The prescribed period of grief we are often told of is three days. It’s taken three days to even recognize grief when it comes to Junaid Jamshed though. Many stand where I stand, among those who grew up and lived with the vitality of his music, songs that were beautiful for their simplicity and embrace. Many of us have been in the cars full of energetic youth that roam Karachi roads, with one of his songs blasting as high as the volume will go. And where it won’t go higher is made up for with all of us singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down, the wind meeting our faces with mutual glee.
His songs never lost appeal—they were full of promise and timeless familiarity. He experienced an amazing journey during his career, in which he left singing for the sake of God, and his voice carried us with him. His recitation of the Qaseeda Burda-Shareef is probably one of the most memorable ones that exist today. Junaid Jamshed was the star on Pakistan’s flag. And without it, our nation all over the world is confused about how to deal with his sudden departure.
The night before he passed away, I was doing something I have often done. When things seem really dim, really helpless, really alone, when life doesn’t make much sense at all anymore, I turn to one of Junaid Jamshed’s songs and it provides a mountain of faith again. It isn’t one of his naats, but a song from the very first album released when he was a part of the band Vital Signs, called Do Pal Ka Jeevan. It’s a song that explains with that same simple beauty, that we are still living and breathing, that it will be okay. It teaches you to stand up again after falling a thousand times. It reminds you that life is thriving with movement and things will not collapse just because a few moments may feel as such. It’s a song that feels spiritual, practical, a blessing from God because of the way it cuts through darkness. And many of his songs did that.
That night I felt better like always and listened to a few more things by him that reminded me of wonderful days in Karachi, of my cousins, of times we had together, of what that era felt like. That’s what his voice did I suppose—it enabled you to feel, instantly. The next morning I woke up to facebook saying Junaid Jamshed had passed away.
For three days, tributes and news ran on our TV channels about his death, about the plane crash, about the black box, the make of the plane, the DNA tests that will take a week for verification. I glazed over it. I was praying for him, for his family, but I hadn’t realized it. It was confusing until today when I heard him over the radio on the way to Jum’ah and the news finally made its journey to my senses. My mom had been saying even less, not watching any of the shows about him, not even commenting on any statuses. Three days later today, as footage of his visit to Australia came on TV today and a naat of his played, we both watched, and I saw her looking at the screen for what felt like the first time in the past three days. As I watched the silence in her eyes, I fully recognized what had been going on with both of us these few days. I saw the face of grief.
I’ve never stopped listening to Junaid Jamshed, through both parts of his career. Some of his songs are so tied to my time visiting Pakistan that the feeling that comes from listening to them is simply reflex now. Some of his songs remind me of my home in Saudi Arabia, some of dreams and aspirations, some of the deepest truths of life like the jungle line from Aitebaar. Even his romantic songs had so much depth and purity. When u heard them, you could feel the love felt inside a person’s heart.
Every part of life is marked by some voice of his, whether it’s in the message of a song, a naat, or a program during Ramadan. Both before and after his transformation, for me his voice has always carried spirituality. His conveyances have lifted me back up, made me cry for Allah, have helped keep my most cherished memories in tact, taught me how to love, and now forever, will stand as a reminder of what we’re here to remember in the first place: Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.