If you hear praising of Allah and prophet Mohammad (PBUH) on a TV channel that airs nothing but almost-nude video clips that are moreover inflicted with the single leit motif of “I love her, she loves me, and her she-camel loves my he-camel!” as expressed by an old Arab poet, then this cannot be construed save under one of these three possibilities:
- You are in a less than rational state of mind; you might be hallucinating, daydreaming, or -in the best-case scenario
- Another TV channel has taken over the broadcast;
- Or, Sami Yusuf was illuminating there.
This in not the only thing that attracts one’s attention about Sami Yusuf’ video clip “Almu’allim” or “the teacher.” The spelling of his last name as “Yusuf” is rather embarrassing for us native speakers of Arabic who - on a daily basis - mispronounce the name as “yousif” although the Qur’anic pronunciation is “Yusuf.”
This embarrassment is even doubled in the case of some the desperately-longing-to-be-cool members of my generation who insist – willingly and even purposively – on camouflagingmost of the sounds that gives Arabic its own phonological identify, the reason behind the double embarrassment is that Yusuf – who is a British of Azeri descent – and who does not speak Arabic was pronouncing the Arabic sounds in an eloquent manner teaching Arabs and Muslim to be proud of the language of their holy book.
Fortunately enough, this embarrassment did not deter the “cool party” of my generation from being fascinated with Yusuf’s performance, and how can they not be fascinated? Yusuf seems to be more than just a normal singer or even a songster; he is the composer, the lyricist and the arranger of Almu’allim video clip which was directed by Hani Osama.
Yusuf is preaching and practicing a solid and promising theory in the field of “Inshad” (singing that has covers religious themes). Having blended simple – yet effective – words of Arabic with English ones, and having diversified the musical harmonies,not only did Yusuf attract non-Arab Muslims, but also those Arabs who were tethered in the lowest layer of musical creativity that cashes in on merchandising the human body.
Almu’allim breached the stagnant stereotypes that have always encircles “inshad.” Actually, this breach has two layers; one is related to the format, while the other is related to the content.
1- Some of you might be familiar with traditional nasheeds where the singer would stand wearing an embroidered cloak that is highly reminiscent of the Abbasid period.Moreover, a very naïve and artificialbackground would accompany the performance with birds flyingorwith the sun setting in the horizon. It is needless to mention the boring expression of the face of the singer. Fortunately, Almu’allim has set a new phase that is eradicating this dull face of inshad.
2- On a more sophisticated level, the video clip has vanquished a very subtle and dangerous stereotype; the conflict between devoutness and modernity. In the clip, Yusuf performs the role of a young photographer; who has a modern hobby (or a job) that cherishes visual beauty, lives in a splendid house, dresses as any other young man in this age, and drives a Jeep.
All of these are symbols of modernity at least in the very crude and materialistic level. In the same time, we see an opened Qur’an that is not covered by dust in the lab of the young man who does not forget to kiss his mother’s hand before leaving the house. On his way to practice his hobby/job, he saves a blind person from stumbling, leads a multi-ethnic group of children in prayer, and even plays with them.
All of these are practical manifestations of the great manner of prophet Mohammad (PBUH) our mu’allim (teacher). The combination of these two layers of symbols (modernity, and the manners of the prophet) disillusions the viewer and conquers a stereotype that once was once an axiom. It’s not a secret that many will watch the video clip for its inviting performance and for the charm of Yusuf’s voice, yet the indirect message that the video clip craftily insinuates will hopefully find its way to the viewers minds, partially at least if not fully.
Indeed, we are not done with symbolism yet. A more profound indirect message comes towards the end of the clip. When the young man sets a firetotakepicturesofit,alight shining behind a mountain dazzles him. He then climbs to the light to discover a lightened framework. This framework also appears as the cover of the album, which by the way has seven more nasheeds other than Almu’allim.
This part has advanced symbolism, because the framework could be simply a neon advertisement or a part of a building, yet in the video clip it was philosophised as the light brought to humanity by prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
The stereotype I talked about earlier is vanquished once again here; the framework represents a material object (a neon advertisement perhaps) which is a symbol of modernity, yet it also represents the light of devoutness, which inculcates the notion of seeing Islam’s light in every aspect of our life even materialistic ones.
Another point to add here is that the framework’s light was more attention-seizing than the fire’slight, which also delivers an indirect message that man-made light (the fire the photographer lit) can never emulate the Allah-made light (the light of the framework that symbolised the light of Mohammad’s message). Actually, this distinction is found linguistically in Arabic in the words “dhia” and “nour”; dhia is a self-stemming light, while “noor” is just a secondary light that takes its glamour from another source, as expressed in the chapter of “Yunus”, verse number 5.
The young man takes a photo of the splendorous light, and smiles serenely. He then develops it and posts it over all other photographs, the video clip then concludes. When you believe in the light, you will definitely see it, and you may eve take a photo of it too!
Sami-Yusufianism? Pick It from the Dictionary!
I can see “Sami Yusuf” as an entry in the encyclopedias and dictionaries that deal with musical arts. His name will not only be entered as singer or as a composer, but also as a creative artist who presented a new genre. The term “Sami-Yusifianism” will be coined to poin tto the new doctrine in art, and you will often hear such comments as “this nasheed belongs to the Sami-Yusufian school.”And until then, prick your ears to what Sami says. Oh, and also raise your hand and say with me, “Sami, may Allah reward you!” Stand up and clap your hands for a video clip that clapped the scene.