Inshad dini

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Traditional Inshad Dini ("religious hymnody") = Islamic religious hymnody; sometimes known simply as inshad, nashid (nasheed, nasyid) or anashid.

Traditional Arabic inshad dini

The words "musiqa" or "ghina'" are avoided for religious material such as inshad, adhan, tilawa, du`a'.

The performer of inshad or nashid (nasheed) is called a munshid, and if specialized is a respected religious figure. Performance centers on a religious poem, performed using local musical resources, but not recognized as music. Often musical instruments are avoided also. Inshad draws upon languages and dialects around the world; it is meaning (rather than text) which is crucial (unlike Qur'an or adhan). Yet Arabic always retains its special sacred status (and sometimes Arabic terminology comes to acquire a religious meaning outside the Arab world, e.g. the word "qasida" (Ar. poem) which comes to mean "religious poem" in SE Asia.

The most common poetic themes are:

  • ibtihalat or du`a': supplications to God
  • tasbih or tamjid or takbir: glorification of God
  • madih or na`t: devotional praise to the Prophet Muhammad
  • wa`z: exhortations directed to the listener
  • qisas: narratives, usually sira nabawiyya (stories of the Prophet's life, recited especially for his birthday, mawlid)
  • `ilm, fiqh, shari`a: doctrinal statements (in mnemonic form)

Despite conceptual separation, there was always a close relation between singing (ghina') and devotional forms up until the mid 20th century, since voices were honed in Qur'anic recitation and inshad, and because inshad conveyed respectability. Singers often carried the title "shaykh" as a form of religious respect. Only with commercialization and educational reform was this link broken, in the mid 20th century.

Ideological fissures:

  • degrees of separation: music and religion. What kind of "music" is appropriate in a religious context?
  • Islamic movements: reformist Islam (Salafi, Wahhabi...) and traditional Islam ("Sufi")

Examples, mostly from Egypt:

  • Ibithalat
    • Sung poetic supplications (ibtihalat), from Egypt.
    • More ibtihalat. Performed by Shaykh Taha al-Fashni, probably the most famous mubtahil of the 20th c. Here ibtihalat is based entirely on poetry. The recording is different from the dawn-prayer style heard above. From Sono Cairo 67028/601.
  • Tawashih diniyya. Performed by Shaykh Muhammad al-Fayyumi and his bitana (chorus). Tawashih

involve alternation between solo (munshid) and chorus (bitana); the former improvisatory, the latter more precomposed and quasi-metric. From Sono Cairo 75113/461. This style was responsible for training many performers, who started out in the bitana.

The mawlid is a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's birth, including devotional singing; it is frequently recited in the mystical orders of Islam, the turuq Sufiyya - in this case the Hamidiyya Shadhiliyya order of Egypt. There are many mawlid texts, comprising poetry and prose; they can be chanted or sung, solo or group. Several of the famous Arabic texts are the mawlids of Barzanji, of Manawi, and the Burda of al-Busiri. They may be performed for the Prophet's Birthday (12 Rabi`a al-Awwal) or on other occasions (religious holidays, or life cycle occasions).

Here is an example of mawlid from Jedda, in Saudi Arabia.

Here's another, from Montreal

Perhaps the most famous Islamic poem of all time (and perhaps the most widely known poem in any language) is a mawlid, the "Burda" of Sharaf al-Din al-Busiri (1211–1294) Here's a traditional recitation of the Burda in Pakistan.


For more information on inshad dini in Egypt, see the following: