WASHINGTON - For young American Muslim Mo Sabry, his life as a famous rapper began when he started to produce anaasheed, or songs with religious Islamic themes, offering a halal alternative to American hip-hop which focuses on sex and alcohol.
There's too many songs on the radio these days encouraging girls to do bad things, Sabry told the audience attending the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Voice of America reported on Tuesday, September 10.
Born to Pakistani immigrants, Sabri grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee.
He entered the career of hip-hop singing after the focus on sex and alcohol in many hip hop songs turned him off.
For the past year, Sabri has been singing about pious themes in a genre not exactly known for godly messages.
Now, he is one of a growing cadre of young Muslim American musicians who write songs with religious Islamic themes that are beginning to appeal to a broader audience.
The decision to enter the music field has changed his life altogether.
Sabri cites Hasidic artist Matisyahu, who gained a wide following rapping to reggae about Jewish spiritual themes such as the hope for the return of the Messiah, as his main source of inspiration.
I just liked how he did not have to succumb to any of the pressures of writing music, and he was different," Sabri said.
"He had uplifting songs that were spiritual.
Music is an issue that has been hotly debated by scholars of the past and the present.
According to Muslim scholars, music that is deemed to be free of un-Islamic and unethical themes and messages, the same is true of musical instruments so long as they are not used for the above, have been considered as permissible.
But, Islam clearly prohibits mixed dancing of males and females.
At ISNA convention, the young rapper made a performance for Heaven Is Where Her Heart Is, a song about a virtuous girl who travels to Mecca for the holy Muslim pilgrimage.
Receiving applaud from young Muslims, the song is not the most successful for the 22-year-old Muslim heartthrob.
One of Sabri's latest songs got more than one million views on YouTube. He says the song, "I believe in Jesus," was written to show the people of east Tennessee that Muslims revere him.
In the song, Sabri points out that In the West, they call him Jesus, in the East they call him Isa, Messiah, Christ, and he asks, Why does our religion always have to cause division?
I grew up in an area that did not really have any Muslims, and I was able to see that they were all more similar than different, Sabri said.
For me, I was like, 'I want to reach out to my neighbors and show that Muslims and Christians as a whole can experience what I experienced.'
Sabri said he wanted his song to correct misconceptions about Islam, confirming that Muslims view Jesus as a prophet.
There's so much misinformation about Muslims, to think that a Muslim can't talk about Jesus, or can't love Jesus, is just the wrong idea, and my goal is to dispel that idea, he said.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur'an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net