Yusuf Cat Stevens on Islam, the fatwa and playing guitar again

Singer-songwriter Yusuf Cat Stevens, who is Lauren Laverne’s guest on Desert Island Discs on Sunday. Photograph: Rhys Fagan/PA

Source: The Guardian

The singer-songwriter tells Desert Island Discs about walking away from his fans, and the difficulties of following a spiritual path

 

The singer-songwriter now known as Yusuf Cat Stevens has spoken of the pain of his decision to leave music behind in 1977, when he first converted to Islam, and of the difficulty of being used as a representative of an entire faith.

“It was a hard tug. I felt a responsibility to my fans, but I would have been a hypocrite. I needed to get real. So I stopped singing and started taking action with what I now believed,” he said. The singer, who first performed as Cat Stevens, adopted the name Yusuf Islam when he changed faith. He now uses both first names.

Stevens said he had originally wanted to serve as a bridge between two great cultures, yet, while Islam welcomed its famous convert, western audiences were hostile. “On the other side, people said, ‘He is a bit of a traitor’. He has ‘turned Turk’, if you like. So I was often used as a bit of a spokesman, and I was useful for certain occasions.”

The 72-year-old British musician, still internationally famous for songs such as Father and Son, The First Cut is the Deepest, Moonshadow and Wild World, said he had hoped fans would understand that he felt he had found something more important than music, but he was wrong

“I thought, ‘Everybody should get this’, but it didn’t work out quite like that. Everyone wanted me to keep on making music.” Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Sunday, the singer, who was born Steven Demetre Georgiou in London’s Soho to a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish mother, also talked about the joy he felt when he decided to pick up his guitar again after 20 years.

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Suggested reading and viewing by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

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