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Interview With Sami Yusuf, 13/9/05

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Interview With Sami Yusuf, 13/9/05

Post  nosheen on Sun Oct 18, 2009 11:32 pm

About Sami Yusuf:

The renowned Muslim British singer Sami Yusuf, born in 1980, started playing many musical instruments at a very young age. He attended music courses in one of the world’s most prestigious music schools, the Royal Academy of Music.

Yusuf, the youngest son of a descent Azeri family that settled in London, got married to a German woman three months ago.

Sami’s training in Western Musical theory and the Middle Eastern modes (or Maqams) helped produce his distinctive voice that has performed to sell out venues around the world.

Sami Yusuf, UK's leading Nasheed singer, is preparing to release his new album, “My Ummah,” on September 30. May Allah give him more success.

Your video clip with the song of “Al-Muallim” went to number one on Turkish music channels. Are you aware of that?

Yes, I heard this from some of my friends in Turkey. I love all of the Muslim world. In particular, I love Turkey more because of its Ottoman heritage. Hence, first and foremost, let me tell you that it is a great pleasure and honor for me to be interviewed by you and your newspaper. I didn’t know that my music would be number one in Turkey and in Egypt. Because initially when we were making this first album, my aim was that the album should be for particular groups, which to be frank and candid are, the Muslims living in the West. It achieved real success among Muslims in the West, elhamdulillah. But we were surprised and shocked when it became apparent that it had become a success, and went to number one in the East as well. All I can say is that this is not Sami Yusuf’s success, but the blessings of Allah and the blessings of the Holy Prophet Mohammed’s (pbuh) name. This is an honor and I am proud of it.

When people first listen to you, they think that you are chanting, however, your music style is more than chanting. How do you interpret your outperforming popular music icons and making the youths who had earlier been fans of pop singers become your fans?

Personally, I don’t regard my music as chanting. Here, I am not going to discuss whether chanting is good or bad. I think we have two types of arts in music: Good music and bad music. We must try to create a new genre to do with good art and good music. I hope that I am part of that genre, which talks about good music. I believe that you don’t have to chant to make good music. Regarding icons, to be famous or not to be famous is not an issue for me. My main objective has always been to do something for Islam and to make the youths be proud of their religion and identity. That is the ultimate goal behind what I am doing. Of course, if you are doing something good, fame comes with it; however, fame is like a test from God. I am not doing all these for fame.

After the September 11 attacks in the U.S., emphasis on the Muslim world being “backward” has been made more than before. You seem to have demolished that in your video clip, what do you say?

First of all, Islam is very beautiful, whether Sami Yusuf releases a video clip or not. The overwhelming majority of Muslim people are good people who obey the laws and want to be good citizens. Apparently, we are faced with some “backwardness” and “bigotry,” But really, this people are in the minority. They are not the voice of Islam. They cannot represent the majority. Islam has beautiful messages advising us to believe in one God and to be good people. This is the essence of Islam that does not give any message advocating violence. Turkish people have a very good understanding of Tasawwuf (Sufism). They really understand these messages well. Unfortunately, this is what some people overlook and sometimes get too involved in the details and forget the main elements why Islam was sent as a message to mankind.

All songs in your first album are related to the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). What was your aim while doing this?

Of course, people know about the Prophet and love him. But some do not really know how humanitarian he was, how a great human being he was. Our Prophet has been lifted even higher by non-Muslims. He is the most righteous human being who has ever lived. He was a great humanitarian, unfortunately some misunderstand him. I try to explain this with my music.

How did your family contribute to your Islamic understanding?

I was born into a Muslim family and they love Islam. They are not very very conservative. Of course, they pray. I have a sister and a brother. I am the youngest one. I recently got married. My wife is German. One always passes through various stages of his life. Hence, life is a journey. Even though I used to pray before, sometimes, my awakening occurred when I was 16. I can say, maybe, I am a little more conservative than my family (smiling).

What was the real cause of that awakening?

Many things, but firstly, the “hidayet” (true path) to Allah. I am the kind of person who always researches, thinks and tries to learn the truth. This awakening occurred as a result of many things. Elhamdulillah, the turning point came when I was about 16 or 17 and I really wanted to do something for Islam.

Did your family influence you to have an education on music?

My father, who is a very spiritual man, had a great influence on me. He is a music composer. Now, he is mostly teaching. I grew up in a very spiritual atmosphere. My father was definitely my first music teacher. He holds a very talented position in music; he plays more than eight different musical instruments. He has conducted studies on classical music, besides Arab and Middle Eastern music. He loves Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and likes reading his book, Masnavi, after prayers. I also studied music at various institutions; in fact, he helped me a lot. I am really indebted to my father and mother, both for my spiritual and music education.

You are of Eastern origin, but live in the West. Do you observe your Eastern traditions?

Yes, of course. Tradition is very important as you know, and culture is also part of Islam. A Muslim should uphold his culture, love his culture. Islam did not come to eradicate culture. Only things that go against Islam are wrong. Most cultures are not against Islam. Every society has its own culture. This is wonderful. This is what makes the Muslim Ummah so divergent and rich.

You grew up in Britain. Did you encounter an difficulties during your childhood?
You know that Britain and Europe have negative aspects, but they have good aspects as well. Eastern people mostly do not look at the good points or may not see the good points. For example, there are many elements in Britain and Western Europe that are mostly Islamic. Many chapters were taken from Imam Abu Hanifa’s books in formulating the legal system and the welfare state. You do not find many poor people in Britain, unless they prefer to be homeless. 99 percent of the people here are generally middle class. They have similar lifestyles. There are negative aspects as well. Things you see on TV, the music. But I was not very influenced by those things, I was not very concerned about those things. The major difficulty for children here is having friends. I only really met good friends when I went to high school. I did not know many Muslims friends before. This is definitely a very serious problem.

The children of those who emigrate from East to West are sometimes ashamed of their identities. You drew an image nourished by Eastern culture and benefited from Western civilization. So, how did you solve that dilemma?

Well, I think the idea that the majority of second generation Muslims are ashamed of their identity is a little bit of an over-exaggeration. I think that a lot of these things have to do with the family. From my experience, I can tell you that Allah gave us honor and glory through Islam. We are powerful and successful and blessed by Islam. We do not have the power the West has. We do not have the influence, strength and money. We can never defend ourselves from a tangible point of view. But if we hold on to our religion and destiny and we bring back that glory of our destiny, I very much believe that Allah, the One who raises and casts down, will give us back our glory and destiny again, like during the Andalusian and Ottoman eras. We must try to appreciate the honor, blessings and dignity from Islam. The youths do not know this. Therefore, this is one of my goals to make the youths understand this. That is why my new album is called “My Ummah.” We want to remind the youths that we have a great religion, great Ummah and great identity. We have that beautiful treasure and we must appreciate it. It is Islam that teaches us moral ethics, what else could it be?

What are your future plans? Do you have any message for the Muslim world?
Essentially, what I want to say to my brothers and my sisters is, be proud of Islam. This has two folds: One is spiritual and the other one is practical. In fact, we are part of a destiny we must fulfill. One must first understand Islam’s objectives and then start praying. The fact is that I just want the glory of the Holy Mohammed to come back. I believe it will. The youths are very open-minded now. They are mostly proud of their religion. Although there are some elements of modernity they like, they have realized that staying aloof from religion and shying away from religion is wrong. Religion goes hand in hand with modernity.

What is the peak you want to reach in your music career?

If Allah gives me long life, I will always sing about Allah and Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) all my life. I am not a pop singer. I reminded people of this many times in Egypt. You know that some youngsters requested my phone number there. You know such things always happen. I told them that I am not a pop singer and don’t want to be a pop singer. I just want to do something for my religion. I studied music to give messages through music. We want to reach people we cannot reach through music. I want people who listen to pop singers to listen my music. I believe that we will be successful. About my future plans, first of all, I want to be good person to my family. You find people around you doing wonderful things, yet they neglect their families. I try to respect any person who deserves God’s respect. I want to do my best to fulfill my obligations. This is already a great endeavor on its own. If I die as a Muslim, it will be my greatest honor. In fact, I will try to give messages through music all my life.


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