Zubaida Khanum: Blessing to Pakistan

By Anis Shakur
Thursday – October 1, 2020
NEW YORK (United States): ‘No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life. All the opportunities in the world are waiting to be grasped by people who are in love with what they are doing,’ is a statement made by Sam Goldwyn to which I subscribe.

Presumably, Goldwyn’s statement worked well with the ‘Laila,’ fame singer of yesteryear, Zubaida Khanum as well. Our time online gives us a window into the world.

Hence, in order for me to review some of the resplendent renditions of Khanum in the twentieth year of the twenty-first century I need to turn back the history’s clock a wee-bit and then dwell in the 1950s decade for a while.

Zubaida Khanum was born in Amritsar, pre-partition India, in 1935 to a conservative family. After partition, she migrated to Lahore, Pakistan, along with her family.

Essentially, Khanum made her singing debut in the 1950 film ‘Pherey,’ for which she recorded a song. Soon she became one of the stalwarts in the Pakistani cinema.

Obviously, Khanum had an incredibly enormous loyal following in her lifetime and beyond. A prayer of a pious person like ‘Taqdeer kay Malik meri bigri ko bana day,’ lifts the spirits of the listeners in the 1955 film ‘Khatoon,’ music composer Rasheed Attre, songwriter, Tufail Hoshiar Puri.

Most probably, there was love in the air when Khanum lend her lilting voice to ‘Kisi nay chupkay say muskura kar badal diya hai mera fasana,’ in the 1955 film ‘Khizaan kay baad,’ music composer, Hasan Latif, lyricist, Musheer Kazmi.


Discipline is key to success in any field. One of Khanum’s good deeds was to foster discipline in work. What is more, Khanum maintained a humble approach to her numerous accomplishments throughout her life. Khanum’s fame skyrocketed after recording the tragic musical score ‘Teri ulfat mein sanam dil nay bohut dard sahay aur hum chup he rahay,’ in the 1956 super hit film ‘Sarfarosh,’ music composer Rasheed Attre, pictured on Meena Shori.

Better yet, Almighty God made her looks divinely simple. For the sake of records, Khanum was cast in a minor role in the 1956 film ‘Dulla Bhatti,’ as well. Zubaida Khanum played Sabiha Khanum’s friend in director M.S. Dar’s film ‘Dulla Bhatti.’

One of the most sought after songs, ‘Laila, Laila, Laila,’ in the 1956 film ‘Ishq-e-Laila,’ music composer, Safdar Husain, poet, Qateel Shifai, pictured on Asha Poslay. Immediately after recording ‘Laila,’ Khanum literally became a singer everyone new.

Likewise, Khanum is widely acclaimed for her romantic score, ‘Aye chand un say ja kar mera salaam kehna,’ the 1956 film ‘Sarfarosh,’ music composer, Rasheed Attre, lyricist, Tufail Hoshiar puri, pictured on Meena Shori, movie director, Ahmed Kamal Pasha.

Besides, Khanum’s performing art, against the odds, holds on to its integrity as it did in the song, ‘Mera nishana,deikhay zamana,’ the 1956 film ‘Sarfarosh.’  Khanum’s unparalleled asset was her singing voice which she availed to the best of her ability. As is evident in the romantic number, ‘oh my handsome, oh welcome,’ in the 1957 film ‘Murad,’ music composer, Safdar Husain, poet, Qateel Shifai.

Moreover, Khanum’s immense appreciation of salubrious weather is self-explanatory in the song, ‘Aye mausum rangeelay suhanay,’ incidently, it happened to be Khanum’s most favourite song as well in the 1957 film ‘Saath Lakh,’ music composer, Rasheed Atttre, poet, Saif Uddin Saif, pictured on Neelo.

Similarly, the song, ‘Ghoonghat uthaon keh ghoonghat nikaloan,’ in Khanum’s singing voice is apparently one to listen. Ultimately so is the film, ‘Saath Lakh,’ pictured on Sabiha Khanum. Khanum’s mellifluous voice that enthralled millions of moviegoers, in the melancholy strains of ‘Shah-e-Madina,’ in the 1957 film ‘Noor-e-Islam,’ is hugely popular to this day among the masses.

Further, Khanum was a sincere, gentle woman who represented the best of Pakistani cultural values. Reverting to her songs, Khanum’s heady rise to the top with romantic songs like ‘Raat chandni mein akeli,’ evince her veneration for the music and the music composer as well in the 1958 film ‘Zeher-e-Ishq,’ music composer, Khursheed Anwar, poet, Qateel Shifai, pictured on Musarrat Nazeer.

Additionally, Khanum’s incessant hard work followed with appropriate dose of rehearsal resulted in the romantic song, ‘Dil jalana dil walay,’ in the 1959 film ‘Koel,’ music composer, Khursheed Anwar, poet, Tanveer Naqui, pictured on Neelo.

Furthermore, Khanum’s passion for music ignited by the God-gifted singing voice transformed her into one of the most respected figures in the show business. The romanticism in the song, ‘Meethi, meethi batiyoan say jiya na jala,’ is a testament to all the hard work Khanum invested in it in the 1959 film ‘Raaz,’ music composer, Feroze Nizami, poet, Kaleem Usmani, pictured on Musarrat Nazeer.

What is more, the public were astonished by the sheer power of the lyrics, music, and most of all, by Khanum’s sweet singing voice. One example among many is the tragic score ‘Rotay hain chum, chum nain,’ in the 1959 film ‘Sola Aanay,’ music composer, Feroze Nizami, poet, Qateel Shifai, Agha Husaini’s directional debut.

Perhaps, to listen to Khanum’s songs is to bargain a few placid moments from nature which allows us to forget the stressful life and the humdrum of the city that never sleep. 

Khanum continued to challenge herself in her later songs such as in the tragic score, ‘kiya hua dil pay sitam, tum na samjho gey balam,’ in the 1960 film ‘Raat kay rahi,’ music composer, A. Hameed, poet, Fayyaz Hashmi, pictured on actress Rehana, Iqbal Yusuf’s directional debut.

In the past seventy years, Khanum have graced the pages of Pakistani newspapers, and the film magazines alike. Also, Khanum’s entire life, her rise, her marriage, and her children continues to be the subject of discussion and fascination both in Pakistan and abroad.

Khanum was adored by millions in her lifetime and after her demise as well and there has never been quite like her. As this romantically charged song eloquently proves, ‘Aye baadaloan kay rahi,’ the 1960 film ‘Raat kay rahi,’ music composer, A. Hameed, poet, Fayyaz Hashmi, pictured on Shamim Ara.

The na’at ‘Sallu alaihay wa’alaihe,’ in Khanum’s voice in the 1960 semi historical film ‘Ayaz,’ added immense credence to her fabulous music career. The film director Luqman, music composer, Khursheed Anwar. Not only that, the na’at became an integral part of mehfil-e-milaad after it was first played over various Pakistani Radio stations.

Most of all, the na’at is revered for its timeliness as well. Cast included Habib, Sabiha Khanum. ‘Jo na hota tera jamal he, to jahan tha khwab o khayal he, Sallu alaihat wa’alaihe,’ singers, Zubaida Khanum, Nahid Niazi, poet, Tanveer Naqui.

Khanum continued to enthral and entice the public with tragic number like ‘Baad-e-saba,’ ye baad-e-saba,’ ik dard bhara paigham liye ja, jin kay liye barbaad hui mein, un tak mera salaam liye ja,’ the 1957 film ‘Ishq-e-laila,’, music composer Safdar Husain, lyricist, Qateel Shifai, pictured on Sabiha Khanum.

The tragic tunes retain their enchanting freshness to this day as is evident in ‘ya Rab teray banday jaayein kahan,’ the 1957 film ‘Noor-e-Islam,’ music composer, Hasan Lateef, poet, Tanveer Naqui, Khanum was not just an artist, she was an event.

The power of her singing voice strengthened our music industry. That is how bold change happens. As is evident in the romantic number ‘Dil kisi ko dijiye, dil kisi say lijiye, duniya jo chahay kahay koi, gham na kijiye,’  the 1957 film ‘Noor-e-Islam,’ Khanum never gave up and her persistence paid off in the tragic musical score, ‘Zalim yahan Aabaad hain, muzloom hain barbaad, pholoan pay to pehray hain, magar khaar hain Aazaad,’ the 1957 film ‘Noor-e-Islam.’

Khanum’s utmost devotion to her singing profession and the community she served was what made her ready for more challenges as is evident in these two renditions, ‘Hai dil gaya, mera dil gaya, meray sabr ka,’ the 1957 film ‘Noor-e-Islam,’ and ‘meri nigahoan nay choomaan teri nigahoan ko, koi deikh na saka in haseen nigahoan ko,’ the film ‘Noor-e-Islam.

It takes a certain selflessness that must be cultivated, a certain devotion to something bigger than oneself. That said, this tragic rendition speaks for itself, ‘Teray jahan mein hamay kiya mila,’ the 1960 film ‘Rah guzar,’ music composer, Musleh Uddin, Poet, Tanveer Naqui.

What is more, Khanum was the hub of the music. The song ‘Dil hai bay sahara, Aaja o meray mahiya,’ the 1960 film ‘Rah guzar,’ music composer, Musleh Uddin, poet, Tanveer Naqui. It is just a testament to all the hard work Khanum put in.

The Na’at ‘Sallu alaihay Wa’a layhe,’ brought victory and personal recognition to Khanum. She was just so thankful, so indebted and so appreciative that millions of people showered praise to Khanum’s rendition. In the past sixty years this Na’at has become the part and parcel of mehfil-e-milaad.

“Jo na hota tera jamal he, to jahan tha khawab o khayal he, Sallu alaihay Wa’a layhe,’ the 1960 semi historical film ‘Ayaz,’ music composer, Khursheed Anwar, ‘poet, Tanveer Naqui, singers Zubaida Khanum, Naheed Niazi.

To listen to ‘Aik din dil,’ in Khanum’s lilting voice is to realise that music was instilled in her to get out there and make a difference.

‘Aik din dil do gey tum kaheen na kaheen, to hum ko he day do, hum buray to naheen,’ the 1961 film ‘Ajab Khan,’ music composer, G.A. Chishti, lyricist, Tufail Hoshiar Puri.

In the treasure trove of songs, Khanum’s praise to the lord stands out, ‘Aye baaz niyaaz Maula, mujhay tujh par naaz hai, ab to deikha karishma,’ the 1961 film ‘Insaan badalta hai,’ musice composer, Zafar Khursheed, poet, Fayyaz Hashmi.

For Khanum, success would become an almost everyday occurrence as it happened in ‘kaheen dil ki umang, urun baadloan kay sung, jab say pyar mila,’ the 1962 film ‘Shaheed,’ music composer, Rasheed Attre, poet, Tufail Hoshiar puri, pictured on Husna.

Khanum was all about being positive. As such she wanted the listeners to have the best possible experience when they listen to her songs. Example, ‘Ho ray ho bay khabar, sochta hai kiya, day rahe hai zindigi sada, loot lay pyar ka maza,’ the 1963 film, ‘Ishq per zoar naheen,’ music composer, Master Inayat Husain, poet, Qateel shifai.

The overwhelming success of the super duper song, ‘Jeeya gaye,’ took Khanum’s singing voice to the stratosphere. Not only that, ‘Jeeya gaye,’ brought her full circle to where Khanum began her journey as a vocalist. ‘Jeeya gaye tara, ra rum, gori nachay chum, chum,’ the 1964 film ‘Aik dil do deewanay,’ music composer, Tasadduq Husain, poet, Tanveer Naqui.

It seems that Khanum poured her heart and soul into recording  this romantic number, ‘Mera dil dharkay, meri ankh pharkay, lay kay haath mein haath,  deikho chore na daina saath,’ in the 1956 film ‘Hameeda,’  duet, Zubaida Khanum – Saleem Raza, music composer, Safdar Husain, poet, Qateel shifai, Khanum’s whole journey was dreamlike.

It was another worldly experience as is evident in this foot tapper, ‘Gari ko chalana babu, zara halkay, halkay, halkay, kaheen dil ka jam na chalkay,’ the 1956 film ‘Anokhi,’ music composer, Hasan Lateef, poet, Fayyaz Hashmi, pictured on Sheela Ramani.

Khanum was an exceptional human being. Hence, Khanum’s complaint to the Almighty was a win-win for everybody as is evident in ‘Bata aye Aasmaan walay, meray naaloan pay kiya guzri, ye bijli kyon tarapti hai, chaman waloan pay kiya guzri,’ duet, Zubaida Khanum, Inayat Husain Bhatti, the 1957 film ‘Ishq-e-laila,’ music composer, Safdar Husain, poet, Qateel Shifai, pictured on Sabiha khanum – Santosh Kumar.

In fact, Khanum’s love for the fellow humans is what motivated her to singing in the films. One reflects on Khanum’s enormous input in the 1950s movies as one listens to the song, ‘Chand takay chup kay,’ in the 1957 film ‘Ishq-e-laila,’duet, Zubaida Khanum – Saleem Raza, music composer, Safdar Husain, poet, Qateel Shifai, pictured on Sabiha -Santosh.

Immaculate in singing, Khanum captivated the hearts and minds of the listeners becoming nationwide favourite in such songs as ‘Chalak rahi hain mastiyaan, nashay mein jhoom utha jahan, hui jo chandni jawan, machal gaye jawanian,’ in the 1959 film, ‘Raaz,’ duet, Zubaida Khanum –Ahmed Rushdi, music composer, Feroze Nizami, lyricist, Tufail Ahme Jamali, pictured on Musarrat Nazeer-Ejaz.

Most definitely, every admirer was relying on the hope that Khanum would continue recording songs for years to come. One fortunate enough to sing songs.

However, not, it turned out, lucky enough to the long and memorable singing career she so well deserved.

Since Khanum considered herself homemaker first, she married cinematographer Riaz Bukhari, and call it quit.

Khanum passed away on Saturday, October 19, 2013, of cardiac arrest.

However, not before witnessing her songs to win generation after generation of new admirers. She breathed her last in Lahore she always loved- and loved her back.

Better yet, Khanum lived seventy-eight years and her life was a blessing to Pakistan. Khanum left behind two sons and two daughters.

Seven years after her demise, Khanum’s innumerable adorers gaze spellbound at her images of gentle peacefulness.

Finally yet importantly, Zubaida Khanum’s inimitable singing voice has been, is, and I hope that it will be duplicated but not equaled and it never will.

The End.



Next in TDR’s Classics, “Aima Sahiba”



Info: Eminent storyteller, Anis Shakur, is a Pakistani born United States (US) citizen. He works for the US federal and State government. He resides at a stone-throw distance from the darting shores of the Atlantic ocean in New York, for the past three decades.


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