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In the Name of Allah. The Most Beneficient.The Most Merciful






In history of civilizations,Islam stands as a pinacle culturally between the Dark Ages and the Renaisance period.Although "Islamic Civilization" conotes a purely sociological implication, in spite of its pristine religious insularity, Islam spread over a quarter of the then known geographic world, gave rise to a specific mode of lifestyle, and became a cynosure for all observers beyond its boundaries.

The cause was simple: When the Prophet Mohammad's (swas) revelations were heralded to the world in the seventh century of the Christian era, the "message" could not be confined to the Hijaz or the Arabian peninsula. Within three quarters of a century the banner of Islam"s Prophet migrated eastward to ends of Transoxiana, southward to the banks of the Indus river in India, northward to the shores of the Black Sea in Asia Minor, and westward into Spain onto the Pyrenees.

Islam's newly won empire's civilization out shone rest of the world. From Samarkand in Central Asia to Cordova in Spain, famed institutions of learning, the arts, sciences, literature, musical arts, and techinical discoveries, inventions and improvements, brought exciting wonderment to all peoples. Islam's sociological trend was produced with sublime surrender in religion as the basis, and taught universal brotherhood without racial, national, or geographic boundaries.

In Islam's empirical dominions it was inevitable that all other nations would subsume themselves into the culture of their Arabian Muslim conquerors, incorporating an adulterated Arabic, which then became modified and tempered by those cultures. This fusion of cultural ideas gave greater mobility to the newer civilization which still has a vital influence on the western world.

Many of the world's peoples contributed to Islamic civilization: Arab, Turk, Kurd, Persian, Aramean, Syrian, Egyptian, Greek and Goth. "Two lands" culture especially played a prominent role in the music of this new civilization, from the east, and from the west. Greek music was more theoretical, dominated by works of ancient authors centuries deceased.

The visible signs of music and religion in ancient Arabia, confirms that the Arabs of the peninsula had indeed inherited and were conservators of the Mesopotamian cultural heritage. Music was, in practice,was then largely delegated to women, especially in the upper elite class. Those people who were attached to upper class households, were employed as 'qainat'(singing women) for purpose of entertainment. The male 'mughani'(singing men)and 'mitrib"(musicians) and the 'alati' (instrumentalists) were written about by Ibn Musa al-Nasibi (d.circa.860) in his Kitab al-Aghani (book of songs).

In ancient Arabia, the Holy Ka'aba wa a place of pilgrimage. In the Hijaz, mecca was the centers for fairs, where musicians and poets met in contest for being the best in their arts, and treasured poems, like the Mu'allaqat, were sung and recited entire as qasa'id (odes). Ghina (singing) came from huda (cravan song); out of this developed biqa (lamentation), nauh (elegies), and nasb (secular songs), Two types of songs were used, the Himyaria and Hanifiya; all tell of joy in then happy Arabia.

The Gassanids employed singing-girls of Mecca in their capitol al-Hira and Byzantium, who sang with accompaniment of barabat (lute). The reed-pipe came from their region, and the Arabs borrowed it, calling it zambaq, as it was made from sambucus wood. The Arabic harp is called zannaj or wannaj, a loose phonectical prounciation from Syriac-Greek dialect. word for phoenix..

 The other great influence to the north-east was Persia, then the font of culture. The origins of Persian music began in misty Mahabad, at the beginning time (Dabistan). Firdausi is his great epic, the Shaha Nama, tells of rud (resplendent music) and sarwad(singing), strings of chang (harps), tanbur (pandore),barabat or rubab (lutes), ruyin (pipes) and ney (reed-flute), which gave out delightful notes. Processions resounded with blasts of karranay, shaipur, and buq (horns-trumpets), tabira and kus (kettledrums), and the noise from hindi, daray, zang, and sinj (tininabulating throngs), chang (upper-chested harp),von (lower-chested harp), kannar and shisak-cousins of ghoshaka (Sitar Sanscrit instrument), and tumbak, dumbalak (drums). Many of these instruments are shown in reliefs at Taqi Bustan. (A.D.590-628).

The scientific theory of music in those days in Persia was present in treatise on music of pre-Islamic times. Practical theory is evident; in the Dastanat of Barabad, seven modes and 360 melodies are mentioned; relating to the numerical metaphysics of Ancient Mesopotamia. From al-Hira, the capitol of the Lakhmids, Persian musical practices filtered into Arabian lands, and those people were great lovers of musical arts.

At the emergence of Islam in Hijaz, the first year of Hegira-flight, 622 A.D., spiritual newness dawned on the world. The religion of Islam prospered, and nothing else mattered. At first all was aesthic happiness and austerity. When Prophet Mohammad (sws) passed into greater glory year 632 A.D., his Companions sought, like their holy Prophet, to keep the minds of men only, away from the malahi or forbidden pleasures of old, including wine, women, and song.

Although the Quran neither contained nor mentioned specifically any words against music, the purists of Islam began to collect a'hadith (sayings) of the Prophet Mohammad (swas) which supposedly condemned listening and singing to music. Hard-core purist fuqaha legists used these proported sayings of the Prophet with considerable effect. These fuqaha forbade any kind of music save what was tolerated by the Prophet and according to their own specific interpretations. Eventually the four legal schools of Sunni Muslim's thought, Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi, Hanafi,and with the Shia Jafari and Zaydi who had their own fuqaha-legists who also decided more or less against listening to music; and the subject developed a controversial literature on permissability. It grew on, and still is a topic of heated debate by conservative fundamentalists on into comtemporary times.

© © copyright RVA 1998.Updated 2011


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