Zain Alam in The Miami Rail:

Image0012-768x1334I am a Muslim. Minutes after I was born at the Flushing Hospital in Queens, New York City, my father whispered the shahadah into my ears: La ilaha il-Allah—There is no God but God. I was introduced to Islam with the world, and the rhythm of La ilaha il-Allah took the place of my mother’s heartbeat. All other experiences were subsequent to the rhythms of Islamic verse. In my childhood home of Kennesaw, Georgia and in cities across South Asia, I’ve heard the shahadah repeated daily in the azaan, which calls believers to prayer. No one disputes the beauty of the sound—the strong and sonorous voice of the muezzin casting a spell on its surroundings. At home, recorded azaans are played back by apps that have re-placed miniature mosque-shaped alarm clocks that double as home decorations. But their intention is the same: to invite us to prayer regularly, five times a day.

I am a musician. My songs take on new lives apart from me the moment they are shared. The long process of songwriting is how I try to do justice to what begins as a melody in a dream. My task as a composer is simply to submit to the dream, guiding it to structure and feeling it into form, through a private intuition that is informed by deep traditions. I may not know why singing songs—even when I’m alone—brings me such pleasure, but sharing them with others comes from a desire to make something that can find a life far beyond my own.

More here.