Sufi Poetry and Music-At a Glance

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Music is known to have intense effects on the inner sentiments of all beings. All art forms are considered to be mediums through which one can express their feelings. Be it poetry or Music, Dance or painting etc. every art form plays an important role in conveying a variety of emotions instilled in a human being. It’s not surprising at all that Sufis emphasized so much on music and especially poetry, in their teachings and their understanding of the way to salvation or reunion with the Divine. These poems set to different tunes and melodies played a vital role in spreading the thoughts of Sufi saints. It was a medium of conversation between the Sufis and their almighty. There were several ways of remembering the God (Zikr) . Some chose the silent Zikr, some sang their way to the attainment of inner peace, while some whirled with hands wide open to show their complete surrender to the almighty. And it was left absolutely at the disposal of the seeker to choose, which way he would like to go with. Since the main motive was ‘Extinction in God’, any method that was approved by the Silsila or Sufi order, if the seeker was related to it or any Sufi saint or aspirant independent of any rules or regulation, can be accepted.  The kind of ‘Zikr’ that we practice is related to Music, use of instruments and dance. It has been observed that the best way to attain spiritual salvation is through poetry which is set to different (sometimes traditional compositions also) tunes and is popular even today. These poems depict love for the almighty. The flow of lyrics is such that they demonstrate tolerance and obedience, terrestrial love, hope etc. As far as female sufi poetry is concerned, an influential German orientalist and scholar who has written and researched extensively on Islam and Sufism , Professor  Annemarie Schimmel, in her book noted that..… “Sufism, more than stern orthodoxy, offered women a certain amount of possibilities to participate actively in the religious and social life.” She also states that “….A number of sufi orders had women attached to them as lay members”  Moreover, she has also named some women who have been attached to various Sufi orders historically. Like “Shah Jahan’s eldest daughters Jihanara  who joined the Qadariyya Silsila and was highly praised by her master  ‘Mulla shah’ and ‘Bibi Jamal  Khatun’ (d. 1639) who was one of the outstanding saints of the Qadariyya Silsila during its formative period in Punjab.” As stated earlier, women played a vital role in guiding the masses towards the path of spiritual salvation. So, apart from being mystics, there were a number of female Sufi saints who wrote poetry on the basis of their day to day experiences and longing for the almighty, thus spreading the message of peace and harmony all over the world. Like Rabia Basri, Nadera, Jahonotin Uvaysiy, lalleshwari, Habba Khatoon, Meera Bai etc. Sufi poetry has been written in many languages depending upon the origin of the poet/poetess like Punjabi, Sindhi, Arabic and mostly Persian. While going through various poems, it was observed that two aspects were kept in mind while writing the poetry: one was that it was written to be sung and the other was written to be read privately as a part of devotional practice. A lot many musical forms came into existence in the Islamic World, the most popular of all is Qawwali. Other than Qawwali, Kafi, Qaul, Qalbana, Ghazal, Naksh, Gul and Rang were also sung in the praise of Allah in Hindi & Braj Bhasha, Urdu, Sindhi, Arabic and Persian. These musical forms were introduced by Hazrat Ameer Khusrao and were considered as a part of Qawwali form and pattern of singing. Talking about Ameer Khusrao, who was a profound genius and a great musician of 13th century, after becoming the disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, developed a liking for several forms of Indian Music, which resulted in breaking the old traditions of music and “creating these new musical forms.”

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