In memory of Amjad Farid Sabri

In the beginning, in the lands of southern Asia, there were the Riwat peoples. That seems to be as far back as we know. In the north of Pakistan there is evidence of a Paleolithic site, the Riwat, where people lived at least 45,000 years ago. That is a long time for threads of something like civilization to weave.

Over time the land came to be called India which at times included what we now know as Pakistan. Think civilization, culture, and conflict.

And then the British East India company said, let there be tea, and the sun of British colonialism rose over the India, and the British Empire brought its version of  western ‘civilization’ to the lands and the peoples of India, including what we now know as Pakistan.

And then Mahatma Gandhi and others stood up and said, “This land is our land.” And there was conflict, lots of conflict. Finally in 1947 the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan were created and gained their independence. This was followed by more conflict.

Throughout the lands there were Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Muslims.  And among these religions and peoples of peace there was conflict.

In Pakistan most of the people were followers of Islam, people we call Muslims. Among the followers of Islam, there are divisions. There are Sunni Muslims; Shi’ite Muslims; Sufis who some people understand to practice a mystical kind of Islam and who other people say do not practice Islam at all; Ahmadiyyas are an offshoot of Sunni Islam; Baha’is are an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. And, yes there is conflict between and among all of these groups, even as each of these groups practice a religion of peace.

Among the Suffi’s there is a devotional music known as qawwali. Qawwali emerges from the conviction that, before the majesty of God and the span of Creation, reason fails; only art, only music can possibly evoke the deepest feelings stirred in the human soul. So you have a musical form that reflects, in its very effect on you, the nature of faith as Muslims once believed it to be: A deep, romantic love, between a dependent human being, and an all-powerful Divine.

Those who sing in this tradition devote their lives to singing the praises of the prophet Muhammad, continuing the centuries-long tradition of musical veneration, Poetry, often Urdu or Punjabi, is set to music, usually in praise of God or the prophet Muhammad. A band of singers joins together to deliver songs that ecstatically convey the deep love of God, which classical Muslims expressed in secular metaphor: an intoxicating beloved, or an intoxicant itself. Masters of qawwali, known as “qawwals,” are world famous.

Amjad Farid Sabri born on 23 December 1970 in Pakistan. Following in the tradition of his father, he became one of the most famous qawwals in the world today. On 22 June 2016 he was on his way to a performance in Liaquatabad Town, Karachi, Pakistan when he was gunned down by two motorcyclists who claimed to be part of the Taliban. The Taliban have banned all music. They killed Amjad Farid Sabri because his singing violated their ban on music. I say let the music live!

Amjad Sabri was only 45 years old.  He was a man who devoted his life to the praise of his God and to peace. I expect that he had his flaws, he was human after all. But still, he was a human being doing his best, giving praise where he could, honoring the awe that surrounds us. And for the gift of his music, he was murdered.

This madness has to stop. Hatred never conquered hatred. Only love can conquer hate. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, and with you and with each of us. Let us each do one loving thing today in memory of all of the senseless conflict, violence and murder that is plaguing our world.

Let us remember, forgive, and do better. Let us all find a way to love our family, friends and neighbors, remembering that everyone is our neighbor.

3 thoughts on “In memory of Amjad Farid Sabri

  1. Therese Bertsch

    Mary, I loved your memorial in honor of Amjab Sabri. My story might add a hopeful note to your desire for love of all and neighbor.

    My granddaughter Bridie was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NFS).
    Bridie was diagnosed at birth and began a series of yearly surgeries when she was 3 1/2 at Stony Brook Hospital, NY. I was with her parents as her dad, Jerry, tried to calm her (he is a nurse) as he walked with her into the surgical room. Her little tears shot straight out of her eyes as she smiled with confidence at her mother, my daughter Liz. Her surgeon opened up her tiny back and inserted rods. Every year they either lengthened the extension rods or put new rods in. When she was 13 (her 12th surgery), they discovered she had staff infection in one of her rods. Her parents and the health team knew something was wrong. Bridie was who was a beautiful petite and happy girl was losing weight, lost her appetite, and was listless. They didn’t take the other rod out for fear of infecting the other side. It took some time for the infection to clear up with intravenous treatment. She was a very sick little girl.

    After several months her surgeon recommended she be assessed by Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC. He was born in Ghana. As so many in Ghana were poor he often had to find ways to treat them in various stages of need. He did something very novel for Bridie. He hooked up a contraption in which Bridie had a halo screwed into her skull and balanced with weights so that it drew her frame up to a straight position, where her frame had been collapsing in on her.

    I was with Bridie and her parents for each of her surgeries. After this surgery I went to visit her at home, concerned about what I would find. There before me was a girl smiling and happy. “Hi Nan!” She had a great appetite and had gained weight. It helped that her dad was a brilliant nurse. He was able to care for her in a way that others might not have been able to. When finally Dr. Boachie thought Bridie’s spine had been stretched naturally to its full capacity he performed the final surgery. Bridie was 14. He fused her spine. When Bridie awoke from the surgery her mother said “Bridie, Dr Boachie decided to fuse your spine. You don’t need any more surgeries.” With tears in her eyes Bridie said “Are you sure. No more surgeries?” Her mother was crying, as we all were, and responded “Yes Bridie, no more surgeries.” Bridie motioned for her mother to come close (she was still very sleepy). With tears streaming down her face, Bridie said, “Thank God!”.

    Her dad had abandoned his goal to study as a nurse practitioner so that he could devote any vacation and personal time to prepare Bridie for surgery, and help her in her recuperation. Her mother who is a master teacher and “expert” in multiculturalism devoted any of her extra time to prepare Bridie for surgery, with Jerry, and to help her recover and re-enter life in all of its fullness. Bridie is now a student at Mercy High School doing exceptionally well, and having fun – as are her parents.

    The marvelous part of this story is that Bridie loves Dr. Boachie. Dr. Boachie built a hospital in Ghana so that he could treat children and adults with similar problems.
    His surgical team at the Hospital for Special Surgery, at their own cost, fly to Ghana 2 times a year to assist him. Dr. Boachie retired so that he could continue to travel and train other surgeons in his methods. What a joy for our family to know he was awarded the Ahmadiyya Muslim peace prize for his work on behalf of those he serves in his capacity as surgeon, and particularly for his efforts in building and staffing at hospital in Ghana, at which her conducts surgery without cost. Please remember them and their mission as well as The Children’s Tumor Foundation.

    Mary, I thank you for reminding us that diversity can be a beautiful thing but difference shouldn’t divide us. My grandparents were born in County Sligo, Ireland. The Irish have experienced their share of violence. Initiatives for peace in Ireland are largely attributed to the women and mothers in Ireland who were tired of the suffering and death. Now Mary, if Dr. Boachie and this organization are not clearly manifesting “loving your neighbor as yourself”, I don’t know who is. Here’s the link to Dr. Boachie’s acceptance speech from this beautiful Muslim community in England.

    1. Therese,

      thank you for sharing this story. It is a wonderful example of the importance of difference and diversity in our lives. It is a profound example of the healing power of love.

      Dr. Boachie is a beautiful example of Love as a source of community resilience!

      thank you!!


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