Little is known of Arabian music before the Hegira (A.D. 622), but afterward under the Umayyad caliphs (661–750) a consolidation of Persian and Syrian elements with the native musical style took place in Arabia. Ibn Misjah devised a system of modal theory that lasted throughout the golden age under the first Abbasid caliphs (750–847). In the 9th cent. at Baghdad many treatises on music theory and history were written by such men as the philosopher Al-Kindi (9th cent.) and the illustrious Al-Farabi (c.870–c.950), who wrote the most important treatise on music up to his time.
In the 11th cent. under the last Abbasid caliphs a strong Turkistan influence was brought into Arabian music by the Seljuk Turks, and a gradual decay began in the traditional art. With the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 came the end of specifically Arabian musical culture, and only a few late examples of this music are extant. The style was preserved in Egypt and Syria because the Arabic language was spoken there, but it had lost its vitality; even this vestige died when the Ottoman Turks overran Egypt in 1517.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.