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Urs &Qawwali

Qawwali or Sama has been a most important feature of the life of the Sufi-saints of Chishtia Nizamia Sect in India.  It is the musical and ecstatic aspect of Sufism which is indeed a most influential method to preach the tenets of Sufism.


The word Qawwali is derived from the Arabic word ‘Qaul’ which means dictum or axiom in religious sense. Qawwalli or sama is actually poetical and religious songs in praise of God, Prophets and Sufi-saints and those who sing Qawwali are called Qawwals.


Like his Pir-o-murshid Hazrat Baba Farid and his Pir Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia was also very fond of Sama.  It was the spiritual food of Hzt. Nizamuddin Aulia. 


According to Sultanul Mashaikh Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, there are four kinds of sama: Halal (Lawful), Haram (Forbidden), Makrooh (Odious) and Jaiz (Permissible).  If the inclination of person is totally towards God, it is lawful; If it is totally towards Majaz (Shadow) then it is forbidden; if inclination is more towards shadow and less towards God then it is Odious and if it is more towards God and less towards shadow than it is permissible. 


Sometimes the Sama creates Wajd (ecstasy) which is also called Haal on the audience. Wajd is a sate of unconsciousness aroused by the spell of qawwali.  It is not a dance at all. Some people has invented a new word called ‘Sufi Dance’. It must be noted here that there is no any Sufi Dance in Sufism.  It is the state of spiritual ecstasy and in very rare cases the ecstatic subject of a qawwali never regained his normal condition but expired in the state of Wajd or haal. The most notable of such deaths was that of Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiyaar Kaki, the Pir-o-Murshid  of Hazrat Baba Farid.


Hzt. Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki’s love for ‘Sama’ reached to the extent that he died in the state of ‘wajd’ (ecstasy) while listening the ‘sama’.  When he died, the Qawwal was singing the following Persian couplet:

“Khushtagan-e-khanjar-e-tasleem raa,

Har zamaan azz ghaib jaan-e-deegar ast.”


(Translation: For the victims of the sword of divine love, there is a new life every moment from the ‘unseen’).


According to Sultanul Mashaikh: “Some people encounter a state during the assembly of Sama and it gains control over them. They lose their senses in that state.  And there are some who never lose their consciousness during Sama.  One shold not become a slave of that state”. He further said: “Some reach at the state to such extent that if an iron nail get pierced in their leg, they are not aware of it and some are presented themselves in such a state during Sama that even if the petal of a flower comes under their feet they are well aware of it and they are the perfet ones.”


Etequettes of Sama

Three things are essential for Sama and they must be kept in mind for the qawwali. They are time, place and people. Its is not appropriate to hold sama at the time of Namaz. The sama organized at that time would be ineffective and forbidden. The place where the mehfil-e-sama is going to be held must be a pleasant place. It should be held in the company of people who know the etiquettes of Sama and who can understand it.


The people must sit in a serious attentive manner with their head down. They should concentrate and occupy themselves fully in the mehfil.  There should be no applause from the audience by way of clapping etc. The Sama was not in this form in earlier days as it is today. Now the Qawwali is accompanied by many instruments lke Dhol, Tabla harmonium etc. At the time of Sultanul Mashaik only Duf was included in the assembly of Sama. It is unfortunate that now a days Qawwali has become a worldly affair. It has been moved from the Khanqahs and Dargahs and reached into hotels and clubs by which the true essence of these purely spiritual feeling has been lost. The present extremely low and deteriorated standard of Qawwali has become a matter of concern which must receive the immediate attention of the Pirs and Sajjdanashins of Khanqahs.

What is Urs:

Urs is an Arabic word and its literal meaning is wedding.  After the death of a holy saint, his disciples, descendants and sajjadanashin usually start celebrating his annual Urs, that is, the death anniversary of the saint.  They believe that when a holy saint dies, his sole departs from his body and its leads to God.  On his death the saint gets freedom from the earthly confinement and finally joins his Beloved (God).  In such joining his beloved, he feels extreme joy and happiness and it is called ‘Wisaal’ also, which means meeting each other.  That is why the death anniversary of a holy sufi is celebrated like wedding by his disciples, descendants and sajjadanashin and therefore we call it Urs Celebration.  Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia also used to celebrate the Urs of his Pir (Master) Hazrat Baba Farid Ganjeshakar. It was a grand affair of the Khanqah of Sultanul Mashaikh.  Big gathering took place on 5th of Moharram every year and a arrangement for the langar were made.  The food was distributed to all who participated and food was sent to the houses of those who could not attend the Urs due to some reason.