Tajdar-e-Haram (encore)

Sabri Brothers

I already posted a version of this qawwali sung by Neha Naaz. But I have to post this other very special version sung by Amjad Sabri, the son of Ghulam Fareed Sabri of the Sabri Brothers.

It’s a one-of-a-kind performance that unfortunately will never be repeated since Amjad Sabri was murdered by the Taliban in June this year. I added this version as a tribute to Amjad. He brought many people a lot of joy with his music.

This is a very short version that condenses the original 20 minute qawwali down to about 4 minutes.

[Tajdar-e-Haram, ho nigah-e-karam
Hum ghareebon ke din bhi sanwar jayenge.] repeat

Chashm-e-Rahamat ba-kusha su-e-malandaaz nazar
Ai Quraishi, laqabi Hashmi-o-muttalabi.

Ya Rasool Allah ba-ahwaal-e-kharab-e-maa-babeen
Roo ba-khak uftada-um, az sharm-e-isiyan dar zameen.

Muzlam-e-choon man na-baashad dar tamaami ummatat
Rehmatun bar haali maa ya Rehmat-ul lil aalamein.

Tajdar-e-Haram, ho nigah-e-karam
Hum ghareebon ke din bhi sanwar jayenge.

Haami-e-bekasaan, kya kahega jahan
Aap ke dar se khali agar jayenge.



The Art of the Qawwali

The qawwali is a uniquely south Asian form of devotional music commonly associated with the Sufi sect of Islam. Sufis have a form of worship called dhikr,  or remembrance, which often consists of repetitive content, for example, repeating certain sentences or enumerating the names of God, sometimes counting along on a string of beads like Catholics do. Different orders of Sufis follow different styles of dhikr, including the “whirling dervishes” who express dhikr in dance, and the qawwali singers of south Asia who express it in music.

Qawwalis are typically performed at the tombs (dargah) of Sufi saints, mostly in India and Pakistan, and to some extent in Bangladesh as well. Qawwalis typically have a specific type of content, and are sung in a specific order. These types include:

  • Hamd: a song in praise of Allah
  • Na’at: a song in praise of Mohammad
  • Manqabat: a song in praise of Imam Ali, or sometimes in praise of some Sufi saint.

Shia gatherings may also include a Marsiya, which is a lament over a death, usually referring to the death of Imam Hussain’s family at the Battle of Karbala.

These qawwalis are sung in traditional order, starting with the hamd, moving on to one or more na’ats, and progressing down the list.

If you’re not used to qawwalis, here are a couple things you might notice when you hear them:

  • The people singing qawwalis are knowns as qawwals.
  • Qawwalis can be very long. 15 minutes or half an hour are not unusual, and there are some that are over an hour long. A single person would get tired, so qawwals usually sing as a group, with two or more alternating lead singers and several support vocals.
  • There is a lot of repetition in a qawwali. The same line may be repeated 3-4 times by the same person or by different people. Remember, a qawwali isn’t just a piece of music, it has a religious purpose. Repetition is a feature of many religious chants, where it can induce a trance-like state where you may feel more spiritual. The Urdu phrase for this is “haal aana“, which means to lose oneself in the music and lose awareness of distractions.
  • Qawwalis often involve a lot of audience participation. It’s not unusual for the audience to clap along to the rhythm of the song. Or to express enthusiasm (words equivalent to “bravo!” or something like that). Sometimes people may get carried away and start dancing. This is more common at a dargah than in a theater performance.

As you can imagine, the full experience of a qawwali session consists of much more than just the words and music. There’s a tense, electric atmosphere among the crowd. Almost all qawwalis start slowly, with a few lines of slow recitation. Then they start to build up, move faster and faster as they go along. The audience builds momentum at the same pace. Clapping along attunes them to the rhythm and tempo. Eventually more and more people lose themselves in the music and poetry, and it becomes quite an experience.

It’s hard to describe, but it can be quite visceral. If you want to experience it for yourself, you’ll need to make your way to the tombs of some of the better known Sufi saints – Moinuddin Chishti, Nizamuddin Auliya, Jhooley Lalan. Every year on the anniversary of their deaths, there are huge celebrations with elaborate qawwali programs which are open to the public.


Bhar do Jholi

Sabri Brothers

Shah-e-Madina suno, iltija Khuda ke liye
Karam ho mujh pe, Habeeb-e-Khuda, Khuda ke liye.
Huzoor ghuncha-e-ummid ab to khil jaye
Tumhare dar ka gada hoon, to bheek mil jaye.

King of Medina listen to my plea, in God’s name
Grant your favor to me, Beloved of God, in God’s name
May the flowers of hope now bloom
I am the pauper at your door, asking for alms.

Bhar do jholi meri, ya Mohammad
Laut kar main na jaaoongi khali.

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Dai Haleema

Sabri Brothers

Mohammad se pahley tha aalam nirala
Lagaya tha shaitan ne zulmat ka tala
Kahin teer-o-lashkar, kahin tegh-o-bhala
Do sambhey ka din tha saher ka ujala
To Makkey mein paida hua kamali wala.

Before Mohammad, the world was strange
The devil had locked the world into savagery
With arrows and shields, swords and spears
But on the morning of His birth, light brightened the dawn
And in Mecca, Mohammad was born.

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Khwaja ki Deewani

Sabri Brothers

A few words of context. This is a manqabat qawwali written by the Sabri Brothers. A manqabat is usually in praise of Imam Ali, but this one is about Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a Sufi saint from the 12th century, who spent most of his life in Ajmer, India. He’s often known by the name his followers gave him: ghareebnawaz, which means “benefactor of the poor”.

The Sabri Brothers were Sufis who belonged to the Chishti Order. This particular version was sung by Neha Naaz, a young singer from Delhi in India. I like her singing because she has a very clear voice, and being young, she tries extra hard to enunciate each word carefully, which is helpful to a non-native Hindi/Urdu speaker like myself. A lot of older, more seasoned qawwals tend to slur their words, and they also have half a dozen background singers harmonizing with them, making them very hard to understand.

Note that Hindi and Urdu are gendered languages, so this singer uses the feminine forms of certain words, which I’ve transcribed. If you come across another version on the net that uses different forms of those words, it was probably transcribed from a male singer, that’s why.

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