RIP Amjad Sabri, symbol of a syncretic Sufi culture increasingly under attack

Amjad SabriA sad, sad day. Rest in peace, Amjad Sabri, qawwal, shot dead in a target killing in Karachi today. Shortly afterwards, the young naat-khwan, Farhan Ali Waris escaped a murderous attack on his way home from a recording where he had in fact waiting for Amjad Sabri to join him.  A continuation of the trend of killing Shia and Ahmadi doctors for their faith, now musicians…? But Amjad Sabri was not just a ‘musician’.

He was the most famous of Pakistan’s qawwals – an exponent of the faith-based music that ‪#‎fasadis‬ consider haram. The extremist Saudi-inspired Wahabi mentality doesn’t like qawwali. Or Shias. Sabri represented both through his music (though he himself wasn’t Shia).

Qawwali is part of the uniquely Southasian syncretic Sufi culture through which Islam spread in the Indian subcontinent. It is a form of devotional music that transcends religion, touches hearts belonging to all faiths. Except cold hearts full of hate and bigotry. Uplifting, inspiring, transformative.

Here’s an old recording of what is possibly the group’s most famous qawwali (the start has a couple of seconds of audio glitch):

From a friend in London: “Tragic days for the world….a woman murdered here for her humanitarian causes and a man murdered there for his cultural traditions…. Nothing is sacred and no one is safe”.

Also see this heartbreaking post from my friend, journalist Quatrina Hosein: “Ahmedis, Shias, Christians, Hindus, civilians at bazaars, Sri Lanka cricket team, hospital emergency rooms, universities, schools, mosques, imambaras, funerals, Qawwals, “liberals”…..when will Pakistan face the reality that extremism is woven into the fabric of our existence? Are you as shocked when an Ahmedi doctor is killed, as you were when 150 children were massacred in school? Do you grieve by numbers or by identities? Why do you buy into crap like Malala was a foreign agent? Wake up! The killers are extremist Sunnis. They want their brand of Islam at gunpoint, bombpoint, acidpoint. Stop absorbing the shocks. Each death is a virus that enters the body. It mutates. Its indigenous. Ours. Its killing us from within while we run around moaning “this is not Islam”. Each and every person who doesn’t buy their brand is a target. Each and everyone. We have let it reach this point because we have been digesting the poison a little bit every day. Won’t happen to me mentality got us here. News alert: Your body is now toxic. The only difference is level of immunity”.

Speaking of toxicity and poison, here’s the link to something I wrote some time back about the target killing of Ahmedis: Poison in the body politic in The News on Sunday.

There’s of course another angle I’ve been writing about – the lack of rule of law and what happens when law enforcement agencies’ “energies are focused on political voctimization instead of going after hard core criminals” as another friend, journalist Afia Salam says.

“Outraged!!! Artists and creativity are under attack!!! And creativity is as important as literacy! So it’s an attack on education and our culture. Civil society really has to come out against this by celebrating him and our art and culture! In their face! This can’t be taken lying down…media needs to be galvanized and messaging for social inclusion and tolerance needs to be cranked up!!! Bhar dey jholi is the last straw!! Meri bradri hai sabri” – messaged another qawwali loving friend.

Thinking at this time also of Sabeen – she loved qawwali.

One Response

  1. pihrights@gmail barrister syyed m j iqbal JAFREE rishwatmukao.cpm

    It is a sad situation initiated forty years ago by our sharrrrrrrReef S ,, choudhurrys and zardaris ! Very sad!!


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