Dawud Wharnsby

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When it comes to "Islam" —  I look at the word as the verbal noun it is: an action word. I see Islam as something someone does, not something someone "belongs to".
I don’t like to belong to one religious community as I don’t want people to feel excluded from asking for my help or learning with me.

Dawud Wharnsby (born David Howard Wharnsby on 27 June 1972) is a Canadian muslim singer-songwriter, poet, performer, educator and television personality who is a proponent of the principles of Islam, Unitarian Universalism, and Perennial Philosophy.

Quotes[edit]

I am a Muslim and I worship in mosques when I am in Pakistan.  I also worship in Unitarian churches when I’m in the US. Such spiritual freedom is very important to me.
  • For the record: Though our professional circles did cross-over slightly... I never had the honour or pleasure of meeting Michael Jackson personally, nor did we ever correspond on matters of our professions, personal lives or faiths. … My approach to faith does not include concepts of "conversion/reversion" or "propagation", so the very idea that I would have even tried to "convert" Mr. Jackson (or anyone else for that matter) to my spiritual perspective, is silly.
    • On rumors that he, Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens), and others had convinced Michael Jackson to convert to Islam, in a statement on his blog site in "The Passing of Michael Jackson : Enter Into Peace" (26 June 2009); Yusuf Islam also repudiated the rumors at his site: "Contrary to persistent press rumours, I was not at any kind of conversion ceremony for Michael Jackson. Nor, I believe, was Dawud Wharnsby or any of the others mentioned in connection with the story."
  • I believe the spiritual journey that each of us takes on is a personal one, and I feel religion is a delicate road to be on. I don’t like to belong to one religious community as I don’t want people to feel excluded from asking for my help or learning with me. It’s all about bringing people together to celebrate their various interpretations of scripture. I am a Muslim and I worship in mosques when I am in Pakistan.  I also worship in Unitarian churches when I’m in the US. Such spiritual freedom is very important to me.
    • As quoted in "Global citizen", interview in Scouts (July/August 2010), p. 41
  • My programme, The Art of Creative Expression, empowers young people with tools to express themselves. We teach photography, art and drama, but it's not just the medium that's important, it's about what you are trying to say.
    • As quoted in "Global citizen", interview in Scouts (July/August 2010), p. 41

Blue Walls and The Big Sky (1995)[edit]

Learning from a man who learned all he learned from another, can lead you to a safe place, but destroy your sense of wonder.
Hope as rich and green as the trees of an oasis.
  • Build me a tomb for when I die, build it 50,000 feet into the sky... Build me a boat I want to discover America, build me a boat to take me to the edge of the seven seas, build me a boat and you can sail along with me, we’ll spread our money, power, religion and disease. ...Who are they to say that we own nothing and our lives have gone astray?
    • "Wood and Nails"
  • You’ve built me a cabin but I want more, and more and more, now build me an office tower with an automatic door. Build me a fence that I can wrap around my state. If anyone tries to break through, I pity his fate.
    • "Wood and Nails"
  • We have dealt with all these idealists in the past, I’m sure we’ll find a way to deal with them today... Rid our world of all these fanatics one by one, won’t let not prophet lover ruin my fun. We’ll string ‘em up and shoot ‘em down.
    • "Wood and Nails"
  • Eating education is like eating Christmas pudding: Too much can make your stomach sore, too much can spoil your whole Christmas. Learning from a man who learned all he learned from another, can lead you to a safe place, but destroy your sense of wonder. Trapped inside a book, locked inside a lecture, when do you find the time to love and spend your days in forests? And when ideals are fleeting — tell me then who do you turn to? They prove to you that God is dead, but to them you’re just a number.
    • "Education and The Working Man"
  • No more starry eyes from behind these dusty spectacles. I’ll wipe them and follow my own shadow for a change.
    • "Upon My Shelf"
  • You could call me antisocial, I’ve called myself that sometimes too, but I just prefer to be alone, and that’s nothing against you.
    • "Antisocialsong"
  • Truth is buried, deep inside of men, sweep away each day.
    • "The Last Tea Song"

Colours of Islam (1998)[edit]

Every single person is your sister and brother.
  • Hope as rich and green as the trees of an oasis.
    • "Colours of Islam"
  • Allah made us all a different shade and colour. Nations and tribes recognize one another! ’Cause every single person is your sister and brother.
    • "Colours of Islam"

Road To Madinah (1998)[edit]

Put all our pride away, always find a gentle word to say, you know we shouldn’t be full of ourselves when we should be full of humility.
  • Put all our pride away, always find a gentle word to say, you know we shouldn’t be full of ourselves when we should be full of humility.
    • "Full of Humility"

Sunshine, Dust and The Messenger (2002)[edit]

  • We’ve digitized the revelations — does our rehearsed recitation go any deeper than our throats? Our calls to prayer they seem to rise up to the skies, conferences and lectures, seminars for you and I. The words that blow away with the nasheed that make us cry, yet why are the drums so silent?
    • "Why Are The Drums So Silent"
  • If we can just be brave enough to be each others mirror, we may finally recognize the face of conscious that we fear.
    • "Why Are The Drums So Silent"
  • If we can take the time to mute the noise we’ve build around ourselves the rhythm of the heartbeats and the purpose may be clear.
    • "Why Are The Drums So Silent"

The Prophet's Hands (2003)[edit]

We’ve got to tip the lid and let some sunlight in.
  • Standing in the market square, so alive but void of life, We work and we sweat and we struggle through each day. As our efforts scar our hands, this world stains us with demands. It’s hard to see life’s humour in the business games we play. As we gnaw our nails with stress, our fists and hearts pound so carelessly. With every effort forward, how much more can we digress?
    • "The Prophet's Hands"
  • But if we hide ourselves away, afraid to grow and learn, we might wake up in the flames of the ignorance that burns and we’ll never be much more than only casualties of war in a struggle we can’t win if we have no faith to begin. We’ve got to tip the lid and let some sunlight in.
    • "The People of The Boxes"
  • The world is not a box, there’s no lid, no doors, no cardboard flaps or locks, and everything in nature from the clouds to the rocks is a piece of the puzzle of the purpose of mankind, it's a piece of the peace that we’ll find.
    • "The People of The Boxes"
  • I sent an email to my loved one, just the other day, it’s sad communication has evolved this way. We use so many words but have so little to relay, as angels scribble down every letter that we say. All the viral attachments sent and passionate insults we vent, it’s easy to be arrogant behind user passwords we invent. But on the day the scrolls are laid, with every word and deed displayed, when we read our accounts, I know, for one, I’ll be afraid.
    • "Afraid To Read"

A Different Drum (2004)[edit]

Can you hear the rhythm of all/Allah's creation?
  • Watch the grown ups all twirling with the clock throughout the day. Watch them spinning through the hours while the time hands tick away. They talk and grip the world, as they would catch a falling knife. Reality deceives them ’neath amusing games of life.
    • "Rhythm of Surrender"
  • Can you hear the rhythm of all/Allah's creation? The rhythm of the clapping of the thunder and the rain? Can you see the rhythm of all creation? The lightning and the leaves and the seasons as they change?
    • "Rhythm of Surrender"

Beating the drums of hope and faith (2004)[edit]

What I read in the Qur’an, and what I learned from the words of Muhammad, Jesus and others really struck a chord with me, so I chose to implement the wisdom I found.
Quotes from interviews in "Beating the drums of hope and faith" in Emel : The Muslim Lifestyle Magazine (July/August 2004)
I know I don’t want anybody judging me so I don’t think it is right for us to judge each other.
We must reach out to our neighbours not with an agenda of conversion, but in simple acts of sincere love.
We all want to fit into a culture, a community; we want to find a home, security, freedom of faith and lifestyle but these days all those things are threatened.
Find your identity by actually looking for the things in life that appeal to you or stir emotion in you.
  • I was never so much "interested in Islam", so much as I was interested in trying to find out about God; I wanted to discover my purpose in life and a way to better the world I share with others.
  • What I read in the Qur’an, and what I learned from the words of Muhammad, Jesus and others really struck a chord with me, so I chose to implement the wisdom I found. I don’t feel as though I "changed" to any new "religion", rather, I just grew as an individual: I matured spiritually. … I believe the proverbial "search" doesn’t end until we die.
  • It was my agenda — value our faith, value our opportunity to grow and better ourselves as believers and citizens of the world. Singing to and for myself and Muslims, I can be more explicate in my lyrics, drawing directly from Islamic sources. Some of my music is naturally a little bit more sensitive to the opinions and feelings of a broader audience — still Islamic in its essence, but more "holistic" and "organic" than dogmatic.
  • We spend so much time defending the Qur’an from attacks that it’s sexist, we rant and rave about how Islam gave rights to women over 1400 years ago, but our sisters are still not in position of leadership within our community. Our sisters are still praying next to the shoe-racks while the men have plush carpets beneath their lazy foreheads and our public women’s shelters are full of Muslim women fleeing from abusive husbands and dead-beat dads. The sad reality is that our community does display sexist attitudes to women. Writing a song about Hijab seemed pretty shallow to me in light of the other issues surrounding women that we Muslims are too self-righteous to face. … I began to see that some Muslim women look down on others for not covering, or that many Muslim men judge sisters who wear hijab differently from those who don’t. A sister shows up at the mosque one day without hijab and she is treated rudely; she shows up the next day with hijab and she is treated like a queen. Such a scenario is a blatant treatment of the woman as an object, no different than the judgements we see made in secular society of women’s appearances. In the end, it is not about the piece of cloth. It is about the relationship with God, and I know I don’t want anybody judging me so I don’t think it is right for us to judge each other.
    • On various concerns about writing his song "The Veil", and reactions to it.
  • I included songs which were aimed at making listeners think a little more deeply about faith in general. People of The Boxes for example, is not just a fable with implied reference to Jews and Christians, but it also points out that we who call ourselves "Muslims" are also living in a box sometimes. I wanted to help myself and the listeners realise our own faults too — to stop being so judgmental of others and to get ourselves out of the dogmatic boxes we have trapped ourselves in.
    • On his album The Prophet’s Hands
  • There is a tendency in the Muslim community to play the victim and the target of media and political conspiracies. Whilst I don’t dispute the media is unfair in its portrayal of Muslims, and that our governments have hidden agendas to protect their financial interests in lands where populations are primarily Muslim, I think we should take up the example of the Prophet and be more "in control" of our reactions and our opportunities to make dawa through personally instigating positive change in our local communities. We must reach out to our neighbours not with an agenda of conversion, but in simple acts of sincere love. We must stop blaming everybody else for our struggles and hardships and start to take action in our own lives through sincere efforts to improve who we are as individuals.
    • On his song "Don’t Talk About Muhammad"
  • I feel for, and identify with, individuals on their spiritual journeys — whether those journeys are hard or smooth. That is why I write about the young man who parties all night and finds it hard to get along with his parents; I sing about the Muslim girl murdered by her father and step mother; I write about the death of a close relative and the struggle of dealing with that parting; I write about conflict within marriage; difficulties being a good parent; religious hypocrisy; consumerism; sexual abuse; religious narrow-mindedness; these are all struggles that are very real within our community. Even if I have not felt these struggles first hand, seeing others around me experience such tests does effect me… the social repercussions of these struggles effect us all one way or another.
  • We all want to fit into a culture, a community; we want to find a home, security, freedom of faith and lifestyle but these days all those things are threatened. We don’t know whether the "freedom" in our western democracies means "free of domination" or "free to dominate". Muslim youth are confused and searching for answers. Some are looking towards rigid traditionalism, others to more secular approaches. Many of us are left wondering what is right and what is wrong.
  • Start small, put down the book you’re reading and sit with your grandmother to learn her language and find out about her life’s struggles and her history, before she passes on and your history is lost; put down the TV remote control and stop letting pop culture define who you are and go for a walk through your hometown’s historical landmarks. Find your identity by actually looking for the things in life that appeal to you or stir emotion in you. If you just let your government, your local imam, even your local pop singer or nasheed singer, define what you should be, you will never be more than that. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Who do I WANT to be?’ Start there.

The Sounds of Taqwa (2006)[edit]

My spiritual quest has always been to bring me closer to my purpose in life, a better relationship with the force that brought me into existence, and how to relate to fellow human beings.
A song like Prophet For Profit stands up in the face of narrow minded pseudo-religious leaders who think they have the God given right to speak or kill on my behalf, as much as it is a slap in the face to narrow minded pseudo-democratic political leaders who think they have the God given right to speak and kill on my behalf.
Inspiration comes from many places — experiences, places, people, books, and the work of other artists.
Quotes from interview "The Sounds of Taqwa" in Illume Magazine (April 2006)
  • When it comes to "Islam" —  I look at the word as the verbal noun it is: an action word. I see Islam as something someone does, not something someone "belongs to". I believe that "religion", as the world commonly knows it today, is a divisive factor in community. When I was about 15 years old, I renounced a belief in the importance of "religion", seeking rather to find answers to life's questions. My spiritual quest has always been to bring me closer to my purpose in life, a better relationship with the force that brought me into existence, and how to relate to fellow human beings. When I was 17, I started reading scriptures from around the world and the more I read the more commonality I saw between them all. When I discovered the Qur'an at the age of 20, it seemed to be the most organic in its message. I got out of "religion" and got into life. To this day, I renounce a trust in the institutions of "religion".
  • The Qur’an has been around for over 1500 years and has been embraced by individuals from countries all over the world. This has resulted in many opinions about how it should be interpreted. A small number of people who follow the Qur’an —  primarily in places like North America, The United Kingdom, Arabia and South Africa — hold the view that musical instruments are “unlawful”.
    Living in North America, I thought it was best to keep instruments out of my CDs so families would feel comfortable listening to the songs.
    10 years and almost 12 albums later, I felt it was important to be more honest with myself about my own personal opinions of music and its usefulness. There are also the majority of followers of Qur’an who don’t have a problem with music and who do not consider it as unlawful, thus I felt it was important to share something of value with them as well through some newer music and songs.
  • My intention is to use music as a tool for social change. It is always a prayer of mine that the work I produce will help, in some small way, to better the world or provide others with hope in themselves or trust in The Creator’s mercy to us all.
  • Extremism comes in many forms. Some people are extremely capitalistic, extremely reactionary, extremely lazy, dogmatic, pessimistic, hopeful, fearful … I believe, extremism is not always bad — depending upon what sort of “extremism” one allows themselves to indulge in. As a human race, I believe we should be extremely good neighbors, socially conscious, passionate about justice, fairness and truth.
    Is my music a reaction to the negative religious, political or capitalistic extremism or we see in the world around us? Yes, sometimes. A song like Prophet For Profit stands up in the face of narrow minded pseudo-religious leaders who think they have the God given right to speak or kill on my behalf, as much as it is a slap in the face to narrow minded pseudo-democratic political leaders who think they have the God given right to speak and kill on my behalf.
  • Inspiration comes from many places — experiences, places, people, books, and the work of other artists. As a writer, it is important to keep one’s senses open to the world around and then trying to capture those impressions to a page. Writing is sort of a game or puzzle to me — playing with words and concepts to present something new to listeners.

Out Seeing The Fields (2007)[edit]

True life can’t ever start, until we offer up our heart.
I only feel close to you when I‘m under open sky, I only feel guided when I’m free to question why.
  • All the girls and boys seen preening through school halls, fighting to fit in, games they just can’t win, higher education dumbing down a nation, around the square unsure of where we fit in.
    • "Rachel"
  • It has nothing to do with age, it's not our languages, religion, gender, coulour of our skin; It’s a soul within a well, that echoes deep beneath the ego’s shell. True life can’t ever start, until we offer up our heart.
    • "Rachel"
  • Pictures of politicians preen across our TV screens, pretensions plaques and posters fill our minds and magazines. Promises a burning match, igniting dreams of straw…
    • "The War/La Ilaha Il Allah"
  • Teachers and pop icons, empty drums beat loudest noise. We swap their quotes and CDs like children trading toys. Follow along, bite the barbed hook deep in our jaw...
    • "The War/La Ilaha Il Allah"
  • I glance reflections of my face everyplace I go, in my mirror and in shop windows, like the lead in my own show. Do I dare look closely? See each wrinkle, scar and flaw?
    • "The War/La Ilaha Il Allah"
  • Only when I smell the earth upon my face, will I ever be free, to fly from this place.
    • "Out Seeing The Fields"
  • I only feel close to you when I‘m under open sky, I only feel guided when I’m free to question why.
    • "Out Seeing The Fields"
  • The past we’ve got we must forget. Future hasn’t happened yet. Carry this moment in a song. Insha Allah, it won’t be long.
    • "Let It Go"
  • Time seems cold, each day we grey away. Believe the lines that we’ve been told, 'Lose our way lose yesterday’, they say, but who are they? Who are they anyway? They didn’t hear us play at eight years old.
    • "Eight Years Old"

The Poets And The Prophet (2006)[edit]

Words can never really help you say, what you want them to anyway.
Truth has been confused. Simplicity refused.
  • Every picture you give me I save, and every colour you use is so true to you. Every minute we spend I engrave, and every memory rethought is so new. There is trust that we must recognize. There is so much that we must learn to see and be, if we could only open our minds. Just grow with God and please be patient with me, and I will give you my life.
    • "Everyday"
  • We all want a simple song. We all want to get along. We all want to just belong. We all want to know right from wrong. We all want to love and be loved strong.
    • "Love Strong"
  • Words can never really help you say, what you want them to anyway. And words can never really help you see, what you really want to be.
    • "Midnight"
  • If he could read a line, just understand one sign. Close his mouth and hear the peace of hope and fear, if he could read a line. If he could keep in time.
    • "The Poets"

For Whom The Troubadour Sings (2010)[edit]

So busy drawing lines in sand that we don’t think and understand.
We must open up our hands, raise our palms up high to see, the mazes of our unique selves, end with similarity.
Music, faith and knowledge should be free.
  • What of this God whom we command, to bless our coloured flag and land, so busy drawing lines in sand that we don’t think and understand.
    • "What Has Become"
  • What of wars we have survived, genocides and hollow costs/holocausts? Have our hopes for humankind like scriptures and mass graves been lost?
    • "What Has Become"
  • If a fist can hold a sword, and a fist can clench a pen, but the points of both are missed, by dull, tarnished pride of men. We must open up our hands, raise our palms up high to see, the mazes of our unique selves, end with similarity.
    • "What Has Become"
  • Your bombs and pens like swords, held high, up to my throat. You have made the cost of blood, as cheap as ink and all I think.
    • "What Has Become"
  • If we only knew, the sacred value, And if the might of our pen, is stronger than the swords of men, let us unsheathe our minds, write with our hearts again.
    • "What Has Become"
  • We’ve got to take a chance, fly by the seat of our proverbial pants. There’s so much we can do, out in this world, me and you. There’s so much we can improve, if you dig my drift, if you catch my groove.
    • "Hi Neigbour, Salam Neighbour"
  • There are a lot of grown ups who, should be sent up to their rooms, and told they must stay there, until they learn they can play fair.
    • "Hi Neigbour, Salam Neighbour"
  • The Light, The Thunder, The Dunes of Sand, The Sun, The Moon, Man and the land. If we work a little, we might see, if we think and reflect on each rock and tree, there’s no measure to all it’s worth — sustainable earth.
    • "Sustainable Earth"
  • ‘Where’s the next show?’, ‘Why don’t you make a Video?’, ‘Put on these beads and clothes and The Bling, Bling!’ Well, if that’s all it’s about than I think that I want out, of a career that won’t just let me sing. ...‘cause music, faith and knowledge should be free.
    • "I Just Wanna Sing"

A Picnic of Poems in Allah's Green Garden (2011)[edit]

Everyone I know admits they’ve never seen your face, they’re not sure where you live and have no map to the place.
The keys to free a smile have been with us all the while: look for good, and spread that good around.
A busy buzzing bee is a lot like me, it works and it lives in community.
  • All of us, ride on the same bus, shop at the same malls and stores. All of us, debate and discuss, decide and divide what is mine and what’s yours.
    • "All of Us"
  • You and I, wonder at the sky, call God a different name. As we try, learn and long to fly — you and I are so differently the same.
    • "All of Us"
  • But when it rains, it rains on all our houses, we all get cold when it snows. When a storm rolls in, huddled up against our windows, we all feel the fear when a strong wind blows, While on this earth, we’re all of equal worth.
    • "All of Us"
  • Dear God I've heard your name from teachers, family and friends, you made the universe and so will live on when it ends. Everyone I know admits they’ve never seen your face, they’re not sure where you live and have no map to the place.
    • "Dear God"
  • There’s always work that must be done...Life’s so simple when we simply work to make it fun.
    • "Simple Life"
  • We love to live a simple life...we simply love the life we live though some would say its hard.
    • "Simple Life"
  • Fences and forts with walls and flags, caw caw — they’re so funny.
    • "Dear Mr. Crow "
  • The foolish big boys who fight with their toys are so sadly silly.
    • "Dear Mr. Crow "
  • Someday we’ll realize, perhaps much to our surprise, the keys to free a smile have been with us all the while: look for good, and spread that good around.
    • "Piles of Smiles"
  • There was a house made out of sticks, there was a city, made out of bricks, I was amazed at what I saw, all I could say was Subhanallah!
    • "Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah and Insha Allah"
  • I saw a dream, Earth safe and green. No hunger no war, water so clean. I’ll work for the world that I saw, set my mind and say insha Allah.
    • Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah and Insha Allah
  • A busy buzzing bee is a lot like me, it works and it lives in community.
    • "A Busy Buzzing Bee"

External links[edit]

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