I was never a die-hard Vital Signs’ fan, I was more of a ‘Junooni’, always trying to imitate Ali Azmat’s flair and style of singing. I don’t have a cognizant memory for the reason of my admiration for ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’ like many others who were born in the mid or late 80’s. All I remember is that the first patriotic song that came to any Pakistani’s mind in those days was ‘Dil Dil Pakistan.’ It was like the unofficial national anthem of the country. Coming back to Vital Signs, it was never that band for me whose posters I would put on the walls or cupboards of my room. They were just there, a group of ‘Mummy Daddy boys’ consistently producing hit songs that were almost taken for granted by people like myself. It was only after the band disintegrated and Junaid Jamshed went solo when I felt his presence for the first time. Maybe that was the beauty of Vital Signs, that they were always liked or disliked as a band and not members of the band in isolation. Anyways, Junaid Jamshed was now ‘Junaid of Vital Signs’ (the original title of his first solo album too).
I had a thing about music and singing from my early childhood and I even considered taking up singing as a full time career at one point in time in my life (more about that some other time). As time passed, I became more aware about the intricacies of music and how this was not something as easy as people generally perceive it to be. I was still a Junoon fan but something about Junaid Jamshed’s voice and the songs that he sung kept knocking on the doors of my mind and musical senses. For reasons unknown, I started listening to old Vital Sign tracks all over again just to re-explore what I had missed in those days. ‘Aitebar bhi’ suddenly became one of my all-time favorites (specially the unplugged version). After Vital Signs, ‘Tumhara aur mera naam’ presented a challenge for me of sorts somehow as a singer whenever I tried singing it and then came ‘Dil ki baat’ and ‘Keh do jo bhi mann mein aey’ and by that time Junaid Jamshed had gained the respect and acceptance from my mind as a musician that he had already earned through his work a decade ago from both the fraternity and music lovers across the globe. And then things started changing.
The more I wanted of Junaid Jamshed, the more effort I had to make. His appearances became rare and news started circulating about him exiting the music scene. Honestly, I wasn’t too bothered about him leaving the music scene because by that time, the music scene in Pakistan had taken on a new shape and there were plenty of new comers who could carry the torch ahead very well from him. What bothered me more was my curiosity to know why he was choosing to call it a day from the music world. I remember watching him judge the first ‘Pepsi Battle of the Bands’ finale where Entity Paradigm (EP) gave a mind-blowing performance by fusing Junaid Jamshed’s and Strings’ ‘Tu hai kahan’ with ‘Aazmaa’. Junaid Jamshed had a stubble at that time but all I could care about was him being part of the judges’ panel and appreciating the new kids on the block. Junaid Jamshed finally announced his dissociation with music and I was again looking for reasons why someone would do that after seeing so much fame and fortune.
It was this curiosity that made me follow him even more, almost inadvertently. I started exploring religion myself. Even though this exploration was triggered by Junaid Jamshed, I never followed him blindly into it and took an unbiased route making sure that my decisions and learnings would be my own and not based on anybody else’s experiences. I didn’t know at that time that he had done the same himself. With the passage of time, I kept on getting more and more impressed by the level of faith and confidence Junaid Jamshed had on ALLAH (SWT) and the sacrifices he had made based on that very faith. ALLAH (SWT) rewarded him at each step. He got tested and rewarded and this had almost become cyclic for him. He would never lose the very public attention he had put on the line with his decision of parting ways from the world of music.
For reasons that are incomparable to a great degree, I would associate myself to him. My association though would never be based or even slightly bear resemblance to the goodness that Junaid Jamshed had as a person and a Muslim. I would find myself in situations where almost every time I could relate with how that great man must have felt in those situations. Situations where I would speak a little too much in excitement about Deen and would then realize that I shouldn’t speak without asking elders or Ulama. The constant struggle that I face each minute of my life against the will to return to a life that has no-holds-barred or at least a little more ‘independence’ to do stuff that I would normally refrain myself from doing now. My constant battles with conceit.
I guess, there are tens of thousands if not millions of people out there like me who feel the same. I speak for myself here though. But as soon as I associate myself and my situation with Junaid bhai, I immediately realize how immensely different my situation is with him. It is only similar till the time I accidentally land into it. After that, me and Junaid bhai share completely contrasting circumstances. Mine, by the grace of ALLAH (SWT) are limited to a very few people while Junaid bhai had magnifying glasses from millions scrutinizing him at each second of his life. Everything he said or did or planned to do was examined and commented upon by people from all walks of life- people who barely knew or understood what he was talking about in the first place. He had carried that extra-baggage with him. But the best part about him was that he never expressed any sort of despondence about it. He forgave all and constantly asked for forgiveness from everyone and kept walking on the road which he believed led to Jannah and the forgiveness of the Al-Mighty.
The best Ramadan of my life so far has been one in which I would listen to his nasheeds all day and night. ‘Jalwa-e-Jaanaa’, ‘Muhammad (SAW) ka roza’, ‘Mera Dil badal de’ and ‘Ilahi teri choakhat par’ would bring out tears from my eyes and they still do. I would put my children to sleep reciting ‘Ae ALLAH, Tu hi ata Tu jood-o-sakhaa’. I would envy him in a good way for the love that he would get from Ulama and renowned scholars from not only Pakistan but from across the globe. He was ‘laadla’ of all Ulama-e-Karaam. Be it Hazrat Hakeem Akhtar Sb. (RA) or Mufti Taqi Usmani Sb. (DB) or Pir Zulfiqar Sb. (DB) and not to forget Hazrat Maulana Tariq Jameel Sb. (DB). Our Ramadan would be incomplete without him and I must confess that I am yet to see an anchor handle scholars and audience from so many different sects on a single forum with such a cultured and tolerant approach like Junaid bhai used to.
I do not think I have shared so much personal detail in any of my pieces till date. And I am not sure if I will ever do that again (ALLAH (SWT) knows best). But this is for Junaid bhai (RA). An elder brother to so many like me. A man who became a source of reigniting our love for ALLAH (SWT) and Prophet Muhammad (SAW). A normal human being who was like us and yet so different from all of us because of the choices he made in his life and the efforts that he made to stick to those choices.
He was surely one of a kind and someone who made his journey from JJ to Junaid bhai and from a Rock star to Rehemahullah.
May ALLAH (SWT) forgive him and grant him with Jannah of the highest level- Aameen.
Hammad A. Mateen