Dr Sangeeta Dhami reviews two recent albums by Shaam - the internationally acclaimed British Muslim musical sensation. Readers will recall that MCBDirect interviewed this talented group in Ramadan of this year. Shaam's CDs are available from all good Islamic bookshops and can be ordered from: http://www.shaamgroup.com Cassettes are £4.99 and CDs £9.99 each.
It is unfortunate that most of our public places whether the shopping centre, sports club or GPs waiting room are now continuously filled with banal, tasteless and often downright vulgar pop music. This addiction like the better-recognised forms only provides temporary relief from the pain of spiritual emptiness experienced by so many of our country-folk. Refreshing then, that from amidst this jingoism we are witnessing in Britain the rapid growth of music with a distinctly spiritual dimension. Music, which aims above all, to strengthen (as opposed to sever) the relationship of the listener with God. We are fortunate in Britain to now have a real wealth of talent, and Shaam, as regular visitors to this site will know, are one of our best-known and most widely respected Nasheed groups.
Mercy Like the Rain (2002) was Shaam's first international release, this being followed by Spring has Come (2003). Both albums contain an intriguing blend of reworked classical and contemporary tracks in Arabic, English and Urdu. The ease with which the group is able to switch between different epochs of time and languages is refreshing and clearly points to the reality that here are a group of people who truly belong to a universal phenomenon, namely that of the religion of peace.
The over-arching theme that underpins both albums is love for the Messenger of God (may God's peace and blessing be upon him). It is above all God's mercy that we are dependant on, and the nature and extent of His mercy is only really understood through forming a relationship with the one whose enduring epitaph is 'A mercy to the Worlds'. Mercy like the Rain celebrates the advent and life of the noble Messenger with a beautiful rendition of the Urdu song Jashne Aamade Rasool (Celebrations of the coming of the Messenger) and a section from Imam Al-Busairi's classical poem (Qasida Burdah), amongst others.
This theme of loving the Messenger is revisited in Spring has Come, which refers to the Mawlid celebrations marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (may God's peace and blessing be upon Him). The metaphor of spring, vividly captures the refreshing nature of this new yet familiar chapter in religious history that began over 14 centuries ago and which has the opportunity to take root, blossom and bear fruit within each and every one of Adam's progeny given the right environment and climate.
I know that Shaam firmly believe that Islam has much to offer these lands, but it is our collective duty to ensure that we can help create the environment to enable this to take place. They are, through the universal language of music, using their God-given creative talents to show one of the many ways in which we can help introduce to Britain the profound beauty and power of the Prophetic call. And on the basis of these albums, long may they continue.
Dr Sangeeta Dhami