Islamic Art: Music & Sufism

Topics: Sufism, Islam, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Pages: 8 (2819 words) Published: April 29, 2012
Sufism: Artistic Spirituality
The underlying aspects of Sufi practices deal primarily with the idea that Sufis undergo a series of physical, psychological as well as spiritual rituals and these disciplines further impact the transition to the Garden of Truth. (Nasr, ¬The Garden of Truth). Sufism is known to be the most spiritual and divine sect of Islam. “Sufism is simply the esoterism of Islam, or its inward dimension.” (Burkhardt) These unique Sufi practices are demonstrated through various acts of prayer including the dhikr, which means invocation, or the remembrance of Allah and this repetition of the Divine Name usually coincides with fikr, which coincidentally means meditation. Essentially, both of these practices are performed in a majalis, or gathering or Sufis in which they partake in Sufi songs and dance in order to bring the Divine Presence into one’s body. In other words, these acts were considered as a form of mysticism, which basically means that a direct and interpersonal experience of Allah can be experienced through self-discovery and meditation. The practices that occur at the majalis vary with each Sufi order, but the quintessential meaning is the same, and that is that Sufi music has universally influenced the world and has bridged the gap between both the Western world and the Islamic world.

The renowned scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr quotes a man he deeply admires, Yehudi Menuhin, who said, “Sufi music is like ladder that connects the soul to Allah.” This ultimately shows the importance that music has on Sufism. In addition, Nasr also states that there must be conditions set for each particular Sufi order to participate in the spiritual concert, or sama’. This word serves as the paramount idea relating to Sufi ideals such as love and longing for Allah and is accredited to the famous Sufi poet, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. Spiritual music is universal; it plays a huge role for people who practice Sufism all over the world. This powerful word echoes through the voices of millions of Sufis and it serves as the foundation for the divine practices in countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran and areas of the Western Arab world. The word, sama’ symbolizes the mystical journey of a man’s spiritual and divine ascent to heaven. Basically, the man follows the path toward the truth and in doing so, he gains the ma’rifa, knowledge and mahabba, the love of Allah. He undertakes a spiritual journey and upon returning, he gains a higher level of maturity and fulfillment in order to be of service to Allah.

Nasr sums up the idea of finding one’s inner self in his other book, entitled Sufi Essays in which he states, “Religion in general and the mystical quest in particular are as permanent as human existence itself, for man cannot remain man without seeking the Infinite and without wanting to transcend himself.” This quote clearly and accurately portrays the main reason why Sufis engage in such spiritual behavior, one of which includes intense meditation and sama’. The famous Rūmī defines sama’ as, “For them it is the sama’ of this world and the other. Even more for the circle of dancers within the sama’ who turn and have in their midst, their own Ka’aba.” Rūmī is comparing the Sufi idea of sama’ to the sacredness of the pilgrimage to Mecca in the sense that both rituals are intended to bring the worshipper closer to Allah. Sama’ is composed of mostly singing but it also comprises of the playing of instruments, which are primarily used as background music. The instruments, however, are meant to be spiritual and not disrespectful for their use. The most prominent instruments that are used include the tambourine and the bells. More significantly, many Sufis believe that a true mystic does not lose himself in forms such as music but uses them only to bring himself into a spiritual realm, after which he must experience deeper...
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