It is a myth propagated by the ultraconservatives that music is haram in the faith.
Another myth propagated by the ignorant is that the songs in praise of Prophet Muhammad PBUH are sung as a biddat( innovative distortion) only in the South Asia and not in the Arab world. On the contrary, my favourite naats are in Arabic and they are called Nasheeds.
Having lived in Saudi Arabia, for nearly 2 decades, and travelled extensively in the Arab world from Egypt to Syria to the Gulf, the overload of beautiful music I have enjoyed is beyond the scope of this post.
Here I wish to share the FIRST EVER Arabic song in recorded history which was sung in 622 AD in Madina when Prophet PBUH entered the city, and he was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Ansars ( the residents of Madina). The singers lined up were women, who played Duff( a hand drum) and sang in his praise.
The lyrics say: Tala’a Al Badru Alaina…The white full moon has arisen….
The one shared below is the modern original version sung by none other than my favourite Arab singer, Um Kulthum, for the film The Message. The video also gives an overview of how the welcome scene may have looked like 1400 years ago.
This is my utmost favourite, and the catchy music still gives goosebumps and serves as a reminder of the hundreds of trips to the tranquil city of Madina from Makkah in our 19 years stay there and numerous weddings we attended in the Arab world.
In a typical Arab wedding even today, the bride-groom are traditionally received in the wedding hall by women singing this very song.
طلع البدر علينا Oh the white moon has arisen over us من ثنيات الوداع From the valley between hills وجب الشكر علينا And we owe it to show our gratitude ما دعى لله داعWhere the call is to Allah أيها المبعوث فيناOh you who were raised among us جئت بالأمر المطاعComing with a word to be revered جئت شرفت المدينةYou have brought to this city nobility مرحبا يا خير داعWelcome best caller to God’s way
EID MILAD UN NABI
Do listen to the song, the music and the powerful voice. Does it feel as a beautiful piece of music as it feels to me?
Aah it was a 36 years of friendship in total with 30 years of marital association of two people of opposite personalities. Fasih was quiet, gentle yet nerves of steel, living in the moment and a fearless risk taker. And despite being not too talkative, he was a people’s person, and a helper. I am, as always expressive, explosive, yet a loner, super cautious bordering to being fearful, never living or enjoying the present, mind always planning 5 years ahead. Yet for some weird reason we clicked very well. And clicked so much that both of us did not need to change our personalities. I learned from Fasih how to give space to the other partner. He let me be me and certainly wanted me to let him be him. But the fearless risktaker that he was, I tried my best to be a check on him. But I always failed. And he always proved me wrong.
Whether it was his decision to marry an Indian and the practical challenges related to it. (This is another story, that deserves another memoir). Or refusing to hand over his wallet on gunpoint at Sharei Faisal( Karachi) traffick jam in rain and handing that boy a brown envelope with patties saying, “I don’t keep wallet, eat this it must be hard work as there are so many cars.” The guy remarked, “Fauji lagtey ho is liye itni himmat dikha rahe ho.”(You look an armed forces man and hence being so daring). And the boy walked to the next car. Or whenever we travelled, which were very frequent, he would leave at the nick of time, despite my cries to keep some margin of time, speeding to reach on time. Once when we were travelling from Makkah to Jeddah airport to catch PIA flight for Karachi, the car’s tyre burst and we ended up reaching airport 2 hours late when the counter was closed and they were wrapping the list. Fasih went straight to the manager desk, who was Manzoor Junior ( A Pakistani Hockey Olympian). He was very angry. Fasih said, “Sir tyre got burst.” He replied, “Yes this is an old excuse.” He was not in a mood to listen to Fasih’s pleas. He then touched the chin of Manzoor Sb, “Sir aap hockey bahut achi kheltey the.”(Sir you played awesome hockey.) Manzoor SB got even angrier and yet said, “No. Sorry.” Fasih them told him, “Sir aap tou 1984 olympic team ke captain they. Sir, gold medal bhi mila tha….”(Sir you were the captain of 1984 Olympic Team. You even got the Gold Medal). Manzoor Junior laughed and told his staff….“Inko toilet ke pass wali jo khali seat hai woh issue ker do. Family for peeche wali row de dou.” (Give him the empty seat near toilet and the row behind to the family).
I wanted to travel Egypt, as it from his Egyptian experience and stay that inspired my father to name me Ilmana. Fasih suggested we drive by car all along River Nile from Luxor to Alexandria in Egypt, even though there were some news Muslim Brotherhood’s recent surgence in Upper Egypt in 1996/1997. I dreaded and he said, “With two toddlers car journey is the safest journey.” In the area of Asyut, half way through, the Egyptian Army stopped us. “Pakistani?What are you doing here?” Fasih replied, “Long drive along Nile al Gameel.” (River Nile, the beautiful) The armed forces guys were so cordial, they drove ahead of us all along 1200km or more, proudly stopping to show us the historical points. And Fasih said, “See we have free guides. You just fear for no reason.”
Or when he gave up his lucrative job abroad to build a hospital in Karachi Pakistan, when target killing of doctors were at its peak in the city. I lived those years with my heart in my throat. I owe this to one of his politician friends who suggested to him, “Fasih bhai at least in haalaat mein bachon ko tou mut Karachi laao.”(Fasih bhai at least in these risky times dont bring your kids to Karachi). So my kids and I came to Canada in 2009.
In the middle or all forms of corruption and bribery in Pakistan he wanted to do good work. So for approval of his hospital plan, confronting the Director General of Karachi Building Control Authority, KBCA (who is now a fugitive for corruption) in his polite affirmness Fasih demanded, “I want to make a quality healthcare setup that provides honest and ethical care in Karachi but I dont have any money to give bribe. I am a salaried man, not a builder.” And imagine the miracle, the man famous for not sparing a penny of bribe relented saying, “Pray for me in Haram”. Fasih then took out a box of Ajwa dates as a reward for him. With his mild sense of humor, he came out smiling from the Director’s office saying, “This ajwa dates will control his hypoglycemia for not have got any bribe.” He was famous in Building Control( KBCA) that, “ye doctor tou kangla hai.” (This doctor is a pauper). And Fasih enjoyed his nickname.
When we inaugurated the dream of his life, Taj Clinics( now Taj Consultants Clinics) he named after his mother Tajunnisa, and realized the hard work wasn’t yet over and it was now a 14 hour per day job, with no vacations, no salary, not even a car for first 2 years of the startup. I often joked to him, “Deewane tou pehle hi the, ab aur tarah ki deewangi hai.” (Crazy you were already, now this is another level of craziness). He just laughed and retorted, “Zindagi kya hai jaanne ke liye, Karachi mein rehna bahut zaroori hai.”(To know what living means, you must experience living in Karachi). He did not regret for a single minute the U-turn his life had taken from a high salaried Consultant luxurious life in the Middle East, to a life in Karachi far from family, with no rest, no money and loads of sweat, loadshedding, manipulations, navigating a thororughly corrupt system for every paperwork, and most of all never ending expenses in newly begun Taj Consultants Clinics.
In 30 years there must have been 100s of such incidents when I feared but he just kept taking risks but with a belief that he is not doing anything unfair or unjust. And that this is the right way and nothing good happens by being fearful. He kept proving my fears wrong.
He came for a 2 week spring break to us in Mississauga on March 1, 2020. With blessing in disguise due to lockdown and no flights he got stranded here with us for 10 weeks. He travelled back to Pakistan on May 15, 2020, despite our pleas to not go, as I feared he will risk his life in COVID 19 as a Pulmonologist in a madhouse called Karachi. He said he has his patients, his staff that needs to be paid salary before Eid ( May 23, 2020) and, “I can’t hide from what I am trained to do. My patients will die. I promise I will be safe.” He started his Chest Clinic at Taj Consultants Clinics on May 25 and saw tens of patients each day with at least a quarter of them were clinically COVID 19. He used to tell me with frustration that many of them are negative on tests and they refuse to accept and to be referred to COVID Centres. On asked to be tested from a relaible lab one man even said, “Sir I have 3 daughters. How can I label myself COVID 19.” And I kept worrying yet praying and nagging him across oceans, as usual, to follow strict precautions, PPE and SOPs knowing this time too I will be proven wrong. But this was not meant to be. And as I always told him, “If any risk goes wrong, we wont get a second chance Last he saw on Friday 19 after which he developed fever and isolated himself. He was admitted on Sunday. Alas, Fasih lost his battle to COVID 19 on Friday 26 June 2020.
Hisaab e umr ka buss itnaa sa goshwaara hai, Tumhein nikaal ker dekha tou buss khasara hai. (This is the mere calculation in the ledger of my life, If I see excluding you, it is nothing but a total loss).
It was on evening of 10th of November 1989, in our home in New Delhi, India, Papa, Ammi and I were as usual watching the News on Doordarshan TV. The news of the day were the fall of Berlin Wall. Here is a clip from that day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmRPP2WXX0U
My father, a Professor of Political Science at University of Delhi, and ideologically a socialist was a lot skeptical about what was happening far away in Europe. Since I was engaged to a Pakistani, and our wedding date was decided for 29 Jan 1990, I was naturally comparing it to India-Pakistan scenario. I asked Papa, “Can such a thing happen between India and Pakistan?” He replied, “India Pakistan is a lot simpler issue than the two Germanies. All that the two countries need is easier visas. With PPP in power, Pakistan will get better.” He believed the left PPP will mend Pakistan. 😀 He was a proud Indian who had massive faith in Secular India, that was the vision of Gandhi and Nehru. Infact, he had presented me in my school days a book, “The Glimpses of World History” by Nehru. He wanted me to know and align with Nehru’s world view. Papa was an optimist, and as kids we remember him tell us siblings, “The world in your times will be more open and risen above the differences of religion, caste and race.” And like every Indian he lay the blame on Pakistan for all the troubles between the two neighbors. However, that evening he kept glued to the TV, keeping his focus on the Berlin Wall. He wasn’t much interested in discussing India Pakistan as he was more worried about the fall of communism. He kept wondering how will it all unfold, and what would it look like in times to come with Capitalism winning over Socialism. Ammi, also a lecturer in Political Science was in total agreement with him.
I got married in January 1990. Days and months later, in less than a year, in October 1990, the two Germanies united. Now I closely began to monitor the relations between India and Pakistan as it was part of my personal life now. I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions myself, as bilateral relations went through several crests and trough, with one step forward and 2 steps backward each time.
Thirty years on…. . Today Germany celebrates 30th anniversary of Berlin Wall fall. Nothing that Papa feared happened. Fall of Berlin Wall is in fact celebrated as an end to cold war and a symbol of peace.
Today also brings the Babri Masjid Verdict by Indian Supreme Court, which grants Hindutva vigillantes who tore down the Babri Mosque, the right to build the temple at the very site, despite admitting in the judgement that there was no temple found beneath on investigation, and also that placing of idols in the mosque in 1949 and tearing down of the whole mosque in 1992 were illegal acts. Religious sentiments have prevailed over scientific evidence and justice.
Today also marks the opening of Kartarpur Corridor between India and Pakistan for the Sikh Pilgrims, for the very first time in 72 years of partition. This I must say has been the most optimistic step forward in the 30 years of my life as an Indian-Pakistani. The credit clearly goes to Pakistan’s Imran Khan.
India Pakistan are now nuclear countries, still at loggerheads, with politics of religions getting dirtier, and making religious bigotry far more complicated even within India. It isn’t as easy a problem as Papa had predicted. Socialist and secular by his soul, Papa was genuinely shocked and disheartened by the country wide antiMuslim riots that spread after Babri Masjid fall in 1992. This was not anything like his India.
Both my parents were professors of Political Science. But unfortunately both of them had no clue where would India, they were so confident and proud of, be standing 30 years later. And that Fall of Berlin wall, he so dreaded, would be celebrated as a symbol of peace on its 30th anniversary and ‘Pakistan’ he was so critical of would be the architect of “Kartarpur Corridor of Peace”. We lost Papa in 1998 when he was barely 65. I dread to even imagine what if he was alive in today’s India and knowing the unshakable belief he had of secular India, what would be his reaction watching it crumble down brick by brick like the Berlin Wall? #BerlinWall30 #BabriMasjidVerdict #KartarpurCorridor
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