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AR Rahman on why he embraced Islam but wouldn’t want to impose it on anyone else

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Jan 06, 2021 03:41 PM IST

AR Rahman changed his name from Dileep Kumar after embracing Islam just days before the release of his first major project, Roja. On his birthday, here’s a look at his personal journey.

AR Rahman is one of the many artists who has a painful story of struggle and hs climbed the ladder of success, one step at a time. The Oscar-winner is one of the very few who has actually put India on the global map in the world of music. However, besides his music, his conversion to Islam remains a topic of discussion even today.

AR Rahman was born Dileep Kumar, but embraced Islam, along with his family, some time after the death of his father, music composer RK Shekhar, and some time before the release of his first major project, Roja. His friend Trilok Nair had told Krishna Trilok in his authorised biography, Notes of a Dream, that Rahman’s mother Kareema Begum had insisted on changing his name in the film’s credits at the last minute. He said, “It was a pretty big request to make so late in the day, but she was particular about it. She said it really, really mattered to her personally. In fact, she would’ve rather not had his name appear at all, than not have his new name appear on the credits.”

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Rahman doesn’t believe in imposing his religious beliefs on others. He once told Hindustan Times Brunch in an interview, “You can’t impose anything. You can’t ask your son or daughter to not take history ‘coz it’s boring, and to take economics instead, or science. It’s a personal choice.”


Rahman had said that a lot of people ask him if they would become successful on converting to Islam but he prefers to keep quiet. “It’s not about converting to Islam, it’s about finding the spot and seeing whether it presses the button in you. The spiritual teachers, the Sufi teachers, taught me and my mom things that are very, very special. There are special things in every faith, and this is the one we chose. And we stand by it.”

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He added, “Prayer has been extremely beneficial. It has saved me from many falls. In between prayers, I think, ‘Oh, I have to pray, so I can’t do this mischief’. People from other faiths do the same thing and are peaceful too. For me, this works!”

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Rahman’s daughter, Khatija, had stood her ground without calling for her father’s help when she was criticised for wearing a burkha at an event she attended with him.

On being asked to comment on the matter, Rahman said in an interview to The Quint that he’d wear a burqa too, if it were possible. He said, “A male is not supposed to wear a burqa, otherwise I will wear one. It would be so easy to go and shop, find steady life. You know, I think, she finds her freedom. Because she is somebody who will go for a funeral of a maid’s mother or maid’s relative. And I get awestruck with her simplicity and what she does socially.”

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