Praise be to Allah.
The prohibition on listening to music is based on evidence from the Qur’aan, Sunnah and scholarly consensus. What is meant by music is the sound of musical instruments, such as the ‘oud (a stringed instrument), mizmaar (a kind of flute), tabl (drums) etc, except for the daff (a type of hand drum).
The hadeeth expressly forbids musical instruments, flutes and drums.
It was narrated from Abu Maalik al-Ash’ari (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “In my ummah there will be people who allow silk, zina, wine and musical instruments.”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari in a mu’allaq report (5590); classed as mawsool by al-Tabaraani and al-Bayhaqi; see al-Silsilat al-Saheehah by al-Albaani (91).
It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Two sounds are cursed in this world and in the Hereafter: flutes at times of joy and wailing at times of calamity.” Al-Mundhiri said: It was narrated by al-Bazzaar and its narrators are thiqaat (trustworthy); it was classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb (3527).
Abu Dawood (3685) narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade alcohol, gambling and drums. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
As for listening to birdsong, it is permissible, and does not come under the same heading as musical instruments, whether it is listened to directly or on a voice recorder.
The same applies to those who cite the sound of flowing water etc as evidence.
It may be said that what is halaal is that which was permitted by Allaah and His Messenger and what is haraam is that which was forbidden by Allaah and His Messenger. That concerning which sharee’ah is silent is permissible. What is haraam is listening to musical instruments, and flutes and drums are mentioned in particular. It is not haraam to listen to birdsong. What does the one have to do with the other?
What the Muslim must do is accept what Allaah and His Messenger say, and not to try to twist their words. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allaah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error”
See also question no. 5000 for more information.
And Allaah knows best.