Junaid Jamshed : From Pop Stardom to the Path of God
Junaid Jamshed was one of Pakistan’s most popular musical artists when he ended his career as a pop star in 2003 to lead a more spiritual life. He tells about his journey from pop stardom to religious enlightenment.
He initially rocketed to fame in 1987 as the lead singer of Pakistan’s first ever pop band Vital Signs, with the patriotic song ‘Dil Dil Pakistan.’ After a string of hit songs, the band split and Jamshed began his solo career in 1996 achieving even more success as a solo artist. This was also the start of his life changing spiritual journey. He recalls the turning point in his search for inner peace: “The most memorable moment of my life was when I went with my friend for three days in a jamaat, in the path of Allah in October 1997. That is when I realised what a big mistake my whole life had been and that I needed to change.”
Although his interest in Islam continued as he delivered hit after hit, it was another five 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 confirms that the decision was not an easy one to take. “It was a difficult decision. Music was not just my passion, my career and livelihood; it was the only thing I knew,” said Jamshed.
Despite his announcement, the singer was unable to leave the pop world immediately and had to wait another year due to his contractual tour and album obligations. He has not abandoned music altogether and now sings Islamic songs with his new nasheed album, ‘Jalwa-e-Jana,’ to be released in October, during the first week of Ramadan.
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 reflects upon the day he declared that his pop career was over: “I was quite sad on the day I made the statement because music was my biggest passion; it was in my blood and under my skin and the only thing I was used to. However, I did it to make Allah happy; I did not want to be someone who was written in his bad books.”
With responsibilities to his family, he was worried about his future after music, so the ex-pop star ventured into business although he was not business minded. However, he now runs ones 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 we have progressed in leap and bounds even though I am not a business man. This is from Allah; he notices every little thing we do for him and his rewards are boundless,” said Jamshed.
Jamshed 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. As far as fame is concerned; initially I was famous for being a singer and now I have a lot of respects in the hearts of people.”
He is critical of his past and adds: “Initially in my life, I used to call people to something which was against the will of Allah Almighty, and now I call them towards Allah and ask them to fulfil what he wants them to do.”
The tall hazel eyed singer was at the pinnacle of his career when he chose faith over pop stardom. The once heart throb, who was always hoarded by fans where ever he went, is barely recognisable these days choosing to dress in simple shalwar kameez with an ever growing beard.
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; here was a man who was their favourite and now he was telling them that everything that he had done was not right. In addition, he was also calling them towards something they did not want to do.”
The 41 year old is pleased that his family were supportive. He says his wife saw it coming and jokes:
“My wife was relieved as it was a much better option.”
He explains that although he did not get up to much, he was expected to lead a certain lifestyle because of the profession he 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 and she is proud of me.”
Living with his family in Karachi, Jamshed says his three sons and daughter have all reacted differently:
“My daughter loves the change in me, but when my youngest son who is three years old 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.”
Jamshed is devoted to his faith and feels that he has a responsibility to guide people on to the right path.
Although he initially channelled his efforts into charity work, he is now concentrating on ‘dawah’ work.
He explains why he would rather spend his time calling people to the path of Allah: “I was involved in raising money for a hospital in Jang, which is complete now. I don’t think I will be doing more charity work as it was not an easy thing to do. I would rather spend my time in the path of Allah. Yes, charity is Allah’s work but charity money is someone’s ‘amanat’; it is a big responsibility ensuring that the money is spent in the right places.”
Reflecting on his past, he says 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 the prophet performed them, your life can become paradise even in this world. People mistakenly think that their good times never end. I have realised that in this world happiness, grief, good and bad are all temporary. We all need to realise this before it is too late.”
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.”