Famous Pakistani Sufi singer assassinated in Karachi

The Sunnis and Shias aren’t just killing each other; they’re killing the Sufis, a mystical branch of the faith which can be seen as a contemplative strain of Sunni Islam—but one that sees itself as above political machinations. It’s not surprising then, that Sufis have been persecuted within the faith, and just today one of their most famous singers, Pakistani Amjad Sabri, was assassinated in his car in Karachi. As the BBC reports:

Sabri was a leading exponent of Sufi devotional music, known as Qawwali.

Sufism, a tolerant, mystical practice of Islam, has millions of followers in Pakistan – but in recent years has come under attack from Sunni extremists.

In the past, attacks on targets linked to Sufi Islam have been blamed on the Taliban who view Sufism as heretical. But no such attacks have taken place during the last couple of years, the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad reports.

Sabri, who was among the sub-continent’s top Qawwali singers, was hit by five bullets, police said. Another person, thought to be a relative, was wounded in the shooting and is said to be in a critical condition.

“It was a targeted killing and an act of terrorism,” said senior police officer Muqaddas Haider, AFP news agency reports.

Here’s Amjad and his brothers doing a Qawwali song; he begins singing at 1:24. It’s an amazing performance (hear the long note at 1:50).

and a bit more:

Amjad Sabri came from a family which traces its musical links to the 17th Century court of India’s Mughal empire. The family adheres to the Sabiriyah branch of Sufi Islam, hence the name Sabri. It migrated to Pakistan when India was divided in 1947, and has been based since then in Karachi.

The band led by Amjad’s father, Ghulam Farid Sabri, dominated the Qawwali scene in India and Pakistan during the 1970s and 80s. Amjad himself was considered a great performer who produced both traditional and commercial music and also sang for movie soundtracks in India and Pakistan.

It is not yet clear who killed him, but he apparently presented a soft target with a wider shock value.

A blasphemy case was filed against Amjad Sabri last year after he mentioned members of the Prophet Muhammad’s family in a song.

However, there is still no confirmation the shooting is related to that incident.

Here’s the reaction of a presenter on a Pakistani television show when she heard the news of the killing. She runs off the stage, but her connected microphone still reveals her uncontrollable sobbing:

h/t: George





  1. BobTerrace
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Hitchens, 2007: Religion Poisons Everything.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      In the (unlikely) event of our species’ descendants meeting the theoretical ammonia-based, or silicon-based aliens, do you think religion would be able to poison them too? With only radio waves for contact.

      • BobTerrace
        Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        The ammonia-based ones are already poisoned.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 22, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          A week or so ago I mentioned that *I* wouldn’t necessarily consider the “habitable zone” of a planet as being the region where liquid water was stable near the surface. One example I raised was that the water-ammonia-CO2 system includes eutectics down to the -70 degC. And where there is a polar solvent, then I know that I don’t know enough chemistry to rule out the possibility of life.
          That bat is dead straight. (Which is probably a bad choice, because I was never paying attention when forced to play cricket. I know more about chemistry than cricket.)

  2. Kevin
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    This is very sad. Sufism is one of the great miracles to all of music. Is this ever going to pan out to the people touched by this music? Are they ever going to just let go of faith when it costs so much?

  3. Lars
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Both video clips are simple black rectangles on my monitor – is this just me, or doesanyone else have this problem?

    • gary
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Works fine for me, Windows 10, Firefox 47.0.

    • Frank Bath
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      All OK in Britain. Is your player up to date? I recently had to same prob.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Fine for me in NZ Google Chrome.

    • Lars
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Thanks all, for checking. I found the problem – Flash begins running a script which takes up more and more space when I’m at some sites, and I have to turn it off via the Task Manager. This is the first time that I’ve noticed that I was killing videos as well.

      Good old Java.

  4. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    This is so sad. He was an amazing artist.

  5. Posted June 22, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I already read about this and thought it was really awful. That Islamists be down on music to this point is depressing and sad.

    If you ever go to Delhi, be sure to go to Nizammudin on Thursday evening to hear these guys singing. It’s really something.

  6. Hassan Ali
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    This is devastating. He was the last scion of the great Sabri family. And a lovely human being in person.

    I think his incredible talent pales in comparison to the staggering musical genius of his late father and uncle (known as the Sabri Brothers). Their qawwalis had a powerful, visceral effect on a lot of people. For me, their music was haal-inducing.

  7. jeffery
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    There has been an ongoing, creeping, “cultural genocide” going on in Pakistan and Bangladesh: a journalist here, a singer there, an “atheist blogger” here, etc. It seems that anyone who opposes fundamentalist Islam (which is simply Islam in its true form) is now targeted. I doubt if these killings are part of a concerted conspiracy by any one group- it’s a testament to the utterly poisonous and toxic nature of the Islamic belief system that a lone individual or small independent group, having sworn themselves to it, automatically and eventually reaches the point where they feel that “Allah needs some help, and now”. This is the main reason why ISIS and its ilk will be so hard to stamp out in this world; it is truly a “mind-virus” that will continue to infect until the Koran is debunked, utterly, as the word of God.
    At the risk of being misunderstood, I want to also say that this phenomenon is a “belief-system-defense” phenomenon and is not confined to religion: the same kind of attacks occur in areas in which drug cartels and other gangs seek to exert and maintain control.
    The worst part of it is that this kind of attack is horrifically effective: a spokesperson with great potential for exposing people to rational thought can be removed, permanently, in an instant by one brainwashed zealot with a gun or a knife; the “ripples” of terror spread by them silence hundreds of potential replacements.
    Humans learn what “works”, and they learn it quickly!

    • Glandu
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      There is no “true form” of Islam, everyone undertands it in itw own way.

      That’ being said, you’re right : everything that does not seem fit to their eyes must disappear, one way or another.

  8. Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    It is very tragic.. He was a great Sufi singer.. 🌷

  9. Tumara Baap
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    There are multiple sufi orders around the world, the ones in Turkey being well known. The Sufis in the Indian subcontinent evolved a unique culture all their own over a period of a thousand years, starting with the Delhi sultanate and then under the Mughal courts. Not only were they tolerant of non-Muslim traditions but often seemed to appropriate Upanishadic philosophies. They contributed significantly to the spread of Islam in the region, and advanced music, literature, poetry and philosophy. The expansion of the Islamic sphere through peace, culture, charity work etc via Sufism likely eclipsed the often violent and forced conversions of orthodox Islam. It was Sufism that was truly dominant. Here’s the thing: There has always been a tension between this tolerant Islam variant and more puritanical elements during the Mughal reign. But the sort of extremist acts of terror; murdering of artists and intellectuals, Wahabi style madrassas, total intolerance of minorities etc that make the news cycle nowadays were an oddity during most of India’s past thousand years.

  10. David Evans
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    At the risk of sounding Trumpish, should the US (or in my case the UK) require signed assent to the proposition “death is never the appropriate punishment for blasphemy, apostasy or any other purely religious crime” as a condition of residence? In the US this ought to be a logical consequence of the 1st amendment, but it might do no harm to spell it out.

    • Taz
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but I don’t like your wording. It implies there IS an appropriate punishment for those those things, which should not even be considered crimes.

  11. somer
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Very tragic

  12. Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I’m a massive fan of Sony TVs but my next door neighbour prefers Panasonic. So I murdered him because I’m sure that’s what Sony would want me to do – now he can’t buy any more competitors’ TVs, right?

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