We present below part of a question and answer session with Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru), Khalifatul Masih IV, Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Questioner: “Somebody I know has a bad habit of listening to music. My question is: what is the status of music [in Islam]?
Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): “You see, this is what you call a bad habit; it all depends on the degree of the habit and the nature of the music. The music in itself, as a whole, cannot be dubbed as bad. Even wine in the Holy Qur’an is not dubbed as totally bad. Even juggling and these things are not dubbed as entirely bad. What is described, the principle described, is a thing which has overwhelmingly, or more than 50% bad in it should be abandoned and rejected and a thing which has less than 50% of bad things, its better things should be utilised and the bad things avoided. Now music falls in the no man’s land in fact; it is neither forbidden entirely nor permitted without any conditions. We know at the time of Hadhrat Muhammad(saw) when he walked into Madinah, the ladies of Madinah, welcoming him, sang a song of welcome plus they beat on the drum, which is called daff. Now, that was a sort of music which was available to the Arabs; nobody can say that it was not music. But this was not the practice of Rasulullah(saw) [(the Holy Prophet)] to permit the Companions to go on enjoying music revelries and music sessions, and to be given up to music. That was not their habit. Instead they enjoyed [the] recitation of the Qur’an, or listening to the good verses, or meaningful verses, of great poets. But gradually their taste was developed and they shifted from poetry to the Qur’an ultimately. So, it requires some time of patience to improve the quality of your taste, and without that to abandon certain things would be rather cruel.
In these things it is a matter of taste. In some other things the matter of prohibition is fast and hard and you can’t change it. You can’t say I have to improve my taste for water before I can stop drinking wine. No, no, that will not be permissible because wine is forbidden and what is forbidden is forbidden, but music does not fall into that category. For that you can acquire a wise approach of a systematic, gradual deliverance from that habit.
And as far as pop music is concerned I don’t know how people can tolerate that! Just sheer nonsense! I don’t disrespect music altogether, because I know the classical music had some nobility in it. It brought out the best in man, in a way that man would not understand. But the music writers were noble minded. They wanted to bring, even if the theme was miserable, they wanted to bring the question of misery of others to the listeners of music – that the others were suffering. They became sad, without anybody naming the people, without any tale being told in words. The music delivered all these things, and they became sad and started crying, not knowing for what, but when they came out of the music halls they were nobler people than before. So the music served a purpose, and a noble purpose.
Here in the pop music when people leave that hall, they leave with some sort of madness and craving for something they cannot have, and for that even they have to go to kill others or mug others for some drug or something; that elation, artificial elation, requires further help of drugs. So the taste left behind by this modern ‘so-called music’ is ugly and evil, and the society under its influence is becoming uglier and more permissive, more careless of the traditional values, so this music is obviously evil and sinful.
So I can’t treat every music alike; that is why I said you have to be wise and be selective in your choice. [An] occasional brush with music cannot be considered a practice whereby you will be sent to hell, I assure you not! But, an occasional brush with music which draws you into itself at the cost of higher values, at the cost of memory of Allah, at the cost of prayers, where you are taken over by music and that becomes all your ambition and obsession; if that happens then you are a loser, obviously.”