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Observations placeholder

Charles Burnett – Spiritual medicine, music and healing in Islam – The Maqam



Type of Spiritual Experience


There is some difficulty with the text here as Arabic maqam, are melodic modes in traditional Arabic music, whilst Maqaam, are the spiritual stages in the Sufi path, leading one to suspect this was a coded text that Burnett may not have realised was coded.  Wine is certainly not literally wine, it too has a coded meaning.

A description of the experience

Charles Burnett – Spiritual medicine:  music and healing in Islam and its influence in Western medicine

there are a considerable number of Islamic sources which tell us of the use of music by doctors, both for dietary regimes and curative purposes. The early khalifs - the Umayyads - had a 'wine day' once a week, on which music too could be played for therapeutic reasons. 'Cold' maqamat refreshed the listeners during the day, and 'hot' maqamat were used during the evening and at night-time.

Al-Kahhal (d. 1320) tells of therapists taking the patient's pulse and singing to him in a corresponding rhythm.

The Shefa’iyya asylum in Divrigi in Anatolia, completed in 1288, contained 'a wonderful basin in which the melodious sound of falling water-drops was utilized for mental treatment'. Later, the famous Turkish traveller, Evliya Celebi, tells us that, in 1648, the sultan Bayezit had employed ten musicians for the cure of the ailing, to strengthen the spirit of the mentally ill and to reduce the black bile. Three of them were singers, the rest were instrumentalists who played the flute, violin, flageolet, cymbal, harp and lute:

They came three times a week and played a piece for the ill, whereupon many of them felt relieved. They understood most of the maqamat [a list is given). When the maqamat Rast, Busalik and Zankula resound, this instils life in the patients. All instruments and all modes provide nourishment for the soul.

Indeed, when one looks up these maqamat in the theoretical texts mentioned before, one finds that Rast should be played to give pleasure, Busalik strength, and Zankula slumber.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy