Arshad, New Age Islam
tradition of devotional songs (hymns sung to the accompaniment of instrumental
music is found almost all religions. In some religious scriptures, the mention
of songs, musical instruments and musical notations give recognition to
devotional music. The oldest specimens of devotional songs are found in Sama
Veda which is a collection of hymns supposed to be sung to the accompaniment of
musical instruments. At least one musical instrument, Veena is mentioned in
Chhandogya Upanishad, a part of Sama Veda. The verse says:
those who sing to the accompaniment of Veena sing His praise only and since
they sing His praise, they become prosperous."(Chhandogya Upanishad: 6th
Khand, Adhyay 1 Mantra 6)
to Chhandogya Upanishad (Khand 20, Adhyay 2, mantra 1, the head priest is
instructed to sing the hymns sung to different deities in different sur
(notation) and rhythm.
Sama is derived from Saman which means song. The word sounds similar to the
Greek word psalmoi which means instrumental music. The word Psalm is derived
from psalmoi. Psalms of Prophet David are divine hymns revealed to Prophet
David (Dawud a.s.). That the Psalms of David are Zabur revealed to Prophet
Dawud a.s. is testified by the Quran as one verse of Psalm No. 37:29 is
reiterated by Quran.
in this Psalm says:
"The righteous will inherit the land and dwell therein
reiterates this in the following verse:
"And we have written after the reminder in
the Zabur that the righteous slaves will inherit the land."(Al Ambiya:
that the style, diction and poetic devices used in the Psalms are very similar
to those in the Quran and the Vedas.
to Judaic traditions prophet David a s. had a very good and serenading voice
and he also had the knowledge of playing musical instruments particularly the
harp. The Quran only says that he had a sweet voice and ability to sing so well
that even the birds would sing together with him.
are called Mizmor. The word is very similar to the Persian word Mazamir
meaning musical instruments. Some Psalms begin with the mention of the musical
instruments on which they should be played.
was composed during 1200-1000 B C. while the Psalms of David were revealed
during 1000-95050 B.C. Thus there seems to be a link between the devotional
songs of the Sama Veda and of the Psalms of David.
Professor Harprasad Shastri discovered 48 Buddhist songs called Charyapad,
composed during the 9th-10th century period from the Royal Library of Nepal.
Though these songs are not hymns but deal with philosophical and ideological
issues of Buddhism, they point towards the tradition of religious poetry after
Buddha probably inspired by Sama Veda and Psalms of David. Buddha lived during
6th-5th century. These Buddhist songs sing about Nirvana and Advaitavad
(Monism), victory over sensual desires and a life of ascetism. Every song is
based on a particular raga. Musical instruments like drum, cymbal and flute are
mentioned in them.
and Upanishads inspired the Tao Te Ching of the Chinese sage and philosopher
Laozi. Laozi composed Tao Te Ching, a collection of 81 songs or poems in poetic
style. It deals with the issues of life and death, good governance,
non-violence and the Supreme Being called Tao. Laozi was spiritual guide of
Confucius. Charyapad and Tao Te Ching give an idea of how the devotional songs
of Psalms and Sama Veda gave way to philosophical and religious poetry. Homeric
hymns of 7 B.C. fall in this category.
does not mention music or musical instruments but playing the Duff is permitted
in Islam. Sufis encouraged devotional songs sung on musical instruments and
sessions of Samaa' are a part of Sufism. Most of prominent Sufis were
poets who composed devotional poetry. The Quran is silent about music but it
uses poetic devices like rhymes, rhythm, parallelism, repetition etc. Qirat
is the knowledge of reciting the Quran taught to the holy prophet by Gabriel. Tarteel
is the principle of reciting the Quran in the correct way.
kind of devotional poetry encouraged and promoted by the prophet of Islam is
the genre of Naat. It is in praise of the prophet Mohammad pbuh.
period, the tradition of devotional songs spread in all the regions of the
world as serene music accompanied by spiritual poetry creates a state of trance
in the singers and listeners. Baul songs, Qawwali, Rastafarian songs, Bhajan,
Kirtan, Charyapad etc are forms of devotional songs evolved over the years and
have their roots in ancient scriptures.
Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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