A Palestinian musician who played on the soundtrack of the film The Passion of the Christ joined SAT-7’s weekly We Will Sing hymns programme recently. Playing the oud and singing a number of songs he had composed, Naser Musa added a new flavour of Arabic worship to the popular worship show – the Arab Gulf tune.
Among his songs was one urging nominal Christians to turn fully to God, a song borne out of Naser’s own experience of coming to a committed faith after working on The Passion film.
Although Naser lived in the USA for over 20 years and studied music at a western university, his passion for oriental music had never ceased. He continued to play the oud – the Eastern stringed instrument similar to the European lute – and used it to accompany Arabic hymns sung in a variety of styles.
Naser began composing songs in a Gulf style after friends living in the Gulf area told him how they missed having hymns in their own culture. All the songs they sang in their churches were either Egyptian, Lebanese or Syrian.
“I liked the oud music in the Gulf and thought I would like to use this kind of music for the glory of God,” Naser explained.
So when he was We Will Sing’s guest musician in November, Naser included two Gulf style songs in his repertoire. One, entitled “Don’t delay”, especially addressed those who live as Christians in name only. The words called them to return to God wholeheartedly:
“Don’t Delay… don’t delay repentance… return quickly to God… your days are numbered. Redeem your life before death… Redeem your life before death… and return quickly to God… don’t delay… don’t delay.”
From name to reality
The words describe Naser’s own story. Born in Jordan to Palestinian Christian parents, Naser emigrated to the USA as a teenager. There he went to a Catholic Church because it held mass in Arabic, but he says, “My relationship with God was restricted to church only. That’s all I knew then about Christianity.
“I was like a rich man who possessed a treasure but didn’t enjoy it because he didn’t know its value.”
“I was like a rich man who possessed a treasure but didn’t enjoy it because he didn’t know its value
“When I started working on the film Passion of the Christ and at the same time with the Candlelight Orchestra in Los Angeles, I began to question my identity as a Christian, why Christ died for me, and what I had given Him in return. I was like a rich man who possessed a treasure but didn’t enjoy it because he didn’t know its value,” Naser says.
Sharing with viewers how he had lived as a Christian by name but without a personal relationship with Christ, Naser sang the hymn “I’m tired of sin”:
“I’m tired of sin… My worries are too much… I come to You in tears… I come to You in tears… Let me live Christianity… not just as an identity or religion… Have mercy on me Jesus… Have mercy on my Jesus.”
Naser elaborated on how he had moved from having a badge of religious identity to genuine personal experience: “When you are born into a Christian family you are called Christian and live that way, but you don’t seek Christ because that’s how you were born.
“But when I saw those who sought Christ and abandoned many things for Him, I became ashamed of myself. I felt I should have a stronger faith than them but they outran me in faith and I felt jealous to love the God who loved me to the end.”
Despite having poor eyesight, Naser says he remains confident in the God who has given him so many blessings that make up for this, such as knowing believers who are also worship singers, and having the talent of playing a musical instrument.
“I pray for the people whose cases are worse than mine. There is more blessing in prayer for someone who suffers the same problem as mine than just praying for myself. God is just in his gifts and mercies,” Naser says.
Using his own gifts in songwriting and playing for new audiences such as those in Gulf countries is one way he can pass that blessing on. Naser says he continues to pray for people in the Gulf region because “God is for everyone and many people in that region are thirsty to know Jesus and hear about Him”.
We Will Sing is recorded weekly in Egypt and is hosted by acclaimed worship leaders Maher Fayez and Nassif Sobhy. Each episode mixes prayer, informal sharing from Scripture and worship songs. Viewers across the region tell us how they appreciate the programme. Highlights this year included recordings of Maher and Nassif leading worship in Dubai and a moving phone call conversation with the brother of two Egyptian Christians murdered by so-called Islamic State in Libya.
Viewer comments on We Will Sing
“Very, very, very wonderful ministry, God bless you and use you more and more. May you always worship Him and lead us to heavenly praises.”
“Thank you very much brother Nassif for this week episode of the program We will Sing and for your warm prayer. I enjoyed your hymns and prayers. They gave me relief and hope and strengthened my faith.”