MUSIC THERAPY

Through the history of Islamic civilization, it has been chiefly the mystic sects (Sufis) which have been involved with music, used and defended it. The Sufis mention that mental and nervous disorders are cured by music.

The great scientists and doctors Zekeriya Er-Razi (854-932), Farabi (870-950) and İbn Sina (980-1037) established scientific principles concerning musical treatment, especially of psychological disorders.*1

In his book, “Musiki-ul-kebir,” Farabi attempted to set forth the relationship between music and physics and astronomy. According to Farabi, the effects of the makams of Turkish music on the soul were classified as follows:

Rast makam: brings a person happiness and comfort.
Rehavi makam: brings a person the idea of eternity.
Kuçek makam: brings a person sadness and anguish.
Büzürk makam: brings a person fear.
Isfahan makam: brings a person the capacity of action, the sense of security.
Neva makam: brings a person pleasure and contentment.
Uşşak makam: brings a person the feeling of laughter.
Zirgüle makam: brings a person sleep.
Saba makam: brings a person bravery, power.
Buselik makam: brings a person strength.
Hüseyni makam: brings a person serenity, ease.
Hicaz makam: brings a person humility.
Farabi also outlined the effects of the makams of Turkish music according to the times they were effective:

Rehavi makam: effective at pre-dawn.
Hüseyni makam: effective at dawn.
Rast makam: effective in early morning.
Buselik makam: effective in mid morning.
Zirgüle makam: effective toward noon.
Uşşak makam: effective at noon.
Hicaz makam: effective in the afternoon.
Irak makam: effective in late afternoon.
Isfahan makam: effective at dusk.
Neva makam: effective in the evening.
Büzürk makam: effective in late evening.
Zirefkend makam: effective during the time of sleep.


The great Islamic thinker and philosopher Ibn Sina (980-1037) wrote that he gained much from Farabi’s works, and even learned music from him and applied it in his practice. He said, “One of the best and most effective of treatments is to strengthen the mental and spiritual strengths of the patient, to give him more courage to fight illness, create a loving, pleasant environment for the patient, play the best music for him and surround him with people that he loves.”

According to Ibn Sina, “sound” was essential to our existence. Sounds arranged within a musical order, and in a particular fashion, would have a deep-reaching effect on one’s soul. The effect of sound was enriched by man’s art. Ibn Sina also believed that changes of pitch would determine a person’s mood. What allows us to appreciate a musical composition is not our sense of hearing, but our sense of perception, which allows us to derive various inspirations from that composition. For this reason, well-attuned, harmonious tones, and the adherence of compositions and rhythms to principles, can have a captivating effect on people.

In conclusion, during the period of Islamic civilization, Turkish-Muslim doctors such as Er-Razi, Farabi and Ibn Sna used musical and pharmacological methods in the treatment of psychological disorders, and these methods, applied by both Selçuk and Ottoman doctors, were cultivated up until the 18th century.

Music Therapy Among the Selçuks and Ottomans

Although the first serious music therapy was practised during the Ottoman period, various healing attempts were undertaken in pre-Anatolian Central Asia by shaman musicians known as baksı. Even today, there are baksıs among the Central Asian Turks, who continue these activities (Güvenç 1986ö p. 24).

Ibn Sina, in a hospital established in Damascus by a Selçuk Turk, engaged in the healing of mental disorders with music. The influence of Ibn Sina continued into the Ottoman period.

The Ottoman palace doctor Musa bin Hamun used musical therapeutic means in the healing of tooth diseases and children’s psychological disorders.

Hekimbaşı Gevrekzade Hasan Efendi (18th century) was the student of Tokatlı Mustafa Efendi, who translated Ibn Sina’s famous work,
“El Kanun fi’t-tıbbi.” In his own work, he said that he had drawn heavily upon Ibn Sina’s book.

In his work, “Emraz-ı Ruhaniyeyi Negama-ı Musikiye,” Hekimbaşı Gevrekzade Hasan Efendi outlined which makams were effective in the treatment of which childhood disease:

Irak Makam: effective in the treatment of childhood meningitis.
Isfahan Makam: clears the mind and protects from colds and fevers.
Zirefkend Makam: effective in the treatment of stroke and backache, fosters a sense of strength.
Rehavi Makam: effective in the treatment of all headaches, nosebleed, wry mouth, paralysis and phlegmatic diseases.
Büzürk Makam: effective in the treatment of the brain and of cramps, and eliminates fatigue.
Zirgüle Makam: effective in the treatment of heart and brain disease, meningitis, heartburn and fevers of the liver.
Hicaz Makam: effective in the treatment of diseases of the urinary tract.
Buselik Makam: effective in the treatment of pains in the hips and head, and of eye diseases.
Uşşak Makam: effective in the treatment of foot pain and insomnia.
Hüseyni Makam: effective in the treatment of liver and heart disease, seizures and hidden fevers.
Neva Makam: effective in the treatment of children who have reached puberty, pains of the hips, and brings joy to the heart.

In 1675, Baron stated that in the Topkapı Palace hospital, young students were treated by music. Master musician Safiyüddin states that makams should not be played randomly but rather that at certain times during the day, these makams would ease the soul and bring comfort:

Rehavi makam: shortly before sunrıseç
Hüseyni makam: at dawn.
Rast makam: in late morning.
Zirgüle makam: at noon.
Hicaz makamı: in mid-afternoon.
Irak makamı: in late afternoon.
Isfahan makam: at sunset.
Neva makam: in the evening.
Büzürk makam: in late evening.
Zirefkend makam: at night.
Although he mentioned what times during the day makams should be listened to, he also divided the 24-hour day into four sections and researched when each makam should be sung or listened to. Some doctors also examined the issue of the effect makams had on different nationalities and the relationship between makams and astrology.

According to some Turkish doctors, the following makams were affective on different nationalities:

Hüseyni makam: Arabs
Irak makam: Iranians
Uşşak makam: Turks
Buselik makam: mostly played for Greeks
In terms of their influence on the emotions, the doctors determined that various makams provoked the following feelings:

Irak makam: pleasure and relish
Zirgüle makam: sleep
Rehavi makam: weeping
Hüseyni makam: beauty
Hicaz makam: humility
Neva makam: bravery
Uşşak makam: laughter
Each makam was also associated with a particular sign of the zodiac.

The old Turkish doctor Şuuri, in his book “Tadil-i Emzice,” stated that music was beneficial against all disease and pain, and was supported in this by scholars and scientists of the time.

I have made certain edits to this text.
*1 : The original source cites the race of the aforementioned scholars as Turkish, a premise that I do not accept. However; as this does not hinder the integrity of the text, I did not see this as relevant, beyond a nationalist or patriotic nuance that I do not share.

by Pinar Somakci, original title “MUSIC THERAPY IN ISLAMIC CULTURE”