Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Song, Dance and Music As Part of Islamic Sufism - Part 3

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam 30 November 2022 Dance Has Been An Integral Part Of Muslim Societies Main Points: 1. Dance is not a part of non- Muslim culture. 2. In Islamic countries traditional dance forms have existed. 3. In Tajikistan, men and women perform traditional dance forms like rapo and kulob. 4. Rapo is performed with poetry of Shams Tabrez, Khusrau and Hafiz. 5. In Morocco and Egypt, folk dance is still popular. ---- The general notion among the Muslims is that dance as a form of performing art is only a part of non-Muslim culture and society. In reality, dance has existed as a part of celebrations and festivities on the part of men and an expression of feminity and seduction on the part of women in many Islamic countries as well. In Morocco, dozens of genres of folk dance and mixed dance exist till today. These dance forms have existed since pre-Islamic era and are still in vogue in rural areas. Houara is performed by Berber tribes while Guedra is performed by women. Shikar is an Arab belly dance style while Awash is a tribal dance. Quais is a dance form performed by women accompanied by simple music. In Egypt, dance has been a popular means of celebration. Raqs Assaya ( dance with sticks ( like Dandiya in India), Tahteeb, Al Haqala and Tashkil are traditional dance forms of Egypt. Men and women dance in weddings and other social gatherings. Belly dancing is a typical dance style of Arab women that demonstrates Arab feminity. In Tajikistan, dance finds its roots in the pre- Islamic era. Here both men and women perform dance in social gatherings and state sponsored events like Independence Day and Nowroz. In other Islamic countries too, dance finds a special place in the folk culture. In this background, the place of dance in Islamic Sufism can be understood in a better way. In Iran, the tradition of Bazm can be said to be at the root of Islamic Sufi dance. In a Bazm, Sufi poetry was sung as a means of spiritual elevation. In Tajikistan, a special style of dance called rapo is performed with poetry written by Sufi poets like Shams Tabrezi, Rumi and Hafiz. Classical music of Tajikistan, called Shash maqam is accompanied by Sufi poetry and dance. Therefore, it seems that gradually dance became a part of Islamic Sufism under the influence of Iranian and Tajik culture of spiritual poetry and dance. However, by dance, Sufis mean balanced and restrained movement of the body. This movement is evoked by ecstasy on listening to Samaa. Imam Ghazali justifies Raqs ( dance) by saying that Islamic Sufi dance is the result of the ecstatic state of the heart produced by Samaa and is not a conscious act like traditional dancing. The spiritual ecstasy and trance produces dance like movements in the body. If these movements are incoherent, it is called Izterab and if the movements are coherent, it is called Raqs which consists of Pakobi ( footwork) and Dast Afshani (movement of hands). Therefore, many Sufis approve of Raqs when it is spontaneous due to ecstasy and disapprove of it if it is a conscious effort. Sufi Ali Hujweri has even discussed Raqs in a separate chapter in his spiritual treatise Kashful Mahjoob. He says that Shariat and Tareeqat do not have any place for Raqs. He calls it Lahw and Laib. He says that a dance cannot be an unconscious effort. If the Wajd ( ecstasy) produces movements in the body, its neither pakobi nor Dast Afshani. Whoever calls it Raqs is an ignoramus. The ecstasy and trance of Sufis is a divine state and therefore it is wrong to call this state Raqs. But Imam Ghazali has his own arguments in favour of Raqs as a spiritual practice. He cites the example of the dance of the negroes on the day of Eid which the prophet pbuh watched along with Hadhrat Ayesha r.a. Therefore, those who say that Raqs is haram are wrong. He considers Raqs a sport and a sport is not haram. Imam Ghazali also argues that Raqs is the result of joy and so it is acceptable. In his book Ahyaul Uloom, he discusses the topic under Samaa. He says that if an act is based on a bad intent, it is permissible, and if it is based on a bad intent, it is bad. So the acceptability or unacceptability of Raqs will depend on the intent of the dancer. Sufi Suharwardy also supports Imam Ghazali on Raqs. He says that if dance is performed to attract others or due to physical and sexual instinct or to show one's dancing skills, it is haram and if Raqs comes spontaneously due to spiritual ecstasy and spiritual joy, it is acceptable. However, Suharwardy is of the opinion that dance or Raqs is after all a kind of sport and is similar to Lahwa and la' ib and so is not befitting Sufis. Famous Sufi Shams Tabrezi supports Raqs as a Sufi practice. He says that when a Sufi dances, the entire universe dances with him. Raqs to him is a means to reach God. But he says that the Raqs of the Sufi is subtle, light and dignified. It is like a leaf swimming on the surface of water. Shaikh Sa 'di also favours Raqs as a means of spiritual elevation. But the Raqs as observed in some assemblies of so called Sufis today have only maligned the image of Sufi Raqs. The Raqs in some videos on social media look like a bedlam where people shiver in a violent way and shriek and groan as if in great pain. They move their body and head in such a violent way it in no way can be Raqs nor can it be called Izterab. It is not like a leaf swimming on the surface of water but a big boulder rolling down a hill. Perhaps this was the reason, some far sighted Sufis had disapproved dance as a an expression of mystic experience. Previous Parts of the Article: Song, Dance and Music As Parts of Islamic Sufism - Part 1 Song, Dance and Music as Part of Islamic Sufism - Part 2 ----- S. Arshad is a columnist with URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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