The art of veneration

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PUBLISHED
May 01, 2022


ISLAMABAD:

When renowned naat khawan Owais Raza Qadri recites ‘Samaa Hai Noor Ka nikla chand,’ one will undeniably stand up in veneration to the last messenger of Allah, the Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH).

Such is the magic of naat, which incites in Muslims a profound love for the Prophet (PBUH). While listening to to Hafiz Ahmed Raza Qadri’s powerful rendition of ‘hum jaenge Madine Aqa bulaenge jub paigham e saba laiye hain Gulzar-e-Nabi se,’ people are compelled to perform ablution to recite fateha for the Prophet (PBUH). The power of the verses of naat also create a yearning in Muslims to visit the Prophet’s city of Madina.

Naat is even strong enough to outlive those who recite it. The most revered qawali star Amjad Sabri was assassinated in Karachi in June 2016, but no one will ever forget his verse ‘mein kabr andheri mein ghabraoon ga jab tanha imdad meri karnay aa jana Rasool Allah.’ At his funeral, many people recited this verse as a message of salvation and a plea to the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam to help seek mercy of Allah (SWT) in the afterlife.

Madah and qasida

Naat is an Arabic word meaning praise. In Urdu, naat denotes praise for the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) in the form of poetry, a form of religious expression with a long and rich history. In Arabic, a poem praising the Prophet (PBUH) is called ‘madah,’ which is also what the genre naat is called, while the literature itself is called ‘qasida.’

The earliest naat or madah was written in Arabic during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). From its original Arabic, naat became spread to other languages, including Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu and Seraiki.

“Naat or madah in Arabic is poetry of praise in honor of Rasool Allah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam,” Dr. Noor Ahmed Shahtaj, an Islamic scholar and advisor at the Federal Shariat Court told The Express Tribune. “It was called qasida. Many of His companions or sahabas wrote this poetry of qasida. They used to recite in His honor before Him too.”

The Prophet’s (PBUH) uncle Hazrat Abu Talib also wrote qasidas, Dr. Shahtaj said. These verses are known as qasidas of Hazrat Abu Talib in Islamic literature.

Dr. Shahtaj said the Prophet’s (PBUH) companion Hazrat Hassan Bin Sabit (RA) was a great poet who used to write qasidas. The Prophet (PBUH) used to request a minbar for Sabit (RA) from which he could read qasidas. These events symbolized love and reverence for Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (PBUH), Shahtaj said.

In the Holy Quran Allah (SWT) addresses his beloved Prophet with many attributes of praise. ‘Naat goi’ or reciting naat is an integral part of the Islamic faith, Mufti Saad Javed, a senior member of Shariat Department of Jamia Binnoria International told The Express Tribune. “Mehfil-e-Milad is incomplete without reciting naat in praise and honor of the Prophet (PBUH),” he said.

Naat in Urdu literature

Since almost every Urdu poet has composed at least a few couplets in praise of the Prophet (PBUH), the history of Urdu naat is as old as Urdu poetry itself.

Urdu poets from the Mughal era including Mirza Muhammad Rafi Sauda, Mir Taqi Mir, and Ghalib wrote couplets praising the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), but it was not until the first half of the 19th century that naat in Urdu poetry earned an individual status and distinct poetical genre. Researchers have written on the literary merits of naat poetry in Urdu, while critical writings about naat are scarce.

Love for the last Messenger (PBUH) is an obligation for Muslims. When the faith of a follower of Islam increases, his love for the Prophet (PBUH) increases. Loving the Prophet (PBUH) is an act of obedience to Allah (SWT) and a way to get closer to him.

Muslims around the world have different ways of expressing their love for the Prophet (PBUH), and through him, Allah (SWT). Naat as devotional poetry is tool used to express love offer verses of praise to the Prophet (PBUH).

In its earlier days sittings for naat were held in the mosques, but over time recitations also began during religious sessions or mehfils. The concept of recitation, presentation, and production has transformed through the years, yet its meaning and fervor have remained, just like the Muslim faith and belief in Allah (SWT) and his last messenger (PBUH).

The art of naat khawani

Naat khawani, or recitation of naats, has become a fine art that requires accurate understanding of the religion, knowledge about Prophet’s (PBUH) life, teaching and belief in Allah (SWT). While performing a naat, naat khawans are deeply absorbed in love and devotion for Allah and his Prophet (PBUH). Over the centuries, some of the most renowned Muslim poets have composed verses of naats and practiced the art of naat khawani.

The 13th century poet Shaikh Saadi Shirazi was one of them. His ‘Balaghal-ula be-Kamal-e-hi’ is considered to be one of the greatest naats, which made many naat khawans and qawals popular among believers. Some religious scholars and researchers not only recite but also write their own verses of naats. Dr. Riaz Majeed, for example, has done extensive research on naat, while Syed Sabihuddin Rehmani is famous for his melodious naat renditions.

The success of a naat khawan largely depends on his or her performance. There are countless names like Sami Yusuf, Umme Habiba, Zabeeb Masood Shah, Tasleem Ahmed Sabri, Javeria Salim and Abdul Rauf Roofi that have gained notoriety.

While attention is given to the words of the verses and overall production, there are some emerging naat khawans, like Uruj Habib, who are trying to develop a style in the tone of the naat. Singer turned naat khawan Junaid Jamshed did a memorable rendition of ‘Mohammad ka roza qareeb ara ha hai’ and ‘mere Nabi pyare Nabi’ while Amjad Sabri is known for his version of ‘naat of the millennium,’ ‘sabz gumbad wale.’

Originally published at tribune.com.pk

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