Life without music

An experience by Muslim Matters:

My experience with discussions on music is they tend to be argumentative and I doubt this will be any different, but I’ll be happy to be wrong.  In order to keep the discussion productive, however, let’s make a few things clear:

  1. This is not a discussion which seeks to establish one fiqh opinion on music over another.  Instead, it examines a number of ways one particular opinion can be stretched.
  2. The opinion assumed is that the voice and dhaff are permissible, all else aren’t.  This does limit the practical value for many, particularly those who consider musical instruments permissible.
  3. There will be videos that may (or may not, depending on your fiqhi orientation) be “controversial”.  The point of these videos is not to promote them, but to illustrate the problem.
  4. You’re right, there are far more important issues facing the ummah – please contact us here (for Muslim Matters) or here (for Islamic Experiences) to discuss submitting a guest article on them.

[And with that being said, click on the “read more” link to continue reading this experience.]

The first time I was told music was forbidden in our religion, I was 17 years old, and the notion went right over my head – how could something so ubiquitous, so natural as breathing, be forbidden?  My caffeine, my drug, my high, my buzz, my constant companion was music – how in the world could anyone get by in life without it?  Whoever said it was forbidden must have made a mistake.  Or maybe it wasn’t all that big a deal.

14 years later, alhamdulillaah, I’ve given it up and stayed away from it since 2002.  With the exception of what is beyond my control, like when shopping in a grocery store, my life is music free, and I avoid it like the plague.  My four year old daughter knows it’s haraam and knows to turn down the volume on any video she watches that has music, and my son who’s only two years old reminds her in case she forgets.

I’ve replaced that (and movie-watching) with reading books and taking up other hobbies.  Without going into detail, I’m a much better and happier person today than I was 7 years ago when just leaving those addictions, and alhamdulillaah, I’m mega-grateful to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala for this guidance.
So music has been essentially obliterated from my life.  Hmmm, well, except for one little thing.

The Voice/Dhaff – Only Option
Step 1: Ahmed Bukhatir and Bakhatir-esque Nasheeds

My introduction to voice / dhaff only performances was with Ahmed Bukhatir.  Most of you, I believe, know who he is and the work he produces.  Bukhatir’s lyrics center on inspiring people to become better practicing Muslims.  In the backdrop of his nasheeds, you’ll hear a bit chanting and humming.  For those unfamiliar with his work, here’s a sample from his latest album:

Step 2: BeatBoxing

I turned to Dr. Wikipedia for a definition on beatboxing and came out with the following:

Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion which primarily involves the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one’s mouth, lips, tongue, voice, and more. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments. Beatboxing is connected with hip hop culture although it is not limited to hip hop music.

Although my first exposure to beatboxing came in my years of listening to hip-hop, it’s re-introduction into my life came after viewing the following video:

Before that, it hadn’t occurred to me that it was a viable means of “music” since it was “voice-only”.  I didn’t see any discussion or disagreement with the video, and I assumed beatboxing must be good-to-go, otherwise someone would stand up and say something, right?

Not quite.  I realized later that the more intelligent students of knowledge shy away from giving fatwas and prefer to give practical advice on new issues, as a fatwa cannot and should not be given lightly (as an aside, if you want to know when your teacher is avoiding giving you a fatwa, pay attention to the language – if they say, “You should stay away,” or “I’d avoid it,” thank Allah you’ve been gifted with a teacher who fears dispensing fataawa and don’t ask again after that – it’s a lot of pressure).

To make a long story short, over the years I had heard hints of disagreement from students and teachers alike, as well as some suggestions for different ways to make the videos, particularly after the following video was released at ISNA 2009:

As far as how it affected me personally, I found a nasheed artist named Shaheed alKawn who records tracks of himself making various beats and sound effects with voice only, then synchronizes them and sings to those beats (about Islam, his conversion, etc).  He prefaced one of his CDs by stating, “What you are about to hear is the product of human voice – no musical instruments were used to create these soundscapes.”

His work can be sampled at the following link (audio quality is really poor):

Step 3: YouTube and Acapella

Acapella, for the purposes of this discussion, is singing without any sort of instrumental accompaniment (thanks again Dr. Wikipedia).  My wife found a popular group known as “Straight No Chaser”, an all-men’s group that formed in Indiana back in ’96 and continues to this day.  In their songs, some will be singing while others will be hum the beats of the song performed (they often perform songs that have already been done by mainstream artists).  So long as the lyrics were clean, I didn’t see a problem with watching or listening – here’s a sample of what they’ve performed:

So far so good?  Maybe, maybe not.  Well, here’s where it gets really sticky.

Step 4: Vocal Play

Even Dr. Wikipedia was scratching his (or her?) head on this one – what’s vocal play?  Here’s the definition:

To imitate, mimic, or become an instrument using only your voice to create the sound

The concept of vocal play differs from acapella in that with acapella, you might hum the tune of the instrument, or make a sound that sort of kind of captures the essence of the intent of the instrument, but it’s very obviously a human voice.  In vocal play, the performer mimics the instrument much more closely (though still not perfectly).  I like to think of it as seriously upgraded beatboxing and acapella wrapped in a neat package.

The group who pioneered the concept (and appears to be the only one at present doing it) is a band known as Naturally 7.  I first came to know of them when a brother I met from Ilm Summit showed me a video of them performing one of their songs live on a subway car.  When I returned home, I did a little more research, and honestly, their sheer talent just blew me away.  Whether they’re live or in studio, they’re 100% instrument free – that’s their schtick, their trademark, their raison d’etre.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the following video, and in particular, cut to about 3:20 in the video where one person (who has a high-pitched voice) takes on the sound of a guitar (embedding of this video is disabled, so click on it, the message will come up to watch on youtube, right-click and open that link in a new window):

That last video was more a display of talent, the next one is the use of that talent to create a more mainstream sounding song:

To answer your question, yes, both of those videos are 110% pure voice.  I played this for a friend who’s into music, and I asked him what he thought of it.  He looked at me and was like, “Is there a new fatwa on music or something?” meaning, why are you, of all people, playing this?  When I explained it was all vocal, no instruments, he couldn’t believe it, and I’ve had the same response from everyone else hearing them for the first time – they can’t believe no instruments are used because it sounds just like music (or close enough that no one cares to expend the effort discerning the difference).

Dealing with Doubtful Matters

As surprising as vocal play is, I have to admit, ever since the Bukhatir phase, there’s been a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Are you really sure about all this?”  I never really had to face up to it because in the case of Bukhatir-style nasheeds, beatboxing, and acapella, I enjoyed it for a bit, became bored with it, and moved on.

When vocal play came on the scene, I had to do some serious soul searching because I was really enjoying what I was listening to, and that little voice kept asking me, “What’s the difference if there are or aren’t instruments if it all sounds the same in the end?”  The story of the Jewish people who set up fishing nets to circumvent the order forbidding work on the Sabbath came to mind – are you looking for loophole minutiae and missing the spirit of the opinion you profess to follow, that voice kept asking.

In the end, I prayed to Allah for guidance specifically on the vocal play stuff and decided that for myself and only myself, it’s better to avoid it.  However, since I’m not qualified to give fatwas to others (let alone myself), I’m not enforcing my practice on others.  My children happen to like vocal play, so my wife and I allow them to listen to their favorite songs once (like in the car), and then shut it off.


With the many voice-only options available, the issue of what is permissible and what is not has become clouded.  What I’ve tried to illustrate is my own experience in dealing with this issue, trying to balance between fatwa and taqwa, and I’d welcome feedback from others who follow the voice/dhaff only opinion.

There are many areas a person can draw the line – where do you draw your own line, and why?

**This post is the exact same copy as the one on Muslim Matters here. Credit goes to Muslim Matters, not Islamic Experiences.**

2 responses to “Life without music”

  1. The reason i think Music is Not allowed in Islam is that :
    First of all This is just my view point of course ALLAH judges it better and we human minds can not just think or evaluate to that point.

    1. When people go to Bars, Pubs and clubs , Music has power to drive them and attract them more to dance and enjoy and to drink.
    2. Music i think itself has negative energy e.g when listening to music we forget everything and whats around it.
    3. Some songs have subliminal messages and words that means directly to praise Satan so when we listen those songs or music unconsciously we are praising Satan.( This is one of tool that Illuminati, Freemasons etc use for mind control )
    4. As i referred before that music has negative energy it basically means that e.g there are some words like sex,drugs,f*** etc and other hideous words that we cannot speak but with music we listen to it and sub consciously sing it too.

  2. Assalamu Alikom wa Rahmatu ALLAH wa Barakatu,
    Well my brother i'm sorry that i didn't read all what you wrote but i will complete it as soon as i can, I just wanted to comment and say my opinion as you asked 🙂

    first of all, this argue about if the music forbidden or not, i thought of it for long long times,
    and i'm sure that ALLAH didn't create a whole Forbidden thing !!!
    like he created many many types of drinks but when it comes to wine so it's forbidden, the same as many many types of eats and when it comes to pig's meet so it forbidden, and the marriage is so blessed but adultery is totally forbidden and so on my brother.
    so there is no such thing in ABSOLUTE is Forbidden, ALLAH doesn't create a whole thing as Forbidden NEVER my brother Okay ?
    so we all knew that by the time of Muhammad Peace & Pray be upon him there were tambourines and it was used in marriage celebrations (without Mixed of men and women as the Islamic Marriage celebrations should be men alone & women alone )
    So tambourines are instruments and they were HALAL ? Okay ?
    so how can you know the fobidden instruments as first from the others ???

    The True Believers my brother ( Al-Mo'meneen) can feel it
    you can feel that Devil has come when you hear a metal Music WALLAHY Bro you can feel it
    You can feel that you became upset & non-confortable So this is totally HARAM
    but you can here a music like yanni and feel the beauty of the music & say SUBHAN ALLAH the creator of such as keys (Makamat )
    and don't forget that (Al-Makamat) should be learnt to every Muslim without Music so every one can Yoratel Al-Quraan (Recite the Quraan) right ?

    let's come to the point of WORDS in music and i mean SONGS !!!
    say; a national or zealous Songs are Halal cause it encourages you to work for your Ummah & your Country,
    songs for celebrations in marriage or feasts are HALAL
    But any Song of Love or something that can make the person Unrespectable or includes any insults or any words that are erotic for sure they are totally forbidden & HARAM
    & the songs of women are totally Haram for sure & any clips for sure are Haram
    Except those clips for national songs & Islamic Songs
    By the way I don't like the Islamic songs to include Music so I dont love the songs of Sami Yusuf , I love those ones of Mishary Rashed
    But for sure there are 2 songs or somethings that i listen for Sami Yusuf but i dont feel this comfort like when i listen to Islamic songs without music like sheikh Mishary rashed el-afasy.
    That was my opinion
    & here is the Opinion of Sheikh Muhammad Metwaly Al-Sha'rawy May ALLAH Bless Him (ALLAH Yerhamu Rahma Was'a)
    May we can meet him in Heaven with prophet Muhammad AMIIIN

    & I was influenced by his ideas in many many issues & the music issue too
    & here it is the video about this issue

    I hope you can understand Arabic to understand it

    This is my opinion and all What I hope that I'm right in it & if I'm wrong so may ALLAH leads me to his right way & I will do ALL What ALLAH makes it Halal & get far of everything Haram as much as I can, I will do my best always to reach heaven and I just need your prayers my brothers and sisters in ALLAH & Islam

    P.s : sorry for my bad english

    You sister in Islam & in ALLAH
    from the Islamic Egypt.