What is music and why is there so much of the enchantment of love in it?
Music is the secret of love and love is the secret of God.
—Qutb ad-Din Bakhtiar Kaki
13th Century Chishti Shaykh from Delhi
The Islamic tradition has been animated by music since its inception. The musical recitation of the Qur’an has given birth to many other profound musical traditions, which have spread the barakah—or blessed presence of the Divine—throughout the world and across the centuries. This album is a collection of gems from the rich mines of these various traditions, carefully strung together to create a musical journey from Andalusia to the Indian subcontinent and across several hundred years of history. However, these traditions of Islamic music are not meant to take the listener back in time, but rather from time to the Eternal. This music echoes, not only with the cosmic “music of the spheres,” but also with the original Divine call and human response, which the Qur’an describes:
When your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam and their descendants from their loins, He made them bear witness to their own souls: “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes! we bear witness.” (7:172)
Sages and saints through the ages have described traditional Islamic music as the reverberation of this primordial “call and response,” which calls us back to the “time before time” when we were with God. As Rumi writes:
The sages have said these melodies,
We took from the rolling spheres,
The faithful say that paradise,
Turns noises to sweets for our ears
Once, when we were all parts of Adam
We heard these songs in paradise.
Although body’s clay made us forget them
In our memories, their echoes reside
Oh, Music is the lovers’ food
Who hold in mind the thought of meeting
The fire of love flares up through songs
Like blazes lit from kindling
—Rumi (Mathnawi, IV, 733)
Those whose hearts still long for that time out of time will find much to appreciate in this album. In a world that is increasingly noisy and chaotic, the music and lyrics of this album—drawn from centuries of Sufi traditions—offer a window onto an inner oasis of peace and harmony. What makes traditional Islamic music truly Islamic is not merely the lyrics or the faith of the performer, but rather the presence of the same Divine grace that emanates from the Qur’an and the person of the Prophet—the barakah muhammadiyah. This barakah can be seen in the great masterpieces of Islamic architecture and calligraphy and heard in the arresting beauty of the adhaan (call to prayer), in the beautiful recitation of the Qur’an, and in the various traditions of sacred music represented here.
Sami Yusuf’s latest work is a humble turn to these traditions of sacred music, marked by a profound love for and presence of the Divine. We hope that this album serves as an introduction to the barakah of Islamic music—the sound of the perennial love and longing for our Creator and eternal home. As Hafiz, perhaps the most musical of all poets, writes:
مطرب عشق عجب ساز و نوایی دارد
نقش هر نغمه که زد راه به جایی دارد
عالم از ناله عشاق مبادا خالی
که خوش آهنگ و فرح بخش صدايى دارد
Love’s musician has such wonderful harmony and melody
Every song is a path to a place to be found
May the world never be empty of the cry of lovers
Because it has such a sweet and joyful sound
“Sami Yusuf’s music has two major characteristics that we cannot find in any other examples of traditional music in our time. Its nostalgic and seemingly sad melody narrates the story of our separation from our roots. If Rumi complains of this pain of separation through the reed, Sami resonates that pain by his soothing voice and penetrating music. But Sami doesn’t stop there. Like Rumi’s musician who played before a drunken Turk and narrated the mysteries of man’s covenant with God, Sami’s music also takes the audience to the presence of the blessed Prophet Muhammad, and ultimately through him to divine presence. In the ugly world that we live today, with each song Sami opens a new door to heaven. I do not know of any type of musician in our time who combines these qualities with a noble soul and the utmost degree of humility as Sami Yusuf does.” — Mohammad H. Faghfoory, Professor and Director, Graduate Program in Islamic Studies, George Washington University.
“Sami Yusuf’s music profoundly illustrates that it is at the point of the transcendent that all things come together. Hence his new album, Barakah, beautifully echoes the words of Khalil Gibran when he wrote, “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” Barakah takes us into that deeper dimension where we understand that we are all one.” — Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, President/Founder, CARAVAN
“Sami Yusuf’s Barakah is a remarkable achievement – a powerful engagement with Turkish, Persian, Arabic and Indian music and poetry, united by vivid artistry and spiritual vision.” — Carl W. Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Sami Yusuf is in a long line of artistic treasures of the Islamic civilization. He is a gifted singer and an accomplished musician who draws from the deep well of sacred sounds that help lighten the load of this world. Our community is fortunate to have such an ambassador in a time when our faith’s beauty is often veiled by the ignorance of those furthest from it. His latest album Barakah is a powerful antidote to the current malevolent misrepresentations of the real fruits of Islamic civilization.” — Hamza Yusuf, Islamic Scholar
“In this album Ustadh Sami Yusuf brings back some of the masterpieces of traditional Islamic music. When I listened to it, it calmed and then silenced, my soul, and left me yearning to go and pray—which I think was precisely the goal.” — Ghazi bin Muhammad, Chief Advisor to King Abdullah II for Religious and Cultural Affairs and Personal Envoy of King Abdullah II
“The soul is stirred, elevated and inspired by Sami Yusuf’s glorious music in this wonderful new album so aptly named Barakah.
His exquisite voice, the sonorous harmonies, the lovely accompanying images, but above all the aspiration for all that is Godly and goodly, highlight the nobility and beauty of Islam and at the same time emphasize the Divine presence and purpose that transcends all differences and unite all who aspire for true holiness. May his music bring the message of God’s peace and love to all so that humanity may live accordingly.” — Rabbi David Rosen KSG CBE, International President, Religions for Peace
“Sami’s new album offers a unique showcase for the diverse and mighty sounds of Islamic civilisation” — Dr Tim Winter, Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge, and Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College.
“Transporting! Brings tears to ones eyes because the beauty is too much for the soul to bear without overflowing!! Traveling through such a spiritual and timeless universe of music in glorification…” — Virginia Gray Henry, Director of interfaith publishing house Fons Vitae.
“One of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.” — Dr. Umar Abd-Allah, American Muslim scholar and founder of the Nawawi Foundation.
“Sami Yusuf’s new album is a stunning display of talent as he seeks to remind us of our spiritual life in God. His vocal expertise, poetic renditions of song in praise, declare the glory of the Divine and in doing so, reminds all of their abilities to seek Him in our world.” — Father Nabil Haddad, priest in the Melkite Greek Catholic and director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center (JICRC) in Amman, Jordan.
“When we hear Sami Yusuf’s stunning music, when we hear his voice singing the names of God, we are drawn into a deeper spirituality. I give thanks that Sami is using his talents to glorify the one God in this way.” — Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation.
“Sami’s beautiful music resonates with the soul, echoes with mind and vibrates with body.
His albums uncover the wonders and beauty of faith in the Divine, especially as manifested by the Quran, the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic tradition. His new album Barakah takes one out of the worldly afflictions and pains to the timeless peace, tranquility and inner happiness in closeness to the Almighty, the Merciful. I am sure this album, like its predecessors, will touch the hearts of millions.
Sami: May God embrace you with His Barakah.” — Emeritus Professor, President of Foundation for Science, Technology & Civilisation, UK (Founder of MuslimHeritage.com and www.1001inventions.com).
“At a time when there is so much anger and hatred being expressed in the world, Sami Yusuf’s new album offers us an insight into a deeply spiritual world. His Britishness is the key, weaving English, Persian and Arabic into a carpet which transports us to a dimension where the saints and the mystics inhabit. As one of Morocco’s greatest teachers reminds us “If a person came to know the bliss within his soul, he would shed a tear of joy with every breath he took.’ This is Sami’s musical world.” — Peter Sanders, Photographer/Artist