× Close
Matters of faith

Why I converted: The transformation of Dilip Kumar into AR Rahman

Becoming a Muslim gave the musician a new name, a fresh identity and a renewed sense of purpose.

When AS Dileep Kumar decided to shed the faith he was born into and adopt a new one, the reasons were several. His father’s untimely death had put several financial pressures on the family, which included four children. His spiritual-minded mother had met, and gained immense succour, from a Sufi saint, peer Karimullah Shah Qadri. And he had been grappling with minor and major identity issues: he didn’t like the name he was born with, he was looking for direction and purpose, and he wanted to get a handle on his professional future. That man is today known as Allahrakha Rahman, one of India’s foremost composers. He discusses his decision to convert and the impact it had on him in these edited excerpts from AR Rahman The Spirit of Music by Nasreen Munni Kabir.

How has Sufism affected your attitude to life?
It has taught me that just as the rain and the sun do not differentiate between people, neither should we. Only when you experience friendship across cultures, you understand there are many good people in all communities…

Did your belief in spirituality help when you and your family were facing hard times?
Yes, absolutely. My mother was a practising Hindu… My mother had always been spiritually inclined. We had Hindu religious images on the walls of the Habibullah Road house where we grew up. there was also an image of Mother Mary holding Jesus in Her arms and a photograph of the sacred sites of Mecca and Medina.

In 1986, ten year after my father died, we happened to meet Qadri Saaheb again. The peer was unwell and my mother looked after him. He regarded her as a daughter. There was a strong connection between us. I was nineteen at the time and working on a session musician and composing jingles.

Did the peer ask you to embrace Islam?
No, he didn’t. Nobody is forced to convert to the path of Sufism. You only follow if it comes from your heart. A year after we met Qadri Saaheb, in 1987, we moved to from Habibullah Road to Kodambakkam, to the house where we still live. When we moved, I was reminded of what Jesus Christ, Peace be upon Him, once said: “I wish that you were cold and hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

What I understood by His words was that it is better to choose one path. The Sufi path spiritually lifted both my mother and me, and we felt it was the best path for us, so we embraced Sufi Islam.

Were you conscious of the fact that changing your faith might affect your relations with people?
My family had started working by then and we weren’t dependant on anyone. No one around us really cared – we were musicians and that allowed us greater social freedom…

The important thing for me is that I learned about equality and the oneness of God. Whether you are a winner or loser, king or slave, short or tall, rich or poor, sinner or saint, ugly or beautiful - regardless of what colour you are, God showers unlimited love and mercy on us if we choose to receive it. It is because of our inability, our blindness in seeing the unknown that we lose faith.

On the net there are many versions of how you came to be called AR Rahman. What is the real story?
The truth is I never liked my name…. No disrespect to the great actor Dilip Kumar! But somehow my name didn’t match the image I had of myself.

Sometime before we started on our journey on the path of Sufism, we went to an astrologer to show him my younger sister’s horoscope because my mother wanted to get her married. This was around the same time when I was keen to change my name and have a new identity. The astrologer looked at me and said, ‘This chap is very interesting.”

He suggested the names: “Abdul Rahman” and “Abdul Rahim” and said that either name would be good for me. I instantly loved the name “Rahman.” It was a Hindu astrologer who gave me my Muslim name.

Then my mother had this intuition that I should add “Allahrakha” [Protected by God], and I became AR Rahman.

Excerpted from AR Rahman The Spirit of Music, Om Books International.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

What to look for when buying your first car in India

Hint: It doesn’t have to be a small car.

When it comes to buying their first car, more Indians are making unconventional choices. Indian car buyers in 2016 are looking for an automobile that is a symbol of their aspirations and sets them apart from the herd. Here are a few things you should consider when buying your first car:

Look beyond small cars

According to the JD Power India Escaped Study (2015), the percentage of new-vehicle shoppers who considered a small car reduced by 20% over three years—from 65% to 45%. Buyers are now looking at bigger, affordable cars and luckily for them, there are more choices available. Known as compact sedans, these cars offer the features of a sedan, are larger than hatchbacks and contain a boot. These sedans offer the comfort and features that once only belonged to expensive luxury cars but at a price that’s within the reach of a first-time car buyer.

Design and styling is important but don’t forget utility.

It’s a good idea to have a car that has been designed over the past three years and doesn’t look outdated. Features like alloy wheels and dual beam headlamps add to the style quotient of your vehicle so consider those. Additionally, look for a car with a sturdy build quality since Indian urban conditions may not always be kind to your car and may furnish it with scrapes and dents along the way.

Image Credit: Volkswagen
Image Credit: Volkswagen

Does it test-drive well?

In 2014, 35% of new-vehicle buyers researched vehicles when they were buying but by 2015, this number had risen to nearly 41% according to the JD Power study. While the internet is the primary source of research in India, the best source of information about a car is always a test drive. Listen to the sales person and read all online reviews, but test every feature to your satisfaction.

Where do you plan to drive?

Look for a car that’s spacious and comfortable while being easy to drive or park on our crowded city roads. Compact sedans are perfectly suited for Indian driving conditions. Some of them come with parking assistance and rear view cameras, rain sensors and front fog lights with static cornering that are excellent driving aids. If you plan to use the car for long drives, compact sedans that provide cruise control, a tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel and a front centre armrest would be perfect. On road trips with family members who usually pack more than necessary, extra elbow room inside and good boot-space is a blessing.

Is the model about to be discontinued?

Never buy a model that is going to be discontinued because it could result in difficulty finding spare parts. Buying an old model will also affect your resale value later. In 2015, according to the same report, 10% of shoppers considered newly launched car models as against 7% in 2013—a strong indication that newer models are being preferred to old ones.

Diesel or petrol?

Diesel and petrol cars have different advantages, and it’s best to take a decision based on the distance you plan to drive on a regular basis. While petrol cars are usually priced lower and are more cost effective when it comes to service and maintenance, diesel cars typically have better mileage due to higher efficiency and provide a smoother drive due to higher torque. Additionally, diesel is the cheaper fuel. So it makes more economic sense to buy a diesel car if you are driving long distances every day.

Most importantly, safety always comes first.

Look for a car that is built sturdy and pays extra attention to safety features like Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS), side impact bars and dual front airbags. Safety is also a function of the design and features such as a galvanized steel body add to the strength of the build. It’s important to remember not to make trade-offs on safety for less important features when choosing variants.

Buying your first car is an important milestone in life. And the new Volkswagen Ameo has been designed with several first-in-segment features to cater to all the needs of a first-time car buyer in India. Its bold design and elegant styling along with state-of-the-art features like cruise control, reverse parking camera and sensors, and intelligent rain sensors set it apart from other cars in its class. Its safety features are also a notch above, with dual front airbags that are standard in every variant and side impact bars. A sturdy galvanized steel body and laser welded roof cocoon its passengers from harm, and its modern ABS, that is also standard in all variants, prevents the wheels from locking when you brake hard. A six-year perforation warranty and a three-year paint warranty ensure that the car body is protected from scratches and dents. The Ameo comes in both petrol and diesel variants. Check out all the features of the Ameo here. Also hear the experience of two first time car buyers in the video below.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Volkswagen and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close