Friday, November 25, 2022

Song, Dance and Music As Parts of Islamic Sufism - Part 1

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam 25 November 2022 Many Sufis Have Favoured Samaa' As An Enhancer Of Spiritual Ecstasy. Main Points: 1. Samaa' is considered important in achieving the state of Haal. 2. Listening to spiritual songs is supported by many sufis. 3. Great Sufi Ali Hujweri adopts a cautious approach to samaa '. 4. Some Sufis restrict songs to permissible limits. 5. Imam Ghazali supports it with some limitations. ----- Since Islamic mysticism or Sufism has developed by absorbing and assimilating various religious and cultural ideas and practices dominant in Asia and other parts of the world that have fulfilled its objective of divine realisation, the practice of listening to spiritual songs in accompaniment of music and dance called Samaa' has become an integral part of mystic or spiritual experience. Though in some Sufi orders, Samaa is not approved, many prominent Sufis have acknowledged the significance of songs and music in elevating the mind to the state of Haal or spiritual ecstasy. In Sufi jargon, Haal is the inner state of mind while maqam is the outer state of piety. Sufis are of the unanimous view that maqam can be achieved by outer observance of piety but Haal cannot be achieved through outer observance of piety but with spiritual poetry, serene music. And when this state is achieved, a Sufi 's body demonstrates uncontrolled movements in ecstasy. When the movement is without a rhythm it is called Izterab and, when the movements of the body are in harmony and rhythm, it is called Raqs (dance). In Sufi dance, Dast Afshani (waving hands in a particular way) and pakobi (movement of the feet) are main features. The effect of good poetry sung in a sweet and melancholic voice has been established. Poetry is called the voice of the heart and mysticism is also the act of the heart. Sufism is the realisation of the presence of the divine universal Supreme Self within one's heart. Poetry, music and singing have, therefore, an spellbinding effect on the heart and mind of the sufi. In India, Buddhist thought made a big impact on Islamic sufism and Buddhists used to sing mystic songs in accompaniment of Veena, dholak, flute and other musical instruments. While singing they used to dance with ankle bells tied to their ankles. Let's first deal with the permissibility of singing as part of mystic experience. Singing as a recreational activity has not been encouraged in Islam. However, we find mention of singing in the accompaniment of Duff by the women of Madina during the prophet's life. Quran does not mention singing. However, it mentions that Prophet Dawood a.s. sang praise of God as he had been endowed with a very good voice and the art of singing. In Jewish traditions, Prophet David a.s. in accompaniment of the lyre. The Quran is recited in Tarteel which is the art of reciting the Quran. We also find mention of Islamic poet Hassan bi Sabit who recited poetry in praise of the holy prophet pbuh. But this poetry was not sung in accompaniment of musical instruments. Musical instruments were added due to the influence of Buddhist mystic songs. And Sufis accepted it as an effective means of achieving spiritual ecstasy or Haal. There were some Sufis who after listening to Samaa, would reach the state of Haal and remain in that state for days, even weeks. A Sufi named Sahl Tastari, once after listening to Samaa' went into ecstasy (Haal) and remained in that state for twenty five days. Another prominent Sufi Abu Bakr Shibli once heard sing a dove 'Ku Ku' sitting in a tree. He went into ecstasy and kept dancing under the tree for several days and nights. The bird would sing 'Ku Ku' and Shibli would sing 'Hu Hu'. The bird stopped singing only when Shibli stopped singing Hu Hu. In later ages, a community of spiritual singers called Qawwal emerged that specialised in singing Qawwali. Qawwali gradually became very popular among Sufis and became a quintessential part of Samaa'. Let's now find out what prominent Islamic scholars said about singing or Ghana. Prominent Islamic jurist Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal approved of spiritual or devotional songs. He was against secular or romantic songs sung for the purpose of recreation of entertainment. Imam Abu Hanifa considers Ghana ( singing) an act of sin. Hadhrat Malik bin Anas calls it an act of Fisq ( corrupt practice). Many Sufis and jurists though don’t approve of singing, approve of it only as a means of reaching the state of ecstasy. Famous Sufi Abu Nasr Siraj is, also of the view that if singing is used only as a means to purify the soul and realisation of the truth, it is acceptable but if it is used as a means to appease base instincts and to promote immoral practices, it is sin. Sufi Abu Ali was of the opinion that Ghana was haram for the common people because they were devoid of spirituality. It was acceptable for Sufis or pious men because they listened to it with the purity of heart. Imam Ghazali did not consider Ghana against the principles of Shariat. He considered it permissible with some limitations. He dealt with issue of Samaa in his book Ahya ul Uloom. He writes that good voice or Ghana stimulates the heart and wakes up his spiritual self like a stone struck against iron creates sparks. Therefore, it (Ghana) has a positive effect on the heart of pious men and is poison for the man devoid of spirituality and dominated by satanic instinct. Samaa developed as a part of mystic activates around 10th century which was the peak of Buddhism in India and Khorasan region. Buddhism promoted and encouraged fine arts including poetry, singing and music from its beginning. Bhikshus and Bhikshunis during Gautama Buddha's life, and after his demise composed religious poetry. These songs were calked Thera Gatha (songs of the Bhikshus) and, Theri Gatha ( songs of Bhikshunis) and were included in Tripitak. During the 8th to 12th centuries, Buddhist monks wrote mystic songs called Charya Geeti which were very popular among the Buddhists and non-Buddhist people in India. Thus Ghana and Sufi poetry developed as a result of cultural exchange and assimilation in India. In India, Amir Khusrau was the Sufi who promoted Ghana as he was a master musician and is attributed with the invention of Qawwali. His mystic songs are popular in Sufi circles and are sung by Qawwals at Mazars. ----- 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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