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Islamic Mysticism in Asia

Impact On Literature And The Arts

Islamic mysticism has had a tremendous impact on shaping literature and the arts in Islamic society. This impact has been felt particularly in poetry and music. Mystical poetry has been composed in all languages spoken by Muslims. In Persian in particular, as well as Turkish, Urdu, and other languages that borrow much of their poetics from Persian, mystical poetry has traditionally represented one of the most important literary genres. Its influence has been so pervasive that almost all premodern love poetry in these languages borrows mystical metaphors, with the result that romantic poetry is ambiguous as to whether it refers to God or an earthly beloved. Complementing mystical poetry is a large literature of allegorical romances.

Among the many excellent mystical poets, the most famous is Mawlana Jalal al-din Rumi (d. 1273), whose three-volume didactic poem The Masnavi has been translated into all major Western languages. The Mevlevi Sufi order, which derives from him, is distinctive for the importance it gives to music and dance in its zikr practices. The Chishti order also makes extensive use of music in its religious exercises. Called qawwali, they involve a group of musicians singing religious songs in Persian or one of the languages of South Asia set to a very rhythmic beat. Qawwali music has attained global popularity over the past three decades.


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Jamal J. Elias

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Intuitionist logic to KabbalahIslamic Mysticism in Asia - History: Early Period, Doctrine And Practices, The Sufi Path, Impact On Literature And The Arts