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Last Updated: 2011/10/11
Summary of question
Is there any objection to a person doing exercise with music? Are athletic actions with music considered to be dancing?
question
What is the Islamic law about some athletic actions accompanied with music? If a person's intention is to get fitness or lose weight, would it be allowed? If other people e.g. the instructor dance for fitness, what is the Islamic law about it?
Concise answer

Dancing and music are two separate topics each having its specific rules. That is to say, if a person dances with music, he commits two ḥarām actions.

Most grand jurists forbid music which is frivolous, licentious and appropriate for gatherings of amusement and entertainment. Some others, however, forbid all types of music irrespective of whether they are appropriate for entertainment gatherings or not.

When it comes to the definition of dancing, there are different approaches and principles. Some say:  Dance refers to rhythmic movement of the body, usually for entertainment. Others say that any action that constitutes dancing according to Urf (common view), the rules regarding dancing would apply to it.

As for the rules regarding dancing, some scholars have forbidden all types of dancing whereas others have forbidden only those types of dancing that entail sins or evil (mafsada).

In any case, if an exercise is not considered to be dancing, there is no problem in it. The position is the same, if it is not combined with frivolous and ḥarām music.

Detailed Answer

Before dealing with the aforementioned question, it is necessary to know the meaning of certain keywords pertaining to the question. These words include "tarab", "lahw" and "gatherings of frivolity and futile entertainment" with which ḥarām music is often described.

1. Tarab: It is a term used in Arabic to denote a state of musical ecstasy by the listener and/or the performer. It involves intoxication of the senses making him go out of moderation. This is not restricted to ecstasy only as it may be obtained through sad types of music also. [1]

2. Lahw: Any music or singing which due to its characteristics keeps human beings away from Allah, the sublime, and away from moral merits and spiritual matters and drives them towards sinful acts and carelessness is lahwī and ḥarām. [2]

3. Gatherings of frivolity and futile entertainment: These terms refer to the gatherings which have been held for revelry, sexual pleasure, dancing and the likes. Such gatherings according to the Urf (common view) of the pious people are considered to be "gatherings for sins" or "sinful gatherings". [3]

Keeping in view the above explanation, we shall now make mention of verdicts of some of the grand jurists about listening to music; most of the jurists consider lahwī music, not all types of music, as forbidden. Some others say that any type of music which is lahwī and mutrib in the common view — i.e., suitable for gatherings of merrymaking, it is ḥarām. [4]

Grand jurists like Imam Khomeini (r.a), Ayatollah Khamenei, Ayatollah Sistani, Fazel Lankarani (r.a) and Makarem Shirazi say:

It is not permissible to play or listen to any music or singing which due to its characteristics keeps human beings away from Allah, the sublime, and away from moral merits and spiritual matters and drives them towards sinful acts and carelessness. It does not make any difference whether it is sad or happy. [5]

Ayatollah Gulpaigani: Listening to and/or playing music is absolutely ḥarām [irrespective of whether they cause ecstasy or not]. [6]

Ayatollah Saafi Gulpaigani: "What is known as music according to the common view, is [absolutely] ḥarām to listen, play and make it or sell its instruments. [7]

Ayatollah Noori Hamedani: It is not permissible to listen to any music which is lahwī and mutrib and suitable for entertainment and sinful gatherings. [8]

Wahid Khurasani: It is not permissible to listen to any music which is appropriate for the gatherings of amusement and futile entertainment. [9]

Bahjat (r.a): It is not permissible to use lahwī musical instruments for non-lahwī purposes nor is it permissible under any circumstances to use lahw. And music which causes ecstasy is ḥarām. [10]

Ayatollah Tabrizi: Any type of music which is appropriate for amusement gatherings is lahwī; it is ḥarām to play and listen to it. [11]

Therefore, the grand jurists agree that any music categorized due to its nature as lahwī is ḥarām [12] , irrespective of whether it contains the element of excitement or not, or whether it engenders in the listener a state of melancholy or not. Its sanction by any Islamic organization or any other Islamic institute does not serve by itself as a shar‘ī proof of being permissible. [13]

Based on the above, there is problem in doing exercise by itself but listening to ḥarām music during exercise is not permissible even if one aims to get fitness or lose weight.

As for the other part of the question which is about athletic actions and dancing, we must say that if these actions are considered according to common view as dancing, the rules concerning dancing would apply to them. Music and dancing are two different subjects each having its own specific rules.

The definitions given by grand jurists for dancing are varied:

Grand jurists like Imam Khomeini (r.a), Ayatollah Bahjat (r.a), Ayatollah Tabrizi (r.a), Ayatollah Khamenei, Ayatollah Sistani, Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani (r.a) and Ayatollah Gulpaigani (r.a) have said that the criterion to be used in judging whether or not an action is dancing is the Urf (common view).

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi says: "Dance refers to rhythmic movement of the body, usually for entertainment." [14]

Hence, therefore if an action is considered to be dancing, the rules regarding it according to grand jurists are as under:

Imam Khomeini (r.a): As an obligatory precaution, it is not permissible for women to dance any where in any ceremony irrespective of whether it is a wedding or a birthday ceremony except for a woman's dancing for her husband. [15]

Grand Ayatollah Gulpaigani: A woman can dance only for her husband; it is not permissible for her to dance in front of any other people. [16]

Grand Ayatollah Araki: "Dancing is problematic [There is an objection to it]." [17]

Grand Ayatollah Bahjat: "Dancing is absolutely problematic." [18]

Grand Ayatollah Saafi Gulpaigani: It is not permissible for her to dance in front of any other people but her husband. [19]

Grand Ayatollah Wahid Khurasani: No type of dancing is allowed, as an obligatory precaution. It is immaterial whether or not it entails any evil or any other ḥarām acts. [20]

Grand Ayatollah Sistani: It is permissible for a woman to dance in front of her husband to please and arouse him. But it is not permissible for her to dance in front of other men; based on obligatory precaution, she must not dance in front of other women also. [21]

Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi: A woman can dance only for her husband. It is not permissible for her to dance in front of other people, men or women. [22]

Supreme Leader, grand Ayatollah Khamenei: There is no problem in dancing by itself. However, if dancing entails sexual excitation or committing a ḥarām act like listening to ḥarām music, or it is in the presence of non-mahram men, it is forbidden. And it does not make a difference as to the various types of music. [23]

He says: "Generally speaking, if dancing entails sexual excitation or committing a ḥarām act like listening to ḥarām music, it is forbidden. " [24]

If a woman dances for her husband or vice-versa, and the dancing is not accompanied with a ḥarām act, there is no problem in it. [25]

When it comes to the question whether or not a woman or a man can dance for fitness alone without others seeing him (even one's spouse), the answers given is as under:

Grand jurists such as Imam Khomeini, Tabrizi, Khamenei and Sistani say: "It is appropriate of a believer to avoid lahw." [26]

Grand Ayatollah Bahjat, Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, Ayatollah Noori Hamedani and Ayatollah Wahid Khurasani: "It is not permissible, as an obligatory precaution." [27]

Ayatollah Saafi and Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi: It is ḥarām. [28]

The conclusion we draw is that, if an athletic action is considered to be dancing [29] , or it is deemed as listening to music, there is problem in it, or else, there is no problem in it. In such matters, it is necessary for every individual to refer to his own Marja (i.e. the jurist whom he follows).

Anyway, your question has also been sent to the office of some grand jurists. The answers which we have received so far are the following:

Office of Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi (may Allah grant him long life):

If music is not suitable for the gatherings of entertainment and  moral depravity, there is no objection in it.

Office of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (may Allah grant him long life):

If music does not cause ecstasy and it is not lahwī either, there is no objection in it. The duty-bound (mukallaf) himself should distinguish whether the music is lahwī or not.

If dancing entails sexual excitation or committing a ḥarām act like listening to ḥarām music, or it is in the presence of non-mahram men, it is forbidden.

Office of Grand Ayatollah Saafi Gulpaigani (may Allah grant him long life):

Exercise is good by itself but if it is accompanied with music or it is meant for dancing, it is not permissible. God knows best.

Related index:

1. Index: The Reason Behind Prohibition and Permissibility of Music, question 6964 (site: 7088).

2. Index: Ways to Identify Halal Type of Music from Ḥarām One, question 392 (stie: 408).

3. Index: Nature and Prohibition of Music, question 10803 (site: 10622)

4. Index: The Reasons behind Prohibition of Music, question 10868 (site: 10755)

5. Index: The Islamic Law about Listening to Music on Audio and Video Channels, question 1358 (site: 1381)

6. Index: Dancing for Fitness, question 17145 (site: 16865)

7. Index: Prohibition of Dancing in Ahadith, question 17144 (site: 16864).



[1] - Questions and Answers by Students (Rules regarding Music), Sayyid Mujtaba Husseini, pg. 40

[2] - Ibid, pg. 41

[3] - Ibid, pg. 42

[4] - Tawzih al-Masail of Jurists, vol.2,pp. 813 and 913; Current Legal Issues; vol.1, pg. 47 onward.

[5] - Rules regarding Man-Woman Relationships, Sayyid Mas'ud Ma'sumi, pg. 227.

[6] - Ibid, pg. 228

[7] - Sayyid Mohsen Mahmudi, Current Legal Issues according to Ulama and Grand Religious Authorities, pg. 54.

[8] - Students' questions (Rules regarding Music), Sayyid Mujtaba Husseini, pg. 43

[9] - Ibid.

[10] - Tawzih al-Masail, Miscellaneous Issues, pg.3, Issue No.20.

[11] - Sayyid Mas'ud Ma'sumi, Rules regarding Man-Woman Relationships, pg. 228.

[12] - Of course, as was stated, some of the grand jurists consider all types of music as ḥarām.

[13] - Vide: Rules regarding Man-Woman Relationships and Rules regarding Music.

[14] - Sayyid Mujtaba Husseini, Questions and Answers by Students (Rules regarding Music), pg. 84.

[15] - Sayyid Mohsen Mahmudi, Current Legal Issues according to Ulama and Religious Authorities, pg. 203.

[16] - Ibid.

[17] - Ibid.

[18] - Ibid, pg. 204.

[19] - Ibid.

[20] - Ibid.

[21] - Ibid.

[22] - Ibid.

[23] - See: Sayyid Mas'ud Ma'sumi, Rules regarding Man-Woman Relationships, pg. 219.

[24] - Tawzih al-Masail (with annotations by Imam Khomeini), vol.2, pg. 970.

[25] - Ibid.

[26] - Sayyid Mujtaba Husseini, Questions and Answers by Students (Rules regarding Music), pg. 84.

[27] - Ibid.

[28] - Ibid.

[29] - Or ḥarām music according to some principles.

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