Drums and Music: Islam’s Unresolved Rhythm Conundrum

Syed Bukhari

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The Drums and Music Dilemma in Islam

The debate surrounding the permissibility of drums and music in Islam has been an ongoing discourse among scholars and adherents of the faith. At the heart of this discourse lies a delicate balance between preserving the sanctity of Islamic teachings and embracing the evolving cultural expressions of diverse communities. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the nuances of this intricate topic, offering a balanced and enlightening perspective on the use of drums and music within the boundaries of Islamic principles.

The Percussion Conundrum: Navigating the Complexities

The question of whether drums are permissible in Islam is not one with a simple yes or no answer. It is a multifaceted issue that requires a nuanced understanding of various factors and interpretations. According to hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and eminent Islamic scholars, including Dr. Zakir Naik and Assimalhakeem, drums or duff (a drum-like instrument) are generally considered haram (forbidden). However, the duff and tambourine, which are similar to drums, are deemed halal (permissible) in certain situations.

The Permissible Exceptions: Celebrations and Announcements

Islamic teachings allow for the use of the duff and tambourine during weddings, Eid celebrations, and when someone returns from a long journey. These occasions are seen as appropriate contexts for expressing joy and celebration through the rhythmic beats of these percussion instruments. However, it is crucial to understand that the use of the duff and tambourine outside of these specific circumstances is considered haram and against the principles of Sharia (Islamic law).

The Drums and Music Dilemma in Islam

Distinguishing the Duff from Other Drums

Before delving deeper into the intricacies of this topic, it is essential to understand the distinction between the duff and other types of drums. The duff is an instrument that consists of two skin-covered drums connected by a belt, while other drums typically have a single drum head. This distinction is crucial, as scholars generally consider the use of other drums, beyond the duff and tambourine, to be haram and contrary to Islamic teachings.

The Sanctioned Role of the Duff

The duff holds a unique position within Islamic traditions, as it serves as a means of expression and celebration for the Arab people. Its use is allowed because it helps people express joy without incorporating music or singing, which are generally prohibited in Islam. Furthermore, the duff is considered the least musical of instruments, as it produces a pattern of loud sounds rather than melodic tunes.

Ahadith on the Permissibility of the Duff

Several ahadith (plural of hadith) shed light on the circumstances under which it is permissible to beat the duff:

• It is narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (the wife of the Prophet) that Abu Bakr (the first caliph) entered upon her, and there were two girls beating the duff during the days of Eid. The Prophet allowed them to continue, saying, “Leave them alone, O Abu Bakr, for these are the days of Eid.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

• Al-Rubayyi’ bint Mu’awwidh ibn ‘Afra’ narrated that after her marriage was consummated, the Prophet came and sat on her bed. The young girls started beating the duff and reciting verses mourning her father, who had died in the Battle of Badr. The Prophet allowed them to continue, instructing them to omit a certain verse. (Bukhari)

• Buraydah narrated that when the Prophet returned from a military campaign, a black slave woman vowed to beat the duff before him if Allah brought him back safely. The Prophet allowed her to fulfill her vow, and she beat the duff in the presence of Abu Bakr, Ali, and Othman. However, when Umar entered, she stopped, and the Prophet commented that “The Shaytaan (Satan) is afraid of you, O Umar.” (Tirmidhi)

These ahadith clearly illustrate that the use of the duff is permitted in specific contexts, such as weddings, Eid celebrations, and welcoming ceremonies, but should be avoided in other situations.

The Boundaries for Men and Women

While the use of the duff is allowed for women in certain circumstances, the same permission is not extended to men. Islamic teachings prohibit men from beating the duff or engaging in practices that are traditionally associated with women, as this is considered a form of imitating the opposite gender, which is a major sin. Prominent scholars, such as Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn Hajar, have strongly emphasized this principle, asserting that men who engage in activities like beating the duff or clapping are deemed effeminate (mukhannath) and are cursed according to the Prophet’s teachings.

The Stance on Other Musical Instruments

Regarding other musical instruments, the majority of Islamic scholars hold the view that their use is generally prohibited. This stance is supported by various ahadith and Quranic verses that condemn the consumption of idle talk, singing, and music.

• The Prophet Muhammad stated, “Allah ordered me to destroy musical instruments.” (Mishkat)

• He also warned, “People from my Ummah (community) will drink wine and give it other names, and singing girls and musical instruments will be played before them. Allah will cause the earth to swallow them, and disfigure their faces into apes and pigs.” (Mishkat)

• The Quran states, “And there are some people who purchase idle talk… for them is a severe punishment.” Ibn Mas’ood (a companion of the Prophet) explained that this verse was revealed regarding singing. (Quran)

These textual evidences, combined with the scholarly consensus, reinforce the prohibition of using musical instruments beyond the duff and tambourine within the prescribed contexts.

The Violin: A Contentious Case

The violin, like other musical instruments, cannot be labeled as entirely permissible or impermissible in Islam. The determination of its permissibility hinges upon the context and purpose of its use. If the violin is used for lawful and beneficial purposes, it may be deemed permissible. However, if it is employed for unlawful or unethical purposes, its use would be considered haram (forbidden).

The Debate on Islamic Songs and Halal Beats

The question of whether Islamic songs with accompanying music or beats are permissible has been a subject of intense debate among scholars and adherents of the faith. While some argue that singing and music are permissible as long as the content is not against Islamic morals and teachings, others maintain a stricter stance, prohibiting any form of music or musical instruments, including drums.

Organizations such as Halal Beats, which provide Islamic-themed music and beats, navigate this complex landscape by leaving the ultimate decision to the individual’s personal beliefs and interpretations. They acknowledge the diversity of opinions and allow Muslims to make informed choices based on their understanding of Islamic principles.


Q. Can Muslims play drums?

No, Muslims are generally not permitted to play drums. However, there is an exception for playing the duff (a drum-like instrument consisting of two skin-covered drums connected by a belt) and tambourine during specific occasions such as weddings, Eid celebrations, or to announce news or the arrival of someone from a journey. Playing other types of drums or using the duff and tambourine outside of these permitted contexts is considered haram (forbidden) in Islam

Q. What is a daf made of?

A duff, also known as a daf or daff, is an instrument consisting of two animal skin-covered drums connected by a belt. It is commonly used in Middle Eastern music and is considered a permissible percussion instrument in Islam within certain contexts

In conclusion, the discourse surrounding the permissibility of drums and music in Islam is a complex and nuanced one, requiring a balanced understanding of Islamic teachings, cultural expressions, and diverse interpretations. While the general consensus prohibits the use of musical instruments, exceptions are made for the duff and tambourine in specific celebratory contexts. Ultimately, adherents are encouraged to navigate this intricate landscape with wisdom, respect for cultural traditions,