By Hwaa Irfan
When the recitation of the Qur’an is purely inspired, it acts like a button awakening one from within. The art and science of tajwid recitation inspires, heals and educates, as do many – but not all – forms of music. While there is much debate regarding the status of music in Islam, Imam ibn Hazm referred to ahadith that forbade music as fabricated.
The Tariqat Gul Nur Jihaniyya (Sufi) informs us that the ulema (scholars) of early Islam accepted musical recitation in Islamic poetry – as it emphasized the expressive and artistic manner of rhythmic speech – e.g. chants, song, sacred music and rhetoric.
What Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did not approve of was:
a) The clapping of hands in public performances of either a religious or secular nature; but he allowed artistic clapping.
b) Sensual singing and dancing by both male and females in public taverns.
Music or rhythmic chanting can have a healing affect on the body.
The word ‘music’ from the Greek ‘mousike’ – by way of the Latin ‘musica’ – is formed from the Greek root ‘mousa’, the ancient Egyptian root ‘muse’ and Celtic suffix ‘ike’.
The Egyptian word ‘mas’ or ‘mous’ signifies generation, production, and development outside a principle. It is composed of the root ‘ash’ which characterizes the universal, primordial principle, and the root ‘ma’, which expresses all that generates, or manifests itself, taking an exterior form.
Music is seen by many as a spiritual phenomenon that can help awaken the mind and body. In fact, like all expressive arts, the origins were spiritual. Away from the lens of the popular music industry, many musical adepts pay homage to music as a spiritual artform. With no meter to trigger the nerve impulses, created in the moment of inspiration and improvisation is the free flowing musical art form of as conveyed by Iranian musician Hussein Alizadeh, a virtuoso.
Unlike contemporary popular music, improvisation in classical Iranian music is for the adept musician who spent years learning and practicing the underlying fundamentals that improvisation arises from until the musician is ripe with the musical technique, knowledge, expression, and finally innovations. Cast to memory (which is how this ancient musical tradition survived) with these inner disciplines, the musician is then free to create with meaning and the ability to teach.
Whereas Western music is based on the octave with rhythm and harmony, traditional Persian/Iranian music is based on a scale of 7 notes or seven principle tones. In esoteric terms, the eighth note is the jump we must all make in order to experience a higher level of understanding breaking us free from a previous level of limited understanding. The eighth note begins the next octave, equipping one with new insight. If one should be fortunate enough to undergo the kind of spiritual training as in the Islamic form of Gnosticism, or Irfan, one might discover the importance of these seven notes, and the eight taking us to the next level of self development.
In a contemplative form, traditional Persian/Iranian classical music is based on the musical form the radif, consisting of 12 main sections which in turn are divided into smaller melodies that if one is willing, will take one not just on a musical journey, but a journey of the soul. The 12 main parts, dastagh, each express different moods, moods that paint the emotional landscape of the listener through which they are guided. When one listens to classical Persian/Iranian music, one becomes aware of the origins of western opera, the knowledge of which, would not sit comfortably for some; but the root, tazeeieh, was thriving in Persia/Iran, (before the Sassanid period 226-651AD) long before it emerged in the West. Even today, the spiritual basis of classical Persian/Iranian music is far from lost as the radif was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Theosophist, linguist, doctor, musician and musical theorist Fabre d’Olivet paid homage to music by saying that:
“There has never been a man on earth capable of inventing a science, and there never will be. No science is invented. It is a gift that the human spirit makes to humanity by means of its inspirational faculties”.
Renowned Islamic scholar and teacher, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali – in his Ihya Ulum al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences) – wrote that music and singing are spiritual, evoking the truth in one’s heart and soul, which reveal themselves and their contents to only Allah (SWT).
Born into a musical family versed in the northwestern Indian tradition, musician Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote:
“The physical effect of sound has also a great influence upon the human body. The whole mechanism, the muscles, the blood circulation, the nerves, are all moved by the power of vibration, as there is resonance for every sound, so the human body is a living resonator”.
Indeed the human bone structure is highly responsive to vibration. In Field Theory each particle (atom) “sings its song” – thus producing rhythmic patterns of energy in dense and subtle forms. It is actually pretty difficult for an atom to not “sings its song” because sound is the audible expression of vibration, and without vibration nothing would come into manifestation on the physical level.
The laws of physics state that when sound vibrations are projected on an object of the same natural frequency as the projected sound, the object will begin to vibrate in sympathy with that sound. At this point, object and sound are in resonance.
The human voice affects the molecular structure of the body. Whining voices attract negative conditions. A hostile condemning voice incites violence and can cause accidents, strokes and heart attacks. By releasing tension and stimulating circulation and nerve energy in the body, the act of toning can help provide healing through one’s voice, much in the same way as chanting and verbal prayer.
There are several guidelines to be followed in order for effective toning to take place. They are as follows:
•Stand erect. Place the feet several inches apart (parallel to the shoulders).
• Stretch the arms high and let them drop back.
• To counter the tendency to cave in and bend forward, the torso must ride on the pelvis with the hipbones protruding a little.
• Make sure you are relaxed and that your shoulders swing on the spine in perfect balance. Focus and sense the emotion within yourself.
• Relax the jaws so the teeth are slightly parted. Then let sound come up from within.
• Let the body groan. Encourage it to be vocal and always start with low groans.
• Let the body groan for as long as it feels like it. The groan may burst into protests, or the voice may soar off into birdlike singing or spontaneous outbursts of worship or prayer.
• No matter what happens, do not let the mind influence the sounds the body seeks to emit.
When the body feels cleansed it will let you know that it is satisfied. Then, make a dua’a (supplication) and sit down for a few moments and read something that inspires you.
The original was written in 2001
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