“If our youth arise and act, they have the strength and dynamism to create a huge transformation in society.” – Amma
All change doesn’t occur through dramatic public disquisition or on political podiums. Sometimes, change takes shape gradually and in an understated way, as displayed by Islamic singer-songwriter, Rashid Bhikha.
If his surname sounds familiar to you, that’s because Rashid is the son of world-renowned nasheed artist, Zain Bhikha. Surrounded by creativity and beautiful harmonies while growing up, Rashid started singing at just 7 years old. He debuted his melodious and youthful voice on a Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) album at a time when the famed singer was working with his father. Rashid also toured with the legendary singer, but his biggest highlight was performing in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London – an incredible feat for someone so young. Rashid admits that his father didn’t push him to work in the Islamic music industry; his interest in music piqued from always being in that environment, and while he does sing as a hobby, his main focus is cinematography.
Rashid seeks enjoyment from working behind the scenes and studied cinematography to fulfil that passion. He was always fascinated by the field and gained experience from being on set during his father’s music video shoots. He established a production company called Bedouin Blue, where his days are fully occupied with editing videos, and filming new and exciting footage. Rashid has generated up to eight videos so far for his father, and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his wife and family, and playing soccer.
His first solo album, ‘Degrees of Separation’ was a culmination of years of personal growth and songwriting. The name refers to the point that we are all connected somehow, through six degrees of separation. He says “It was the best thing I’ve chosen to do.” While working on the album which was released two years ago, Rashid sought the expert experience and lyrical talents of his father. He also collaborated with other incredible people like visionary producer, Idris Phillips and US-based nasheed artist, Khalil Ismail who Rashid credits as one of the best rap lyricists in the Islamic-music industry.
The 25-year-old describes his album as a vast mix of genres, with the crowd favourite being ‘Love can save a life’. Personally, his most treasured track is ‘Believe’ because it speaks about the youth of today and their lack of self-belief. It optimistically peddles the idea that things improve and there will be a better tomorrow. The footage for the music video was obtained from Islamic Relief SA and features some of their fieldwork from around the world.
Rashid also regularly teams up with Islamic Relief SA for philanthropic efforts and has travelled with them across many countries to carry out relief work. Locally, he works with the Two Oceans Leadership Academy in Manenberg, Cape Town. His work with the Art of Creative Expression (ACE), which was founded by Zain Bhikha, offers a creative platform for the youth to express themselves. The ACE workshops aim to uplift adolescents from ages 15 to 20+ by offering them artistic ways to channel their emotions through writing, singing, art and poetry. ACE provides young people, who are in a difficult transition period in their lives, with an alternative to negatively displaying their feelings and also helps them discover hidden talents.
His father has been a huge influence throughout his life. Zain taught Rashid the value of religion and brought him up to be compassionate and respectful towards others. Islam was a faithful pillar that held up the foundation of his life from a young age, and Rashid attributes this influence to his father who always reminded the family to read salaah, recite the Quraan, and follow the sunnah of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).
His favourite Quranic verses are from Surah Al-Fil which connect him to this beloved grandfather who always recites it during prayers. Rashid draws wisdom from its meaning; “regardless of how much you think you have control over, Allah is the best of planners and he controls everything.”
Rashid views success as doing everything to the best of one’s ability and not half-heartedly. He recommends always trying to improve oneself, regardless if you think you’ve mastered your craft. He also links success back to emulating the life of the Prophet (PBUH) and using the Quraan as a guide.
Rashid thinks the idea behind Proudly Muslims of South Africa is amazing. “If you mention that you’re Muslim, people automatically associate you with terrorism. If you say your name is Mohammed – the best name in the world – people will say that you’re a terrorist. That’s something that really needs to change.” He believes that the Proudly Muslims of SA platform shows people that Muslims are not actually like that. “What you guys are doing is extraordinary… You’re really breaking barriers and showing that some of the best people in the world are Muslim.”
His advice to the youth: “The circumstance you’re in right now shouldn’t determine your circumstance in the future. It doesn’t define who you’re going to be.” He advises young people to try and always look on the bright side of things, and realise that everything you go through is a lesson that teaches you something. Rashid asks teens to keep their humanity in a world where people are creating robots to be more human and more humans to be like robots.
On role models: “The best role models that you should have are the ones raising you.”
The talented cinematographer says he is grateful to be alive, even though it seems scary in today’s world. “It’s easy to get lost in a world of technological advancements if you don’t know who you are and don’t hold on to your values.”
His famous last words would be: “Be good and do good.”
Rashid wants society to remember him as someone who was family orientated, very involved in the community, helped people and did good work all-round.
In an age where the media is inundated with less-than-ideal role models for the youth, Rashid Bhikha revives the hope we have for their future. If we have dedicated, caring and purposeful young activists like him around, the fate of religion and the world is surely in great hands.