Urdu Dept.GC University
) and Qawwali are forms of Music. In the History of our music this is that category of music that is considered to have come to us after “Sangita Ratnakara”
. Before this we only knew the names of the types of music and nothing more, for example Kabat
, but what the forms were of this these types of music no one seems to know. By the time original reforms of Qawwali
and melody were being discussed and taking place, many changes had already taken place in the world of music. There was a time when melody had a particular defined place in music but now it has become just a part. It is now thought that the present form of Qawwali
is not that Qawwali
which was sung in the time of Hazrat Amir Khusro. Those who sang the Qaul
form of music became known as Qawwal
. But the form of Qaul
changed over time and a new form evolved which was a modification of the original Qawwal
form and it became known as Qawwali
And perhaps along with the change of form there was also a change in the content of what is now sung as Qawwali
in fact was a way of singing.
Quatrain were originally rendered in Arabic but over time were replaced by Ghazals. In the Qawwali
form of music five or more singers take part as a team. Whereas in classical music only one or two singers perform at one time.
The rhythm in a Qawwali
is also very specific which is quite different from that used in classical music.
This form of singing where a team participates was found in Quatrain before the 10th
century also. We find this reference in the book, Mujarrad-Al-Aghani
written by Abu Al-Faraj Ali Ibn Al Husayn Al-Isfahani
(897-967 CE). This book was considered an encyclopedia of music at the time and the author spent his entire life writing it and we learn from this book that musicians performed as teams. We have also learned that musicians in these teams sang one after the other and these teams were known as Nubah
in Arabic. With the passage of time the word Nubah
become associated with this form of music. This form of music become established prior to the 10th
century in Arabia.
Even prior to Abd-Al-Qadir Al Maraghi B. Ghaybi
(died 1435 AD), it was known that this form of ancient music is composed of four parts:
- Tarana (melody)
In his work Ghaybi
established a fifth part for this form of music and called it Mstzad
is the pure classical form of Arabic and Persian music. The Nouba
style of music became established in Spain under the Muslims, and was known as Granadian Nouba
and in Spain, music was divided in the same five parts as in Arabia and Persia. Till the end of the 15th
remained part of classical music in Iran though the rhythm was different from the Arabian music. Every nation or country evolves its own system of rhythm in music and which is considered natural and this is pointed out in Ikhwan-Al-Safa
It can be said without a doubt that Nouba
left a deep impression on music in Andalusia and one of the forms of music and dance over there is known as melody, and for singing Quatrain makes use of this form of music.
By reading the early history of Rubais we find that Qaul
and Melody were practiced much before the 15th
century. Rubai came into existence before the ghazal form of poetry and according to the Syed Sulaiman Nadvi Ode (Qaseeda)
and couplets (Masnavi
) were not meant to be sung and these forms of poetry cannot be considered to be part of Sufism (Tasawuf
) and it is for this reason that Quatrain were used for Sufi singing. Thus, according to Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Quatrain form of poetry began in the time of the Persian poet Rudaki
. The original form of the Quartain was in the form of the stanza. Quatrain singing came to be known as melody. Syed Sulaiman Nadvi thinks that Quatrain was the only part of vocal music. Sufis who were inclined towards music found quatrain to be the best genre. And it is for this reason that in the early period quatrain was also known as melody (Music).
Syed Suleiman Nadvi writes that “The Quatrain was very well suited to musical rendition and this view is confirmed that Rudaki who is considered the founder of Quatrain was a famous music teacher. In actual fact melody is a Quartets music called Quatrain”
(Tarjama Mata-Ul-Uloom, Munshi Nawal Kishor Kanpur, India Pg.
Quatrain was also known as Qaul
and it is for this reason that Sufi’s take the Qaul
to be a singer and this is probably because Qaul
originally meant a singer. Subsequently every singer of Sufi poetry became known as a Qawwal
In the Qabus-Nama
(it was written by Keikavus
in 1082) there is an important sentence about Melody and Quatrain that all differing points of view coverage.
It is known that Quatrain in the view of musicians was called Melody. Keikavus
writes in Qabus-Nama
“پس کو دکان و زنان و مردمان لطیف طبع برخی بے بہرہ ماندند کہ ترانہ گفتن پدیدار آمد۔ ایں ترانا را ہم نصیب آن قوم” کردند تا ایشان ہم نیز راحت و لزت یا بند از آں کہ اندروز نھا ہیچ و زنے لطیف ترانا و زن ترانا نیست۔”
(Bombay, Pg: 131)
Syed Sulaiman Nadvi further explains:
- That the meter of the Melody is different and newer from the other meters in Persian music.
- Melody was meant for the elderly, children and women and this was because the poets heard a melody from children and then wrote poetry on this meter.
- This time became so popular that it eventually became the form preferred by Sufi’s.
- And there was no meter in Persian music which was more melodious than the melody.
“از آں کہ اندروز نھا ہیچ و زنے لطیف ترانا و زن ترانا نیست”
From the above it is evident that melody was the time of the Irani women and children. By the end of 3rd
century it became one of the forms of Persian poetry for ordinary poets also. Since the melody was sung it also became a part of the Sufi spiritual recitals or hearing circle.
- The meter of the melody was suited to music and that is the reason for its popularity.
Syed Sulaiman Nadvi further states that:
After the advent of Islam, musical tradition became part of Persia during the period of the Samanid Dynasty
. However, it is not known as what was sung in Persia at that time as ode and couplets were not sung and ghazal was yet to be born although odes in small meter could be sung. Rudaki, in his poem “بوےؑ جوےؑ مولیاں آیدہمی “ with seven verses sang in the presence of Amir Nasr Samandids
, but such poems were few. I think that in the Persian music of that time Quatrain had a small meter. For the Sufis fond of music the Quatrain was the most appropriate form. For this reason Quatrain was known as melody. This is evident from the book “Al Mojam Fi Mayeer Ashare Al Ajam”
written by Shamsuddin Mohammad Bin Qais Al Razi
“و بحکم آن منشد و باری و بانی آن و زن کودکے بودنیک موزوں و دلبر و جوانی سخت تازہ و ترآں را ترانا نام نہاد و مایہ فتنہ بزرگ را سر بجہاں در دادو ہمانا طالع ابداع ایں و زن برج میزان بودہ است۔۔۔کہ خاص و عام مفتون ایں نوع شدہ اند عالم و عامی مشغوف ایں شعر گشتا، زاہد و فاسق را درآن نصیب، صالح و طالح رابداں رغبت کثر طبعانے کہ نظم از نثر نشناسد و از و زن و ضرب خیرندارند، بہانہ ترانہ در رقص آیند، مردہ دلان میاں لحن موسیقار و ہنیق حما رفرق نکنند و ازلزت ہانگ چنگ ہزار فرسنگ دور باشند، بردوبیتی جان بدہند۔ لیسا دختر خانہ کہ بر ہوس ترانہ در دیوار خانہ عصمت خود درہم شکست۔ بساستی (خاتون) کہ بر عشق دو بیتی تاروپود پیرہن عفت و اشعار مخترع کہ بعد از خلیل احداث کردہ اند بدل نزدیک تر و در طبع آویزندہ ترازین نیست۔ و بحکم آنکہ رباب صناعت موسیقی بریں و زن الحان شریف ساختہ اندو طریق لطیف تا لیف کردہ، و عادت چناں رفتہ است کہ ہر چہ بر مقطعات پارسی باشد آنرا غزل خوانند۔ اہل دانش ملحونات ایں و زن را ترانہ نام کردن۔” ص(۸۹ و۹۰)
Shamsuddin Mohammad Bin Qais Al Razi
further states that:
: ہرچہ ازاں جنس برابیات تازی (عربی) سازند، آنرا قول گویند
: وہرچہ ہر مقطعات پارسی باشد، آ را غزل خوانند۔
: اہل دانش ملحونات ایں و زن را ترانہ نام کردن۔
: و شعر مجرد آنرا دوبیتی خوانند، براےؑ آنکہ بنای آں بر دو بیت بیش نیست۔
: و مستعربہ آن را رباعی خوانند، از بہر آنک بحر ہزج دراشعار عرب مربع الاجزا آمدہ است۔ پس ہر بیت ازیں و زن دو بیت عربی باشد۔” (ص۔۹۰)
In the ancient text the words Ghazal
and Melody are found together and from this we known that the ghazal form had not yet taken its proper form prior to Ibn-I-Ghaibi
consisted of Qaul, Ghazal, Melody
and all these were parts of the music of the time. In later times wherever this music reached it assimilated the local forms also. In Iran the Iranian rhythm was assimilated but by the time the Nouba
reached India, it lost its original form. Thus the four constituents of Nouba
appear as independent entities in different areas. This was because Nouba
itself disappeared and we do not know the history of its beginning. That is why without reason we are trying to invent the beginnings of Nouba
, the influence of the local cultures of the subcontinent affected melody so drastically that it lost its original form. During the time of Amir Khusro
one of the forms of Indian music was Parbandh
which consisted of six parts. One of these was Tanka
and other was Padam
influenced so deeply that the melody form changed drastically. By the time melody reached South India it became known as “Tilana”
) and was very similar to Parbandh
itself. The difference is that in South India, melody became an integral part of dance whereas in our area it remained a part of music. The above is sufficient to establish that both Qawwali
and melody were both present before Hazrat Amir Khusro.
Also we find references in Indian history and we cannot say that the Qawwali
was not invention of Hazrat Amir Khusro
. In the early days of Islam different points of view as to whether spiritual poetic recitals or hearing were Halal or Haram arose.
Thus around 11th
century there were many references on the Halal, Haram debate. In Kashf-al-Majub
which was written by Ali Al-Hujwiri
in 1025, we find out about his views on this debate.
Imam Abu-Hamid A-Ghazali
(1058-1111) in his book Ihya’ Ulum Al-Din
declares these recitals as permissible and in this book the views of other intellectuals on this matter are also given. After Ali-Al-Hujwiri
we know that Hazrat Khawja Moeen Ud Din Chishti Ajmer
gained importance and at his shrine always Qawwals
pay homage as is done at the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya
The form of Sufi recitals was neither ode nor couplet but was Quatrain and ghazal. And as we have discussed above, the Quatrain was another name of Qaul
. Thus we can now establish that Qawwali
had appeared at least two hundred years before Hazrat Amir Khusro
During the reign of Shams Ud-Din Iltutmish
(1211-1230) the two very well-known Sufi’s Khawaja Bahuddin Zakariya
and Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki
had a great influence for times to come. The book Tareekh-e-Farishta
bears witness to the fact that a Qawwal
by the name of Abdullah
came all the way from Turkey and presented himself to Khawja Bahauddin Zakariya
During the period of Iltutmish there was a great debate between Qawwali
and spiritual recitals. And those who followed the Sharia
under the leadership of Qazi Sadiq
or Qazi Ammad
debated these issues with Qazi Hamiuddin Nagori
and Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki
and this difference of opinion is not hidden from anyone. The details of this debate and difference of opinion are to be found in books such as Khair-ul-Majaalis, Sair-ul-Aarfeen
etc. The article by Dr. Mohammad Omar of New Delhi sheds considerable light on this issue also. Thus in this way we can assert that Qawwali
as a musical form had been established well before Hazrat Amir Khusro
In the book Tazkira-e-Aulia Karam
it is stated that Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya lived in a small room in the basement of a mosque and nearby was the house of Najibuddin Mutawakkil who was the younger brother of Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar.
Najibuddin Mutawakkil was well known for his knowledge in manifested and hidden and under his influence Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya expressed the desire to meet Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar present the Qawwal
Abu Bakar from Delhi, and from him Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya learnt about Pak Patan. Thus Hazrat Nizamuddin departed for Pak Patan to pay his respects to Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar.
This departure took place on 15 Rajab 655 AD. Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya lived in Pak Patan for nine months and if this is correct then Hazrat Amir Khusro was only five years old at that time. This again establishes the fact that Qawwali has reached Hindustan before Hazrat Amir Khusro.
When Hazrat Amir Khusro accompanied Prince Mohammad to Multan and at that time Khawaja Bahuddin Zakariya’s son Khawaja Sadaruddin and Khawaja Usman were listening to a Qawwali and were dancing in a state of trance.
Now we will throw some light on the Divan of Masud Saad Salman
, where we get information about his contemporaries which include amongst others, the singers of the time, Osman Khawananda
was one of the singers about whom Masud Saad Salman stated:
“باز عثمان عند لیب آواز
کردہ از قول جادوی آغاز”
In this verse the word “Qaul”
deserves special attention and see that Qawwali was already a recognized form of music in the 11th century. Alongside Osman Khwananda and Masud Saad Salman also mentions Banoey Qawwal
who sang the Qaul and we find find a few verses about Banoey Qawwal
in the Divan of Masud Saad Salman
“بانو آں نا درہ جہان بسرود
حملہ آورد بر بریشم عود
از بر آواز سرا گفت
بگلو مقنعد درافگنت”
Thus this form of music Qaul
and the specialized singers all present predate the birth of Hazrat Amir Khusro.
Hazrat Amir Khusro in his book “Ijaz-i-Khusravi”
mention the names of the Khawana Latif Qawwal and Shaban Qawwal, who where Qawwals and has enumerated the names of well-known and famous musicians. Amongst them was Tarmati Khatoon who was introduced to the place and became the leader of the musicians. These musicians included Amir KhanjShak, Muhammad Shah Murgak, Khalifa Hussaini, Marfak, Shaban Qawwal, Amir Ul Tayoor and Mahmood Choza and Safi Ud Din Abdulmomin.
Hazrat Amir Khusro writes in his couplet Qiran-us-Saadain
“گشتہ ازاں قول کہ قول راست
گفت گہہ راست گہہ ینم راست”
and here he does not claim to being the founder of Qaul or Qawwali. On the other hand he has mentioned Qaul and Qawwali amongst other forms of music.
Disscussing the style of Urdu ghazal singing Rafiq Ghaznavi says that:
“Amir Khusro had nothing to with establishing Qawwali as form of music, Khusro cannot be the father of Qawwali. It can be said that since there was no Persian Ghazal therefore it may have been given the name of the Qawwali. However research has shown that this assertion is not correct. Many authentic texts and books on Amir Khusro musical innovations have been written and no where is it stated that Amir Khusro was the inventor of Qawwali.”
In reality in the presence of Amir Khusro, Qawwals visited Hazrat Nizammuddin Auliya and there Qawwali sessions were regularly held, and many well-known sufi’s would dance in a state of trance.
Such session was held on Wednesday, Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 720 Hijro, in the presence of Hazrat Nizam Uddin Auliya and here Khawaja Qutubuddin Munawar Hansvi, Sheikh Burhanuddin Gharib appeared along with the Qawwals and Sheikh Usman Sayah after taking permission started the Qawwali session and right from the beginning Khawaja Sheikh Usman Syah, Sheikh Hussain and many others started to dance.
“ہزار سختی اگر برمن آید آسانست
کہ دوستی و ارادت ہزار چند انست”
This continued till the evening prayers and after coming out of the trance Hazrat Nizam Uddin Auliya gave Sheikh Usman Sayah the special Sufi Surma
and gave Amir Khusro a special turban and everyone else received some presents.
The poet Frishta (Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah Astarabadi) at the time of Sultan Alauddin Khalji Sultanate while commenting on the scholars mentions that Amir Khusro was only a poet and does not consider him a musician or a Qawwal. According to Frishta, there were numerous Ghazal and Qawwali singers at the time.
Other than Qawwali and melody the forms of music that came with Muslims were the Chahar Beti
, poetry consisting of four verses was known as Chahar Beti
. The remained in vogue for a long time as has been stated above. Jikri
was established under the influence of Qazi Mahmood Daryai (874-951/ 1469-1534) gained importance in Gujrat and this form was given to the expression of Sufi love. Qazi Mahmood wrote his verses for different raags live Dhanashree, Balawal, Malhar, Kedar, Jikri
etc. and till this time the word Raag
was not used and instead were referred to as Pardas. It is worth noting that Captain Willard in his book has devoted a full chapter to the different forms of music and Melody, Qaul and Qawwali are also mentioned and these are not associated with Hazrat Amir Khusro.