Qawwali (Urdu/Persian/Pashto/Sindhi: قوٌالی; Punjabi/Multani: ਕ਼ੱਵਾਲੀ, قوٌالی; Brajbhasha/Hindi: क़व्वाली) is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in South Asia, particularly in areas with a historically strong Muslim presence, such as southern Pakistan, and parts of India. The style is rare, though not entirely absent, in North and West Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir. It's a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years. Often listeners, and even artists themselves, are transported to a state of wajad, a trance-like state where they feel at one with God, generally considered to be the height of spiritual ecstasy in Sufism, and the ultimate goal of the practice.
The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia (today's Iran and Afghanistan). During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of Sema migrated to the Indian subcontinent, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Amir Khusro Dehelvi of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today in the late 13th century in India (Hindustani classical music is also attributed to him). The word Sama is often still used in Central Asia and Turkey to refer to forms very similar to Qawwali, and in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is Mehfil-e-Sama.
Qaul (Arabic) is an "utterance (of the prophet)", Qawwāl is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul, Qawwāli is the style of singing of Qawwāls.
Qawwalis are classified by their content into several categories: