Advanced Jurisprudential Discussions on Musical Instruments | Lesson 5

The question we have been trying to answer regarding the narrations is whether they are addressing musical instruments from the perspective of lahw, or in an absolute way. In other words, for example, is the drum prohibited only when used in entertainment parties, or even in wars?

We addressed this briefly in our previous lesson, but we want to ask an even more fundamental question and that is whether narrations that speak of musical instruments specifically have iṭlāq at all or not? We said there are numerous narrations on the topic of musical instruments, but we have to find those reports which are reliable, as the iṭlāq of unreliable narrations cannot be used as evidence.

1) The first narration is Isḥāq b. Jarīr’s report which we have referenced earlier:

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَعْقُوبَ عَنْ عِدَّةٍ مِنْ أَصْحَابِنَا عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ إِسْحَاقَ بْنِ جَرِيرٍ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع يَقُولُ‏ إِنَّ شَيْطَاناً يُقَالُ لَهُ الْقَفَنْدَرُ- إِذَا ضُرِبَ فِي مَنْزِلِ الرَّجُلِ أَرْبَعِينَ صَبَاحاً بِالْبَرْبَطِ وَ دَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ الرِّجَالُ وَضَعَ ذَلِكَ الشَّيْطَانُ كُلَ‏ عُضْوٍ مِنْهُ عَلَى مِثْلِهِ مِنْ صَاحِبِ الْبَيْتِ ثُمَّ نَفَخَ فِيهِ نَفْخَةً فَلَا يَغَارُ بَعْدَهَا حَتَّى تُؤْتَى نِسَاؤُهُ فَلَا يَغَارُ.

Imam Ṣadiq (a) said: There is Satan called al-Qafandar. If barbaṭ (a musical instrument) is played in a house for forty days and men come to him then that Satan places every part of his (Satan’s) body on every part of the body of the owner of the house, then blows a blow; and thereafter he will not mind even if people go in on to his women.1

The effect of using this musical instrument is the emergence of shameful behaviour, and that is with the condition of him playing the instrument for forty days and being played in unsegregated gatherings. Can we use this narration to say barbaṭ is absolutely prohibited, meaning even if it is played for one day, and even if it is used in unsegregated gatherings?

It appears this narration is not speaking about using a musical instrument on its own, rather the two conditions are very much key for why the negative consequences emerge.

2) The second reliable narration is transmitted by two narrators Abū al-Rabī‘ and Muḥammad b. Muslim also cited earlier, where the Prophet (p) says:

…Allah (swt) has sent me forth as a mercy for the worlds, and to eradicate string and wind instruments, as well as other matters of Jāhilīyyah…

If the narration had said the Prophet (p) gave us a responsibility and an order by telling us to not use wind instruments or string instruments, then we could have taken iṭlāq. However, in this report the Prophet (p) is speaking about his own responsibility, in a declarative statement (ikhbār), and hence is speaking of an al-qaḍīyya al-ḥaqīqīyyah.

3) The third reliable report is from ‘Alī b. Ja‘far

وَ سَأَلْتُهُ عَنِ الْغِنَاءِ أَ يَصْلُحُ فِي الْفِطْرِ وَ الْأَضْحَى وَ الْفَرَحُ يَكُونُ قَالَ لَا بَأْسَ مَا لَمْ‏ يُزْمَرْ بِه‏

I asked him (a) about ghinā’, is it appropriate on the day of Fiṭr, Aḍḥa and joyous occasions? He (a) replied, ‘There is no problem as long as no blowing instruments are used.’2

Some scholars like Sayyid Kāẓim Ḥā’irī believe only the first and third narration above are the only two reliable narrations on the topic of musical instruments specifically. When we look at this narration, the original question is about singing, but the response adds the musical instrument as a condition.

This report is narrated in Qurb al-Isnād3 and in Masā’il ‘Alī b. Ja‘far, but in the former work the report is narrated as follows:

لَا بَأْسَ ما لم يعص به‏

…There is no problem as long as one does not sin with it.

Which version should be taken as the more correct one? If the version of Qurb al-Isnād is correct, there will be no need to discuss the issue of iṭlāq as it does not discuss musical instruments at that point. Some scholars will go with the version in Masā’il ‘Alī b. Ja‘far as it is a reliable work, while Qurb al-Isnād has ‘Abdullah b. Ḥasan who has no explicit tawthīq. This seems like a valid argument at first, but when you look at scholars who have a good grasp over the different genre of ḥadīth works, like Ayatullah Borūjerdī, they would not simply rely on works like Masā’il ‘Alī b. Ja‘far in such particular matters due to the mistakes that often occur in transmission over hundreds of years, unless the reports have been preserved in the four main books of ḥadīth.

Furthermore, just because a chain is weak of one report and another is stronger, does not really solve the matter of which narration to take, because we are dealing with a matter of scribal errors, not a matter of verifying the authenticity of the actual report itself. In such a case it is very difficult to attain assurance in which version is correct.

4) The final report is from Sakūnī which we also referenced earlier:

وَ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ النَّوْفَلِيِّ عَنِ السَّكُونِيِّ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص‏ أَنْهَاكُمْ عَنِ الزَّفْنِ وَ الْمِزْمَارِ وَ عَنِ الْكُوبَاتِ وَ الْكَبَرَاتِ.

Imam Ṣādiq (a) said, that the Prophet (p) said: I prohibit you from dancing, wind instruments, string instruments and drums.

We know iṭlāq is used in those cases where the speaker is in maqām al-bayān – in a communicative state where they are expressing all the details of a matter – not in a case where the speaker is just presenting the general concept of prohibition or permissibility of a matter. These types of narrations where the Prophet (p) or Imams (a) are enumerating a list of acts which are prohibited or permitted are difficult to take iṭlāq from.

Secondly, the verb anhākum means “I prohibit”, which is different from saying musical instruments are ḥarām. The latter is understood to be a law from Allah (swt) whereas the former statement seems like it is a ruling legislated by the Prophet (p) from his political authority. Political verdicts have their own qualities and since they are mostly very contextual, it is near impossible to take iṭlāq from them.

These four narrations are the most reliable reports I have found in our books of ḥadīth, based on the approaches of different scholars, otherwise some scholars would even limit these reports to around two. As we have saw, these reports do not have iṭlāq, but in the next lesson we will assume for argument’s sake that these reports do have iṭlāq within them. The question we will explore is whether anything else from outside of these reports exists that would limit their iṭlāq.


  1. Wasā’il al-Shī‘a, vol. 17, pg. 312; originally from al-Kāfi.
  2. Masā’il ‘Alī b. Ja‘far, pg. 156.
  3. Pg. 294