A Prophetic Tradition About Music

Question

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, that there will be a time in his Ummah when four things will be sought to become lawful including, fornication, silk, alcohol and the musical instruments. I don't recall the correct wording. Anyway, most of the people (scholars) quote this particular Ḥadīth in the argument that music is haraam, saying that since the phrase "musical instruments" has come along with the other three forbidden items, how could it be allowed. They also say that in the particular hadith, the wording is such that it says "people will seek to make lawful…." They say that one can seek to make lawful only that which is unlawful. I tend to agree with their reasoning. The only thing that is required is the actual context of this particular hadith. If you can give me the context of this particular Ḥadīth to mean that music is not haraam in generality, that would tremendously satisfy me


Answer

The text of the ḥadīth under discussion follows:

وقال هشام بن عمار حدثنا صدقة بن خالد حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن يزيد بن جابر حدثنا عطية بن قيس الكلابي حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن غنم الأشعري قال حدثني أبو عامر أو أبو مالك الأشعري والله ما كذبني سمع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول ليكونن من أمتي أقوام يستحلون الحر والحرير والخمر والمعازف

There will be (at some future time) people from my Ummah (community of Muslims) who will seek to make lawful: fornication, the wearing of silk, wine-drinking and the use of musical instruments. [Bukhari No: 5268]

The tradition is usually considered the most plausible arguments in favor of prohibition of music since it is stated with other prohibited items. However one needs explanation regarding some of the questions before declaring this tradition a basis for the prohibition of music.

According to Ibn Hazam the fact that Bukhari has started the narration with the words: "Hishaam ibn Ammaar said..." do not lead to the conclusion that Bukhari himself heard Hishaamsay these words.Had he heard these words directly he would have used the words "Hishaam ibn Ammaar told us/told me/narrated to us/ narrated to me..." as Bukhari usually does. Therefore, the chain of narrators of this narrative according to him is Mu'allaq" (disconnected).

Another thing, which makes the tradition weak, is the presence of Hishaam ibn Ammaar in the chain of narrators. Though many of the scholars declared him siqah (reliable) but it is not an agreed upon fact.Abu Dawood is reported to have said about him that "He (Hishaam) has narrated four hundred Ḥadīth which have absolutely no basis (that is, Ḥadīth which are not true)" (Meezaan al-Ai`tidal). Saalih Jazarah has said about him (Hishaam), "He used to take money for narrating hadith" (Meezaan al-Ai`tidal). Mohammad ibn Sayyaar Al-Farhiyaani has said, "He used to take a dirham for reporting two pages of hadith" (Meezaan al-Ai`tidal). Ahmad ibn Hanbal has said, "He was reckless/impetuous and feeble-minded" (Meezaan al-Ai`tidal).

The report is not that strong to be considered as an independent base for the decree of prohibition since it contradicts some other narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws), in which the Prophet (sws) allowed young girls to play music on certain occasions.

You have stated that man can make or desire to make lawful those things which are unlawful. But there in the narrative are other things which people will attempt to make lawful besides wine and musical instruments. These include "Hirr" (i.e. a woman's private parts) and "Hareer" (i.e. silk).Both "Hirr" and "Hareer" are not absolutely prohibited acts in their nature. Therefore the music and the drinks here belong to a particular kind of music and drinks which are morally prohibited.

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