Source: Syed Khamenei, Risāleh yeh Amῡzeshī (v.2), Ahkām e Mu’āmilāt, p. 117 – 119
Third Discussion: The rulings pertaining to singing
1. It is forbidden to be present in gatherings of singing
2. Listening to singing is forbidden, even if a person is not present in that gathering
3. It is not forbidden to teach and learn the principles of singing unless it’s implementation causes deviation from the path of God. This deviation is not in relation to learning the musical scale in and of itself but rather in relation to composing melodies.
Further explanation: The principles of music referred to here are the musical pitches that comprise the musical scale. Learning this scale is to essentially learn the technique behind raising and lowering your pitch and tone. There is no problem with learning this. After learning the pitches the next step is to create a song (by putting together a melody). By learning the musical pitches a person can then create a melody in accordance to his own personal preferences, and it is here that the melody may become deviating from the path of God or not.
4. A salary which is earned from teaching the permissible form of singing has no problems. However if the type of singing that is being taught is of the impermissible type then the money received is forbidden (harām).
A few questions in this regard
1. Is it correct to say singing is permissible and only a specific type of it is impermissible?
Answer: There is no problem in that. However it shouldn’t be said that “singing is permissible” as this phrase could be misleading. What should be said is that singing which has these characteristics is considered impermissible.
2. If a lady sings in a non-flirtatious manner to a crowd of men, and from the perspective of the layman (‘urf) there is no debauchery involved, what is the ruling on this?
Answer: As the lady is singing to a crowd of men who are strangers and not of family relation, and naturally such an environment will cause sexual excitement (tahrīk shahvat) and cause a person to fall into sin, such singing is forbidden (harām) for the singer and forbidden for the listener.
Two points in relation to this question:
- The condition of the absence of sexual excitement in the hypothetical scenario of the question is pretty much unlikely to ever occur. How is it possible that a lady with a pleasant voice sings to a crowd of men and the men are able to think about God, recite dhikr and for there to be no debauchery present? This is extremely unlikely and naturally such things don’t happen. If the scenario in question actually happens, and there is no sexual excitement involved then it is not forbidden. But why should a ruling be given for a situation which under natural circumstances wouldn’t arise?
- In the question the expression of flirtation was used, implying that if it is not flirtatious it is not seductive when in fact this is not the case. It is possible for something to be sexually exciting and seductive but not be flirtatious. So the criteria here is not the existence of flirtatious lyrics but rather sexual excitement.
3. What is the ruling on listening to the sound of a lady singing via a recording or film?
Answer: If the voice is entertaining (lahvī) then it is impermissible, if it is not entertaining then it is permissible.
4. What is the ruling on the recitation by ladies of nowha and marthiya which will heard by men?
Answer: In the criteria of impermissibility, there is no difference in the type of recitation. The criteria is whether or not it is entertaining (lahvī), apart from that, the very recitation of lady in and of itself is not forbidden. However, if for another reason, like the fact that the reciter is a lady, an element of entertainment arises for the listener, then this is forbidden.
5. What is the ruling on holding concerts where the singers are ladies and the crowd is mixed?
Answer: The condition that arises in men when a lady sings by herself compared to when a group of ladies sings is weaker here. To elaborate, that criteria of sexual excitement which makes the singing forbidden is significantly reduced when the recitation is done in a group. Sometimes it is shown on TV where a group of ladies wearing hijāb are standing alongside men and their voices are drowned out by those of the men. In this circumstance it is different to the case where a single lady is singing to a group of men. If this truly is the case, there is no problem with it. Of course, if this also causes sexual excitement then it is forbidden. So the deciding factor between what is forbidden and what is not is the factor of sexual excitement.
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.