The alert popped up on my Whatsapp, a plane had gone missing on the way from Chitral to Islamabad somewhere near Abbotabad. Minutes later, the same sender informed that the plane had crashed with 47 people on board. Like to many such alerts from this friend, who is a security expert and hence often the harbinger of bad news, the response was Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajeeoon followed by a forward of this tragic news to others on various groups etc. Yet those 47 people remained just numbers that often pass on my screens. Then came the news that Junaid Jamshed and Saeed Anwer might have been on their way back from Chitral. Suddenly the numbers became real people, a connection that made the tragedy all so real. Soon the passenger manifest was all over the media and it was confirmed by connections in the Tableeghi Jamaat that Saeed Anwer was still in Chitral but alas Junaid and his wife along with several other members of the Jamaat had indeed been aboard that ill-fated flight.
Like many who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Junaid Jamshed was a common name. From the time the Pakistani pop band Vital Signs rose to prominence by releasing what became a prominent Pakistani anthem, the handsome Junaid Jamshed become an idol for young boys and a heart throb for the girls. His voice crooned out songs that stirred the soul and were often listened to on repeat throughout my teens. Concerts were aplenty in those days and I would never miss a chance to catch Vital Signs live on stage.
As I entered college in the fag end of the 90s and subsequently went on journey of religious awakening, I stopped listening to music and then restarted as I struggled with a new me. It seems in the years that as I was struggling so was Junaid. After Vital Signs broke up, there were rumors abound that Junaid seemed to have drifted away from music but then the year after he suddenly was back in the industry as a solo artist and it was not until 2002 that he officially announced he had left music for good. The man who had inspired many subsequent names to join the industry was no longer a part of it.
His renouncement of music led to the start of a successful business career as he entered the fashion field with the help of an entrepreneur Sohail Khan. This business venture now gave Junaid the support he needed and soon the poster-boy of Pakistani pop became the public face of the Tableeghi Jamaat.
Wrapping up that little history lesson up there, what did Junaid Jamshed mean to me? Junaid to me characterized the struggle to surrender. The same struggle that started for me somewhere in 1998 and that to some extent still goes on today: the struggle to bend my soul to follow the Commands of Allah (SWT); the struggle to mute the Disco side and to enhance the Maulvi side of me. I never got a chance to properly meet Junaid after he became a Maulvi. I did reach out to him when I was asked by some friends in the Learning & Development industry to invite him to one of their upcoming youth sessions which they wanted to have a spiritual side as well. Sadly that event never materialized and Junaid and I never met. However, during our brief interaction for the youth event he came across as a very caring and helpful person.
Today as I write this, I wonder that maybe I should have taken a bolder initiative and connected more aggressively with him. Maybe I would have learnt much from him, from his struggle to give up fame for religion and his struggle to handle a different fame that came as a religious figure and the many issues that seemed to hound him after he did so. I could have also learnt much from his struggle to contribute more to society. Sadly that chance is gone. All that is now left is to learn from his death. How he was out in the path of Allah (SWT), trying to inspire people to turn to Allah (SWT) —- and how eventually Allah (SWT) chose to take him back while he was on that Path: a martyr in sha Allah.