Are Bells Forbidden Music?

06 January, 2017
Q As-salamu `alaykum. If music is permitted in Islam, then why is the bell forbidden? The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “The bells are the musical instruments of Satan." (Muslim)

Answer

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Thank you very much for trusting us and for your question.

Regarding your question, some scholars say that bells were disliked by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) for some reasons other than music. So, the referred to hadith should be understood within its context.

Answering your question, Dr. Wael Shehab, PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada, states:

Suppport AboutIslam.net

Although the issue of listening to or playing music and singing is subject to differences and disagreement among scholars, I adopt the juristic view that allows the act of listening to or playing music or singing provided the following conditions are met:

1- It does not involve a theme that promotes immorality, indecency, or evil.
2- It is not accompanied withharampractices.
3- It does not incite evil desires within oneself.
4- It does not waste one’s time.
5- It does not lead to neglecting one’s duties.

As for the hadith “the bell is the musical instrument of the Satan”, it is reported by Imam Muslim in the Chapter of “the disapproval of setting out on a journey along with a dog and bells”. There is another narration of the same hadith that reads, “Angels (of mercy) don’t accompany people who set out on a journey along with a dog or bell”.

In his explanation of the above hadith, the great Imam an-Nawawi says, “The hadith indicates the abhorrence of setting out on a journey along with a dog or bell. Angels don’t accompany people who have a dog or bell; “Angels” here refers to angels of mercy and seeking Allah’s forgiveness (for people). It is said that angels dislike bells for they are similar to the bells of Christians or they are hanged out of belief in their own protection against evils, which is forbidden, such as amulets. Some scholars say that what is disliked is the big, not the small, bells.

In his book, an-Nihayyah, Ibn al-Athir says, “Bells were hanged on camels and other riding animals. Bells were then disliked (by the Prophet) as they make voices through which enemies would know about the coming of the Muslim army.

Giving the above, some scholars restrict the abhorrence of bells to big ones or when they are hanged out of belief in their own protection against envy or sickness.

All in all, as the issue is subject to scholars’ differences, a person may follow the view he or she inclines to.

May Allah accept your and our good deeds!

Allah Almighty knows best.

About Dr. Wael Shehab
Dr. Wael Shehab has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University. He is currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada.