We can observe that in the Qur’an when something or some act is made unlawful, then it is explicitly mentioned. For example, Zina (adultery/fornication) is prohibited by the explicit command:
وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا۟ ٱلزِّنَىٰٓ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ فَٰحِشَةً وَسَآءَ سَبِيلًا
“And do not come near adultery. It is immoral, and an evil way.” 17:32
Similarly murder is explicitly forbidden by the words:
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا۟ ٱلنَّفْسَ ٱلَّتِى حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَّا بِٱلْحَقِّ ۗ “
And do not kill the soul which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice. ” 17:33
Intoxicants and gambling are made unlawful by the words:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْخَمْرُ وَٱلْمَيْسِرُ وَٱلْأَنصَابُ وَٱلْأَزْلَٰمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنِ فَٱجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, idolatry, and divination are abominations of Satan’s doing. Avoid them, so that you may prosper.” 5:90
So we can observe in the above examples that the style of the Qur’an is that when it makes something totally prohibited then it does not leave it to guess work but explicitly and unequivocally mentions the prohibition. However we do not find a command in the Qur’an that explicitly bans music in all its forms. Instead there is a verse from which scholars have made an inference, that what was described in it can be said about music. The verse in question is Sura 17:64
وَٱسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ ٱسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُم بِصَوْتِكَ وَأَجْلِبْ عَلَيْهِم بِخَيْلِكَ وَرَجِلِكَ وَشَارِكْهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَمْوَٰلِ وَٱلْأَوْلَٰدِ وَعِدْهُمْ ۚ وَمَا يَعِدُهُمُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ إِلَّا غُرُورًا
“And entice whomever of them you can with your voice, and rally against them your cavalry and your infantry, and share with them in wealth and children, and make promises to them.” But Satan promises them nothing but delusion.” 17:64
In the above verse one of Satan’s methods to mislead man from the path of Allah is mentioned as “entice whomever of them you can with your voice (Arabic ‘Saut’. Literally sound)”. Some scholars have inferred the prohibition of all types of music from this verse, terming it to be an act from Shaytan (Satan). However we cannot deduce from this verse that all kinds of music that falls in our ears such as in advertisements or TV news programmes is haraam, for such would mean that every time one turns on the television or hears a ringtone on his or her mobile phone, then he has committed a haraam act. Moreover, Muslim countries ban the likes of explicitly haraam acts like obscenity, pork, usury, alcohol etc but there is not a single Muslim nation that has ever placed a total ban on music.
Also to observe is the fact that there is even natural music, sounds that occur in nature like singing of birds, rainfall, ocean’s breeze all of which are soothing to the senses. If music were forbidden totally, what about such phenomenon e.g. the birds that sing? God has made them and given them their beautiful sound making ability. To imply that the God who made a bird that sings also prohibits singing gives birth to an irreconcilable paradox. In the absence of a clear and unequivocal command which prohibits music it can be conceived that it is that kind of sound which mobilises one to engage in an evil and immoral act, i.e. an act endorsed by Shaytan that would fall within the purview of the verse 17:64. So we must see what is the end for which music and singing is being utilised? Is the musician’s voice calling one to commit a haraam (prohibited) act e.g. commit adultery? Are the lyrics of the song promoting hatred and killing, glorification of drugs or any other haraam acts? If yes, then most certainly listening to such music and lyrics that leads one to wrongdoing and disobedience of Allah should be avoided as indeed such would fall in the remit of the sound of Shaytan that stirs up or excites one to his obedience. However listening to music that is for everyday life’s convenience e.g. bells, watch alarms, mobile ringtone, news bulletin, anthems, songs etc that do not excite us to commit haraam acts would not fall within the phenomenon cautioned about in the said verse. Thus we as Muslims need to have a balanced approach towards music.