Musicians are just as connected to God: Natasha, Hamza, others, insist after Abdullah Qureshi’s exit
“Birds sing, nature sings, parrots dance to the sound of music,” reads part of Anoushey Ashraf’s detailed note which surfaced after Abdullah Qureshi announced his departure from the music industry, citing a “religious awakening.”
Qureshi, who boasts over 50,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and whose songs Dastaan, Aitebar, Na Javeen, among others, became fan favourites because of his soothing voice and music sensibility, bid adieu to the profession that brought him fame when he needed acknowledgement, and acceptance when he was shrouded by controversy. Having made a place for himself in numerous hearts, Qureshi was criticised by an equal majority of Pakistanis for his predatory behaviour that came to light in September last year. Quickly putting out a public acknowledgement about the same, he apologized to those he had admittedly hurt, without presenting any arguments.
However, even as he calls it quits, his critics only seem to be growing. While plenty are congratulating him for taking the “spiritual” route, others have their reservations about his change of heart, suggesting he would now use his platform to “sell religious kalams.” Unlike the trolls, albeit, fellow fraternity members aren’t necessarily doubting his intentions, but some have respectfully offered their two cents on his farewell note, which insinuates that one can either be religious or a performer.
Sharing the news on his Twitter, actor Hamza Ali Abbasi wished Qureshi “strength” while presenting his discovery about the debate surrounding music being prohibited in Islam. “May God give you strength and persistence in your imaan, ikhlaaq and deeds brother. Just want to share my discovery that music is not completely haraam in Islam,” wrote the actor. He then shared two YouTube links and asked Qureshi to “please watch” if he finds the time.
Singer Natasha Baig, without naming names, presented an imperative point to ponder moments after Qureshi announced his exit from the music realm. “I will never accept those musicians or actors who leave behind their career in the name of awakening because that proves the wrong narrative that has been attached with music,” Baig wrote in an Instagram Story.
“So, please go ahead and congratulations on your awakening but do not make us look like villains in the process. Your acts might be something that Islam never appreciates but music is divine and it has nothing to do with any sinful act unless you are unable to control your nafs and nafs can become a problem in any profession,” she added.
In a follow-up Insta Story shared a day later, the Shikwa Jawab-e-Shikwa crooner elaborated, “There is nothing wrong in becoming a devotee of your creator and I think it’s a beautiful journey Abdullah Qureshi has chosen. I never said he did wrong; all I’m trying to say is that music is a universal language and off those bashing me, 200% will resort to music whenever they get the chance. A Muslim musician’s journey is as connected to God to as any devotee’s is. Please expand your thinking, my God is the same as yours.”
Meanwhile, Ashraf, in her note on Instagram, said that if music is “associated with the likes of women, gambling and unlawful acts, it is forbidden.” She added, “But as religion evolves, so does history.” Citing Hussein Rashid, an academic with a Masters in Theological Studies focusing on Islam from Harvard University, Ashraf continued, “‘Contemporary scholars have all issued legal rulings those audio arts that do not encourage people to go against the faith, are permitted.’”
She then acknowledged that the matter may still be debatable based on the context of things, but outright claiming that “music is haram” would be a “generalization”. The radio host went on, “You can follow whichever route you deem fit but to call out someone’s opinion as outright wrong is outrageous. Scholars are available at your service at both ends. If someone has quit music, that’s fine, but to call it a ‘spiritual awakening’ is wrong.”
Ashraf asserted, “At best, it’s a religious awakening (which is fine too) but a spiritual awakening is very much linked to Sufism in Islam in which music is permissible. Turkey, Persia, Malaysia etcetera, being cases in point. I’m sure even they’re read enough to know and make an ‘informed’ choice. Religion isn’t as black and white.”
To sum it all up, she concluded, “So, for those saying I can either be a liberal or a conservative, I’m a centrist, I don’t jump from one conclusion to another. The art is in the fine balance of things. Use your senses too, if music makes you want to do haram all the time, then maybe it should be forbidden for you. However, for me, it’s been healing.”
In a statement shared on his social media accounts, Qureshi wrote, “I have received a ton of messages in this time asking about where I have been. I was on a break, pressed the pause button for a while and took this time to find out who I was, where I am headed and who I want to become.”
Announcing his decision to quit the music industry, Qureshi said, “I want to take a moment to announce my exit from the music industry as I have decided to stop doing music as a full-time profession. I took this decision purely because of religious reasons. I had a great time making music, playing at concerts for thousands of people, getting loved and appreciated, facing controversies, making some wrong decisions, spreading some positivity, making some amazing friends, working with people who were my idols, learning from the best and doing what I loved doing.”
Sharing how he now believes that the actual purpose of his life is “way bigger than all of this”, Qureshi remarked, “We have very little time in this world to make our afterlife better.” The Dastaan singer assured, “Alhamdulillah, I am very satisfied with this decision,” adding that he is on his way to finding “the real truth and I pray that Allah makes this new journey easy for me.”
While Qureshi maintained that he will no longer perform in concerts or appear in ads, making an exception, he wrote, “if I am needed for any appearance events, social media campaigns or work that interests me and falls in the folds of our religion, I’d be happy to do it.”