Qawwali is a traditional form of Islamic song found in India and Pakistan. The word Qawwali is derived from the Arabic word Qaol which means 'axiom' or 'dictum'. A Qawwal is one who sings qawwali, or the dictums of the prophets and praises of God. The qawwali is closely linked to the spiritual and artistic life of northern India and Pakistan.

Spiritual Aspect of Qawwali
The Qawwali is inextricably linked to the sufi tradition; Sufism is a mystical school of Islamic thought which strives to attain truth and divine love by direct personal experience. In Arabic, this mysticism is known as tasawwuf. The difference between Sufism and mainstream islam is simple. All Muslims believe that man is on a path to God (tariqah). However where the mainstream Muslim believes that it is only possible to reach God during ones life. To this end there are a number of different techniques and methods.

The Koran instructs man to remember God. This remembrance, known as dhikr, may be either silent of vocal. The qawwali may be viewed as an extension of the vocal form of this remembrance. The use of music as a spiritual force was discussed in great length by al-Gazali(1085-1111). By the end of the 11th century there arose the tradition of the sama. The sama was often a spiritual concert, wich included a vocalist and instrumentalists. These samas took place under the direction a spiritually respected man (sheikh).

There is a very specific psychological process which a qawwali follows. One starts with the singing of the song. In this psychological state the song is received in a manner that is not unlike standard forms of musical expression. The words are sung, quite repeatedly with variations intended to bring out the different aspects and deeper means of the lyrics. After a while there is a repetition to the extent that the words cease to have a meaning; in the ideal situation the participant is moved to a state of spiritual enlightenment (fana)

History of the qawwali
The origins of qawwali probably predate the birth of Muhammad. The earliest Islamic scholars discussed the spiritual effects of music, but it was only in the time of al-Gazali(1085-1111) that these principles were refined and codified. These principles were then expanded by the chisti school of Sufism. It is this order that has been responsible for the propagation of the qawwali in India and Pakistan for then last few centuries. The Chisti school was established by Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti (1143-1234). It is said that he was born in Sijistan. At a young age he was influenced by several saintly men, including Ibrahim Qahandazi, and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilli. He emigrated to Delhi and became a very respected saint. He later grew tired of the life in Delhi and withdrew to the peace and quite of Ajmer (Rajasthan) where he lived the remainder of his days.

One of the followers of the Chisti school was a man by the name of Sheikh Nizanuddin Auliya (1236-1325). He was born in Budaun, but at the age of 20 he moved to Ajodhan and became a disciple of Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakkar. It is said that it was here that he received the key to inner illumination. He was then sent to Delhi to instruct the populous. Here he acquired a reputation for using music in his orthodox Islamicelements in Delhi.

Nizamuddin Auliya was, and still is, a source of inspiration for countless people. Even today there is an annual gathering at his tomb. One man who was inspired by the Hazrat Nizamuddin was Amir Khusru (1254-1324). He was born in Mominpur (Patiala). His father was originally from Turkey and this gave the young boy a broader exposure to the rest of the Islamic world. His father died when he was eight years old, whereupon the job of raising him fell to his maternal grandfather. Amir Khusru was the advisor to 11th rulers of Delhi, particularly the rulers of the Khilji dynasty (deva 1973:76). Amir khusru is so important to the development of Qawwali that he is often (erroneously) said to be the inventor of it. It is said that he mixed the various musical elements from Turkey, greater Persia and India together. Even today, we find the curious mixture of Persian moqquams with Indian raags.

The development of the Qawwali up to the latter part of the Moghul Empire closely parallels the development of the Hindu religious song known as Bhajan. We find parallels in musician form and social settings. The degree of cross influence is so great that some musician / saints such as Kabir (circa 1440-1518) are to this day revered by Hindus and Muslims alike. The tradition of Qawwali has had numerous ups and downs. One particularly hard time was during the reign of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb is known for his Islamic fundamentalism. The liberal traditions of the Sufis were not well received by this Emperor. He took the fundamentalist injunction against music very seriously.

Aurangzeb’s dislike of music is well illustrated in a common story. It appears that during his administration a group of musicians disheartened with their lack of patronage, took some musical instruments and wrapped them in the manner of a corpse and held a funeral procession in protest. Aurangzeb enquires about the procession and is told it is a burial to signify the death of music. Whereupon it is said that the Emperor declares, “Good! Bury it so deep that never a sound should be heard again”. The collapse of the Moghul Empire and political fragmentation under the British was both good and bad for the Qawwals.

Biographic data of Fareed Ayaz,Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Bros.
Fareed Ayaz,Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Bros belongs to the best known gharana of Qawwali, namely: 'Qawwal Bachon ka Gharana' of Delhi. This , approzimately 705 years old, was started by Saamat bin lbrahim, the principal student of Hazrat Amir Khusrau. This eminent Gahanna has produced famous Ustads like the late Ustad Tarns Khan, court musician and tutor in classical music Itabrader Shah . In the present generation of this Garahana are Fareed Ayaz al-Hussein and party, nationally and internationally acclaimed as one of the best Qawalls of the sub-continent.

Fareed Ayaz started his training in classical music at a tender age under the rigorous and critical tutelage of his late father Ustad Raziuddin, who himself was an outstanding classical musician and a recipient of the Pakistan President's Pride of Performance medal and was received many other honors from the Government of Pakistan. Fareed Ayaz is an accomplished musician in the genre of classical music and also in the traditional classical naag. He has been performing professionally for the last 30 years, and not only has performed extensively at the national and international level but has been a cultural representative for Pakistan at numerous Pakistani missions abroad. Fareed Ayaz and party have performed in the United Kingdom, U.S.A., France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Austria, India, Kenya, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Bangledesh, Croatia, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, Egypt, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Belgium, Iran, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Jordan and many others.

Fareed Ayaz has total mastery over various genres of classical music such as dhrupad, khayal, tarana, thumria and dadra which he blends beautifully during his performances of Qawwali. His mastery over classical music was acclaimed at the all Pakistan music conference annual festival (Feb 2005 ), where he was invited to perform as a classical singer and not a Qawwal.

Fareed Ayaz is well versed in several languages and can ably perform in Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto, Hindi, Poorbi, Bangle Marathi, Persian Arabic and Turkish, in addition to Japanese. He and his party have performed in the presence of many luminaries including the president of Pakistan and Prince Hasan bin Talal of Jordan.

Fareed Ayaz and party have performed at various national and international festivals:

Inauguration of expo 2005. Patiala Music Festival February 2005.
Zagreb Music Festival 2005. Bhagmi Otsu festival, India, 2005.
Pak-arab Emirates Music Festival, 2004. Morocco Music Festival, 2004.
Olympic Festival Greece 2003. Kartau Festival, 2002.
South asia music festival, iran, 2001.  Unesco Music Festival, France, 2001.

This group is constantly working hard to promote the art of Qawwali and traditional Sufi music.

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