Sami Yusuf in Concert – South Africa
What the People Thought
By Bibi Ayesha Wadvalla
Tuesday, 04 November 2008 11:05
Sami Yusuf recently completed his first tour in South Africa. Controversy was raised due to the difference of opinion regarding permissibility of music, with some Muslim radio stations calling on listeners to boycott the event. Youth 4 the Future at Islamonline.net asked both concert-goers and those who did not attend for their thoughts. The youth, who constituted perhaps 30% of the audience at this concert, were amazed that Islamic music could sound so hip. “Awesome stuff! I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to, but I did,” said one youthful member of the audience, making the long trek back to his car just after midnight. Two young females left the concert hoarse. “I don’t have a voice left. We sang along so loudly. I’ve never experienced something like that.”
A group of pre-teens also gave it the thumbs up. “It was great! I’ll come back again to see it all over again,” one said, while her sister asked, “How come we never saw something like this before in Cape Town.”
The following are comments from a number of people about Sami Yusuf and the whole issue of Islamic music:
“His entire show was superb, although many may have felt uncomfortable with the rock concert ambience, given the lighting and accompanying musicians. That said I would like to give my opinion in favor thereof. I have, regretfully, been to an actual rock concert before and can honestly say that there is a big difference. Beside the clear absence of alcohol and sexual intermingling, at Sami Yusuf’s peformance the conscious awareness of the Almighty was tangibly apparent. On Friday night, with the beat of his tombak (goblet drum), I had the name of Allah reverberating in my heart and his rendition of Free reflected my feelings to some people’s reactions of me wearing hijab.
Throughout the performance, I did not once forget that I am a Muslimah, with La ilaha illa Allah Muhammadu Rasulu Allah, as my theme. While in retrospect, at the rock concert I previously went to, my God consciousness was sadly, completely non-existent.
As I still consider myself a youth, Sami Yusuf’s music appeals to me as it is contemporary whilst still having Islamic values and I would rather enjoy his musical artistry, voice and lyrical renditions than chasing the world’s chart toppers and being in a space where I would lose my religious and spiritual identity.” Nielfa 25, Cape Town
“The concert was awesome! Sami was awesome! I loved it!” Nazeer 22, Durban
Mariam raised many points:
1) Should the ‘hosts’ have brought Sami as client appreciation? I’m personally glad they did because it’s really expensive to bring him down and I don’t think anyone else was going to. He isn’t well-known enough here to warrant it.
2) Hosts aside. Is music haram? I don’t know. Apparently there’s a difference in opinion.
3) Let’s say we go with music is allowed. How far can you go?
4) As far as songs with good messages about good values … on mothers, politics, charity and so on, I think definitely.
5) What about having songs with music with durood and dhikr? Here I think is where most of the ‘moderate’ people I know take issue. They think it’s too much.
6) Can music go as far as his CDs which we’ve been listening to for years? I personally never had an issue when listening to CDs. I find that his songs do have a heart-softening effect and have a positive impact on me spiritually. This was lost a bit in the concert.
7) So then the issue for me comes down to the concert. How far do you go at a concert? Personally I think if he played his songs as they are done on his CD it would have been better. There’s far less music and up tempo beats.
8) How do you separate showing appreciation at a concert from going too far? Clapping and singing along seems fine. Dancing is obviously out. Sami Yusuf never acts undignified on stage so as an audience we should follow the same. I think there must have been only like 10 of these immature adolescent misguided girls. Definitely not on, but can’t sensationalize it.
My friends and I were clapping and singing along too and shouted for the songs we wanted to hear (Asma-Allah is so lovely!). But we don’t idolize the guy!
9) All of the above is proof perhaps of why we should stay away from gray areas? Because where do we draw the line? Mariam 26, Durban
“It was a wonderful show. I was uncomfortable in Durban when a bunch of people went up to the front and started clapping, and I was more uncomfortable when I saw the same thing happen in Johannesburg. It wasn’t so much the numbers (more people in arena hence, proportionately more people going to the front) but rather the other things that were happening. A girl gave Sami a rose and he took it, smelt it and then put it on his piano. I discussed this with a friend on the way back (Director of ILM SA) and she said that it just perpetuated this ‘pop-culture superstar’ mentality that I feel needs to be removed from these sorts of events.
But I think we are struggling with semantic issues. Is it Islam and entertainment, Islamic entertainment? Entertainment in Islam? Muslim entertainment? Is there a place for entertainment in Islam? Recently we have seen an emergence of nasheed as an alternative to mainstream music. Also, we now have Muslim comedy shows and other things. Now, entertainment in the Muslim world must not be seen as something new per se just because we haven’t read up or explored the history of this.” Junaid 25, Durban
“I know Sami’s awesome personally but I think he doesn’t use his influence over the youth effectively. I have no problem with his music, but with his encouragement of dancing to it. I feel he should have stopped the few people who started dancing.” Nadia 20, Johannesburg
“Despite enjoying the concert I have a few reservations.” Khadija 23, Johannesburg
“I enjoyed it, but I found the music too loud. He should have used classical instruments only, or the band could have been less overpowering.” Rizwana 19, Johannesburg
“I didn’t feel it. I really enjoy some of his songs normally the mother one, the Mualim one and Allahu, but yesterday I wasn’t feeling it. The lights I think were too much, the drums were deafening, and some girls were sadly misbehaved, I really felt very uncomfortable with what I saw. I was expecting the musical instruments. I was expecting the lights and the cameras, but the girls were screaming and shouting and ostentatious.” Faaiza 28, Johannesburg
“His words are truly really beautiful, but I didn’t go because my husband doesn’t agree. I used to be a huge Sami Yusuf fan, I think in some ways I still am! But it’s the wanting to move away from music thing that does it for me. I know the duff is allowed but anything other than that I don’t think is permissible. I think a lot of his stuff can really spiritually uplift you but does the means justify the end?” Zahera 21, Johannesburg
“Sami was spell bounding! I’m still in another state of mind after his spectacular, life- altering performance.” Mushira 20, Johannesburg
“He’s a brilliant musician. But is it right or wrong? I don’t know.” Zubair 24, Johannesburg
“Good music is good. Bad music is bad.
So just like the microphone, the good use of it is good, the bad use of it is bad!
So just like the television, the good use of it is good, the bad use of it is bad!
So just like the radio, the good use of it is good, the bad use of it is bad!
So I’ll definitely be there! Nazeer, Durban
“Music in Islam is Haram. End of story.
It’s not something that can be justified to be correct.” Ahmed, Durban
“I wonder whether we are trying to be more acceptable to the West by having an “artist” like Sami Yusuf. Are we trying assimilate our identities into that of the West? I think Yvonne Ridley makes a very valid point.
Oh and by the way looking at Sami, one wonders if that’s what a Muslim looks like? Generic Western pop star looks.” Mohammad, Cape Town