The Origins of Ghazals | Blog | Sufiscore
Blog Aug 7, 2021

The Origins of Ghazals

A brief exploration into the formation of ghazals as we know today
The Origins of Ghazals

The ancient form of poetry, the ghazal, is known widely for its romantic themes and alluring mystical sound. These poems famously emanate emotion, mystique, and power that moves the listener. The ghazal’s history is a journey with a long path of ever-evolving tradition, a tradition that is diversely practised, but unifying in its ability to be a powerful form of expression. 

The ghazal’s origins are said to have evolved from the prelude segment of the ‘quasida’, an Arabic form of poetry. These preludes often pertained to romantic themes, and eventually adapted into a shorter poem which was the ghazal. The practice of ghazals eventually moved out of the Arabian Peninsula, travelling throughout the East and even into Africa. However, the introduction of ghazals into Persia was especially crucial to its development. It was in Persia where the ghazal was transformed beyond the quasida, simplifying the poem’s structure as well as including new themes into the poetry.

This new version of the ghazal became widely popular and became one of the dominant forces of poetic expression. Despite its evolution in Persia, many say that the true home of the ghazal is in India, where this practice found major success and popularity. The potential of expression through the ghazal was limitless, creativity flowed through themes of love, spirituality, philosophy. The ghazal grew and flowered in India, and it remains one of the most popular and powerful music genres in India as well as many other countries today. 

Today, ghazals are still widely sung and held in high regard, especially in India. Most ghazals are sung in Urdu, and vary in themes and styles. Although Urdu is the most common language ghazals are sung in, German, Spanish, and English poets, among many others, have popularized ghazals in their native languages. The ghazal’s power lies in its diversity, they are a mosaic of the achievements of different cultures, languages, and artists that create the amalgamation that is a ghazal. This gives the ghazal a sort of transcendence, a cultural unifier that links the past and present. Further, the ghazal’s diversity can be found in its actual nature, able to express simplicity or complexity, in a long or short form. The songs speak of love and loss, but can move further into the realm of philosophy and existentialism. One might say that the ghazal captures a truth in the power of music, portraying a perfect combination of sound and poetry. 

Article by Emma Collins