Throughout the centuries, Persian music would periodically flourish and decline as different religious and governmental restrictions were imposed on it, especially after the adoption of Islam as a religion in Iran. Since music was an important part of religious rituals prior to the arrival of Islam in Iran, Persian music has been influenced by pre-Islamic religious traditions. With the arrival of Islam in Iran, Persian music experienced periods of decline and growth in a discontinuous manner. Still, despite the controversial status of music in Islam, which had a restrictive attitude towards music, the country has produced music, musicians, and musical lyrics in almost all her historical periods. In modern times, those restrictions have changed the character of Persian music but have not been able to prevent its growth and popularity both inside and outside the country. The status of music in Islam has been surrounded by controversy; several statements attributed to the prophet Mohammad and Shi‘ite Imams forbid Muslims from engaging in singing and listening to songs. Although the subject of music is not discussed directly in the Koran, some religious scholars have interpreted the words lahv (corrupting entertainment), zur (vain words), and laghv (inappropriate words and idle tales) in the following verses of the Koran as a reference to music: “And of mankind is he who payeth for mere pastime of discourse [ lahv-ol-hadith ], that he may mislead from Allah’s way without knowledge, and maketh it the butt of mockery. For such there is a shameful doom” (Koran 31:6); “So shun the filth of idols, and shun lying speech [ zur ]” (Koran 22:30); “Successful indeed are the believers; Who are humble in their prayers; And who shun vain conversation [ laghv ]” (Koran 23:1–3). Religious scholars have often opposed music for one or more of the following reasons. First, Islam does not show an unconditional positive attitude towards music. Second, music has a morally corruptive nature as it elevates emotions and enslaves one to his/her passions. Third, musical activity is a “waste of productive time” since it takes the individual away from useful activity and diverts his/her attention to sexual themes. These reservations have not prevented all Muslims from listening or performing music, especially in Iran where a strong musical tradition has been part of pre-Islamic religious and cultural rituals. Moreover, many Sufi rituals rely on the use of music and dance. For example, the instrument known as daf came to be regarded as a spiritual drum played in khânqâhs (Sufi monasteries) of Iran, particularly Kurdistan. Many Shi‘ite religious scholars would permit music that supports religious rituals (prayer music), music that motivates and mobilizes believers in the defense of Islam ( martial music), and music in passion plays (ta‘ziyeh) that expands on religious themes (or that helps believers to achieve spiritual transcendence ( erfâni , meaning “mystical or Sufi ”). The recitation and chanting of the Koran has also been an important tradition in Islam. The monophonic aspect of Koran recital easily spilled over into classical Persian music. Sufi s and mystical characters have often used musical instruments to enhance recitation of the Koran. They have often relied on vocals and instruments in order to attain an ethereal status of the soul. This practice has been approved by some religious leaders and rejected by others who see it as a practice contrary to tajvid (the proper and authentic way to chant the Koran). Prayer music has three versions: solo songs, choral music, and a dialogue between solo and choral singers. Their melodies have hymns with little cadence. Though most melodies are in Arabic, Persian and regional dialects are not uncommon. The music is meant to create a solemn mood and is customized to the religious text, the occasion, and the environment. This kind of music utilizes different texts: Koranic verses, prayer texts, and mystical poems in praise of the God. It is performed in mosques, shrines, religious halls (Hosayniyeh), and public places. Mystical music ( erfâni ) is based on poems from great mystics like Jalâl-od-Din Rumi ( a.d . 1207–1273); Shams-od-Din Mohammad Shirâzi, known as Hâfez (ca. a.d. 1310–1388); Farid-od-Din ‘Attâr ( a.d. 1119–1230), and so on. “Love” as a subject of this kind of music has both temporal and divine connotations to be interpreted by listeners to their own liking. When mystic followers or devotees ( morid ) engage in dancing and whirling in presence of their leader or devoted ( morâd ), this kind of music is played. Music performed in this manner is called samâ‘ —a music believed to be a heavenly creation for preparing the devotees to gain transcendence. In Iran, which has its own brand of mysticism, Sufi vocals and musical performances are often combined in order to attain ecstasy and generate an atmosphere for contemplation. Âshurâ music involves melodies of elegies and lamentations performed during elaborate rituals involving beating or fl agellation of the back or shoulders with chains, stones, or daggers. These rituals are often performed in the Hosayniyehs (religious halls), takiyehs (temporary places designated for commemoration ceremonies), mosques, shrines, and streets. Lamentations often involve Persian, Turkish, and other local texts, though Arabic texts are sometimes used. Numerous instruments are involved in Âshurâ music, depending on the size, elaboration, and the location of the ceremony. These include damâm (a large double-sided drum), karnâ ( trumpet), kârb (cymbal), brass and shell horns, oboe, and naqâreh (kettledrum). The controversial status of music in Islam, combined with the traditional cultural attitude that regards music and dancing as immoral activities, has affected the status of musicians in society. Until recently, musicians did not have the kind of status, reputation, and income that they enjoy today. In the past, most trained musicians performed in the court. Status and rewards came from court patronage. Starting in the late nineteenth century, a more liberal attitude developed toward music, especially among the secular educated population. In the twentieth century, professional musicians without court patronage appeared in Iran. During the Pahlavi reign, the establishment of radio and television provided some musicians with a steady source of income. This kind of support and employment did not vanish with the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1980. In late 1979, many predicted that the emergence of a theocracy in Iran would result in the banning of all music. Not only did this not happen, but in fact the establishment of the Islamic Republic created a more receptive environment for classical Persian music. During the revolution, religiously sanctioned popular songs were produced in order to encourage participation in the revolution. In fact, several pieces praising Âyatollâh Khomeini were played on the Iranian radio and TV regularly. The fate of entertainment music, especially that following Western pop music, was certainly different. As the Pahlavi regime collapsed, all female musicians were banned from performance. Cabarets and bars were closed. Public performances of music were banned, even during marital ceremonies and cultural events. Many top pop musicians left the country. The most respected and popular pop singer, known as Gogoosh, was briefly arrested and then released on the condition that she not sing any more. The pop star agreed and remained in seclusion for some 20 years. In 2000, she was allowed to travel abroad and came to North America to restart her musical career. In the second decade of the Islamic Republic, as the regime became more established and pressures built up on clerical rulers to adapt to the changing environment and popular demands, women were allowed to perform only for female audiences. Since most female musicians had left the country or retired, there were not enough musicians available or willing to take up the regime on this offer. Also, many secularly minded musicians opposed this offer as a form of gender apartheid. Two popular singers who performed for all female audiences were Fâtemeh Vâezi, known as Parisâ, and Pari Zangeneh. Under pressure from competition by Iranian pop music from abroad, which was widely smuggled and listened to within the country, the government allowed some musical performances in public and encouraged a new genre of pop music with religiously-approved lyrics. Female instrumentalists and vocalists were allowed to perform in public as part of a group but not as solo singers. Official support was granted to musicians involved in folk music. Iranian vocalists and musical groups began to tour European and North American cities offering their music to Iranian diaspora and foreign audiences. Limited entertainment opportunities increased public reception for Persian classical music and enhanced the status of Iranian musicians. In a gesture of defiance as well as the demonstration of a new attitude toward music, private music classes have increased and a large number of urban youth participate in these classes. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Islamic regulations imposed on music after the revolution did not diminish the growth of Persian music, but instead increased its appeal. While the clerical rulers have generally remained skeptical about music, the cultural agencies under their control have provided incentives for targeted musicians in line with the cultural policies of the Islamic Republic. While secular musicians have often had to fi ght hard to maintain their profession and the type of music they deem appropriate, they have invented creative ways of getting around religious regulations and reaching their audiences.