BS (Social Sciences & Liberal Arts)

Faculty / School

School of Economics and Social Sciences (SESS)


Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Date of Submission



Aliya Iqbal Naqvi, Visiting Faculty, Department of Social Sciences

Project Type

SSLA Culminating Experience

Access Type

Restricted Access


This thesis explores the poetry of the popular Pakistani qawwal Aziz Mian and his expression of major themes of Sufi philosophy. Aziz Mian, who is unique for being a poet-qawwal, articulated various concepts of tasawwuf in his numerous spiritual poems or kalam. I have selected one of his kalam, Allah Hi Janey Kaun Bashar Hai, as it sheds lights on the concept of wisaal or union with the Divine as the ultimate purpose of tasawwuf. Aziz Mian’s musical performances and his commentary, found in numerous concert recordings, are used as a tool to understand the philosophy of tasawwuf through the lens of Aziz Mian. In addition, the scholarly works of Annemarie Schimmel, Martin Lings, Regula Qureshi, Mikko Viitamäki, Hussein Rashid and Sonia Gaind-Krishnan have been used to strengthen this thesis and to understand the importance of qawwali as a tool to propagate tasawwuf.

Qawwali has been a crucial component of the Sufi spiritual practice in South Asia for centuries. Like other forms of Sufi sama across the world, qawwali expresses the ideas and experiences of tasawwuf in poetic, rhythmic and metaphorical forms and expressions. Qawwali, as a mystical, spiritual and transcendental musical genre is traditionally attributed to the 14th Century Sufi poet and music maestro, Amir Khusro of Delhi, titled as the first qawwal.

Aziz Mian stands out for being a poet-qawwal: he was both a popular performer and innovator of the musical form, and he wrote and recited mostly his own kalam. The only qawwalis that he performed which are not written by him are the traditional core numbers such as Amir Khusro’s Qawl and Rang. Otherwise, the poetry in every qawwali performed by him is either authored or co-authored by him. Since Aziz Mian controls every aspect of his performance, the words, the music, and the presentation, his qawwali performances affect audiences differently to other modern-era qawwals. A great part of his fame was due to his bold style: in an era of increasing Islamic religious conservatism in Pakistan, Aziz Mian took pride in emphasizing things like the Indian-Hindu roots of qawwali and the Sufi poetic imagery of wine drinking.



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