Tuesday, December 14, 2010


His Inner Nobility and Spiritual Awareness:

by Nasir:

When we speak of Sufi or Sufism we are faced with a formidable gamut of religion and philosophy that has come down to us for centuries either in the form of writings of scholars and/or the ascetic practices of sages and saints in the sub-continent of India and elsewhere. Sufi is a God-fearing person who not only worships his Creator but also serves the mankind, carrying on his vocation with a sense of worship and devotion without obstructing or manipulating his fellow-creatures. We don’t want to go into the origin of Sufism and examine its religio-philosophical aspects. Suffice it to say that the aim of the Sufi is to spread peace, love and happiness in his environment and among all the creatures for the sake of pleasing that Supreme Creator who is known as Allah, God, or Ishwar . Thus a Sufi is shorn of all the negative traits that act contrary to divine love and command but which are usually common among us –the ordinary human beings. The spirit of Sufism has to be reflected in the personal character and the day to day activities in relation to God and the human beings.

As for Bollywood, it is not just glamour, glory and grandeur. To a greater extent, it is known for such evils as vulgarity, gossiping, bitching, unhealthy grind, envy, rivalry, swipes, insults and brawls, hypocrisy, groupism, devastating usury, drinking, gambling, greed, bribery, black-money laundering, casting couch, fornication and adultery.  No, I wasn’t referring to the reel life but real life where these aberrations abound but which nevertheless need to be pointed out if one wishes to know about the other side of positive Bollywood. This was the place where Rafi Sahaab worked for almost four decades.  As I stated in my earlier posts, “He far exceeded the moral standards of the Bollywood film industry in comparison with which he clearly emerges as a saint. Yes, if one has to name a saint in Bollywood, then Rafi Sahaab’s is the only one name.”

For brevity’s sake, we will examine only a few aspects of Rafi Sahaab’s character which amply demonstrate how a Sufi strayed into Bollywood and made a lasting impact not only as the greatest playback singer but also as one of the greatest human beings ever to grace the Hindi film industry.  In fact, Rafi Sahaab’s first brush with a Sufi began when he was just seven years old when a faqir used to frequent his neighbourhood singing hymns and devotional songs. The child was attracted to what he heard and began following the faqir almost daily. In the process he learnt to sing and surprised many who later heard him reproduce those hymns. No one in the least could even imagine that one day the same child would attain a lasting fame as the world renowned singer and a great human being.  However, just singing devotional songs or Sufi songs does not make one a Sufi. In other words, a cowl does not make a monk.

Strictly speaking,  the word “Sufi” can only be attributed to a high-ranking Muslim saint (Awliya) but figuratively the word is being used for a person who in addition to following the code of Islamic conduct and prohibitions and commands, also practices the inner dimensions of Islam and not just its outer aspects. By such practices that person purifies his heart from the filth and beautifies it with exemplary traits, including love for God and his creatures. This is what we find in Rafi Sahaab. His good nature was evident from the fact that he observed the divine commandments such as the daily ritual prayers, compulsory fasting, paying the compulsory tithe, i.e. Zakaat – all without hypocrisy! He paid respect to his seniors and behaved with kindness with the juniors and with justice to his equals. He did not follow the flesh nor the devil.  Rafi Sahaab was a devout Muslim who knew that law without truth is mere display, truth without law sheer hypocrisy. As such, he concentrated on ‘Namaaz’ and till his dying day he never let go of the shariat or the outer aspects of Islam. In fact at the time of his fatal heart attack, he had been fasting for the entire month of Ramadan and refused to take medicines on that fateful day.

It has been said that a person who remembers God despite facing the day to day grinds of daily life is far superior to the one who gives up the worldly life to offer full-time prayers. His spiritual consciousness drew him closer to God since he regarded everything, including the wealth, his well-being, and his voice, as belonging not to himself but to God.

During the time of his tremendous output of songs and the height of popularity, the success never went to his head. At the same time when his output declined in early 70’s in comparison with his previous outputs that did not deter him at all. He faithfully continued with his ‘Riyaaz’ and still giving hits one after the other. For Rafi Sahaab, both the conditions were the same, and he remained contented. At about this time, he was more occupied with performance of the compulsory obligation of the Haj and complying with the spiritual aspects of pleasing his Creator at the cost of his job. He had also been advised by no less than his brother Hamid – the same person who had put him as a kid on the stage to sing in Saigal Saab’s presence – to give up singing and settle down in Canada.

As a matter of fact, Rafi Sahaab had even gone to the U.K. and had been staying there where Kishore Kumar and Amit met him at his residence in London in 1972 and were treated to exotic meals and time-travel down the years. And, as stated, we know that even during that period Rafi Sahaab provided a number of hit songs which are still popular today, such as Aaj mausam badaa beimaan hai (for LOAFER 1973) to name just one!

As Dilip Kumar mentioned in an interview to a Marathi Language newspaper, Sakal, of 28th July, 2005:

“In late 60s (i.e. 1969) and early 70s, people in the industry were gossiping about how Kishore Kumar has dismantled Rafi's position. But Rafi was not even slightly affected by it. I myself never liked any sort of comparison between Rafi and Kishore Kumar. But Rafi preferred to remain quiet. He never tried to answer the criticism that was being thrown at him with words. It was always his voice and his songs that used to do all the talking. Rafi is not amongst us today but his voice and his songs are still there with us.” (English Translation courtesy Prince2a of Hamara Forums)

However, Rafi Sahaab was prevailed upon by his children to continue what he was best at, namely, playback singing. Once he decided to come back to the recording studios, the pendulum began shifting in his favour once again beginning 1976 (Laila Majnu) so that later in 1977 he won the Filmfare Award in the Best Singer Category as well as the National Award for Kyaa huwaa teraa waada in Hum Kisise Kam Nahin. For the remainder of his life, Rafi Sahaab remained the busiest and the most popular playback singer. He regained his position with the triumph of the returning emperor or like the rising of the phoenix though not completely from the ashes. Thus like a true Sufi, Rafi Sahaab was never swayed by the ups and downs of life.

Let Fate be cool as water, hot as fire,
Do thou live happily whichsoever it be!

He respected all religions and human beings. We are informed by one of his fans that when Rafi Sahaab was asked how does Islam view other religions, he replied: “All are vehicles and a path to God’s Divine Presence.” He thus respected the unity of religious ideals.  The colour of the water is the same. However, it's the colours of the vessels that give the water a different hue.

There can be no denying the fact that Rafi Sahaab has rendered the filmy or non-filmy devotional songs with such soulful sweetness and heart-rending pathos and over-powering emotions that they send the listeners into raptures. Pointing out to a Bhajan of Rafi Sahaab which he rendered for Kalyanji-Anandji in GOPI (Sukh ke sab saathee), Pyarelal of the LP musical duo says: “There’s so much ‘Apnapan’ in the Bhajan though he belonged to a different religion.”

Check out a few filmy and the non-filmy devotional songs: Parwar-digaar-e-aalam (HATIM TAI); Ibtedaa tuu hai intehaa tuu hai; Kaali kamli waale tujh pe laakhon salaam (a duet of HATIM TAI KI BETI); Agar mil gayee mujhko raah-e-madinaa; Agar kamli waale ki rahmat naa hoti; Shah-e-madinaa sarware aalam sallal laaho ‘alaihi wassallam; Baadshaah-e-Wilaayat Ali murtuzaa; Madad keejiye taaj-daar-e-madinaa; and many many more such naats as well as qawwalis.
Bhajans: Man tadpat hari darshan ko aaj (BAIJU BAWRA), Mujhe apni sharan mein lelo ram (SANT TULSIDAS); O duniya ke rakhwaale (BAIJU BAWRA); Duniya naa bhaaye and Badee der bhayee (BASANT BAHAAR); Aaj achaanak rooth ke mujh se chale gaye bhagwaan (CHAKRADHARI);  Jis kaa saathee hai bhagwaan (AASTIK); Aanaa hai toh Aa (NAYA DAUR); Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh (AMAR); Apnee chhaayaa me.n bhagwann (INSANIYAT);  Soona soona laage biraj ka dhaam; Tere bharose hey nandlaala; Mere Shyaam teraa naam; or the Shabads Mitar pyaare noo (NANAK NAAM JAHAAZ); Har ko naam sadaa sukh daayee and the like and many others in various Indian languages.

Rafi Sahaab was never carried away by the gloss or glitter of Bollywood. Thus he hardly had time for the filmy parties and gatherings. He never smoked; he never took alcoholic drinks. Thus contrary to the norm in many film industres, he never indulged in wining, dining and womanizing! His spare time he devoted to his wife and children and carrying on the good deeds of spreading love and sunshine in people’s life. Sometimes he indulged in outdoor games for the sake of his health and sometimes enjoyed flying kites from the terrace of his home. A black kite in the blue sky, Chali baadlon ke paar/hoke Dor pe sawaar, signified that it was Rafi Sahaab who was at the end of the kite’s string.


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