From the Arab invasion of Iran to Safavid dynasty (16th c.)

After the Arab invasion of Iran in 652CE, Persian music suffered a major recession, partly because the Muslim caliphs were against the music of any kind, and partly because so many documents and books were destroyed and burned during numerous battles. That explains why there is almost no evidence left of Persian poetry and music during the Ancient Ages. The oldest music-related documents at hand date back to two centuries after the Islamization of Iran.

But music has always been an inseparable part of the human life; and thus it thrived secretly and in hiding, among those who cherished and loved it despite the oppression and the harsh conditions.

The prohibition of playing musical instruments decreed by Islamic caliphs and rulers in different periods was probably an important factor in the development of songs as means to play and incorporate music.

Interestingly enough, singing gained more popularity and significance among religion practitioners by making use of human voice when performing musical religious ceremonies such as Ta’ziyeh[1] and eulogy, thus drawing more attention to classical Persian poetry.

There were also times when music found its place and authorities were forced to acknowledge it even against their will. The various musical treatises written by musicians and scholars such as Fârâbi, Avicenna, Ormavi, Marâghei, Abol-Faraj Esfahâni, and others, verify this claim.

During the reign of the Abbasids[2], in particular during the governance of Harun al-Rashid and his sons in the 8th century, music flourished once more and musicians were protected and promoted:

“The most prominent features of that period’s music are monotony and lush decoration.

The Arab world had been influenced by Persian music before the dawn of Islam. But, instrument-wise, these two types of music truly mingled during the reign of the Abbasids. Persian musicians in the Abbasid court left a great impression on the Arab music, promoting the use of Persian instruments and Persian musical terms and expressions.” (A Perspective on Persian Music, Sâsân Sepantâ)

Rudaki, the great literally genius and musician, lived during the reign of the Samanids (Sâmâniân: 819 – 999); he also sang and played the harp and the lute.

Another renowned musician of that period is Fârâbi, the author of the Great Book of Music (Ketâb al-musiqi al-Kabir).

After Fârâbi, Avicenna wrote treaties about music which greatly influenced Persian, and even Western, music.

During the Timurid (Teymuriân) era, the treaties of Safi-Al-Din Ormavi and his student Ghotb-Al-Din Shirazi were considered important works about music.

Abd-Al-ghâder Maraghei can be considered the last pre-Ghajar musical theorist. His books on music have left a great influence on Persian music. Even the current music trend in Turkey is believed to be an offspring of music during the time of Abd-Al-ghâder. Even now there are still musicians who continue to benefit from his achievements, incorporating them in their music.

[1] Or ta‘zia; a term used for the Shiite passion play performed in Persia. It is the sole form of serious drama to have developed in the world of Islam, with the exception of contemporary theatre, which was introduced to Islamic countries in the mid-19th century. See: “ta‘zia”, Encyclopaedia Iranica: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/tazia

[2] The third dynasty of caliphs who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphs in Damascus. See: “Abbasid Caliphate”, Encyclopaedia Iranica: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abbasid-caliphate