Music in Islamic civilization

Perhaps many artists and singers of the 21st century do not know that many of their musical instruments and the rules of rhythm that they follow are due to the contributions of Muslims, who left their mark clearly not only in scientific fields such as astronomy, science, medicine, chemistry, physics, and engineering, but also extended to artistic fields such as painting and architecture  and singing and music.

The beginning of the music

The oldest extant writings on Islamic music date back to the end of the ninth century, more than 250 years after the emergence of Islam, in the absence of historical documents that preceded the emergence of Islam, musicians, writers and philosophers began to speculate about the origins of their music, filling in the gaps through unknown sources or obscure traditions, until it was said that one of them made the first oud from the leg of his dead son, whose loss he regretted, and whose eulogy for his son is considered the first song.  

In the tribal societies that spread across the Arabian Peninsula, music emphasized every event in human life, decorated social gatherings, incited warriors to fight, encouraged travelers across the desert, and urged pilgrims to visit the Black Stone, as Mecca was an ideological center where religious rituals were held, and a destination, for the pilgrims who used to sing a natural song called talbiyah and tahlil. 

In the Arabian Peninsula, musical activity emerged in two important centers: Hijaz and Mecca, and in the Arab markets, especially Souq Okaz, poetry competitions and musical performances were periodically held, which attracted the most prominent poets, musicians, and singers.

Their music, more developed than that practiced in nomadic tribes, was related to that of the qaynat (singing girls), who performed at court, in noble houses, and in scattered taverns. 

The culture of the Arabian Kingdom of Al-Hirah in Iraq was closely linked to the culture of Persia under the pre-Islamic Sassanian Empire, and the Sassanians respected doctrinal and religious music, as in the Mazdak sect's belief music was one of the spiritual forces. 

Musicians in the king’s entourage occupied a high rank, and some gained wide fame, such as Barbad, who was a Persian musical poet during the reign of the last king of the Sasanian Empire, Khosrau II, and a theorist and composer of Sassanian music. 

He is credited with inventing the complex system of patterns before Islam, and his compositions continued to become a model of artistic achievement, in Arabic literature, at least until the 10th century. 

Before the emergence of Islam, the Arabs were not as keen on using music in their worship as the West did, and music at that time was nothing more than “a naïve chant of its kind carried by the male or female singer according to his or her taste, emotion, or desired effect,” as historians say, and instead a special class of qaynat or qayyan appeared in the palaces of kings and in the homes of the wealthy and tribal chiefs, and musical instruments for tuning instruments spread, the most widespread of which were gongs, jingles, and flute instruments.

 At the beginning of the emergence of Islam, interest in music was limited to war songs and special occasions such as weddings. The expansion of the movement of Islamic conquests was a reason for the Arabs to communicate with other cultures, such as the Persians and Romans, from whom the Arabs learned to play musical instruments, especially the oud, and they were able to develop what they had learned to suit their tastes. their culture and the weights of their poetry.


Abu Abdul Moneim Issa bin Abdullah Al-Dhaeb, known as Tuwais Barbad of the Arabian Peninsula, was the first musician to appear in Islam, he became famous in the last years of the reign of Caliph Othman bin Affan, he was a gentle singer who was drawn to the melodies of the Persian slaves who were working in the city,  he was the first to sing “Proficient singing” in Islam, and he added to them the light-moving rhythm that is given by hazj (one of the seas of poetry), and he excelled at it. 

 Classical Islamic music

Under the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), Arabic music moved to a new stage, and the classical style of Islamic music developed further, as the capital was moved to Damascus (in Syria) and the arenas were crowded with male and female musicians, who formed a separate class. 

The appearance of the single song performed to the accompaniment of the oud was one of the most prominent musical features of this era, for example, for the first time during the reign of the “patron of Arabic music,” Yazid I, what was known as the “court  or palace vocalist” appeared.

Among the most prominent Arab singers who appeared at the beginning of the Umayyad rule was Sa’ib Khair, one of the imams of Arab singers and composers who bestowed the Arab spirit on Persian singing, he was the first to play the oud while singing, and the first to invent the rhythm called “the first heavy,” and he followed the tradition of others, such as Ibn Surayj and Maabad, followed the same approach. 

Ibn Masjih, the first and greatest musician was born in the Umayyad era, he was called the father of Islamic music, he lived in Mecca to a Persian family, and he was a musical theorist, a skilled singer, and an oud player, he began in that era to establish rules for playing, performing, and composing, which is why Arabic singing at that time was called perfect singing.

Ibn Masjih traveled to Syria and Persia, learned the theories and rules of Byzantine and Persian music, and incorporated much of his acquired knowledge into Arabic art song, although he adopted new elements such as foreign musical styles, he rejected other musical features as unsuitable for Arabic music, and introduced many innovations. melody is what the Arab ear could absorb and taste. 

Knowledge of his contributions is contained in the most important source of information about music and musical life in the first three centuries of Islam, the book “Al-Aghani” (the songs in Arabic language) by Abu Al-Faraj Al-Isfahani in the 10th century, which talks about his establishment of the foundations, rules, and theories of singing, playing the oud, and composing as well. 

The Arab writer, poet, and musician Yunus al-Kateb, author of the first Arabic book on musical theory, also collected the first collection of songs in the 8th century.

 He was one of the first Arabs to document the art of singing, and the first to write down and score Arabic music, his writings influenced by Al-Isfahani and his book “Songs".     


Among the women who enjoyed great fame in Mecca and Medina during the era of the Umayyad dynasty were Jamila and Azza al-Mila’, and Al-Isfahani dedicated large parts to them in the book “Songs,” especially since Azza al-Mila’ sang in gatherings attended by Hassaan bin Thabit, the poet of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace. 

It is attributed to Ibn Mahrez in Arabic music, and he invented a rhythm called “the rhythm of the East,” and singing called “pair singing.”

 He was the first to sing a pair of melodies for one poetic verse, meaning that he was not satisfied with one melody repeated with each verse, That is, he was not satisfied with one melody that he repeated with each verse, and singers after him followed in his footsteps. 

Ibn Surayj is also of Persian origin, he excelled at singing and playing the oud, and was famous for his elegies and improvisations, like Ibn Surayj, Ma’bad ibn Wahb, the imam of Arab singers, established a special personal style that was adopted by subsequent generations of singers, his principle in singing was that he listened during his sleep to a voice that was being played in his hearing, he wakes up from his slumber and repeats it. 

During that period, great developments occurred in musical instruments, but the oud remained the master of instruments, it was used for solo playing, then artists alongside it used wooden wind instruments such as the flute, and sometimes they accompanied the drum and tambourine to distinguish the rhythm, and signs of what is known today as “the oud” appeared. The Band.   

The golden age of music

Arabic music continued its path of prosperity until it reached its peak during the rule of the Abbasids, with the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in 750 AD, Baghdad became the leading musical center, and the disparate elements merged into the style of classical Islamic music. 

The Abbasid Caliphate witnessed the period of the golden age in Islamic music with all other arts and literature, especially during the era of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, whose name was associated with Arab glories in the arts and literature. 

In such favorable circumstances, it was natural for the art of music to advance, in this era, the most famous singers in Islam appeared.

 Among the most skilled artists of that period were Ibrahim al-Mawsili and his son Isaac, members of a noble Persian family, they were among the leading musicians in the royal court and close to Caliphs Harun al-Rashid and al-Ma'mun, and al-Mawsili actively participated in the contemporary debate in confronting the advocates of modernity, Ibn Jami`, and the famous singer, Prince Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi. 

Isaac, a singer, composer and innovator, was the most prominent musician of his time, a man of wide culture, he is credited with writing nearly 40 works on music, which were later lost.

 According to the Book of Songs, he was the creator of the oldest Islamic theory of melodic patterns called “Fingers”, where he organized the positions according to the strings on the oud’s neck and the corresponding fingers. 

In the second half of the 8th century, extensive Islamic literature on music theory began to flourish, Greek treatises were translated into Arabic, and scholars who were familiar with Greek writings began to devote books or sections of books to music theory, and in their works they expanded, changed, or improving or shedding new light on Greek musical theory..

Abu Yusuf Yaqoub bin Ishaq Al-Kindi, known as the “Philosopher of the Arabs,” who was deeply immersed in Greek learning, wrote more than 13 musical treatises, which represented the first serious research into this art in our Arab history, including the first and only Arab musical treatise that has survived. discussing the theory of investigation and the universal aspects of music. 

Al-Kindi was the first to introduce the word “music” into the Arabic language, from which it passed into Persian, Turkish, and several other languages in the Islamic world. 

He surpassed the Greek musicians in using the metre, and used symbols and alphabet letters for notation in “A Treatise on the News of Composing Melodies” - the manuscript now in the British Museum, and they were the first special methods of musical notation known to the Arabs. 

Al-Kindi loved music, he was the first to establish its rules in the Arab and Islamic world, he did a lot of research on it, he developed a 12-tone musical scale that is still used in Arabic music, he used musical melodies to treat psychological illnesses, it was said that he tried to treat a paralyzed boy with music. 

Here are some of Islamic music things


A form of strophic poetry and music that originated in Andalusia and spread throughout the Islamic world. Muwashahat are known for their elegant and sophisticated melodies and lyrics.


The call to prayer recited by a muezzin from a minaret. The azan is a melodious and evocative call that invites Muslims to prayer.





















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