A “Riot of Perfume in My Heart”
by Barbra Joffe

In the shrines of Sufi saints across India and Pakistan, the passion and fervor of Sufi poetry is brought to life by Qawwals—singers and musicians whose voices give body and life to a deep longing for union with the Beloved. The music they play, known as Qawwali, centers on poetry in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Persian, animated by a powerful chorus of singers, who sing their longing and prayers with full force to the skies, whipped forward at increasing speed and passion by the breath of a harmonium, clapping and the intricate rhythms of the double-bowled tabla. In Ajmer, India, Qawwali music can be heard reverberating in the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the Saint who introduced Sufism to India. Chishti told his disciples “to develop river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality” and that charity was the highest form of devotion. The Chishti order is also known for its appreciation of sama—a means of meditating on God through listening and movement, inducing a trance-like state said to reveal what is in one’s heart. Amongst the musicians in the shrine sits Tahir Qawwal, a “Westerner” committed to bringing the Sufi message of peace to new audiences all over the world. READ MORE

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