Islamic music

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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, the Horn of Africa, Iran, Central Asia and South Asia, and it also included the medieval Iberian peninsula (al-Andalus). 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[edit]

Middle East[edit]

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.

North Africa[edit]

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, West African influences can be heard in the popular music of Gnawa.

Horn of Africa[edit]

Somali oud player Nuruddin Ali Amaan.

Most Somali music is based on the pentatonic scale. That is, the songs only use five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. At first listen, Somali music might be mistaken for the sounds of nearby regions such as Ethiopia, Sudan or Arabia, but it is ultimately recognizable by its own unique tunes and styles. Somali songs are usually the product of collaboration between lyricists (midho), songwriters (lahan), and singers ('odka or "voice").[1] Instruments prominently featured in Somali music include the kaban (oud).

West Africa[edit]

Islam is the largest organized religion on the continent, although indigenous styles and genres are more prominent than those influenced by Middle-Eastern theory.

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.

Central Asia[edit]

Many of the countries in Central Asia such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been heavily influenced by Turkish and Persian culture. Bowed instruments are common, as is bardic singing.

South Asia[edit]

The music of the Muslim populations of South Asia (Maldives, 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.

Southeast Asia[edit]

Main articles: Gamelan and Kulintang

Having never been conquered by the Islamic Empire, Muslim-majority Indonesia has been significantly less influenced by Middle Eastern traditions than South Asia.

As a result, many local musical styles predate the coming of Islam, although exceptions include Malay Zapin and Joget, and the Indonesian Gambus, all of which show strong Middle Eastern influence.

The music of South East Asia's Muslim-majority regions is more closely related to the 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[edit]

Anasheed[edit]

Main article: Anasheed

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 music[edit]

Abida Parveen has popularized Sufi Music globally.

Sufi worship services are often called dhikr or zikr. See that article for further elaboration.

The dhikr of South Asian Muslims is "quietist". The Sufi services best known in the West are the chanting and rhythmic dancing of the whirling dervishes or Mevlevi Sufis of Turkey.

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 Turkey, once the seat of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate, concerts of sacred song are called "Mehfil-e-Sama' " (or "gathering of Sama'"). Song forms include ilahi and nefe.

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.

Shi'a qawwali concerts typically follow the naat with a manqabat in praise of Ali, and sometimes a marsiya, a lamentation over the death of much of Ali's family at the Battle of Karbala.

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[edit]

  • 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.

Modes[edit]

Instruments[edit]

Some Muslims believe that only vocal music is permissible (halal) and that instruments are forbidden (haram). Hence there is a strong tradition of a cappella devotional singing.

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.

Traditional:

Recent introductions:

Lyrics[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Permissibility of music[edit]

The question of permissibility of music in Islamic jurisprudence is historically disputed.

Historical[edit]

Most 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.[2] 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".[3] 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.[citation needed]

Modernists and certain groups of sufis, 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.[citation needed]

Modern[edit]

Many modern Muslim interpretations allow music and singing only under certain conditions, mainly if they do not encourage committing sinful acts.[4][5]

Contemporary Islamic music[edit]

Notable nasheed artists include:

Notable Sufi singers include:

Noted composer:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]

Islamic views on the allowance of musical instruments and singing[edit]

Islamic views on the prohibition of musical instruments and singing[edit]