mu·sic (noun) - a pattern of vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) which has or has not in it the element of singing (be it with or without lyrics).
If one takes music to mean the melodious sound of the call to prayer, the beautiful sound of the recitation of the Holy Quran or even the sound of the duff (tambourine) to celebrate eid or weddings (inshad and sama'), then music per say is not forbidden in Islam. What is indeed forbidden in Islam is the music from string and wind instruments. The evidence against such musical instruments is irrefutable.
Narrated By Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari: That he heard the Prophet saying, "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.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 007, Book 069, Hadith Number 494B.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an:
And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e.music, singing, etc.) to mislead from the Path of Allah without knowledge, and takes it by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment (in the Hell-fire). (31:6)
"And befool them gradually those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allâh's disobedience)... (17:64)
Do you then wonder at this recitation (the Qur'an)? And you laugh at it and weep not, Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing etc.). So fall you down in prostration to Allah, and worship Him (Alone). (53:59-62)
The Scholarly opinion:
There is total unanimity among all scholars that if the music encourages bad behavior, extra-marital affairs, lewd behavior, skimpy clothing, drinking, or making fun of religion or people who are upright, it is totally prohibited. The same can be said for lyrics that lead to shirk, promote fahisha (indecency), showcase falsehood, include nonsense such as sexual connotation or swearing and that which encourages kufr or disobedience.
Only an exceedingly small minority believe it to be permissible. However, understand the two different rulings: they differ from haram to mubah (permissible). In this case, the safer thing to do is avoid the difference of opinion and not fall into music.
Who-ever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and who-ever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 003, Book 034, Hadith Number 267
Listening vs. Hearing
There is a difference between listening and hearing. Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) said: Concerning (music) which a person does not intend to listen to, there is no prohibition or blame, according to scholarly consensus. Hence blame or praise is connected to listening, not to hearing. The one who listens to the Qur'an will be rewarded for it, whereas the one who hears it without intending or wanting to will not be rewarded for that, because actions are judged by intentions.
The early scholars such as Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, stated that musical instruments such as the 'ood (lute), tanboor (a long-necked stringed instrument), reed flute, rabaab (stringed instrument resembling a fiddle) and cymbal, were haram; no doubt modern instruments such as the violin, qaanoon (stringed musical instrument resembling a zither), organ, piano, guitar, etc., are also included in the Prophet’s prohibition on musical instruments, because their effect and impact is greater than that of the ancient instruments mentioned in some ahaadeeth.
Ibn Masood, the great companion, said: "Never will love of Qur'an and love of music coexist in the same heart."
The view that music (in it's most broadest sense) is permissible has no firm basis. The one who says that singing and musical instruments are permitted is simply supporting the whims and desires of people nowadays. For the ones who seek fatawas as a way to achieve their whims and desires, do not say, So-and-so said, for you cannot learn the truth only from men. Strive to learn your Islam from the Book of your Lord and the Sunnah of your Prophet.
Allah says in the Qu'ran:
And some among them are illiterate who have no knowledge of the Book, but have some false desires and do nothing but conjecture. (2:78)
The most important point to take away from this article, is that if you see someone listening to musical matter that is prohibited, do not place judgment on them nor force your opinion on others regarding this category. Instead make dua to Allah, to heal the hearts of the believers and dispel the whispers in the hearts of those who are stricken with insinuating whispers.
Ma’azif is the plural of mi’zafah, and refers to musical instruments (Fath al-Bari, 10/55)
Musical amusement [lahw]
Music referred to as malahi is abhorred and prohibited. This kind of music is simply for entertainment for dance, frivolous enjoyment and the like.