By: Ally Adnan  

One of the world’s oldest oral traditions, Qawwali predates Islam. The arrival of Muslims in South Asia contributed to its development and Qawwali came to be associated with Islam. The association, however, has been exaggerated, and is essentially misleading. Qawwali does not have an exclusive relationship with any one religion. Indeed, it was used by Sufi’s to draw people to Islam but Sufi Qawwali was more about faith than religion. It celebrated love, friendship, peace, harmony, and tolerance. Qawwali helped create a distinction between Sufi and Orthodox Islam. Finding its pluralistic message apropos for its followers, various religions came to celebrate Qawwali. Religion was but one subject of Qawwali which came to tackle other subjects such as philosophy, culture, spiritualism, divinity, and love. Amir Khusrau formalized the genre of Qawwali, in the thirteenth century, and created a number of its forms including Baseet, Gul, Hawa, Naqsh, Nigar, Qalbana, Qaul, Tarana, and Tilanna. Other forms such as Bhajan, Hamd, Kafi, Manqabat, Marsiya, Naat, Nauha, and Soz were added to repertoire subsequently. The resulting repertoire of Qawwali was not limited to any one faith or religion. A specific set of etiquette exists for the Mehfil-E-Samaa, a gathering for Qawwali. It borrows elements from a number of cultures and religions, and helps prepare participants for witnessing and, possibly, experiencing the phenomenon of Haal, or transcendental ecstasy. Qawwali has evolved into being the universal song of love, peace and brotherhood that incorporates elements of a number of religions and cultures.

Religion Music Sufism
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Ally Adnan

Managing Director, The After Hours Group, United States
TX, United States

Ally Adnan is a well-known writer and speaker on topics of culture, history and the arts. His writings on classical music constitute a valuable treatise on the theory, culture, and practice of music in India and Pakistan. Ally's areas of expertise are Ghazal, Qawwali, and Sufism. He regularly conducts seminars, workshops, and symposia on the topics, all over the world.