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073 – Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī 3, Min Al Tarikh



040-AUM-A Abu El Ela Mohamad, Wa Hayatikoum I057-YMN-A Manyalawi, Wahawahou Wahouwa Aliaty-I


The Arab Music Archiving and Research foundation (AMAR), in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), presents “Min al-Tārīkh”.

Dear listeners, welcome to a new episode of “Min al-Tārīkh”.

Today, we will resume our discussion about Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī with Prof. Frédéric Lagrange.

We have already discussed many characteristics of Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī’s performance.

Today’s episode is dedicated to a precise and detailed analysis.


Which sample do you suggest we should analyse today?

Today, we will listen to qaṣīda “Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī”.

The verses of this qaṣīda –as a musical form– are taken from the compilation of ‘Umar Ibn al-Fāriḍ who passed away in 1234.

Thisqaṣīda to the baḥr kāmil (tafā’īl: mutafāʿilun mutafāʿilun mutafāʿilun) includedin Ibn al-Fāriḍ’s dīwān starts with “Qalbī yuḥaddithunī bi-annaka mutlifī”.

‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad chose other verses from this same qaṣīda, added to the verses sang by Al-Manyalāwī, in his qaṣīda titled “Wa-ḥayātikum wa-ḥayātikum qasaman, wa-fī ‘umrī bi-ghayri ḥayātikum lam aḥlifi”.

We could take this opportunity to listen to an excerpt of Sheikh ‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad’s version, even if this episode is dedicated to Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī.

More important is the meaning of the word qaṣīda, because both qaṣīda are taken from the compilation of ‘Umar Ibn al-Fāriḍ, called qaṣīda in poetry.


‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad

‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad

And also because Sheikh ‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad is in fact an extension of Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī as to the issue of munshid and their relation to qaṣīda, since most of Sheikh ‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad’s repertoire consists in qaṣīda.


The shurrāḥ (interpreters) of Sulṭan al-‘Āshiqīn (the sultan of lovers) ‘Umar Ibn al-Fāriḍ including Al-Būrīnī and ‘Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulsī gave this poet’s verses a subliminal meaning drawn from Lādūnī Science, while the muṭrib who sang them outside the Sufi context always chose out of his long qaṣīda a limited number of verses allowing both a Sufi interpretation and a mundane “love poetry” interpretation, as previously indicated. The poetry of Ibn al-Fāriḍ is undoubtedly more apt for this dual reading than the poetry of other Sufis.

French researcher André Miquel says: “The Sufi dimension may be necessary to the poet, but it is not necessarily necessary to his reader”.

Ibn al-Fāriḍ’s poetry is a principle of poetry in itself including the images, creativeness, the choice/variety of words, and the structure of the sentences, his poetry thus serving the Sufi purpose without being intrinsically coupled with it.

Most probably, the audience during Khedivial events did not deduce from these verses the higher meanings deduced by those such as Great Sufi Sheikh Al-Bakrī. A muṭrib’s genius is then based on the art of choosing.

Researcher Jamāl al-Dīn Bin Shaykh remarked in relation to the 3rd century Baghdad singers: “Singing undoubtedly guarantees the fame of the ode and its story. While the number of verses necessary to a ṣawt is limited to 2 or 4 verses, and rarely exceeds this number”.

Muṭribduring the Nahḍa period seem to have exceeded it a little, that is if the number of verses sung in our recordings corresponds in general to the number of verses sung by muṭrib during their concerts. Knowing that the Radio recordings include a similar number of verses sung, then they probably did choose 7, 8, or 9 verses at most.


Abū al-‘Ilā sang many more verses, in “Wa-ḥaqqika ant” for example.

The number of verses sometimes reached 15.


But not the whole qaṣīda.

Of course not.

The muṭrib’s mission, on a literary level, consisted in producing a moving work of poetry with a fully comprehensive meaning within 6, 8, or up to 15 verses with their own specific complementarity, thus constructing what I call a new “poetic project” following his personal logic in singing, with a new meaning that may be different from the poet’s initial intended meaning. The muṭrib extracted these verses from their context and added them to what we can call the muṭrib’s personal epic whose timeless subject is the longing and humbling of the amorous suitor v/s the coquettishness of the beloved, the paradoxes of love…etc… this epic eternally depicted by “Lāzimat al-‘awādhil”.

The history of recording includes cases of complete failure of this project.

Aḥmad al-Shaykh

Aḥmad al-Shaykh

We could listen for example to a short excerpt performed by Damascene muṭrib Aḥmad al-Shaykh in his recording of a qaṣīda of Egyptian musical features/characteristics, also taken from the dīwān of Ibn al-Fāriḍ. He starts it haphazardly with a verse that resists any attempts by listeners who are not well-versed in Sufi poetry to trace it back, and that can only be understood by going back to the previous verse that he did not wish to record, and that is as follows: “Lahā bi-u‘ayshāb al-ḥijāzi taḥarrushun”, a verse that does not mean anything.

This example demonstrates that a muṭrib’s genius also lies in his ability to extract the right verses, and to construct another poetic project different from the original one…


Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī’s poetic project has a masterful structure and demonstrates his experience in choosing the adequate poetic matter.

He starts qaṣīda “Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī” with an oath –“Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī wa-kafa bihi qasaman akādu ujilluhu ka-al-muṣḥafi”– like many Surah of the Holy Kuran, yet Al-Manyalāwī’s oath may convey more than one explanation, as we will later demonstrate. The conclusion of this new ode constructed by Al-Manyalāwī is the word “shufī” (i.e. shufiya: he would be healed). He seems to imply that the cure to the affliction of the amorous suitor lies in remembering the beloved’s beauty.

I will now read the text of the qaṣīda to illustrate my explanation:


Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī wa-kafa bihi                              Qasaman akādu ujilluhu ka-al-muṣḥafi

Law qāla tīhan qif ‘ala jamr al-ghaḍā                    La-waqaftu mumtathilan wa-lam atawaqqafi

Aw kāna man yarḍa bi-khaddī mawṭi’an                                 La-waḍa‘tuhu arḍan wa-lam astankifi

Lā tunkirū shaghafī bi-mā yarḍa wa-in                                    Huwa bi-al-wiṣāli ‘alayya lam yata‘aṭṭafi

Ghalab al-hawa fa-aṭa‘tu amra ṣabābatī                                   Min ḥaythu fīhi ‘aṣaytu nahya mu‘annifi

Law asma‘ū Ya‘quba dhikra malāḥatin                                   Fī wajhihi nasiya al-jamāl al-yūsufi

Aw law ra’āhu ‘ā’idan Ayyūbu fī sinat                                    Al-kara qidman min al-balwa shufī (shufiya = he would be healed)


As noted earlier, Sheikh Yūsuf seems to imply that the cure to the despair of the amorous suitor lies in remembering the beloved’s beauty. It is of course an imaginary cure whose imaginary nature is highlighted instrumentally and vocally by “Lāzimat al-‘awādhil”… “Āh yā anā, w-ēsh li-el-‘awādhil ‘andinā”: a melodic phrase framing all qaṣīda ‘ala al-waḥda. Its repetition is meant to convey to the listener the definiteness of the burning desire as well as of the surrender to the miserable complaint, whereas its content and melody convey the opposite of the hopeful prospect for a cure implied by the lyrics.

“Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī” is one of two qaṣīda recorded by Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī to the Egyptian ‘ushshāq maqām.

The second one is qaṣīda “Lā taḥsabū anna maylī baynakum ṭaraban”… By the way, “ṭaraban” is inexplicably in the dative form.

Let us listen to an excerpt…


Out of the 6 maqām (bayyātī, sīkāh, ḥijāz, rāst, abā, ‘ushshāq) used in singing the Nahḍa’s qaṣīda muwaqqa‘a, the ‘ushshāq is the least chosen by muṭrib, except for Al-Manyalāwī, the only one among his contemporaries.

The ‘ushshāq is the only maqām whose main body is characterized by a diatonic structure and was chosen to perform qaṣīda during this period, as there is no trace of a qaṣīda to the jahārkāh, to the ‘ajam or to the kurdī, which does not imply that all these maqām were not “visited” along the melodic path.

How do you explain this, Mustafa?


The ‘ushshāq maqām was not used by Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī, at least not before his 1910 recordings, as both “Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī” and “Lā taḥsibū” were recorded in 1910.

We do not know what made him tackle this maqām… Did Salāma Ḥigāzī and the singing theatre influence Al-Manyalāwī?

Traditionally, the qaṣīda is sung either to the rāst, the bayyātī, the sīkāh, the ḥijāz, or the abā, and never to the jahārkāh or the ‘ushshāq.

Aside from the kurdī.


Aside from the kurdī, of course.

This implies courage as well as innovation as to the known and the inherited.

Even dhikr ceremonies that include significant mursal singing to the ‘ushshāq and to the jahārkāh, do not include muwaqqa‘ singing. There are sometimes group dhikr (i.e. hymns) to the ‘ushshāq or to the jahārkāh, but there are never improvisations ‘ala al-waḥda, even in dhikr ceremonies that do not use a takht.

Maybe the reason is related to the ‘awādhil’s melodyand the difficulty in composing it to the ‘ushshāq or to the jahārkāh, whose result would neither be satisfactory nor acceptable. Thus, when they play it, they only do so once then they go back to the bayyātī when he shifts to the bayyātī.

What do you think about this? … I do not know…

I still can’t understand why the ‘awādhil are never sung to the nahāwand or to the ‘ushshāq…(♩)


It works, but is not very satisfactory.

Maybe it was even less accepted at the time… I do not know.

Recorded qaṣīda “Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī” can be segmented into 6 measures following the dūlāb to the būsalīk and the qānūn playing to the bamb meter that lasts throughout two sung phrases: “Wa-huwa” i.e. “Wa-hawāh”, and “Wā-hāwāh” i.e. “Wa-hawa”, before shifting from the bamb to the usual waḥda sā’ira in qaṣīda ‘ala al-waḥda. Both the first and the last vocal sections frame the piece with the būsalīk that allows hearing the ḥijāz and the kurdī sub-notes.


Sufis call it the waḥda mutawassiṭa.

They play a qafla with a quick overview of the maqām’s main body, while the waḥda mutawassiṭa focuses exclusively on the high scale-steps of the melody between the sub-maqām and the third pentascale. The bayyātī / ḥusaynī and the ‘ushshāq / muḥayyar are predominant, while there is also a quick overview of the jahārkāh / kardān.

We will only analyse the first measure

But let us first listen to the full qaṣīda.





Now back to our analysis…

The same as in his qaṣīda “Lā taḥsibū anna maylī baynakum ṭaraban”, Sheikh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī sings the first hemistich of the introduction to 3 ḥijāz sub-maqām scale-steps (‘ajam, shahnāz, muḥayyar) in an outcry evoking the sincerity of the oath, in order for the last two syllables of the sentence, i.e. “Wa-hawāhu”, to correspond to the initial dum of the bamb cycle, knowing that singing this verse starts with the second dum of the bamb cycle while its melody is to the muḥayyar, i.e. the highest of the maqām and one full dīwān far from the initial position, i.e. the dūkāh. The excellence of the segmentation lies in isolating the swearing of the oath from the hemistich, and making of it a sentence that is completely independent from the rest of the verse that Al-Manyalāwī does not render in full in this phase of the performance. He does not say from the start: “Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī wa-kafa bihi”, but only: “Wa-hawāh”.


As if he were saying: “Yā lēl”.

The rules for the baḥr kāmil (tafā’īl: mutafāʿilun mutafāʿilun mutafāʿilun) to comply with the waḥda rhythm (these rules can also be deduced from comparing different recordings) imposed theoretically a different structure on the muṭrib.


We are supposed to hear dum “Wa-hawāhu … wa-huwa”.

Muṭrib usually start singing after the dum, at the first tak, when the verse is to the baḥr kāmil, in order for the last syllable of the taf‘ila (“lun” of “mutafā‘ilun”) to be compatible with the second dum, whether the verse starts with the typical taf‘ila (meter unit) “mutafā‘ilun”, or the permitted alternative taf‘ilamustaf‘ilun”.

This is the rhythmic structure followed by all muṭrib at the beginning of a qaṣīda to the baḥr kāmil:

Such as ‘Abū al-‘Ilā Muḥammad in “Afdīhi in ḥafiẓa al-hawa”: dum “Afdīhi in”;

Salāma Ḥigāzī at the beginning of qaṣīda “Safar al-lithām ‘an dayāj al-ḥundisi”: where the “thā” of “Safar al-lithām” is placed on the dum while this syllable corresponds to the “lun” of the taf‘ila;

and Sheikh Yūsuf himself in “Ḍayya‘ti ‘ahda fata”: dum “Ḍayya‘ti ‘ah” where the “ ‘a ” is placed on the dum.

…Among many examples.

Readers would not be interested to know to which extent these munshid and muṭrib knew the minute details of the ‘arūḍ (Arabic prosody) science whether theoretically or practically, while we have no doubts about the latters’ knowledge of its principles.

Many cases where the short is stretched in singing may seem at first unjustified linguistically, and only required by the necessities of singing, expressing, and corresponding to the rhythm. Whereas it is in fact done to respect the ‘arūḍ, such as stretching “ha” to “hā” by Al-Manyalāwī at the end of the first hemistich of this verse. A stretching required by the ‘arūḍ. As well as his stretching of “hu” to “hū” in “ujilluhu” in the second hemistich.

Al-Manyalāwī goes back to this typical overture at the end of the bamb meter and upon entering the waḥda after the fulfilment of his oath preceded by the “ay of faith, and stretching at the same time the fatḥa (In Arabicscript, the vowel point for “a“, appearing as a diagonalline placed above a letter and designating a short /a/) of the “Wa” of oath in “-hawāh”, where his personal recitation and performance system adds new meanings to the text. So, the oath is merged with the lamentation, as if the muṭrib were suffering from his feelings for his beloved, and says not only “Wa-hawāh” with the “Wa” of oath, but also “-hawāh” with the “Wā” of lamentation.

After shifting from the ḥijāz aspect to the bayyatī aspect in the second hemistich of the first verse, Al-Manyalāwī goes down the maqām scale order and repeats 4 times the dūkāh scale-step in “ka-al-muṣḥafi”, in a simple qafla resembling the whisper of a terrified devout faced with the enormity of his own words.

Al-Manyalāwī whispers the last word of the introduction in order to evoke all the possibilities of the verse “qasaman akādu ujilluhu ka-al-muṣḥafi” that undoubtedly bears an obvious and undisputable meaning. In “Wa-hawāhu wa-huwa aliyyatī wa-kafa bihi, qasaman akādu ujilluhu ka-al-muṣḥafi”, the poet swears his love for God, and the oath for the love of God becomes the chosen and sufficient oath, where the word “qasaman” is a tamyīz (accusative of specification in syntax/grammar): “Wa-kafa bihi qasaman”… The poet almost respects his oath for the love of God as much as his oath for the “muṣḥaf” (copy of the Kuran). “Wa-kafa bihi qasaman” is a tamyīz, “akādu ujilluhu ka-al-muṣḥafi”. But parallel to this obvious and undeniable ordinary explanation of this verse, there is a number of alternative wujūh (modes of inflection). What if the “h” corresponded to a mundane lover instead of the King of Heavens?


That would be a problem…

Wouldn’t this verse then be closer to blasphemy? What if we understood the word “qasaman” (oath) in the beginning of the second hemistich not as a tamyīz, not “Wa-kafa bihi qasaman”, but as the beginning of another oath taking? Would the beloved’s splendour then be comparable to the Holy Book’s magnificence? … Not “qasaman akād ujilluhu” (an oath I respect), but a beloved I could respect the same as the Holy Kuran.


You are going to put us in deep trouble, Frédéric!

How shocking indeed.


You are going to cause our Association to close down, Frédéric!

When Ibn al-Fāriḍ plays with fire, skilled muṭrib are good at playing the strings of shaṭḥ (ecstatic utterance), jadhb (divine attraction), and junūn (frenzied passion) existing in the Sufi message.

And here is Sheikh Yūsuf admitting his mundane love in a whisper to the ‘ushshāq note that evokes sorrow.

We are not claiming that such linguistic circumventions were planned for, conscious, or linguistically and structurally justified. Al-Manyalāwī would be indeed very surprised if he read or heard these words. All I am saying is that his performance and segmentation system resulting from ingeniousness, richness, and kindness, allows such an analysis, induces the interpretation of the ornamentations and creative variations dictated by his inner thoughts, and may convey such impressions.




Dear listeners,

We have reached the end of today’s episode.

We thank Prof. frédéric Lagrange –who will cause our Association to close down– and we will meet again in a new episode of “Min al-Tārīkh”. 

“Min al-Tārīkh” is brought to you by Mustafa Said.


  2014  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated August 14, 2014 by Amar  /  Tags:
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