Re-plug: Junaid Jamshed and the ‘maternal instinct’

Published: July 21, 2013
A side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA

A side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA

A side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA A side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA

Who would have thought that the pop-icon turned televangelist who irked women with the statement “it is better if women are not taught to drive” has invested the last ten years trying to save the lives of underprivileged women of Pakistan

Junaid Jamshed — the name brings to one’s mind an image of two juxtaposed pictures: one of a drop-dead handsome young Junaid, the other of a seasoned man with a long beard and a mellower face, beckoning people to come towards Islam.

Yet, there is a side to this man shrouded from the public eye. And that has to do with his work as a philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. Once known as the darling of female fans, Junaid is still very connected to women — he is helping save the lives of thousands of them in Pakistan. The man continues to surprise us and challenge stereotypes.

At the Muslim Charity fund-raising dinners in Manchester, Birmingham and London May 31 to June 2, 2013. PHOTO: MOHAMMED RAYAZ

Yet, he does not reveal this side to his life readily. The first of a series of interviews, as he agreed to talk to The Express Tribune, revolved around Vital Signs and his metamorphosis into the world of preaching. Sitting in Shahi Hasan’s studio, his fingers, a couple of times, delicately traced the contours of the guitar strings. But an inner commitment is stronger than the temptation. He hummed a few lines, but stopped. The darling of the Pakistani masses is no longer a balladeer. The passion has been channelised towards a higher love. His songs formerly talked about how to woo a beloved… his nasheeds and naats still do. But the Beloved has changed. JJ has evolved.

The second interview was hard to schedule. His travelling is incessant, more for philanthropic work and less for proselytising, contrary to popular belief. “I think I am ready to talk in detail. It is time people hear my side of the story. I may come across as someone who has something against women. I’m NOT!” he said on the phone while he was at the site of a model village of 200 houses near Rahimyar Khan built with his support for flood-hit people.

Meray oopar bohat zimmedari hai. As a human, a Muslim, a Pakistani, a person whom people know. I cannot turn away from these responsibilities; that would be [ingratitude]. Being grateful increases blessings and being ungrateful sucks them away,” he said at the second interview, sitting in his comfortable home in DHA, Karachi. He had just returned from a trip to the UK to raise funds for charity.

A suitcase is forever ready for the globe-trotter. It is pertinent to wonder how he balances family life and his added responsibilities. “I try my best to balance. Whatever time I give to my family is quality time. Ayesha and the kids will vouch for it,” he said. Any conversation with him is incomplete without periodic mention of his wife Ayesha. But he does agree that there is a price to his philanthropy. “The life of this world and the Hereafter are like two wives of one man. If you please one, the other will be upset. It’s a choice you have to make. Fact of the matter is that when we struggle for the Hereafter, Allah is pleased. And when Allah is pleased the life of this world improves automatically. Theek hai na?” he said, smartly interspersing an element of preaching in the interview. He never lets go of that opportunity.

 Muslim Charity has established five hospitals in Pakistan in Jhang, Faisalabad, Mangani,  Rawalakot and in Lahore. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY

“Pakistan’s women should not have to go through this.”

“The year was 2003. I remember reading somewhere that a woman travelling from Jhang to Faisalabad on a tonga in full-term labour died because no maternal health facility was close by. That story shook me,” said Junaid.

At the Muslim Charity fund-raising dinners in Manchester, Birmingham and London May 31 to June 2, 2013. PHOTO: MOHAMMED RAYAZ

Comparing it with the comfort and facilities which are available to women in the cities, like his wife at the birth of their four children, he felt deeply disturbed at why so many women in Pakistan had to go through this. “It was during that time that I came to know that this organisation called ‘Muslim Charity’ was working to improve the state of maternal health. I contacted them to ask how I could help in my small way. I have been affiliated with them since then.” Junaid now works as the vice president of Muslim Charity, and uses his public influence, talks and naats to raise funds for the causes.

Till now, with his support, the charity has managed to make five hospitals in Pakistan mainly focusing on maternal health. As a global initiative, the charity works on improving maternal health the world over.

The masjid schools

A fascinating project Junaid has been working on is an interesting attempt at consensus-building between the clergy in Pakistan’s rural areas and those who believe in literacy as the answer to Pakistan’s problems. “How we do this is simple. We identify impoverished rural areas and broken-down mosques. We then reconstruct mosques and construct small houses for the village imams. In return, we request them to allow use of the mosque from 8 am to 12 am,” he said.

Part of this project is to sensitise locals and persuade them to send their children to these schools. These are regular schools where the children have the option of also learning the Quran. “The idea is to get these kids off the streets. We make them realise that they have a responsibility towards themselves. With mentorship, they realise that education is their path to a better life. Our aim is to produce peaceful and responsible citizens.”

In Sindh alone, up till now, they are responsible for putting 3,500 children back in school, both boys and girls. “One of them recently sat his CSS exam. I had tears when I heard this,” he said.

On men, women and balance

“It is sad how women are objectified. Rights to women have been given by the Creator. There is no problem with women working. Didn’t Hazrat Khadija (RA) work?” he said almost defiantly when asked about his views on women and their rights, adding that limits have been defined by God for both men and women. “Women should not be coerced in any way. A man needs to be more sensitive towards his wife. A woman’s biggest insecurity is loss of control.”

A Muslim Charity tent city in Dadu in 2011. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY

He admitted candidly that Pakistani society was, according to one view, chauvinistic and male-driven. It is a place where men often oppress women. “For the sake of family honour, Pakistani women continue to suffer. Divorce may have been considered an unsavoury thing in the time of the Prophet (PBUH) but [it] was not a taboo, unlike [in] today’s Pakistani society!” he said. “In a society where [the] male-child preference still exists and women are blamed for producing too many daughters, will men not stand up for them? I have always felt strongly about the rights of women.”

When asked why families seem to be falling apart, he has a simple formulaic solution. “Damage control lies in this: men should control their tempers and women [should] think before they speak.”

Junaid Jamshed and Ali Haider performing at the Spiritual Chords Nasheed concert held in South Africa in August 2011. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY SOUTH AFRICA

So is Ayesha allowed to drive?

“I knew you’d ask this!” he said with a chuckle. “Before I got married, I was visiting my father-in-law with a friend. My father-in-law mentioned that my wife-to-be was learning how to drive, and I was happy to hear that. But my friend, a senior, advised me, as experienced friends do: ‘Don’t teach your wife how to drive’. That was what I mentioned light-heartedly in that show.”

Junaid Jamshed helped raise funds for the charity that was involved with the building of Doha village in Sanjarpur, Rahimyar Khan. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY

After he got married, he tried to teach her to drive but couldn’t because of a paucity of time. “She never insisted and never learnt,” he added. “It never really was an issue for us.” Wary of calling himself a scholar, he is clear that he is in no position to pass a verdict about women who drive. “But my personal opinions, likes and dislikes are my own. I have a right to them.”

The crossroad and the road less traveled

It was around 1999 when his solo album Uss raah par was released. The main track of the same title was conceived metaphorically by Shoaib Mansoor. “He knew that something had changed in me,” said Junaid, recalling the lyrics: hum kyun chalain uss raah par jis raah par sub hee chalain. Kyun na chunain wo raasta jis par naheen koi gaya. In a very Robert Frost fashion, the song talked about the road less traveled, which, in JJ’s life, did make all the difference.

“The transition in me had started. That song was about my journey. But at that time we couldn’t have showed it in the video. People were not ready for it.” He had not gone public with his change then. But he had started visiting religious scholars for his own inner healing. “I had everything — fame, money. But I did not feel complete. Being in a masjid made me feel at peace. Masjids still have the same effect on me. It is the place where we discover humanity. I confess that I had no plans of leaving music at that time. But I could feel I was changing. I couldn’t run away from it.”

And does he miss his past life? “Naheen yaar. No withdrawal symptoms of my past life. I own and cherish my time with Vital Signs. I am happy that as a singer I contributed to my country in a positive way. I lived that part of my life to the fullest. But now that is the past,” he said, with a direct look, again defying the pre-conceived notion that he no longer talks to women directly or makes eye contact with the opposite sex.

Ramzan offering

This Ramzan he will be seen again on TV every day, all through the holy month, sharing what he knows. “It will be different,” he said, alluding to an approach that relies on more outreach as opposed to sermons. He agrees that people should be sensitised about civic responsibilities through religious shows. “Breaking a red signal, parking a car behind someone’s, evading taxes: I consider all of these major sins. Religion IS about being a better, more considerate human.”

While Junaid is armed with Islamic study and training, he stops people from calling him a maulana. “It is a compliment when people call me that but I don’t think I am worthy of that.” His pet peeve is “When people use the word mullah or maulvi in a derogatory way.” For now, it appears that he is neither and defies being pegged as one thing or another.

Making a difference

We highlight three other people who are acting much in the same way as Junaid Jamshed to help those around them

Sarfaraz Rehman

The CEO of Dawood Foundation smiles a guarded smile, instantly commands respect, has a command over literature and poetry, and completely owns the floor when he begins public speaking. He is best known for being associated with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). “Religion is more than just spiritual and ritualistic attainment. It is a code of life intertwined with a belief in Allah, which then helps one live in a fair, calm, equitable manner and makes the plank of value addition to the community a major goal,” says the man who uses religion to support his mentoring and academic activities. The Dawood Foundation just finished a city campus for the Karachi School for Business & Leadership, a graduate management school, established in strategic collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School.

Hina Shamsi Nauman

With infectious energy, this mother of three wants to contribute to society. You can find her planting mangroves with her students to fight delta flooding, or selling hand-crafted environment-friendly stationery made by physically challenged people. She teaches Quranic tafseer to groups of women, and teaches business ethics and what Islam says about that at university. From a traditionally religious family, she studied Islam in-depth by choice at a more mature stage, and feels that “a leap of faith is what it takes to discover oneself. But it was not easy coming out of the closet about it”. A teacher for the past seven years, this business grad decided to bring religion to her university students, breaking the taboo that religious discussions are only for the madrassas.

Aly Balgamwala

They call him “disco maulvi” and he fits the bill, happy with the description. He tweets incessantly, has his hand in a lot of social causes, and blogs. An entrepreneur by profession, the tech-savvy Aly’s niche is activism for social causes through social media, be it the cause of a better Karachi or raising civic awareness. As a founding trustee of Ihsaas Trust, a not-for-profit set up to provide Islamic Microfinance along with other charitable work, he and his team “use this platform to advocate husn-e-khuluq (good behaviour/ethics) as taught by Islam within the context of business and personal life.” Aly has been a volunteer teacher at “Active Saturdays”, a Saturday class for young men aged 10 to 15 years.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 21st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (40)

  • Dr. Jamaal Idrees
    Jul 21, 2013 - 2:17PM

    He is doing good work Mashallah like many other Pakistanis with a good heart and sincere love for Pakistan.

    After all the clothes from his boutique are not cheap.


  • Khan
    Jul 21, 2013 - 2:26PM

    good article..this is what Islam is all about, love, care and compassion for other fellow beings


  • ManofSteel!
    Jul 21, 2013 - 2:30PM

    hats off – we need more people like him..


  • nadeem
    Jul 21, 2013 - 2:43PM

    Dil dil Junaid. Good man.


  • Mohammad
    Jul 21, 2013 - 2:52PM

    wow.. till to date I was just aware that he has over priced his fashion lining at JJ Store!


  • sajid Tungekar
    Jul 21, 2013 - 2:57PM

    What JJ is today is because of his belief and i admire him for the change which took in his life, it is worth praising. I agree with him that Islam is divided into two segments, one is Hukook Alibad ( attitude towards fellow humans) and the other is Hukook Al Allah ( Prayers), unfortunately our religious scholars are busy with spreading an Islam which does not focus on both these important segments and what we have around us is hate among sects, confusion about the sunnat and the worst part is behavior , we are lacking in all areas which is a pity. People JJ can make the difference and we should support such religious leaders as they represent the right Islam.


  • Adeel
    Jul 21, 2013 - 3:03PM

    Mashallah, an excellent article about an inspirational figure for the youth:) We all Pakistanis love Junaid Jamshed! May Allah grant him long and pious life and continue to be an inspiration for us the youth in this day and age, InshaAllah


  • Rajesh Kumar
    Jul 21, 2013 - 3:37PM

    When he was a singer, he was worried about his future. It was very tough to be successful singer. He was anxious about failure. After turning to preaching business, he has started making more money through preaching than singing. He is a good economist. It is better to be a preacher than a singer when Saudi is funding his all activities.


  • Zahid Hamid
    Jul 21, 2013 - 3:50PM

    All ok. Can JJ stop using credit cards at his outlets


  • Adeel
    Jul 21, 2013 - 3:56PM

    @Rajesh Kumar: why in the world would you say such thing about JJ when your facts are not even right! Get your facts right because there isn’t such thing that exist like that:)


  • Ahmed
    Jul 21, 2013 - 4:13PM

    FYI:) JJ does not price the clothes, only his name is used for the clothing line. The actual clothing line is owned by a business man who asked JJ to collaborate with him so he can use Junaid Jamshed’s brand name in exchange for the clothing business to run successfully which JJ agreed so JJ gets half of the profits/shares of the business


  • Quantum
    Jul 21, 2013 - 5:22PM

    @Rajesh Kumar:

    Yes true. He has a wahabi inclination.


  • Mia
    Jul 21, 2013 - 5:42PM

    To me it does not matter what cloak JJ adorns to identify with as long as he is doing good work with the intent of helping humanity. Most certainly women in Pakistan and the Islamic world represent a highly repressed under represented segment of these socities. Yet again if he finds peace in a mosque then so be it. Even though I do find the analogy ““The life of this world and the Hereafter are like two wives of one man” very disconcerting but its a choice between…


  • Jul 21, 2013 - 5:46PM

    kudos to JJ !!


  • amer
    Jul 21, 2013 - 6:09PM

    Great man JJ…coming from that far and high is never easy….n good work ET…though its rare


  • A. Khan
    Jul 21, 2013 - 6:26PM

    Anyone who works for charity is doing great work in my eyes.

    But in the photo above, why are there only men walking into the Gyne Hospital (did I read that correctly ?) ?


  • sherrry
    Jul 21, 2013 - 6:57PM

    @Zahid Hamid:
    @Rajesh Kumar:

    pessimists, you can never deduct anything positive


  • Ahmed
    Jul 21, 2013 - 7:05PM

    @Rajesh Kumar, sorry to disappoint you the Vital Signs was one of the most successful bands of the Pakistan if you go check Wikipedia out. He made his band famous in the era when music did not had much influence so get your facts straight. He made money by his business and not by changing his beliefs. Typical extremist!


  • Jul 21, 2013 - 7:16PM

    And damn i was expecting when i started reading the piece that in the comments, RELIGION would somehow be dragged to be blamed..


  • Adil Uddin
    Jul 21, 2013 - 7:48PM

    It’s interesting to see that ET has given that much space to JJ and positive work that he does despite their presumed image as a super liberal and secular outlet. I guess great work must be appreciated and one doesn’t have to subscribe to someone’s pattern and theory of life completely.
    Unfortunately, in Pakistan we live in a society where cherry picking our goods and finding faults with others is a normal art, therefore people usually make a final image of JJ and others and prefer to stick with it for the rest of their lives.
    Even for Tablighi Jamat many of our liberal circles associated them with rising tides of extremism and intolerance for past 30 years, however Maulana Tariq Jameel has addressed these accusations practically by meeting with Shia clerics and asking for intersectarian harmony in his sermons taking place in Gilgit Baltistan.
    Once again I don’t fully subscribe to JJ or TJ completely but appreciating everyone’s good work is a must, after all helping humans and bridging gaps in the society is also a form of Salat or Prayer.


  • poleturtle
    Jul 21, 2013 - 8:02PM

    The only thing i don’t like about him is that he shaves his mustache !! Where did he get this idea from? Looks terrible.


  • Kanwal
    Jul 21, 2013 - 9:55PM

    I cant understand how their wives allow them to keep such a long beard. they look hideous.


  • Ali S
    Jul 22, 2013 - 12:04AM

    The ‘Pakistani liberals’ who love to hate on JJ probably haven’t contributed anywhere near these people’s levels, but don’t tell them that, let them feel that they’re doing society a favour by bashing Saudis and Arabism at every given opportunity.


  • Hamza Rizwan
    Jul 22, 2013 - 12:20AM

    Whats a wahabi? Hes a muslim, plain and simple. Stop labeling people and spreading this sort of hatred. I expected the people who read ET blogs and articles to be a little more mature and educated than this.

    I believe you have it all figured out. Good for you! Now please keep your conspiracy theories to yourself unless you can back it up with facts.


  • Talha Saleem
    Jul 22, 2013 - 1:07AM

    a very good Job MASHALLAH……this area is highly neglected in Pakistan, we must support him for this, and we must put our part what we can do in our surroundings.


  • Talha Saleem
    Jul 22, 2013 - 1:15AM

    @ Kanwal
    Amazed !! If a muslim girl can say about beared in such a maner.
    Allah has blessed muslims with this beared, it’s a great honour. findout your own ancestors you will find some had long beard. All Prophets, Scholars, and great people had long long beard.
    Invite u to think with Cool mind.


  • Blunt
    Jul 22, 2013 - 1:26AM

    MashaALLAH. I’ve met with this man couple of times, he’s truly an inspirational and energetic man. Have any one gone through his story of transformation from a singer to a religious figure? That’s worth going through.


  • nassi
    Jul 22, 2013 - 1:40AM

    Abandoning a successful career and retreating into an extreme way of life that is based purely on belief and hardly any real evidence, makes no sense whatsoever to me. Religion can make any claims about knowledge of life after death but the simple fact is these are all unsubstantiated, no one really knows for certain. Has anyone ever returned from grave to reveal what happens after we die?

    Follow your religion by all means but keep a good grip on reality too and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Bear in mind there is also a strong possibility that when we die we really die and turn into dust. This could be the only life that we may get so make the most of it.

    JJ’s charity work is fine provided that it is not a vehicle for popularising his dramatic spiritual transformation and promoting him as a religious role models for young people to aspire to.Recommend

  • Idiot
    Jul 22, 2013 - 2:01AM

    @Rajesh Kumar:
    Sorry, I accidentally recommended your post. Just wanted to make it clear. So people may see your recommendations as n-1 now.


  • Waqar Uddin
    Jul 22, 2013 - 2:14AM

    Junaid Jamshaid is the source of influence to musicians and also for all,really this guy golden light for Pakistan.


  • mahwish
    Jul 22, 2013 - 2:29AM

    the guy is an inspiration with or without beard , its highly recommended to have one in Islamic faith so if Allah and his Rasool (pbuh) like it we like it too :) I congratulate him on tearing away from music and coming to the way of Islam …again our faith dictates music is no good and leads u astray so people my point is its all about one’s faith and then understanding Allah’s orders and implementing them….Junaid you are a strong guy and may Allah subhanu tallah guide you more in future and love your naat “mera dil badal dai :) keep up the great work .


  • sensible
    Jul 22, 2013 - 8:47AM

    good thing about him is that there is nothing fake about him, he is so real, unlike some other so-called scholars.


  • Jyala
    Jul 22, 2013 - 9:43AM

    @Rajesh Kumar:
    Sorry, I accidentally recommended your post. Just wanted to make it clear. So people may see your recommendations as n-2 now.


  • Abu Dujana
    Jul 22, 2013 - 1:35PM

    Yay! I am reading this article wearing JJ’s brand clothes!!!Recommend

  • ayesha
    Jul 22, 2013 - 2:57PM

    MashaAllah May Allah bless him for all his good work!


  • amna
    Jul 22, 2013 - 5:09PM

    weather he z gud n loyal, r not…ALLAH KNOWS.i just kno z dat we ppl do nt have any right to say ill about i request to all d ppl having any sort of problm wid him..plzz!! do not discuss it n abuse him.if his “NIYYAT Z KHALIS” he’ll get from ALLAH n if not,den also he’ll has to face.its d matter of Allah n d person.KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR ACTIONS NOT ON long as d prices are concerned at J.outlets,i dn’t thnk they are too much high.bcz if price z high quality z also gud.n odr brands of this standard are charging too much….


  • KAY
    Jul 22, 2013 - 8:14PM

    Whatever he is doing could have been done without displaying and using religious symbols but in Pakistan religion sells quicker than anything else. Similarly a person like Imran Khan had to use religion to get support of masses although he was a different personality before jumping into politics. True it stands ” religion is the opium for masses”.


  • Jamila Akhter
    Jul 23, 2013 - 12:46AM

    He is doing amazing work, I have great respect for him. I just want to know if he is a medical doctor or not, if he is why he didn’t serve humanity by practicing medicine.

    Another thing is, we seem to appreciatate people more when people go from one extreme to another, so many people( like my parents) who spent their whole lives walking on the satraight path, making honest living , raising good chilren, helping poor, nursing sick people, teaching neighborhood children, & so much more...Those are our unsung herose.

  • Nazeer
    Jul 23, 2013 - 9:49AM

    Great work done by JJ, he is truely an inspiration.
    @ Jamila he is not a doctor but an engineer by profession.


  • Shabbir Mir
    Jul 28, 2013 - 5:28PM

    Superb, wonderful and fantastic. Farahnaz1 not 2 or 3 :)Recommend

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