“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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.
Balaghal ‘Ula Bikamaalihi: In Praise of the Prophet
“Balagh-al-’Ula Bi-Kamaalihi” 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 is a multilingual na’at (a praise of the prophet Muhammad) that amalgamates poetry from across time periods and geographies, with at least four authors.
Dil Men Ik Leher: A Refreshing Ghazal
One example of an excellent contemporary Urdu ghazal is “Dil Men Ik Leher Si Uthi Hai Abhi” by Nasir Kazmi, a Pakistani poet. Kazmi (1925-1972) was born in Ambala in East Punjab during the British Raj, and moved to Lahore during the partition of India. His poems are often written in short meter (چھوٹی بحر / chHoTi beher) and have a relatable and modern quality to them.
Mere Rashk-e Qamar: Envy of the Moon
“Mere Rashk-e Qamar” is an Urdu ghazal that was penned by the Pakistani poet Fana Buland Shehri (?-1986) and performed as a qawwali in the 1980s by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997).
Zihaal-e Miskeen: A Bilingual Masterpiece
Attributed to the legendary Ameer Khusrau, “Zi-haal-e Miskeen” is a romantic ghazal that alternates between Farsi (Persian) and Braj Bhasha, a dialect of Hindi. Although its true authorship is unclear due to a lack of historical records, it is one of Khusrau’s most well-known poems, particularly because of its unique bilingual structure.