Junaid Jamshed was one of Pakistan’s most popular musical artists when he ended his career as a pop star in 2003 to lead what he considers an authentic spiritual life. The ex-heart throb is barely recognisable these days, choosing to dress in simple shalwar kameez and sporting an ever growing beard.
The tall hazel eyed singer best known for gems such as Sanwali Saloni, Goray Rang ka Zamana and Yeh Shaam, talks exclusively to MVUK about his journey from pop stardom to religious enlightenment.
He initially rocketed to fame in 1987 with the patriotic song Dil Dil Pakistan as the lead singer of Pakistan’s first ever pop band, Vital Signs. After a string of chart topping songs, the band split in 1995 and Jamshed began his solo career, achieving even more success. This was also the start of his life changing spiritual journey. He recalls the turning point in his search for inner peace. In October 1997, I went with a friend for three days in a jamaat (a religious group); it is the most memorable moment of my life. It was then I realised what a big mistake my whole life had been and that I needed to change.
Although he continued delivering hit after hit, he also spent many nights sleeping on mosque floors in search of spirituality. It was another six years before the Pakistani pop legend came to the conclusion that his career was not compatible with Islam. He bid farewell to the pop scene on 14 August 2003 and reveals that the decision was not an easy one to take. It was a difficult choice as music was my biggest passion, my career and livelihood, said Jamshed.
He recalls the day he declared that his pop career was over. I was very sad because music was in my blood and under my skin and the only thing I was used to. But, I also wanted to please Allah - I did not want to be someone who was written in his bad books. Despite his announcement, the singer was unable to leave the pop world for another year due to contractual tour and album obligations.
Now a devout Muslim, he explains why it was essential for him to leave pop music. Islam does not permit music, especially the way it is done these days and the money that you earn from it is haram (not permitted). It was not the kind of life I wanted to lead. He now hopes to inspire people as a preacher rather than a pop star. In my previous life, I used to call others to something which was against Islam, but now I call them towards Allah and ask them to fulfil what he wants them to do.
Jamshed admits that he was very worried about his future after music due to family responsibilities. He says these concerns led him to venture into business even though he was not business minded. He now runs one of the most successful designer clothes chains in Pakistan and is grateful to God for his success. In a very short time of two and a half years the business has progressed in rapidly. This is from Allah; he notices every little thing we do for him and his rewards are boundless, said Jamshed.
The 41 year old claims that he is far happier today than he ever was at the height of his stardom and says he does not miss the glamour, adoration and the money. He compares the two phases of his life. What did I get out of my music? I used to come across audiences that listened to me; I got a lot of fame; and made lots of money. However, there is no shortage in those things, even now. When I go out in the path of Allah, thousands of people still come and listen to me. I have my own business now which nets me a very comfortable amount of money. And as far as fame is concerned - initially I was famous for being a singer and now I have a lot of respect in the hearts of people.
The change in Jamshed’s image was a shock to many - from leather pants and hip shaking performances on stage to a beard and kurta. So how did everyone react to his momentous decision? He says there was a big uproar after his announcement and the fans that had once been crazy about him were against him. Initially most people thought I was mad. It was hard for them to take as I was telling them that everything that I had done was not right.
Jamshed is pleased that his family were supportive. His wife in particular welcomed the change. My wife was relieved as it was a much better option for her. Although I did not get up to much, I was expected to lead a certain lifestyle because of the profession I was in. According to the press, I was an eternal playboy and they would link me to one woman or another. So for my wife it was a pleasant change, said Jamshed.
The father of four continues to live with his family in Karachi and says his three sons and daughter have all reacted differently. My daughter loves the change in me, but when my youngest three year old son sees a photograph of me from the past, he thinks it is someone else! My eldest son, aged 13 is the only one that really remembers the two phases of my life.
Devoted to his faith, the former pop star feels that he has a responsibility to guide people on to the right path and regularly does Islamic talks, including in the UK. After channelling his efforts into charity work, Jamshed now prefers to concentrate on dawah (inviting others to Islam). I was involved in raising money for a hospital, which is now complete. I don’t think I will be doing much charity work as it was not an easy thing to do; it is a big responsibility ensuring that the money is spent in the right places, said Jamshed.
The talented artist was at the pinnacle of his career when he chose faith over fame and fortune. Despite the dramatic change, he maintains he has no regrets about his decision. I do not miss any aspect of my previous lifestyle at all. My new life is simple, pure and beautiful. I feel that if you bring into your life the commandments of Allah and the way Prophet Muhammad performed them, your life can become paradise even in this world.
Jamshed has not abandoned music altogether. Dedicated to spreading the word of Islam, he recently released his first nasheed (Islamic song) album, Jalwa-e-Janan, which has already been well received by the masses in Pakistan.
Jamshed ends the interview with one of his favourite quotes from the Quran : Allah does not change the state of people unless and until they themselves make an effort to change their lives.
Junaid Jamshed was the first pop star on the Pakistani music scene. At the height of his career, he turned his back on the world of glitz and glamour and devoted himself to Islam.
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