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What is Sama? | Mystical Audition according to the Sufis

The very revelation of the Final Testament, Quran began through a deep mystical audition of holy Prophet, peace be upon him. It was in a retreat that Angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet and the first messages of the Quran was recited to him. The sacred sound of the rhythmic Quranic verses entered into the heart of Prophet Muhammad through deep listening states that would last for next twenty three years in his life time.

The deep listening involved during the revelation of the Quran is also clear in the verses where the Prophet is even commanded not to move his tongue in order to follow in haste what was revealed but to concentrate on the deep listening.

Move not your tongue in haste.
Ours it is to gather it and to recite it.
- The Quran 75:16,17

In another place the commandment for deep listening is generalized:

When the Qur'an is read, listen to it with deep listening, and remain silent: that you may receive grace. - The Quran 7:204

The practice of deeper listening to sacred verses, sacred poetry, spiritual music / song for Divine remembrance and in Divine remembrance is a sufi practice known as Sama or Sema. The word 'Sama' comes from Arabic with a root meaning to listen (as Sh'ma in Hebrew).

The musical and ecstatic aspect of Sufism is called sama. The sufis, while being spiritually enraptured, give all the attention of their hearts to the Beloved. Often with special and rhythmical music, they engage themselves in the selfless remembrance of God. In this state, the sufi is a drunken lover who becomes unaware of everything but God. With all their faculties the sufis are attentive to the Beloved, and have totally given up and forgotten themselves. - via Nimatullahi sufi order

As the planets revolve around the sun, the seeker's consciousness revolve around the axis of All Pervading Divine Light. In a perfected Sama the sufi's consciousness is flooded with divine ecstasy and joy begins to permeate from the Grand Consciousness. The purposes of music in Sama is to help stimulate the love for the Divine so that the torrential downpour of spiritual ecstasy (wajd) may floods the consciousness of the aspirant.

Then said Jesus, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
- New Testament, Mark 4:9

Present Shaykh of Shadhiliyya sufi order, Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal, may Allah be pleased with him, writes about Sama which I share here:

Mystical Audition (Sama) is a genuine inspiration from the Real which unsettles and prods the hearts to Allah. It serves as rest and recuperation from the hardship of moment (to re-gather strength for new striving), and as an opportunity to pause, and as a breath for the masters of states (ahwal), and as a means to bring for the secrets before the possessors of gnostic tastes (dhawq). It is an obvious state of return to secrets.

Sama occurs in 3 modes:
1) Listening with the ear of the natural self
2) Listening with the ear of the state
3) Listening with the ear of the Real.

Both the commonality and the elect listen with the ear of the natural self, whereas only the elect are able to listen with the ear of the spiritual state. The third mode of audition (sama) can only be observed among the elite of the elite and the people of sainthood (walaya).

This third type of sama causes an inward agitation and an unsettling as if one is covered over, although these effects occur only for the one who is weakened by the strength of the inspirations which appear to them in mystical audition. In addition, this type of sama does away with the faults and imperfections of unveiling (kashf) and brings the eternal end into contact with the eternal beginning, and causes the ends to return to the beginnings.

This means the nullifications of secondary intermediaries between the listener and what is listened to, and between the servant and the Lord; therefore, by what he hears, he is absented from creation and things and intermediaries (ie. absented from witnessing them and from witnessing their evanescence).

Mode of audition is divided into 3 categories: divine audition, spiritual audition and natural audition. As for natural audition, it doesn't come with any knowledge; as for spiritual audition, it is of movement of the Divine pens on the Tablet of existence, protected from all alteration or substitution; and as for divine audition, it is of the secrets (asrar), and it is to listen from everything in everything by / through everything while at the same moment the whole existence is the words of Allah.

Allah Calligraphy Cosmos MysticSaint ArtAnd know that for each there is a level to their listening, and their gnostic tastes are in accordance with their level. So, for example, when the repentant one listens, he is overcome with feeling of regret and guilt; when the longing one listens he yearns for a vision; for the believer there is an increase in certainty and realized clarity; for the lover there is an incitement to cut off all attachments and an increase in experiencing ecstasy (wajd); and by wajd in their listening (sama) we mean the unveiling of the secrets in the witnessing of the Beloved.

The true mark of those who genuinely listen in the sama and are realized in their listening is their yielding to every act that brings one near to Allah, such as listening to knowledge or dhikr. For this reason, sama plays a deep role in tasawwuf (sufi path of purification) ..

Therefore, the usage of music in a manner pleasing to Allah to attain to Him along with the traveler's (salik) assiduous obedience to the order of Allah is allowed based on the words of the Messenger (salla allahu alayhi wa-salam), "Indeed, actions are judged according to intentions ..."

- from the book, "How the Arrival is Realized, O People of Hearts and Souls and Intellects" containing the teachings of Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifai ash-Shadhdhuli, may Allah be well pleased with him and give him long life. may his students and lovers be connected to his spiritual station.

# Related
. Stay close to any sound
. Listening 360

# Further

. Sama: Mystical Music
. Sufi Music
. Mevlevi Sema Ceremony
. A Psychology of Early Sufi Sama: Listening and Altered States by Journal paper by Kenneth S. Avery

. Sufi Sema Ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes, video1, video2


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Technology of the Heart: What is Sama? | Mystical Audition according to the Sufis
What is Sama? | Mystical Audition according to the Sufis
Technology of the Heart
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