Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion
Published Article

‘I Saw the Prophet in My Dream’: Prophet Songs from a Zār Ceremony in Lower Egypt

Richard John Natvig

Richard Natvig framfor ei bokhylle med bøker.
Richard Natvig
Magnus Halsnes

Main content

New article by Richard John Natvig in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.



The zār cult is based on the belief in possessing spirits called zār. In all zār ceremonies songs play an important role. Songs summon and praise the spirits, and the participants praise Allah, the Prophet Muhammad and saints. In short, zār songs express participants' religious and devotional sentiments. Yet the songs have seldom been given appropriate attention. In particular, praise songs for the Prophet or saints have often been ignored or even explained away as not belonging to zār. This article deals with six zār songs, all praise songs for the Prophet, that were written down during a ritual gathering of a zār group in Kafr al-Sayyadin in Zaqaziq, Lower Egypt, in 1980. Each song is translated and explanatory notes and comments are supplied. This is followed by a discussion of the place of Prophet songs in zār, and why it is essential to include these songs in a study of zār in order to avoid an imbalanced understanding of the zār cult.