Is it Permissible to recite Quran according to rules of singing & melodic tunes?

The maqaamaat or melodic modes/tunes etc mentioned in the question are kinds of tunes or melodies used by musicians and singers. Those who specialize in that art have classified the tunes by specific rhythms and called them maqaamaat. This is not an invented science; rather it was compiled by studying and listening to the tunes of people. With regard to the modes compiled by musicologists, there are six modes, as follows:

1. Maqaam al-Bayyaat (Bayati): This is a maqaam that evokes humility and monasticism. It is the maqaam that focuses the heart and makes it ponder the verses of Allah and their meanings.

2. Maqaam ar-Rast (Rast): Rast is Persian word meaning steadfastness. Specialists in maqaamaat prefer this maqaam when reciting verses that tell narratives or prescribe rulings.

3. Maqaam an-Nahaawand (Nahawand): This maqaam evokes emotions of compassion and gentleness, and instils humility and reflection. Nahawand is an Iranian city after which this maqaam was named.

4. Maqaam as-Seeka (Sikah): This maqaam is distinguished by its slow and easy pace.

5. Maqaam as-Saba (Saba): This maqaam is very spiritual and powerful, and evokes emotions of compassion.

6. Maqaam al-Hijaaz (Hijaz): This is a maqaam of Arabian origin, named after the Hijaz region of Arabia. It is one of the most spiritual maqaams and one of the most effective in helping one to focus in recitation of Qur’an.

These are the words of specialists in that field, and these are their literal definitions. It may be noted that they are all non-Arabic maqaamat, except for the last one. It may also be noted that the maqaamaat are based on the tunes used by people in their singing and music. Hence this is a science that preceded the Qur’an and its recitation. Readers may recite according to one of the maqaamaat without knowing anything about it, and a reciter may vary his recitation, using a variety of maqaamaat, according to the verses and their meanings.

Ruling on reciting according to these Maqaamaat:

With regard to the ruling on reciting according to these maqaamaat, then it is not allowed to recite according to these musical maqaamaat. The following is a Fatwa:

It is not permissible for the believer to recite Qur’aan with melodies like those of songs or in the manner of singers. He has to recite it as it was recited by our righteous predecessors, the companions of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and those who followed them in truth.

So it should be recited with the proper intonation (tarteel), in a solemn and humble manner, so that it may have an effect on the hearts of those who hear it and on the heart of the reciter himself. Reading it in the manner or way of singers is not permitted. [Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Maqaalaat Mutanawwi’ah li Samaahat al-Shaykh al-‘Allaamah ‘Abd al-‘Azzez ibn ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Baaz, vol. 9, p. 290]

Dr Ibraaheem ibn Sa‘eed ad-Dawsari, Vice President of the Saudi Academic Committee for Qur’anic Sciences, and President of the Department of Qur’an and Its Sciences at al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University said:

Recitation with a tune or melody can only be one of two things:

1. Tunes that a person naturally comes up with, without much conscious effort. This is what most people do when reciting Qur’an. So everyone who recites Qur’an in a melodious manner would not go beyond that simple way of coming up with a tune. This is permissible, and it is a type of melodious recitation that is good and praiseworthy, as the Messenger of Allah (Sallahu Alahi wassalam) said: “He is not one of us who does not beautify his voice for the Qur’an.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari in his Saheeh (7527). In this case the ruling is that it is permissible and mustahabb.

2. Developed tunes and musical rhythms that can only be acquired by learning and training, for which there are certain measures and vocal control without which they cannot be done properly. This is not permissible, because reciting the Qur’an has its own measures and vocal control that are subject to the rules of tajweed that have been transmitted (from the time of the Prophet (Sallahu Alahi wassalam)), and cannot be in accord with the measures as dictated by the rules of those tunes that are used in singing, because if we tried to do that, it would undermine the rules of tajweed. This is something that is not allowed.

Concerning that, Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma‘aad fi Hadiy Khayr al-‘Ibaad (1/493):

Everyone who has knowledge of the life of the early generations will know definitively that they had nothing at all to do with reciting Qur’an with musical tunes that require effort to learn and perform them and which are based on rhythmic movements and are measured, counted and have a specific limit. They were too pious to recite in accordance with those tunes and to allow that.

It is known for certain that they used to recite Qur’an in a sad tone and in a joyful tone, and they would make their voices beautiful for the Qur’an, sometimes reciting in sad or joyful tones, or with a tone of longing. This is something instilled in and dictated by human nature, and the Lawgiver did not forbid it, because there is a strong natural inclination towards that.

Rather the Prophet (Sallahu Alahi wassalam) directed people to that and encouraged it, and stated that Allah would listen to one who recites the Qur’an in a beautiful voice, as he said: “He is not one of us who does not beautify his voice for the Qur’an.” This hadith may be interpreted in two ways: 1. that it is telling them something that all of us (Muslims) do; 2. that it is stating that those who do not do it are not following the guidance and way of the Prophet (Sallahu Alahi wassalam).

Reciting in a melodious voice (taghanni) may mean:

1 – Making the voice beautiful when reciting, whilst reciting aloud in a tone that conveys the feelings of humility, softening of the heart and sadness, without making too much effort or exaggerating.

Taghanni means reciting aloud, as it was narrated in Saheeh Muslim that Abu Hurayrah said: “The Messenger of Allaah SAWS (Sallahu Alahi wassalam) said: ‘Allaah does not listen to anything (more approvingly) than He listens to a Prophet reciting the Qur’aan aloud in a melodious voice…” This indicates that we are commanded and encouraged to make our voices beautiful when reciting Qur’aan.

This hadeeth clearly states the meaning of taghanni. The phrase “reciting aloud” explains it. Reciting aloud means raising one’s voice when reciting and making it beautiful, in a natural manner with no artifice, which one enjoys and finds pleasure in. Before the Qur’aan was revealed, the Arabs used to sing hudaa’ (songs of camel drivers) when riding camels, to make the journey pass more quickly when they were sitting in their saddles, and so on.

But when the Qur’aan was revealed, the Prophet (Sallahu Alahi wassalam) wanted to make them focus on the Qur’aan and raise their voices and make them beautiful when reciting it. He wanted that to take the place of singing, whilst paying attention to the correctness of the recitation.

So in place of the pleasure of singing, they were given the pleasure of reciting Qur’aan, just as everything forbidden was replaced with something that was better for them. So istikhaarah was prescribed in place of seeking decisions from azlaam (arrows for divination) and marriage in place of fornication, and so on.

2 – It may be that what is meant by taghanni is that which resembles singing and music, and impressing others with the tune, without understanding and without any humility, as mentioned in the hadeeth which describes the Signs of the Hour.

3 – It is unlikely that taghanni means being content with the Qur’aan alone and having no need of people, because the meaning is different and is linguistically unacceptable.

This making the voice melodious in recitation should be done in a natural manner, not by means of teaching and training according to the rules of music.

Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned that reciting Qur’aan with a tune and in a melodious voice, if it is done naturally with no exaggeration or special teaching or training, then it is permissible. If extra effort is added to the natural tone to make it more beautiful, such as when Abu Moosa al-Ash’ari said to the Prophet (Sallahu Alahi wassalam), “If I had known (you were listening), I would have made it more beautiful for you,” then that is OK.

But if the reciting in a melodious voice is done in an artificial manner, with special training and musical rhythms, this is something which the salaf despised, and which they criticized and condemned. It is known that the salaf used to recite the Qur’aan in a sad tone, making their voices beautiful and giving it a sad tone sometimes and a joyful tone sometimes. This is something natural.

Defining the meaning of making the voice melodious (taghanni)

(a) There is no dispute concerning the validity of the fatwa of Imaam Maalik which is based on the hadeeth of the Signs of the Hour, with its various isnaads, and which states that it is not permitted to recite with a musical tune and following the rules of music in a manner that goes beyond the limits of recitation and correct pronunciation, and does not befit the dignity of the Qur’aan.

(b) The ahaadeeth of Anas and Abu Dharr refer to the recitation of the Khawaarij, who used to recite the Qur’aan throughout the night and day, but it did not go any deeper than their throats or collar bones, because they did not have knowledge of the Sunnah which clarifies matters, so they were deprived of proper understanding and the reward for recitation.

In the ahaadeeth it says that they would exit from the religion like an arrow passing through its target. The ahaadeeth contain the command to kill them and says that they are the most evil of creation, even though you would think that your prayer and your recitation are as nothing when compared with their prayer and recitation. This is the description of the Khawaarij and those who are like them.

Ibn Taymiyah said: the hadeeth about the Khawaarij is saheeh in ten different isnaads, which were narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh, and some of which were narrated by al-Bukhaari. The Khawaarij used to denounce the Muslims as kaafirs merely for committing sins, but they were the followers of bid’ah (innovations) and misinterpretations who had split away from the mainstream of the ummah. We ask Allaah to keep us safe and sound in our religious commitment and their worldly affairs.

This is a description which applies only to the Khawaarij and those who are like them. The reciters nowadays are not like this as far as we know.

(c) The fatwa of Imaam Ahmad has to do with distorting the letters and exaggerating elongated vowels, which results from altering the letters and elongating them too much, which takes the recitation beyond what is correct. This fatwa states that it is emphatically disliked, as al-Qaadi Abu Ya’laa said. This refers to someone who goes to extremes and whose recitation is not correct, because he adds letters, such as adding waw and alif to the word Muhammad, making it Moohaamad. This is haraam, according to consensus. At the time of Imaam Ahmad, the people used to sing poetry and elongate the letters however they wished. Ishaaq al-Mawsili criticized Ibraaheem ibn al-Mahdi for doing that, because he distorted the words from the way they should be in Arabic.

And denouncing that in the case of reciting Qur’aan in a melodious voice is more essential, and this problem does not exist nowadays, praise be to Allaah.

(d) Ibn Taymiyah said: the kind of tune which the scholars regard as makrooh for reciting Qur’aan in is that which involves shortening long letters, lengthening short letters, giving a vowel to a silent letter, or making a vowelled letter silent, in order to make it fit the rules of music. If that also involves changing the way the Qur’aan should be recited and elongating the vowels, then this is haraam.

Reconciling between the evidence which says it is forbidden and the evidence which says it is allowed. There is no contradiction between the evidence which says it is forbidden and the evidence which says it is allowed if the prohibition applies to that which goes beyond the limits of correct recitation, whether by adding or taking away, or by neglecting an obligatory rule, or by going against the well-established rules of recitation.

The prohibition also applies to that which is recited according to the rules of music, even if it is without the accompaniment of instruments, to make the voice tremble or quaver, or exaggerating in going along with a particular musical key which is in the reciter’s mind whilst he is reciting. The permission applies only to that which is in accordance with the rules of sound recitation whilst making the voice beautiful.

If what is meant by giving a tune is adding or taking away anything, or going against the well-established rules of recitation, this is haraam. If I mean making the voice melodious in recitation (taghanni), in order to make the listener feel happy or sad, or to soften his heart or to make the recitation attractive whilst also pondering the meanings and reflecting humility, then it is mustahabb, so long as it does not distort the meaning or change the pronunciation, or follow the rules of music.

Al-Suyooti said: Reciting Qur’aan with a tune and with beautiful, quavering voices, so long as it does not deviate from the correct way of reciting, is a good way (Sunnah hasanah); if it does deviate from the correct way of reciting, then it is haraam and is an evil deed.

And he said in Sharh al-Risaalah: From the comments of the imams it may be understood that making the voice beautiful whilst paying attention to the rules of music and also following the rules of recitation is an area that is subject to scholarly dispute.

Some of the scholars said that this is different from the way of the salaf, because the reader may neglect to recite properly, so they said that this was not permitted, in order to prevent the means that may lead to something haraam.

But making the voice beautiful whilst reciting Qur’aan, without paying attention to the rules of music is what is required, and there is no dispute concerning this.

Ibn Qudaamah said: the scholars are agreed that it is mustahabb to read Qur’aan with a sad tone, with a measured pace and with a beautiful voice.

I say: this is taken from the hadeeth of Buraydah, “Recite the Qur’aan in a sad tone for it was revealed with sadness.” And the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas: “The best of people in reciting Qur’aan is the one who recites it in a sad tone.” But these hadeeths are both da’eef (weak) and the first one is da’eef jiddan (very weak).

[al-Da’wah magazine, issue #1798 , p.44]Ibn Katheer said in Fadaa’il al-Qur’an (p. 114):

The point is that what is prescribed in Islamic teaching is no more than beautifying the voice in such a way that will prompt one to ponder the Qur’an and understand it, and to be humble and submit to Allah’s commands. As for reciting in a melodious manner that is based on developed tunes, rhythms and rules of music that is usually used for entertainment purposes, the Qur’an should be protected from that; it should be respected and should not be recited in this manner.

What some people promote of reciting the Qur’an with musical tunes, on the grounds that this will help to convey the meaning and give a mental image to the meaning, and subjecting the recitation to the rules of music – and some of them go so far as to demand that this tuneful recitation should be accompanied by musical instruments – all of that is showing disrespect to the Book of Allah, may He be exalted and His names sanctified.

Undoubtedly focusing on these musical tunes will affect the pronunciation of some words and distract the listener from pondering the meaning: indeed it may lead to changing the pronunciation altogether. The Book of Allah, may He be exalted, is the glory of the Muslims and should be kept away from such things. [End quote from an article in Multaqa Ahl at-Tafseer]


We are surprised that there are people who are famous for their recitation in the Muslim world, whose way of learning how to recite properly was through indecent songs! One of them admitted that he used to listen to songs accompanied by instruments in order to learn how to recite Qur’an. There is a famous photo of one of the senior reciters standing next to a piano!

There is even an Arabic radio station that stipulates that any reciter must have a certificate from a music academy, otherwise he will not be allowed to recite Qur’an on that station. Allah, may He be exalted, has enabled many people in the Muslim world to become great reciters, who bring people to tears with their recitation, but they have never learned a single maqaam or heard any songs.

Some of those who are obsessed with these maqaamaat may hear a skilled reciter who is righteous, and he classifies his recitation according to the maqaamaat and tries to deceive himself and others by suggesting that this reciter is one of those who follow his own way, and that he is reciting it according to a certain song or tune, but that is not the case; rather it is merely his imagination.

And Allah knows best.

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