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?
Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category
My daughter often remarks, “Men of my generation are better and more supportive than men of your generation. They value their wive’s careers and are less fussy to help them out at home.”
My response to her almost always is, “There definitely is a section of educated young men who think and behave much different from their father’s generation. Many of them are sons of educated and career women (like me), who raised their sons to respect women.”
The above conversation holds true for only a very limited section of our desi society. Vast majority of men and women are still the flag bearers of patriachy and believe in subservience of womenfolk.
In the pretext of faith or culture, patriachy would not have been so deeprooted, if there were no women allies to it.
Not just allies, women are often the most vocal advocates of ’empowerment of men folk’.
Hear here a recent example of Ms Khan, a renowned matchmaker, who went ballistic on a TV show blaming women for everything wrong in this society:
For those who dont understand Urdu, I will translate verbatim the blatantly outrageous statements she makes in her loud and reprimanding voice scolding young girls:
- “DONT use your tongue. Dont wag your tongue. Keep your tongue under control. If a woman controls her tongue, these things( marital discords) will not happen. Things escalate when the woman becomes “moonh zor” (bold) and tries to dominate over husband and mother in law. In our times we were told that when husband comes home, you must take care of his shoes and clothes, the griddle should be hot to cook fresh chapattis, and the curry should be ready. What is this? “I am not going to cook chappattis?” Why? Then why did you get married?”
- She continues in English: “If you are not capable of cooking chapattis, then you better dont get married. If you are not capable of taking care of your children dont get maried. You will have to bear EVERYTHING. Unless and until you are not a PROPER WOMAN…”
- “Women should keep their mouths shut in front of their husbands( she puts a finger on her lips). Women are wagging their tongues a lot in front of their husbands, whether they are from rich family or poor or middle class. YOU SHOULD NOT OPEN YOUR MOUTH UNNECESSARILY.”
- The anchor asks, “But Mrs Khan, it is not always women’s fault if the matter reaches upto separation?” to which Mrs Khan interjects her, “These days it is women’s fault. They watch TV serials and learn from there. I have seen how my maid talks to her husband. Poor husband quietly listens to her. Look how this woman of even LOW CLASS speaks to her husband.”
Not surprising at all, but men were not even part of this conversation on marital discord.
is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.
Coming to #YourStoryTeller, I am sharing here a true story of my own cousin, who followed exactly what Mrs Khan had recommended, “Dont wag you tongue, in front of your husband.”
She even quietly tolerated a lot of taunts and verbal abuse from her mother in law. Whenever I asked her, “Tum jawab kyun nahin deti?” (“Why don’t you reply back?” )
Her answer would be, “Baaji, yeh manhoos tarbiyet jo hai ke susraal mein jawab nahin dou.” (“This damned upbringing that I am not supposed to answer back to my in laws.”).
Thus she laughed off many such bitter narrations of what she went through day in and day out.
The psychological abuse went on for about 4 years….
What happened next? Please watch the true story TALAQ (DIVORCE):
I am proud of this cousin, who is now an independent career woman.
My advice to young girls would be to: Marry men who respect and understand gender equity and both spouses need to understand that marriage is a partnership, not a boss-subordinate relationship. Otherwise follow as Mrs Khan said, “stay single” and focus on your life & career.
Listening to the stories and anectodes of Mehboob-e-Ilahi( Beloved of God) was a norm as kids. A Mamoo, an ardent follower of Sufism, who lived in Jaipur was the source. If he ever happened to pass by Delhi, visit to the ‘Dargah’ was a mandatory. And when in Delhi, he had to visit his sister too i.e. my mother.
He brought meethi kheels (sugar coated puffballs) every time he came from Dargah, and was ever willing to narrate to us the stories of love between Mehbub-e-Ilahi and his favourite disciple.
On the other hand I saw my not so religious father’s( who also hailed from a Maulvi family) love for Amir Khusrau’s Persian poetry, and a tall tower of audio cassettes he had piled up next to his music system.
Honestly for years until early teens I did not know who Mehboob-e-Ilahi or that disciple were and where the Dargah was. We never visited. All I knew, Ammi went with Mamoojan a few times.
Once , when during a story time, Mamoojan was corrected by my father, about a Persian verse by Amir Khusro, did I realise that there was a correlation.
“Such a great poet had a Pir?” was my instant jerky reaction. Pirs in my mental dictionary had a negative meaning and image.
Equally instant was my father’s reaction: “ Hazrat Nizamuddin was a great scholar, it’s the people later who made him a Pir, and now have opened a whole business in his name.”
Mamoojan just gave a slight smile, and as always drowned again in his love for Mehboob-e-Ilahi, continued the story.
It was then to reinforce the great bond that existed between Hazrat Nizamuddin and Amir Khusrau, did he tell of these incidents, which now I can quote with the Persian verses he might have mentioned.
Just to make it clear, most of the stories have been passed on as word of mouth, and hence I call them anectodes.
When Hazrat Nizamuddin passed away Amir Khusrau was away, in some other city, attending to the orders of a King. As he learnt of the sad news he rushed back and went straight to the fresh grave of his master.There he rolled in the mud and tore off his clothes in agony. Then came these words:
Gori sove sej par
mukh per dale kes
Chal Khusro ghar aapne,
rain (not saanjh) bhaee chahu des.
The lovely maiden lies finally on a wreath of flowers,
her tresses covering her face,
O Khusro, turn back home now,
dusk has set in all over.”
Amir Khusrau was never the same after his Pir’s death. And it was only in six months that Amir Khusrau also passed away.
He was, as per the desire of the disciple and Pir both, buried close by. This is now known as a “chabootra-e-yaar’ ( the pedestal of friend).
The Pir also reciprocated his disciple’s love and affection, and is believed to have remarked: “If shariyat would allow me, I would want Khusrau and I to be buried in the same grave.”
His followers believe that Hz Nizamuddin instructed that “Those who visit my grave should first pay respect at Khusrau’s .”
Amir Khusrau was away for a royal trip. A disciple of Hz Nizamuddin came to him asking for some souvenir from his Pir. Since the Pir had nothing to offer, he asked the disciple to take away his slippers.
Incidentally, on the way the disciple and Amir Khusrau’s paths crossed each other. And Khusrau remarked:
Shaikh mi aayad, Bu-e Shaikh mi aayad”.
(I smell my master, I smell my master).
On knowing that the man had in possession the slippers of his Pir, Khusrau gave away all his wealth that he had on him and bought back those slippers.
The two were sitting at the bank of river Yamuna in Delhi when Hz Nizamuddin (wearing a cap crooked way), saw some men taking a dip in the river with a reverence as a worship. He remarked:
Har qaum raast raahay, deenay wa qibla gaahay
(Every sect has a faith, a qibla which they turn to.)
Pat came the reply from Khusrau:
Men qibla raast kardam, ber terf-e kajkulaahay.
(I have straightened my qibla in the direction of this crooked cap)
It is the most interesting of all anectodes, and if true (I do not doubt, but these stories have been passed through word of mouth), then it is remarkable to have this quality of Persian and Brij Bhasha poetry from an eight year old.
It is said that Khusrau’s mother brought her eight year old son to the place where Hazrat Nizamuddin ( a renowned scholar and respectable man) resided.
Instead of entering the premises Khusrau sat outside and narrated:
Tu aan shahi ke ber aiwan-e qasrat
Kabutar gar nasheenad, baaz gardad
Ghareeb-e mustamand-e ber der aamed
Be-yaayad andaroon, ya baaz gardad
You are a king at the gate of whose palace,
even a pigeon becomes a hawk.
A poor traveller has come to your gate,
should he enter, or should he return?
And that Hazrat Nizamuddin who himself was 23 then, came out (some say he sent out servants) and replied:
Be-yaayad andaroon mard-e haqeeqat
Ke ba ma yek nafas hamraaz gardad
Agar abla buvad aan mard-e naadan
Azaan raah-e ke aamad baaz gardad
Oh you the man of reality, come inside,
so you become for a while my confidant,
but if the one who enters is foolish ,
then he should return the way he came.
Hearing this Khusrau knew that he has come to the right place and hence entered into his guidance.
Having reread Khusrau, several times over since then, I have came across some of the records, which go further to say that- telling his mother of his excitement to have found the Pir, Khusrau composed these beautiful verses:
Aaj rung hai hey maa rung hai ri
Moray mehboob kay ghar rang hai ri
Sajan milaavra, sajan milaavra,
Sajan milaavra moray aangan ko
Aaj rung hai……..
Mohay pir paayo Nijamudin aulia
Nijamudin aulia mohay pir payoo
Des bades mein dhoondh phiree hoon
Toraa rung man bhayo ri……,
Jag ujiyaaro, jagat ujiyaaro,
Main to aiso rang aur nahin dekhi ray
Main to jab dekhun moray sung hai,
Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri.
What a glow everywhere I see, Oh mother, what a glow;
I’ve found the beloved, yes I found him,
In my courtyard;
I have found my pir Nizamuddin Aulia.
I roamed around the entire world,
looking for an ideal beloved;
And finally this face has enchanted my heart.
The whole world has been opened for me,
Never seen a glow like this before.
Whenever I see now, he is with me,
Oh beloved, please dye me in yourself;
Dye me in the colour of the spring, beloved;
What a glow, Oh, what a glow.
In my ignorance, I bluntly asked Mamoojan,”What was so great in Hazrat Nizamuddin that even an accomplished man like Amir Khurau revered him so much?”
I remember Mamoojan reply, “He was a great pious man, a Wali. That is why he was called Mehboob-e-Ilahi ( the beloved of Allah)”.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t entirely convinced then, but then years later, while getting into the colors of Amir Khusrau’s poetry, I did my own research.
I found that Hazrat Nizamuddin was a great scholar of Quran. He was truly a very pious man, who prayed a lot and fasted each day of the week.
There were free meals ( langar) at his residence, each day, in which Amir Khusrau actively took part.
He led a very simple, austere life, wore at times torn clothes, and ate extremely simple food.
But what really convinced me of why Amir Khusrau revered him so much was this incident of Hazrat Nizamuddin , which so speaks volumes of the greatness of this Pir of Amir Khusrau:
Once some of the staunchest of enemies of Hazrat Nizamuddin, threw thorn on the way he was to pass. He walked over them, bare feet, without any complaint. And with his sole bleeding, he prayed that every thorn that had pierced him become a red rose( like the color of his oozing blood) in the grave of the thrower.
Mehboob-e-Ilahi that he was, he is said to have remarked: “If a man places a thorn in your way, and you place a thorn in his way, soon there will be thorns everywhere.”
With all this in the background, now this poetry by Amir Khusrau sounds even more melodious…
In the times when the whole world is going through an era of hatred, intolerance and extremism and Pakistan seems to be synonymous to all these words, what could be a better tribute to Bulleh Shah but to show to the world that there existed a daring secularist on this land almost 250 years ago.
Here I make a feeble attempt to write about Bulleh Shah, from what little I know of him as a secularist :
Bulleh Shah (1680-1757), was a sufi, who lived in the heart of Punjab, in Kasur, as a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh, a reformer and mystic in his own right. Both of them had to face the wrath of a radical Muslim Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in their life.
Not very different from the state of our current world, ridden with extremism and hatred towards other faiths , even 250 years ago, the subcontinent was plunged in deep turmoil. But Bulleh Shah, who thought far ahead of his times, dared to challenge the prevailing hatred and religious bigotry.
“Ulte hor zamane aaye,
Hun asaan bhed sajjan de paaye.
kaa(n) laggad nun maaran lagge,
chiriyan jurre khaaye
iraqiyan nun chabuk paunde,
gade khood khavaye
aapneyan vich ulfat naahee,
ke-he chaachche taaye
piyo putran ittfaak naa kaahee,
dheeyan naal naa maaye
sachcheyan nun hun milde dhakke,
jhoothe kol bahaaye
agle jaaye bankaale baithe,
pichliyan farash vichaye
Bullah jina hukam hazooron andaa,
tina nun kaun hataaye.”
“Perverse times have come,
I know the mystery of the beloved
crows have begun to hunt hawks,
and sparrows feed on falcons
horses bear the whipping,
while donkeys graze on lush green
no love is lost between relatives,
be they younger or elder uncles
There is no accord between fathers and sons,
Nor any between mothers and daughters
The truthful ones are being pushed about,
the tricksters are seated close by
The front liners have become wretched,
the back benchers sit on carpets
Those in tatters have turned into kings,
the kings have taken to begging
O Bulleh, that which is His command
who can alter His decree.”
Despite being a terror that Aurangzeb was, Bulleh Shah audaciously defied him not once but several times :
When Aurangzeb banned the music and dance, declaring it as haram in Islam–Bulleh Shah, following instructions from his teacher, defiantly went from village to village in Punjab, singing and dancing to his Kafis.
As Aurangzeb beheaded Guru Tegh Bahadur, Bulleh Shah dared to call the slain Sikh leader as Ghazi, a religious warrior.
” Kitay Tegh Bahadur Ghazi hay ”
Bulleh Shah hailed the revolutionary spirit of Guru Gobind Singh, calling him a ‘protector’ of those who believed in right to follow their religious belief. He said in a subtle satire:
Nah Karoon Ab Kee,
Nah Karoon Baat Tab Kee.
Gar Na Hotey Guru Gobind Singh,
Sunat Hoti Sab Kee.
I talk about neither yesterday nor tomorrow;
I talk about today.
Had Gobind Singh not been there,
They would all be under Islamic sway.
Hence, mentioning that had the tenth Guru not been there, Auranzeb would’ve forced all to convert to Islam( implying Sunnat as circumcision).
Not only did he oppose the persecution of Sikhs in his times, he also advised Banda Bahadur not to avenge Auranzeb’s cruelty by killing innocent muslims.
Referring to the plight of his times in Punjab, and referring to the apathy of the onlookers, he wrote:
The Mughals quaff the cup of poison.
Those with coarse blankets are up.
The genteel watch it all in quiet,
They have a humble pie to sup.
The tide of the times is in spate.
The Punjab is in a fearsome state.
We have to share the hell of a fate.
(According to KS Duggal here ‘coarse blankets’ is referred to Sikhs) .
Bulleh Shah, in solidarity with Sikhs, is said to have visited a Sikh temple at Makhowal at the time of Guru Tegh Bahahdur. He saw people engrossed in ‘ Kar Seva’ (service to the temple, construction etc), ‘Kirtan’ (the morning singing of prayer) and ‘Langar’ ( the free distribution of meals ) by the devotees. Impressed by their devotion through service, he remarked:
Ett khrikka ( sound of bricks during construction work)
Duppar vajje ( sound of dholaki during kirtan)
Nale balle chulla (langar).
Enhi galin Rabb raji rehanda
Nale rehanda Bulleh.
Aurangzeb was arrogant not just to non Muslims, he even did not attempt to hide his hatred towards his own brother Dara Shikoh for following the Shia sect of Islam. And he had heartlessly got GuruTeghBahadur killed in public, in Delhi and also eliminated his brother DaraShikoh for his beliefs.
Bulleh Shah , on the contrary, being a true and fearless secularist, rejected the discrimination between faiths- be Hindu-Muslim -Sikhs or sects- Shia-Sunnis ,and wrote:
Neither Hindu nor Muslim,
Sacrificing pride, let us sit together.
Neither Sunni nor Shia,
Let us walk the road of peace.
We are neither hungry nor replete,
Neither naked nor covered up.
Neither weeping nor laughing,
Neither ruined nor settled,
We are not sinners or pure and virtuous,
What is sin and what is virtue, this I do not know.
Says Bulhe Shah, one who attaches his self with the lord.
Gives up both hindu and muslim.
While he did not spare those who monopolised their faith:
“Lumpens live in the Hindu temples
And sharks in the Sikh shrines.
Musclemen live in the Muslim mosques
And lovers live in their clime.”
And even dared to compare their clergy to ‘barking dogs’ and ‘crowing roosters’.
Not very different from the current times, wherein ‘secularism’ is still perceived as Ladeeniyat ( atheism)), he too was labelled as an apostate for his secualr stance. To which he taunted:
Bulleh-a aashiq hoyiyon Rabb da,
Hoai Malamat Lakh Tenon Kafir Kafir aakhdey,
toon aaho aaho aakh
A lover of God?
They’ll make much fuss;
They’ll call you a Kafir
You should say -yes, yes.
Learning from Bulleh Shah and Kabirdas, and knowing the history of subcontinent, today I too gather courage to defy Iqbal’s verses :
Juda ho deen siyasat se tou reh jati hai Changezi .
When religion is separated from politics, it is reduced to brutality.
I say: Jurey jo deen siyasat se tou ho jata hai Changezi…
When religion enjoins politics, it becomes brutal.
If after this you call me a traitor: I should say yes, yes.
P.S. My two penny:
Recently talking to a friend from Bhopal, about extremism in Pakistan, I felt disheartened to know that all she knew Bulleh Shah was that Abida Parveen sang him and that too in the context of his love poetry. And was oblivious to his humanist and secularist stance.
It is so unfortunate that even today, many in India ( besides Punjab) and elsewhere in the world, people who know Kabirdas and Amir Khusrow backwards, have barely heard of Bulleh Shah except in context of his love poetry.
Even my first exposure to Bulleh Shah’s poetry was through the verses…Bulleh ki jana main kaun...that too as a song sung by Rabbi Sher Gill. And I wondered and found the words wierd…not aware of the context. However, after having read some ‘bit’ of his history and his Kafis, it all makes sense now.
What wonders me most is that though in India, we read Kabirdas from grade Six, I never ever heard of Bulleh Shah’s mention in any Indian history text books. What is more unfortunate that even in Pakistan, school text books never taught Bulleh Shah whether in history or in literature.
I still consider Rabbi Sher Gill as the one who let me be familiar with Bulleh Shah’s name, to begin with. Besides many other sources…my special thanks to KSDuggal’s Mystic Muse, Saeen Zahoor for telling stories of Bulleh Shah, the blogs Sufi Poetry, of Raza Rumi ‘s and Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi’s, who I stalked to learn about Bulleh Shah’s poetry and history.
Na maen momin vich maseet aan
Na maen vich kufar diyan reet aan
Na maen paakaan vich paleet aan
Na maen moosa na pharaun.
Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun
Na maen andar ved kitaab aan,
Na vich bhangaan na sharaab aan
Na vich rindaan masat kharaab aan
Na vich jaagan na vich saun.
Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun.
Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Na maen aabi na maen khaki
Na maen aatish na maen paun
Bulleh!, ki jaana maen kaun
Na maen arabi na lahori
Na maen hindi shehar nagauri
Na hindu na turak peshawri
Na maen rehnda vich nadaun
Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun
Na maen bheth mazhab da paaya
Ne maen aadam havva jaaya
Na maen apna naam dharaaya
Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun
Bulleh , ki jaana maen kaun
Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun
Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun
Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharoh
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s craze
Niether awake, nor in a sleeping daze
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Obama: I loved the way ISI let you stay nearby.
Osama: Yeah, to catch me, they didn’t even try.
Obama: No wonder why, now they feel so shy.
Osama: Say they didn’t know it. Oh what a lie !
Obama: They thought you were, in Afghan mountains high.
Osama: Sure I would if AZ wasn’t a bigger idiot than Karzai.
Obama: Ofcourse who doesn’t know him? That 10% guy.
Osama: He aint so bad. Pasha brought his salams whenever passing by.
Obama: After we nabbed you, did you bid your host goodbye?
Osama: Knowing I’ll be with 72 virgins, “I wanna come too” he began to cry.
Obama: Gosh! You’ll have Seventy two, after all those killings? You lucky guy.
Osama: Huhh and you fools thought t’was for Jehad, those suicide bombers die !
As the conservatives and the liberals stay engrossed(for their own reasons) with the banning of Veil in France, I sent in a message to some select non Muslim guys (as they would be more objective) in my friends list to inquire :
What do you think when you see a veiled woman?
( I kept the question open–they could think of the Islamic veil or the Indian veil–it was left to their imagination).
The answers I got in almost 4 hours were fascinating (though qiuite expected). I had heard my own hubby and brothers talk on those lines on occasions…
Replies almost instant:
…makes her a mystery that needs to be solved.
…tempts me to find out what lies behind it.
…feels an uncomfortable itch to lift it.
…turns her instantly into a forbidden fruit.
Within 4 hours :
…makes my eyes acquire an X ray wavelength to pierce through the barrier.
…makes all my five senses alert.
…highlights the deep, dark, beautiful eyes and wants to know what else?
…makes her a magnet and me an iron file.
…makes her more sought after.
…makes her look ugly.
…makes my mind join the dots that the eyes could see behind the black screen and make a complete picture.
…makes me give them a second and a third look.
…makes me feel sorry for them.
Two of my friends replied much later”
…There is nothing to see and think about a veiled woman.
…I dont judge her. Its entirely her choice and her culture which needs to be respected.
Looking at the earlier posts, makes me scratch my head: “Is this for which one is told to wear a veil ?”
The following words came about…
A Worthless cover
Exposed, I am
Pitched out there
As a Forbidden fruit
A meaningless veil
Feeble and frail,
Nothing it sheilds
But takes off from me,
Who really am I.