A few years ago I interviewed Pakistani Rock Star Salman Ahmad (of the Band Junoon), and asked what Islam meant to him. Here are a few of his comments from that Article.
"Those planes were not the only thing those terrorists hijacked on 9/11. They also hijacked my religion. They call themselves Moslems, but they only bow to the gods of hate, fanaticism and bigotry.
I may look like a long-haired musician, but I know Islamic Logic. I studied the Koran as a child, and I continue to go back to it as a source of inspiration for my music. There is absolutely nothing in the Koran that forbids music. On the contrary, the Koran says that the prophet David was given the gift of singing and that when he sang the mountains swayed. Why would God give a prophet such a gift if it were evil? And the Hadith they cite as banning music criticizes things like “idle talk”, which obviously only refers to gossip, not music. I researched and studied this topic and spent two and a half hours discussing it with the most prominent Mullah in Peshawar. But instead of responding to my arguments, he just fell back on apocalyptic imagery. I saw through him, but I still treated him respectfully. In fact, he ended our discussion by entreating me ‘from the heart’ not to be angry with him, and asking me to come and see him again. Then he sang a song to me, and asked me to perform at my next concert. After 2 and a half hours of saying music was sinful, he was standing there singing to me.”
“The fact is, these mullahs don’t really believe what they are saying. They’re attacking music because they are afraid of losing their gig. They see a long-haired musician getting thirty thousand people at a concert, and they see us as intruding on their market share. In Pakistan, 50% of the population is under twenty-five, and they are the ones who are attracted to Rock music and videos. When I starting interviewing the students at the Madrassahs, all they wanted to talk about was Junoon’s music. They knew all the songs, and were asking for my autograph. But once the cameras came on, they all mouthed the same preprogrammed commentary, saying that music was forbidden.
“ The kids say what they say because they’re poor and they get free food and education from the Madrassahs. Their parents leave them there and say “raise them”. There’s no other social safety net, so the kids have no choice but to echo the party line. But when the mullahs aren’t watching, they watch satellite TV, discuss cricket matches, and do all the other things that normal kids do. If they were provided with any other economic opportunities, they wouldn’t be there. Even though all music is banned in Peshawar, there are three or four rock bands from there who have made videos that are running on satellite music channels in Pakistan. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t be sure, but I think the Mullahs are losing.”
Nevertheless, Ahmad strongly believes that a defeat for the extremists will result in a rejuvenation of Islam at its best.
“They are trying to recreate seventh century Arabia in our time, and they are not even recreating it accurately. They say that women shouldn’t work outside the home. But the Prophet Muhammad was married to a working businesswoman who was fifteen years older than he was. And she proposed to him.”
“They try to avenge any action they think is disrespectful of Islam. But here is a story that all Moslem children hear from their mothers. When the Prophet, peace be upon him, first began to preach his message, there were many people who reacted hostilely. There was a woman who used to see Muhammad walk by her house every day, and she always dumped garbage on him from her window. Not once did he protest this, or try to get revenge. One day he walked by and she didn’t dump garbage on him. So he went up to see her, and discovered that she was sick. He stayed with her, nursed her back to health, and eventually she converted to Islam. He used persuasion and gentleness, not anger and force. He knew that the only way to win over people is through truth, humility, and compassion. There are so many stories in which his followers wanted him to act aggressively, and he would say ‘the truth will prevail, as long as we’re true to ourselves’. The self-appointed spokesmen for Islam who claim they want to emulate Muhammad’s character erase this whole side of his story.”
“Being a Good Muslim is having faith in a higher power. Once you have that faith, it strengthens you against the fear of humiliation, poverty, and death. The Koran says only God has the power to exalt you. No one else has ultimate control over when you die or how much financial success you have. Once you accept this, it frees you from all the mind games we play with ourselves. It’s an empowerment which comes from submission. We think of submission as implying weakness, but it really means tuning in with the frequency of the universe. Once you’re in harmony with that frequency, then you can imagine your own destiny.”
“Strength of faith is not in veils or beards or trouser length, it’s a matter of the heart. This was perfectly expressed in a poem by Bulleh Shah, which I used as the lyric for my song Masjid/Mandir (the mosque and the temple) “destroy the mosque/tear down the temple/ break all that can be broken/but don't ever break anyone's heart / that's the true house of God.”
Information about Junoon recordings, concerts etc. can be found at www.junoon.com