Works about Prophet Muhammad in Turkish Religious Music


Friday, March 19, 2010

Works about Prophet Muhammad in Turkish Religious Music

Turkish music is divided into two categories, vocal or instrumental. Vocal music is further divided into a) religious music and b) non-religious music. The development of the musical form in the Islamic world belongs more to the Ottomans than any other state. Created on the themes of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) within the framework of the Sufi understanding, religious music is comprised of mosque music, which is vocal music that is usually extemporaneous and precedes or follows worship, and Sufi music, which consists of religious works sometimes accompanied by instruments, with the words being chanted or sung in gatherings formed around a particular Sufi line of understanding.

Among works of religious music, which although they have many common aspects also have some differences in composition and style, the following topics have a special place: the Prophet's birth, his miracles, his beautiful attributes, his virtues, his ascent to heaven, his migration, and the various stages of his life. These religious musical works about the Prophet, which are usually d with lyrics taken the various types of Islamic/Turkish literature (usually in verse) and are formed within a framework of Turkish musical rules, are the following:


SALA (Chant the minaret) (salat, salavat ):

It is a religious form of prayer full of love and praise to the Prophet asking for mercy Allah, taking refuge in him, respectfully mentioning him and his family, and asking for his intercession. It is sometimes a composition and sometimes extemporaneous. With Arabic lyrics in prose, its chanting is called “giving sala or bringing salavat (prayers).” Sala is sometimes recited in a group or by an individual like the muezzin at a mosque or minaret or by dervishes at dervish lodges. Formerly sala was chanted before the morning-prayer and after the noon, afternoon, and night prayers. Sala was not chanted at the call to evening prayer because of a lack of time. It is also known that sala is recited time to time at various religious and Sufi gatherings. The types of sala are as follows:

Morning sala: It is chanted before the morning call to prayer in accordance with its original composition in the dilkeshaveran mode (a mode starting with e” and ending on f’ sharp). Although there is a strong narrative that it was composed by Buhurizade Mustafa Itri Efendi (d.1711), there are also those who say it was composed by Khatib Zakiri Hasan Efendi (d.1623). The lyrics of the morning sala are comprised of three divisions:

  1. es-Salat u ve's-selamü aleyk (Peace and greetings be upon you)
  2. Ya seyyidena ya Rasulallah (O Master, O Apostle of Allah)
    "       "          "   Habiballah (Beloved of Allah)
    "       "          "   Nebiyyallah (Prophet of Allah)
    "       "          "   Hayra halki'l-lah (Best of Creation)
    "       "          "   Nura arsi'l-lah (Light of Allah’s Throne)
  3. Allah, Allah, Allah, Mevla hu (Master, He).

It is chanted as follows: The first line is repeated after each line of the second division of the Prophet’s attributes and then it finishes with the 3rd division.

Friday and Eid Sala: It was chanted by the muezzins (who call to prayer) the muezzin galleries prior to the Eid and Friday prayers. Khatib Zakiri Hasan Efendi composed this work in the bayati mode (one of the oldest and most used modes; it is a combination of the 4th and 5th Ottoman musical modes). The lyrics are as follows:

  1. Ya Mevla Allah
  2. Leyse'l-iydu limen lebise'l-cedid
    Inneme'l-iydu limen hafe mine'l-vaid

    Leyse'l-iydu limen rakebe'l-mataya
    Inneme'l-iydu limen terake'l- hataya

    Leyse'l-iydu limen beseta'l-bisat
    Inneme'l-iydu limen tecaveze ala's-sırat

    Leyse'l-iydu limen tezeyyene bi zineti'd-dunya
    Inneme'l-iydu limen tezevvede bi zadi't-takva

    Leyse'l-iydu limen nazara envai'l-elvan
    Inneme'l-iydu limen nazara cemali'r-Rahman
  3. Ve salli ve sellim ala es'adi ve esref-i nur-i cemi' i'l-enbiya-i ve'l-murselin
  4. Ve'l-hamdu lillahi rabbi'l-alemîn.

The work is chanted as follows: The first division is chanted as a group; the second division is recited by one person. In the second division, which is comprised of 5 verses, each verse s with the exclamation “Ya Mevla Allah.” Then after the third division is recited by one person, the sala ends with the fourth division being chanted in unison. Today sala is not recited in this manner in mosques at the Eid and Friday prayers.

Funeral Sala: There are two kinds of funeral sala. The salat-u salam is chanted the minaret for the purpose of giving the news of death. The other is recited during the funeral ceremony when the corpse is being taken to the graveyard and after the corpse has been buried.

a. The funeral sala which is chanted the minarets is recited to give the news as to when the funeral prayer will be held. We know references that this custom first began in Egypt under the Fatimids. This manner of giving sala continues today with the sala being recited one hour before the funeral prayer to enable those who will attend to get ready for it.

The sala chanted during the funeral procession after the funeral prayer is a kind of dhikr and is recited in unison with those attending. It was composed by Khatib Zakiri Hasan Efendi in the simple hüseyni mode. The text is as follows:

  1. La ilahe illallah vahdehu la serike leh ve la nazira leh, Muhammedun eminullahi hakkan ve sidkan. Allahumme salli ala seyyidina Muhammedin ve ala
  2. Ve ala al-i Muhammed.
  3. Vesalli ve sellim ala es'adi ve esref-i nur-i cemi'l-enbiya-i ve'l-murselin
  4. Ve'l-hamdu lillahi rabbi'l-alemin (Praise to Allah, the Lord of the world).

The work is recited as follows: The 1st and 3rd divisions are chanted by one person; the 2nd and 4th divisions are chanted in unison.  Also, it is recited one more time after the corpse is buried and then the funeral party disperses. Burials are not made in this manner today.

Salat-i Ummiyye: It is recited lyrically in some religious ceremonies and on certain religious holidays, in short, wherever it is necessary to make an invocation to the Prophet Muhammad. The work in our hands today was composed by Itri in the ancient segah mode.

In addition, there is the sala ning with the line “Allahumme salli ala’l- Mustafa” which is customarily recited in the mahur mode after the teravih prayer (supererogatory prayer performed after the night prayer during Ramadan) and the salat-i kamaliyye and salat-i munciya chanted at meetings of various Sufi orders.


NA'T (poem):

Na't is the name of a work written to praise the Prophet, to ask for his intercession, and remember and describe his beautiful attributes; it is sung musical form. The lyrics were mainly selected verses written by Sufi poets in Turkish, Arabic and Persian.  Separated into two categories of mosque or dervish lodge poems, these works are recited by the na'than (reciter) after the Qur'an is read before the Friday and Eid prayers; they are recited in dervish lodges at the ning of dhikr or between different dhikr chants. There are examples of compositions that are chanted by one person, usually extemporaneously. Following a slow rhythm, the na't has a more dignified and esthetic style than the hymns. mospagebreak title=TEVSIH}


This was composed to be recited between the sections of a mevlid (poem celebrating the birth of the Prophet) and mi'raciyye (poem recounting the Prophet Muhammad's miraculous ascension to heaven). It is a poem that praises the Prophet in one of his attributes. The lyrics were mainly taken Sufi poets, and although they were usually written in Turkish, there are some examples in Arabic or Persian. These are more esthetic than hymns and are usually given rhythmic patterns like devr-i kebir, cenber and zincir.

In the poems read between the divisions of the mevlid it is very important that the harmony between the mode and lyrics is maintained. For example, while the "ascension" division is being recited, because it will follows modes like segah, huzzam and irak, the poem read before this section must be in the same mode and the lyrics must be chosen the poems about the ascension.



These are poems about the Prophet Muhammad’s birth, various stages in his life, his miracles and his death. Although many works have been written on these subjects in Islamic/ Turkish literature, the poem entitled Vesiletu’n-necat completed by Suleyman Celebi (d. 1422) in Bursa was loved the most and is still being recited today. Written in aruz “failatun failatun failun” meter and in plain Turkish, the work has been customarily recited at gatherings everywhere in Ottoman territory to share the joy and sorrow of the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth (Mevlid Kandil), holy days and nights (kandil), and the anniversaries of birth, death, circumcision, marriage, and remembering important people.

It is thought that the Mevlid was composed by Suleyman Celebi himself or by Sinaneddin Yusuf (d. 1565), however, the only known composer of this work is Sekban of Bursa (17th century). This composition of the work was recited until the end of the 19th century, but being forgotten, it has not reached us. Today the Mevlid is recited following a specific order of modes between the divisions. For a long time it was custom to read asr-i serif, tevsih and kaside between the divisions, but that custom has been lost. Today only an asr-i serif or hymn is read before the next division s.



The term Miraj refers to the Prophet’s ascension to the presence of Allah traveling the Masjid-i Haram to the Masjid-i Aksa in the 9th year of his apostleship on the 27th night of the month of Rajab. For this reason, the night journey of Rajab 27th is celebrated as the Miraj holiday throughout the Islamic world.

The Miraciyye or Miracname sings about the wondrous miracle belonging to one of the extraordinary events in human history. These poems were penned by both Persians and Turks, but the musical form belongs only to the Ottomans.

When Miraciyye is mentioned in the Turkish religious music field, one thinks of the Miraciyye written in the mesnevi style by Galata Mevlevi sheik, Kutbunnayi Osman Dede (d. 1729), a composer/flute player who wrote both the composition and lyrics. The Miraciyye, written by Osman Dede in the segah, mustear, dugah, neva, saba, huseyni, and nisapur modes, was composed in seven divisions, each called a hane. The 4th hane written in the neva mode was forgotten around the end of the 19th century. The musical notes of this work have come down to us, and the lyrics of four of the five tevsi recited between the divisions were written by Sheik Mehmet Nasuhi (d. 1718) in Arabic. The only poem written in Persian is recited before the huseyni hane and the words belong to Rumi. There are no poems before the mustear and nisabur divisions.

The Miraciyye of Kutbunnayi Osman Dede was read for three nights in a row –before, after and on the night of the Miraj holy day- usually in mosques, Mevlevi lodges and other dervish lodges. The ning of the Surat Bani Israil was read after the ritual prayer; after Surat Al-Fatiha two chanters would mount two connected podiums and recite the work together. Dervishes sitting below the podiums would repeat “sallu aleyh” at the end of every line at the ning; “minna’es-salat” at the end of each line of the huseyni division and “ikbel ya mucib” in the last division. Also, dervishes would recite tevsi belonging to the particular division at the ning of that division and they would offer milk to the listeners. The reason for this is the Prophet chose milk to drink during his Night Journey.


Ilahi is a poem in Islamic/Turkish literature with religious/Sufi content that expresses love of Allah and the Prophet and has been composed with a Turkish musical mode and style. Separated into dervish lodge and mosque hymns, these works are used at the lodges during dhikr and in mosques during various kinds of worship or in different religious gatherings. Formerly there were hymns composed for each month of the hijri calendar. It was a widespread custom for hymns describing the various special qualities of the Prophet to be sung along with tevsi and na’t during the mevlid months of Rebi’al-awwal and Rebi’al-akir.

Also, many of the chants in Arabic composed in Turkish musical modes recited during dhikr at the dervish lodges and chants made minarets during the month of Ramadan have the Prophet as their topic.


A Kaside is a poem, sung by one person, which conveys praise for the Prophet, describes great people of religion or the praise due to them, or mentions Sufi topics and is produced within a modal framework. The eulogies most loved in mosques and dervish orders are those whose lyrics are related to the Prophet Muhammad.

Next in popularity with the people after Suleyman Celebi's Mevlid and Regaibiyye, which describes the qualities of the Prophet's mother and father, is the "muhammediyyehan."  It is sung in the mosques by those who have memorized the Qur'an. The Muhammediyye of Yazicioglu Mehmed Efendi (d. 1451) is a musical works that has been received with great favor in religious gathering places.

عن أبي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه قَالَ:
قَبَّلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْحَسَنَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ وَعِنْدَهُ الأَقْرَعُ بْنُ حَابِسٍ التَّمِيمِيُّ جَالِسًا‏.‏ فَقَالَ الأَقْرَعُ إِنَّ لِي عَشَرَةً مِنَ الْوَلَدِ مَا قَبَّلْتُ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا‏.‏ فَنَظَرَ إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏"‏ مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ ‏"‏‏
God's Messenger kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (his grandchild) while Al-Aqra' bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said, "I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them", God's Messenger cast a look at him and said, "Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully." (Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), 18)

Title: Tracks from Neyzen Sadreddin Özçimi's album, Sufi Rhythms - Sultan-i Ask Artist: Sadreddin Özçimi