About ten year ago, Sami Yusuf released his first spiritual album following a spiritual awakening. In 2005 after the release of his album “My Ummah” Sami was given the title of “Islam’s biggest rockstar”. Sami became a household name in Muslim household all over the world.
The down-to-earth, good looking British-Azerbijani Islamic singer is gifted with a voice that touched hearts of millions and gave birth to a new genre in music, which is today popularly known as “nasheed”. Music has always been a topic of antagonism in the Muslim world. The conservative Muslims completely reject its permissibility in the religion. In 2006, a former journalist who converted to Islam wrote an open letter to Sami Yusuf. He disapproved of Sami’s Muslim female fan following. His referred this type of music as something which “must be creeping around the globe and poisoning the masses”.
But the fact remains, no matter how much nasheeds are opposed or the extremists try to oppress it; the genre is clearly nuanced from traditional or secular music. There is a vast nature of Islamic tradition and varied jurisprudence. Today Islam is practiced with a multitude of interpretations and applications which has made its rising appreciation possible. The industry is still in its infancy stages, with just one major record company, “Awakening Records” catering to the genre, and just a handful of known Islamic musicians entering the nasheed industry.
If we actually study Islam in its true form we will see that music is allowed in Islam, on the condition that there should be no vulgarity and obscenity in the lyrics and the musician’s clothing. A number of educated young Muslims who understand the true essence of Islam come from this school of thought.
Following Sami a well know US based Muslim singer; Maher Zain who has worked alongside Lady Gaga entered the industry. His alteration from the traditional to Islamic music was like a breath of fresh air to the industry. The singer has over 10 million facebook followers and is among the most popular Youtubers. By singing about the love for his creator and thanking him Zain found an inner peace which he couldn’t before. Zain recently did a 12 city tour across the UK where he performed in jam-packed concert halls. The audience belonged to all ages and had everyone from Muslim scholars to young audiences enjoying his songs about peace and solitude.
Some more nasheed singers include Saif Adam who has worked with Ed Sheeran and Tulisa Contostavlos, Raef and Harris J. Entrance of these Islamic singers into the industry is clear evidence that this industry is going on an upward curve.
Most of these songs promote the true message of Islam which is of peace and harmony. These singers are breaking the stereotypes against Islam. It is the first time that we have seen Islamic singers where they are popular among co-religionists all over the world and among UAE singers as well. They have devoted fans and are selling multi-platinum albums.
There is no denying that the industry is quite diversified and whether; one wants to believe whether its permissible or not, it is entirely up to them. But the fact of the matter is there has been a paradigm shift in the Islamic music industry and nasheed and nasheed singers have already made their mark and are here to stay.