In 1971, Cat Stevens’ rendition of the
Christian hymn, ''Morning Has Broken'' reached #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100
chart and #1 in the US Easy Listening Chart in 1972. My family’s church sang
this hymn every Sunday of my childhood. Also in 1971, he provided nine songs
to the soundtrack of the black comedy Harold and Maude, a film which was very
important in my impressionable youth. But by 1977 the pop singer Cat Stevens
had already embraced Islam and taken on the name of Yusuf Islam.
''To some people, it may have seemed
like an enormous jump, but for me, it was a gradual move to this,'' he stated
regarding his conversion.
Yusuf Islam stopped performing music
for almost 30 years and used his wealth to busy himself with humanitarian
''A lot of people would have loved me
to keep singing,'' he said. ''You come to a point where you have sung, more
or less … your whole repertoire and you want to get down to the job of
living. You know, up until that point, I hadn’t had a life. I’d been
searching, been on the road.''
He finally found and married the
'hard-headed woman’ he had prayed for in his song, Fauzia Mubarak Ali, on 7
September 1979 in London, and had five children with her. He became
re-interested in music when his son brought a guitar back into the home.
I was very impressed with Sister
Fauzia’s performance in 1987, when she and her husband came to Ann Arbor’s
University of Michigan campus to promote the cause of Islam. Yusuf’s speech
was interrupted by hecklers including a stripper who shouted out that she was
a liberated woman, to the point where he left the stage and on stepped his
wife, who calmed everybody down and explained Islam from the point of view of
a woman. It made a long lasting impression on my 16 year old self, though it
took a lot more travel before I made a decision to embrace Islam.
I visited an innocent Muslim prisoner
yesterday who began to sing the old Cat Stevens song that I hadn’t heard in
years, ''Trouble, oh trouble set me free…'' I was so surprised that he knew
the song, being 20 years my junior and from a foreign country. It was an
This inspired me to learn the chords on
my ukelele. Which I did, thank you very much. Learning a song once in a while
is so important for keeping one’s youth.
While I was searching for the song
online, I found out that just last week, February 2015, Yusuf 'Cat Stevens’
Islam gave a deeply moving, almost two hour superstar performance at Festival
de Viña del Mar 2015, Somos el Canal Histórico in Chile. I cried when I
While his songs on cassette tape formed
my youth and guided me towards Truth even beyond where my parents could lead
me, I had never actually watched the man perform. The man is a superstar, but
with the most humble mannerisms, even in front of a crowd of thousands.
Except for the white sneakers, the
adorable grey bearded man on stage could be assumed to be any grandfather
from the Arab or Pakistani community anywhere in the west. Except that he is
surrounded by an amazing sound system, magnificent stage display, light show,
and multi screens… old ladies crying, lovers holding each other, so much
love, the entire audience knew all the words, despite English not being their
''We’re in the mood for children!'' is
one of the only comments he made between songs. At another point, after a
rocking number he spoke, ''You can see why I used to dance.''
Honestly my heart broke at that moment.
At the pinnacle of success as an artist, he is still dealing with this
conflict of religion in his old age. His period of introversion was so very
important, to gain knowledge, but it was righteous that he decided to use the
power of his music for the common good. His songs were the soundtrack to my
young adulthood. Without Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam, there would be no me as
I know me.
Although I could not interest my
teenager in the Cat Stevens songs from the 70s, he still remembers Yusuf
Islam’s English-Arabic rendition of Tala’ al Badru 'Alayna from the Bosnia
album, which used to play in the family car when he was a toddler, back when
I used to have a working CD player.
In September 2004, Yusuf Islam appeared
on the US No-Fly List and was prevented from meeting with Dolly Parton, who
is the biggest Christian songwriter in America. Homeland Security claimed
there were ''concerns of ties he may have to potential terrorist-related
activities.'' The two recorded a version of his song ''Peace Train'' on her
One of the coolest things he has done
with his power in this life was suing media companies for slandering him.
Every dollar that he won, he donated to charity.
In a very emotional moment near the end
of the show, the female host reappeared all covered up in respect, wearing a
black shawl. The love and deep gratitude, the crowd’s adoration was so thick