As he begins the concluding portion of his description of some aspects of Sufism, Hazrat Inayat now speaks of the place of music in Sufi practice. The previous post is here.
It is very well known to all who have any knowledge of Sufis and Sufism, that music plays a great part in their spiritual attainment. The Chishtis, a particular school of Sufis, take a special interest in music. They call it Ghiza-i-ruh, the food of the soul, and they listen to the Qawwali, the special songs sung at their Sama,* the contemplative musical assembly. It seems as if some potent life were there which is rarely met with elsewhere. The atmosphere is charged with magnetism, harmony, and peace which are emitted by the illuminated souls present. The Shaikh, the teacher, sits in the midst, and the other Sufis sit around him, and invoke one after the other the sacred names of God, and repeat suras of the Quran turn by turn. This is an introduction which tunes the heart of each one present to its proper pitch, the hearts that are already prepared by zikar, the esoteric contemplation.
Their way of contemplation sets the heart in rhythm, which makes even the circulation of the blood regular, and the pulsation and the whole mechanism of the body become rhythmic. When the mind is also set in rhythm by its awakened response to tone, the Sufi’s whole being becomes musical. This is why the Sufi can harmonize with each and all. Music makes all things in the world living to him and makes him alive to all things, and he begins to realize how life is dead to many in the world, and how many are dead to life.
There are different grades of progress, and the verses that are sung by the Qawwals are also of different kinds. Some verses are in praise of the beauty of the ideal which Sufis in the grade of Fana-fi-Shaikh enjoy. In this grade are those who see the divine immanence as the ideal, walking on earth.
There are verses which speak about the high merits of the ‘ideal-in-name-and-not-in-form,’ which appeals to those who are in the grade of Fana-fi-Rasul. These have not seen the ideal, neither have they heard its voice, but hey have known and loved that ideal which alone exists as far as they know.
Then there are verses which speak of the ideal beyond name and form. To these verses those respond who are in the grade of Fana-fi-Allah; these are conscious of their ideal as beyond name and form, qualities and merits which cannot even be confined in knowledge, being beyond all limitations. Sometimes the coming of the ideal is pictured in verses which describe the sweetness of voice, the beauty of countenance, the grace of movement, the praise, the merits, the qualities, and the winning ways of the ideal. There are verses also in which are pictured the lover in love, his agony in separation, his caution in the presence of the beloved, his humility, his envy and rivalry, and all the natural vicissitudes of a lover. It is poetry, music, and art combined. It is not a simple song; it creates the whole vision in the realm of music before the mind of the Sufi who is capable of visualizing it against positive environments. In other words the Sufi produces his ideal vision in his imagination, by the help of music.
*Sama means ‘listening,’ and refers to Sufi ceremonies involving prayer and music.
To be continued…