Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
Is it haram to use a drum (tabla) that is narrow in the middle, like the Egyptian tabla?
Answer to the above four questions and success is from Allah,
What is found in the texts according to most of the books of our imams is that all drums are permissible except for the kuba which is wide on the ends and narrow in the middle. Drums for play or other purposes are all permissible, as was relied upon by Shihab Ibn Hajar and al-Shams al-Ramli. What al-Khatib al-Shirbini relied upon is according to al-Adhra`I, which is that all drums used for amusement are haram, such as the kuba. Shaykh al Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari inclines towards this position in his Sharh al-Rawd. You will find all of this in the Tuhfa and its super-commentaries (10/221).
So as for what Ibn Hajar and Ramli relied upon, all of the drums mentioned in the above four questions are permissible. And according to Khatib al-Shirbini, there is differentiation between what is used for amusement, for that is haram like the kuba. That which is used for other than amusement is not haram.
And to add some clarification, I say: It is haram by agreement to play the kuba, whether it is used for amusement or not, because it is in itself something used for amusement. As for other than it, there are two types. The first is not used for amusement in the first place, so it is permissible according to the four shaykhs that were mentioned, i.e., Shaykh al-Islam, al-Shirbini, Ibn Hajar and Ramli. The other type is used for amusement usually, and that is haram according to al-Shirbini, whether one is playing it for amusement or not, like the kuba, but is permissible according to Ibn Hajar and Ramli.
After drawing from these rules, it is plain that the drum that is said to be permissible, but playing it for amusement is haram, that ruling of prohibition is according to all the scholars, not because of the drum itself, but because it is being used to aid in the haram.
5) Is it permissible to play a drum using a stick in one’s hand?
What we have said about the permissibility of playing a type of drum, as we detailed above, includes the permissibility of playing it with one’s hand or a stick, as their expression has indicated.
6) Is it permissible to use electronic percussion machine that resemble drums, such that can synthesize the sound of any percussion instrument when programmed in the right way?
What seems apparent to this needy one is that this issue returns to the `urf (custom and culture of time and place). So if the `urf calls this a drum, and the sound that issues from it is the sound of one playing it, then playing it would be permissible.
However if the `urf does not call this a drum, but rather another instrument, then it would be haram. Also, if one called it a drum, but the sound issuing forth is not essentially the sound of one playing a drum, but rather the sound of an assembled machine in it, for example, that issues forth the sound of an instrument when it is played, then these instruments are haram. And Allah knows best.
7) The Jamaican drum is made of steel and the Indian drum is made of clay, so in the Shafi’i school is there any specific description as to the surface of the drum that is permissible to play? And is it obligatory that the surface be made of a soft substance such as plastic or leather? Or is it permissible to use a drum with a hard surface such as steel or clay or wood? Along with the fact that the steel drum is used as a drum and it is included in hollow instruments except that it gives musical notes and sounds that a regular drum does not give, is it permissible? And there is a clay container used in India like a hollow instrument, it is a spherical drum that is inverted and the base and sides are used as playing surfaces. Is this permissible? Is it permissible to hit the wooden part of the drum to variegate the sounds?
Our imams have not mentioned any specific conditions about the surface of the permissible drum. The prohibition is connected to whether the ends are wide and the middle is narrow, like the kuba. As for whether the drum is for amusement, there is difference of opinion that we mentioned. Upon that, there is no difference between the permissible drums that have surfaces made of steel, leather, wood or something else. And Allah knows best.
As for the clay bowl that was mentioned, the issue returns to the `urf. If the `urf rules that this is a drum, and is not a drum for amusement, it is permissible. If it is a drum for amusement, then the difference of opinion that we mentioned between the scholars applies to the ruling. If the `urf rules that it is not a drum, then it is haram. As for hitting on the wooden part of the drum to produce different sounds, then it is permissible, but there is nothing that seems to prohibit it and Allah knows best.
8) Is it permissible to stretch the surface of the permissible drum to produce different ways of playing it?
As long as the drum does not look like the kuba that we mentioned, it is permissible, unless it is used for amusement, then the above difference of opinion applies.
9) What is the ruling for snare drums; these drums resemble regular drums except that they have strings strung tight under the playing surface, such that it produces a snare?
What has come in the text is that it is haram to use any string instruments. It says in the Tuhfa, (10/219) with the Minhaj, “It is haarm to use an instrument that is a distinguishing sign (shi`ar) of drunkards, such as the tunbur (string instrument resembling the mandolin), the lute, the cymbal, the Iraqi reed pipe and all other string instruments and clarinets, (and using them for the enjoyment).”
10) Is it permissible to click the side of the drum with the ring of one’s finger?
It is permissible to do that as long as it is on a permissible drum, because there is nothing that prohibits this.
And Allah knows best.
[Translated by Shazia Ahmad]