Love Letters To Icons: Abida Parveen

There are countless female icons that have coloured our history and left a lasting impression on us with their talent, charisma and presence. Every week, Ammaar – known on Instagram as ammaavocado – will be sharing his letter of love and admiration to some of these inspiring women. This week it’s to the queen of sufi music, Abida Parveen.

Dearest Abida,

I don’t pray to God in the traditional sense. I don’t bend my back in the mosque but I do submit. I submit when I jot down the burdens of my heart in my journal; it feels as if with the pen, I slit my throat and watch the blood leak every guilt that any sin had given birth to. And in that moment, Abida. I feel closest to God.

I believe that you feel that aswell. I believe that when you walk on top of a raag repeatedly singing the name of God, I imagine that there’s a moment when you also walk into the grace of God and I believe that is when you feel closest to God.

Abida, in this way, you and I are alike. We share a romance with God. We do what we do as a sacrifice. The thing about sacrifice, Abida, is that it must be made of the most precious thing we own. It must be from what we are blessed with, and isn’t that funny, how we must willingly let go of a blessing, in the name of God, hoping that he would bless us again.

When I read or hear about the story of Karbala. When I read about the way Hussain ibn Ali lost everyone he loved and everything he wished to see for God. I sob into my arms, not for the sacrifices made in the name of God but the sacrifices made in the name of love. I imagine an entire desert drenched in the blood of everyone he loved. And I learn the limits of which we can go to love someone.

In your interview for Guardian, you said, “Sufism is not a switch, the music isn’t a show – it’s all of life, it is religion. If I want to be recognised for anything, if we should be recognised for anything, it’s the journey of the voice. And that voice is God’s.” And you are. I still hope to be.

Abida, I am in love with the ways in which you make us taste God’s grace. I am in love with the way you make us imagine God’s mercy and not his might. Abida, I am in love with the way you love God, without the fear of your sins or his hell. Love was never about consequence, and you show me that.

Abida, my father always said, that when it rains, it’s God crying from the skies. On the night of my father’s death, it rained hard and incessantly. And Imagined God’s chest to get heavy to see me in pain. I liked believing that, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. That’s how I picture my God, Abida. Empathetic, and merciful. Someone who wears his heart on his sleeve.

It’s raining today, Abida. And today, a man was killed in the name of blasphemy. He was Muslim, and a Hafiz. And yet, people questioned his faith.

Faith was always private, Abida. It was never meant to be critiqued. Our relationship with God is personal.

It is ours. He, is ours.

Love,

Ammaar.

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