From soothing the soul to inspiring hope, studies have shown the positive effects of listening to religious music. Read on to learn how you can incorporate this practice in your life to improve mood and feel more connected.

Ismaili artists from all corners of the world gathered in December 2022 to perform a mesmerising devotional song, Khushiali Mubarak, to commemorate Mawlana Hazar Imam's 86th birthday. The performance — featuring artists from Tajikistan, the USA, the UK, Canada, Portugal, India, and more — was a harmonious blend of different languages, traditions, dance, and musical styles, captivating the audience's hearts.

The artists’ ability to create such enchanting music and express love and devotion that words alone cannot convey was in keeping with a tradition that goes back many years.

As Mawlana Hazar Imam explained at the inaugural Aga Khan Music Awards in 2019, “Listening to music, practising music, sharing music, performing music have long been an intimate part of life for Muslim communities across the world. As has been the chanting of devotional and historical or epic texts.”

For centuries, devotional music has been a powerful tool for bringing people together and soothing the soul. But did you know that incorporating it into your daily routine can have a profound positive impact on your mental health?

Listening to devotional music can help reduce stress and anxiety, increase positivity and well-being, and bring a sense of inner peace. It is therapeutic in many ways. It can uplift your spirit and boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. It can also provide solace in difficult times, inspire feelings of hope and joy, and deepen our spiritual connection to something greater than ourselves.

Research published in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development found that older adults who participated in religious music activities had improved mood, reduced anxiety, and greater life satisfaction compared to those who did not. Not only does devotional music have a calming effect on the mind, it can also improve overall cognitive function, including memory, attention, and problem-solving. In addition, a recent study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that religious music can help to improve focus and concentration, making it a valuable tool for promoting mental well-being. 

As we age, it's all too easy to feel as though our best days might be behind us. But according to recent studies published in the Journal of Religion, Spirituality, and Aging and the Journal of Aging and Spirituality, participating in religious music activities can lead to greater purpose and meaning, elevated spiritual well-being, and a greater sense of community, comfort, and solace. Regularly listening to religious music can also significantly reduce depression, fight feelings of loneliness and isolation, and even improve memory, attention, and concentration. 

Incorporating religious music into your daily routine can leave you feeling inspired and uplifted, whether you're a seasoned practitioner or not. Parents can also enhance the many benefits of religious music by encouraging children to participate in choir practice or music lessons, supporting their performances and events, providing instruments and resources for practising at home, and modelling an interest in music and singing by participating in music activities together as a family.

Devotional music has been proven as a simple and effective way to improve mental health and overall well-being. So why wait? Turn up the volume, sing along, and let devotional music transport you to a place of tranquillity. It's important to keep in mind that everyone's musical preferences are different, so finding the right music that speaks to your personal beliefs and tastes is key to experiencing its full benefits. 

Not sure where to start? The Ismaili Sounds has devotional music for all tastes. 

Nurbanu Somani is a PhD researcher working on wellbeing after vision loss using music intervention at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.