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The magic of Imran Mian Qawwal

The magic of Imran Mian Qawwal

Following in the footsteps of his legendary father Aziz Mian Qawwal, Imran Mian has inspired audiences across the world with his transcendental Sufi qawwali. As a child, Imran Mian would accompany his father on his international tours during his school holidays. His father quickly recognised his talent for qawwali and encouraged him to pursue his passion. During Imran Mian’s soul stirring performances in which he recites the works of the great Sufi masters whose words urge us not to be blinded by the transient distractions of this world and recognise the Divine Love of God, has resonated with audiences across the world. His fans eagerly await his upcoming releases: Man Kun to Mola, Sawariyan and Jogi de Naal. He talks to Blue Chip about his passion for qawwali, his late father and the true spirit of Islam     

You are one of Pakistan’s leading qawwals. What drew you to qawwali?

Imran Mian: “The fact that qawwali is a different form of music — Sufi music. Most people don’t venture into this field, rather they give preference to pop or more mainstream forms of music. Thus Sufi music is unique, which is why I opted for this type of music and also, this is a part of my heritage.”

Who are your favorite poets in Pakistan and in the field of Sufism?

IM: “There is a distinction between poetry and Sufi poetry. My favorite poets from the sub-continent are Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir, Adam, Josh Malihabadi. I also like Faiz Ahmed and Ahmed Faraz’s poetry. In Sufism, Shah Hussain, Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Mian Muhammad Baksh, Sultan Bahu, Abdul Latif Bhittai, Maulana Rumi, Amir Khusro, Hafiz Shirazi and Mansoor Hallaj are all my favourites and I read their works. All Sufi schools of thought are one but their categories are varied.”

Which ones have significant and special themes?

IM: “When a qawwal performs qawwali, he selects Sufi texts and performs them. But his performance and way of reciting the words make it unique. People find it extraordinary. Sufis are esteemed figures in our history and the subjects they write and speak about are of universal value.”

Tell us about your background?

IM: “I got my primary education from PAF Chaklala, I did my F.Sc. and then went to America. I was always interested in music, ghazals and qawwali. My father inspired me towards Sufi music. He said that if I endorse Sufi culture and literature, I would surely be granted success.”

What are your views on the recent collaboration of qawwals with Bollywood like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan?

IM: “Rahat Fateh Ali Khan belongs to a Sufi family which has been performing qawwali for the past 300 years. Allah has blessed him with fame and he is very respected. People appreciate his art. It is not bad to collaborate with the Indian film industry. A Sufi singer is foremost a singer and then a Sufi. When he recites Sufi kalam (composition), people value him. He inspires people through reciting the Sufi kalam. He is a Sufi as well as a singer.”

You have been successful like your father. What has been your secret of success?

IM: “My parents’ prayers; they are not in this world anymore. My entire ancestors’ and Sufis’ prayers are with me. I am content with what I have achieved. Allah is fulfilling my wishes through the work I am doing. People give me respect and this is more than enough for me.”

Your father guided you — he was a great man. What other lessons did he give you regarding life and music?

IM: “He was a compassionate man. Not only us — all those who came in contact with him learned something from him. He was a sincere man. During his life, I never saw him angry or upset. He was a real Sufi. A shrine was built for him in Multan. He performed for 16 consecutive years at the Data Darbar, every Thursday without any special arrangements. People admired him. He was blessed with grace. My father got everything from Data Darbar. Data Ganj Baksh is a prominent and revered Sufi of the subcontinent.”

How did your father’s performance in Mecca come about?

IM: “My father was close to the late Zia ul Haq who once asked my father if he could be of service to him. My father had never asked for any special favour or request but did tell him that he longed to perform Umrah. My father’s request was granted and Zia ul Haq’s son accompanied him for Umrah. At that time, there was an important Meccan official who was a great fan of Aziz Mian. When he saw Aziz Mian, he said that God had granted him everything he had wished for at the Ka’aba because he had wished to see Aziz Mian and this had been fulfilled.
He took my father to the Amir of Mecca, which is a thing of great honour. My father was asked to perform at the Amir’s palace but he said that he wanted to perform for the Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis living in Mecca. The Amir granted him permission to perform.”

What are your views on the recent misunderstandings about Islam in the West?

IM: “I would like to quote Allama Iqbal’s verse:

Haqeeqat khuraafaat me kho gai,
Ye ummat rivayaat me kho gai

(Reality got lost in vulgarity
The believers got lost in ritual)

Islam is not the way it is being portrayed in the media and by certain groups. May Allah grant people guidance. May all Muslim brothers stand united. Islam stands for enlightened thought. Islam is not the religion of extremism but the religion of peace.

This is the final religion which has been sent for all mankind. There is no other religion that will follow. It is a religion that we have to take along with us till the Day of Judgement. Thus, we have to make some decisions now otherwise the extremism that is tainting our religion can do much damage.

We should represent Islam as a religion of harmony. Sufism has many followers who are not Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (May God’s blessings and peace be upon him) was not sent for a specific sect or religion. He was sent for all humanity. He was sent as a mercy for the whole human race. If all Muslims are able to comprehend this, then all issues would be resolved.”

What are your future plans?

IM: “I want to promote qawwali and our cultural heritage. Local music like the works of Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusro and Shah Hussain should be revived. All Sufi saints and poet studied wahdaniyat (the oneness of God as accepted by people of all religions). These Sufis and poets have given a universal message to humanity through their works. This is why Sufi music has been sustained for centuries. In the future, I want to spread Sufi poetry with its own authentic music, sound, rhythm and harmony. Every word sung carries its own meaning and rich history. As the great Sufi poet Mian Mohammad Baksh said:

Main Neeva Mera Murshid Uncha

(I am small however my masters are great people).

Mian Baksh is correct in stating the above verse. The world we live in appreciates and respects good and worthy people. Sufis do not judge, they love all people and give them shelter. This is often why many people who have gone astray turn to Sufis for guidance. A Sufi’s job is to enlighten people. Sufism is a life-changing experience for people, enabling them to find a balance in their lives.
Aziz Mian Qawwal

In 1966, Aziz Mian received international acclaim when he performed for the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahalavi and his wife Farah Diba. When the Shah gave Aziz Mian a copy of the Diwan-e-Hafiz to recite from, Aziz Mian shut the book and recited the Diwan from memory for an hour and a half. Aziz Mian was awarded several accolades by the Shah for his memorable performance. He was the only qawwal who performed in Mecca on 28 April, 1983. Aziz Mian was born in Delhi, British India. At the age of 10, he began learning the art of qawwali under the tutelage of Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan. A true Sufi scholar, he received 16 years of training at the Data Ganj Baksh School in Lahore, and obtained a Masters degree in Urdu and Persian literature. During his 40-year career, he gained international renown for his mastery of the devotional art of qawwali. The most popular of Aziz Mian’s qawwalis were Mein Sharabi Sharabi, Aadmi Hai Benazir and Ali Ali. For his service in philosophy and music, the Government of Pakistan awarded him the Pride of Performance medal in 1989.

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