Qawwali Sufi Music for Dummies, Top 25 Bollywood Sufi Songs for Your Playlist

Bollywood qawwalis & sufi music songsIn the age of Bollywood, Pop, EDM music, there are still several takers for Sufi music. Until a few years back, singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Reshma were the singers most associated with sufi songs, but in recent times a few more singers have emerged with singers like Shankar Mahadevan & Mika Singh giving a more contemporary spin to this ethereal genre.

Origins of Qawwali

Though people love listening to this form of music, there are many who think that Qawwali is different from Sufi Music. However that’s not true.

So is there no difference at all between Qawwali and Sufi music?

No, especially if you read about its origins!

Here’s a brief guide on Qawwali & sufi Music for dummies 🙂


What is Qawwali?
Qawwali is considered to be the artistic expressions of the Sufi’s, who are considered the mystic sect of Islam. Its a form of Sufi devotional music that’s more popular in South Asia, especially in Pakistan, India & Bangladesh.

Qaul (Arabic) is an “utterance (of the prophet)”, Qawwal is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul, Qawwali is what a Qawwal sings.

The word ‘Sama’ is still used in Central Asia, especially Turkey, to refer to music forms very similar to Qawwali. In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formal name used for a music session of Qawwali is known as ‘Mehfil-e-Sama’.

How Did it Reach South Asia?
The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia (today’s Iran and Afghanistan). During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of Sama (rituals that included singing, playing instruments, dancing, recitation of poetry and prayers, wearing symbolic attire) migrated to South Asia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. More on Wikipedia…

Contribution of Amir Khusro
Delhi’s sufi saint Amir Khusro (one of the most versatile personalities of medieval India and an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent) is credited with fusing the Persian and Indian musical traditions to create the Qawwali as we know it today.

Sufi is NOT a Style of Music
So basically, contrary to what many believe, Sufi music is actually not a style of music. Its the lyrics that makes a song sufi. Over the years however, in Bollywood, the music and lyrics of Sufi music have undergone changes, the most significant change being that the spiritual love (of god) has been replaced with romantic love.

The lyrics are usually about the almighty…but seeing your beloved in the almighty or the almighty in your beloved, though its primarily about spreading love.

Purists may moan that the Bollywood Sufi songs are a far cry from its truest form, but then that’s what Bollywood is about; it does adopt many things as per the needs of the audience.

Top Bollywood Qawaali / Sufi Songs

One thing is for certain, Sufi music in Bollywood films is here to stay, and its only getting more melodious. Here are some of the most popular Qawaali / Sufi songs form Bollywood that you must have on your playlist:

Khwaja Mere Khwaja – Jodhaa Akbar

From the movie ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, the song is composed and sung by A.R. Rahman. This song is perhaps the most Sufi, compared to other songs, with its reverence for the almighty.

Kun Faya Kun – Rockstar

Shot at the Nizamuddin Dargah, the song is composed by A.R. Rahman, and sung by A.R. Rahman, Javed Ali and Mohit Chauhan.

Piya Haji Ali – Fiza

Filmed at the Haji Ali Dargah in South Mumbai, this is another super song composed by A.R.Rahman, its from the movie ‘Fiza’. The song is sung by A.R. Rahman, Kadar Ghulam Mushtafa, Murtaza Ghulam Mushtafa and Srinivas.

Kabira (yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani)

Music composed by Pritam and sung by Tochi Raina & Rekha Bhardwaj.

Maula Mere Maula – Anwar

Sung by Roop Kumar Rathod, this beautiful number is from the movie ‘Anwar’.

Arziyan – Delhi 6

The song evokes the charm of Old Dilli, the Jama Masjid-Nizamuddin Dargah. Sung by Javed Ali and Kailash Kher, music by A.R. Rahman.

Mann Ki Lagan – Paap

Sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, nephew of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. From the John Abraham-Udita Goswami starrer ‘Paap’. This was Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s debut song in Bollywood as playback singer.

Jiya Dhadak Dhadak – Kalyug

Sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, this romantic number is from the movie ‘Kalyug’ featuring Kunal Khemu & Smilie Suri.

Saaiyaan – Heroine

From the movie ‘Heroine’, this sung was sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and music composition was done by Salim-Sulaiman.

Tu Jaane Na – Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani

Music composed by Pritam, there are three versions of the song, sung by Kailash Kher, Atif Aslam and Soham Chakraborty respectively.