Dust Under Your Feet


The purpose of this section on Sufi Music or Sama in our website is to show the immense spiritual blessings and benefits  seekers of God (Salikeen) and lovers of God may derive in their arduous task of their spiritual journey to God, in God and from God. It is said that hearing Sama instantly ignites the light (Nur) within and creates a storm of love in the hearts of the seeker which acts like a powerful rocket to carry him far beyond the sun and stars to the realm of Divine Nearness.



While music is a controversial issue in Islam, in spiritual development, its benefits are of an over-whelming nature. The kind of music and singing which is prohibited in Islam is of the frivolous and corrupt type whose vulgarity is unwholesome in any society. The Islamic society, in particular, stands for all-round purity, chastity and perfection. I have, however, upheld the sanctity of spiritual music with copious references from the Quran, Hadith and sayings of the Companions of the Prophet, the leaders of the four schools of Fiqah, Muhaddithin ( The Traditionalists ) and the heads of various spiritual orders, Chishtis, Qadiris, Naqshbandis, Suharwardis and so forth, in the introductions to my books entitled Maqam-i-Ganjshakar and Maqabis-al- Majlis.

Sufism, like any other movement of Islam, originated and reached the highest watermark in the period of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). It found the most sublime and the most excellent expression during later periods in the form of splendid Sufi texts like Ihya-ul-Ulum of Ghazali, kashf-ul-Mahjub of Syed Ali Hujweri, Taaruf of Kalabadhi, Risala of Qushairi, Kitab-al-Lumaa of Abu Nasar Sarraj, Qut-al-Qubib of Abu Talib Makki and a host of other prose works. But the most charming expression of spiritual development is in the spiritual poetry of the Sufis of Islam, which has no parallel anywhere in the world. And it is this poetry which provides the most captivating songs for Qawwali gatherings at the Sufi shrines during Urses and occasionally in private dwellings, as well.

It may be mentioned that the Sufi’s poetry is the product of their manifold spiritual states (Ahwal) and, as such, is saturated with deep Hal ( intoxicating influence ). When such songs are sung by the expert Qawwals (Singers), well-versed in Sufi technique, they produce the same Hal on the listeners and elevate them into ecstasies. But in the eyes of the Sufis, the best seekers (Salikeen) are those who bear all the onslaughts of ecstasy and rapture with fortitude and do not allow themselves to be overwhelmed. If you are overwhelmed by the first cup of wine, who is going to give you more? So the cry of the Sufis in Qawwali is ‘Hal min Mazid!”  which means, “ Bring more and more!”, even when they have swallowed not only jugs and drums but rivers and oceans of the Divine Grace and Divine Intoxication.

Khwaja Ghulam Farid  has beautifully said:

Although they drink rivers,

Overwhelmed they do not get,

Nor give out secrets,

But stand firm like a mountain.”

To be overpowered in Qawwali is to invite digression. The more you resist, the higher you go. Even dancing (Raqs) in Qawwali is deprecated as it is also a sign of being overwhelmed. It is considered as a weakness.


Sufi poetry covers a wide range of subjects, such as, praise of Almighty God, praise of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and of the Aulia Allah, Reality of the Creator, social behavior , prayer and worship, intoxication and sobriety, the man-God relationship and so on. But its main theme is love (Ishq) of the Divine Beloved  (Mahbub-i-Haqiqi)  and in the intensity and expression of this, the Sufis stand unsurpassed. Rumi’s Mathnavi  is perhaps the longest and most voluminous single poems consisting of a thousand verses. His Diwan called Diwan-i-Shams Tabriz after the name of his Sheikh, consisting of Ghazals, is still bigger in volume. Mathnavi Gulshan-i-Raz (The rose Garden of Secrets) is a single poem in Persian consisting of hundreds of verses on one subject, God’s Being as manifested in the phenomenal world. Amir Khusraw of Delhi was the writer of five Divans, each depicting the experiences of the various stages of life he passed through.


The songs sung in Qawwali gatherings are of varying nature but they are arranged in a special manner to promote spiritual development. Qawwali is a sort of a spiritual course which follows the same order as indicated by the diagram in Chapter 4, Islamic Sufism by Sheikh Wahid Bakhsh (r), that is, the journey to God, journey in God and journey from God. For that purpose the songs of Qawwali are arranged in the following order to enable the seeker (salik) to pass through the above mentioned stages with help of these songs plus the musical accompaniment and aid

(i)              First of all we begin with the praise of God, the Holy prophet, and the saint of the Urs.

(ii)            This is followed by general love songs to create a storm of love in the heart of the seeker which acts like a powerful rocket to carry him far beyond the sun and stars to the realm of Divine Nearness.

(iii)           Then the verses relating to Fana-fi-Allah are sung so that the seekers close their eyes and quietly go into Fana-fi-Allah

This is allowed to last for some time to enable the seekers to get firmly established in Zat (Absolute Essence).

(iv)           The last stage of the spiritual journey is Baqa-bi-Allah and towards the end of the Mehfil (sitting) the songs of this nature are sung to bring the seeker back from intoxication (Sukr) to sobriety  (Sahw). This is the ideal arrangement of songs prescribed by the elder saints of Islam to elevate them to pass through the various stages of the spiritual journey. It has a tremendous effect on the lovers whose devotion, enthusiasm, love, ecstasies and raptures know no bound. But the lovers are required to exercise patience, be firm like a rock and not yield to ecstasies in midst of the storm. Thus they go on flying to higher and higher altitudes of Divine Proximity to which there is no end.


The modes of expression in Sufi poetry are generally the same as those of other themes. The Sufi poets make frequent use of the cup (Paimana), wine (Sharab), the tavern (Maikhana), the cup bearer (Saqi), the candle (Shamaa), the moth (Parwana), the rose (Gul)and the nightingale (Bulbul) to express their inexplicable spiritual experiences in human languages as far as possible. Of course, there is no language in the domain of Eternity and Infinity as Ghalib says:

“Topics of our discussion may be as high as visions of the Almighty, but we cannot help using the terms cup and wine.”

This incidentally, has led the orientalists to think that the Sufis went against the theological tenets of Islam and found solace in maikhanas (taverns) and butkhanas (house of idols). The only crime of Sufis is that by maikhana (tavern) they mean the khanqah of their Sheikh where they are the recipients of overwhelming ecstasies and by butkhana (temple) they mean the places where they experience visions of God’s Beauty.

Khwaja Hafiz of Shiraz has tried to clarify this position by saying:

“My purpose in the mosque or maikhana is nothing but union with Thee. I have no other intention. Allah is my witness.”

The first verse of this Ghazal is:

“I am devoted to the maikhana which is a khanqah for me and my thanks to the cup-bearer is my morning recitations.”

The Maikhana here also means the state of intoxication characteristic of Divine Union. Pir-i-Mughan (the wine dealer) is the Sheikh  of all Sheikhs, the Holy Prophet of Islam, to whom the poet is obliged for all the spiritual gifts. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) is the fountain-head of all spiritual channels springing up and flowing in all directions.


The best of all spiritual songs sung in Qawwali meeting is that of Baba Farid Ganjshakar which is recited on special occasions during his Urs at Patpattan Sharif, Pakistan, which lasts from the twenty-fifth of Zulhijjah to the tenth of Muharram every year. It is as follows:

‘By Allah! O, friends I am not,

I am the soul of Soul,

And secret of the Secret,

Body am I not.

“I am the Sacred Light,

In the handful of earth,

Invisible I am, however,

To those having no eyes.

“Light of the Light,

Light of the Light,

Light into the Light,

I am.

Neither candle, nor cotton,

Or oil I am.

“I am wali, I am Ali,

I am Nabi,

Jamshed I am not, Rustam I am not,

Behman I am not.

“The Lord is He Who’s,

Manifest in me,

I am not Masud,

By Allah I am Him.

“Light of the Universe,

I am, you see,

The Sun I am, Atom of dust I am not.”

The above songs when sung, takes the seeker right into the limitless region of Pure essence (Zat).

The following is the verse on which Baba Farid’s Sheikh, Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar of Delhi, gave his life in extreme ecstasy after an intense Raqs (ecstatic dance) lasting for four days:

“Those slaughtered by the sword,

Of submission to the Lord,

Have a life new, newer again,

Every moment, every moment.”

This Ghazal of Sheikh Ahmad Jam is steeped in the extremely high spiritual state of Baqa-bi-Allah, which is the highest stage in Islamic Sufism. It is here that the lover ecstatically danced himself to death at the altar of the Divine Beloved!



The following is an extract from “Vision for Seekers of the Truth” (Tarbiyyat-ul-Ushaq) by Hazrat Syed Muhammad Zauqi (r) who is the Sheikh of Hazrat Wahid Bakhsh Rabbani (r).

It will not be an exaggeration to say that Majalis-e-Sama (the concerts of Sufi Music) held under the auspices of Hazrat Zauqi (r) were the best of his time. He had laid down conditions relating to three aspects of Sama , i.e time, space, and audience. Here is a gist of the courtesies to be observed in Sama.

1.     The qawwals (singers) and the audience must clean themselves by taking bath or at least perform ablution prior to the start of qawwali.

2.     Since everyone sits on the floor, the seekers are required to sit with their legs folded like in attahiyat position during prayers or with legs folded and knees pressed down. Squatting is not permitted in qawwali.

3.     One must remain absolutely attentive towards God, or the Prophet of Allah, or ones Shaikh (spiritual guide) or the Saint in whose praise a lyric is sung.

4.     Any monetary donations for the singers are to be given through the Saint-in-charge of the Mehfil-e-Sama (assemblage of qawwali). Direct payment to singers is considere an act of discourtesy.

5.     Some people present donations first to the prominent personalities among audience or to their friends as a mark of respect. Hence, three or four persons thus carry the funeral of money to the Saint-in-charge, which is absolutely wrong. This is against the norms of courtesy and extremely painful for seekers.

6.     In case a seeker is required to perform ablution again, he should quietly get up, go out, perform ablution and rejoin with absolute courtesy.

7.     One must never talk or indulge in any kind of spiritual practices or invocations during Sama. (the accomplished Saints are exempted from this pre-condition).

8.     One must control oneself, stay sober and avoid doing things that adversely affect the spiritual states of others. In case a person gets up in ecstasy, others should also get up with him and keep standing as long as he is ecstatic.

9.     One should not forcibly pass through others to get a seat in the front row. Preferably, the master of ceremony should make the men of taste sit in the front row.

10.  The novice seekers  (mubtadi talibeen) should try not to be overpowered by spiritual overdoses. This will help them gain spiritually and increase the spiritual down pouring directed to them. If they fail to control themselves and start jumping in ecstasy, their spiritual progress stops. If a man gets intoxicated by just one cup of wine, why should he be given more? However, this does not apply to the accomplished Saints, as the nature of their ecstasy and spiritual states is quite different. Hence, one must not compare the behavior ( and states ) of the accomplished Saints with one’s own.

11.   A Sama, where people sit on specially laid out mats and position guards with batons to gain prominence among others, manifest frivolities of the Mughal kings. These have nothing to do with the true spirit of Sama.

12.  During Sama at Khwaja sahib’s shrine in Ajmer, the audience must demonstrate the highest degree of courtesy. Khwaja Sahib is a king and the courtiers are obliged to remain absolutely courteous before him. The seekers should neither change their seats frequently, nor should they look around and move their bodies unnecessarily. They should remain attentive to Khawaja Sahib, otherwise the spiritual down pouring (faizaan) on them will reduce.



We have inserted here some of the qawwali songs with translation and some without. It is our ardent wish that first of all the seekers are kindly required to read the above articles and the courtesies to be observed (either on an individual basis at home or at Mehfil-i-Sama) in order to benefit the maximum spiritual down pouring (faizaan).

We will be grateful if there are lovers of God out there who can help us translate some of the qawwalis from Persian/Urdu into English for the benefits of those who do not understand the meanings in Persian or Urdu. Ideally, its meanings should be understood for the maximum spiritual benefits and blessings of both the soul and the brain!