Qawwali, a rich musical tradition often associated with Pakistan, transcends the boundaries of nation and religion. The melodies of qawwali have a universal appeal, resonating with spiritual seekers worldwide. It’s fascinating that the lyrics of a renowned qawwali by the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan bridge the gap between Hindu and Islamic spirituality.
In this qawwali, Nusrat sings, “ek ka sajan mandir me, aur ek ka pritam masjid me, par main, prem ke rang me aisi doobi, ban gaya ek hi roop” (one’s beloved lives in a temple, and one’s lover is inside a mosque, but I am drenched in my lover’s colour that now we both look as one). The qawwali even pays homage to Meera, affirming that love transcends religious boundaries. It says, “Prem ki mala japte japte, aap bani main Shyam” (praying on a rosary of love, I have also become Lord Krishna).
Nusrat’s repertoire includes qawwalis like “mori bhi rang do chunariya,” which employs the imagery of gopis and Lord Krishna. Another significant example is Maulvi Haider Hassan’s famous qawwali, “Guru bin gyan gyan bin bhakti,” where he sings, “mandir me kya puje moorakh, masjid me kya sajda kare, hai Ram milan ki raah nirali, saai man ki mala japa karo” (why do you wander the temples like a fool, and why do you prostrate yourself in the mosque, strange is the path to meet Lord Ram, just pray on beads of your heart’s rosary).
The maestro Farid Ayaz, renowned for his qawwali “kanhaiya, yaad hai kuch bhi humari” (Krishna, have you forgotten us?), delivers a prayer from Radha’s perspective. He sings, “paiyyan padi Mahadev ke jaake, tona bhi karke main haari, Kanhaiya” (I have begged Lord Shiva, tried magic spells too, O Kanhaiya).
In essence, qawwali serves as a harmonious bridge that unites the spiritual expressions of different faiths, illustrating the power of music to transcend religious and national boundaries. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s observation about the assimilative spirit of Indian civilization finds resonance in the soul-stirring melodies of qawwali.
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