The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Near the beginning of surah Luqman, Allah says what can be literally translated as:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ وَيَتَّخِذَهَا هُزُوًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ

And among the people are those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from the path of Allah without knowledge and who take it as a mockery. For these ones, there is a humiliating punishment [31:6]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, the great mufassir imam Muhammad al-Qurtubi explained this ayah according to the understanding of the salaf by writing:

و ( لهو الحديث ) : الغناء ; في قول ابن مسعود وابن عباس وغيرهما . النحاس : وهو ممنوع بالكتاب والسنة ; والتقدير : من يشتري ذا لهو أو ذات لهو ; مثل : واسأل القرية . أو يكون التقدير : لما كان إنما اشتراها يشتريها ويبالغ في ثمنها كأنه اشتراها للهو . ـ

The phrase:

لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ

“idle talk”

means music. This is according to the statements of ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas, and others.

al-Nahhaas said: Music is prohibited according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

قلت : هذه إحدى الآيات الثلاث التي استدل بها العلماء على كراهة الغناء والمنع منه . والآية الثانية قوله تعالى : وأنتم سامدون . قال ابن عباس : هو الغناء بالحميرية ; اسمدي لنا ; أي غني لنا . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: This is one of three ayaat in the Qur’an which the scholars use as evidence for the position that music is something hated and prohibited. The second ayah is Allah’s statement:

وَأَنتُمْ سَامِدُونَ

… while you are saamidoon [53:61]

ibn ‘Abbaas said: this is referring to music in the Humayri dialect of Yemen. They might say “ismudi for us”, meaning “sing for us.”

والآية الثالثة قوله تعالى : واستفزز من استطعت منهم بصوتك قال مجاهد : الغناء والمزامير . وقد مضى في ( سبحان ) الكلام فيه . وروى الترمذي عن أبي أمامة عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : لا تبيعوا القينات ولا تشتروهن ولا تعلموهن ، ولا خير في تجارة فيهن ، وثمنهن حرام في مثل هذا أنزلت هذه الآية : ومن الناس من يشتري لهو الحديث ليضل عن سبيل الله إلى آخر الآية . قال أبو عيسى : هذا حديث غريب ، إنما يروى من حديث القاسم عن أبي أمامة ، والقاسم ثقة وعلي بن يزيد يضعف في الحديث ; قاله محمد بن إسماعيل . قال ابن عطية : وبهذا فسر ابن مسعود وابن عباس وجابر بن عبد الله ومجاهد ، وذكره أبو الفرج الجوزي عن الحسن وسعيد بن جبير وقتادة والنخعي . ـ

And the third ayah is Allah’s statement:

وَاسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُم بِصَوْتِكَ

And incite whoever you can among them with your voice [17:64]

Mujaahid said: this is referring to singing and wind instruments. And this ayah has already been discussed in surah Subhaan [i.e. surah al-Israa’].

al-Tirmidhi relayed from Abu ‘Umamah who said:

Allah’s Messenger said, “Do not sell female singers, nor purchase them, nor teach them to sing. There is no good in this sort of business, and their prices are unlawful.” It was on this subject that  the following ayah was revealed:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ

  And among the people are those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from the path of Allah… [31:6]

Abu ‘Eesaa [al-Tirmidhi] commented on this by saying: This chain of this hadeeth only has one narrator in some of its levels, as al-Qaasim was the only one who transmitted this hadeeth from Abu Umamah, although al-Qaasim is reliable. However ‘Ali ibn Yazeed, another person in this chain, has been graded as “weak” in the field of hadeeth, as Muhammad ibn Ismaa’eel said.

ibn ‘Atiyyah said: ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas, Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah, and Mujaahid all explained this ayah as referring to music, and Abu’l-Faraj al-Jawzi mentioned this explanation as also coming from al-Hasan, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, Qataadah, and al-Nakha’ee.

ـ [ ص: 49 ] قلت : هذا أعلى ما قيل في هذه الآية ، وحلف على ذلك ابن مسعود بالله الذي لا إله إلا هو ثلاث مرات إنه الغناء . روى سعيد بن جبير عن أبي الصهباء البكري قال : سئل عبد الله بن مسعود عن قوله تعالى : ومن الناس من يشتري لهو الحديث فقال : الغناء والله الذي لا إله إلا هو ; يرددها ثلاث مرات . وعن ابن عمر أنه الغناء ; وكذلك قال عكرمة وميمون بن مهران ومكحول . وروى شعبة وسفيان عن الحكم وحماد عن إبراهيم قال : قال عبد الله بن مسعود : الغناء ينبت النفاق في القلب ; وقاله مجاهد ، وزاد : إن لهو الحديث في الآية الاستماع إلى الغناء وإلى مثله من الباطل . وقال الحسن : لهو الحديث المعازف والغناء . وقال القاسم بن محمد : الغناء باطل والباطل في النار . وقال ابن القاسم سألت مالكا عنه فقال : قال الله تعالى : فماذا بعد الحق إلا الضلال أفحق هو ؟ ! وترجم البخاري ( باب ) كل لهو باطل إذا شغل عن طاعة الله ، ومن قال لصاحبه تعالى أقامرك ، وقوله تعالى : ومن الناس من يشتري لهو الحديث ليضل عن سبيل الله بغير علم ويتخذها هزوا فقوله : إذا شغل عن طاعة الله مأخوذ من قوله تعالى : ليضل عن سبيل الله . وعن الحسن أيضا : هو الكفر والشرك . وتأوله قوم على الأحاديث التي يتلهى بها أهل الباطل واللعب . ـ

I [imam al-Qurtubi] say: This explanation is the best of the different opinions regarding this ayah, and ibn Mas’ood even swore to this three times, swearing “by Allah, besides Whom there is no other deity worthy of worship”, that this ayah was referring to music. Sa’eed ibn Jubayr relayed that Abu’l-Sahbaa’ al-Bakri said, “‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood was asked about Allah’s statement:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْتَرِي لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ

And among the people are those who purchase idle talk… [31:6]

so he replied, “By Allah, besides Whom there is no deity worthy of worship, it is music”, and he repeated this three times.

It is also reported from ibn ‘Umar that this ayah is referring to music, as well as ‘Ikrimah, Maymoon ibn Mihran, and Makhool.

Shu’bah and Sufyan relayed from al-Hakam and Hammaad who relayed that Ibrahim said: ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said, “Music produces nifaaq (hypocrisy) in the heart.” Mujaahid also said this same statement, and then added, “the “idle talk” in that ayah is referring to listening to music as well as other such forms of falsehood.

al-Hasan said, “‘idle talk‘ means stringed instruments and singing.”

al-Qaasim ibn Muhammad said, “Music is falsehood, and falsehood is in the Hell-fire.” ibn al-Qaasim said: I asked Maalik about this statement and he said, “Allah has said:

فَمَاذَا بَعْدَ الْحَقِّ إِلَّا الضَّلَالُ

So what is after the truth except for falsehood? [10:32]

So is music the truth?” [end quote].

al-Bukhari entitled one of his chapter, “Every form of idle diversion is falsehood if it distracts one from obedience to Allah — And whoever says to his friend, ‘come, let us gamble’ … — And Allah’s statement, ‘And among the people are those who purchase idle talk in order to mislead others from the path of Allah without knowledge and who take it as a mockery. For these ones, there is a humiliating punishment’.

And al-Bukhari’s statement, “if it distracts one from obedience to Allah” is derived from Allah’s statement:

لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ

… in order to mislead others from the path of Allah … [31:6]

And al-Hasan also said that this ayah is referring to kufr and shirk. And some people also interpreted it to mean the speech which the people of falsehood and idle distractions use to amuse themselves.

وقيل : نزلت في النضر بن الحارث ; لأنه اشترى كتب الأعاجم : رستم ، وإسفنديار ; فكان يجلس بمكة ، فإذا قالت قريش إن محمدا قال كذا ضحك منه ، وحدثهم بأحاديث ملوك الفرس ويقول : حديثي هذا أحسن من حديث محمد ; حكاه الفراء والكلبي وغيرهما . وقيل : كان يشتري المغنيات فلا يظفر بأحد يريد الإسلام إلا انطلق به إلى قينته فيقول : أطعميه واسقيه وغنيه ; ويقول : هذا خير مما يدعوك إليه محمد من الصلاة والصيام وأن تقاتل بين يديه . وهذا القول والأول ظاهر في الشراء . وقالت طائفة : الشراء في هذه الآية مستعار ، وإنما نزلت الآية في أحاديث قريش وتلهيهم بأمر الإسلام وخوضهم في الباطل . قال ابن عطية : فكان ترك ما يجب فعله وامتثال هذه المنكرات شراء لها ; على حد قوله تعالى : أولئك الذين اشتروا الضلالة بالهدى ; اشتروا الكفر بالإيمان ، أي استبدلوه منه واختاروه عليه . وقال مطرف : شراء لهو الحديث استحبابه . قتادة : ولعله لا ينفق فيه مالا ، ولكن سماعه شراؤه . ـ

Some have said: This ayah was revealed concerning al-Nadhr ibn al-Haarith because he bought some non-Arabic books such as Rustum and Istindiyaar, and he used to attend gatherings in Mecca. When the Quraish would say, “Muhammad said such-and-such”, he would laugh and narrate some stories of the Persian kings and say, “These words of mine are better than the words of Muhammad!” This was transmitted by al-Farraa’, al-Kalbi, and others.

Others have said: He bought some singing slave women, so he would not leave anyone who wanted to enter Islam alone without sending one of his female singers to them, telling her, “feed him, wine him, and sing to him,” and he would say, “This is better than the prayer, fasting, and inevitable fighting which Muhammad invites you to.”

This is one opinion, but the first explanation is what is more apparent regarding the meaning of the word “to purchase“.

A group of scholars said: the meaning of “purchase” in this ayah is not to be taken literally here. This ayah was revealed regarding the statements and idle talk regarding Islam and their engaging in falsehood.

Ibn ‘Atiyyah said:

Leaving off what it is obligatory to do and engaging in these forms of reprehensible deeds is ‘purchasing‘ them according to Allah’s statement:

أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الضَّلَالَةَ بِالْهُدَىٰ

Those are the ones who have purchased error for guidance [2:16]

they purchased kufr for eemaan, meaning that they exchanged one for the other and chose the former over the latter. And Mutarrif said: “purchasing idle talk” is preferring it. Qataadah said: Perhaps one might not spend any money on it, but his listening to it is his ‘purchasing’ it.

[Tafsir al-Qurtubi 14/49-50]

See also: Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

See also: “And do not be like those who say, ‘We have heard,’ while they do not hear”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

See also: The Most Hope-Inspiring Ayah in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The Prohibition of Music in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

  1. Pingback: “And do not be like those who say, ‘We have heard,’ while they do not hear”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: ‘Ibad al-Rahman Part 6 – Avoiding Bad Company: ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Badr | Tulayhah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.