Sab Maaya Hai: It’s All an Illusion

AI-generated art depicting a hermit sitting outside his hut

“Sab Maaya Hai” is an Urdu nazm written by the Pakistani poet Ibn-e-Insha (1927-1978). In it, the poet describes his disillusionment from the world, declaring love and loyalty to be false pretenses.

Ya Husain: The Tragedy of Karbala

"The Sky Fell Down" by Iranian artist Hassan Roholamin

Purnam Allahabadi (1948-1997), a notable Pakistani poet, penned a salaam in honor of the sacrifice of Husayn that opens with the line “Salaami Karbala Men Kya”. This poem was sung beautifully by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997) as a qawwali titled “Ya Husain”.

Taajdaar-e Haram: Praying for Grace

AI-generated art depicting Muslim pilgrims arriving in Arabia via sea

“Taajdaar-e Haram” is a devotional qawwali famously performed by the late Sabri Brothers, Ghulam Farid Sabri (1930-1994) and Maqbool Ahmed Sabri (1945-2011), from Pakistan. Their live rendition of this hymn is rich and complex, containing excerpts from poems written by diverse authors in different languages and time periods.

Kisi Din: The Beloved in Nature

AI-generated art of a woman's thick tresses blowing in the wind

“Kisi Din” is an Urdu ghazal penned by the Pakistani poet Amjad Islam Amjad (1944-2023). It was set to music and reimagined as more of a pop song by the Indian singer and musician Adnan Sami (1971-present). Sami featured it as the title track of his album Kisi Din, released in 2007.

Gorakh Dhanda: The Puzzling Nature of God

AI-generated art depicting a labyrinth, based on Islamicate designs

“Tum Ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho” is a philosophically and spiritually rich poem that was written by Naz Khialvi (1947-2010), a Pakistani poet and radio broadcaster. It explores theological debates and paradoxes, such as the problem of evil, free will versus determinism, the validity of different religions, and selective divine intervention.

Sayonee: Lamenting the Cruelty of Fate

AI-generated art depicting a camel in the deserts of Balochistan

Junoon’s hit song “Sayonee” is the definition of Sufi rock, a genre that combines spiritual poetry with modern musical compositions featuring the electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums. “Sayonee” is perhaps the Pakistani band’s most iconic song; it topped the charts across South Asia when it was released in 1997 and has never stopped being cherished by fans since.

Bhar Do Jholi: A Beggar’s Supplication

AI-generated art depicting an old man sitting outside al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah

“Bhar Do Jholi” is a popular qawwali most famously performed by the late Sabri Brothers, Ghulam Farid Sabri (1930-1994) and Maqbool Ahmed Sabri (1945-2011), from Pakistan. It was written by Purnam Allahabadi (1940-2009), a prolific Urdu poet whose real name was Mohammed Musa. “Bhar Do Jholi” appears in his book Phool Dekhe Na Gaye (I Could Not Look at Flowers), which was published in the 1960s or 1970s.

Mitti: A Sufi Reminder of Death

AI-generated art depicting tombstones in a barren landscape

A soulful reminder of human mortality, “Mitti” is an amazing, underrated song by the Pakistani band Junoon. Founded in 1990 and comprising Salman Ahmad, Ali Azmat, and Brian O’Connell, Junoon introduced the genre of “Sufi rock” to the world.

Safar Men Dhoop To Ho Gi: A Ghazal for Inspiration

AI-generated art depicting a couple walking down a grassy path on a sunny day

“Safar Men Dhoop To Ho Gi” is a powerful Urdu ghazal by Indian poet Nida Fazli (1938-2016). It was popularized by Chitra Singh and her late husband Jagjit Singh, who often sang it at their concerts. “Safar Men Dhoop” was published in Fazli’s 1986 book Aankh Aur Khwab Ke Darmiyan, though it appeared earlier as part of the soundtrack of the obscure 1984 Bollywood movie Kunwari Bahu.