News / Arts & Entertainment

Muslim Rapper Offers Virtuous Alternative to Mainstream Music

Muslim Rapper Offers Virtuous Alternative to Mainstream Musici
X
September 10, 2013 6:30 PM
Muslim hip hop artist Mo Sabri sings about pious themes in a genre that's not exactly known for godly messages. The Tennessee-born son of Pakistani immigrants is following in the footsteps of Christian rock musicians who have done that for decades. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Muslim Rapper Offers Virtuous Alternative to Mainstream Music

Hip hop artist Mo Sabri began a recent performance in Washington, DC, with “Heaven Is Where Her Heart Is,” a song about a virtuous girl who travels to Mecca for the holy Muslim pilgrimage. For the past year, Sabri has been singing about pious themes in a genre not exactly known for godly messages.

“There’s too many songs on the radio these days encouraging girls to do bad things,” he told the audience of Muslim families attending the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which included screaming girls who were obviously excited by the 22-year-old Muslim hearththrob.

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Sabri grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee. He's one of a growing cadre of young Muslim American musicians who write “anaasheed,” or songs with religious Islamic themes, that are beginning to appeal to a broader audience.

One of Sabri’s latest songs got more than one million views on YouTube. He says the song, "I believe in Jesus," was written to show the people of east Tennessee that Muslims revere him.

“I grew up in an area that did not really have any Muslims, and I was able to see that they were all more similar than different,” Sabri said. “For me, I was like, 'I want to reach out to my neighbors and show that Muslims and Christians as a whole can experience what I experienced.'”

In the song, Sabri points out that “In the West, they call him Jesus, in the East they call him Isa, Messiah, Christ,” and he asks, “Why does our religion always have to cause division?”

The Muslim rapper’s song about Jesus spiked in popularity recently as another video involving a Muslim and his view of Jesus went viral. In that video, a Fox News host suggests the author of a book about Jesus, religious studies scholar Resa Aslan, is biased because he is a Muslim.

The interview drew condemnation from liberal commentators who attacked the premise of the suggestion.

Sabri notes that while Muslims reject the Christian view that Jesus is the son of God, they do consider him a prophet.

“There’s so much misinformation about Muslims, to think that a Muslim can’t talk about Jesus, or can’t love Jesus, is just the wrong idea, and my goal is to dispel that idea,” he said.

Sabri turned to “anasheed” after the focus on sex and alcohol in many hip hop songs turned him off. He says one of the main inspirations for doing so was Hasidic artist Matisyahu, who gained a wide following rapping to reggae about Jewish spiritual themes such as the hope for the return of the Messiah.

“I just liked how he did not have to succumb to any of the pressures of writing music, and he was different," Sabri said. "He had uplifting songs that were spiritual.”

After his performance, Sabri was crowded by fans seeking autographs. By offering a virtuous alternative to pop culture he is following in the footsteps of Christian rock musicians who have done that for decades, and proving that it also works in Islam.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: GregAbdul from: Miami Gardens
September 11, 2013 11:02 AM
Religious rap is merely rap. I am an old school black American. The only talent involved in rap is the message which usually makes religious rap kind of vanilla. "Muslims love Jesus." is not a wow new sort of message. I am not offended at the young man. I am offended at VOA for hyping something that's not very big because it is a blend of things that are almost impossible to pull off. The thinking behind this article is, you are encouraging a young person. But really are you encouraging this young man into something that is even more dead end that sports. A feel-good, mislead-someone-else's-kid attitude is what created this article.

In Response

by: Michael Thomas from: Dallas, Texas
September 15, 2013 11:13 AM
Greg, you are being ridiculous. You sound more like jealous person who wanted to rap but couldn't or are mad that he is doing things differently than your "old school" rap.
How in the world would his music mislead "someone else's kid"? He is rapping about virtuous things and uniting religions while others seek to cause problems. Greg, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Mo Sabri, keep making your music and doing good in the world. Don't let haters like Greg bring you down. VOA, kudos for this. Thank you!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."