-me- In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Sami, we would like to thank you for your time and for giving us this opportunity to talk to you.
We are aware that you studied music and have been in this field for a good period of time; however, we only started hearing about Sami Yusuf few years ago but since then you became one of the most popular personalities.
Why did Sami Yusuf become so popular? Is it the way he sings? Is it the type of art he is delivering? Who is Sami Yusuf and who is his target?
– Sami Yusuf – In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
I would like to thank Aljazeera Talk for this interview.
I Suppose I am just someone who Allah has blessed with a little bit of talent in the art of music and creativity in music, and I suppose from a very young age I always wanted to do something respectful and dignified, and what more respectful and dignified than something Islamic, which is directly about Islam, Allah and the Prophet PBUH.
All praises to Allah, in the year 2003, I released the album “Al-Mu’allim”, it was my first ever album. Alhamdulilah, Allah granted me with a lot of success in my work and this is from his grace “fadel” upon me, which I thank Him for.
I am using and utilizing the talent that Allah SWT has blessed upon me and I hope InshAllah it will be accepted, for not just music, but also as something that is righteous deed. I thank everyone for their support, and everything they have done, the prayers “Duaa” they made for me, and I ask you, first, and foremost my brothers and sisters who are listening or reading the notes, to please make “Duaa” for me, its not easy what we are doing, I ask Allah to save me, save all of us form “Fitna” and from Hasad. It is not easy to be public figure and really, if I told you it hasn’t changed my life I would be lying to you, it has changed a lot of things, but Alhamdulilah we have good brothers that remind us about mistakes and advice us and we try to do the best we can.
I think that every person should do the same, every brother or sister that have been bestowed, has been blessed with a talent, I think should do the same, utilize it in the best way they can.
-me-Relating to the type of art you deliver, it has always been asked whether you are a Sufi or a “Munshid” and what school you follow? We want to know who is Sami Yusuf and what he wants?
– Sami Yusuf –Regarding me being a Sufi, or a “Munshid”, or any of these things, I believe in unity, I don’t like to go into groups divisions. But generally speaking my affiliation to Islam is clear. For those who know me and know the scholars that I follow and respect, for them, it is clear what kind of understanding I have.
I don’t like the word “Sufi” I respect “Sufism” but I don’t like being called a “Sufi” because it has very negative connotation. Unfortunately now days “Sufism” has a very negative aspect, it means someone who doesn’t care about anything of the practical side of life. Someone who just wants to sit down somewhere and make “Diker”. That is good, but Islam teaches us to work, Islam is about living in the future and not living in the past and that is what I am trying to do.
-me-I heard from my friends that many people have entered Islam after listening to your first album “Al-Mu’allim”. Is that right?
– Sami Yusuf – All praises to Allah, I don’t want to talk about these things, because I don’t want to fall into “Riya’a” but Alhamdulilah Allah blessed this song and blessed this album and Alhamdulilah is all that I can say.
-me-In the song “Hasbi Rabi”, you chose to sing in four different languages, Turkish, Arabic, Indian and English, why did you choose these languages?
– Sami Yusuf –“Hasbi Rabi” is done in four languages because it talks about unity and how anyone, in any part of the world, whether they are from Egypt, working class, high class, whether they are a Najjar (Carpenter) a Fanan (Artist), violinist in turkey, or whether they would be a teacher in India, they can still remember Allah and they can still be good Muslims. That is the basic message behind the song. Whoever you are, you have a duty to worship Allah. That is the concept behind the story of the song “Hasbi Rabi”. That is why I sang it in four languages, to bring these people together, to talk about this issue.
The original song is an Afghani song, and it’s supposed to be in “Dari” which is a Farsi (Persian) dialect, unfortunately I don’t know why I didn’t sing it. I didn’t add the Dari, the dialect. I don’t know what happened, but Alhamdulilah, it was a very bless full success.
-me-But we are aware that you know Farsi, why didn’t you sing it in Persian, wasn’t that easier for you?
– Sami Yusuf – Walahi, years that have gone by, that I have been away, I have few Persian friends in London. I kind of more or less forgot the little that I knew. But now I am more concentrating on Arabic. However, the language that I feel more comfortable with is English, I think in English, and I sleep in English. And if I could, If Allah would give me another life I would learn every single language that there is in this world. I love languages because it brings people closer together.
– Aljazeera Talk – What about your new album, do we expect it to be out this summer? Can you tell us more about it?
– Sami Yusuf – InshAllah, my new Album will be released in three versions, an Arabic version that will have three to four Arabic songs, a Turkish version with three to four extra songs in Turkish and an international version because I have realized that by singing so many tongues I have neglected my mother language, which is English. The language I think in, the language I grew up speaking and the language that brings the world together, its the international language of the world, everyone speaks it, every country speaks it. As you know, I also want to consolidate my position InshAllah in Europe. I have a very strong following in Europe whether it is in Germany, France, and Netherlands. In England, I just had a concert in Wembley Arena in London, All Praises to Allah; it was attended by 14 thousands people. I think it will not be fair to them to just sing in languages they don’t understand. So I think the best way to go, the best way to work this is to do three separate albums, one which is an Arabic version, with more or less the same songs but extra two or three songs in Arabic, and a Turkish and an international version InshAllah.
-me- Will your album be released in Music or just Drums?
– Sami Yusuf –To be honest my brother, many people asked me about this and you know in the album “My Ummah”, I did a percussive version, but to be honest even those that have asked me to make a percussive version, even them were buying the music version. We have a lot of “Munshedeen”, a lot of singers who are just using percussive instruments and InshaAlah I will be the exception. Not everyone has to listen to me, you know, this is “Sunah Kauniya”, this is the “Sunah” of Allah. Not everyone is going to like me, not everyone is going to like my music. It’s natural, so “Alhamdulilah”, they can listen to the other “Nasheed” Singers that only use percussive instruments.
-me- Do you listen to any other of the “Munshedeen”?
– Sami Yusuf – I only started listening to “Nasheed” and few of the “Munshedeen” when I was making the album “Al-Mu’allim”. Before that I didn’t know any of them or listen to any “Nasheed”. I never grew up listening to “Nasheed”, I just had good music, I grew up listening to good music.
-me- Do you think there is something missing in the world of “Nasheed”, since none of the other “Nasheed” and “Munshedeen” are able to gain the popularity your albums “Al-Mu’allim” and “My Ummah” have gained? Many of the “Munsheden” started many years before you, but when we talk about Sami Yusuf, all people know him. Is it because you beat them with the lyrics, music, what is your advice to them?
– Sami Yusuf –First of all, I believe that in Islamic heritage and cultural we have a “Jumlah” called “Anasheed”. I think “Anasheed” is as MADEH- praising the prophet PBUH, and its all about Allah, it is religious music. This should remain pure. It should remain “Anasheed” and then we have music.
Different types of music, whether it will be in Andalusia, in Syria, every country has its own national music, even in Qatar, you have your own national traditional music, and so “Anasheed” should not be mixed with that. It’s a separate thing, I don’t think anything is missing, I think generally, I will tell you human phenomena, and human beings like variety, people like to see different colors. Now, the prophet PBUH was a man who loved beauty, who loved aesthetics. You know, even the “HADITH” about clothes, about the man that said is it like arrogance? He said no, its not arrogance, dressing good is a good thing.
He taught us how we should dress beautiful clothes, and the famous “hadith” “God is beautiful and loves beauty” So human beings love to see variety of beautiful sounds, beautiful colors, for example in my music there is a lot of variety. Some “Nasheed” singers, when I listen to them, they have very nice songs, very beautiful ones, but the second, the third, and fourth time you listen to them… really at the end you might fall asleep. Its nothing personal, its just human beings love to hear variety.
Sometimes I hear like voices changing into saxophones, they have changed a human voice into a saxophone!!! Just use the saxophone that is there! And with the vocals, they are changing it to the samplers, adding polyphonic voices, and they are changing it to pads. And I just think to myself, “Subhan Allah”, beautiful instruments are there available for us to use… but then?? I do understand that there is a difference in opinion – this is right and that is right- and it’s up to you, what your heart says you do it, and it’s depending on which scholar you follow but generally speaking whether it is when you see a face or when you hear a speech. “Walahi”, imagine listening to a “KHATEEB”, from begging to end with one voice, just one voice monotone. You fall asleep.
When you look at prophets, May Allah sends his peace and blessings upon them all. All of them were beautiful, seriously, it’s very significant, they were all beautiful, Yousef “Josef” PBUH – how beautiful was he? And Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he was very beautiful, this is the importance of beauty. “Walahi”, if these prophets were not beautiful, maybe the people wouldn’t have listened to them. Because people want to see beauty, they want to see a nice face, nice speech, nice music, and nice sound.
I think that at the end, we are missing something in our civilization, in Islamic civilization, and that is appreciation of beauty. Until we understand beauty and appreciate it like our great-fathers, the revival of this religion “Deen”-the “TAJDEED” of this “Deen”, it won’t come, it’s a central role, it plays the central role, look at how Muslims were before, you know the arrow-the spear- on the Arrow they used to design on it, and the design was so beautiful.
I think we Muslims are missing this. We seem to think, some of our brothers seem to think that it is prohibited “Haram” to appreciate and enjoy beauty. They think that smiling is “Haram”, too much laughing is also “Haram”! Not too much but laughing generally is “Haram”. Why? In English we call it “Purist Understanding” of life. To have fun is wrong, So, I think we need to appreciate beauty, I am not up to convincing that music is “Halal”, and the use instruments is “Haram”, this is not my job, this is the job of the “Ulamaa” scholars, its an opinion. However, please forgive me if you think I am doing any mistake, make “Dua” for me. The most important thing is to make excuses for your brother.
-me-What is your message to all those who love Sami Yusuf and support his work?
– Sami Yusuf – Generally, the problems I faced have been minimum, few criticism here and there, but “Alhamdulilah”, the support has been overwhelming and the few words I want to share with my brothers and sisters May Allah Bless you all, may Allah protect you all, may Allah preserve you all.
Jazakum Allah Khairan for being Muslims, being a Muslim is a great honor. You should be proud of being a Muslim, I thank Allah that I have all of you as my brothers and sisters, I ask you to make “Dua” for me, your small brother, your little brother, make “Dua” for him and please ask Allah to protect me from “Shay’taan” and “Fitna” and “Hasad” and “Ain”, its difficult, really it is difficult.
-me- Sami Yusuf, thank you very much for this interview.
Who is Sami Yusuf?
* Sami Yusuf is a British composer, singer and musician. Born in July 1980 for a musical family of Azeri origin, thus music played an integral part in his life.
* Sami learnt to play several instruments at a very young age and gradually began to show a keen interest in singing and composing.
* He studied music at several institutions and with renowned composers and musicians including composers from the Royal Academy of Music in London, one of the world most prestigious music institutions.
* Sami has been composing from a very young age and his beautiful voice is supplemented by his extensive knowledge of music theory and harmony. He also has a good understanding of the Middle Eastern modes (or Maqams).
This interview was published on Aljazeera Talk