Arabi Malayalam: In Conversation with M.N. Karassery

Arabi Malayalam: In Conversation with M.N. Karassery

in Interview
Published on: 05 October 2018
Azeez Taruvana is in conversation with M.N. Karassery in Kozhikode, 2017.


Azeez Taruvana:  After Muhyadheen Mala (first book to be published in Arabi Malayalam, written by Khali Muhammed) was published, thousands of books came out in Arabi Malayalam. What were the themes these books dealt with in the beginning?


M. N. Karassery: To say that more than a thousand books were published is probably an exaggeration. People remember Muhyadheen Mala beacause it is the text of Qadiriya Tariqat. If I remember correctly, printing in Arabi Malayalam began in 1860. A person called Theekkookil Kunhammed introduced the printing press at Thalassery in Kerala. Muhyadheen Mala was written sometime in 1607. Between 1607 and 1840, there might have been books written and published too. It is highly probable that many handwritten copies too might have been lost. Kunhayan Musliyar wrote Kappa pattu and Nool madhu about 150 years after Muhyadheen Mala came out. The major running theme in those first works is devotion. Mala pattu (pattu means songs in Malayalam) were mostly about the Prophet, disciples of the Prophet, the sheikhs of Tareeqat, or the martyrs. Most of it is available only in the oral tradition. A deviation from this theme happened with the arrival of Moyinkutty Vaidyar (1852- 1892) on the literary scene.


A.T.: Were there works in Arabi Malayalam that could be broadly called secular or could be enjoyed by other communities as well?   


M.N.K.: By secular work we mean the kind of work that deals with themes outside the ambit of any religion. For e.g., theme of love, nature, revenge, bereavement, etc. These are basic human emotions that have no connect to any religion. Let us take the example of Badarul Jamal (Badarul Muneer Husunul Jamal written by Moyinkutty Vaidyar). It is secular because it deals with love, struggle, search, loss, etc. There is no religion in it. Almost all themes in the songs of Pulikkottil Hyder also are non-religious. For example, Kalappoottu pattu. There is no religion in it. Same is the case with Anchalkaranum Kollakkaranum, or Nari Nayattu. It means that in the case of such songs that deal with basic human feelings, writing or appreciating them has nothing to do with religious beliefs.


Sometimes devotional songs also will be appreciated by people who aren’t particularly religious. An example is Jnanappana (written by 16th century Poothanam). This can be enjoyed by people who aren’t Krishna or Vishnu devotees and across religions and communities.


For e.g. take these two lines:

Fighting over positions of power

Some people lead a shameful existence


Such worldly wisdom can be found in texts like Aydhatma Ramayana (Ezhuthachhan) and Narayaneeyam (Melpathoor Bhattathiripadi) which are basically Hindu devotional verses. But they are appreciated by non-Hindus too because they are full of what the English call ‘wisdom’ and philosophical thoughts.  


Such kind of wisdom can be found in Arabi Malayalam verses too. For eg. take Muhyadheen Mala. It is an Islamic devotional text. It is an ode to Sheikh Abdul Khader Jilani, the Sheikh of Qadiriyya Tareeqat.  But there are many things in it that can be appreciated by everyone else. Let me elucidate it with a story from the verse. 


When Sheik Jilani was a child, one day he got ready to go to the madrassa. His mother sews twelve gold coins to the inside of his dress. She then tells him never to lie. So the young Jilani sets out. When he reaches a forested area, he is stopped by robbers. They ask him, ‘What have you got with you?’ And he tells them the truth that he has twelve gold coins with him.


Mother advised never to lie

And so he gave all the gold to the robbers.


Such ethical values, whether they are part of any devotional works or belong to a particular religion, can be imbibed and appreciated by everyone regardless of their beliefs. Like any other branch of literature, Mappila songs too offer such values.


Muhyuddin Mala is rich with beautiful imageries and poetic imaginations. For eg.


When he walked in the thick dark

His finger burned bright like a torch.


When Muhyuddin Sheikh walked in the utter darkness, he turned his finger into a burning torch to see the way. His followers take this story as one of his divine miracles (Khiramatt). What a beautiful imagery! I would say that it can be interpreted as his attempt to throw light on the darkness of ignorance that enveloped the society. Also we can say, if you don’t burn up your life you won’t find that light that will show the way for you. There is also another story related to this. Once, when Sheikh Jilani was writing, lights went out and his finger lit up like a lamp and he continued to write. These are all poetic metaphors. I see the miracles mentioned in the mala songs of Arabi Malayalam as metaphors.


A.T.: What was the extent of the contribution by Arabi Malayalam magazines to the Muslim reform movements in 19th century Kerala?


M.N.: They did play a great part. The magazines in Arabi Malayalam like Al Islam, Al Muslim etc. published by the prominent reformer of the Muslim community Vaikom Muhammed Abdul Khader should be remembered here. These magazines gave much space to the reform movements, especially to those of the Muslim women. The Arabi Malayalam women’s magazine called Niza-ul-Islam (Woman in Islam) was published from Kozhikode in 1929. He first started it for Muslim women only, because they did not know how to read and write in Malayalam. His magazine dealt with many topics like women’s education, religious education, and also imparted knowledge of customs and rituals. In Islam, while there is an orthodox line called Khurafat, there is also a stream which resists this. For example, Vakkom Abdul Khader translated Kimiya-yi Sa’adat. In it he upgraded the script of Arabi Malayalam. Another reformer was Sanaullah Makthi Thangal. He was born in 1847 in Veliyamkott near Ponnani and died in 1912. He was 56 years old when the SNDP Yogam (the organization that worked for reforming the Ezhava community in Kerala) was formed in 1903. But outside the Muslim community the general public is unaware of his contributions to the social reform process. His first work was in Malayalam script called Katthara Kutthoram. But those outside the Muslim community have never really known about the reformative efforts he had made.


The contribution of Mappila songs genre in the reformative movement of Muslim community is exceptional. The songs like Duracharamala, Kathukuthumala etc, written in Arabi Malayalam, by Pulikkottil Hyder deal with superstitions and blind customs.


According to me, that fact Arabi Malayalam works in those times had major female characters is itself very remarkable. The beautiful verse by Moyinkutty Vaidyar—Badarul Muneer Husunul Jamal (1872)—has a woman as its central character. She is a princess who is educated, learns music and dance, and elopes with her lover who is the son of a minister. This elopement is planned by the girl and not by the boy. So it is one of the first texts in which a woman comes as a central character. You should remember that this book was published in 1872. Vaidyar was questioned by the elders of the community at Kondotty Pazhaya Palli (mosque), because he used the theme of ‘love’ in his work.


In the introduction to the complete works of V.T. Bhattathiripad, K.C. Narayanan says that it was Bhattathiripad who taught the Namboodiri how to love. There was no romance in Malayalam literature before 20th century. It was forty years after Badarul Muneer Husnul Jamal came out that Kumaran Ashan’s Nalini, Athava, Oru Sneham (Nalini or Love) came out. Why did he add ‘or love’? We wouldn’t have understood it otherwise. Living and dying for love, that wasn’t an idea that was present in our culture; it was never a theme in our folk songs like Vadakkan pattu, Thekkan pattu, Thacholi pattu, etc. Instead, they all featured bravery, murder, revenge, and other themes along these same lines, but not love. It was just not an idea that we understood.


Ashan’s Nalini is his own work, while Moyinkutty Vaidyar’s verse is a translation of an Urdu poem. We must keep that in mind. However, to write about a person who lives and dies for love was an adventurous attempt back then. It was a sort of declaration of freedom.


A.T.: The Mappilas had played a very active role in our freedom struggle. How did those struggles reflect in the Arabi Malayalam literature including the Mappila songs?


M.N.K.: Well, for one, I don’t know how historically accurate it is to link Arabi Malayalam with the arrival of the Portuguese, because they arrived in the year 1488, while there is no exact year for the publication of Arabi Malayalam. Muhyudhin Mala was written in 1607—the beginning of the 17th century AD— however, if you look at the poem itself, we can tell that Mappila songs existed much earlier, because there is so much maturity in its language and style. It’s also possible that it was the first book that they thought was important enough to be written down, as the others might have been oral—like lullabies, for instance, or songs sung at marriages. Even back then, most songs that were written were about the living conditions of human beings. It was the same for Mappilas, as they were basically farmers and labourers.


The Mappilas defied imperialism. As proof you just need to consider the historical fact that from 1500 AD to 1600 AD, four Kunhali Marakkars had fought vehemently against the British. There was a man called Kunhi Marakkar. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him.


A.T.: Kunji Marakkar Shaheed?


M.N.K.: Yes, Kunji Marakkar Shaheed. He fought against the Portuguese. Kottupalli Mala deals with that story. Being about brave men and martyrs, Mala Pattukal or Mala songs were almost entirely anti-colonial and anti-imperialist.


At the time when the Portuguese came to Malabar, the Muslims didn’t face any problems here. They were significant figures in mainstream society. The Zamorins respected them, and there was even a position called Shah Bandar Koya. Everyone remembers the Kunjali Marakkars as brave naval chiefs. They also engaged in trade. It was the Zamorin who nominated the Kozhikode Khazi.


In 1571, there was a rebellion against the Portuguese in Chaliyam, near Beypore, where the Muslim and Nair soldiers came together and demolished their fort. The fort was built by the Portuguese because they earned the favour of the king of Vettathu Nadu. There was every possibility that the Portuguese, with the help of that fort, could have ended the Zamorin’s rule. This was what sparked the rebellion.


The Portuguese demolished a mosque. They believed that the presence of the Arab and Muslim community were making their trade difficult. They were interested in spreading both business and religion. Also, when the Arabs came here, they only wanted pepper and not the land, while the Portuguese wanted both. There was no politics before their arrival. It was the Portuguese that brought in politics here. In 1876 Badaru Padappattu was written. When Moyinkutty Vaidyar wrote Badaru Padappattu, the intention was not just to tell the history of Badaru. Even if you’re in the minority, if you don’t have money, even if you have nothing, you fight for your own ideals, and that is what the Badaru Padappattu represents. If I give you an example now, there’s a saying that goes like this:


 Vahajiranda vaaku kettu

 Muntimoonda haideram.


During the Khilafat, people recited this and then headed out to the battle. There isn’t much to say about its history. It was written against the immigrants and local administrators who sided with the British.


A.T.: Weren’t there numerous texts that were confiscated and banned by the British?


M.N.K.: Yes. Among the works that the British had confiscated were the Malappuram Padappattu (Malappuram war songs). People were prohibited from writing, spreading, or singing the Malappuram Padappattu written by Moyinkutty Vaidyar.  Most of Vaidyar’s works were banned. It wasn’t T. Ubaid, or any of those scholars, who first wrote about Moyinkutty Vaidyar; rather, it was Fosset who was the Malabar Police Superintendent. He was studying Moyinkutty Vaidyar in 1900. In an article that appeared in Indian Antiquery, titled War Songs of Malabar, he had quoted some translated parts of Vaidyar’s works. In fact, he learned Arabi Malayalam in order to do the translation. The British always kept an eye on the voices that rose against them. There is no need to even doubt whether Vaidyar was anti-colonial. As they say in English, ‘It goes without saying’. There isn’t even a need to question it.


A.T.: How does Arabi Malayalam fare today?


M.N.: Arabi Malayalam, well, it is being taught in madrassas today, but in my opinion, there is no need for that at all. The reason why I think so, is that for these children—I’m speaking as someone who had learnt Arabi Malayalam in a madrassa—they find it difficult to distinguish between Arabic letters, the Malayalam letters and what is Arabi Malayalam. For instance, the children won’t able to grasp that the letter zha (ḻa), that is in Malayalam, but doesn’t exist in Arabic, because they have been writing the name Kozhikode in Arabi Malayalam. So, like I said, it’s difficult to distinguish between Arabi Malayalam, Arabic, and Malayalam. To give another example, telling a Muslim child that Malayalam words do not start with the consonant ña won’t make much sense, because they have been saying words Nabi and Nafeesa, and in English they’ve been saying the word Nib. This won’t happen in Malayalam. In Malayalam, it will be pronounced na; the consonant will be dental, and never palatal. There are many such examples. For instance, Malayalam does not have a fa sound; only pha exists. It only has words like Phalitam. But how can you explain this to a child, who has been writing names like Fatima in Malayalam, even if it literally transliterates to Phatima? Or the name Philip in English, to take another example. They still use this letter [to represent the sound fa]. Therefore, such confusions prevail.


See, I would generally not have as much of a problem with such confusions, as they can be corrected later on. The fact is that teaching this language is pointless; it is a waste of time. You’re not writing letters in this language. You’re not writing diaries. You’re not using this language at all. Who reads these texts? Maybe a few people like me who have to. We can learn it separately too, like we could with Vattezhuttu and Kolezhuttu. Here, there’s thousands of madrassas, with tens of thousands of students, [they’re learning this all the while] they could have spent their time in learning Arabic or Malayalam. Actually it is not just me who says that learning Malayalam is necessary for studying Islam. Sanaullah Makthi Thangal said it first. He knew Arabic, Malayalam, English, and Farsi. He was a great scholar, a great modernizer. He said that if you’re a Malayali Muslim, the language you should be learning is Malayalam, and not Arabic. The consequence of all this, is that our children are not learning neither Malayalam nor Arabic in the proper way.


Arabi Malayalam texts should be preserved as printed copies, transliterated copies in Malayalam, and as audio and video files. I’ve devoted a great part of my life to the study and preservation of these texts. However, I believe—and I want to make it clear that this is just my opinion—that today’s children should not be forced to study this language. I have written an article on this, in fact. It’s not the first time I am saying this. It’s something I’ve always argued for. Even Basheer (Vaikom Muhammed Basheer) himself had termed this a 600-700 year-old-folly. Even Moyinkutty wrote in Malayalam. I’ll give you another example. We normally say that it was Ulloor S. Parameshwara Iyer (1877-1949) who first wrote the history of Kerala in verse‒Uma Keralam. However, what we don’t realize is the fact that Moyinkutty Vaidyar had written Malappuram Padappattu when Ulloor was just a 15-year old school-going boy. It is a poem on an uprising in the Malabar region. No one even remembers the Malappuram Padappattu today.


A.T.: It is not written in Malayalam, isn’t it?


M.N.K.: See, it is about Kerala history, isn’t it? The Malappuram Padappattu is about a [significant] event in Kerala history. Granted it was written in Arabi Malayalam; it has a lot of Arabic in it, it has a lot of Malayalam, it has a lot of Sanskrit, all of that. However, [we have to consider the fact that] it is a poem. For instance, if the Badarul Muneer Husnul Jamal was written in the Malayalam script, the course of Kerala’s cultural history itself would’ve been entirely different. If the Muhyadheen Mala was written in Malayalam, what a big thing it would have been!


A.T.: Are there efforts at the government level, by the cultural institutions including the Moyinkutty Vadyar Memorial, to preserve the Arabi Malayalam texts?


M.N.K.: There is a research library at the Moyinkutty Vaidyar Memorial at Kondotti.  They have a collection of old manuscripts. They have published the transliterated works of Moyinkutty Vaidyar in two volumes. Pulikkottil didn’t write it himself; rather, he recited his songs to his friend Pokkavil Aimol, who wrote it down in Arabi Malayalam. Later, these got printed in the Malayalam script. So his texts were transliterated in the Malayalam script during his own lifetime. He died at 93 years of age in 1979.  Among the Mappila song writers it was Moyinkutty Vaidyar who died the youngest. He died when he was 40 years of age.


A.T.: Were there any women writing in Arabi Malayalam?


M.N.K.: Of course, there are. Jamila Bibi from Andrott Island who died recently was a Mappila song writer. I knew her personally. Many of her songs have been printed and published. And much earlier on, there were several women writers like Kundil Kunjamina, V. Ayeshakutty, Aleema Bibi etc. Chandana Sundari Mala by P.K. Haleema is a notable work. Women have written a variety of songs like lullabies, songs in praise of women, songs sung when the new bride is welcomed, wedding songs etc. In wedding gatherings, there used to be a custom to produce instant songs. Songs are song competitively, ex-tempore. Quick paced, freestyle poetry. They make it up as they sing. On such an occasion, a woman sang like this:                                                

Pattu kondu

choottu ketti

pottu kutthum

Njan edi.

(Roughly translated as ‘Girl, I will  put a bindi on the forehead with songs’)


K.G. Sankara Pillai’s poem Bengal has lines very similar to the above.


Paattu kondu

Choottu ketti

Rajakkanmarude mohattu kutthuka.

(Make a bundle of songs and stab the face of kings with it)


It’s very unlikely that KGS had ever heard the first verse. The woman who sang it lived much before he wrote Bengal. Clearly, the sense of poetry and rhythm wasn’t exclusive to men. Women had it just as well, only there wasn’t much of an effort to shed light on it, or preserve it.


A.T.: When we talk of works written by women, were there works that were not only written by women, but also talks about the problems that women face, and their liberation- women’s writing, as we call it today? Did such works exist [in Arabi Malayalam]?


M.N.K.: No, because these are issues that have come up in mainstream discussion only in current times. The songs of those times, for e.g. the oppana paattukkal or wedding songs described simple things like a young woman and her beauty, her youth, love, sexuality, pleasures, things like that. They talked of problems that were relevant to them at that point of time. The verse Nafeesath Mala was about a Sufi woman. In those works the socio-political issues that you mentioned do not appear. Even in the male writers’ works, the socio-political issues are not discussed. Before Kumaranasan, there were no poems dealing with such issues. If you were to consider Poonthanam, such issues barely came up. Issues like marumakkathayam (matriliny), or sambandham, the marital relations between Namboodiri men and Nair women, such things were discussed only when Indulekha was published.


What I am saying is that we need to consider the time period too when we analyze such topics. It’s commendable that Moyinkutty Vaidyar chose to have a female protagonist in his verse. One has to look for such details, it is senseless to judge such texts by modern values. For instance, in the book, Badarul Muneer marries four women. If you are to judge it from a modern angle, it can seem misogynistic. You have to judge it, however, by the values of the time period in which it is set. In it, after Badarul Muneer first marries Husnul Jamal, and then he marries other women who loved him, and were willing to live and die for him, and this was done, as far as one could tell, with Husnul Jamal’s permission. One has to understand that.


A.T.: The term Mappila bhasha or the language of Mappilas frequent our discussions on Arabi Malayalam. Even though they’re not synonyms, we use these phrases interchangeably. Why is this so? Are these two terms linked?


M.N.K.: Mappila bhasha is a slang term. It is a community dialect. There are many kinds of dialects in Kerala. Local dialects, community dialects, etc. And within these community dialects, there would be class variations, caste and gender variations etc. Variations like these are many in number. In Mappila bhasha, for instance, there is a relatively much bigger presence of Arabic words, and they would have phrases distinct to themselves. Their own sayings. They even have their own, unique pronunciations; for instance, enunciating the zha sound is difficult for them, and thus the word puzha, would be pronounced as poya.


So, all these sayings, unique phrases and pronunciations—they’re collectively called Mappila bhasha. I mean, it is still Malayalam—a community dialect of Malayalam. However, although we can generally say that Arabi Malayalam is the written form of that dialect, did they speak the way they wrote? Arabi Malayalam is a written dialect. It’s a writing variant, a unique writing style. People generally don’t talk in the same way they write. People don’t speak in the same style that, say, Chandu Menon (1847-1899; wrote the first major novel in Malayalam Indulekha) wrote, do they? Mappila bhasha is present in the conversational writing styles of writers like Basheer, N.P. Mohammed, U.A. Khader, K T. Mohammad, Uroob, some works of M.T. Vasudevan Nair, S.K. Pottakkad, etc. There are distinct differences among them; for instance, they’ll use the word khalbu, instead of the Malayalam word hridayam meaning heart. There are also differences in pronunciation, phrases, proverbs, and so on.


A.T.: You have done much research in Mappila songs, as well as in Arabi Malayalam. Have you seen communities outside Kerala, in places where Muslims or Arabs had travelled to, where the local language is written in Arabic script?


M.N.K.: It exists in most parts of India, as a matter of fact. There’s Arabi Tamil, Arabi Kannada, Arabi Bengali, even Arabi English. This is something unique to them. When Christians came to new places, they generally learned the local script, language, and grammar, in order to spread Christianity. For instance, Gundert (Hermann Gundert [1814-1893]) came to Kerala to spread Christianity. He wrote the first Malayalam dictionary, a book on grammar and even published a couple of newspapers like Rajyasamacharam, and Paschimodayam. There are other Christian missionaries. 


On the contrary, wherever the Arabs traveled to and settled down, what they did was to adopt the local language into their own script. For example, when they went to Persia during the time of the 2nd Umar Caliphate in the 7th century—the region that is now Iran and Iraq—there was a language called Pahlavi, which had its own script. Rather than learn this script, what the Arabs did was to write it in the Arabic script. This is how the modern Persian script was created. It was with this script that the Mughals wrote Hindustani, which we now call Urdu. It was how Arabi Malayalam and Arabi Tamil came to be.


It must be noted that there were times when Christians did this too. For example, they used to have a script called Karshuni. Malayalam was written using modified Suriyani script. The original Suriyani script couldn’t cover all Malayalam letters, so they added a few letters. At the SEERI institute (St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute) in Kottayam, there is a very scholarly person called Koonammackal Thoma Katthanar, who I visited recently. He has worked on a script which doesn’t exist today. It’s variously called Kursoni, Kurson, or Suro Malabarica, but ultimately it refers to Syriac Malayalam, which is similar to Arabi Malayalam.


So, a few exceptions like this existed. By and large, however, the Christian tradition was to learn the language, script, and grammar of a region, while the Muslim tradition was to spread their own language and culture in the regions they travelled to and settled. 


A.T.: Is Arabi Malayalam being studied in foreign countries?


M.N.K.: One person who has been studying Arabi Malayalam is Ophira Gamliel. She has translated the Muhyadheen Mala into English. She spoke on it at a seminar—I also was a participant—two or three months ago at Bochum University. There are a handful of such people. It’s not about how many there are; it’s about the people out there who know about this. Like I had mentioned, it was Fossett who first started learning about Arabi Malayalam, and what more do you need to look at? Fossett was a police officer.


So, this is something that has always enthralled people, because it has its own history, culture, lives, and politics. It has art, it is very romantic. It’s like how it is in the Tamil poetic works like Akananuru and Purananuru. The akam represents love, while the poram represents fighting; both of these are very important elements in Mappila songs. Struggle, as shown in poems like the Badaru padappattu and love, like in Badarul Muneer Husnul Jamal. So love and war are very important concepts in these. Through the ages, in every culture, these are things that have filled people with wonder. These are two important themes of literature itself—love and struggle. If you take Shakespeare, or Kalidasa, Vyasa or Valmiki, these themes run through all their works.  


A.T.: I remember reading one of your articles where you mentioned that Mappilas are people who have songs for all aspects of life, from birth to death. Have we lost that tradition today?


M.N.K.: No, I don’t think it’s lost. What I had written was that the Mappilas were always a people of song. They always come together for it; from the cradle itself, they’re surrounded by song. I’ll give you an example. Kozhikode has a great tradition of Hindustani music. Baburaj (M.S. Baburaj; 1921-1978) is from that tradition. He was only a half-Malayali; his father was a Bengali. He was the son of a musician called Ghulam Muhammad, and his real name was Sabir. Thus, there are more enthusiasts of Hindustani music in Kozhikode, than of Mappila pattu. And this is not a recent development, it has been like this for a long time. It is from Kozhikode that you get the known history of Mappila pattu, with Muhyadheen Mala being the first among them. The author himself describes his identity in these lines:

Kozhikkottathura thannil pirannoru Khali Muhammad ennu perullon

(The one with the name Khali Muhammad born at Kozhikode)


Kozhikode has a strong legacy of Carnatic music. Like I said, there’s a tradition of Hindustani music. Back when I was studying, there was this wonderful organization called Sur Sagar Sangeeth Sabha. I don’t remember who the organizers were. Among the most significant individuals who this organization had brought in, were Talat Mahmood and Mohammad Rafi. Basheer’s relationship with the city was through its music. You could be certain that he would be present at the concerts in the town. He was generally very reluctant to attend literary gatherings. He knew only music was the one to listen to. In short, music is very much part of Islamic tradition.


Qur’an is suffused with music. Its very foundation is music. It is rhyming by nature. Rhyming the ends of sentences is very important in Arabic and the Qur’an is testament to that. Qul Al-durabinnas, Valikinnas, La-Innas, like that. The last words always rhyme. If you are to read the Qur’an, often you wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s poetry or prose. It’s written in prose that rhymes. You can sing it as well as read it. Listen to the baang (Azaan); listen to how musical it is.


If you ask me what the most important part of Muslim culture is, I’d say music. I’ll talk about someone who you may not have heard of. The Prophet’s daughter Fatima had a son, Hussain, who had a daughter named Sukayna. She was extremely beautiful; she is said to be one of the most beautiful women in history. Her most important contributions was in the field of music. Remember, this is the great granddaughter of the Prophet himself. Sukayna. No one talks of her much.


So, the story goes that once Abu Bakkar Siddiqui was walking with the Prophet, and they see girls singing and dancing the duffumuttu. Seeing this, Abu Bakkar Siddiqui gets angry, asks them, 'Can’t you see that the Rasool is coming?', but the Prophet stops him and says, “Abu Bakr, let them sing. Let them express their happiness, it’s a festive time after all.' Think about it. Asurakkal Badaru Alayna— song sung by the young women of Medina, to ceremoniously welcome and congratulate the Prophet. Asurakkal Badaru Alayna, ‘Behold! The full moon has risen above us.’  Bin Saniyathil Bidhayu. So, the Prophet was smiling at these girls, and appreciating them. He’s not telling them to stop singing. So, music has always been there, right from the times of the Prophet.


If I were to describe Arabi Malayalam in a nutshell, it’s the artistic expression of the Muslim community in its entirety - it’s how they have expressed themselves through their literature, music, and their rhythm.