The Jurisprudential Views of Imam Khumayni Regarding Music

Recently I taught a module on Music in Islamic Law, Culture and Society. During the module, I made a very quick reference to the views of Imam Khumayni, but did not have an opportunity to expand on the significance of his views on the subject in detail as it was beyond the scope of what was meant to be covered in the module. In the past, a number of articles have been published on Iqra Online on the topic of music, such as the views of Ayatullah Sayyid Khamenei, transcriptions of advanced jurisprudential discussions on singing by Ustad Soroush Mahallati, as well as his advanced jurisprudential discussions on music instruments. To further aid those who are interested in reading more on the topic, I decided to work on the translation of a paper published on the official website of Imam Khumayni, written by Mina Avanj on this very particular topic.1

I would like to thank brother Muhammad Jaffer for taking the time out to edit the paper.

1. Introduction

Based on the Qurān and riwāyāt, jurists and religious experts have presented various theses regarding the permissibility and prohibition of music. In the past, most jurists rejected music and deemed it forbidden, because they viewed its social function negatively, for instance as a means of frivolous entertainment in the courts of kings. Therefore, they did not see any constructive aspect to singing or music. Prior to the Iranian Revolution and during the Pahlavi regime, Imam Khumayni also held this same perspective. However, after the Revolution and during the period of practical implementation and governance, the domain of music was further differentiated, recognizing both blameworthy and beneficial forms. In other words, music could serve the ideals and principles of the Revolution and be beneficial in that regard. Imam Khumayni’s pioneering fatwas paved the way for this development of a constructive musical genre. This article, written by Mina Avanj (a doctoral student in the field of Iranian Revolutionary History), aims to explore Imam Khumayni’s views on music and examine the theoretical developments he made in this regard.

 2. Definitions

2.1 Music

The word “music” is derived from the Greek root “mousikē,” which in turn originates from the Muses, the nine mythological goddesses of the arts in Greek mythology. In technical terms, music refers to the art of melodies and harmonies, the knowledge of musical instruments and vocalizations, and the science of musical composition and melody. Al-Fārābī also introduced music as melodies (alḥān) and defined melody as a series of tones that may be heard from any natural entity and/or produced by the human voice.

2.2 Ghinā

In Dehkhoda’s dictionary, the term “ghinā” has four meanings: 1. A hymn; 2. A pleasant voice that engenders excitement; 3. Melody and vocalization; and 4. A beautiful and enchanting voice. From these lexical definitions, it can be inferred that music, including singing and instrumental music, encompasses “ghinā,” which refers to pleasant singing and is a part of music.

3. The Ruling of Music and Ghinā in Shī’ī Imāmī Law

Music did not develop a multi-faceted role in society until the expansion of mass communication tools. Therefore, in the past, jurists did not holistically address the subject of music and singing, and they considered it as a specialized issue in which only some individuals partook. Consequently, they issued fatwas against it. The reason for this can be attributed, firstly, to the usual mixing of melodies and lyrics with other forbidden matters. This very concomitance was sufficient for committed and devout Muslims to abstain from music altogether. Secondly, until the invention of radio, television, and other multimedia, there was a limited impact of singing/music in society; the entire population was not necessarily exposed to it, and its effects on social culture and ethics were not well-recognized. Therefore, the exigency to clarify the rules and boundaries regarding prohibited singing and music was not as palpable.

In Shi’i jurisprudence, ghinā’ is generally understood as vocalization with specific elements. Mullā Narāqī, in his Mustanad al-Shī’a fī Aḥkām al-Sharī‘ah mentions twelve definitions of singing and its elements that were previously presented by Shī’ī scholars. These definitions are as follows:

  1. A voice that engenders passion (muṭṭarib)
  2. A voice which possesses reverberation (tarjī’)
  3. A voice with reverberation that engenders passion
  4. Reverberation
  5. Enchanting vocalization (taṭrīb)
  6. Reverberation accompanied by enchanting vocalization
  7. Projection of the voice accompanied by reverberation
  8. Prolongation of the voice (madd)
  9. Prolongation of the voice with one or both characteristics of reverberation or enchantment
  10. Adornment of the voice (tahsīn)
  11. Prolongation of the voice and its accoutrements
  12. A rhythmically balanced and modulated voice (mawzūn ve qābil-e-fahm) that engages the heart

Ultimately, Narāqī defines singing as follows: “Singing is the prolongation of the voice with reverberation that engenders passion, regardless of whether it may be joyful or sorrowful.”2 At times, jurists have used these two terms (music and singing) interchangeably to the extent that it appears there has been a conflation in this regard. Jurists mostly consider singing to mean vocalization or singing that is delightful and suitable for gatherings of entertainment and frivolity (majālis-e-lahv ve la’ib). Meanwhile, they have limited music to the sounds produced by musical instruments alone.

According to some other jurists, singing is considered synonymous with music, and both refer to melodious and rhythmic sounds. Therefore, it is possible to categorize each of them as permissible (ḥalāl) or forbidden (ḥarām) singing or music. However, within technical circles, music encompasses instrumental music and vocalization, while singing specifically refers to vocal music. In this sense, singing falls within the realm of music, and their relationship is therefore that of a subordinate and superordinate respectively (khuṣūṣ wa ‘umūm).

Ḥujjat al-Islām Ḥusain Sālik, an expert in the subject of singing and music, explains that firstly, from ancient times, singing had been associated with vocal performance, not instrumental performance, and that it had no direct connection to instrumental performance; they were instead separate domains. Secondly, singing was used specifically to refer to a performance using the vocal cords.

In general, there is no precise and specific definition of these concepts, and their semantic boundaries are not accurately defined. However, it can be said that music and singing are considered forbidden (ḥarām) by Shī’ī jurists when they possess the following characteristics:

  1. Passion-evoking
  2. Reverberation
  3. Suitability for gatherings of entertainment and frivolity
  4. Provocation of sensual desires

The views regarding singing and music can be divided into two categories among Shī’ī jurists:

A) The Essential Prohibition of Singing (bi al-dhāt): The majority of jurists agree on the essential prohibition of singing, and most of them accept this paradigm. Ayatollah al-Murawwijī, in his Dars al-Khārij lessons has stated, “From ancient times, the general genre of singing has been considered prohibited by Shī’ī scholars, and although sometimes there have been debates regarding the generalizability of this ruling to certain individuals or types of singing, until the time of Muhaddith Kāshānī, we do not know of anyone who had opposed this general ruling.” This group, based on consensus (al-ijmā’), Qurānic verses, and narrations, therefore advocated for the essential legal prohibition of singing.

B) The Accidental Prohibition of Singing (bi al-‘araḍ): Muḥaddith Kāshānī and Muḥaqqiq Sabzevārī believe that singing is only forbidden if it is accompanied by other prohibited acts. According to these jurists, the genre of singing is wider than simply singing suitable for entertainment, meaning that they broadened the scope of singing and consider it to include both entertainment and non-entertainment singing, with only the first type being prohibited.

3.1 Definition and Ruling of Music and Ghinā As Per Imam Khumayni

Imam Khumayni discussed the topic of ghinā in his books “al-Makāsib al-Muḥarramah” (Forbidden Gains) and “Taḥrīr al-Wasīlah” (The Means of Emancipation), which he wrote before the Iranian Revolution. In the book al-Makāsib al-Muḥarramah which was written between 1958 and 1961, he first presents the definition of his teacher, Ayatollāh Moḥammad Rezā Isfahānī regarding music and then critiques it. Ayatollāh Isfahānī’s definition is as follows:

الغنا صوت الإنسان الذی من شأنه إیجاد الطرب بتناسبه لمتعارف الناس و الطرب هو الخفّه التی تعتری الإنسان فتکاد أن تذهب بالعقل و تفعل فعل المسکر لمتعارف الناس أیضا

“Singing is the sound produced by a person that has the potential to create passion due to its being in conformity with societal norms. Passion is a state of euphoria that overcomes a person to the extent that it may nearly impair their intellect and cause them to engage in actions akin to one who would socially be deemed in the state of intoxication.”

Imam Khumayni offered a critique of this definition as follows:

1. The extent of passion or euphoria here is not socially or customarily ever deemed significant enough to potentially impair human reason in the first place. There is no evidence of this in social custom and language, and ghinā obviously entails a state that falls short of reaching that level of passion.

2. Isfahānī considers conformity of the sound to societal norms as ghinā, even if it comes from a person with a subpar voice which does not create joy, but rather evokes disgust. This statement contradicts his own definition of ghinā because he defined it as something that is passion-inducing, yet by stating it must be in conformity with societal norms, he implies that even a voice that does not evoke passion ought to still be considered ghinā.

3. His claim that all the definitions mentioned for ghinā are subsumed within his own definition is incorrect.3

After that, Imam Khumayni presents his own desired definition of ghinā as follows:

فالأولی تعریف الغنا بأنّه صوت الإنسان الذی له رقّه و حسن ذاتی و لو فی الجمله و له شأنیّه إیجاد الطرب بتناسبه لمتعارف الناس

“It is more appropriate to define ghinā as follows: the human voice that is nimble and has intrinsic aesthetic beauty, even if to a small extent, and has the capacity to evoke passion in accordance with the norms of the general public.”4

Another definition by Imam Khumayni (RA) is presented in his “Taḥrīr al-Wasīlah.” He wrote this book in the year 1964. In this book, Imam Khumayni writes:

غنا تنها نیکو ادا‌کردن صدا نیست، بلکه کشیدن صدا و ترجیع آن به کیفیتی است که طربناک بوده و با مجالس لهو و شادی و آلات لهو و لعب تناسب داشته باشد و از این ­جهت فرقی نمی­ کند که در کلام حقی مثل قرآن و دعا و مرثیه یا غیر آن مانند شعر یا نثر به‌کار گرفته شود. بلکه اگر در چیزی که اطاعت خدا با آن می ­شود استفاده گردد، عقابش بیشتر است

“Ghinā is not merely the good rendition of sound, but it involves the prolongation of sound and its reverberation in a way that engenders passion, suitable for gatherings of frivolity and entertainment; it refers to a voice which is congruent with musical instruments of frivolity and entertainment. In this regard, it makes no difference whether it is employed in the context of righteous speech, such as the Qurān, supplications, elegies, or in other forms like poetry or prose. Rather, if it is employed in something that is otherwise pleasing to God, the punishment for engaging in it ought to be altogether greater.”5

Based on these definitions, Imam Khumayni initially defines ghinā as the human voice that has inherent aesthetic beauty, and in the second stage, he defines it as singing that is not only well-performed but also pleasurable and suitable for gatherings of frivolity. In his “Taḥrīr al-Wasilah,” he goes yet further and states that engaging in, listening to, and earning by virtue of ghinā is ḥarām.

It seems that Imam Khumayni considered ghinā as ḥarām during that period, and in general, he did not believe in the positive function and outcomes of music. Perhaps this was because he believed that in the society of the Pahlavi era, music had deviated from its humanistic purpose and original objective. Imam Khumayni viewed this type of music as a means of wasting time and occupying the youth in frivolous matters.

3.2 Opinion of Imam Khumayni on Music After the Iranian Revolution

After the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khumayni initially maintained his previous belief that the prevailing music led to the weakening of the spirit of the youth and distanced individuals from intellectual independence. During the early years of the revolution, he described issues related to music as trivial matters with no connection to serious and important issues. For example, on July 19th, 1979, in a gathering with the employees of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), he stated:

اگر شما به اسلام و به کشور علاقه دارید… این دستگاه را اصلاحش کنید؛ یعنی غربی نباشید… که حتماً باید بین این خبر و این خبر موسیقی باشد. این غرب­ زدگی است. یک طرح دیگری درست کنید. اخبار را زیادترش کنید. یک کارهایی کنید تا موسیقی را ترکش کنید. شما خیال نکنید موسیقی یک چیزی است برای یک مملکت مترقی. موسیقی خراب می­ کند دماغ بچه­ های ما را. مغز بچه‌های ما را فاسد می‌کند. دائماً تو گوش یک جوان موسیقی باشد این دیگر به‌کار نمی­رسد. این دیگر نمی ­تواند فکر جدی کند

“If you are genuinely concerned about Islam and the country… reform this apparatus; don’t be Western and think there must always be music embedded between your news broadcasts [as filler]. This is Westernization. Come up with another plan; supplement your news broadcasts. Do things that will reduce the influene of music. Don’t think that music is something suitable for an advanced nation. Music ruins the minds of our children. It corrupts the brains of our youth. If a young person constantly has music in their ears, they won’t be productive anymore. They won’t be able to think seriously.”

During this time, Sadeq Qutbzadeh was the head of IRIB. With these admonitions to Qutbzadeh, significant efforts were expended to reduce the broadcasting of provocative music on radio and television and instead promote useful and educational programs. Imam Khumayni’s stance on these matters can largely be attributed to the continuation of the cultural milieu that existed before the Iranian Revolution and during the era of the Pahlavi regime. The Imam believed that during the Pahlavi era, with the increase in music programs and the attraction of young people to such matters, they were being diverted from important political activities. Ayatollāh Khamenei also stated the following regarding the content of music during the Pahlavi era:

موسیقی قبل از انقلاب از لحاظ ارزشی سه عیب عمده داشت: یکی این‌که در بخشی از موسیقی­ ها، در انتخاب مضمون و قالب، گرایش تند و میل شدیدی به ابتذال بود؛ عیب دوم این‌که گرایش شدیدی به موسیقی غربی بود و عیب سوم این‌که موسیقی سالم و سنتی و فنی کلاسیک ایرانی در خدمت محتوای بد و فاسدکننده قرار می­ گرفت. از همه بدتر آن اولی است و از همه کم‌ضررتر آن دومی است. ‌ای بسا یک موسیقی غربی باشد که در آن هیچ‌گونه ابتذال و فساد و زن­ بارگی و پستی و دنائت بشری نیست، یک چیز بسیار عالی و عرفانی و سطح بالاست

“Music before the revolution had three major flaws in terms of its values: firstly, in some music pieces, there was a tendency towards extravagance in the choice of subject and form; secondly, there was a strong inclination towards Western music, and thirdly, healthy, traditional, and classical Iranian music was being employed to serve corrupt and decadent content. Of these three, the first characteristic was the worst and the second one was the least harmful. This is because there could certainly be Western music in which there is no exaggeration, corruption, objectification, debasement, or human degradation, but rather sublime, spiritual, and high quality content.”

Given the negative reverberating affects of music originating from the time of the Pahlavi regime, Imam Khumayni deemed it necessary to curtail it. Therefore, he suggested to the officials of radio and television that they replace music with educational and informative programs. In response to reservations about the removal of music from radio and television, he stated:

این‌که می­ گویند چنان‌چه موسیقی در رادیو نباشد مردم می­ روند موسیقی را از جای دیگر می­ گیرند، بگذار از جای دیگر بگیرند. شما عجالتاً آلوده نباشید. آن‌ها هم کم‌کم به این‌جا برمی ­گردند. حال اگر از جای دیگر موسیقی بگیرند، ما باید به آن‌ها موسیقی بدهیم؟ ما باید خیانت کنیم؟ این موسیقی را به‌کلی حذفش کنید. عوض این یک چیزی بگذارید که آموزنده باشد. کم‌کم مردم را و جوان­های مردم را عادت به آموزندگی بدهید. از آن عادت خبیثی که داشتند، برگردانید

“They claim that if there is no music on the radio, people will go elsewhere to get music. Then let them go elsewhere to get it. Don’t be hasty. They will gradually come back to us. Now, if they should get music from elsewhere, does this mean that we should be the ones providing them with music? Should we betray [our values]? Rather, we ought to completely censor out this music. Instead, put something in its place that is educational. Gradually make the people and the young people accustomed to learning. Restrain them from that wicked habit they once had.”6

Imam Khumayni’s profound concern about the state of music and ghinā led him to monitor the programs of radio and television and provide necessary directives. During the time when Mohammad Hashemi was charged with radio and television, Imam Khumayni emphasized the need to remove purposeless music from television and media in a message. He stated:

کسانی که متکفل صدا و سیما هستند، این‌ها امانت­دار کشور اسلامی هستند. بازهم تکرار می­ کنم که موسیقی، باز کمی هست. باید اشخاصی که مطلع‌اند این­ها موسیقی هستند، مشاهده کنند ببینند اگر یک چیزی را می­بینند موسیقی‌اش را نمی‌توانید رد کنید، اصلش را رد کنید. محمد هاشمی مدیرعامل صداوسیما: منظور غنا است؟ امام‌خمینی: همان را می­ گویم اگر موسیقی حرام باشد. آن­ چیزهایی که راجع به جنگ هستند، این­ها چیزی نیستند

“Those responsible for radio and television are the custodians of the Islamic country. Once again, I repeat that music is still present, albeit to a lesser extent. Those who are aware and understand that it is music should examine and look very carefully. If you see something that you cannot deny is musical, then you ought to reject it.” At this juncture, Mohammad Hashemi, the CEO of IRIB, asked, ‘Do you mean singing?’ Imam Khumayni replied, “The same thing applies [to singing] if the music [used] is forbidden. As for those [compositions] related to war, they are not applicable here.'”7

Mohammad Hashemi himself has spoken about the extensive differences of opinion regarding music in the early days of the revolution and he described that Imam Khumayni was not against every genre of music, but rather just those types that were extravagant. He mentioned, “At that time, the differences of opinion about music were such that when we went to visit one of the religious authorities (marāji), he repeatedly struck the table with his hand or an object and said, ‘This sound that rises from the table is music, and it is forbidden.’ Even at that time, many people objected to the military marches that were broadcasted before the news, and they believed in its prohibition so viscerally that they would actually turn off the television.”

Sadeq Tabatabai, one of the influential figures in the years following the Iranian Revolution, states that Imam Khumayni’s opinion regarding the censorship of music referred to the elimination of forbidden music, not a complete undermining of all music. He recounts a memory in this regard, where in the early years of the revolution, he presented one of Morteza Hannaneh’s instrumental works to Imam Khumayni. The Imam listened to it and stated that it did not bear anything religiously objectionable.

4. Dynamic Jurisprudence of Imam Khumayni and The Issue of Music

Upon assuming the leadership of the Islamic government and facing numerous social, individual, political, and economic issues, Imam Khumayni adopted a fresh approach. It was an approach that aimed to be dynamic and responsive to all the facets of society. He himself emphasized this by stating,

زمان و مکان دو عنصر تعیین‌کننده در اجتهادند. مسئله‌ای که در قدیم دارای حکمی بوده‌است به ظاهر همان مسئله در روابط حاکم بر سیاست و اجتماع و اقتصاد یک نظام ممکن است حکم جدیدی پیدا کند

“Time and place are determining factors in ijtihad. An issue that may have had a certain ruling in the past could potentially have a new ruling in the context of the prevailing politics, society, and economy of the society.”8

Therefore, after the revolution, taking to account his position of governments and exigencies of time and place, he adjusted his views on music. He believed that under certain circumstances, certain types of music could have some benefits, and based on this, music could not be inherently considered forbidden.

Imam Khumayni gradually approved and found no issue with the broadcasting of anthems that had revolutionary content on radio and television. One of these anthems was performed in commemoration of the martyrdom of Shahīd Motahhari, entitled “Ay Shahīd-e-Mojāhid-e-Motahhar.” Mehrdad Kazemi, a musician from the early days of the revolution, says that this anthem triggered a change of heart from Imam Khumayni regarding music. He believes that the Imam’s approval of this music was a catalyst for the opening of the path for music after the revolution. According to him, with the performance of this anthem, perceptions of music suddenly changed. He shares one of his recollections as follows:

“Ḥājj Sayyid Ahmad Khumayni himself told me that when Imam Khumayni listened to this piece, he enjoyed it greatly and said that good music should be composed in this style. In our conversations, I witnessed that the Imam showed strong support for music in two instances. One was when the songs ‘Motahhari’ and ‘Allahu Akbar, Khumayni Rahbar’ were released, and the other relates to a later time when I sang the song ‘Ay Sārbān.’ When I sang ‘Ay Sārbān,’ Sayyid Ahmad Khumayni himself told me that my father, Imam Khumayni, shed tears and cried twice while listening to this song. It was after this piece that a fatwa was issued stating that music in this form is permissible.”

The composition “Ay Sārbān” was created in 1987 in memory of the martyrs of the Hafte Tir bombing, using poetry by Saadi, and it was performed by Mehrdad Kazemi. By examining such works, one can understand that the content and message of musical pieces were important factors that Imam Khumayni paid attention to, and one of the most significant factors determining the permissibility or prohibition of a musical piece.

In this regard, we find in the istiftā’āt (legal questions) of Imam Khumayni that his fatwa regarding music was changed as follows:

موسیقی مطرب حرام است و صداهای مشکوک مانع ندارد

“Music that evokes passion is prohibited, but there is no objection to doubtful sounds.”

Imam Khumayni’s groundbreaking fatwa led to a change in the approach to music. He declared certain types of music permissible if the mukallaf (the religiously responsible individual) is in doubt about whether it evokes passion or not. In essence, he established the principle that music is permissible unless it is proven otherwise. This was in direct contrast to his previous jurisprudential opinion before the revolution. Therefore, in addition to Imam Khumayni’s innovative perspective on jurisprudence, another factor that influenced his change in approach was the oversight of the political system and government. Depending on the performer’s institutional affiliation, intentions, and perspective, the fatwa related to music could vary.

At this juncture, I would like to share a memoir from Sayyid Ahmad Khumayni, which demonstrates Imam Khumayni’s belief in the role of the pervading political system and its objectives in issuing religious rulings:

“Imam Khumayni did not consider music before or after the revolution as the same thing. One day, Mr. Hashemi, Mr. Mousavi Ardabili, Mr. Mousavi (the Prime Minister), and I were having a meeting when Imam entered. The television was playing one of Shajarian’s songs. Imam came in and sat down. Mr. Hashemi asked Imam, ‘Sir, you used to consider music as ḥarām. Why don’t you consider it ḥarām now?’ Imam replied, ‘Even now, if this same music is broadcasted from the radio in Saudi Arabia, I consider it ḥarām. I also considered the music played on the Shah’s radio as ḥarām because of its context.'”

5. Fatwa of Imam Khumayni Regarding Using Musical Instruments

On the nineteenth of Shahrivar in the year 1367 (September 10, 1988), an inquiry was made to Imam Khumayni regarding musical instruments and chess, to which he responded regarding music, “Buying and selling instruments that can be equally used for ḥalāl and ḥarām (ālāt mushtarakah) for the purpose of permissible profit is not problematic.” After the publication of this response, Ayatollāh Qadiri, one of Imam Khumayni’s students, questioned him about this matter in a letter and raised objections based on certain narrations concerning Imam Khumayni’s fatwa. In his response, Imam Khumayni referred to the role of contextual considerations in the process of ijtihad (Islamic legal reasoning) and deriving rulings. He criticized the reductionist view of some clergy towards Islamic laws and their disregard for the contextual considerations in legal rulings.

Imam Khumayni issued this fatwa at a time when, according to many religious authorities, the general use and buying/selling of musical instruments were still considered forbidden (haram). However, he determined that, considering the changing customs of the people, music and its instruments could also serve permissible interests. He no longer approached this issue solely from a theoretical perspective but recognized the need for it in the realm of practicality. A flood of new subjects had been emerging that required a comprehensive and holistic approach to eliminate that aspersion that Islam was unable to address contemporary issues.

6. Other Opinions of Imam Khumayni On the Matter of Music and Ghinā

6.1 The Criterion for Determining Ḥalāl Music from Ḥarām

This matter of determining whether music is passion-provoking or suitable for gatherings of entertainment is a topic that Imam Khumayni addressed and clarified extensively. The criteria for distinguishing between permissible and forbidden music vary among scholars. Some have placed the responsibility of determining forbidden music upon the individual, considering it a personal matter. Others have entrusted the determination to social custom (al-‘urf).

According to Imam Khumayni’s istiftā’āt (legal questions), the general rule he introduced in the years following the revolution is as follows:

شنیدن و نواختن موسیقی مطرب حرام است و صداهای مشکوک مانع ندارد و تشخیص با عرف است

“Listening to and playing passion-provoking music is forbidden but sounds that are suspicious are not problematic. The determination is based on customary practices.”

In other words, the music that is recognized among the public as passion-provoking music is considered forbidden (ḥarām).

6.2 The Ruling on Listening to Voice of a Woman

Imam Khumayni has also expressed his views regarding women’s solo singing. He was asked about the ruling on women’s solo singing, including recitation of the Qurān and hymns, in the presence of non-maḥram individuals. He responded that “the ruling depends on the existence or absence of any corrupting factor (mafsadah). If it leads to sin and forbidden acts, then it is not permissible.” Regarding women’s chorus singing in front of men, he replied that “it is not prohibited as long as the principles of hijab are observed, unless it involves any corrupting factor.”

Sadeq Tabatabai also discussed Imam Khumayni’s perspective on the female voice, harmony, and solo singing in an interview with the Iranian Music Magazine, mentioning a personal memorandum. He had a conversation with Imam Khumayni regarding this matter, and he specifically asked him the following questions:

س: اگر در یک قطعه سرود و موسیقی نیازی به کلام و صدای انسان باشد چه حکمی دارد؟

ج: اگر مفسده­ ای در کار نباشد ازاین ­لحاظ حکم کلی تغییر نمی­کند.

س: صورت استفاده از صدای مرد، حتماً باید به‌صورت گروهی یا به‌اصطلاح کر باشد؟ یا می­توان از تک‌خوانی مرد نیز استفاده کرد؟

ج: ازاین ­لحاظ فرقی میان تک‌خوانی و آواز گروهی وجود ندارد.

س: استفاده از صدای زن چه حکمی دارد؟

ج: همان حکم صدای مرد را دارد.

س: صدای زن باید به‌صورت گروهی باشد یا تک‌خوانی زنان نیز بدون اشکال است؟

ج: حکم همان حکم کلی است و با صدای مرد فرقی ندارد

Q: If a piece of music requires vocals and human voice, what is the ruling?

A: If there is no corrupting factor involved, the general ruling remains unchanged in this regard.


Q: Does the use of male voice necessarily have to be in a group or choir, or can solo male singing also be used?

A: There is no difference between solo singing and group singing in this regard.


Q: What is the ruling on the use of female voice?

A: It has the same ruling as the male voice.


Q: Should female voice be used in a group or is solo female singing also permissible without any issues?

A: The ruling is the same as the general ruling and does not differ from the male voice.

Therefore, it appears that Imam Khumayni considers women’s singing to be governed by the same principles as men’s singing. In other words, if it does not involve prohibited acts and there is no corruption associated with it, it is permissible without any issues.

7. Conclusion

Before the Iranian Revolution, Imam Khumayni addressed the topic of music. After the Iranian Revolution, two types of music were conceived from Imam Khumayni’s perspective: productive music and condemned music. Productive music is music that serves to elevate human beings, allowing the expression of refined human sentiments. On the other hand, condemned music is contrary to human nature and leads one away from the path of faith and transcendence. Consequently, after entering the realm of governance and dealing with various new social and cultural challenges, Imam Khumayni moderated his views and opinions on music. Through leveraging his theory of dynamic jurisprudence and considering the conditions of time, place, and the exigencies of his era, he not only recognized the benefits and positive effects of music, but also introduced the default presumption that the music produced within the Islamic Republic is of the permissible genre unless proven otherwise. Through this approach, he paved the way for many artists in the field of music, leading to the creation of remarkable works of the revolutionary genre.


  1. The original paper in Persian can be accessed here. I have translated very few references from the original article; those interested in further research can refer to the original article.
  2. Mustanad al-Shī’a, vol. 14, pg. 124-215
  3. al-Makāsib al-Muḥarramah, vol. 1, pg. 303-305.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Taḥrīr al-Wasīlah, vol. 1, pg. 497
  6. Sahife Imam Khumayni, vol. 8, pg. 197
  7. Ibid., vol. 18, pg. 290.
  8. Ibid., vol. 21, pg. 289.