People often ask me, what is it about the Islamic world that you love? Well, I could name any number of things but one of the most beautiful, and right near the top of the list, would be al adhan or azaan. The 5 times-a-day reminder to the Faithful to remember God and come to prayer. The mad clatter and clack of the day inevitably disguises the mid-morning, midday calls but to wake to the melodic incantation of God’s Greatness and the Finality of His Prophet Muhammad is one of the most sublime moments of any day.
While not generally classified as ‘music’, the azaan has always struck me as the quintessential song. Because it’s intent and subject digs into the deepest part of the human spirit. Because in the hands of a skilled muezzin (the one who calls the Faithful to prayer) it is a 2-3 minute opportunity for musical improvisation and vocal artistry. One of the experiences I will cherish forever is waiting in anticipation in the month of Ramadhan for the sun to set (and the day’s fast to break) while listening to an extended a cappella recitation to the Glory of God by an impassioned disciple of Allah. Even Mullah Omar would not object to this purest and most beautiful music.
The keynote of Sufism is the union, the identification of God and man. The highest good to which Sufis can attain is the annihilation of the actual—to forget that they have a separate existence, and lose themselves in the Divinity as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. The Sufi masters throughout the years explain this concept is many poetic ways. Here are but two:
There came one and knocked at the door of the Beloved. And a voice answered and said, “Who is there?’
The lover replied, “It is I.”
“Go hence,” returned the voice; “there is no room within for thee and me.”
Then came the lover a second time and knocked, and again the voice demanded, “Who is there?”
He answered, “It is Thou.”
“Enter,” said the voice. “for I am within.”
There was a frog which sat upon the shores of the ocean and ceaselessly day and night sang its praise. “As far as mine eyes can see,” he said, “I behold nothing but thy boundless surface.”
Some fish swimming in the shallow water heard the frog’s song, and were filled with a desire to find that wonderful ocean of which he spoke, but go where they would they could not discover it. At last, in the course of their search, they fell into a fisherman’s net, and as soon as they were drawn out of the water they saw beneath them the ocean for which they had been seeking. With a leap they returned to it.
Here is a collection of Islamic chants and sufi music from Egypt.
Start and end your day with this and listen as often as possible.
01 Call To Prayer (Al-Adhan)
02 Koranic Cantiallation (Tajwid al-Quran Al-Karim)
03 O Lord There Is No one Save You (Ma Li Fi L-Wujudi Siwaka)
04 The Hearts Of The Initiated ((Qulubu L-'arifin
05 Hadrat Zikr
06 Beautiful Names Of God (Asma'u Hahi L'husna)
07 Be Mindful Of God's Majesty (Udhkurha Wa-Nta Mashi, La Tulhika Amthalaha)
08 Guide Us To The Prophet In Purity (bi-l-Mustafa Balligh Magasidana)