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Brothers Fight Extremism With Sufi Rock

August 12, 2009

Is music un-Islamic? This question is being approached with increasing violence in Pakistan. Certain radicals see music as dangerous for Islam -- especially if it is Western-influenced. But for Sufism, music is essential for passing on the Holy Prophet’s messages. Some young Pakistani musicians have found a way of combining Sufi tradition with Western rock music.

Sufis think music and dancing are crucial to developing spirituality
Sufis think music and dancing are crucial to developing spiritualityImage: AP

Nazar and Youssof are brothers. The musicians, who are deeply religious, share a house. The walls are decorated with religious poetry that praises Allah. The brothers also love Western rock music.

Inspired by Sufi tradition, they sing about life today in Pakistan but they set their poetic and religious lyrics against a modern beat. Just like rock, Sufi music is all about pain and suffering, Youssof says.

A hardship everyday

He talks about the feelings of the people in the village they are from: “They don’t have clean water to drink. There are no roads, no clinics, no schools, no hospitals. A simple, average person’s life is a hardship everyday.”

“To understand their needs, their wants, their pain, you have to live with them. Our songs are based on pain and actually that pain comes out when you are not armed and still people are firing.”

Many radical Muslims who want to protect Islam from Western influences completely reject music such as the two brothers create. Some are willing to use violence to this end.

Increasing violence

Haqnawaz Khan, a journalist, explained that the incidents of violence are increasing. “Whenever there are militant groups in the areas of North West Frontier Province, like recently throughout Buner and the tribal belt around the part of the Afghan border, they attack CD shops to discourage music. According to their philosophy this is totally un-Islamic.”

Yet in the past, music has helped spread the word of Islam. Sufis would blend in with local populations and live like the people. Today, many Sufis continue to preach a tolerant form of Islam, according to which music and poetry are crucial for developing spiritual life.

Nazar and Yousouf hope they will be able to continue spreading the word of Islam with their music, despite the rise of extremism in parts of Pakistan.

Author: Jutta Schwengsbier/Anne Thomas
Editor: Disha Uppal

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