By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
03 august, 2015
There is no verse in the Quran that discourages or bans music and yet, based on several Ahadith that contradict each other, it is commonly believed that music is allowed only in a limited way and on special occasions or by some as even banned in Islam. What is the true position? If we go by the Ahadith, then there are several Ahadith which together give an unclear picture but there is no Hadith banning music either.
We must therefore rely on the Quran and since there isn’t a single verse on the subject, we should take it that the Quran does not prohibit music or even discourage it. This however will not satisfy those who choose to be guided by the Ahadith. We must therefore see how we may get an answer from the Quran on a subject that the Quran is silent on.
Apart from the fact that the Quran specifically allows us to eat the flesh of certain animals, a good argument put forth against those who argue for vegetarianism and against eating of the flesh of animals is that nature or God has bestowed us with a digestive system that can digest both vegetarian and cooked non-vegetarian food and a set of teeth that can grind and a set of teeth that can tear flesh. Animals have teeth that are suited to eating either plant or meat or both. The herbivores have strong and flat molars that are made for grinding leaves. Carnivores have canine teeth for tearing at meat Omnivores, because they eat both meat and plants; have a combination of sharp front teeth and molars for grinding. Human beings are omnivores and therefore nature or God meant us to eat both plant and meat.
What has the above argument got to do with music? Musical ability is not found among all human beings equally. Some are born tone deaf and others can name perfect pitch. Studies have established that mere practice and training cannot make a person who is born without talent for music a good singer or musician. We also know from the true stories of child prodigies that the talent for Music is in-born or a God given gift. Science has further established that genetic factors play a major role. Training and persistence is rewarded by improving the technical skills and nothing more. One can get oneself to play a musical score but to play it musically or expressively requires talent. Whether it is music, poetry, art, mathematics or the sciences, natural talent or genetic factors play a major role. Not everyone has a talent for mathematics, logic, art, music, a particular sport or athletics. Cognitive neuroscience further confirms that the brains of those talented musically are different. We see or hear only what our brains are capable of comprehending and the keenness or sharpness with which we see, hear, smell, feel or taste is what gives us the different talents. Our ability for focusing or paying attention is also determined by our cognitive abilities or what our brain is able to make of the stimuli.
Now if God or nature has given some people musical ability and great natural talent for it, then God or nature has meant it to be used. The Quran clearly frowns on people who prohibit to themselves what God has not prohibited. Consider the following verses:
(3:93) All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel Made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say: "Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth."(94) If any, after this, invent a lie and attribute it to Allah, they are indeed unjust wrong-doers.
When God has not prohibited music, man by prohibiting it to himself and attributing the prohibition to God becomes a Zalim or wrong-doer.
(5:87) O ye who believe! make not unlawful the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you, but commit no excess: for Allah loveth not those given to excess.
(16:116) But say not - for any false thing that your tongues may put forth,- "This is lawful, and this is forbidden," so as to ascribe false things to Allah. For those who ascribe false things to Allah, will never prosper.
Self-prohibition of music, when musical ability and talent is clearly a gift from God, and the Quran does not prohibit it, amounts to ascribing falsehood to God and makes one a zalim (wrong-doer), and therefore someone who will never prosper. By excising a part of what makes us human we become sub-human to that extent. Unfortunately, we have cultures, societies and countries that have prohibited music depriving their people the opportunity to attain their full potential as human beings as intended by God.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.