Lend your voice to praise

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PUBLISHED October 09, 2022

CARACHI:

Urooj Habib is a famous naat khwan from Karachi. His recitations of naat (poetry that specifically praises the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) are admired across borders; she has a fabulous circle of admirers all over the world. Gifted with a melodious voice, Habib has attained a unique place in the art of naat-goi through global circles of naat enthusiasts. She recited naats in front of huge audiences in Pakistan and abroad, winning honors, awards and medals.

A graduate in Islamic studies, Habib makes regular appearances on television. What she has achieved so far is an enviable milestone for many seasoned naat khwans. The female naat star attracts the attention of a huge television audience.

Habib was lucky to have his maternal grandmother as a NAAT coach. His family lived in Saudi Arabia for a long time before returning to Pakistan. Habib has been reciting NAATs since childhood. Her melodious voice touches the heart. Frequently featured in female religious gatherings, Habib due to his deep recitation is one of the most sought after naat khwans in Pakistan. Her voice is so moving that it touches the hearts of listeners. With a lyrical voice, a deep understanding of poetry and a genuine love for Prophet Mohammad (as), Habib is honest not only with his art but also with his surroundings. Urooj enjoys helping people in need and in distress.

In Ramazan, Muslims take a break from their tiresome worldly affairs and seek solace in prayers and praise in the form of naat-e-Rasul in honor of Prophet Mohammad (as). But naat is not limited to Ramazan. It is the poetry of praise to the Prophet Mohammad (as), recited by Muslims around the world, at milad gatherings, or to mark important events such as the birth of a baby, a wedding or the launch of a new company.

The tradition of NAAT is not new. It is evident from historical records that even during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Muslims read naats to him. He greatly appreciated the love and admiration people showed him through their prose and poetry. Religious scholars have written about Prophet Mohammad (as) offering his shawl to Hazrat Kaab ibn Zuhair (RA) when he presented him with the gift of Qaseeda Burdah Sharif.

The Express Tribune, before meeting Urooj Habib, contacted Dr. Noor Ahmed Shahtaj, an Islamic scholar and adviser to the Federal Shariah Court, for his views on naat. He explains: “Naat or madah in Arabic is a poem of praise said in honor of Rasool Allah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. It was called qasida. Many of his companions wrote qasidas, which they used to recite in his presence. In Arabic, a poem praising the Prophet (pbuh) is called ‘madah’. In Urdu, naat is an epithetic presentation of praise attributed to the Prophet (pbuh). »

Madah means praise of the Prophet Muhammad (as), and the literature was called qasida. The first naat or madah was written in Arabic during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). From Arabic, naat has reached many world literatures including Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu, Seraiki. The Quran is full of praise for Prophet Mohammad (as). Allah (SWT) bestowed praise on His beloved Prophet Mohammad (as) through many verses of the Quran. There is a long list of companions of Prophet Mohammad (as) who used to recite madah in his presence. Prophet Mohammad (as) loved to recite verses of praise from the Holy Quran. It is therefore evident that naat is deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition.

On the day of Eid-Milad-un-Nabi or in the month of Ramazan, the interpretation of the naat invades the hearts of the faithful. Special Ramazan transmissions are eagerly watched.

In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune, Muhammad Ali Award recipient Urooj Habib talks about his life, his ambitions and his desire to be unstoppable and unchallenged in his pursuit of the praises of Allah (SWT) and His last messenger (as).

STF: Please share with our readers your journey to a spiritual world.

uh: I belong to a religious family. For a long time we lived in Saudi Arabia, and that’s why all my brothers and sisters performed Hajj and Umrah. We have a healthy religious environment at home. My father performed the Hajj 16 times and my mother was lucky enough to perform Hajj nine times.

At home, I had the perfect environment to learn naat-goi. Since childhood, I have seen my family hold mehfil-e-milad regularly. My maternal grandmother Hajra Khanum was an excellent naat khwan. She inspired me a lot, I watched her recite naats. She was my trainer, she taught me so much. In my childhood, she corrected my mistakes.

With my sisters, I participated in mehfils at school. But when they grew up, they stopped practicing their craft. But I had a strong will to continue, and here I am!

STF: Did you encounter any difficulties pursuing naat khwani?

UH: I have practiced naat khwani since my childhood, but I have never encountered any difficulties. I received a positive response from everywhere. The people I met were very encouraging and caring. What I realized is that many people love me because they admire my passion for reciting religious poetry.

STF: What is the basic element that a naat khwan must learn?

UH: You have to feel and understand a verse before trying to become a naat khwan. Understanding the verses gives the feeling of the love of Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (pbuh). I learned mehfil ethics and recitation style for four years. These are the basic things that every naat khwan should study before starting to recite in gatherings or on television.

STF: Have you ever tried to introduce something new into the art of naat khwani?

UH: Naat khwani is profound and must be approached with genuine religious emotions. I recited naats in almost all styles and tones, but also tried to introduce new ones. I experimented with new tones, which were warmly welcomed by the audience and other naat khwans. The introduction of new tones is important to improve the skill of naat khwani. One can recite a naat simply like any other poetry, but it sounds great when there is a special tone in the presentation. At the same time, it is important to keep it free from regular chanting elements to maintain its religious value.

STF: How do you feel when you recite praise for Prophet Mohammad (as)?

UH: I get emotional with the verses I recite. It is something inexplicable. Sometimes I wish to visit the holy cities of Medina and Makkah. I pray for a visit to the holy places of the prophet (pbuh) at least once in my life.

STF: Name some of your accomplishments

UH: I have received many awards, and all of them are important to me. I have twice received the grand prize from the Muhmmad Ali Foundation, one from Warsi International and the other from 6th Energy. The prize was presented by a former British diplomat. I also received the Noor-e-Mujassum award for my contribution to naat khwani. I feel blessed to be the first sana khwan to hold mehfils in Japan and record albums.

STF: You have recited the works of many poets. What poetry do you like the most?

UH: Although I recited the work of many poets who wrote praise poetry for Prophet Mohammad (as), most of the time I recited the NAATs of Maulana Mohmmad Owais Raza Qadri, Behzad Lakhnavi, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Arif Afzal Usmani.

STF: You have released many albums, which one do you like the most?

UH: I love all the naats I recite because they bring me closer to Allah (SWT) and our Prophet (as). But some of them are so special that I find myself unable to control my emotions. Ghul Utha Hai Char So, Phir Amad-e-Ramazan hai” and “Iss Dil Mein Bus Gaya hai Madina Rasool ka” are the best of my soul.

STF: An unfulfilled dream or a regret?

UH: I have a complete life, full of happiness and accomplishments. If you talk about regret, I have only one regret for not performing Hajj. All my brothers and sisters performed Hajj, but unfortunately I couldn’t. If you ask about a dream, I dream of performing Hajj as soon as possible, at least once in life.


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