu‘wwadh: On the occasion of my transfer to my husband’s home after marriage, the Holy Prophet (sws) came to visit us and sat down on my bed just as you [the next narrator] are sitting before me now. Some slave girls were beating the Daff and singing in lamentation of their forefathers who had been killed during the battle of Badr. Then one of the girls sang: ‘Among us is the Prophet (sws) who knows even what will happen in coming days’. At this, the Holy Prophet (sws) said: ‘Do not say this, but go on singing.13 (Bukhari, No: 3779)

We learn from the narrative that:

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) attended a marriage ceremony where some slave girls were singing.

  • Singing was not stopped on his arrival.

  • The singers used the Daff with their singing.

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) heard them [this is evident from the fact that he stopped them from uttering certain words.]

  • He however ordered them to continue with what they were singing before.

This effectively proves that the Holy Prophet (sws) did not impose any restriction on using the Daff, a common musical instrument used in that society. Keeping in view the information we received through the above mentioned narratives we can conclude that Arabs of the times of the Holy Prophet (sws) would use musical instrument to accompany their singing on joyous occasions. This has been done in the presence of the Holy Prophet (sws) to which he did not object. Some other narratives even tell us that the Holy Prophet (sws) even ordered the people to use musical instruments at the occasion of marriage.

قال رسول الله فصل بين الحلال والحرام الدف والصوت في النكاح 

The Holy Prophet (sws) said: ‘the only thing that distinguishes the allowable act (i.e. Nikah) from the forbidden one (fornication) is the beat of the tambourine and open declaration of the Nikah.14 (Ibn Majah, No: 1896)

The Daff no doubt is an old musical instrument to be played by hand, which remained in use from ancient times. In this regard, Dr. Jawwad ‘Ali writes:

The Daff is one of the most well known primitive musical instruments. It is used to express joy and high spirit. Women also play it. The Arabs would commonly use it on their most joyous occasions. When the Holy Prophet (sws) reached Madinah he was welcomed with the singing of songs and playing of the Daff. Usually, the Arabs would use it on joyful ceremonies like weddings, and would sing songs along with it.15

The Bible also contains references to the Daff as a musical instrument at various occasions. One of the Urdu Bible dictionaries, Qamus Al-Kitab, defines the instrument thus:

It was a kind of narrow hoop musical instrument which was held in [one] hand and played [by striking it with the other.] It was used to create rhythm while singing and dancing. It would offer much cheerfulness in celebrations and processions.16

vi. Art of Music

عن السائب بن يزيد أن امرأة جاءت إلى رسول الله فقال يا عائشة تعرفين هذه قالت لا يا نبي الله قال هذه قينة بني فلان تحبين أن تغنيك فغنتها 

Narrates Sa’ib Ibn Yazid: A woman came to the Holy Prophet (sws). He asked ‘A’ishah (rta): ‘Do you know her?’ ‘No, O Prophet (sws) of God’ she replied. ‘This is the female professional singer of such and such tribe. Do you want her to sing to you?’ So the woman sang for her.17 (Bayhaqi, No: 8940)

We learn from the narrative:

  • A woman connected with the art of music18 came to the Holy Prophet (sws).

  • She expressed her desire to sing to ‘A’ishah (rta)

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) did not express dislike for this nor did he rebuke her.

  • He introduced her to ‘A’ishah (rta).

  • With the permission from the Holy Prophet (sws), the singer sang to ‘A’ishah (rta).

The narrative evidences that the Holy Prophet (sws) did not consider singing evil in its nature. Had it been the case he would have hindered the woman from doing so or at least he would not have allow ‘A’ishah (rta) to listen to her song. Some other narratives tell us that such professional singers and dancers, both men and women, were common among the Arabs of that time, and the Holy Prophet (sws) did not deem it undesirable to enjoy their performance.

Consider the following narratives:

عن عائشة قالت كان رسول الله جالسا فسمعنا لغطا وصوت صبيان فقام رسول الله فإذا حبشية تزفن والصبيان حولها فقال يا عائشة تعالي فانظري فجئت فوضعت لحيي على منكب رسول الله فجعلت أنظر إليها ما بين المنكب إلى رأسه فقال لي أما شبعت أما شبعت قالت فجعلت أقول لا لأنظر منزلتي عنده إذ طلع عمر قال فارفض الناس عنها قالت فقال رسول الله إني لأنظر إلى شياطين الإنس والجن قد فروا من عمر

Narrates ‘A’ishah (rta): The Holy Prophet (sws) was present among us when suddenly we heard children creating noise. The Holy Prophet (sws) stood up. [We found out] that a black slave woman was dancing encircled by children. The Holy Prophet (sws) [called me] saying: ‘‘A’ishah (rta), come and watch’. I came [to him] placed my chin over the Prophet’s shoulders and watched through the space between his shoulders and head. The Holy Prophet (sws) asked many times: ‘Have you not got enough of it?’ In order to know how he cares for me I continued replying in the negative. Meanwhile ‘Umar (rta) came and the gathering disbursed [seeing him]. At this the Holy Prophet commented: ‘I see that the devils from among the Jinn and the humans have fled at ‘Umar arrival.’ 19 (Tirmidhi, No: 3691)

حدثنا عبد الله بن بريدة عن أبيه أن النبي قدم من بعض مغازيه فأتته جارية سوداء فقالت يا رسول الله إني كنت نذرت إن ردك الله سالما أن أضرب بين يديك بالدف فقال إن كنت نذرت فاضربي قال فجعلت تضرب فدخل أبو بكر رضي الله عنه وهي تضرب ثم دخل عمر رضي الله عنه فألقت الدف تحتها وقعدت عليه فقال رسول الله إن الشيطان يخاف منك يا عمر 

Abdullah Ibn Buridah narrates on the authority of his father: The Holy Prophet (sws) returned from some of his military expeditions. A black slave girl approached him and said: ‘I had vowed to beat the Daff before you if God brought you back unhurt’. The Holy Prophet replied: ‘If you have, then proceed’. She started beating the Daff. Meanwhile Abu Bakr (rta) came and she continued beating it. Later when ‘Umar (rta) came she covered her instrument under herself as soon as she saw him. At this the Holy Prophet (sws) commented: ‘‘Umar, even Satan fears you’. (Bayhaqi, No: 19888)

The overall situation depicted in the above narratives makes it clear that the word ‘Habshiyyah’ and ‘Jariyyah Sawda’u’ connote professional singer slave-girl. For it would not be possible for a common lady to perform before the general public.

The word ‘Qaynah’ in the above mentioned narrative from Sunan Al-Bayhaqi connotes a professional female singer. The context does not permit any other explanation. Besides, it is a known fact that in the Arabic language the word has been used as a term for a professional female singer. The author of Lisan Al-‘Arab writes, ‘and the word ‘Qaynah’ means female slave singer.’20

Black male and female slaves excelled in the art of dancing and music. Many narratives provide sufficient evidence that they exhibited their skill in the presence of the Holy Prophet (sws) at numerous occasions and he did not condemn it.

vii. Dance

عن أنس قال كانت الحبشة يزفنون بين يدي رسول الله ويرقصون ويقولون محمد عبد صالح فقال رسول الله ما يقولون قالوا يقولون محمد عبد صالح 

Anas (rta) narrates: Black slaves were dancing in front of the Messenger (sws) of God and sang the following words: ‘Muhammad (sws) is a pious person’. The Holy Prophet (sws) [did not understand their utterances] and asked what they were saying. The people replied: ‘they say that Muhammad (sws) is a pious person’. (Ahmad, No: 12562)

We learn from the narrative that:

  • Some black slaves were dancing in the presence of the Holy Prophet (sws).

  • They were singing the praise of the Holy Prophet (sws).

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) did not stop them from doing so.

  • He was interested in their performance. This is revealed by his question about their utterances.

The Hadith literature contains enough evidence to the fact that professional dancers from among the Abyssinian slaves used to perform before the Arabs. The nobles of Arabia would not consider enjoying such performances as undesirable. Therefore they would invite such artists to perform on their festive occasions. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali writes:

و قد عرف الحبش بحبهم للرقص. و كان أهل مكة و غيرهم من أهل الحجاز إذا أرادوا الإحتفال بعرس أو ختان أو أية مناسبة مفرحة أخرى احضروا الحبش للرقص والغناء على طريقتهم الخاصة

The Abyssinians were famous for their love of dancing. The people of Makkah and of other territories of Hijaz would call upon them to perform their special dances and sing songs whenever they would hold joyous ceremonies like marriage, circumcision and other similar festive occasions.21

Many Hadith narratives show that ‘A’ishah (rta) enjoyed the dancing feast of the Abyssinian slaves along with the Holy Prophet (sws).

عن عائشة قالت جاء حبش يزفنون في يوم عيد في المسجد فدعاني النبي فوضعت رأسي على منكبه فجعلت أنظر إلى لعبهم حتى كنت أنا التي أنصرف عن النظر إليهم

Narrates ‘A’ishah (rta): Once on an ‘Id day the Abyssinian slaves came and started dancing in the mosque.  The Holy Prophet (sws) called me. I placed my head on the Holy Prophet’s shoulder and started watching their performance. [The Holy Prophet did not stop me] until I myself got tired of watching them and turned away. (Muslim, No: 892)

viii. The Prophet’s Praise for a Melodious Voice

عن أبي موسى رضي الله عنه عن النبي قال له يا أبا موسى لقد أوتيت مزمارا من مزامير آل داود

Narrates Abu Musa: The Holy Prophet (sws) [heard him recite the Holy Qur’an] and commented: ‘O Abu Musa, you have been given one of the musical wind-instruments of the nation of David’.

The narrative tells us:

  • The Holy Prophet (sws) liked reciting the Qur’an in sweet sound.

  • He rendered it analogous to using musical instruments.

  • He appreciated the musical instruments used by people of David (sws).

This markedly shows that the Holy Prophet (sws) liked melodious utterances. The words of the narrative shows that the reason the Holy Prophet (sws) praised Abu Musa’s recitation was the sweetness of his voice. Obviously, this sweetness of sound should always be considered a desirable thing; not only this sweetness will be enjoyed while reciting the Holy Qur’an but also other poetry, for example, poetical compositions in praise of God and exalting Him and in expressing other good subjects or poetry. In all these things, a beautiful voice should be equally considered a virtue. The art of music and singing is nothing but rhythmical melodious themes. There is no doubt that the principles of reciting the Qur’an beautifully are different from the ones used in common musical notes. However, this is equally true that the treble and bass and beauty and delicacy of utterance are elements common in the Qur’anic recitation and other types of singing. Seen in this perspective, both arts have a common trait of some sort.

Furthermore, the narrative approves of the musical instruments of David (sws). Thus the Holy Prophet (sws) recognized Biblical accounts regarding David (sws) and his followers about their use of music and musical instruments in singing the praises of God. That is the reason the great exegetes of the Qur’an have recorded this Hadith narrative in connection with the Qur’anic verses dealing with David’s praises of God. While commenting on verse 79 of Surah Anbiya, the celebrated commentator of the Qur’an, Ibn Kathir writes:

And this was because of his reciting the Psalms in a melodious voice. When he would sing it the birds would stop in the air and sang in response to David; so did the mountains. It is for this reason that when the Holy Prophet (sws) passed Abu Musa Ash‘ari (rta), when he was offering his night prayer, he stopped and listened to his recitation for he had a very beautiful voice. The Holy Prophet (sws) said: ‘Indeed he (Abu Musa) has been bestowed one of the musical instruments of the people of David (sws)’. Hearing this, Abu Musa said: ‘Had I known that he [the Holy Prophet] was listening, I would have pleased him more’. Abu ‘Uthman Nahdi says that he did not find any drum, flute or a reed sound more pleasing than the voice of Abu Musa.22

Therefore it may safely be concluded that the Holy Prophet (sws) believed in the fact that David (sws) had a melodious voice.



1. War fought between the two tribes of the Ansar, namely Aws and Khazraj, before the advent of Islam.

2.. This Hadith is Sahih (authentic).

3. The word ‘Jariyah’ used in the narrative is usually taken to mean young girls. Although the word connotes young girls in certain contexts but there is little room to accept it as such. In this context, the word connotes a slave woman who is a professional singer and well known for her profession. This is evidently proved by the context in which the word is used here, and by the fact that another version of the same narrative has the word ‘Qaynah’ ( i.e. a professional female singer) has been used instead of Jariyah.  The text of the narrative follows:

عن عائشة أن أبا بكر دخل عليها والنبي عندها يوم فطر أو أضحى وعندها قينتان تغنيان بما تقاذفت الأنصار يوم بعاث فقال أبو بكر مزمار الشيطان مرتين فقال النبي دعهما يا أبا بكر إن لكل قوم عيدا وإن عيدنا هذا اليوم

‘A’ishah (rta) narrates that once Abu Bakr (rta) came to her on the day of ‘Id Al-Fitr or ‘Id Al-Adha in the presence of the Prophet (sws).  There were two female singers with her, singing the songs which the Ansar had sung on the day of Bu‘ath. Abu Bakr remarked twice: the ‘Why these satanic instruments?’ The Prophet heard him and said to him: ‘Let them sing. Every nation has an ‘Id and this day is our ‘Id’. (Bukhari, No: 3716)

4. In Bukhari, the narrative has been worded thus:

عن عائشة أنها زفت امرأة إلى رجل من الأنصار فقال نبي الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يا عائشة ما كان معكم لهو فإن الأنصار يعجبهم اللهو

‘A’ishah (rta) reported that once she married a woman to an Ansari man. The Prophet (sws) said: ‘O ‘A’ishah, what is it that there is no singing and playing whereas the Ansar take delight in this’. (No: 4867)

5. This Hadith is Hasan.

6. ‘Ali Ibn Burhan al-Din Halbi, Al-Sirah Al-Halbiyyah fi Sirah Al-Amin, 1st ed., vol. 2, (Beruit: Dar Al-Marifah, 1400 AH), pp. 234-5

7. It would not be correct to translate the word ‘Jawari’ as young girls. Some other version of the narrative has the word ‘Qaynat’ (a woman who is a professional singer) instead of ‘Jawari’.

عن أنس بن مالك قال مر النبي على حي من بني النجار فإذا جواري يضربن بالدف ويقلن نحن قينات من بني النجار فحبذا محمد من جار فقال النبي الله يعلم أن قلبي يحبكم

Anas Ibn Malik narrates that when the Prophet (sws) passed by a clan of Bani Najjar, he noticed some slave girls were singing on Daff: ‘We are the singers of Bani Najjar. We are lucky enough to have the Prophet (sws) as our neighbour today’. Then the Prophet (sws) said: ‘God knows that my heart feels affection for you people’. (Al-Mu‘jam Al-Saghir, No: 78)

8. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic).

9. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic)

10. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 116

11. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 117

12. Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddamah, 1st ed., (Berut: Mu’assasah Al-‘Alami li Al-Matbu‘at), pp. 258

13. This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic).

14. Secret marriage contract is not considered valid in the Islamic Shari‘ah. Thus open declaration of the marriage is one of the basic requirements for the validity of a Nikah. That is why the Prophet (sws) rendered it desirable to beat the Daff on this occasion during his time. Consider the following narrative:

عن علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله مر هو وأصحابه ببني زريق فسمعوا غناء ولعبا فقال ما هذا قالوا نكاح فلان يا رسول الله قال كمل دينه هذا النكاح لا السفاح ولا نكاح السر حتى يسمع دف أو يرى دخان قال حسين وحدثني عمرو بن يحيى المازني أن رسول الله كان يكره نكاح السر حتى يضرب بالدف

‘Ali (rta) narrates: ‘Once the Holy Prophet (sws) and his Companions passed the tribe of Bani Zariq. He heard singing sounds and music. ‘What is this?’ he inquired. People replied: ‘Messenger of God, the Nikah of such and such [person is being conducted]’. ‘His religiosity now reaches the zenith’ said the Prophet (sws). ‘This is the prescribed way of Nikah. Neither adultery nor secret marriage is allowed until one hears the sound of the Daff or watches the smoke rising. Husayn said: ‘I was also informed by ‘Amr Ibn Yahya Al-Mazani that the Prophet would disapprove of secret marriage [and would not accept it] until the Daff was played’. (Bayhaqi, No: 14477)

The Prophet (sws) held it necessary for the Arabs of his time to use the Daff to announce the wedding considering the prevailing custom and cultural traditions of the Arabs of that time. In current times, the purpose can be met through any other available means.

15. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 108

16. F.S.Khayrullah, Qamus Al-Kitab, 5th ed., (Lahore: Masihi Kutub Khanah, 1993), p. 978

17.This Hadith is Sahih (i.e. authentic).

18. Here the word Qaynah has been used which stands for a professional female singer.

19. Some people present this narrative to prove that the art of music is evil in nature. They base their argument on the prophetic saying, ‘I see that Satan from among the Jinn and the humans have fled when ‘Umar arrived’. They claim that the Prophet (sws) related music with Satan and thus expressed his dislike for it. We understand that the sentence is only expressive of sarcasm, which he used to express the harshness of ‘Umar’s disposition. If the words are taken in their literal meaning then one wonders what explanation is to be given for the presence of the Prophet (sws), ‘A‘ishah (rta) and Abu Bakr (rta).

20. This is the well acknowledged meaning of the word. The word has been used in this implication before and after the advent of Islam. Imra’ Al-Qays says:

إن أمس مكروبا فيا رب قينة

منعمة أعملتها بكران

لها مزهر يعلوا الخميس بصوته

أجش إذا ما حركته اليدان

(No worry if I have grown sorrowful. How many delicate singing slave girls did I employ on playing a Kiran. They had such musical instruments in their hands which on being stirred by the hands gave heavy sound that spread through the whole band of troops.)

21. Dr Jawwad ‘Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Tarikh Al-‘Arab Qabl Al-Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Baghdad: Maktabah Al-Nahdah, 1978), p. 122

22. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, vol. 3, (Lahore: Amjad Academy, 1982), p. 187

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