We grew up listening to his melodious voice, and thanks to him, our childhood became a bit more religious as we managed to memorise through his rapturous melody the 20 attributes of Allah (Sifat 20) and the 25 names of the Messengers (25 Rasul).
And now that Nazrey Johani, 47, former soloist of the nasheed group Raihan, has posted the 2019 remake version of his famous number ‘Iman Mutiara’ (The Pearl of Faith), we may reminisce about his journey of fame in religious entertainment.
Capturing the heart of the masses
‘Iman Mutiara’ was first launched in 1996 through the Raihan’s debut album, ‘Puji-pujian’ (Salutaries).
The album was a big hit as over 3.5 million units were sold globally. Raihan also enjoyed the opportunity of performing their religious songs all over the world, including at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall of London.
Did we mention that Raihan was also listed in the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World for a few years?
It was truly an outstanding achievement, not just for the local music industry, but also for the field of Da’wah.
The success proved the possibility of appealing to the entertainment instinct of human beings in capturing the hearts of the masses in the cause of Da’wah.
Thus it was not surprising that the Raihan triumph had paved the way for more Daies to venture into the Da’wah-orientated music industry.
Bombshell after glory
However, Nazrey (photo: second from left) withdrew himself from Raihan in 2006, and for all we know, he devoted himself upon leaving the nasheed group to found and run the religious school Maahad Tahfiz Bayu Syahadah in his hometown of Ranau, Sabah.
So, why did he walk away from his celebrity fame?
His sincere love for this religion
“All of you must be grateful that you are born into a Muslim family. Muslim parents. It is different for me.”Nazrey Johani
For those who didn’t know, Nazrey himself was not a born Muslim, which perhaps leads him to appreciate more this opportunity of guidance.
After his father embraced Islam, Nazrey was sent to a Quran teacher to learn the proper reciting of the Quran.
Afraid of his father’s rage, he decided to say the Shahada and then learned the Quran.
“When I recited the Shahada, I felt as if Allah sent down something to me. He put away my worry and anxiety. My mind became cleared, my heart soothed, I felt something I had never felt before,” Nazrey shared his conversion story in a local publication:
Praise be to Allah; perhaps this is the Hidayah and love of Allah for me.
At that very moment, I was very determined to learn about Islam.
I would seek knowledge about Islam by myself, even if there was nobody who wanted to teach me.Nazrey Johani
From that day onwards, he walked for more than a kilometre daily to the local mosque to perform the prayers and learn to recite the Quran.
Nazrey subsequently developed an interest in music as a form of Da’wah and kept doing that until today.
What fame really cost him
Despite the success of nasheed Da’wah by Raihan, Nazrey felt that his utmost focus was needed to bring Da’wah to the grassroots of Ranau, hence his decision to part ways.
It was truly a hard decision to make, given the fact that Raihan was at its peak of success.
If it were us, most probably we would consider how much the advantage for Da’wah we can offer by being a celebrity.
But, Nazrey understood what his priority was. His people needed him more.
There was no other reason why I left Raihan, except to ease me to do my effort of Da’wah. I have to give focus to the Da’wah with the people in my hometown.
With all the Raihan schedules, I found it difficult to give my commitment to Da’wah in my hometown. Therefore, in order not to incur difficulties to Raihan’s scheduled performance, I thought it was better for me to withdraw.Nazrey Johani
“I have performed in many countries (in the world). But regrettably, I seldom went to perform in my own birthplace, Sabah,” he said during his story-sharing with the Malaysian students in Egypt.
According to Nazrey, this was due to the organizers having to cough a huge amount of money to afford a Raihan invitation as warranted by the nasheed group’s commercial fame.
The hard work he had to endure
Back then, there was a limited number of religious schools and centres of Islamic studies in Sabah.
On top of that, Nazrey was also concerned that some and even a whole village of converts had ended up returning to their previous faith due to the slow exposure to, and lack of knowledge about Islam.
I dreamt of a local settlement functioning as a one-stop centre in spreading the religion of Islam. Nowadays, if we look particularly into the rural area, most of them are still struggling to find the direction of life.Nazrey Johani
After leaving Raihan, Nazrey had to accumulate some funds to turn his dream into reality. He started off by establishing a local mosque and a Tahfiz school.
For that purpose, he even performed in the night markets for many years to solicit donations from the people.
When asked whether he felt ashamed of doing such things, Nazrey replied:
Why should I? Ar-Rasul, when he was doing Da’wah, he wasn’t only mocked by people, but his life was also at stake. People threw stones at him until he bled.
I don’t do this for myself. It is for the sake of religion.Nazrey Johani
He acknowledged that the fund isn’t sufficient yet, but he firmly believed that Allah will help him through.
What matters most to him is the sincerity in helping to establish Islam in the land of Sabah.
Moral of the story
For the mission of Da’wah to succeed, each one of us has to play our part efficiently and effectively.
As some are focusing on promoting the masses’ awareness, some others will have to hop in to further strengthen the knowledge of Islam.
As some are focusing on a certain field and format to do Da’wah, some others should dedicate themselves to cater to the other needs of the masses.
Raihan had played their role best in their field, so did Nazrey.
Still, a lot of work needs to be done. The pertinent question here then is have we played our parts?