I’d first read Imam Ghazali‘s Duties of Brotherhood in Islam, translated by Muhtar Holland sometime in the summer of 1995 as reading for a do-it-yourself Islamic study circle that I was in with my brother and some dear friends in Toronto. That’s when I read the following powerful story:
“It is related in the stories of the People of Israel that two godly brothers were upon a mountain. One of them come down to town to buy a pennyworth of meat. He saw a harlot at the butcher’s shop, gazed upon her, fell in love with her, and carried her off to a private place to copulate with her. After spending three nights with her, he was ashamed to return to his brother in view of his offence.
Meanwhile, his brother missed him and felt concern about him. He descended to the town and kept on asking about him till he was directed to him. Then he went in and found him sitting with the girl. He embraced him and began kissing him and hugging him, but the other denied all knowledge of him, being so ashamed. Then he said:
“Come my brother, for I know your condition and your story, yet you were never better loved nor dearer to me than at this moment. “
Now when he realized that what had happened had not lowered him in his brother’s eye he arose and went away with him. “
The story stayed with me over the years as a powerful demonstration of true brotherhood and genuine, sincere concern. I often found myself returning to it in my various roles of community activism, and judging myself against this standard. I often wondered what the “unspoken conversation” must have been like between the two friends.
Roughly ten years later in the summer of 2005, I was driving down Shaykh Zayed Road in Dubai, a highway notorious for an insanely high occurrences of collisions per year. Out of nowhere, the lyrics and tune for what later became my debut album’s title track came at me with such an insistence that I had to pull over to the shoulder and jot it all down. The entire song, including the last stanza that turns the entire song upside down, was completely unplanned.
I think the best part about the lyrics on this track, is that they leave unspecified the relationship between the two people, and the cause of their estrangement. I regularly get to hear from listeners about this track, both in person and through emails or Facebook messages — each one of them seeing a different relationship from their own lives in these words.
I remember once in late 2009 I’d just finished soundcheck for an Islamic Relief Canada event with Imam Zaid Shakir. An older lady setting up decorations at the back of the hall came up to me with tears in her eyes. She told me that her daughter had recently gone through a rough divorce, and her own husband was unable to be with them to help their daughter through the process. She told me that she would sing this song to her daughter every day to give her strength. I had goosebumps as I teared up myself. Every time I experience self-doubt about my chosen career path, that’s one of the incidents that encourages me to keep moving ahead.
The producer Mohammed Dbooni pulled in Brazilian and South Asian drums for this song, and positioned the vocals really well to keep the lyrics front and centre.
You can stream it on this link (also has lyrics), and follow the instructions to buy it directly from iTunes.
Nader Khan has since released another album – WATER, which contains the track Take My Hand, part 2 — the same story, but from the other friend’s perspective.