By Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa
On December 21, 2021, famous Jordanian-Palestinian artist/singer, Adham Nabulsi, announced his retirement from the music industry in order to “worship God and obey his commands,” sparking controversy over whether or not singing and acting are considered haram.
He announced his retirement in a viral video that was shared on Facebook, which you can see below. He said, “The main goal is to worship God and obey his commands, and through my current career, I don’t see this happening.”
The debate on singing and acting has been debated for a long time in the Muslim world. Islam is known to have a higher affinity for the written word over images. The same, surprisingly for some, includes singing, as Islam typically forbids anything that could take your mind away from God, like drugs or alcohol.
Then again, a lot of things divert one’s attention, such as running, listening to a podcast, eating a delicious meal, etc.
The Quran also says “[Allah said to the devil:] And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience)…” [al-Isra’ 17:64]. Also, the Quran specifically states “And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing) to mislead (men) from the path of Allah…” [Luqman 31:6].
When the Quran mentions “the voice” of the devil and “idle talks,” many perceive that as singing, yet given the old language, it can be open to interpretation.
Religious Muslims who find music permissible will point to the hadiths, a collection of traditions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad. Saudi Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani, in a TV interview, shared a passage of the hadith which explicitly recounts a story of the Prophet asking his wife, Ayesha, to sing with her neighbor. He also mentioned in the hadiths where the Prophet attended a wedding where a woman played a drum.
In the middle of the spectrum, many say that modern music is not permissible due to what the music is about. Imam Mufti Menk is seen in the video below saying “the music today is definitely excluded,” the music today is “horrible and terrible.” He then adds that the scholars of today would not allow you to listen to “Beyonce and Madonna and Michael Jackson and those”, because number one, they are “dirty, its filthy and the lyrics are horrible, terrible, they encourage you to move your body and shake your thing, may Allah forgive us.”
One thing, for sure, is that this debate will continue for a long time.