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.

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