In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Maher Zain

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Biography
  • Scholarly Works on Maher Zain’s Songs
  • Maher Zain’s Political Influence
  • Philanthropic Efforts
  • Albums and Songs
  • Recent Album
  • Awakening Music
  • Concerts and Fans

Islamic Studies Maher Zain
Khairiah Othman, Faridah Abdul Malik
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0300


Maher Zain is a popular Lebanese Swedish R&B singer, songwriter, and music producer well known for his Islamic message songs. He caused a worldwide sensation when he emerged with his debut album Thank You Allah in 2009 which went to quadruple platinum in Indonesia (4 million copies sold) and quintuple platinum in Malaysia (five million copies sold). Although Maher Zain is now well known for his signature hip but pious Islamic R&B songs, that was not the case earlier. He had a passion for music at a young age but did not pursue music until after he finished his aeronautical engineering degree in university. Initially, Maher Zain with Nadir Khayat (also known as RedOne) worked as music producers for artists such as Kat DeLuna and Lady Gaga in New York. Although it was an exciting time working with big-name artists, Maher Zain felt that something was not quite right. Thus, on a trip back to Sweden in 2009, he reconnected with his spiritual Muslim roots and felt at peace and contented. He signed up with Awakening Records in 2009 and set out to reinvent himself as a singer and a songwriter but also to identify himself as a trifecta of being a Muslim, an Arab, and a Westerner and to try and fuse these elements together into one. Thus, when he released his debut album Thank you Allah, it was an unmistakable pop style series of songs with an R&B influence and traditional Islamic songs (nasheed) with Western musical instruments and arrangements. His subsequent albums Forgive Me in 2012 and One in 2016 went quadruple platinum (4 million copies sold) and double platinum (2 million copies sold) respectively in Malaysia. His presence as a singer is very much felt in social media, such as on YouTube, where his videos have hundreds of millions of views. To connect with his fans around the world, Zain has released versions of his songs not only in English and Arabic, but also in other languages such as Indonesian, Malay, French, Urdu, and Turkish. Zain has also toured extensively around the world, extending his appeal. His songs have been analyzed by scholars for their messages and linguistic aspects. His popularity is said to have strongly influenced the political landscape of the Arab world especially during the Arab Spring uprising. Zain has also used his popularity to be actively involved in charity works, including as an active supporter for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and performing in more than one hundred charity concerts across thirty-five countries.

General Overviews

As a popular singer in the twenty-first century, most information about Maher Zain is available on social media. His personal website, Maher Zain Official, and his recording company, Awakening Music, provide information about his songs, concerts, videography and activities including his charity works. Foley 2022, Otterbeck 2017 and Otterbeck 2021 (cited under Awakening Music) write about the role of Awakening Music in promoting Islamic messages through Zain. Despite his popularity, not much scholarly work has been written on him. Othman and Abdul Malik 2017, Nasution and Nasution 2017, and Harahap, et al. 2020 are among the few that analyze his songs for their linguistic aspects and Islamic messages. Foley 2011a, Foley 2011b and Foley 2013 (all cited under Maher Zain’s Political Influence) discuss how Zain has been instrumental in influencing the political landscape of the Arab world. He has a tremendous number of fans on social media which is evident in the number of views he received such as in Maher Zain—Ya Nabi Salam Alayka (Arabic)|ماهر زين - يا نبي سلام عليك|Official Music Video, his most popular song with more than 400 million views.

  • Awakening Music.

    Showcases its artists’ music videos and activities, including its most popular singer, Maher Zain.

  • Foley, S. “Music with a Message: Maher Zain and the Rise of Awakening’s New Global Sound.” In Islam, Revival and Reform: Redefining Tradition for the Twenty-First Century, Essays in Honor of John O. Voll. Edited by Natana J. DeLong-Bas, 278–300. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2022.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv2fwfzp9.14

    This article places Zain in the broader context of Awakening’s work and in the pop music industry.

  • Harahap, N., Jupriaman, Muhammad Rusli, A. L. Harahap, Rizki Lestari, and Anggraini Shopiah. “An Error Analysis of Semantics in Maher Zain Song: Forgive Me.” Red: Revolution of English Department Journal 2.1 (2020): 20–26.

    This study investigates the lexical and contextual meanings in Maher Zain’s Forgive Me lyrics.

  • Maher Zain Official.

    His official website where information about his songs, videography, and philanthropic works are shared.

  • Maher Zain—Ya Nabi Salam Alayka (Arabic) |ماهر زين - يا نبي سلام عليك|Official Music Video

    Zain’s most popular song with more than 400 million views.

  • Nasution, Novita H., and Sri H. Nasution. “Semantic Emotion in Maher Zain’s Lyrics of Songs: Semantic Analysis.” International Journal of Language Learning and Applied Linguistics World (IJLLALW) 14.4 (2017): 22–28.

    The theory of Shaver is used in analyzing the semantic emotion found in Zain’s lyrics of songs. This theory consists of six categories of emotions namely love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. The study indicates love is the dominant emotion while the emotion of gratitude is also present in the songs although not included in the theory.

  • Othman, Khairiah, and Faridah Abdul Malik. “Islamic English in Maher Zain’s Songs: Is There a Need?” Advanced Science Letters 23 (2017): 507–510.

    DOI: 10.1166/asl.2017.8997

    Based on Ismail al-Faruqi’s conception of Islamic English, the writers examine the presence of Islamic English in Maher Zain’s songs and provide justification for their presence. Al-Faruqi was a distinguished Palestinian-American Islamic scholar and activist who argued for the need to maintain the use of Arabic terms and concepts in the English language mainly due to the absence of equivalent English words and lack of accurate translation to convey the meanings in English.

  • Otterbeck, Jonas. The Awakening of Islamic Pop. 2017.

    Talks on the rise of Islamic pop music with special reference to Awakening Records and the superstars it produces including Maher Zain.

  • Otterbeck, Jonas. The Awakening of Islamic Pop Music. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021.

    DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474490429.001.0001

    A description of the history and development of Islamic music genres and a discussion of how Awakening Records has been successful in achieving its goal in promoting a positive image of Islam by launching the careers of popular artists like Sami Yusuf, Harris J., and Maher Zain.

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