By Hezreen Abdul Rashid.
“There’s an African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. But I want to go fast and far,” said Hafiz Hamidun, Malaysia’s top nasheed singer and songwriter. His latest album, “I Love Rasulullah” which hit record-breaking sales of 10,000 units within a month garnered a platinum award a few weeks ago. The first nasheed singer in the country to also have a Vevo Youtube account, Hafiz has opened doors of Arteffects International; his brainchild company to Egypt, Germany and soon to come, to the United States to cater to the east and west markets.
Despite his high flying status, Hafiz affirms that his success is not one-sided. “Whatever I’m doing now, whatever’s quoted in the news, it’s not only for me. It’s packaged together with my team and my family members. I don’t want to be known as an ulama (religious scholar) or an ustadh (religious teacher). I’m not at that level. I want to be known as a person who promotes religion in his own way.”
Ironically, his fans who mostly come from the Malay-speaking community, do turn to him for scholarly advice, posing questions to him on his Facebook and twitter pages. Some address him as ustadh and ask his opinion from the Islamic point of view about success, education, and relationships with the opposite sex. While many look up to him as an idol, the youth ask him which football team he supports, his upcoming concerts and of course the all-time favourite question; when is he getting married?
Although he keeps his answers brief but polite, he maintains his stand, “there are no rules for my fans, they are free to love me or hate me.”
Coming from a simple family from Teluk Intan, Perak, Malaysia, Hafiz had to sacrifice to make ends meet, and therefore takes his work seriously. His lyrics for his songs that he writes are filled with profound messages, which he says are meant for himself. The lyrics are a reflection of the emotion he evokes and he wants his fans to feel them. And they sure do. Even his non-Muslim fans who come from Sabah and mainland China, tell him that they can relate to his songs especially when they are about the love for God and the purpose of life. After all, Hafiz’s intentions are to promote peace.
His three Zikir Terapi albums, which comprise of phrases that praise God, are backed by hauntingly deep melodies of orchestral and Indonesian percussion that resonate from within the soul. His inspiration is no doubt from the vast array of music he listens to; from Buddhist chants to Hindu mantras. And the results? Zikir Terapi enabled him to be become one of Malaysia’s top ten singers on Spotify in 2014. This caused a revolution in sufi music in the country and has paved a new path for other local nasheed singers, enabling them to also explore a similar style of dhikr.
Hafiz recalls the time when he first released the Zikir Terapi album in 2011, “the content is definitely important when you promote it. I coined it into a genre; dhikr and therapeutic music. I had to introduce a new piece that is suitable for listeners and for their families.”
But with all the glitz and glamour of the music industry, Hafiz knew the price that he had to pay for where he is today. Despite experiencing periods of health problems and sacrificing family time due to high travel demands, Hafiz said that he never feels satisfied as there’s more to achieve. He plans to collaborate with studios in Mumbai and work with AR Rahman, the star who redefined Bollywood film music. “I’ve watched his videos and read his books. He engages the whole world and it’s time that we infuse some of his work into sufi music.”
So what are his long-term goals? “I’d like to make Malaysia a nasheed hub, and to jump start nasheed as a career to promote Islamic art in the world. But in order to achieve this, I have to learn more about Islam, and it should never stop.” As for those who would like to enter the world of nasheed as professionals, Hafiz says, “Find your own style and be yourself. Build good relationships. Yes, there’s a lot of sacrifice to be made. But you must believe that what you’re doing is for God.”
As much as Hafiz wants to be remembered as a humble person, Malaysians want an inspirational hero and will regard him as one in the Muslim world. After all, he speaks the right language and he builds bridges with people from all walks of life.
So if Hafiz Hamidun doesn’t want to be known as a preacher yet he wants to promote goodness to people, what is his role? A quote by Jalaluddin Rumi sums it all, “Being human is like a guest house. Treat each guest honourably. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Check out some of his awesome tracks:
1. Allahu Ya Rahman
2. Rabbi Zidni
Want more on Hafiz? Check out his Creative Ummah profile.
About the Author:
Hezreen Abdul Rashid has a background in Accounting and has a Masters in Publishing Studies from The University of Malaya. She is an instructor with Axiom Learning where she teaches children creative writing and public speaking skills. She also teaches Islamic leadership skills for children at an NGO in Kuala Lumpur. She has published her first book; The Riddle on 22 Lane with Greenbird Books UK which is available on Amazon.com. Despite her teaching abilities, Hezreen feels that children make the best teachers on earth.