Pakistani Ghazals, Aik Alif

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog that celebrated the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.



Ghazals are traditional Sufi poems that contemplate life, the meaning of our existence and the countenance of God. Some renowned writers of such poetry are Jalal-uddin Rumi, Bulleh Shah, Mirza Ghaleb, etc.

It's important to understand that many of these mystics (i.e. Rumi) were deeply rooted within the Islamic tradition and didn't separate themselves from it. There have been many movements, primarily in the West, trying to separate Sufism from Islam. But I'll leave that rant for another post.

I am happy to share with you two renditions of a very famous ghazal, Aik Alif (translated One Alif). Alif is the first letter in the Arabic alphabet. A very fitting title for a poem that talks about how difficult we make our life and forget to look within ourselves and see where we all come from. The ghazal was written by Bulleh Shah.

The video above is a traditional ghazal performed by Abeda Parveen. Abeda is one of Pakistan's most respected and prized performers. The second performance is a more dynamic one. Noori, a Pakistani rock band, collaborates with Saioon Zahoor, a simple darweesh who spent most of his life performing in durghas (mausoleums). Both renditions are nothing short of brilliant.