Islamic music is traditionally based on the human voice, sometimes accompanied by a simple drum. According to several traditions, Muhammad forbade Muslims from playing or listening to musical instruments, such as wind or string instruments. He reportedly said, “From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks, and the use of musical instruments as lawful.”
Muslim scholars vary in their disapproval of music. Some say it is outright forbidden, and others say it is merely disapproved of. The main reason cited for the disapproval of music is the effect it has on the listener. Music is designed to appeal to a person's soul and emotions, and a person can become “lost” or waste hours of time that could be spent on more productive pursuits (not to mention the money saved on CDs and MP3 downloads). Instead of music, Muslims are encouraged to fill their hearts and minds with recitation of the Qur'an and the remembrance of God.
By the thirteenth century
However, it is universally accepted for Muslims to sing and use an open drum known as the daff at appropriate times and with appropriate decorum. The traditional daff is similar to a tambourine. The skin is drawn tight on one side, but there are no cymbals. Muslims often sing at celebrations such as weddings or religious holidays, using words that promote virtues of faith, family, and other innocent themes. Muhammad himself approved of this practice.
Islamic songs must keep within the moral bounds of Islam; no licentious or suggestive lyrics are allowed. Songs with an Islamic theme are known as nasheed, a word that means “to seek” but also “to sing.” Generally, nasheed carry themes about God, the natural world, and the seeking of God's guidance.