Islamic music is Muslim religious music, as sung or played in public services or private devotions. The classic heartland of Islam is the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia, Horn of Africa and South Asia. Due to Islam being a multi-ethnic religion, the musical expression of its adherents is vastly diverse. The indigenous musical styles of these areas have shaped the devotional music enjoyed by contemporary Muslims:
Secular and folk musical styles
All of these regions were connected by trade long before the Islamic conquests of the 7th century, and it is likely that musical styles traveled the same routes as trade goods. However, lacking recordings, we can only speculate as to the pre-Islamic music of these areas. Islam must have had a great influence on music, as it united vast areas under the first caliphs, and facilitated trade between distant lands. Certainly the Sufis, brotherhoods of Muslim mystics, spread their music far and wide.
The Berber and Arabic speaking countries of North Africa, such as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, share some musical traditions with Egypt and the Arab countries of the Middle East. Popular modern styles of music such as Raï and Chaabi originated in Berber counties. In addition, black African influences can be heard in the popular music of Gnawa.
Islam is the largest organized religion on the continent, although indigenous styles and genres are more prominent than those influenced by Middle-Eastern theory.
East African music styles include the highly Arab-influenced Taarab genre.
West African musical genres are more varied, and tend to incorporate both native and Berber influences, rather than those of Arab origin. A long history of court griot music based on historical accounts and praise-singing exists in the region. Wind and string instruments, such as the Kora or Flute are generally preferred to percussion, although percussion instruments such as the talking drum and djembe are also widely played.
The music of the Muslim populations of South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, with Nepal and Sri Lanka) merged Middle Eastern genres with indigenous classical musical modes, and is generally distinct in style and orchestration, yet due to the strong links encountered between the Middle-East, Central Asia, and South Asia, it is closer to Middle-Eastern styles than those of the periphery of the Islamic world, which tend to be purely indigenous.
Maritime Southeast Asia has a majority Muslim population, but has historically incorporated less cultural influences from the Middle-East than South Asia, due to the fact that they were not incorporated within the Islamic Empire, but rather maintained links via trade.
Music genres of these areas generally predate the coming of Islam or have very little influence from Arab or Persian styles, with exceptions being the Malay Zapin and Joget genres, and the Indonesian Gambus, all of which have taken a lot of influence from the Middle East via Arab settlement in urban centers.
Maritime Southeast Asia's music is related to other musical genres of South-East and East Asia. Gong chime ensembles such as Gamelan and Kulintang existed in the region before the arrival of Islam, and musical theory and method owe more to heavy Chinese influence, as well as Hindu-Buddhist principles, than to Arabic musical philosophy. Variations of one of two main scales prevail in the region among different ensembles: slendro and pelog (both of which originated in Java).
In Java, use of the gamelan for Islamic devotional music was encouraged by the Muslim saint Sunan Kalijogo.
Types of Muslim devotional recitation and music
Nasheeds are moral, religious songs sung in various melodies by some Muslims of today without any musical instruments. However, some nasheed groups use percussion instruments, such as the daff. Singing moral songs of this type without instrumentation is considered permissible (halal) by many Muslims.
Sufi worship services are often called dhikr or zikr. See that article for further elaboration.
However, Sufis may also perform devotional songs in public, for the enjoyment and edification of listeners. The mood is religious, but the gathering is not a worship service.
In South Asia, especially Pakistan and India, the most widely-known style of Sufi music is qawwali. A traditional qawwali programme would include:
- A hamd—a song in praise of Allah
- A naat—a song in praise of the Prophet Muhammad
- Manqabats—songs in praise of the illustrious teachers of the Sufi brotherhood to which the musicians belong
- Ghazals—songs of intoxication and yearning, which use the language of romantic love to express the soul's longing for union with the divine.
One well-known qawwali singer is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Another traditional South Asian genre of Sufi music is the Kafi, which is more meditative and involves solo singing as opposed to the ensemble form seen in qawwali. The most widely known exponent of the Kafi is the Pakistani singer Abida Parveen.
Sufi music has developed with the times. A Pakistani Sufi rock band, Junoon, was formed in the 1990s to bring a modern twist to suit the new younger generation. The band achieved wide popularity, in Pakistan as well as in the West.
Music for public religious celebrations
- Mawlid music—performed for the birthday of Muhammad, in various regional styles.
- Ta'zieh music—Ta'zieh is a passion play, part musical drama, part religious drama, rarely performed outside Iran. It depicts the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, venerated by Shia Muslims.
- Ashurah music—performed during the Muharram mourning period, commemorating the deaths of Imam Hussein and his followers.
- Sikiri (from the Arabic word "Dhikr" which means remembrance of God—performed by the Qadiriyya Sufi orders of waYao or Yao people in East and Southern Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa).
- Manzuma—moral songs performed in Ethiopia.
- Madih nabawi—Arabic hymns praising the prophet Muhammad.
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Yet other Muslims believe that any instrument is lawful as long as it is used for the permissible kinds of music. Hence there is a long tradition of instrumental accompaniment to devotional songs. A wide variety of instruments may be used, depending on local musical traditions.
- Drums (daf, bendir, zarb, rebana...)
- Stringed instruments
- Wind instruments (ney...)
- Reed instruments (shehnai...)
- Harmonium (popular in Pakistan and India)
When lyrics are not simply repeated and elaborated invocations (Yah Nabi and the like), they are usually poems in forms and meters common in the local literature.
Permissibility of music
The question of permissibility of music in Islamic jurisprudence is historically disputed.
Some jurists of the classical era of Muslim scholarship opined that music is forbidden both by the Qur'an and by the Hadith. The chapters of Luqman and Al-Isra in the Quran in particular are used to support this view. Those who do not allow music also believe that Muhammad censured the use of musical instruments when he said: "There will be among my Ummah people who will regard as permissible adultery, silk, alcohol and musical instruments". Islamic scholars of the past who agreed upon this include Abu Hanifa, Al-Shafi'i, Malik, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Al-Tabari, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nawawi, Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Tahawi, and Al-Qurtubi.
Others, however, permit music stating that the prohibition of music and instruments at the time of the Prophet related to usage—at the time the polytheists used music and musical instruments as part of their worships. Those who saw the permissibility of music include Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, Ibn al-Qaisarani, Ibn Sina, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Rumi, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Hazm. Al-Ghazali also reports a narration from al-Khidr, where he expressed a favorable opinion of music, provided it be within the usage limitation of virtuous areas.
Contemporary Islamic Music
Notable nasheed artists include:
- Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)
- Sami Yusuf
- Dawud Wharnsby
- Zain Bhikha
- Maher Zain
- Fez Meghani
- Native Deen
- Haddad Alwi
- Hamza Robertson
Noted Sufi singers include:
- Islamic poetry
- Religious music in Iran
- Sufi poetry
- Sufi music (category)
Islamic views on the allowance of musical instruments and singing
- Islamonline.net On Hadith
- Al Azhar On Music
- Islamonline.net On Choir music
Islamic views on the prohibition of musical instruments and singing
- Jenkins, Jean and Olsen, Poul Rovsing (1976). Music and Musical Instruments in the World of Islam. World of Islam Festival. ISBN 0-905035-11-9.
- Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-88-8.
- Shiloah, Amnon (1995). "Music in the World of Islam: A Socio-cultural study." Wayne State University Press. Detroit. ISBN 0-8143-2589-0