Music and Islam (Fall 2015)

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MUSIC AND ISLAM (Music 469/569)

Short URL for this website:

Use eClass site to submit assignments


Professor Michael Frishkopf
Meetings: Fall 2015, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 - 1:50 pm, Old Arts 403
Office: 334D Old Arts Building
Office hours: Wednesday 1:30-3:30 pm, by appointment
Tel: 780-492-0225, email:

Course description, objectives, requirements, schedule

Course description

This course addresses the sonic practices of Islamic rituals, Muslim discourses about music, and the relation of both to the rich diversity of religious and musical practices in Muslims societies around the globe. Course content includes lecture, seminar, and multimedia formats. No prior formal knowledge of music history, theory, ethnomusicology, or Islam is required. Undergraduates should enroll in Music 469; graduate students should enroll in Music 569.

Note: course content is divided by week (1-17); each week containing two meetings (Tuesday and Thursday). As a shorthand each class meeting is designated by the week number followed by "a" or "b", representing the first or second meeting respectively. Thus Week 3's Thursday meeting is "3b".

Course objectives

  • To become familiar – experientially and intellectually – with the sounds of Islam: genres, styles, structures, musical-textual content, meanings, social-historical contexts, and spiritual-cultural implications.
  • To become familiar with a range of Islamic discourses related to sound - both oral and written, including primary texts constituting the Islamic tradition.
  • To develop a felt understanding of Islam as a social-spiritual system of belief and practice, through experience and study of its sonic dimension, in social, cultural, textual, and historical context.
  • In particular, to appreciate the evolution of Islam as a process of constrained ramification, a combination of humanly-mediated (oral/aural) and materially-mediated (literate) transmission (sound more localized, text more globalized)
  • To thereby learn about the interconnections of Muslim cultures and societies throughout history, especially in their affective dimensions, and the ways in which "sound" and "religion" are linked, amplifying, constraining, and otherwise shaping each other, as mediated by social dimensions of each.
  • In particular, to learn about the spectrum of beliefs and practices and discourses labelled "Islam" -- especially Islam's mystical dimension, Sufism.
  • To understand some of the ways in which religion (e.g. "Islam") and sound (or "music") interact (directly or indirectly), at three levels: discursive, social, and meaning/belief.

Course requirements

  • Regular class attendance and full participation.
  • Completing weekly reading, viewing, and listening assignments on time, such that you are able to participate in class discussions effectively.
  • Submitting reading/listening/viewing reports synthesizing and critiquing assignments (approximately 1-2 paragraphs per work). Note that some kind of report will be due by noon on most class days. Each report must be submitted via eClass using the link corresponding to the due date (e.g. "3b" for the assignment due on Thursday of Week 3). NOTE: These writing assignments need not be highly polished or lengthy – indeed they should not exceed one or at most two pages. They should make explicit reference to assigned readings, and demonstrate some synthetic and critical acumen: show me that you've done the reading, and that you've thought about what you've read, by reflecting, comparing, assessing, and critiquing. These reports will help you to prepare your final paper.
  • Preparing additional assigned exercises, which may be presented in class (these may involve singing or reciting for instance).
  • Submitting a short research proposal (1 page) on a relevant topic of your choice, by 5b.
  • Submitting a research paper outline and initial bibliography, by 8b.
  • Submitting a rough draft of your research paper (may be partially incomplete) by 12a
  • Oral presentation (20 minutes, plus 10 minutes Q/A) summarizing your research, during weeks 13 and 14, accompanied by rough draft of final paper, during weeks 13 & 14. Submit slides (ppt or other) by 14b.
  • Final papers are due by 16b. Requirements vary by level: (1) Music 569 (grad): at least 24 pages (1.5 spaced, 12 pt, 1” margins, not including bibliography), based on class readings plus at least 20 additional relevant sources; (2) Music 469 (undergrad): at least 12 pages (1.5 spaced, 12 pt, 1” margins, not including bibliography), based on class readings plus at least 10 additional relevant sources.

Course Schedule (with assignments)

MI week 1       01-Sep          03-Sep (Introduction)
MI week 2      08-Sep          10-Sep (Adhan, Qur'an)
MI week 3       15-Sep          17-Sep (South Asia)
MI week 4       22-Sep          24-Sep (Inshad, Language Performance; Eid al-Adha)
MI week 5       29-Sep          01-Oct (Debates over the legitimacy of Music and Sama`; Research proposal due 5b)
MI week 6       06-Oct          08-Oct (intro to Sufism and Sufi music)
MI week 7       13-Oct          15-Oct (Sufism, continued, and Islamicate musics)
MI week 8       20-Oct          22-Oct (Shia and Ashura'; Research paper outline and bibliography due 8b)
MI week 9       27-Oct          29-Oct (More Shia and Ashura'; localizations and practices)
MI week 10      03-Nov          05-Nov Syncretic spirit ritual music and groups
MI week 11      10-Nov          12-Nov (Reading Week)
MI week 12    17-Nov          19-Nov ("Localization" to the Western global - new genres of Islamic performance in diaspora and among converts in the West)
MI week 13      24-Nov          26-Nov (Research paper rough draft due by 13a - ok to be partially incomplete; Presentations 13b)
MI week 14      01-Dec          03-Dec (Presentations. End of classes.)
MI week 15      08-Dec          10-Dec
MI week 16      15-Dec          17-Dec (All assignments due 16b)
MI week 17      22-Dec          24-Dec (Prophet's Birthday)


Assignments and weights

There will be short assignments due prior to most class meetings, to be uploaded via eClass. These count equally, and total 45% of your mark. Another 15% is attendance and participation in class or field trips (if these can be arranged). The remaining 40% is the final paper (30%) and its in-class presentation (10%).


  • There will be no in-class exams.
  • Unexcused late assignments will be downgraded one quarter point per day.
  • When page counts are given they refer to 1" margins, 1.5-spaced, Times New Roman font, or equivalent. "References cited" or "bibliography" does not count towards the page total.
  • Be sure to cite all references using the (author year:pages) format, and list all references cited at the end of your paper. I strongly suggest use of a bibliographic database tool to assist in organizing sources and recommend Zotero ; another possibility is "Refworks. Both are free.

Grading scale

Evaluations of each assignment are on a scale from 0-4.3 points (and an equivalent scale 0 - 100). These scores are combined according to the percentages indicated below in order to produce a final numeric grade. This grade is rounded to the nearest numeric value in the table below, in order to determine the final letter grade.

  • A+: 4.3 (100)
  • A: 4.0 (95)
  • A-: 3.7
  • B+: 3.3
  • B: 3.0 (85)
  • B-: 2.7
  • C+: 2.3
  • C: 2.0 (75)
  • C-: 1.7
  • D+: 1.3


Islamic websites (primarily by and for Muslims)


Most of these books should be available in the bookstore; all should be on Library Reserve; a few are also online. Required books are in bold and will be used more heavily, though you can rely on the reserve copy if you wish. Some may be useful as you develop your own research.

  • Aidi, Hisham. 2014. Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture.
  • Ernst, Carl W. 2011. Sufism: An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of Islam. Boston, Mass.; London: Shambhala.
  • Friedlander, Shems, Nezih Uzel, and Shems Friedlander. 2003. Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes: Being an Account of the Sufi Order Known as the Mevlevis and Its Founder the Poet and Mystic Mevlana Jalaluʼddin Rumi. New York: Parabola Books.
  • Harnish, David, and Anne Rasmussen. 2011. Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia. Oxford University Press, USA.
  • Inayat Khan. 1996. The Mysticism of Sound and Music. Boston; [New York]: Shambhala ; Distributed in the United States by Random House.
  • Kapchan, Deborah. 2007. Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Gnawa Trance and Music in the Global Marketplace. Middletown: Wesleyan.
  • LeVine, Mark. 2008. Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Miyakawa, Felicia M. 2005. Five Percenter Rap : God Hop’s Music, Message, and Black Muslim Mission. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Nelson, Kristina. 1985. The Art of Reciting the Qur’an. Vol. 1st. Austin: University of Texas Press. Available also on Kindle and Google Play.
  • Qureshi, Regula. 1995. Sufi Music of India and Pakistan : Sound, Context, and Meaning in Qawwali. Vol. University of Chicago Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Rahman, Fazlur. 1979. Islam. Chicago : University of Chicago Press.
  • Rasmussen, Anne K. 2010. Women, the Recited Qur’an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Ruthven, Malise. 1997. Islam: a Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie. 1975. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie. 1992. Islam : An Introduction. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Sells, Michael Anthony. 1999. Approaching the Qurʼan: The Early Revelations. Ashland, Or: White Cloud Press.
  • Shiloah, Amnon. 1995. Music in the World of Islam : A Socio-Cultural Study. Detroit : Wayne State University Press.
  • Surty, Muhammad Ibrahim H.I. 1988. A Course in the Science of Reciting the Qur’an. London: The Islamic Foundation.
  • van Nieuwkerk, Karin. 2011. Muslim Rap, Halal Soaps, and Revolutionary Theater: Artistic Developments in the Muslim World. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press. .
  • Waugh, Earle H. 1989. The Munshidin of Egypt : Their World and Their Song. Vol. 1st ed. Studies in Comparative Religion. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press.


YouTube playlists:

Maps, Timelines, Demographics

Educational sites

Related Expressive Arts in Islam


Visual arts:


Research tools: databases and archives

Official statements

Course prerequisites: none
Course-based ethics approval, Community service learning: NA
Past or representative evaluative course material: see instructor
Additional mandatory instruction fees: No

Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar. (GFC 29 SEP 2003).

Academic Integrity
“The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at ) and avoid any behaviour that could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

Learning and working environment
The Faculty of Arts is committed to ensuring that all students, faculty and staff are able to work and study in an environment that is safe and free from discrimination and harassment. It does not tolerate behaviour that undermines that environment. The department urges anyone who feels that this policy is being violated to: • Discuss the matter with the person whose behaviour is causing concern; or • If that discussion is unsatisfactory, or there is concern that direct discussion is inappropriate or threatening, discuss it with the Chair of the Department. For additional advice or assistance regarding this policy you may contact the student ombudservice: ( ). Information about the University of Alberta Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures is described in UAPPOL at

Academic Honesty:
All students should consult the information provided by the Office of Judicial Affairs regarding avoiding cheating and plagiarism in particular and academic dishonesty in general (see the Academic Integrity Undergraduate Handbook and Information for Students). If in doubt about what is permitted in this class, ask the instructor. Students involved in language courses and translation courses should be aware that on-line “translation engines” produce very dubious and unreliable “translations.” Students in language courses should be aware that, while seeking the advice of native or expert speakers is often helpful, excessive editorial and creative help in assignments is considered a form of “cheating” that violates the code of student conduct with dire consequences. An instructor or coordinator who is convinced that a student has handed in work that he or she could not possibly reproduce without outside assistance is obliged, out of consideration of fairness to other students, to report the case to the Associate Dean of the Faculty. See the Academic Discipline Process.

Recording of Lectures:
Audio or video recording of lectures, labs, seminars or any other teaching environment by students is allowed only with the prior written consent of the instructor or as a part of an approved accommodation plan. Recorded material is to be used solely for personal study, and is not to be used or distributed for any other purpose without prior written consent from the instructor.

Attendance, Absences, and Missed Grade Components:
Regular attendance is essential for optimal performance in any course. In cases of potentially excusable absences due to illness or domestic affliction, notify your instructor by e-mail within two days. Regarding absences that may be excusable and procedures for addressing course components missed as a result, consult sections 23.3(1) and 23.5.6 of the University Calendar. Be aware that unexcused absences will result in partial or total loss of the grade for the “attendance and participation” component(s) of a course, as well as for any assignments that are not handed-in or completed as a result. In this course, 10% of your grade depends on regular attendance and energetic participation.

Policy for Late Assignments:
See section on Evaluation, above.

Specialized Support & Disability Services:
If you have special needs that could affect your performance in this class, please let me know during the first week of the term so that appropriate arrangements can be made. If you are not already registered with Specialized Support & Disability Services, contact their office immediately ( 2-800 SUB; Email; Email; phone 780-492-3381; WEB ).

Media Archives and Departmental Broadcasting of Audio-visual Material
Audio or video recording of performances, lectures, seminars, or any other academic or research environment activities are carried out by the Department of Music for archival purposes. These archives may be collected and housed in the Music Library. Recorded material is to be used solely for non-profit, educational, research, and community outreach purposes, and is not to be used or distributed for any other purpose without obtaining the express permission from all parties involved. Please be advised that your solo or group performance may be featured on the University of Alberta's Department of Music website and/or social media platform(s). If you object to this use of audio and/or video material in which you will be included, please advise your instructor or the Department of Music in writing prior to participating in any performance, lecture, seminar or public event held by the Department of Music.