Today, December 24, is Milad-un-Nabi, the day Muslims commemorate the birth of Prophet Mohammad. Across South Asia, the day is celebrated as a public festival, often sponsored by Sufi orders. Processions are taken our, carnivals set up and music recited. One of the popular genres of music that mark a Milad-un-Nabi celebration is naat – poetry sung specifically in praise of the Prophet.
Season 8 of the popular Pakistani television show Coke Studio had Atif Aslam sing a popular naat, Taajdar-e-Haram. Most of the song is in Urdu but there’s a stanza in Braj Bhasha, a popular language for music and poetry in north India.
While Coke Studio might be the new kid on the block, the people who made the naat popular outside its traditional environments are the legendary Sabri brothers from Pakistan. This is a famous naat of theirs, named Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Mohammad in Urdu.
Bhar do jholi, as many readers might have recognised, was also used in the recent Bollywood film, Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
The most famous South Asian naat across time, though, is not in Urdu. Amir Khusro was a 14th century polymath from Delhi, who amongst other things, was a royal poet, created much of the basis from Hindustani classical music and was the father of Hindi-Urdu. He also wrote one of the most popular naats in South Asia which is still sung today 700 years later. The naat is called Nami Danam Che Manzil and is in Persian. Here it is being sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Lyricist Sameer picked up the title of this iconic naat and used it in the 2004 Bollywood movie, Muskaan.