Sufi Music

Sufi music is the devotional music of the Sufis, inspired by the works of Sufi poets, like Rumi, Hafiz, Bulleh Shah and Khwaja Ghulam Farid.

Qawwali is the most well known form of Sufi music, common in Pakistan and India. However, music is also central to the Sema ceremony of the whirling dervishes, which is set to a form of music called Ayin, a vocal and instrumental piece featuring Turkish classical instruments such as the ney (a reed flute). The West African gnawa is another form, and Sufis from Indonesia to Afghanistan to Morocco have made music central to their practises. Some of the Sufi orders have taken an approach more akin to puritan forms of Islam, declaring music to be unhelpful to the Sufi way.

As a result of doctrinal controversy about the legal status of music, early Sufi music avoided secular tunes and employed only reed-pipes, flutes and drums. Within many traditions, the frame drum (duff, ṭār,mizhār, dāire) remains the sole instrument used in communal rituals.

From an early period the vocalization of the names of God (dhikr) became important.


Outside the organized orders, music has an important place in certain groups which split away from Islam. Avoiding orthodox restrictions, they were able to cultivate music-making as an expression of pious emotion, developing and retaining musical forms no longer found elsewhere.