Islamic Relief USA’s Nabeelah Naeem talked with Junaid Jamshed, noted as one of the most influential Muslim artists in the world, to ask him about his participation in IRUSA’s 2012 Songs for the Children Tour. A portion of this interview was published in Partnership. The following is the full interview.
Why did you decide to participate in Islamic Relief USA’s Songs for the Children tour?
Junaid: I did my first tour with Islamic Relief UK and my experience was very good. The programs were very well planned and orpganized professionally. There was very healthy audience participation as well.
Some of the programs that Islamic Relief has are really close to my heart. Songs for the Children is one of them. I strongly believe these missions that we do make a big difference. That is why I agreed to do this event here in the U.S.
Where do you get your inspiration for your lyrics?
Junaid: See what happens is, because I move around among people I get inspired by the people. I read the lifestyles of our Rasul (pbuh) and the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet) a lot. I read the lifestyles of people who have done a lot for the people—of Muslims and non-Muslims [working] together.
I read something recently about Nelson Mandela and why he was such a respected man. You go to South Africa, Muslims and non-Muslims together have a lot of love for him. But why? I wanted to know, so I read about that.
And I read about other Muslim scholars. So those things play slowly and gradually on my mind and inspire my lyrics. There is one very famous poet in Pakistan, who has passed away. His name is Dr. Iqbal. I am a great fan of Allama (doctor) Iqbal and I read this poetry a lot and I would say that his poetry is a great source of inspiration for me. These are the people who actually inspire me.
Then I think about all of this: Making music, creating lyrics comes very naturally to me. So then you sing the words that come to your mind from these inspirations and hope that people can relate to it.
How has your music changed through your career?
Junaid: Initially, when I was first starting as a musician, I was a very nationalistic figure and I used to believe in doing a lot of national songs. I would always have a national song in the albums I did.
Now the canvas is bigger. Now the canvas is not just my country Pakistan, but now the canvas is the entire world. Now the canvas is the entire ummah (Muslim nation). We are actually the ummah of Rasullah (pbuh). The Sahabah, with all of their efforts, created an ummah.
I get to meet people from all walks of life, from all different countries, from different backgrounds. I read nasheeds (Islamic songs) in English, in Arabic. I read nasheeds even in Bangla language. Now I don’t just travel to meet people from my own country but people from the entire ummah.
My aim in times to come is not to just work with Muslims but to actually sing songs for everyone and sing songs in which people all over the world can relate to.
How are the events you do different from other events?
Junaid: I make sure the events I do have the element of entertainment that Allah (swt) and his Prophet (pbuh) permit. Having said that, I would also like to make sure they are contemporary and our children can actually relate to them. We touch on subjects, which are part of their daily lives, and subjects, which have morality in them—subjects which compel them directly or indirectly toward the obedience of Allah (swt). I would like to continue doing these programs for years to come.
I would like to request people to come to the program and encourage us to do these programs. There is something unique about them. You gain something both beneficial to us in this world as well as the afterworld.
How do you manage spending time away from your family and work to help children in need?
Junaid: It is priority. You see, you have certain priorities in life. Allah (swt) by His grace has given you some ni’ma (blessing), some bounty. So, the best way to be thankful to Allah (swt) is to use that bounty and ni’ma to bring the people of Allah (swt) close to Allah (swt).
I think Allah (swt) has given me the ni’ma of this voice, for which I use for Allah (swt) and his Prophet (pbuh) to read nasheeds. That is a certain kind of music, which is pleasing in the eyes of Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh). And if people can start listening to it, I think that is a great service to the ummah. Keeping that in mind, that now has become a priority.
My wife obviously would like to have her husband right next to her. I keep telling her inshaAllah we will be together in paradise. This world is not a place where people can be together forever. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes she gets very upset and then I have to really go out of my way to please her. Sometimes it is hard, but she carries on.
What would you like to share with Islamic Relief donors?
Junaid: I would really like to thank them for their generosity. Obviously, if they were not doing anything, it would be absolutely futile on our part to say or do anything. They are actually the stars of the show.
According to one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “Whoever will give sadaqa, his wealth will increase.”
I have never seen a generous man go bankrupt. Generosity always pays. Here Islamic Relief USA is giving an opportunity to all these people to donate in the path of Allah (swt). Wealth is something that is closer to the heart. One of the greatest tazkiya (purification) of the nafs (self) is to part with your money and to give it to people who deserve it.
My message to all the donors is this: It is actually Islamic Relief that is doing them a favor by giving them an opportunity to donate their money. If Islamic Relief and other charities were not doing this charity work, then they would have to take out time to give their zakat and sadaqa money to someone. So here we are, coming right up to your door and giving you the opportunity to donate to such tremendous causes. I really would like to thank them for helping us.
Was there any experience that touched your heart during the Songs for the Children tour?
Junaid: Lots actually. In the UK, most of the nasheeds that I did were in my native language, Urdu. Youngsters who could not understand the language came up to me … [and] said it was a great experience to just listen. That was actually very heart warming for me. That is the reason why I thought to myself, ‘Why should I just limit myself to the Urdu language? Why not sing in different languages?’
When I tried it in Bangla, it worked very well. People took it with great admiration. So I think it has to be one of those moments, when you really feel you are actually communicating with people.
Over here it is interesting: You have a lot of children that come up to you … and their parents tell you, and sometimes even [the children themselves] tell you how much they love singing your nasheeds. It is a great source of satisfaction that even now you can make a difference in the lives of people.
Have you dedicated any of your songs to kids?
Junaid: Yes, I come across children who sometimes come up and say such nice things and it motivates you so much. They look up to you and they would sometimes say something so nice, something so beautiful.
In my next album, I’m going to write a song about a little boy who says, ‘I am a little boy but I am going to do something really big in times to come.’ It is inspired by a poem by Allama Iqbal.
How do you think your participation in these events is making a difference?
Junaid: These events are making a difference in my own life. I strongly believe that we should participate in such charitable events.
I have traveled a lot around the world and have seen a lot of people come to my programs … [and it made me realize] that people of all ages—from little children to elders—listen to my nasheeds.
The nasheeds I do are for children, the youth, and for the older people … I hope they have a good experience attending the programs.