The B-side: Junaid Jamshed and untold stories behind the controversies

Published: April 12, 2016
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PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA

After leaving a lucrative career as a pop singer, Junaid Jamshed (JJ) has evolved into a preacher and poster boy for the austere deobandi group, the Tableeghi Jamaat. He once jokingly remarked,

“When I was a singer people use to throw rose petals at me, since I came into Islam they throw stones at me.”

This simple statement does more to highlight Pakistan’s state of affairs than explain how someone, who has been referred to by his musician friends, and in his Islamic circles, as “the nicest person one can meet”, can be party to one controversy after another?

Some say, he is a ‘buffoon who continues to stick his foot in his mouth’. So, is it because one minute he is talking about women not driving and the next he is seen holding hands and hugging his old mates from the music industry?

Or are other forces at work?

One minute he is talking about women not driving and the next he is seen holding hands and hugging his old mates from the music industry.
Photo: Twitter

The whole world (well, mainly Pakistanis and expat Pakistanis) watched with horror as the man cited as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world was attacked with punches and kicks at the Islamabad airport.

It was later revealed that these men were part of the pro-Qadri brigade. However, the video that went viral featured the unbearded attackers in western clothing, following the orders of a bearded man dressed in shalwar kameez and a topi.

The bearded man shouted,

“We have been looking for you”

“Beat him!”

And,

“You are “ghustakh-e-ay-rasool””.

Needless to say, JJ’s non-violent response, coupled with his attempts to converse with the attackers while standing his ground, won him admiration from world over.

The question is, how did he get into a position, where accusations of blasphemy led him to a point where he left the country until the situation cleared up? In one instance in London, he stopped an interview because tears started to flow down his face upon mentioning how his words had been misunderstood.

This mild mannered man, who most have been seen on TV screens smiling, crying or begging for forgiveness, had not realised that he had walked into a minefield, where bitter religious rivalries existed between the Barelvis’s represented by the Sunni Tehreek and the Wahabi styled Deobandis’.

The Sunni Tehreek were, as the saying goes, ‘a bit peeved’ by the sudden popularity of the Deobandis. If the Deobandis had not realised it, the Barelvis had; it was the fame of JJ that had increased the attractiveness of the group.

JJ had become the protégé of Maulana Tariq Jameel, whom he saw as his “elder brother”. He travelled around from Canada to America, Australia, New Zealand and Britain to spread the groups message. His events were packed wherever he went and his following grew, as did the popularity of the group he represented.

Through his efforts, he managed to put this unknown group on the radar, giving it a softer image than the one it had acquired through the notorious activities of it’s off-shoot, the Sipah-e-Sihaba (known for killing and maiming innocents perpetuating an intolerant form of Islam).

However, the drama that unfolded highlighted just how much the beautiful, merciful and forgiving Islam the Prophet (PBUH) had preached had now been twisted and used by the holier-than-thou groups and lynch mobs that claim to be judge and jury.

Fearing the lynch crowd, no media or publication really examined what JJ had said.

The issue of JJ being blasphemous, according to many clerics, was not so much blasphemy as it was the way in which he had narrated the story of the blessed Prophet’s wife Hazrat Ayesha (RA), taken from the Sunni book, Sahih Bukhari. According to Maulana Ibraheem Isa,

“It was not so much a case of blasphemy but a matter of incorrect adab”.

Overnight, JJ’s mentor, who he always consulted along with the “elders in Raiwind”, disowned him publicly with Tariq Jameel stating that he was ‘ignorant and uneducated as a scholar’ and that he had no ties with the Tableeghi Jamaat (TJ).

This came as a surprise to JJ considering he had been travelling the world upon their orders, as well as raised the profile of the group.

According to their rules, no member of the group could take independent decisions without permission from the heads at Raiwind; if JJ was asked to appear on a morning TV show, he had to have acquired permission to do so.

His views on women, which according to his old friends used to be quite liberal, now became conservative, reflecting the Islamic group’s attitude. He ended up saying contradictory things about women which he probably found illogical himself, as a close source to his family explains,

“His beloved aunty is in politics and his wife was allowed to drive but she chose not to, and his daughter worked for a short while as an intern in London.”

Most people had become accustomed to JJ’s inimitable, down-to-earth style; full of humour and pleasant bayans, his style of singing religious songs and videos were peppered with a Bollywood appeal and as the saying goes,

“You can take the boy out of show business but you can’t take the show business out of the boy.”

If we examine who was the main person who had accused JJ, we may get a clearer picture of how this celebrity mullah was used as a tool to attack a rival group and tarnish their popularity.

During the tirade against his alleged blasphemy in the press and websites, no one once bothered to ask why a video that had already been circulating for the past two years was suddenly highlighted as blasphemous?

We mustn’t forget that this is a country where it doesn’t take long to “rent a crowd” for a handful of rupees. Many use the blasphemy laws to settle political or personal scores.

It is also interesting that the main agitator against JJ who demanded his arrest and imprisonment was the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) Rabita Committee member Mubeen Qadri.

Did it take Mr Qadri two years to come to the conclusion that JJ was a blasphemer?

Also, is it not naive for Mr Qadri to be completely unaware that he had opened up a whole can of worms? Many legal advisers in the country have asked how many other tapes of JJ and other scholars he is willing to go through if he has issued a fatwa on a tape that was two years old. How many other people was he going to be enforcing a fatwa on?

Apparently no other scholar except JJ, as time has shown.

The other reason why no one from the political arena stepped in to help him was because JJ had unwittingly entered the murky world of politics by supporting Imran Khan’s dharnas.

When the fervour started on the streets of Pakistan led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, by the end 2014, where Pakistanis were demanding a new system that caters to all, JJ’s enthusiasm could not be contained and he decided to voice his support for Imran Khan’s campaign to bring in “Naya Pakistan”.

He stated in an interview,

“After years of watching injustices happening I don’t want to keep quiet anymore.”

He also attended the campaign site where he sang a few religious songs.

The fact that the headquarters of the Deobandis is situated right next to Nawaz Sharif’s home on Raiwind, to what extent the Sharif brothers support the group is unclear. However, the Raiwind elders were not amused with JJ showing support for Imran Khan so he was ordered to take a back step.

In the meantime, interestingly, we had Nawaz Sharif’s spokesperson Khawaja Asif speaking on TV bashing JJ’s credibility as a scholar and stating he is just a clothes seller. Inadvertently highlighting how upset Nawaz Sharif’s government was at JJ’s stance.

No one supported JJ when he had to flee the country after an FIR was taken out against him. He said,

“All who were supposed to be my friends stopped calling me.”

Except his old Vital Signs band mates who were there for him.

One can understand why many didn’t, but why the Deobandis disowned him so publicly is a question asked by many.

The only explanation for the Deobandis stance may have been because JJ was becoming a liability as he did not stay within the unspoken sectarian boundaries that existed. He would attend any gathering whether it was Barelvis, Deobandis, Shias and Sufi in an effort to bring people together.

And the forces that exist in Pakistan, those that want division, sectarian conflict, and turmoil in Pakistan, were not happy with his pleas for ‘unity’ on his TV shows.

Needless to say the dharna’s came to a final end, and in the way that JJ had sacrificed his position with the ruling Nawaz Sharif party, along with all the people who sat out for months in the heat and intolerable weather with their children. In peaceful demonstrations, mostly the poor and the middle class were sacrificing their time; all their efforts were wasted.

The dharna’s were disbanded a few months later because of the horrific killings of school children in Peshawar. But as many asked, shouldn’t the protests have continued especially after the killings, as the need for a just fair system, with education and social services had become dire?

Imran Khan decided to end the dharna and reward all the thousands of people who had sat in the sun all day and night and made sacrifices; by secretly getting married.

They say politicians are fickle; Imran Khan who had begged JJ and other celebrities to come and sing at the dharnas, didn’t bother to offer any support to him at the time of the blasphemy charges or now after he had been attacked by hooligans.

Whereas the Nawaz Sharif’s government and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar did step in to arrest the attackers, realising most probably that JJ is not only a celebrity in Pakistan but internationally. It would be seen as a disgrace and affirm what most westerners believe; Pakistan is a failed state where religious extremists control the country.

One also hopes that JJ has also learnt that one doesn’t have to go along blindly and spew up narratives he doesn’t really believe in, like Allah is not fond of women etc. He should instead continue to walk his own path, call for tolerance and remember to be a voice for those whose voices are suppressed. Those like Aasia bibi.

Shabana Syed

Shabana Syed

The author is a British Muslim journalist and has been a news editor for TV as well as editor of various magazines. She worked in the Middle East and in 2003 was in Iraq right before the war broke out and enjoys writing primarily on issues concerning Muslims and current affairs.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Asad

    wouldnt have bothered to read your blog had u not mentioned IK. Tbh article is full of crap . Please correct your info it should be like “she has worked in the Middle East and was in Iraq in 2003 just before the war broke out.”Recommend

  • Parvez

    Junaid Jamshed………Aamir Liaquat ……same – same.Recommend

  • Javed Afridi

    Dear writer, could you please share your source/link, where Tableeghi Jamaat disowned him. The one you shared in the story next to Tariq Jameel is again a link to your story, which does not mention the source either.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    He is just a product of a cult and there are billions like him all over the world.

    Cults are specifically looking to convert celebrities because it gives them an edge in marketing their campaign.

    Many actors join religious cults to fill up certain gaps in their personal lives.

    Tom Cruise is a global super star but is also a Scientologist. Is Tom a buffoon? Perhaps, but who cares as long as he is not preaching hate.

    The problem with hazrat molana JJ is that he represents the Deobandi sect, which is a near-clone of Wahhabism.

    Wahhabism is practiced by Al Queda/ISIS/LeT/JuD/LeJ, where as Deobandism is the main belief system of the TTP/Afghan Taliban.

    These two particular sects are very hard on women and minorities (shiites, ahemedis, christians, hindus etc).Recommend

  • Ashar

    Her arguments make no sense.Recommend

  • Akhwandk

    I am sure in his lucrative music career JJ never waddled face first into things that could be potentially hurtful to millions of people. Yeah I am sure he is a very nice human being, who equated his getting beat up to the Lahore Blast in which 10s lost their lives.Recommend

  • Najam

    Needless and useless article, written with distorted facts and twisted information. Just a drawing room level discussion..!!Recommend

  • Lala

    Loved reading the article, brilliantly articulated the ideas and narratives. A nice and balanced article to start the day with :) . Thank you.Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    Music is an antidote for depression and anxiety.JJ should revert back to music and nurse many broken hearts.This how he will serve humanity.He should leave the task of preaching to the rest of thousands of preachers well versed with religious knowledge compared to him.He should realize that women drive to pick up kids from school or to do other house chores.The Muslim women used to share these responsibilities 1400 hundred years back.He should not follow the narrow minded bunch of religious groups. He should come up with IJTIHAD to meet the modern challenges,instead.Recommend

  • Awais

    Express tribune do you have a editor to review before publishing ? u can find allot of videos where Tariq Jameel had asked forgiveness for JJ and do a social check up lady you will find more follower even on social media for Tariq Jameel rather JJ, you dont even know where deoband headquarter is its in India if you have atleast searched on google you would have known “Dar -ul-uloom deoband” that the name, and quote me once single instance where any senior Alam including JJ (yet he is not) calling himself deoband ?? lastly do you even know Tariq Jameel went to IK bani gala even after dharna ?? Worthless piece or worthless research…. its shame for ET as well to publish…Recommend

  • talha usmani

    nice article.Recommend

  • Unknown

    Finally a good article on TribueRecommend

  • Imran Supariwala

    Nothing but respect for you. well balanced article. Junaid Jamshed never committed blasphemy. His phrasing of the incident could have been better but it certainly did not constitute blasphemy since the narration is authentic. The references from authentic Hadith collections are:
    Musnad Ahmad 6/228
    Ibn Majah 1465
    Abdur Razzaq 9754
    Bayhaqi 7/168, among others.

    Tableeghi Jamaat didn’t disowned him,infact he most probably was traveling with some tableeghi colleague at Islamabad airport when this unfortunate incident took place. Tableeghi Jamaat just avoids any controversies which causes divisions among sects or creates misunderstanding and brings them into lime light for negative reasons. You won’t see any sectarian or divisive issue being preached or promoted by them,beralvi might taunt and curse Tableeghis openly and in media but you won’t see any Tableeghi doing the same or responding.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/SheilaZulfiqarAhmed65 Sheila Zulfiqar Ahmed

    Sometimes questions are better than answers ..My set of questions …Why did hJ.J have to come to Isb only that day when this whole affair was going on? Why as a VIP he is not being escorted by guards or his other friends and fellow Tableeghis and he is moving around all by himself?why the Security forces were numb n totally passive when he was being attacked? why no security officer interrupted and saved him and most importantly why the video camera started recording the video even before the attack as if it was pre-planned to have it on video and then have that video “viral”!!! to show to the World what a crazy Nation we are not being able to manage our Blasphemy Laws!!! which therefore should be repealed !!!!?.When there was total peace discipline on the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri even though it was a huge number of people who attended it ..no TV channel except one or two say showed it to the World that Pakistani Muslims can be totally disciplined and peaceful while even being in millions in a procession / attendance and on a day they felt aggrieved . The same TV channels gave live coverage to the Chehlum procession that also showed the hooliganism by some miscreants that easily infiltrate such events in our part of the World . Logically speaking emotions should have been more inflamed on the day of MQs hanging than 40 days later?!! So anyone dwelling on the subject of Blasphemy Laws Politics in Pakistan should try and get answers to these questions before coming to any conclusions about Islam , Pakistani Muslims and Pakistan’s Blasphemy lawsRecommend

  • Mohammed Mirza

    The author must get her facts correctly. She shouldnt have published his picture of Junaid Jamshed holding hand with Hadiqa Kiyani. This picture was photoshopped and this is an open insult to JJ.Why do you call Junaid Jamshed a Moulana? Hes not a Moulana.The headquarters of Tabligh is in New DelhiRecommend

  • KahnaKacha

    Author has absolutely no clue what she is talking about. She should not write about things she has no information about. Tablighi Jamaat is NOT Deobandi, never has been. She should understand, ideological and theological differences between Tablighi Jamaat, Deobandis, Wahabis, Barelvis and Sufis (YES, Sufis and Barelvis are not same), before attempting to write about them or compare them.Recommend

  • SkepticalFaraz

    This is a badly written article, scattered thinking.Recommend

  • Aqeeq Ansari

    Nice article. It started off as a bit accurate, but went downhill about half way in. And the fact that you never mentioned the main perpetrator of this whole drama, “Amir Liaquat Hussain” kinda annoyed me. A person who himself has many videos of committing blasphemy deliberately and knowingly.Recommend

  • Aam Aadmi

    Junaid Jamshaid,Amir Liaquat Hussain,Zaid Hamid,all modern day Islam preachers,spreading their messages with over active support of Media with scant knowledge,not picked by their individual research,instead from hear says of Mullah’s.Wonder,why JJ had to do some acting to explain Hazrat Ayesha’s talk with the Prophet (PBUH)?He could have easily explained about the Riwayat in few simple words,instead choosing to over dramatize it.Suggest the best way forward to JJ is to go into hibernation and do some serious reading on Islam specially on its piety,humbleness,selflessness,personal sacrifices,etc which distinguish Islam from other religions.I had hoped that this Author should have also written on the same lines,but she gets benifit of doubt as she has been living abroad,i.e.,outside the ambit of Islamic circles.Recommend

  • Baaghi

    Don’t wanna beat the dead horse here and say that it’s a very ill-informed article with a twisted narrative, however, it is! I am surprised that the writer being a woman, failed to recognize the ingrained misogynistic streak that runs in the blood of all Muslim clerics whether they’re deobandi, barelvi, shia, sunni what not. We’re so fixated over the issue of the alleged blasphemy that everyone conveniently brushes past the point JJ was trying to make. He is so committed to degrading women’s status back to 500 AD (like all his colleagues), that he didn’t hesitate using the example of Ayesha to prove a point that “a woman can never be happy even if she is one of prophet’s wives”. What gives this idiot the right to comment on all the women of the world like this is backed by some scientific research? I can name thousands of women who are more competent, smart, humble, brave, and twice the man that he or his stupid “Jamatiye” can ever be. P.S. I’m not a woman, I’m a man from a village in South Punjab. Peace!Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Music & dance in subcontinent came fron temples & fields to honor the divine & its bounty. It went to barbaric perverted darbar of aliens when Anarkalis started dancing there.. music can be deadly to create deppressive Anarkalis & drug addict suicudal pop singers. Every tune has psychic effect… that is why certain Ragas r to be sung at certain time with certain Talas..Recommend