Though we are displeased with those who use wanton songs and music as phone ringtones, we should not approve of using the Qur’anic verses or Adhan as substitutes. This is because the Qur’an and the Adhan have their sublimity and the legal purpose they are enacted for. The Qur’an has been revealed to rule among people and teach them how to get close to Allah. It is desirable to listen to it, in order to take lessons from its stories, to know about Allah from its verses, to learn the rulings of haram and halal from its guidelines, and to ponder on the matchless purity of its language. Obviously, using it as a ringtone serves nothing of these purposes.
Moreover, it should be noted here that it is an act of Sunnah to enjoy oneself by listening to the beautiful recitation of Qur’an reciters. It has been reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) listened to the recitation of Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari and `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud. He (peace and blessings be upon him) praised Abu Musa for his beautiful recitation and Bilal for his beautiful Adhan, and many other Companions. Yet, this context is totally different from ringtones, which involve interruption of meanings and words; although you may be able to stop a ring at a suitable point, you cannot predict when the caller will stop ringing.
In this regard, Dr. Ali Jum`ah, the current grand mufti of Egypt, stated,
Setting Qur’anic verses and the Adhan as mobile ringtones is legally impermissible, since Almighty Allah’s words are sacred and should not be used in any way that drives them out of their Shari`ah framework.It is improper, and even immoral, to use the Glorious Qur’an instead of ringtones for mobile phones, since it has the sanctity and sublimity that exalt and elevate it above such a use. Almighty Allah says, (That [is the command]. And whoso magnifies the offerings consecrated to Allah, it surely is from devotion of the hearts) (Al-Hajj 22:32).
Using Qur’anic verses or the Adhan this way reflects a sort of abuse of the verses of the Glorious Qur’an, which Almighty Allah revealed for people to worship Him through reciting, memorizing, and meditating it and not to use it in ways that downgrade it or drive it out of its Shari`ah framework. Moreover, we are ordained to reflect on the verses of the Qur’an and comprehend the meanings of its words.
The usage given in the present question gets the verses of the Qur’an out of that Shari`ah context into another one where they are used to alarm when a call is received. Consequently, one’s attention to contemplating the meanings of the Qur’anic verses will be interrupted in order to answer the calls. In addition, this surely will lead to the abrupt interruption of the verse and thus severance of the meaning — and even inversion of the meaning at times — upon stopping the recitation (ringtone) to answer the calls.
The same applies to the Adhan; it is improper to make it a ringtone, as the Adhan is a notification for the start of Prayer time. Thus, using it as a ringtone brings about confusion and makes people mistakenly think that the time for Prayer is due. It also involves using the Adhan in something other than that for which it is prescribed.
In my viewpoint, Islamic chants or praises quoted from Prophetic hadiths could be used instead, as they may better suit the shortness of the phone ring. As for Almighty Allah’s words, they have their own sanctity, and thus they should be treated in a proper manner. The Glorious Qur’an is the Word of Allah (Exalted be He) that He sent down upon the best of His Messengers and the noblest of all His creatures, our master Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
We are commanded to revere, glorify, and properly treat the Qur’an in a way that differs from the way we treat anything else. For this reason, one should not touch the mushaf [i.e., an Arabic copy of the Qur’an] except when one is in a state of purity from both major and minor ritual impurities. Almighty Allah (Exalted be He) says, (That this is indeed a Qur’an Most Honourable, In Book well-guarded, Which none shall touch but those who are clean.) (Al-Waqi`ah, 96:77–79). In addition, it is not permissible to put anything on the mushaf, since it stands high above anything else, and nothing should top it. Furthermore, the superiority of Allah’s words to the rest of words is like the superiority of Allah (Exalted be He) to all His creatures.