Two Cursed Voices?
Many popular Muslim speakers are quoting this ḥadith:
“Two voices are cursed in this world and the hereafter; Music at the time of happiness and wailing at the time of calamity.” Is it correct?
- It is correct to note that some Muslim speakers are citing this tradition at present. On occasion, the word ‘singing’ is sometimes adjoined to, or placed instead of the word music in the translation.
- Best practice though requires quoting traditions in full: with the channel of transmission and narrator included and where possible, the collection from which it appears.
- However, it is of great concern that this narration is being passed off or inferred as being Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic). Upon closer inspection, it doesn’t appear that this tradition can reasonably be judged to be Ṣaḥīḥ.
- There does seem to be a desire in some quarters, at times bordering on desperation, to find and cite any narrative, regardless of its origin and authenticity, that can be used to try and justify a prohibition upon music. Yet there is uncanny silence from those rehearsing this and similar traditions regarding that which has been prohibited outright, namely riba’ (interest, usury) and why it is so widespread.
- As raised in the original question, the narration that’s mentioned appears in the Musnad of al-Bazzār [Vol. 14, no. 7513]; the complete wording being:
حَدَّثَنا عَمْرُو بْنُ عَلِيٍّ حَدَّثنا أَبُو عَاصِم حَدَّثنا شَبِيب بن بشر البجلي قَال سَمِعْتُ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ يَقُولُ: قَالَ رَسُول اللهِ صَلَّى الله عَلَيه وَسَلَّم صوتان ملعونان في الدنيا والآخرة مزمار عند نعمة ورنة عند مصيبة
وَهَذَا الْحَدِيثُ لاَ نعلمُهُ يُرْوَى عَن أَنَس إلاَّ بهذا الإسناد
‘Amr ibn Ali narrated to us Abu ‘Aāṣim narrated to us Shabeeb ibn Bishr al-Bajali narrated to us, he said I heard Anas ibn Mālik saying – the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:
Two voices are cursed in this world and the hereafter, a flute when (there is) blessing and a scream when (there is) calamity.
After citing this tradition, al-Bazzār comments: ‘We don’t know of this ḥadith being reported from Anas, except by way of this isnād.’
- Translation, particularly from Arabic to English, is at times more of art than it is an exact science. Often words and sometimes even whole phrases can require additional explanation in English. That said, nowhere in this tradition are the words ‘music’ (موسيقى) or ‘singing’ (الغناء) mentioned. Rather disturbingly, we have seen speakers render this tradition and add these additional words in, giving the impression that they are included in the original reported wording, whereas in fact they are not. The actual word that is used, is ‘مزمار’ which means a flute.
- It is not only disingenuous to add words into a tradition in this manner and convey a false impression to the listener, it places one upon a very dangerous path. In the desperation to declare something ḥarām (prohibited), a great peril occurs: placing words or phrases upon the tongue of the Messenger peace be upon him, without any authority. Let the following tradition reported in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim be a reminder and warning to all:
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عُبَيْدٍ الْغُبَرِيُّ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَوَانَةَ عَنْ أَبِي حَصِينٍ عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَىَّ مُتَعَمِّدًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ
Muḥammad ibn ‘Ubaid al-Ghubary narrated to us Abu ‘Awānah narrated to us from Abi Haṣin from Abi Ṣāliḥ from Abu Hurayrah, he said the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:
Whoever lies upon me intentionally, then let him take his seat in the fire.
- Returning to the original question at hand, the comments of al-Bazzār are particularly insightful: ‘We don’t know of this ḥadith being reported from Anas, except by way of this isnād.’ Indeed, we don’t find this tradition being reported by any of the well-established and trustworthy narrators from Anas ibn Mālik, may Allah be pleased with him. Neither does it appear in any secondary or additional channels. Hence it is singular and unique to this line of transmission.
- On occasion, some speakers have used the power of their delivery to suggest that the Prophet peace be upon him, did say this. On other occasions, they accompany the citing of this tradition with the statement that it is authentic or has been authenticated – but critically though, not mentioning the word ‘Ṣaḥīḥ’ in that comment.
- Perhaps the reason for this lies with the narrator of this tradition, namely, Shabeeb ibn Bishr. There is a difference of views regarding the narrator Shabeeb ibn Bishr. Sometimes there is a comment that the narration he appears in, is reported by reliable narrators; some quote a comment from al-Mundthari where he cites this in his collection [Vol. 4, p. 186, no. 5422], but it is mentioned without an isnād. Others may refer to the opinion of Yaḥya ibn Ma’een that the narrator was thiqa (trustworthy). But even that isn’t sufficient or indeed, a complete picture. Other notable scholars of ḥadith have not held the same or even a similar view.
- Writing in his book al-Thiqāt, Ibn Ḥibbān noted that Shabeeb ibn Bishr is on record as being a narrator from Anas ibn Mālik. However, he classifies him as being a narrator with a great many mistakes. In Taqreeb at-Tahzeeb, Ibn Ḥajar adopted a slightly softer position, noting that he was truthful but with mistakes. Abu Esa at-Tirmidhi has three-traditions in his collection of Sunan that have Shabeeb ibn Bishr in the isnād (channel of transmission), although he doesn’t report this tradition on the flute as it appears in the Musnad of al-Bazzār. Yet for each of the traditions he does have where Shabeeb ibn Bishr is reporting from Anas ibn Mālik, he mentions that they are ‘ghareeb’ (strange). Critically, he doesn’t cite any of them as being ḥasan-Ṣaḥīḥ. In his al-‘Ilal al-Kabir, Tirmidhi does have the following comment concerning him as a narrator, he writes: ‘Muḥammad said: And Shabeeb ibn Bishr is munkar (disclaimed) in ḥadith.’ The ‘Muḥammad’ who Tirmidhi refers to, is Muḥammad ibn Ismā’il, namely Imām Bukhāri, compiler of al-Jāmi al-Ṣaḥīḥ al-Mukhtaṣr.
- Given the assessments upon this narrator from these Imām’s: Ibn Ḥibbān, Tirmidhi, Bukhāri and others, we cannot concur that this narration is Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic), rather, it is ḍaef (weak).
- There may be some who might seek to contend that there is also a similar narration in wording that is reported, ostensibly, through Jābir ibn Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him. Yet this is of no avail, since the reported traditions are also not Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic). The similar reported wording is:
نهيت عن صوتين أحمقين فاجرين، صوت عند نعمة: لهو ولعب ومزامير شيطان وصوت عند مصيبة: لطم وجوه وشق جيوب ورنة شيطان
I prohibited two foolish immoral voices: a voice when (there is) blessing, frivolous play and the flutes of Shayṭān, and a voice when (there is) calamity while clawing at one’s face and tearing one’s clothes and the scream of Shayṭān.
- The tradition is cited in several collections, amongst them: al-Mustadrak of Ḥākim; al-Muṣṣanaf of Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubra of Ibn Sa’d, Musnad ‘Abd ibn Ḥumayd and al-‘Adāb by Imām Bayhaqi. The channel of reporting is via Ibn Abi Layla from ‘Aṭā from Jābir. However, Ibn Abi Layla is ḍaef (weak). Bayhaqi said of him that he was not strong in ḥadith, having weakness of memory and a great number of mistakes in his narrations. Ibn Ḥibbān noted he had quite serious errors, with numerous manākeer in his narrations. Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal noted him as ḍaef, having weakness of memory and disturbance in his reporting and that he reports numerous mistakes reporting from ‘Aṭā.
- For further reading and an in-depth analysis upon the corpus of textual evidences, please refer to our book, A Ruling on Music & Chess, which is a translation of a pertinent section in al-Muḥalla bil’Athār by Ibn Ḥazm.
- Those who scramble at any opportunity, often desperately clutching at the thinnest of straws to declare music as being ḥarām (prohibited), doesn’t go unnoticed. In the same manner, their perpetual silence against matters that are with certitude established as ḥarām outright – and beyond any dispute is quite telling. The example of riba’ (interest, usury) given earlier is quite illustrative. Its prohibition is established with certitude in several Qur’ānic verses (e.g. 2: 278/279). Yet its usage has now become global and is a feature of every single ‘Muslim country’, whether those countries declare themselves as ostensibly ‘Islamic’ or otherwise. Surely it is the height of corruption to perpetually harp on about a subject with tenuous narratives to stand on and at the same time, allow something that has been prohibited outright, to perpetuate and entrench itself further.
We ask Allah to guide us all and forgive our mistakes and errors.