What is Qawalli in Sufism

ul (Arabic) is an "utterance (of the prophet)", Qawwal is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul. Qawwali is the style of singing of Qawwal.
14 September 2015

What is Qawalli in Sufism

Qawwali is the traditional form of Islamic song found in India and Pakistan the word Qawwali is derived from the Arabic word Qaol which means “axiom” or “dictum”. A Qawwal is one who sings Qawwali, or the dictums of the prophets and praises of God. The Qawwali is closely linked to the spiritual and artistic life of northern India and Pakistan.

Qawwali tend to begin gently and build steadily to a very high energy level in order to induce hypnotic states both among the musicians and within the audience. Songs are usually arranged as follows.

In Qawwali, if a phrase seems to have powerful effect on any listener (although the more prominent leaders, both spiritually and tempor-ally, are paid more attention then the performers must repeat it until its usefulness has been expended, and the ecstasy or pre-ecstatic state has reached full fruition. The range of expressive responses goes from simple nodding, to tapping, to exclamations, to twitches, to weeping, shouting, dancing (raqs).

The Qawwali ensemble is led by the singer, who also plays harmonium, and is backed by other singers (who clap along), a drummer (who plays dholak), and sometimes a sitar, tabla, or other instrument Parties range from four to over a dozen players. There are two formal names for Qawwali. One is darbar-e-auliya, or “royal court of saints”, which I will discuss later; the other is mahfil-e-sama’, or “gathering for listening”. One of the Qawwal (singer’s) primary duties is to fulfill the needs of the listeners; thus, Qawwali is a gathering for listeners. The Qawwal, through their songs must not only recognize the specific shrine where they are performing, and solidify the hierarchy of the saints, but they must gear their performance for the listeners, to provide them with the Word and mystical poetry, repetition of holy names (zikr), and a musical setting which inspires them to correct ecstasy.

Instrumental: This is supposed to be the announcement of the arrival of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti’s, as Sufi believes their saints are free of time-space. Also that Nabi. Siddique. Shaheed. and Saleh category of faithfuls arc never dead, Just gone into some other slate from where they visit whenever they are mentioned, especially if there is a function in their honor.

  •  Hamd
  •  Naat
  •  Manqabat Ali
  • Manqabat Ghous: Praise of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jelani
  • Manqabat Khwaja: Praise of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti
  • Manqabat Shaikh: Praise of the Shaikh/Pir if it is his anniversary
  • Rang or Badhawa: If it is the death anniversary of the Pir, then it is usually Rang, a poem by Amir Khusro. If it is the Shaikh’s birthday, it is usually the Badhawa.

• A Ghazal is a song that sounds secular on the face of it. There are two extended metaphors that run through ghazals — the joys of drinking and the agony of separation from the beloved. These songs feature exquisite poetry, and can certainly be taken at face value, and enjoyed at that level. In fact, in India and Pakistan, ghazal is also a separate, distinct musical genre in which many of the same songs are performed in a different musical style, and in a secular context. In the context of that genre, the songs are usually taken at face value, and no deeper meaning is necessarily implied. But in the context of Qawwali, these songs of intoxication and yearning use secular metaphors to poignantly express the soul’s longing for union with the Divine, and its joy in loving the Divine. In the songs of intoxication, “wine” represents “knowledge of the Divine”, the “cupbearer” (saaqi) is God or a spiritual guide, the “tavern” is the metaphorical place where the soul may (or may not) be fortunate enough to attain spiritual enlightenment. (The “tavern” is emphatically not a conventional house of worship. Rather, it is taken to be the spiritual context within which the soul exists.) Intoxication is attaining spiritual knowledge, or being filled with the joy of loving the Divine. In the songs of yearning, the soul, having been abandoned in this world by that cruel and cavalier lover, God, sings of the agony of separation, and the depth of its yearning for reunion.

• A kafi is a song in Punjabi, which is in the unique style of poets such as Shah Hussain and Baba Bulleh Shah. Two of the more popular Kafis includeNi Main Jana Jogi De Naal and Mera Piya Ghar Aaya.

• A munadjaat is a song where the singer displays his thanks to Allah through a variety of linguistic techniques It is often sung in Persian, withMawlana Jalal-ad-Din Rumi credited as its inventor.

1 .2.ISufism and the Developed Musical Tradition in South Asia- Amir Khusraw

Hazrat Amir Khusraw (1253-1325)4, a famous Sufi saint and an expert both in Indian and Persian music at the court of Ala’ al-Din Khilji, Sultan of Delhi (12961316) is credited with the introduction of Persian and Arabic elements into South Asian music. Of particular importance are two musical forms: Tarana and Qaul, which is said to be the origin of Qawwali, a form of Muslim religious song. However, there is evidence that qawwali predates Hazrat Amir Khusraw: the great Sufi Masters of the Chishtiya and Suhrawardia Orders of South Asia were admirers of the qawwali and the Saint Hazrat Outubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki is said to have died in 1236 while in a musical trance induced by a qawwali.

It is not an easy task for the Qawwals. They must have an immense knowledge of the poetic tradition in several languages, they must understand the music and be able to perform it, they must keep up with the times and know what new material appeals to listeners they must be able to change and adjust as each situation demands.

Qawwali is a formalized ritual, then, which has shamanistic elements-sacred power of the Qawwal, work for the community, The Qawwali ritual is performed for the spiritual health of the community, but in Qawwali, each Sufi adept must work through the ritual on his own to reach ecstasy. The Qawwali performers, through the repetitive rhythms on the dholak , the exuberantly mournful singing, the repetition of certain phrases of poetry which serve the function of mantras, do assist in the ecstasy, obviously. While this is also true in shamanistic practices, most shamans also perform acts other than guiding the believers, such as calling a god to allow rain or fighting a community plague. The shaman guides and protects, doing spiritual and worldly work on behalf of the community. In Qawwali, however, no such work is done by the performers. The performer serves a function, as an aid to the adept’s spiritual journey, a “medium” for concentration on the mystical quest , a “mouthpiece” for the saints and for God even possessed by the Qawwali spirit-but does not specifically do works on the spiritual or supernatural plane.

The Qawwal may, however, be invested with certain otherworldly powers, although this is not his official function. In the liner notes to the most famous contemporary Qawwali singer’s debut on a major Western record label

The songs are sometimes performed for specific saints, and these saints become the Beloved of the song. about the 14th century mystic LalShahbazz Qalandar, who seems as close to a shaman as the Sufis got It is said that “the call of the Spirit” came early to Shahbazz.


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