Stories about sufi

Did qawwali die with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri brothers?

The melodious voice became clearer as I walked towards the shrine. And just as I started up the stairs separating the dust of the polluted world from the spiritual atmosphere of the place, the lyrics became discernible as well, “Tajdar-e-Haram, O Nigah-e-Karam…” (King of the Haram, look upon us with mercy…) As strong as commentary can ever be, this poetry has always inspired reverence in faulted souls. Not more than a decade ago traditional qawwali was still thriving and the best place to listen to qawwalis was not a privately organised concert but these very publically hosted urs. Photo: Badar Chaudhary And ...

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Coke Studio is making a mockery out of our culture

At the risk of sounding judgemental, let me state flat out that “Coke Studio” is the place where a revitalisation of folk culture is endeavoured by slaughtering it. A not-so-thoughtful cogitation, in this case, has led people to believe that through commercialism a win-win situation can be achieved to the benefit and amusement of all the stakeholders, i.e. the producers, the conglomerate and the MTV generation. The idea clicked. The “Coke Studio” fad is running amok. Social media is replete with ‘Naulakha Charkhas’ and ‘Jugni’. Rohail Hayat seems to have acquired the status of ‘god of music’. Rambling on about the latest episode of “Coke Studio”, ...

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Music = vulgarity?

Conservative elements have always spoken against music. I remember the introduction of music classes at Punjab University stirred up a storm among the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT). The IJT also threatened to “physically resist” music classes on campus. It was heart wrenching to see them marching hand in hand to condemn art. What would life be without music? It is a reminder of how things once were, an indication of how things are, and a view of where society is headed. Music is being successfully taught at some colleges including Kinnaird College, where I am one of the students studying Indian Classical Music. ...

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The significance of the Karbala story

The Islamic New Year has arrived, but instead of the celebration that we see in other religious traditions, there is mourning and reflection because of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (RA). There is an exhaustive amount of literature on the history of this tragic event in the canons of Islamic thought across all the schools of thought, but it is not the historicity of the event itself which is of concern but the existential significance of it. Religious literalism can be best described as grasping for excruciating detail of the event, usually steeped in antiquity, whilst forgetting to draw from these ...

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The importance of saving our sufi heritage

The resting place of Baba Farid Ganjshakar at Pakpattan, which was attacked last month, became the fifth sufi shrine to be destroyed in the past few years. Security agencies say after the mass attacks on mosques, sufi shrines are now under threat as well. These assaults on our holy sites are slicing through our social fabric, and here’s why: People of Pakistan, especially in Sindh, have long been known as followers of sufism – the mystical interpretation of Islam – and shrines are symbols of their devotion. Destroying them is an outright attack on a system based on deep introspection, great ...

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Laal: Fighting fundamentalism with Sufi thought

Clad in black, the darwaish twirls and twirls on his bare feet, so enthralled, so totally immersed as if he was about to whirl himself to a parallel dimension. A child in rags stands nearby, eyeing him gleefully. His eyes shine: he wants to join in. A group of women gather around, clapping, singing, laughing, almost in a trance themselves. The shrine of their patron Saint lurks in the background: the perfect catharsis for the wretched, the refuge of the forsaken! Filmed not long before the bomb-blast at the Pakpattan shrine, Laal’s latest video “Fareeda” pays homage to the Sufi ...

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Tolerant Islam under attack

Every Thursday, as the drums would roll, the colourful devotees would crowd, the rose petals would float, the excited children would hop, the cars would swerve, the buses would gather, the food would overflow, the lights would glow, and I would wonder anew at the hospitability and attraction of the Abdullah Shah Ghazi mazaar. Abdullah Shah Ghazi is said to have arrived from Iraq in the eighth century to preach the brand of tolerant Islam that is still followed by the majority of people here. Many people claim to have been granted their wishes here. Apart from the faithful, there ...

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Rocking for a good cause

“Pakistan kay mayanaaz moseekar Mekaal Hasan Band ab apnay fun ka muzahira karaingay, please zordaar talion say in ka istakbaal karain“ This was the opening line to the Sufi Night organized by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in association with Pakistan National Council of Arts held at the PNCA auditorium on September 28, 2010. It was an invite only event which was held to raise funds for the flood victims. After the khabarnama style welcome by the host, Mekaal Hasan got on the stage and explained that the performance would be unplugged and people familiar with the set list would recognize the ...

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Singing from the heart

There is a story told in traditional musical families in the sub-continent about Tan Sen, a legendary musician from the times of Akbar the great who was one of the nine jewels of the Mughal court. It is said he could cause rain clouds to appear and disappear through the exposition of his raags. The heart does not sing for gold The story goes that one day, after listening to the rapturous music of Tan Sen, Akbar asked him if there was anyone in the empire who could match his musical talents. “There is one, my Lord, who not only matches but indeed surpasses me in music,” answered Tan Sen. “Is it ...

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Coke Studio: musical tradition rediscovered

Two Words: Coke Studio They move us, inspire us, take us back to our roots, and entertain us. Inculcate pride of our culture and heritage. Allows different musical traditions to come together and create magic. In my research on history, particularly pertaining to the influences and traditions of the Muslim Empires extending from the Prophet’s (PBUH) time until the Mughal Empire, I could not help but marvel at the close parallels between the “traditions” of Coke Studio and 8th Century Muslim Andalusia (Southern Spain), the Ottoman Empire of Turkey and later the Mughal Empire of the Subcontinent. Historical traditions quote that Spain was ...

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