The flute, a popular woodwind instrument known for its breathy and mellow sound, has been played across cultures for thousands of years.
However, in recent times, some Muslims have debated whether the flute is permissible (halal) or prohibited (haram) in Islam. This issue remains confusing for many Muslims who enjoy listening to or playing flute music.
On one hand, some Islamic scholars argue that the flute should be avoided because it is used for entertainment and leisure, which could distract people from religious duties. They also point to some hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) that speak negatively about musical instruments in general.
On the other hand, others contend that the flute itself is not forbidden, but rather the inappropriate use of it. They argue that the flute can be played skillfully and respectfully, not just for mindless entertainment. Some also state that only wind instruments which are blown into directly are discouranged, whereas the modern transverse flute is blown across.
Ultimately, there are good faith arguments on both sides of this issue. This disagreement stems from varied interpretations of Islamic texts, principles, and laws. It is a nuanced debate centered around questions of music’s place in Islam, the instrument itself versus its use, and differences among Islamic schools of thought.
For devout Muslims who enjoy the flute’s meditative and beautiful sounds, this remains an important question without definitive consensus.
As such, it is a conversation that requires open-minded and thoughtful dialogue from scholars as well as flute players themselves.
However, after doing some research and discussions with different Muftis, we’ve found the right answer.
Is Flute Halal or Haram in Islam
No, playing or listening Flute is not Haram, as long as played softly for Islamic devotional songs.
Music has existed in the Muslim world since the advent of Islam in the 7th century CE. The Quran does not specifically forbid music, although some verses discuss its potential corrupting influence. Prophetic traditions (hadiths) contain both positive and negative statements about music.
For instance, a hadith in Bukhari states that musical instruments can lead people to consume alcohol and sin, while another permits the playing of a tambourine (duff) during weddings. Overall, mainstream scholars historically did not ban music absolutely, but regulated and limited its use to prevent impropriety.
Music was allowed under certain conditions—as long as it did not involve alcohol, obscenity, or distract people from religious duties.
Some Muslims today argue that all instruments are lawful as long as the music is objectively good, modest, and brings one closer to God. Others contend that any kind of musical instrument should be avoided, citing hadiths that warn against their maleficent power.
Both sides present evidence from Islamic scripture and law to support their stance. Understanding these perspectives is key to navigating this complex discussion.
Textual Evidence Against Flutes and Wind Instruments
The most commonly cited hadith against wind instruments including flutes comes from Sahih Bukhari:
“From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk (clothes), the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful.”
This hadith seems to link flutes (ma’azif) and other instruments to sins and unlawful acts. Some interpret it to mean that instruments like the flute cultivate an environment conducive to sinning and debauchery. Another relevant hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud states:
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited wine, games of chance, drums, and ma’azif along the roads where people pass.”
Scholars who deem flutes haram focus on such hadiths that mention wind instruments negatively or prohibit them in certain contexts and settings. They argue these are clear textual proofs against the permissibility of flutes.
Differing Perspectives on the Flute’s Permissibility
However, other scholars contextualize these hadiths differently. They make several counterarguments:
- The hadiths prohibit flutes and other instruments in specific situations of sinfulness or distraction from religion, not absolutely in all cases. Responsible and modest use may still be permitted.
- The flutes during the Prophet’s time were mostly used for entertainment and leisure, unlike today where they are played skillfully and respectfully in religious and classical genres. The reason for prohibition was their inappropriate use, not the instruments themselves.
- The hadiths refer most directly to wind instruments like the nay and mizmar which are played by blowing into them, whereas the modern transverse flute is played horizontally across the lips. So it may not fall under the direct prohibition.
- Some jurists differentiated between two types of musical instruments—’malahi’ (fun and leisurely music) and ‘lahwi’ (that which distracts from remembrance of God). They permitted the former while prohibiting the latter. Flutes could potentially fall under the lawful category.
Given these alternate interpretations, some Muslims permit the use of flutes as long as the music uplifts the soul, helps with spiritual reflection, and does not transgress moral boundaries.
Opinion of Prominent Islamic Scholars
Throughout history, eminent Muslim jurists and their legal schools took varying positions on this issue, based on their understanding of the canonical texts and principles of Islamic jurisprudence. Leading traditional and contemporary scholars have given well-reasoned rulings on both sides:
- Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE): The renowned Andalusian scholar of the Zahiri school considered flutes and all musical instruments to be categorically forbidden, believing the hadiths leave no room for any permissibility.
- Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1792 CE): The founder of Wahhabism banned the flute along with all instruments. According to him, there was scholarly consensus (ijma) on the prohibition of instruments throughout history.
- Rashid Rida (d. 1935 CE): The influential reformer and scholar prohibited all wind instruments as major sins (kabair) based on hadiths warning against their evil.
- Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1926 CE): The prominent Egyptian cleric and head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars asserts that the flute’s inherent capacity to arouse passion makes it clearly forbidden.
Permitting Flute Music:
- Al-Ghazali (d. 1111 CE): The famous theologian and Sufi jurist touched flutes during spiritual sessions (sama), seeing music as permissible when bringing one closer to God.
- Ibn Arabi (d. 1240 CE): The revered mystic considered flutes and reed pipes halal if played in a manner befitting Islamic Manners, not just for frivolous amusement.
- Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1996 CE): The renown 20th century Algerian cleric ruled that wind instruments are not prohibited according to the apparent (zahir) meanings of hadiths, which forbid only licentious uses.
- Yusuf al-Qardawi (b. 1926 CE): Despite deeming flutes haram, the prominent Egyptian scholar makes an exception permitting the ney flute since great Sufi masters played it to come closer to Allah.
As evident above, both positions have been articulated by experts of Islamic law and spirituality throughout the ages. There is wisdom and substance to arguments on both sides of the debate.
Flute as a Musical Instrument
Beyond textual references, scholars also differ in their perspectives on wind instruments like the flute and their effects:
Those who prohibit flutes argue that blowing into it makes it among the intoxicating instruments that can overpower reason and lead to heedlessness. The flute’s ability to alter moods and induce trance-like states can make listeners lose focus from worship.
Those who permit it counter that the flute itself is just a medium producing the music. Blame does not lie in the instrument but improper playing. They contend that the flute’s sublime music can lift the soul and stir spiritual states when utilized thoughtfully. Playing techniques matter more than physical attributes of the instrument.
Some distinguish between flute varieties—the classical Indian bansuri, the Sufiney, and the nay are permitted, while the western concert flute and piccolo flute are often prohibited due to cultural connotations. Hadiths also make an exception allowing the duff (tambourine) at weddings, so instruments must be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Which prophet played flute?
There are differing reports about prophets playing musical instruments like the flute in Islamic traditions:
- Some Sufi traditions state that the prophet David (peace be upon him) used to play the flute to praise and remember Allah. However, this is not mentioned directly in the Quran.
- Accounts of the prophet Moses (peace be upon him) hearing a shepherd playing a flute-like instrument and following the sound to reach Midian are found in some secondary literature. But there is no conclusive evidence that Moses himself played the flute.
- There are also unverified stories circulated about prophets like Shuaib and Luqman knowing how to play wind instruments as a skill or profession. But these lack authentic basis in primary Islamic sources.
- More reliably, the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) permitted certain musical instruments like the duff (small drum) to be played on joyous occasions like Eid, weddings, etc. But there is no sahih hadith about him specifically allowing or engaging with the flute.
- The earliest sources on prophetic biography (sira) do not mention any prophet definitively playing the flute or similar instrument. The popular stories seem to have developed later among certain Sufi and folk traditions.
While some Islamic folklore attributes flute playing to figures like Dawud, Mūsā and others, there is no firm, unambiguous scriptural evidence that any prophet directly played the flute themselves. Scholars generally agree that the canonical sources make no definitive reference to prophets playing musical instruments.
In the end, there are well-reasoned perspectives and credible evidence on both sides of the debate around the flute’s permissibility in Islam. The juristic positions and evidence highlight that this is an area of genuine, legitimate disagreement among experts.
The flute itself is morally neutral, and objections arise mainly from its potential misuse. Based on the mainstream, moderate opinion, playing the flute should be permissible as long as it uplifts the soul, is free from impropriety, and does not distract from religious obligation. The music, lyrics, and playing context matter more, according to many scholars, than the instrument itself.
While the legal schools historically discouraged music, they did not enact an absolute prohibition. The principle that everything is permitted unless expressly forbidden can be applied here. At the same time, if one feels the flute may lead to heedlessness, it is praiseworthy to avoid it out of God-consciousness and piety.
Ultimately, the permissibility or impermissibility of flutes cannot be generalized, but each Muslim must evaluate it based on their own relationship with faith and music. This nuanced issue remains open to multiple interpretations and Allah knows best.
Key Hadith References:
“Sing to her sometimes, and the excellence of that is that it achieves three things for the woman: The baby becomes cheerful, it appeals to her husband, and she herself becomes joyful.” (Ibn Majah)
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “The similitude of one who remembers his Lord and one who does not remember Him, is like that of the living and the dead.” (Sahih Muslim)
Anas reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “Make your gatherings alive with the remembrance of Allah.” (Tirmidhi)