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Sunday, August 30, 2009
‘We preach the message of love through Sufi music’
By Hamid Golpira & Gul Jammas Hussain
TEHRAN - The Fareed Ayaz Qawwali group of Pakistan did a concert tour of Iran from August 6 to 14, giving performances in Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz.
The band, which is led by award-winning musician Qawwal Ghulam Fareeddin Ayaz al-Hussaini, came to Iran to participate in the celebrations of Pakistan’s Independence Day, which occurred on August 14.
Qawwali is a form of Sufi Muslim devotional music characterized by simple melodies, forceful rhythms, and wild improvisations that encourage a state of euphoria in the listener.
The musical tour was arranged by the Economic Cooperation Organization Cultural Institute, the Embassy of Pakistan in Tehran, and Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
The Tehran Times conducted an interview with Qawwal Ghulam Fareeddin Ayaz al-Hussaini backstage at Vahdat Hall on August 7, just after the band completed their second concert in Tehran.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: How have you enjoyed your stay in Iran so far?
A: I’ve very much liked these concerts. For the last three or four years I have been performing in Iran and enjoying it. Many people in Pakistan think that I’m an expert in Persian poetry. It’s something I’m very proud of. I know the Persian language very well but I cannot speak fluently like Iranians and my pronunciation is a bit different.
I like Iranian people very much. Iran has been a center of civilization for thousands of years. Many of the extraordinary people of art and culture are from Iran or regions very near to Iran -- Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Iraq… Iraq also had a great culture. So the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages are in Pakistan. We (Pakistanis) do not regard Persian as a foreign language, we regard it as our own language… I like Iran very much, its Sufi saints, its poetry. Sufi saints actually do not belong to any particular area. Sufis have their own territory that is universal. And most of the Sufi saints belong to Iran, you know.
Q: How long have you been playing music? And how did you first become interested in mystical Sufi music?
A: We have been performing this mystical Sufi music for the last 750 years. I mean 39 generations of my family have been performing this Sufi music Qawwali. Since the time of Hazrat Amir Khusro we have been in this profession. Qawwali was not a profession then but a medium to convey the message of Sufism. But now it’s a regular profession. We use the poetry of Sufi saints, mystics, and friends of God for our Qawwali performances. We also compose ourselves. As musicians, we can compose each verse according to its mood and the mood of the singing. If the mood is fast, the music is fast, if the mood is slow, the music is slow.
Qawwali is a very spiritual and devotional thing. I can say this because we have been in this profession for the past 750 years. The first person from our family who started performing Qawwali was Samat bin Ibrahim, who lived in the time of Hazrat Amir Khusro, and I’m the direct blood descendant of Samat bin Ibrahim.
Q: You have performed in many other places around the world. Where exactly did you play and how was the reaction?
A: I’ve performed throughout the world. However, Iranian culture and Pakistani culture are very similar. Historically they have been similar. Europe, America, and Africa are very far away from Pakistan. When I perform in Iran, I really feel at home. But when I perform in other far-off places, I feel somebody has trespassed into my home. While performing in Iran, we do not need to explain much about what we are singing and its meaning, but when performing in other countries, we have to explain each and every little thing. That’s why I really like performing in Iran.
Q: Do you view Sufi music as a means to promote Sufi ideas throughout the world?
A: Our world has reached the brink of disaster. Only Sufism can save it from a complete disaster, and that’s why we are so ardent about preaching Sufism, which is the message of love. Sufism teaches humanity. It is beyond the boundaries of religions and nationalities. It unites people. All religions teach humanity, and Sufism does the same. The teachings of Sufism shape the body and purify soul.
Q: Some people have an interpretation of Islam according to which music is haram (prohibited). Have you had any problems with these people?
A: This is not a present-day problem. It’s an old issue. People have had a lot of discussions on this issue. I would only say this: What is haram in music? There’s nothing in music that is prohibited. I’ve studied the Quran, the Bible, the Torah, and many sacred books of Hinduism. I have studied all the major religions of the world. Wording can be haram, not singing, you see. If I say this person (he points to someone by his side) is God or a prophet, this is haram. If I say he is a handsome, endearing, or charming fellow, this cannot be haram. Sufism teaches this. It teaches love. How can teachings of love be haram?
So music is not haram, not haram, not haram.
Look, Islam is not 14 centuries old. Islam is as old as Hazrat Adam (AS). If you looked at the constitution of Adam (AS), Jesus Christ (AS), or Moses (AS), you would see music inside. In their religions, there was music. Even Noah (AS) possessed all the knowledge and the system of music. So if something is given to a prophet from Almighty Allah as a gift, how can that thing ever be haram?
Q: But have you ever had any problems with the people who believe that music is forbidden in Islam?
A: I do not face any kind of problems. When somebody comes to me with any questions or complaints, I reply to him and he returns with satisfaction, because I have studied the Quran, the Hadith, Islamic studies, and Christian studies. I can satisfy him with my knowledge.