Shiraz Uppal: A Journey from Soulful Pop to Soul-Searching

Shiraz Uppal

On February 22, 2012, famous singer, songwriter, musician, music producer and director Shiraz Uppal created waves in the Pakistani music scene by announcing he had quit the music industry. In a status update on his Facebook fan page , Uppal wrote:

On my way to uncover my destiny… Certainly not MUSIC… May Allah guide us all to the right… Blessed are those who opt for an alternative life, yet they are surrounded and tempted by opportunities…”

Uppal is not the first Pakistani musician to have left the industry for the sake of faith. A few years earlier Junaid Jamshed, another extremely well-known icon, announced his departure from popular music. The decision to quit a highly lucrative and glamorous career is certainly not one that is made overnight, nor is it an easy one. I had a great conversation with Shiraz on his decision, the path that brought him to it, and what his plans are for the future.

[DM] How did the change take place and what path did you take in making this decision?

[SU] It was a long journey. I had been in a different state of mind since Ramadan, having a feeling of discomfort, of not being satisfied. Alhamdulillah, I have a great family, my finances were great, but something seemed to be missing. I started praying 5 times a day. In the past I had always prayed, but it was always for a reason, usually in times of difficulty: someone was sick, I wanted a song I was releasing to be a hit, it was always prayer for stuff. Then I realized the real purpose of it. It was just for Allah. I started reading a translation of the Quran along with the Arabic. I installed an app on my iPhone for Ahadith and would read them before I went to bed. I started having very spiritual dreams and I saw the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in one of my dreams. I asked Allah to ‘guide me to the path You have chosen for the good people’. And He guided me here; to quit music. I have my studio in the basement of my house, barely a few steps away from my sitting room. For the past four months I have not entered the studio. I was just not deriving pleasure from music anymore. And this is after over 20 years of playing music and 12 years of being in this industry. I just knew the answer was for me to quit.

I would like to thank you all for liking and enjoying my music… It was a Beautiful Journey but everything comes to an end one day… So I said Good Bye to my Musical Career by my own choice… I just wished and prayed to my Creator that how can i make u happy??? And He poured a light in my heart that opened my eyes and the path was lying clear in front of me… May Allah guide us all to the right… Amin

I kept thinking what would people say. I have a single-track mind. I can’t focus on multiple things. I just couldn’t get over that tussle in my heart and I decided this was it. I could not carry on anymore. It was the similar to when I graduated from the MBA program in 1997 and I wanted to decide whether to go into music or do a proper job. In 1998, my father, a retired air-force officer was working for a private aviation contractor, died in a helicopter crash going from Bahawalpur to Lahore. That incident helped me make up my mind and I started a job. However, my heart was always in music, so in 2000 I asked my mother and my wife permission to pursue music as a career. I needed three years from them in which I would not be contributing to the family income, at all. I just needed to prove myself and work hard towards what I wanted. Soon I started getting popular and soon I was well established in the business.

I have always considered A. R. Rehman my guru. I always admired how spiritual he was, despite being in an industry dominated by Hindus (Rahma is a convert to Islam). We are born Muslims, we have had religion handed down to us on a plate. We have read the Qur’an since childhood but never really understood it. A. R. Rehman keeps his prayer mat right next to his keyboard and is able to blend both his music and his religion without a problem. I had many talks with him on this subject. We would discuss our religion, dreams that we had, about balancing our music with our deen. I always used to tell myself  ‘if he doesn’t quit then why should I?'”

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I had always been an average student in school, in my bachelors, and in the first semester of MBA I was put on probation due to my poor GPA. Then I met Aisha and I wanted to prove myself to her that I could get the grades and I was suitable for marriage. This got me motivated and I started getting A’s and B’s. Thus, if I set my mind to something I don’t rest until I achieve it. Thus, when I decided that I wanted to do something that was totally halal and there was no doubt in it, I knew that I had to quit.

[DM] What was the reaction of your family and fans to this decision?

[SU] Aisha, my wife, had a great reaction. She has always stood by me in my music but it was always her desire that I grow a beard and start practicing. I used to tell her, ‘I’ll leave music when I’m dead’. Then my eyes opened. Allah has given equal brains to all then why not use it in 1000 ways other than music. Even my son is very pleased with my decision.

My mother initially was a bit worried, she thinks I should have taken it slowly; she didn’t understand the need to just stop. She is a woman who regularly prays 5 times, so I convinced her that it was the right step. Now she agrees with me.

My fans have been very supportive and I have received so much encouragement from them on my Facebook page that I am very surprised. They were congratulating me on this step. My fans have increased in these past few days as I gained so many of those who never listened to my music but now want to support me in this decision.

[DM] What was the reaction from  your peers?

[SU] I got a negative reaction from most of my peers. Some of them cried when they heard the news. Others said why don’t you sing qawwalis or something, just please come back to music.  Many said you are making us look bad by quitting. I have no hard feelings against them . I am not an authority of whether it is halal or not. I am not passing judgment on anyone. This was my transition, my change, for my reasons. I am not criticizing anyone.

I regularly make dua for istikaamat, for firmness and steadfastness on my decision. In the Quran, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says that He created man weak. Indeed we can not do it without the help of Allah. Thus, I regularly make dua.

Some media people sarcastically remarked to me “You must have done a couple of trips to Raiwind already.” I told them I have never been to Raiwind. I am not affiliated with any group or sect. All I want to do now is to read the Quran and Ahadith, to follow the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)‘s example. I did meet Shaykh Zulfiqar Naqshbandi four years back and took a sort of bait with him but he never asked me to quit music. I recently met him again and asked him why didn’t you ask me to quit. He replied that when I met you four years back I knew you had this desire in your heart so I made dua for you.

[DM] What’s next for Shiraz Uppal?

[SU] Well there is barakah in business. It was the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) example to do trade. I have an MBA in marketing. I am sure I will come up with something with the guidance of Allah. He created us with a fixed rizq. I was earning through my music, now it will come to me through some other means. I just know that I never had any barakah in my earnings from music.

I am avoiding TV interviews for now. I really don’t want to offend anyone. I have universities and other groups calling me to speak about my experience and I will share my journey with them. I also intend to slowly learn more about religion. Right now I am in Class 1. I hope to learn more.


54 / View Comments

54 responses to “Shiraz Uppal: A Journey from Soulful Pop to Soul-Searching”

  1. Nihalk1 says:

    Junaid Jamshed is to Pakistanis what Michael Jackson was to the west.

  2. Ansaar says:

    Aaaalaaaa !!! Allah hu Akbar. 

    loved this bit : “I recently met him again and asked him why didn’t you ask me to quit. He
    replied that when I met you four years back I knew you had this desire
    in your heart so I made du‘ā’ for you.” !!

  3. Sadaf says:

    What an inspiring post! May Allah grant this brother steadfastness and higher levels of taqwa. Ameen.
    Jazak Allah khair, DM, for the interview.

  4. Hena Z says:

    I met Shiraz when he was an MBA student in Lahore, through his wife Aisha and her twin sister. Last time I saw them was when he sang unplugged at our mutual friend Nosheen’s wedding. I never realized that he had become such a huge musician until this  news hit my facebook feed.
    Having been on this journey in my own way, I can relate and pray that Allah swt puts barakah and Supreme blessings in his new journey.

  5. Mahmood M. says:

    Very inspiring. Wise to avoid the media, keep it personal. May Allah SWT grant the brother steadfastness and help us all with our individual struggles. Aameen.

  6. Maryam says:

    Inspiring, subhanAllah :)

  7. Maryam says:

    Also, Shiraz bhai, if you are reading this, i want you to know that i’m praying for you and your family. Also, please don’t go for the Nashbandi tariqah, they tell fairy tales, stick to the Sunnah inshaAllah, and keep making dua for yourslef. may Allah ta’ala bless you and you family with all good in both this world and the Hereafter ameen :)

    • Wellwishersd says:

      Asa, shaykh zulfiqar ahmad is a renowned scholar who follows the sunnah and shariat strictly, not every person who claims to be a naqshbandi is a quack. Before you pass a judgement on such a well respected scholar you should check how close to sunnah and Quran are their teachings and practices. Jkz take care.

      • Maryam says:

        walykum asalaam, jazakAllah khayr for this comment. I was following the tareeqah, if you listen to those lectures carefully, you’ll find out why i decided that the Sunnah was more important . May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala bless you with all good in both this world and the next ameen.

      • Hamza Khan says:

        Assalamualaikum wr wb

        Well said bro!!.. bt there r so many imposters out there tht ppl are nt able to diffrntiate..

        • Mohammed says:

          Please brother, don’t be a cheerleader and look into what is being said. Be very careful of who you call an imposter; very few of us can live the lifestyle of the Sunnah so we make shortcuts by criticizing those who do. Let us fear Allah.

    • Observer says:

      Sister, taking a guide to learn sunnah is the sunnah method. The knowledge of deen has to be learnt. I donot wish to offend you but just as a well wishing advice be cautious about what you say about a certain tariqa. A tariqa is wat you might call generation of scholars and saints. Begining from a sahabi in this case Hazrat Abu Bakar. So it is not a good idea to call a whole tariqa something that you might’ve concluded about certain individuals.

  8. Uthman says:

    mashAllah mabrok 

  9. Uthman says:

    mashAllah mabrook brother Shiraz, may Allah keep you steadfast. A word of advice, stay away from the music makers now for they will try their best to bring you back. Remember you must change your company so they don’t drag you back. may Allah help you!

  10. Aajangda says:

    JazakAllah Khair for sharing his inspiring story to us. Shaykh Zulfiqar Naqsbandi duas have changed lives of so many. Good to know one of them is Shiraz Uppal. May Allah swt give him and us all Istiqamat in deen and qabool our naqis efforts.

  11. Farhat Tahir says:

    may Allah give you courage to stand firmly! I wish my pray accepted as when I look anybody doing against the way of Allah pray for his/her turning point! Congrats 

  12. Aqsa U. says:

    MashaAllah good for him! :)

  13. Maryam says:

    Brother Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi,

    Could you please tell me, what about his songs that are all over the internet? Although he has stopped creating music, the fitnah is intact right? 
    The question is in reference to the quote in the Quran:
    “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” (Ya Seen, 36:12)”

    Jazakallah Khair,

    I applaud Shiraz Uppal for going against the grain…not many people have that fiber.

    • Hena Z says:


      He says he is still learning about deen, he has just made this decision.  Alhamdulillah, our Rabb is the perfect Judge and accepts a Lover’s taubah. Lets give the brother, time and space and positive support.

    •  Sister Maryam

      You are correct that his music will be all over the internet and there is nothing that he can do. However, if he repents and considers his past as being wrong then Allah is the Most Forgiving, the One who overlooks sins.

      • As-Sabiroon says:

        Assalamualikum warahmatulahi wabarakatuhu, just look at the ghafaara of Allah swt, not only He forgives those who truly repent, He swt also changes their sins into good deeds!..It’s just wonderful and motivating
        .” Except those who repent and believe, and do righteous deeds; for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And whosoever repents and does righteous good deeds; then indeed he has repented to Allah Mataba.”( 25:70,71)

    • Aisha Binte Akram says:

      As-Salamu A’lykum ,

      We are not required to quote any verse without knowing its context . In sha ALLAH. Please learn deen of ALLAH and especially learn Uloom ul Quran and Uloom ul Hadith In sha ALLAH you wil be cleared regarding quoting verses.


  15. Abu Yusuf says:

    Salaam Alaykum, this is a good interview. Never heard of the gentleman before but good to hear he left music. I was fascinated by his wife’s calling him towards abandoning music. A righteous wife really is a true treasure. I pray all Muslim men get women better committed to religion than themselves. There are some Muslim luminaries who loved music but abandoned it – Cat Stevens, Jamal Zarabozo, Bilaal Phillips, etc. Music really is an extremely difficult sin to give up – because the human body is biologically attuned to rhythm and harmony. Music can be captivating and hypnotic and release feel-good hormones in the body. What makes it even harder to give up is its widespread prevalence and ostensible harmlessness. It may be easier to give up womanizing, gambling, smoking, and a whole host of other peccadillos than music. Some may give it up but soon relapse. Perhaps the Islamic teachers on this website can give us some tips and tricks to abandon said sin.

  16. Abdul Mateen says:

    I love hazrat peer zulfiqar ahmad naqshbandi — i read this news from forum of shaykh zulfiqar ahmad naqshbandi  – i am very happy to read this news…

  17. Yumna Arif says:

    Awesome. SubhanAllah!
    May Allah be his Helper, give him Istiqamat, and guide him and us to the Straight Path.

  18. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallak khair for this very interesting and inspirational post!

  19. Kjangda says:

     music is the mother of all evils. good shiraz u quit music and pls thank Allah for giving you the hidayat as most human beings and fellow muslims in zulmat and we need to go towards noor.

  20. AnumSyed says:

    MashaALLAH,  may ALLAH az zujal shower him with all his blessings and make it easy for him to follow Quran and Sunnah, may ALLAH az zujal keep him in his protection, ameen. Ya Rabil alamin guide this my new brother in islam to Quran and Sunnah as Rasool ALLAH(peace be upon him), sahaba ikram and salaf wa saleheen did, ameen.The most beautiful and handsome man on the face of this earth is the one who follows ALLAH and Rasool ALLAH’s (peace be upon him), laws and orders, acts upon upon them and feels proud to look like a Muslim and act like a Muslim. may ALLAH az zujal keep you in his protection and shower you with his unlimited blessings, ameen.

    • Ibrarshah says:

      Dear Shiraz Uppal
       Good decision, and this will very very effective in your this and here after life. Soon u will find the brakah this act. Please keep contact with Hazrat gee (db) in future.

      Best of luck
      ibrar shah

  21. Nedo says:

    I am very much impressed by his views!
    May ALLAH guide us all to the right path. Ameen

    • Tarannum says:

      There used to be a very  good lecture on Music by Yasir Birjis I think. Can someone give me the link please.

  22. Imranarooj says:

    Masha Allah subhanAllah:)

  23. umbudimary says:

    great news.

  24. MashaALLAH may ALLAH bless u Ameen

  25. AzharA says:

    I appreciate SU’s decision and may he have a blessed life ahead. Everyone is free to lead one’s life the way one likes as long as it doesn’t look down upon others. 

    However, brothers and brothers from all the comments it transpires that all other muslim musicians are not on the right path and are going to be fuel for hell. This attitude of self-righteous muslims I don’t really like.

    Only God can judge our actions.

    •  Dear @yahoo-JGT5KZHAXNOTULEHUEKAPI4PRQ:disqus

      I agree with you that we should not be self-righteous and judge people. However, we can judge actions that are not Islamic.
      The debate on music halal or haram is an ongoing one and at the end it is upto each person to listen to the evidence and decide with Istikhara from Allah whether music is halal or not. A good lecture to listen to is where a slightly different view point is presented. Just last night someone told me that they heard this and it completely changed the paradigm for them.

      However, I definitely agree we should not judge people and leave it to Allah.


  26. Hina Roohi says:

    This a really good news after Sarah Choudhary’s story!
    May Allaah s.w.t. guide him and increase his iman

  27. guest says:

    Mashallah. May Allah always keep you and all of us strong. May Allah reward you Jannatul firdos for you struggles and your efforts. Ameen

  28. Maryam says:

    I’m sorry if my comment hurt anyone, that was not my intent. I never questioned, reasoned or verified anything that would come my way; therefore, i want to advise others not to follow anyone blindly. walykum asalaam.

  29. rabs says:

    WOW! Mashallah! This is a huge step. May Allah grant you Istiqaamat. Ameen

  30. Bilal Khan says:

    MashAllah, may Allah guide you to the right path. Remember, Shaytan will be after you so it’s better that you get suhbat of Waliullah. Shaykh Zulfiqar sb as you mentioned, be in his suhbat so that you are not led astray by Satan the cursed.
    Your heart will find itmenan brother.
    Allah ko khush karne ka maza hi aur hai!

  31. Razi22 says:

    Sheraz bhai how lucky you are. You had been blessed with the beauty of PROPHET in the dream. May ALLAH PAK bless you for the rest of your life.


  32. Ya Mole'via says:

    Aite, so Shiraz joins the ranks of ya maulviaz. Actually, till he can have the propensity to grow the full beard, and I pray he does, he is a “ya neem maulvia” category guy. Now, as far as Pir Zulfi is concerned, I was actually there in the bayan where Sheraz took his bait, it was in DHA lahore, main masjid.

    *Comment Edited by Comments Team*

  33. Observer says:

    My very own Shaykh. He is brilliant.He says nothing yet makes an impact on you. Allah is with certain people and i have a firm belief Shaykh Zulfiqar is one of those. May Allah Tallah guide us all. The best thing is to be the change that you wish to see in the world. Part of what drew me to practising. Its in our hands. We are weak yet we can always always try. Lovely to read this .

  34. Well I just read his interview in tribune where he is justifying his return to music and how music is halal in Islam(because Saudi’s anthem has music too in it).

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