The Oud is an ancient instrument that has been refined and perfected by the Arabs into the harmonious masterpiece that it is today.
"The transfer of terms for lyre and lute appears more subtly in the myth of the invention of the ud which has been handed down in two variants from the 9th and 10th centuries, the first being Iraqi (Robson, 1938) and the second Iranian (Mas'udi, 1874). They say that the ud was invented by Lamak [sixth grandson of Adam], a direct descendant of Cain; on the death of Lamak's son, he hung his remains in a tree, and the desiccated skeleton suggested the form of the ud. The myth attributes the invention of the mi'zaf (lyre) to Lamak's daughter."
Other sources suggest other interpretations such as; God gave to the sons of Cain the faculty of making musical instruments, Lamak invented the lute, ud, Tubal the drum daff or tabl, Dilal (the daughter of Noah) the harp, mi'zaf, and Lot's people the pandore, tunbur.
"The ud first appears in Mesopotamia during the Kassite period (1600-1150 B.C.) with a small oval body."
Harold G. Hagopian
"It was the favorite instrument of the Sumerians and the Assyro-Babylonians."
The ud, in Pharaonic Egypt was known as nefer, also appears in the "tomb of Sen-Mut, a tutor of Princess Neferura, who exercised great influence over the arts during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut from 1501 to 1479 B.C."
program notes from H. Aram Gulezyan's The Oud CD
"A larger variety, similar to the instrument's present day dimension, appeared in a relief at Alaca Hoyuk in Anatolia dating from the Hitite New Kingdom (1460-1190 B.C.)."
Harold G. Hagopian
"In the 9th century, Mawardi, the jurist of Baghdad, extolled its use in treating illness, a principle allowed and defended in Arab Spain by the 11th century theologian Ibn Hazm. The symbolism lived on until the 19th century: 'the ud invigorates the body. It places the temperament in equilibrium. It is a remedy ... It calms and revives hearts' (Muhammad Shihab al-Din, Safinat al-mulk, p. 466) ... In any case it was predominantly in the secular usage that the ud made its mark, as the only kind of accompaniment to a form of responsorial song known as sawt, according to written tradition (the Kitab al-Aghani of al-Isfahani) and oral tradition (Tunisia and the Arabian Gulf). The emergence of the ud on the stage of history is an equally complex matter. Two authors of the end of the 14th century (Abu al-Fida, and Abu al-Walid ibn Shihnah) place it in the reign of the Sassanid King Shaput I (241-72). Ibn Shihnah added that the development of the ud was linked to the spread of Manicheism, and its invention to Manes himself, a plausible theory because the disciples of Manes encouraged musical accompaniments to their religious offices."
Reaching China, an oud like Chinese instrument, pipa featured in instrumental ensembles of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 B.C.). Later in Japan, it evolved into an instrument called biwa. It also reached Russia evolving into balalaika, and also to Indonesia where it evolved into gambus.
"But the movement's centre was in southern Iraq, whence the ud was to spread towards the Arab peninsula in the 7th century. However, the texts mentioning the introduction to Mecca of the short-necked lute as the ud were all written in the 9th and 10th centuries."
"The founder of the ud school of Baghdad [in the 9th century], Ibrahim al-Mawsilli and, above all, his son Ishaq al-Mawsilli were among the most esteemed and honored people in the [Abbasid Empire] ... The influence of the grand master, Ishaq, of Baghdad was such that one of his most brilliant disciples, Ziryab [jealousy and intrigue on the part of his teacher, Ishaq drove Ziryab to seek refuge in Andalusia], transported the art of the ud to the banks of the Guadalquivir in Moorish Spain, at the far extremity of the Empire."
"When [Ziryab] arrived in [Moorish] Spain, the cities of Cordoba, Seville and Granada were centers of great cultural, artistic, and religious activity. These centers, under the inspiration and influence of the Sufis, were to have a tremendous impact on medieval Europe. Once settled at the court in Cordoba, Ziryab set about introducing the concepts of a new music, drawn from Greek, Persian and Arab elements, that was to influence deeply the foundation of European classical music."
Then the ud was brought to Venice through coastal trade. Eventually ...
"the ud was introduced into western Europe by the Knights Templar returning from the Holy Land and by the Troubadours from Provence. Having reached the Troubadour from Muslim Spain, this instrument was to play a crucial role in the establishment of the Romantic Courts. The poetry, music, and ideals that ensued from this great endeavor became the infrastructure upon which the Renaissance was built. Brought into the British Isles, the ud was transformed in the Elizabethan period into the western European lute."