Al-Kalabadhi on music

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(10th century text)


Audition is a resting after the fatigue of the (spiritual) moment, and a recreation for those who experience (spiritual) states, as well as a means of awakening the consciences of those who busy themselves with other things. It is preferred to other means of resting the natural qualities, because the soul is unlikely to cling to it or repose in it: for it comes and goes according to God's decree. Those mystics who enjoy revelation and direct experience have no need of such helps, for they have means which transport their hearts to walk in the gardens of revelation.

I heard Faris say: "I was with Qiitah al-Mawsili, who had remained for forty years near a column in the mosque at Baghdad. We said to him: 'Here is an excellent singer. Shall we call him to thee?' He replied: 'My case is too grievous for any person to release me, or for any words to penetrate me. I am entirely impervious'."

When audition strikes the ears, it stirs the secret things of the heart: and a man is then either confused, because he is too weak to support the visitation, or his spiritual state gives him the power to control himself. Abii Mu1)ammad Ruwaym said: "The people heard their first dhikr when God addressed them, saying, 'Am I not your Lord?' This dhikr was secreted in their hearts, even as the fact (thus communicated) was secreted in their intellects. So, when they heard the (Sufi) dhikr, the secret things of their hearts appeared, and they were ravished, even as the secret things of the intellects appeared when God informed them of this, and they believed."

I heared Abu 'l-Qasim al-Baghdadi say: "Audition is of two kinds. One class of man listens to discourse and derlyes therefrom an admonition: such a man only lIstens discriminately and wIth his heart present.

The other class listens to music, which is the food of the spirit and when the spirit obtains its food, it attains Its proper station, and turns aside from the government of the body; and then there appears in the listener a commotion and a movement."

Abii 'Abdillah al-Nibaji said: " Audition stirs thought and produces an admonition: all else is a temptation."

AI-Junayd saId: The mercy (of God) descends upon the poor man on three occasions: when he is eating for he only eats when he is in need to do so; when he speaks, for he only speaks when he is compelled; and during audItion, for he only listens in a state of ecstasy."