Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2018 3:36 pm Post subject: Sindhi Sufi Poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai
SINDHI SUFI POET SHAH LATIF
SHAH ABDUL LATIF of Bhitt, called simply' Shah' or 'Monarch’ is a unique figure in Sindhi literature. He is not only the greatest of Sindhi writers, but he has been equated with the literature of his land, as if he were co-terminous with Sindhi literature. The first foreigners who explored the civilization and culture of Sind thought that Shah was the only Poet and Philosopher Sind had produced, and the universal vogue of Shah-Jo-Risalo, or Shah's Poetical Works, in the land of the Sindhu, inclined them to believe that the Risalo was the only literary work in the Sindhi language.
It has become clear now that, far from being the only poet of Sind, or the only singer of his time, Shah was only one albeit the greatest of a multitude of poets who formed a 'nest of singing birds' in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Shah was the finest flower in a garden of poetry. His poetry is not that of a pioneer, it is the poetry of fulfillment; it is not the poetry of experimentation or innovation, it is the poetry of gracious benediction. Nor is it correct to call him the last of the traditional or medieval poets in Sindhi, as some have tried to make out; Shah is no Milton, the last of the Elizabethans. It is well-known that Shah looked upon Sachal Sarmast (who wrote more than a million couplets in 7 languages) as his spiritual successor. And there were others besides Sachal to keep up the tradition of Shah. Shah did for Sindhi language and literature and the Sindhi people what other world poets have done for their own language and country in their own particular way, Hafiz for the Persian Lyric, Dante for the' illustrious vernacular' of Italy, and Tulsidas for Hindi language and literature.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (also referred to by the honorifics: Lakhino Latif, Latif Ghot, Bhittai, and Bhitt Jo Shah) (18 November 1689 – 1 January 1752) was a Sindhi Sufi scholar, mystic, saint, and poet, widely considered to be the greatest Muslim poet of the Sindhi language. His collected poems were assembled in the compilation Shah Jo Risalo, which exists in numerous versions and has been translated into English, Urdu, and other languages. His work has been compared frequently to that of the Persian poet Rumi. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an emeritus professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, described Shah Latif as a "direct emanation of Rumi's spirituality in South Asia."
Shah Abdul Latif was born to Shah Habib in the village of Hala Haveli, a few miles to the east of the present town of Bhit Shah (named after him). His first teacher was Akhund Noor Muhammad Bhatti, although he was largely self-educated. He received little formal education, the Risalo provides proof that he was well-versed in Arabic and Persian. The Qur'an, the Hadiths, the Masnawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, along with the collection of Shah Karim's poems (his grand father), were his constant companions, copious references to which are made in the Shah Jo Risalo.
His correspondence in Persian with contemporary scholar Makhdoom Moinuddin Thattvi, as contained in the Risala-i-Owaisi, bears witness to his scholastic competence:
In his poems he writes about Sindh and its neighboring regions, he mentions distant cities such as Istanbul and Samarqand as well as Sindhi sailors (Samundi), their navigation techniques, voyages as far as the Malabar coast, Sri Lanka and the island of Java.
Shah was lover of Sindh. His famous couplet in Shah Jo Risalo about prosperity of Sindh is;
SAAEI(N) SADAEI(N) KAREI(N) MATHEY SINDH SUKAAR
DOST TU DILDAAR AALAM SUBB ABAAD KAREI(N)
My beloved Allah, may you always make Sindh, a land of abundance, my beloved Allah, may you make prosperous the whole universe.
(Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sur Sarang, Shah Jo Risalo).
Beloved's separation kills me friends,
At His door, many like me, their knees bend.
From far and near is heard His beauty's praise,
My Beloved's beauty is perfection itself ?
Article written by Muhammad Habib Sanai
Adopted from; The News Pakistan, November 28, 2016.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689-1752) is renowned poet of Sindh, whose poetry, after lapse of more than two centuries, is still venerated and enjoyed not only by literary pundits but also by illiterate persons of rural hinterland. In words of Richard F. Burton, “his fellow-countrymen consider him Hafiz of Sindh, and that there are few of them, learned or unlearned, who have not read or heard his pathetic verses. His poetry is the delight of all that can understand it.” His poetry has been translated in other languages including English. Here is an attempt to introduce some works of English translations of his poetry.
Dr. H.T. Sorley (1892-1963), an ICS officer and author, was the first person who undertook translation of Shah Latif’s selected poetry in English on large scale. This translation is included in his seminal book entitled Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit: His Poetry, Life and Times published in 1940. While speaking about the problems of translation of Shah’s poetry, Sorley writes: “In the difficult poems of this eighteenth century Sindhi Poet, I have striven throughout to catch the spirit of his poetry… My translation is generally faithful to the original, except where the exigencies of metre make some latitude inevitable…The metaphors and similes of the original have been retained even when they may appear strange and unfamiliar to English readers.”
According to Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Shah, ex-Federal Minister for Education and Ex-VC of Sindh University, “Dr. Sorley’s Translation has had tremendous acceptability in the educated and the scholarly circles of Sindh in particular and of Pakistan and outside in general.” Mr. Manoj Kumar, professor of English Literature and writer is of the view that Sorley’s translation kindled interest of Western Scholars like Annemarie Schimmel etc in Shah’s poetry, as such this a pioneering translation.
In another publication entitled “Musa Pervagans: Being translation, with original texts of selected lyric poetry of over two thousand years from the Diverse Languages”, Dr. Sorely included selected poetry of 13 poets of including Shah Latif and declared that “to me it seems clear that of all the poets from whose works I am offering translations now, Shah is greatest.”
Then another verse translation in English of selected poetry of Shah Latif was carried out by Mrs. Elsa Kazi (1884-1967), who was herself a poet and author. It was published by Sindhi Adabi Board, Jamshoro in 1965 as of Risalo of Shah Abdul Latif (Selections). Prof Amena Khamisani, former head of English Department, University of Sindh, opines that “Although this translation is not a literal rendering, Mrs. Elsa Kazi, a German Lady, has been able to convey its significance very effectively as it has a tremendous impact on the reader.”
During sixties, Mr. Tirthdas Hotchand (1906-1971), also dabbled into translating poetry of Shah and got published it in few booklets. In 1961, his first booklet entitled Shah Abdul Latif’s immortal song: The Song of Necklace, was published. It was translation of Melody of Lilan Chanesar. Then in 1962 his another book Shah Abdul Latif: Pakistan’s immortal poet: An introduction to his seven song stories containing translations from various surs (Melodies) came into market. In 1963, his third book of translation entitled The Song of Kinjhar Lake was published.
In early 1980s another translation of selected poetry was rendered by Mr. G. Allana (1906-1985), himself a poet of English language. He couched Shah’s message in the diction and idiom used in western classical poetry.
During the same decade, prose translation of Shah Latif’s complete Risala (compendium) compiled and edited in Sindhi by Mr. Ghulam Muhammad Shahwani (died on 14 December, 1954) was made by Mr. Muhammad Yakoob Agha and published as Shah jo Risalo alias Ganje Latif in 1985. While interpreting Shah’s verses, Agha has also quoted not only Quranic Verses, Prophet’s Traditions, but also appropriate Arabic, Persian and Urdu couplets of Roomi, Hafiz, Attar, Ghalib, Iqbal. Critics term it exhaustive and commendable work despite few disagreements.
Prof. Amena Khamisani (1919-2007), herself a former teacher of English Literature in Sindh University, also attempted translation of selected verses of Shah, published in 1993 under title of The Risalo of Shah Abdul Laif Bhitai. This lucid translation is more popular in academic circles of Sindh.
Late Agha Saleem (1935-2016), famous novelist and author has also translated poetry of Shah in Urdu as well in English. His renderings in both languages have been published under the title of Melodies of Shah Latif in four volumes by Sindh Culture Department. He along with Prof K.S. Nagal has also rendered translation of Ganj of Shah Latif, one of the oldest compilation of Shah’s poetry and other verses sung in gatherings of Shah Latif.
Dr. Fahmida Hussain (July 05, 1948), who has earned PhD on research about Image of Woman in the Poetry of Shah Abdul Latif, has also edited a book entitled as Selection from Shah jo Risalo, wherein translations in Urdu and English have been included, which were rendered by Dr. Amjad Siraj and Naveed Siraj. This book was published by Sindh Graduates Association in 2006.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Chair of Karachi University has published English prose translation of Shah’s poetry rendered by Mr. Munawar Arbab Halo in 2006.
Mr. Saleem Bhuto Latifi, who mainly writes in Sindhi about Shah Latif, has published a book entitled Song of Peace in 2007. It contains translation of Shah’s poetry rendered into English by him and his children Sindh Sonetee, Sorath and Sarwech.
Mr. Faiz Mohammad Khoso (April 5, 1951-) has also translated Shah’s selected poetry in Arabic and English. His renderings were published by Sindh Culture Department in 2009 as Selected Verses from Shah jo Risala in Arabic and English.
In 2012, a book entitled Shah Latif: Poet of Love and Humanity was published by Sindh Culture Department. It was translation of shah’s poetry made by Mr. Ashique Hussain Memon, who was civil servant.
In the same year, another translation of Shah’s selected poetry rendered by Mr. Mushtaque Ali Shah (b.1960), a career diplomat, published as Apostle of Love bRoshni Publications, Hyderabad. Mr. Mushtaque Ali Shah then carried out another translation of Shah’s poetry based on complete Risalo (compendium) compiled and edited by Dr. Nabi Bakhsh Baloch (1917-2011). It has been published by Roshni Publications in 2014 under the title of Message of Shah. It contains 3175 baits and 215 vais. He has also prepared a lexicon of 2100 terms and phrases used by Shah latif in Sindhi and English. Mushtaque Ali Shah is also attempting French translation of Shah’s poetry. This is said to be popular among literary circles.
Late Abdul Ghafoor Memon Alasti has also translated Shah Latif’s poetry, which was published as The Celestial Sunrise from Sindh. But his translation is said to be marred by mistakes in usage of English language.
Sirajul Haq Memon (1933-2013), Amar Jaleel and Prof. K.S Nagpal have also translated some verses of Shah into English.
The Poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai is published in a book “Shah
Jo Risalo”. in which he has divided his poetry into Surs (melodies), which are based on different folk tales of the land. These are sung in particular musical tones. Here is a brief explanation of Surs, based and named after musical tones:
Asa means “Hope”. It is the name of a very sweet musical tone, which is usually sung in the early morning. In this Sur Shah Latif has described the Sufism (asceticism) in full length whereby he makes the humans aware of their relationship with Allah, whichought not to be ignored by involving in worldly temptations.
Bilawal is a musical melody, and when sung it gives a very soothing
and peaceful effect on the singer and listener as well. This Sur contains
praise for Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as an ideal leader, in the allegory of
the notables of Sindh.
Barvo means “Beloved”. This Sur is a musical melody sung in the praise of Allah, the creator in the allegory of a Beloved.
Dahar means “Desert Valley”. This Sur also contains praise for the notables of
Sindh for their bravery and generosity. It also symbolizes this world wherein many grandeur civilizations came and then disappeared leaving behind only a desert.
Ghatu means crocodile killer. This Sur is based on the folk story of a fisherman named Morero who lived near Karachi, and who avenged a crocodile of his six brothers’ death. In this Sur Shah Bhittai symbolizes the Crocodile with the worldly fascinations, and Ghatu, a person who resists and wages war against them.
It is the name of musical tone, well known for its sublimity and sweetness. It is sung at late evening or at dawn for devotional purpose. This Sur is full of Sufic doctrineswith mystic Character where by the Sufis (Ascetics) seek the path, which leads them to the revelation of the eternal truth. In this topic Shah Latif has praised Allah and the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), He describes spirit of the Real being in the universe, the annihilation of the true lover, and the spiritual wines and poisons of the true love.
The word Yaman means “Passage to Peace”. It is also the name of a
musical tone and full with Sufi thought In this topic Shah Latif guides the
seeker of the divine path i.e. a Sufi to have control on himself and to
subdue the passions. It contains the complete mystic philosophy of
perceiving unity in diversity. It advises to follow the path of self-control to
bring peace through humility, kindness, courtesy, patience and forbearance.
To explain Shah Latif has given examples of black smith's furnace,
butterfly, moths burning itself over the candle.
This Sur is a musical melody in the praise of human beings blessed with divine attributes because of their humanity and submissiveness to Allah. It is sung in the afternoon, and has a sweet soothing effect.
Kapaeti means “ A cotton spinning woman”. Shah Latif in this Sur has compared the deeds of the man with the quality of the spun cotton whereby he would be paid accordingly in this and the next world. Thus one should put persistent efforts and continuous hard work, and should remove all lumps and defects to bring perfection in his deeds.
Karayal means “A beautiful bird like Swan, Peacock and Hanj” who always live
in deep clean waters, and are symbolic of seekers of the divine truth, and prove to be divine guidance for good of the humanity.
Kedaro means “ Battle field”. This Sur is based on and contains the verses on the true tragic and legendary event of the martyrdom of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain, the grand maternal children of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), who faced the challenge of the forces of cruelty and ruthlessness but stood firm till the death of all his companions.
Khahori means wandering ascetics or those who search. This Sur contains the
verses on the wandering life of ascetics who symbolize search of reality, spiritual path taken by them to have glimpses of the Reality.
The word Khambhat means “Shelter or Refuge”. There is a place by the name
also. It is the most beautiful and lofty Sur of Shah Latif. In this Sur Shah Latif praises the beloved by saying that he is more beautiful even than the moon. He addresses camel and moon to carry his messages to the beloved.
This Sur is based on the folk love story of Lila, Chanesar and Kaunru whereby the beloved queen wife, Lila of king Chaneser is lured away by Kaunru, a beautiful princess to allow her to sleep with Chanesar for a night in exchange of a million dollar diamond necklace. The sufferings of queen Lila then started, and thereafter inspite of her many efforts she couldn’t win Chanesar back, and ultimately while dancing before him she died. Shah Bhittai has used this story as an allegory to depict the fall of Allah’s favoured repentance
This Sur is based on the folk story of Umar and Marvi, (king and an abducted woman), Marvi who stands as a symbol of patriotism for her folks and homeland, against her abductor by refusing and turning down all the temptations offered by the king in return for her consent to marry.
This Sur is based on the folk love tale of Mumal and Ranu whereby Mumal loses her beloved Ranu purely because of her folly. On failing to appease Ranu back she throws herself in fire and dies. Ranu learning this also sets himself to flames. It contains verses about Sufism (asceticism), and of pathetic lover on separation from the beloved,
Pirbhat means “ Dawn”. It is a musical melody and sung at dawn in praise of God’s Divine magnificence, kindness and generosity symbolized in the Ruler of Las Belo (Baluchistan), Sappar Sackhi for his generosity.
Poorab means “ East” i.e. the direction from where light comes, which Shah Bhittai symbolizes with the spiritual goal of ascetics. He has also symbolized the ravens as messengers to the beloved.
Ramkali means” Divine buds, or the person having Divine qualities”. It is the name of musical tone, which is usually sung in the early morning. Shah Latif describes the various classes of ascetics; and their various ways, timings and places of worships.
Rip means “a great burden”, In various verses of this Sur, Shah Latif describes the pangs of love and the way these should be concealed in the heart not to be disclosed to the world, even if one may come across a deep distress, which is a real state of mind of Sufis (Ascetics).
Sarang means “ Rainy Season”; it is the name of musical tone, which is usually sung, in a rainy season. In this Sur, Shah Latif has described thrilling view, scenario and blessings of the rainy season. The rain symbolises mercy and generosity of Allah.
Samundi means ”Sailor”. In this Sur Shah Latif apparently describes the state of the departing sailors and their wives, while on the voyage in the sea. But eternally he refers it to the spiritual journey to understand the spiritual truths, and those refractory forces may not hinder him.
Sasui: (Abri, Mauzoori, Desi, Kohyari, and Hussaini)
The folk story of Sasui Punhon is composed by Shah Latif in five Surs. Shah Latif describes Sasui’s pathetic wandering in mountains to find Punhu, during which she ultimately dies. Shah Bhittai symbolises Sasui’s efforts to the seeker of the Divine path who neither loses heart, nor gives up hope, nor is discouraged with the hardships and obstacles.
The word “Suhni” means “Beautiful”. This most beautiful Sur is based on the
folk love tale of Suhni and Mehar. It contains the vigorous and pathetic
Sufic illusions based on the sorrows that Suhni suffered while going to her
beloved through swimming. Shah Bhittai has taken this love story as
parable of the human soul in quest of Allah and the spiritual truths.
This Sur is also melody in music and is sung during second part of the night. It is based on the tale of abandoned princess Sorath and a king, Raja Rai Diach, wherein the later magnanimity cuts and gives his head at the promise made by him to one Bijal, a fiddler who was sent by a rival Raja to bring his head, not knowing that Raja Rai Diach was Bijal’s real maternal uncle. Knowing this later on, the grieved princess Sorath and repenting Bijal throw themselves in flames.
This Sur is one of the chief melodies of music. It is sung from the evening till early night. In this Sur Shah Latif compares the man with a merchant, sailor and passenger, advising him to do good and virtuous actions, and to deal in the true bargain of love and keep away from evil passions. Only then, with the help of God, man will come out safe from the perils.
Sindhi is an Indo-Aryan language of the historical Sindh region, spoken by the Sindhi people. It is the official language of the Pakistani province of Sindh. In India, Sindhi is one of the scheduled languages officially recognized by the central government, though Sindhi is not an official language of any of the states in India.
Most Sindhi speakers are concentrated in Pakistan in the Sindh province, and in India, the Kutch region of the state of Gujarat and in the Ulhasnagar region of the state of Maharashtra. The remaining speakers in India are composed of the Sindhi Hindus who migrated from Sindh, which became a part of Pakistan and settled in India after the independence of Pakistan in 1947 and the Sindhi diaspora worldwide. Sindhi language is spoken in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab provinces of Pakistan as well as the states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat in India as well as immigrant communities in Hong Kong, Oman, Indonesia, Singapore, UAE, Russia, UK and the US.
The Sindhi language and other native languages of Pakistan are struggling to be officially given the status of national language in Pakistan. Before the inception of Pakistan, Sindhi was the national language of Sindh.There are many Sindhi language television channels broadcasting in Pakistan such as KTN, Sindh TV, Awaz Television Network, Mehran TV and Dharti TV. Besides this, the Indian television network Doordarshan has been asked by the Indian High Court to start a news channel for Sindhi speakers in India.
Sindhi Computing is the term used for the Software developed for the Sindhi language, these software are intended for the users to read, write and learn Sindhi language online or offline.
Sindhi language Software;
Sindhi language software such as Sindhi language keyboards have been developed for the Windows OS, Android smartphones. Various other online websites provide Sindhi keyboard such as (Keymanweb.org), M.B Sindhi keyboard by Majid Bhurgri. A software have been developed by the Sindhi Language Authority which will end the barrier between the Arabic-Sindhi script or Perso-Sindhi script and Devanagari Sindhi script; such software have also been developed by the Punjabi researchers at Punjabi University and Manchester University for the Sindhi.
Official Entry into the Constitution;
The language is included as one of the official languages into Indian Constitution by Government of India in the 21st Amendment in 1967.
When Sindh was occupied by British army and was annexed with Bombay, governor of the province Sir George Clerk ordered to make Sindhi the official language in the province in 1848. Sir Bartle Frere, the then commissioner of Sindh, issued orders on August 29, 1857 advising civil servants in Sindh to qualify examination in Sindhi. He also ordered Sindhi to be used in all official communication. Seven-grade education system commonly known as Sindhi-Final was introduced in Sindh. Sindhi Final was made a prerequisite for employment in revenue, police and education departments.
According to Islamic Sindhi tradition, the first translation of the Quran into Sindhi was completed in the year 883 CE / 270 AH in Mansura, Sindh (at time of Sumra dynasity affiliated with Fatimi calaphs). The first extensive Sindhi translation was done by Akhund Azaz Allah Muttalawi (1747–1824 CE / 1160–1240 AH) and first published in Gujarat in 1870. The first to appear in print was by Muhammad Siddiq (Lahore 1867).
Sindhi has a relatively large inventory of both consonants and vowels compared to other languages. Sindhi has 46 consonant phonemes and 16 vowels. All plosives, affricates, nasals, the retroflex flap and the lateral approximant have aspirated or breathy voiced counterparts.
Ernest Trumpp authored the first Sindhi grammar entitled Sindhi Alphabet and Grammar.
Sindhi has borrowed from English and Hindustani. Today, Sindhi in Pakistan is slightly influenced by Urdu, with more borrowed Perso-Arabic elements, while Sindhi in India is influenced by Hindi, with more borrowed tatsam Sanskrit elements.
The dialects of Sindhi include Vicholi, Lari, Lasi, Kathiawari Katchi, Thareli, Macharia, Dukslinu and Muslim Sindhi. The "Siraiki" dialect in northern Sindh is distinct from the Saraiki language of South Punjab and has variously been treated either as a dialect of it, or as a dialect of Sindhi. The Sindhi dialects previously known as "Siraiki" are nowadays more commonly referred to as "Siroli".
Written Sindhi is mentioned in the 8th century, when references to a Sindhi version of the Mahabharata appear. However, the earliest attested records in Sindhi are from the 15th century.
Before the standardisation of Sindhi orthography, numerous forms of the Devanagari and Lunda scripts were used for trading. For literary and religious purposes, an Arabic-Persian alphabet known as Ab-ul-Hassan Sindhi and Gurmukhi were used. Another two scripts, Khudabadi and Shikarpuri, were reforms of the Landa script. During British rule in the late 19th century, a Persian alphabet was decreed standard over Devanagari. Gurmukhi, KHOJIKI and the Khudabadi script were used historically to write Sindhi. KHOJIKI SCRIPT WAS INTRODUCED BY ISMAILI PIR SADRUDDIN. Khojki was employed primarily to record Muslim Shia Ismaili religious literature, and for business purpose.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, a great and a celebrated saint and a Sufi Poet, a Spiritual guide and a Philosopher of the Indo-Pak subcontinent region was born in Sindh, about 300 years ago. He is known not only for his poetry but his anecdotes are also known throughout the region. Some of his anecdotes are given hereunder.
While Shah Latif was a boy, he was subject to fits of ecstasy. Once he left his home and went near by deserted area and sit into meditation. He was so engrossed in divine thoughts that he was almost covered up with sand. Luckily a passerby shepherd caught sight of him and informed his father who was searching for him. His father after seening him uttered, LAGI LAGI WAAU VIYA ANGRA LATTJI “By the continuous blowing of wind, the limbs are covered with dust”. The young Latif immediately replied, PAEI KHANEY PASAH PASAN KARAN PREI(N) JE “Still breathing for aspiration of the beloved”. This was the very first poetical line which he uttered at very young age.
(Note: It is very hard to transelitrate Sindhi into Roman English, the reason is English has 26 alphabets where as Sindhi has 52.
Some one asked Shah Latif, " Are you Shia or Sunni?"
Shah replied " In between these two ".
The person astonshingly said,"Oh it is nothing".
Shah replied son," Infact I am NOTHING ".
In his quest of spiritual knowledge, Shah Bhittai travelled to many parts of Sindh and also went to the bordering lands. In his search for truth, peace, and harmony he travelled for three years as a jogi (ascetic), in the company of the Sufis (mystics) all dressed in similar saffron-coloured clothes, to hills, valleys, the banks of the rivers, and the fields in Jesalmere, Hinglaj, Lakhpat, Junagardh, at the foot of the Himalayas, and parts of the Thar desert.
He always probed into the mystery of man's relationship with his Creator, and
was perturbed by the questions like: what relationship do we bear to our Creator? What is the nature of our Creator? He had an intense longing for a direct approach to the Creator rather than through intermediaries.
In the relentless search for truth, an intense longing for a direct approach to his Creator seized Bhittai. His soul was constantly thirsting for the Divine and all things divine. This led him to the path traversed by mystics. His quest for eternal truth became his primary concern. He found God in everything - believing that "All that is, is God" rest is all illusion and deception. Bhittai was a saint, a mystic and a Sufi. Guided by deep feeling and contemplation, he had been able to arrive at certain truths of the spiritual life.
(transliteration of Sindhi in Roman English is always not proper. Sindhi has 52 alphabets, where as English has 26)
Praise be to Allah. As Quran begins with praise of Allah same way 'Shah Jo Risalo' starts with praise of Allah.
AWWAL ALLAH 'ALEEM A'ALA 'AALIM JO DHANI
QADIR PAHENJE QUDRAT SEE(N) QAIM AAH QADEEM
WALI WAHID WAHDAHU RAZIQ RUBB RAHIM
SO SAARAH SACHO DHANI CHAE HAMD HAKEEM
KAREY PAAN KARIM JURU(N) JORR JAHAN JU(N)
The very first is Allah, He is omniscient
Supreme and Lord of the universe
By His divine might He exists since infinity
He is the Lord, one and only, fosterer
Merciful and compassionate
Praise Him- The real Lord by reciting
the admiring verses for Him
It is He, the compassionate who planned
and perfected the universe.
WAHDAT TA KASRAT THI, KASRAT WAHDAT KUL
HUQQ HAQIQI HEKRO, BOLI BI MA BHUL
HU HALACHO HUL,BILLAH SANDHO SAJNEE(N)
The plurality has emanated from the unity
There is only one unique Truth
Be not forgettable that the Reality is One
I swear by Allah what ever sounds and speculation you hear,
is originated by Him.
SO HE SO HU, SO AJAL SO ALLAH
SO PREE(N) SO PASAH,SO VERRY SO WAHIRU
He is This and He is That,
He is the Destroyer and He is the Creator,
He is the Beloved and also the Breath,
He is the Enemy and He is the Saviour as well
Seven Queens, (Seven Heroic Women). In Sindhi: sat surmyun; Sat means 'Seven or truth/truthful'; while Surmiyun means 'Heroic Women'is a name commonly referred to the seven female characters that appear in the poetry of great Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in his book Shah Jo Risalo. They are: Marui, Moomal, Sasui, Noori, Sohni, Lilan (Laia) and Sorath. These seven female characters, which the poet picked from history to convey his poetic message, have remained cultural icons in the history of Sindh for their bravery, passion, loyalty, commitment and character strength.
Marui's character portrays love for the land, its people, her commitment with her traditions, her stance before a tyrant king, Umar (Amr, Moomal's character portrays an image of a passionate soul, brimming with love for her beloved, Rano and suffers at the altar of separation and rejection but does not surrender. Sasui is a daunting lady, who takes a debilitating journey of mountainous tracks to find her beloved, Punhoon. Noori is a fisher-woman who enchants the king Jam Tamachi and turns out to be one of the most romantic characters in Sindhi literature. Sohni is a daring soul, who in order to meet her beloved Mehar overlooks the hyper waves of the Indus River and keeps meeting her beloved on the far bank of the river and one night falls victim to the river waves and dies. Lilan loses her king (husband) Chanesar for an obscenely expensive necklace and undergoes travails of an unbearable separation to regain her status and character; while Sorath is a loving soul, full of passion and care about her beloved.
Shah Abdul Latif had structured his poetry book, Ganj, commonly known as Shah Jo Risalo, in a form that suggested he intended to convey his spiritual message to the world through his verse. Among many of intentions behind his poetry, one of his major inclinations was towards highlighting the marginalized populace of the country, especially women. Accordingly, he chose these seven women (Sat Surmyun) or Seven Queens of the Sindhi folktales as protagonists in his stories. These tragic romantic tales are Umar Marvi, Momal Rano, Sohni Mehar, Lilan Chanesar, Noori Jam Tamachi, Sassui Punhun and Sorath Rai Diyach.
These heroic women have a considerable influence on all the literature written in Pakistan (Sindhi, Urdu, Balochi, Pashto, Siraiki, Punjabi) and particularly Sindhi literature in India, Moomal and Suhni being the prominent ones. From the texts of these folktales, and especially Latif's poetry, the role of these very women would appear to dominate the role of men as their counterparts. In Umar-Marvi, if only Latif's poetry is analysed, less space is dedicated to Umar's role, most of the story/narration refers to difficulties Marvi undergoes as a result of her abduction by the King Umar in the south-eastern part of Sindh (Thar Area). In Moomal-Rano, Moomal's role overwhelms everything else including Rano's character. Sasui-Punhoon is predominantly the story of Sasui's struggle to find her beloved husband who left her, apparently, for good. Only a little chunk is dedicated to Punhoon in this story. Noori-Jam Tamachi is predominantly the romantic tale from Noori's context. Tamachi is just like a source to help substantiate Noori's perspective. Suhni-Mehar is again the story of Suhni's anxiety and trouble she takes to meet Mehar. Mehar is not more than a figment of reference. In Lilan-Chanesar, again the supposed protagonist is Lilan. However, in Sorath-Rai Diyach, Sorath, unlike the characters in the aforementioned tales, dominates the story in the spirit not the material.
WAHDAHU LA SHARIK LAHU EE HEEKRAI HUQ
BHIYAI KHEY BHUKH JIN WIDHO SE WARSIYA
(Please pardon, It is hard to translitrate Sindhi in Roman English)
Meaning: Allah is uniquw and without a partener. This is the testimony of His oneness. Those who adhere to duality are loosers.
KORRIYEIN KITABAN ME HARF MIRYOOEI HEEK
JE TOU NAZAR NEEK TA BISMILLAH BUS THAI
Meaning: In millions of books, there is only one word (Ism). If your vision is clear just bismillah is enough for you (Ali said; Ana nuktatullati tahat baa'i Bismillah).
SOEI RAH RUDD KAREY SOEI RAHNUMAI
WA TUIZU MON TASHAA WA TUZZILU MON TASHAA (Quranic verse)
Meaning: It is He Who blocks the way, and it is He Who guides. He elevates whom He chooses, and He degrades whom He wishes.
PARR(N)HI PASEY PARR(N) KHEY PARR(N)HI MAHBUB
PARR(N)HI KHALQEY KHUB PARR(N)HI TALIB TIN JO
Meaning: He is the lover of Himself and He Himself is the Beloved. He Himself creates perfectly, (then) He Himself longs for them.
PARR(N)HI JUL JALLALAHU PARR(N)HI JAAN JAMAAL
PARR(N)HI SURAT PREI(N) JI PARR(N)HI HUSUN KAMAAL
PARR(N)HI PIR MURID THEI PARR(N)HI PARR(N) KHAYAL
SUBB SUBBOEI HAAL MUNJHA(N) EI MA'LUM THEI
Meaning: He is Mightiest of all. He is absolute beauty. He Himself is reflection of Beloved. He is the perfection of Beauty. He Himself is the guide and also the follower. He is His own manifestation, you would perceive from within.
Speech by Khadim Hussain Soomro on poetry of Shah Latif BHittai
Posted on September 28, 2012 by Sindh Sufi Institute
Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit (1689-1752) is the most loved spiritual guide of Sindh and surely most celebrated personality. His poems are sung, admired and quoted by the high brow as well as the low brow, in the educated and the uneducated circles alike. The lyrical impact of the poems and the depth of their meaning leave an unforgettable impression on the listener. Even a non-Sindhi intellectual listener appreciates the profound effects, which the “haunting melodies” leave on his mind.
Muslims are usually influenced by one of the two schools of thought–Wahadutul Shuhood (Patheism) and Wahadutul Wajud (Pantheism). In the modern sense, one can call members of the first group as those aspiring a fundamentalist ideal, while those following the second group aspire to the modernist or progressive ideal. Both these thoughts have had a huge influence on the political, social and economic conditions of the subcontinent.
This difference of opinion is perhaps best illustrated in the dynastic rule of the Mughals. Akbar, the Great was influenced by Pantheist mystics while Aurangzeb was inspired by Pathiest priesthood. The course followed by Akbar the Great succeeded in uniting diverse groups and communities but Aurangzeb’s method destroyed the unity of the people of the subcontinent.
Shah Latif was born in the era of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, however, when Shah Latif was still young, hardly 18 years, the Emperor Aurangzeb died. During that era, local Kalhoras took power from the Mughals and laid the foundation of Kalhora rule over Sindh.
The entire subcontinent was under the grip of Patheist thought. Despite that Shah Latif preached the message of Pantheism without any hesitancy and fear. While he was young, one big incident occurred in Sindh. Shah Inyat, a spiritual revolutionary had given collective concept of life, “Who ever tills the land, should eat the fruit of it.” That the tiller should be the owner of the land was the concept he practiced in his life together with his followers (Fakirs). He used to dine together with common men. This symbolized equality, humility and brotherhood without any distinction and discrimination. The Kalhora rulers of the Sindh and the Mughal Rulers of Delhi considered it a revolt and took action against Shah Inyat. A battle between Shah Inyat and the government forces took place. The government forces were not able to overpower the followers of Shah Inyat. Eventually the government requested Shah Inyat to resolve the matter through talks. Shah Inyat accepted the offer and met with government officials. But this proposal of truce was a trick as they arrested Sufi Shah Inayat and put him on the gallows. On the gallows, Sufi Shah Inyat’s last words were:
Ser Der Kadame Yar Feda Shud Che Beja Shud
Ae Bar Geran Bood Ada Shud Che Beja Shud
Translation: Gone is my life in the way of God
Verily, it was a great burden for me.
Shah Latif was not dismayed from the barbarian action of rulers and he went to the locality where Shah Inayat was hanged and he shared his sorrow, in the following verses:
Today in the houses is not heard seekers’ sweet talk
Stranger ascetics are gone; their shrines kill me and torture
Those Lahutis who regenerate the mind, have gone away
Today yogis’ batch no longer is in your place
In their memory weep as much as you can
Migrating from your side, they have gone to some other land
Often Shah Latif’s companions were Hindus and Muslims, for instance, Madan a Sindhi-Hindu poet was a close associate.
Shah Latif also met with the Hindu Yogis and sometimes travelled with them to their sacred places. Shah Latif appreciated their company in the following verse:
The ascetics, handsome and enlightening, the world over roam;
None of them has at any place his home,
Those of them that kindle Love’s fire,
Without their company, I can not live.
One of his Sur Ramkali is about Hindu yogis; this showed his love and devotion to Pantheism and confirms his belief in oneness. Following verses in particular show his association with the Hindu Yogis.
Yogis losing self, aim to unite in soul universal
Those who seek abode in spacelessness, without them I can not live
The music of yogis’ flute, is to me of great worth
They avoid all dialogue, with no one they converse,
Intoxicated with love Divine they are, without them I can not live
Shah Latif has visited many Holy places of Hindus. Hinglaj is the oldest Holy place; there is a statue of female deity “Nani”. Shah Latif went there and visited the Holy place; he also shared his thought of unity in diversity.
First develop the vision of union with “Truth”.
Getting rid of dualism try to achieve the power of vision
There is hardly any imperfection in the beauty of the beloved
Let your eyes give the testimony of oneness of God, so that you are elevated to the position of a true Muslim.
In the same Sur he talks of the importance of the spiritual mentor of Muslim mystics, Mowla Ali and he praises Lord Shiva. The following verse reveals that these super souls are guides for all human beings without any distinction and their message is a light for everyone.
The renouncing ones left for ‘Nani’ at Hinglaj
Going to Dawarka, Shiva’s worship they saw
Those whose Guide is Ali, without them, I cannot live.
Late Ali Ahmed Brohi, a renowned scholar of Sindh, mentions Hinglaj Devi in his book “The Temple of Sun god”
(Published in 1998) as under:
“Hinglaj: Hinglaj Mata or Nanni Hinglaj, as it is commonly called in Sindh and Balochistan, is an ancient shrine situated in the most difficult mountain terrain of Lasbela, at a distance of 180 miles from Karachi. It is one of the most famous places of pilgrimage and is specially interesting as it is the farthest western point to which Hindu Polytheism extends.
The cult of the Mother Goddess, which prevailed from the times, accepted in Puranic literature. “ Devi Bhagvanta” is wholly devoted to it, and so are sections of the Shastras, Markandeya Brahmavaivarta” and “ Skanda Purana”.
The Hinglaj Devi is worshipped throughout India by variety of names,
such as Hinglaj Devi, Bibi Nani and Anita Devi. She is also termed as
“Ranna or Ranni Devi” as Devi of Hinglaj is worshipped in Gujrat on festive occasions.
“ She is worshipped by Hindus of South Asia as “Devi” and is also revered and called “ Bibi Nani” by Muslims.”
Politician and scholar G.M. Sayed in his book “Shah Latif and His Message” analytically viewed the inter-faith concept of Shah Latif.
“Shah Latif conducted a careful analysis and had an exchange of views with the religious scholars and saints. He went on an extensive tour of the country to examine the entire situation as it existed and after a careful consideration arrived at the following conclusions and ideas.
2. Unity of Religions
3. Love is the essence of Religions
4. The real aim and significance of prayers is the service of the humanity.
5. The secret of Human progress lies in peace and security.
6. The real education is the knowledge of the self.
7. Only through sacrifice is it possible to achieve the aim.”
Shah Abdul Latif was of the view that all religions are a bouquet of various flavours but essence is one.
The following verses are connected to his faith:
1. Unity to diversity led Unity’s outcome,
Truth is one, but not forgetful of this
2. Echo and sound are one and the same,
Language’s twist and turn understand,
Both were one, hearing has much difference made.
3. One place, doors in lacs, windows innumerable,
I look from one or all behold! The Lord is one
4. Thy countless manifestations, any innumerable ones
Same Spirit resides in all, manifestations change
Beloved, which of your signs to describe, how to relate?
Shah Abdul Latif’s thought and that of other Sufis profoundly affected the society of Sindh. The social taboos and customs that barred contact with others never really took root in Sindh. People somehow found themselves above the concepts of untouchability that were prevalent elsewhere in the subcontinent.
At the time of Partition of the South Asian subcontinent, the entire subcontinent was caught in the grip of communal tension, the Sindhis felt legitimately proud that they did not become part of the sectarian hatred, bloodshed and violence witnessed in other areas.
Far thousand years, the human culture is in the veins of Sindhis because of their Sufi belief and their credence in co-existence, cooperation, peace, love and human harmony. The Mohenjo Daro, a symbol of ancient civilisation is an example of their peaceful living and non-aggressive behaviour. In 1922 John Marshal, a European excavated the Mohenjo Daro, from their he found a wheel, an instrument which played important and key role in the development of the universe, and a statue of a dancing girl. It shows Sindhis’ interest in dance as an important part of the music and culture. In Mohenjo Daro there was no sign of weapons or an army garrison.
In modern era, Shah Latif, a messenger of peace, coexistence and goodwill preached the lesson of uprightness rather than performance of rituals. In addition he rejected the conservative approach of the clergy. The following verse of Shah Latif shows his belief in humanity and co-existence:
Sufi is not limited by religious bounds
He discloses not the war he wages in his mind
Helps and assists those who with him fight.
If your “Ego” within yourself has dug a place
How can you your path to the other side trace?
“ God is to me and in oneness He has His Being,”
Burn to ash duality in all its meaning.
Before the only One shed the tears
Of your ego, which you from Him sears.
Dr. H.T Sorley defined the interaction of the Sindh in his scholarly work on Shah Abdul Latif, “Shah of Bhit”
“ There is a province where poetry, religion and philosophy all meet on common ground. Sufism has certainly found the path to that fusion of the deepest thoughts of which the introspective mind of man is capable. All are melted together in a universal comprehension where the accidents of life and death make no difference to understanding.
Love of my life! The patient dead will throng
About us as we step on that gray sand,
Singing and hear all heaven in the song
And doubt and see our eyes, and understand
The topics of Shah Latif’s melodies are well related with the life of human beings, their mode of living. As a poet of nature he gave shape to his thought and inspiration in his verses.
Shah Latif’s poetry is divided into thirty Surs (Melodies) and every part of it is related with the natural course of the universe.
G. Allana, an intellectual of the Sindh gave names to Surs in English in his work, “Selection from Shah Jo Risalo:
1. Melody of Peace 2. Melody of Peace through self-conquest 3. Solace giving melody 4. Spiritual Enlightenment 5. The Melody of Seafarers 6. The Melody of Suhni (Suhni, a beloved who sacrificed her life for her lover Rano) 7. The melody of Sussai – A devoted and helpless one 8. The melody of afflicted ones 9. The melody of the son of the soil 10. The melody of the Mountaineers 11. The Mournful melody 12. The story of Leela Chaneesar (Prince and Princess) The story of Moomal and Rano (A folk story of Prince and Princess). 13. The melody dedicated to Patriotism 14. The melody of love 15. The melody of the Fishermen 16. The melody invoking the magic of Music 17. In Memory of the Martyrdom 18. The Rain invoking melody 19. The melody of Hope 20. The melody to ward off Calamities 21. The melody of those who struggle in the Mountains 22. The melody sung at the feet of the beloved 23. The melody of the Wandering Ascetics 24. The melody of those busies at the spinning wheel 25. The melody dedicated to the Abode of the Beloved 26. The melody of White Swan 27. The melody of the Dawn 28. The melody of Desert 29. The melody in praise of the Generous one:
Shah Latif was great anthropologist; he was keen to see the colours of nature. For this purpose, he travelled a lot and met with people of different communities and creed.
Ascetics abode is there where there is neither earth nor sky
Sun does not rise there no Moon ascends
They come of the beloved and saw him in spacelessness
Why go you to the Jungles to seek?
Why not search for Him here, O speak!
The beloved is not on the other side hiding;
Listen, this is what Latif is propounding,
If with the love of Him you are intoxicated,
Then, prepare and to purity remain dedicated,
If with you inner eyes you will behold,
Within yourself you will discover your friend’s fold.
He, for whom I sign,
That itself me, so nigh, so nigh,
He is not begotten He does not beget
Into that meaning, O seeker,
Plunge and the mystery of Truth discover.
“That” is not far from ‘this’, nor ‘this’ is without ‘that’,
‘Man is my secret and I am his’ this understand
The seers and knowing ones went on repeating it.
Shah Latif reached the conclusion that nature has made universe under a purpose and plan and it is duty of human being to make the world beautiful. But for personal petty interests, he is shedding the blood and inhumane with his brothers. Shah Latif in the following verses guides the human being.
Do not the arrow in the bow aim
In order, O friend, my life to claim,
Within me none else but you reside;
Shooting me would be your own suicide.
He is the bird; He is the cage;
He is the lake; He is the swan
In my world within I scan
The gun-man, of whom I am afraid,
Within myself his roots had laid
Through the following message of human harmony Shah Latif acquainted the human being his natural path.
There is great sign for men in the manner, the birds live and move in flocks
They do not sever bonds; they foster love and co-existence.
Friends! Kingship I compare not with needle
Needle covers naked ones it remains uncovered
Die and be born again to know needle’s worth
Shah Latif informed the human being that all creations of nature are full with precious wealth and you explore it and make yourself world beneficiary. Also Shah Latif paid gratitude to divers who with their efforts brought the priceless diamonds.
Show reverence for the ocean, whose sheets of water always flow
In its depth many pearls and rubies rest
One gram of such merchandise will bring you untold wealth.
Those divers were well rewarded,
Who from ocean’s depth brought out gems,
Whose worth none can calculate.
Shah Latif when feels drought in his area, he requests the rain; fall upon our lands. When he sees the clouds and fall of rain he shares his happiness.
O rain, for God Almighty’s sake
Care of the thirsty you must take
The fields you must with water fill
So the price of grain fall further still
On my motherland shower prosperity
On my people shower lasting felicity.
Today the slumbering hopes awaken once again:
Today the skies display the signs and approach of rain,
O Friends, witnessing this auspicious season,
My Beloved I recall without rhyme of reason,
In my heart of hopes there is no dearth,
O Beloved, here I hear the rainy season chant:
In my house it is You alone that I want.
In the following verse, Shah Latif appreciates the exertions of those who struggle in the Mountains.
The seekers in the mountains, rising before dawn,
To get ready, in the eagerness, were drawn
In the mountains, up and down searching,
Putting their bodies in a perilous condition,
In the mountains, they found their goal and destination.
In the following verse, Shah Latif commented on the sorrows of human beings and he was of the belief that nature is shedding tears on the suffering of human beings in the shape of dew.
O my people, do not believe at all
That it was the dew you saw at dawn fall
The night had burst out weeping
As it beholds Man’s unbearable suffering.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boost, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always preserves. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
Shah Abdul Latif about love:
Drinking Love’s wine, I learnt of Beloved’s reality
Sipping love’s cup, I comprehended its beauty.
Give up artificial ways, desires and greed,
Those who sleep during Beloved’s quest can not succeed.
Leave aside false modestly and rich dress,
She leads all that takes but love, with herself.
There is not limit to love and longing
Abundant love alone its limit knows
Love’s longing keep me alive, what use in the union?
With my existence is blended me love’s remembrance
How can my love be away when with my heart He is interwoven?
With no desire in your heart venture forth you all,
Let from your heart-greed and possessiveness fall,
If you wish to triumph and the beloved meet,
Then do not sleep and stretch you feet.
In Mid winter, while rain is falling, she enters the deep,
Let us go and ask Suhni (Beloved) who love’s secret keeps
Who day and night, has Mehar (Lover) in her mind.
If Love in your heart has found recourse,
And your yarn turns out to be coarse,
Be assured, in the market-place your treasure
Will be purchased by the buyers without measure
In this disarray and uncertain situation of the subcontinent as well as of the world, the message of Shah Latif and other mystics is real light and is harbinger for peace and prosperity for human beings.
Notes by Shiva:
1. Mr. Ali Ahmad Brohi was a renowned scholar of Sindh. He was younger brother of Mr. A.K Brohi. Mr. A.K Brohi was law minister of Pakistan and a well known advocate. He was well versed in Quran, Islamic studies, and sufism. He delivered many lectures at Ismailia Association for Pakistan. He was a friend of Hazar Imam and had discussed with Imam on Islam and spiritualism, which he gave references during lectures and speeches.
2. Mr. G Allana was also a well known Ismaili scholar and poet. He was author of many books. He was an international personality. He was personal secretary to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, foundar of Pakistan. He served Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah and present Hazar Imam.
So long as you are conscious of your “self”
your prostration to Allah is uncalled for
Wipe out all your egoism
and then offer Takbeer (your prayers).
VIRD WAZIFA VISRIYA NA KA RAHI NAMAZ
HAI(N)RO BAHRI BAAZ CHUURI KAYO CHAMBAN MEY
The worship, prayer and recitation
even Namaz, have been forgotten
since the falcon of love has clutched
my heart in its claws.
NAABUDI NAEI 'ABD KHE A'LLA KAYO
MURAT MEY MAKHFI THIYA SURAT PIN(N) SEEI
KAJEY UTT KEHI GHALL PIRYAA(N) JI GHUJH JI
Self annihilation leads to elevation of the human
Though their look is hidden
they have the same appearance
How can I describe the Beloved’s secrets here?
JINN VI(N)JHAYO WUJUD SE FAANI THIYA FI ALLAH MEY
NA TINN QAYAAM NA QA'UUD NAKO KUNN SUJUD
JAH(N) LAAI THIYA NABUUD TAH(N) LAAI GHADHIYA BUUD KHE
Those who succeed in self negation
become mortal for the sake of Allah
They carry out no prayer
Neither they bow in prostration
Nor do they sit or stand
In order to “be”
They had to negate their 'self'.
The globally admired powerhouse singer talks about Sufi music in the world of today in an exclusive interview with Instep.
“What the world needs is a spiritual revolution”: Abida Parveen
Sufism has thrived in our region, long before our borders with India were sketched out, long before the English colonizers ever set foot on this part of the Asian continent, and even before the Mughal dynasties set off the golden age of culture in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Sufism, which arrived from the Afghan side of our borders, was a presence that not only preceded the modern era of the subcontinent but has also survived the many conflicts that have scarred the land since - not surprising, given its promise of deliverance from human suffering.
“In it lies the elixir that cures all ailments, undoes all wrongs - what can remain unvanquished in the presence of spiritual healing,” exclaimed Abida Parveen in an exclusive interview with Instep, the night before the historic launch of her Shah Jo Raag album.
Abida Parveen has released an album comprising of her musical rendition of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai's compendia of poetry, Shah Jo Risalo, which stretches over 30 surs (chapters) that relate the life stories of Sindhi folklore's Seven Queens and epitomizes Bhittai's message for humanity.
A 12-volume CD collection with a bilingual translation of the sung verses in English and Urdu, accompanied by a Roman transliteration into modern Sindhi, has been beautifully bound together to take the form of a holy book - a fitting presentation for a multi-format compilation of verses that can constitute a religious text. Indeed, Sufis believe that Sufic thought is directly derived from the Quran; Sufi music was an engaging means of spreading God's word. “The word of God descended directly into the hearts of our saints,” elaborates Abida Parveen, “and they wrote it and sung it to spread the message to everybody. One doesn't have to know the language to be moved by it. It has an inherent freshness that will never get old. That's why it's appreciated the world over.”
The Shah Jo Risalo (which translates to Shah's message) bears broad messages for the listener under the overarching narrative of nine tragic love stories featuring the Seven Queens. The much-loved 'Momal Rano', made popular by Fakir Juman Shah's version in Coke Studio, is one of the Shah Jo Risalo tragedies.
Performing against a backdrop of the Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai mazaar and accompanied on stage by Sanam Marvi and Humaira Channa, Abida Parveen celebrated the occasion with an evening of musical splendor at the Mohatta Palace, Karachi last Saturday. She sang the kalaam of Bhittai and Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, with the accompaniment of the faqirs of Bhitshah and Sehwan Sharif, who were invited specially for the event.
Her first words in describing the project were “Never before has a project like this been attempted anywhere in the world.” The Shah Jo Raag project was a brainchild of Abdul Haroon Akhund, former Secretary Culture and Tourism Department of the Sindh government, who has long been devoted to the preservation of the rich cultural heritage of his native province. For this project, he had photocopying machines transported to Bhitshah for the reproduction of the original transcript of Shah Jo Risalo, handwritten in pure Sindhi, for Abida Paveen's perusal, who has spent years since interpreting Bhittai's written word to render its musical form. For this, she enlisted the help of Ustad Feroze Gul, who had long been composing for Abida Parveen. Upon Ustad Feroze's demise in 1996, his son Ustad Majeed Khan took over his duties for the last few surs of the Risalo. Abida Parveen, who is based both in Islamabad and Karachi, chose to record in the latter city in five to six month stretch due to its superior facilities. The entire initiative stretched along a period of 20 years.
In our part of the world, Sufi music had long been alive in the shrines that dot all over the region, from the mazaar of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif to the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. With technology, its listenership spread from the frequenters of the shrine circuit to the purchasers of tape recordings, with which the music traveled from one end of the country to the other, transported alongside the decks of cargo trucks - quite literally running in the nation's veins. It arrived on television, however, with the efforts of none other than Abida Parveen.
One would think as one of the foremost exponents of Sufi music in Pakistan, Abida Parveen would strive to retain its purity. While it remains pure in her own voice, its dilution and alteration (one wouldn't want to go as far as to call it corruption) has occurred at the hands of many. But Abida's key concern is that the message should spread.
“Like a tree that extends its branches skyward, as if in prayer, that is the role of a slave of the MOWLA, giving shade to those who seek it, without asking anything in return,” she explains with a smile.
We yearn for those who, we ourselves are
Get unto him “who neither begets nor is begotten”
O’ Connoisseur! Find the Truth from these words.
TUU(N) MUU(N) AAU(N) ASEE(N) CHAAREI CHITAA(N) LAAH
TA SUNDHI DOZAKH BAAH TOU ODHIYA(N)EI NA ACHEY
Drop ‘me’, ‘you’, ‘I’ and ‘we’ all four from your mind
The fire of hell will not then touch you.
ROZA NAMAZU(N) EI PINN CHANGHO KUM
IHO KO BHIYO FAHAM JHAISA(N) PASJEY PREE(N) KHE
Namaz and Fasting are indeed good deeds
but there is some other wisdom
by which to behold the Beloved.
SAPAHER SAAH PASAOU JAJAK JUM WISAREI(N)
REHI RAPI SUNDIYU(N) TANDU(N) TU(N)MBI KHE PAAI
LANGHA TU(N) LEELAI AGHIYA(N) WA(N)JHI UN JE
You should neutralize yourself
at the door of the generous Lord
O’ bard! Never take off your fingers
from your chord (of heart means continues remembrance)
Your only source of appeal to him
is through the rhythm of vird (His name)
Drinking the wine of gnosis
I perceived the Beloved
Imbibing the doctrines of Love by drinking from Love's cup
I fathom entirety
The Beloved I perceived
You are the Friend
You are the Physician
Only You are the remedy for pain
Dearest! In my being are thousand of afflictions
O Lord, pray heal the sick and afflicted
O God! Abd ul- Latif says
Latif, the darling bridegroom of Bhit Shah, says
There is none but You
The Beloved I perceived
O good Latif
May the land of Sindh remain prosperous, Latif
O Good Master Allah
Mandho peeande moon
Saajano sahi suneaato
Pi piyaalo ishqa jo
Sabhki samjhyo soon
Saajano sahi suneaato
Toon ei darda ji dawa
Janiba muhinje jeea men aazara ja anwa
Sahiba dhe shifa meeyaan mareezane khe
Allaaha Abd ul Llateefo chae
Bhit jo ghoto Llateefo chae
Toon ei aaheen toon
Saajano sahi suneaato
Challa Sindhari wasae Llateef
Ho Bhalo Miyaan Allaaha
WANJHEI(N) CHHO WAN(N)KAR HITT NA GHOLE(N) HOTT KHE
LIKO NAHEY LATIF CHAI BAAROCHO BHE PAAR
UTHI BNANDH SUNDRO PRET PUNHU(N) SEI(N) PAAR
NAEI NEEN(N) NIHAR TOU MEY DERO DOST JO
Why do you go to the oasis
why do you not search the Beloved here?
The Beloved, is not hidden anywhere else
Be a chaste woman ready to sacrifice
Pledge your love with the Beloved
Lower your eyes to look (look inside)
your Beloved dwells within yourself.
SUFI LA KUFI KOUN BAEI(N) KEER
MUNJHA HEI MUNJH WIRHEY PIDHAR NAHIS PEER
JINEI(N) SAAN(N) WAIR THIYE TINEI JO WAHRU
Sufis do not believe in religious convictions
no one knows their faith
Their mind is always busy for war
with egoism, but disclose nothing
They help those who are antagonistic to them.
JE KALLAH RAKHEI(N) KUNDH TEY TE SUFI SALIM THI
WAH WATTI HATH KAREY PER PIYALO PI
HUNDH TINEEN JO HEI JIN HASIL KAYO HAAL KHE
If you retain Sufi’s cap on your head
then be a true Sufi
Locate an over flowing cup of poison
and drink it off
This is the proper place for those
who have acquired spiritual ecstasy.
JOGEIN JOGG SAHAEI JOGG BHI SAHEI(N) JOGIYAN
JOGEIN SUNDI JAAN MEY GHUJH GHUJAAH NA AAHE
HAAI MU(N) KHE WAAI JO AAOU(N) JOGG NA SIKHI
The ascetics deserve renunciation
Renunciation too deserves ascetics
They have mysterious secrets in their soul
Alas! I did not learn abnegation
Go to the moth, the surest way
of immolation ask-
The moths, who throw themselves into
the fire every day;
Whose tender hearts became a prey
to cupid's arrow sharp.
The moths assembled, gathering
above a raging fire...
Heat drove them not, no fear they had,
flames did their hearts inspire-
Their necks they lost, and on the pyre
of truth they burnt themselves.
If you call yourself a moth,
from blaze return not terrified;
Enter by the loved-one's light
and be ever glorified
You are still unbaked...beside
not yet with kiln acquainted are.
If you call yourself a moth,
then come, put out the fires sway,
Passion has so many baked
but you roast passion's 'Self' today-
Passion's flame with knowledge slay...
of this to base folk give no hint.
Happy those who acquaintance make
with goodly grinding wheel
Their rapiers never then shall take
to rust, nor will corrode.
Apprentice of the blacksmith, works
the bellows not with care;
Not close to fire goes, he fears
love sparks that issue there.
And yet proclaims he every where;
"full-fledged blacksmith am I"!
Turn your head into an anvil,
then for smithy do inquire,
There the hammer-strokes of fire
may turn you into steel.
The verse above is a reflection of the Ginanic verse:
ejee saachee re preet pata(n)g kee kahee-e,
peeu jee kaa darasan eeu(n)kar lahee-e.
saachee re preet pata(n)g kee kahee-e,
jo ulatt ulatt a(n)g det hay;
ek deepak kere kaaranne, so kaheen pata(n)g jeev det hay jee......5
True love, one may say, is like the moth's, for thus is the vision of the Beloved attained. True love, one may say, is like the moth's, who tumbles down to sacrifice its body. For the sake of a single lamp, many moths sacrifice their lives.
Ginan: HU(N) RE PEEAASEE PEEAA TERE DARASAN KEE MEERAA - SAYYID KHAN
Where there is neither sky, nor space
nor piece of earth, nor rising of moon
not any sign of sun
The ascetics reached that limit
Meditating, they perceived the Lord in “nothingness”.
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then break off all relations (worldly)
O’ yogi! Cry not at the door of the friend
Beg divine knowledge from those
who know but pretend to know not.
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then break off all relations (worldly)
Attach your soul to him who
“Neither begets nor is begotten”
So that you reach an ultimate objective
in the arena of love.
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then observe the traits of the guide
While going to the holy place
forget all desires
O’ yogi! O’ saint!
Search the Lord with extreme yearning.
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then control the desires, and offset them
Kindle a glow in your heart
recite on the rosary with devotion
Accept his every desire with respect
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then abandon all the greediness
You should be the devotee
of the slave of the slaves
Execute malice and malevolence
with the sword of forbearance
So that O’ Yogi!
Your name is written amongst ascetics.
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then put yourself on the guide's track
O’ holy man! Bear all sorts of sufferings
with extreme pleasure.
If you aspire to be an ascetic
then drink from the cup of nothingness
Look and acquire nothingness
stand up with having no ego
O’ seeker! Then, you shall have
the opportunity to acquire.
I have dealt in imitation and falsehood,
I have contravened all pledges with Allah
My skeleton is filled to the brim with sins
O’ confused! Do you have any idea about this affair?
You have dealt in falsehood and imitation
get up and remember Allah
Purge all disloyalty from your heart
The Lord loves the truth
O’ precious soul!
glow a blaze of dedication within yourself
dealing that way would be worthwhile
On a cool February morning, I flew into Islamabad to speak at the Mother Languages Literature Festival at Lok Virsa in Shakarparian. The first session I attended was on Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, the great 17th century Sindhi poet. Among the speakers were two stalwarts of contemporary Sindhi letters, Noorul Huda Shah and Dr Fahmida Hussain, while Urdu poet and critic Dr Fatema Hassan chaired. The session focused on the various ways of interpreting the poet, and on the many versions of his work translated into English and Urdu. The consensus was that no one had done full justice to the great poet’s Risalo in any foreign tongue; renowned poet Shaikh Ayaz’s renditions into Urdu, for example, were poems in their own right, but deviated from the prosody of the originals whereas in English, Elsa Kazi and Amena Khamisani were either too literal or too free.
My introduction to Latif came when I was 12, through musical performances. Only in my 20s did I begin to grasp the meaning of some of the poems when I bullied my father — a native Sindhi speaker — to explain them to me. Over the years I read a number of translations, starting with H.T. Sorley and Kazi, and Dr Annemarie Schimmel’s long scholarly essay. Then, dissatisfied with the English texts, I delved into Urdu translations when, in my 40s, I wanted to use some of the Shah’s verses for a paper on mystic poetry, and five years later for my novel The Cloud Messenger. I was familiar with Latif’s compelling depictions of female protagonists from folklore, including Marvi, Sassi, Sohni, Momal and Noori and the lesser known Lila and Sorath; Bina Shah in her novel A Season for Martyrs also pays homage to these heroines. Over the years, however, I was more drawn to Latif’s renditions of everyday activities such as spinning and fishing, and of nature — such as swans on the water, or the coming of the rainy season to the dry desert. These elements influenced both the paper I delivered to the Poetry School in 2004 and, later in that decade, my novel, which uses verses from ‘Sur Sarang’, Latif’s paean to rain, at its climax.
I remember how in my student days I had opted to study Seraiki literature rather than Sindhi as my time was limited and the former was easier for me to read and understand. Today, I feel that reading Khwaja Ghulam Farid and Sachal Sarmast in the original was my gateway to comprehending the Risalo, though I can only decipher the latter with the aid of a translation. On my way to Islamabad (and for several weeks before that) I was reading the latest volume of Latif translations by Christopher Shackle, my erstwhile mentor in Seraiki, acclaimed for his work on Bulleh Shah, Hashim Shah and many others. This definitive volume acknowledges all Latif’s previous translators and also includes the original versions on facing pages. This allows readers such as me to hear the music of the original in their ears while they relish the verbal images on the page in Shackle’s exquisitely lucid and pure prose-poetic renditions of Latif’s complex verse patterns, which Shackle chooses to evoke rather than duplicate.
I was pleased to show the book to the panellists, all of whom agreed that it was a significant — and possibly the finest in English — contribution to Latif studies. Shackle’s succinct and exemplary introduction to what may prove to be his chef d’oeuvre is illuminating: entirely free of cerebral jargon, it guides us through Latif’s life and times, through the indigenous and Islamic contexts in which his work is embedded and examines the intricate, “densely expressed” abyat and “more relaxed” vai — the forms in which Laatif expressed himself — before addressing the Risalo’s thematic and spiritual concerns: “Instead of reiterating the simpler kind of sufi vision, Shah Latif in his Sindhi poetry creates for his local audience an entirely new way of imagining reality. All the sources agree that he kept three books with him as his primary sources of continual inspiration: the Quran, from whose verses he so frequently quotes in Arabic; Rumi’s great Persian Masnavi, and the Sindhi verses of his ancestor Shah Karim. He derived from them a genuinely new creation in his Risalo, in which a large collection of individual verses embracing a vast variety of local and Islamic references collectively constitute one of those all-embracing classics that most literatures are only given once. As he himself says of his poetry: ‘What you consider to be poems are divine verses, They direct the mind towards the beloved.’”
Many readers will understandably be drawn to Shackle’s translations of the narrative-inspired poems; while these are excellent, for me the greatest pleasure in this volume lies in those poems that combine image and lyricism in a way that no previous English translator — and very few in Urdu — have managed to do without betraying the syntax and rhythm of the Sindhi verses. These include my old favourite ‘Sur Sarang’, and the long love poem ‘Rip’, which I hadn’t noticed in other collections: “I have clouds inside my head, and my eyes do not clear. Today the beloved has caused a deluge within my heart.../ What shall I do with the clouds? It is inside me that it rains. The overcast sky created by my beloved does not clear all day long.”
And then there’s my all-time favourite, ‘Karayal’, a distillation of Latif’s opus: “The peacocks are all dead; not one wild goose is left/ This lake has now become the home of false birds/ He is the bird, the cage, the lake and the wild goose/ When I looked within myself, I realised that the hunter whom the body fears prowls about inside me.”
The columnist is a short story writer and novelist living in London
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, April 1st, 2018.
Hammad Khan Updated September 28, 2018
Shah Latif and Nath yogi community.
Hindu nationalists are known for Islamophobia. But Adityanath's religious order shares a history with Islam
Adityanath is the spiritual leader of the Nath community of Gorakhpur, a city in north east of Uttar Pradesh, which represents the ascetic Saiva sectarian movement (sampradaya) dating back to the 13th century.
Traditionally, however, the Nath Yogi movement has resisted the application of fixed religious identities of Hindu or Muslim, and the tradition “blurred the borders in a dialogical process where they combined elements from both traditions,” as noted by social anthropologist Véronique Bouillier.
In fact, the collection of vernacular poetry attributed to Guru Gorakhnath, the founder of the movement, contains several multi-religious references resisting modern religious categorisation.
A well-known passage, as pointed out by the American scholar Marrewa Karwoski, states:
The Hindu meditates in the temple,
the Muslim in the Mosque.
The Yogi meditates on the supreme goal,
where there is neither temple nor mosque.
The Nath sampradaya has a long ecumenical history with Islam. The greatest Sufi poet of Sindh, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, expressed unconditional love and admiration for the Nath Yogis in his poetry.
Looking at the Nath Yogi tradition from the Sufi perspective of SHAH ABDUL LATIF’s poetry puts it in contrasts with the modernist Hindutva rhetoric of Adityanath.
Yogis and Sufism:
The holiest site of the Nath Yogi tradition is located in Hinglaj in Balochistan. The traditional route of the annual pilgrimage on foot to Balochistan is the settlement of Mount Ganjo, a hill in District Hyderabad.
It is said that Shah Abdul Latif had spent around three years in the company of the wandering ascetics. His travels with the Yogis left a deep impression on him and the theme of Yogis as perfect practitioners of spiritual life feature prominently in his Risalo, a large collection of Sindhi lyrical poetry considered to be the greatest classic of Sindhi literature.
A translation of the Risalo was published in English this year by the British scholar Christopher Shackle and I have used his translations in this article.
In Sur Ramakali, Shah Abdul Latif describes the Yogis as manifesting the divine qualities of light and fire, nuri and nari, which represents the two aspects of God: His eternal Beauty (jamal) and His Majesty (jalal).
In the Islamic tradition, God’s greatness is manifested through the interplay of His Mercy and His Majesty.
Describing the physical attributes of the Yogis, Shah Abdul Latif identifies their characteristic pierced ears and long earrings, matted braids and loincloths.
They practice strict asceticism and deny the physical body all comforts. Constantly fasting, “they mortify their bodies”.
Shah Abdul Latif even goes as far as to describe them as ugly on the outside, but “the yogis are priceless within.” Shah Abdul Latif says:
People think it is hunger that makes ascetics thin,
But it is actually the pains of love.
The pain and suffering in love, which the German scholar Annemarie Schimmel calls the ‘mysticism of suffering,’ defines the experiential nature of the spiritual purification of Yogis.
“Having been alighted on the field of love,” Shah Abdul Latif claims, “the more they burn, the purer and the happier they become.”
Inner struggle of purification is described metaphorically as burning, where the fire of love burns away all impurity within.
As the Arabic saying puts it: al-bala`lil-wala` ka`l-lahab li` dh-dhahab, “Affliction is for saintliness the same as are flames for the gold”.
For a Yogi, sickness is a much greater blessing than health. So, Shah Abdul Latif says: “Mother, the community of yogis is always sick.”
The inward orientation of the Yogis necessitates worldly detachment and material poverty — as part of the larger spiritual and psychological process of subduing the lower self (nafs al-ammara). Thus, Shah Abdul Latif sings:
Take nonbeing on your shoulders and do not be like
those who are tied to existence, true yogis are not
like this, says Latif. How can those who maintain
the least connection with the world be called true ascetics?
Dissolving the self (fa`na) to discover the divine Self within (ba’qa) is the goal of the spiritual quest, or the Greater Jihad as enumerated in the Islamic tradition.
Yogis believe it is only through negating the “I” of selfhood that the true tawhid — Divine Unity — can be fully realised.
Duality is illusory, says Latif, so the existence of the individual self is a form of idolatry. True monotheism requires annihilation of the self and the idea of anything existent independent of God is false. Shah Abdul Latif says:
The yogis have destroyed their separate existence,
their business is with the universal. The lodge
where they stay is nonexistence; I will not survive
Converging paths to the Divine
In Nath terminology, creation is explained as the gradual self-revelation of Shiva’s (Absolute Spirit) inherent shakti (His Unique Power).
Indian scholar Sayyid Athar Rizvi explains the Nath theory of creation as: “The divine Shakti who in the process of cosmic self-manifestation gradually descends from the highest transcendent spiritual plane of Absolute Unity and Bliss to the lowest phenomenal material level of endless diversities and imperfections, again ascends by means of the self-conscious process of Yoga Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion).”
Yogic introspection, exercises, and meditation is directed towards such spiritual flight and (re)union of the devotee with the Beloved.
Discover: A night, a lifetime at the Urs in Bhit Shah
In the Sufi tradition, man is created as a mirror of God’s manifestations, His tajalliyat.
The Sufi Way (tariqa), in a way, is an experiential exegesis of the attributes of Allah (asma?u llahi lhusna) revealed in the Holy Quran.
The parallels in the Sufi and Nath theory of creation bring forth a unitive sense of the purpose of man, which is to self-consciously actualise and perfect the divine qualities of God through the annihilation of the individual self.
This spiritual state is called ba’qa or ontological immortality in the Sufi tradition, implying the nonexistence of the individual identity and identification with the universal.
So in Khahori (Yogi Foragers), Shah Abdul Latif sings:
With silent prayer, the Khahoris have searched and
found the divine. With these syllables the lovers
have passed the stage of infinity. United with the
divine, they have become divine, baked by their
master. To them everything appears divine.
They are true lovers who, Schimmel notes, “have touched lahut, the dwelling place of divinity, and have become lahuti themselves.”
According to a famous Islamic tradition, the dwelling place of God is the heart of the believer.
East in Shah Abdul Latif’s poetry symbolises the eternal home of the soul from the World of Exile (i.e. material world).
It is suggested in the very name of one of the chapters on Yogis, Sur Purab, meaning ‘East’.
Travelling eastward, the ascetics find God in their hearts and become lahuti. In Sur Ramakali, Shah Abdul Latif says:
The knees of the sannyasis are like Mount Sinai.
The renouncers do not take their ego with them
to the east, the yogis are draped in the cloak of
mysteries. They are covered from top to toe in
closeness to the divine.
Leaving the ego at the threshold of the spiritual east is the only way to find the divine abode.
The reference of Mount Sinai is interesting in the context of Yogi practices.
Mount Sinai is where God revealed himself to Moses; contextually, it implies that Yogis have a vision of the divine presence in their yogic posture of sitting with their heads supported by their knees.
In popular iconography, Shah Abdul Latif is commonly depicted in this yogic posture.
Shah Abdul Latif says:
For what purpose do the yogis follow this path?
Their hearts are not set on hell, nor do they
desire paradise. They have nothing to do with
unbelievers, and they do not have Islam in their
minds. They stand there saying: “Make the
beloved your own.”
Transcending the outward
The spiritual path of the Yogis transcends religious norms and outward forms of worship.
Irreducible to religious categories, these ascetics are devotees of maddhab-i ishq (Path of Love), which is concerned with the intuitive experience of love.
In the Sufi tradition, Rabi`a al-Adawiyya (d. 801) was the first to express this ideal of seeking neither paradise nor fearing hell, but contemplating only the divine Beloved.
Freed from self, Yogis are beyond faith and infidelity. So, in Sur Ramakali, Shah Abdul Latif says:
Those who wear the loincloth around them do not
perform ablutions. They have heard the call
to prayer that preceded Islam. Abandoning
all other support, the masters are united with
Shah Abdul Latif identifies Yogis as ‘true Muslims’ who completely submit to God. He follows the Quranic tradition of categorising pre-Islamic prophets, such as Noah and Abraham, as ‘Muslims’ — those who truly submit to God.
Generally, Islam refers to the reified religion revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by God, but the original Quranic usage of islam (submission) refers to the submission of man to God, which is quintessential of true faith.
Shah Abdul Latif’s representation of jogis as ‘Muslims’ refers to this universal, nonsectarian submission that lies at the root of all authentic religious traditions.
Indian Sufi tradition has established precedents of identifying truths about tawhid (Divine Unity) with Indian religions, in particular, with the Nath Yogi tradition.
Shaikh Abdul-Quddus Gangohi, a Chishti Sufi belonging to Radauli in Uttar Pradesh in the 16th century, wrote Rushd Nama which brings forth parallels in the Sufi conception of wahdat al-wujud (Unity of Being) and the philosophy of Gorakhnath.
The conventional religious journey from here to Hereafter is not what the Yogi is after, but the struggle is towards awareness of the divine presence and union with the Beloved here and now. Shah Abdul Latif says:
Their knees are a mihrab, and their bodies are
a mosque. Their hearts point the direction
to Mecca, their bodies circumbulate the
Kaaba. Proclaiming the divine reality they have
renounced the body. The guide is contained in
their hearts, how can they be held accountable for
They have realised that the object of worship dwells in their hearts and they have turned the heart into the Kaaba, the House of God.
Jogis, the pilgrims of Hinglaj, are accepted and admired in Shah Abdul Latif’s Risalo as true pilgrims striving towards the eternal Light.
For Shah Abdul Latif, jogis become the exemplars of true Muslims and mu’mins, of true believers.
The religious inclusivity of Shah Abdul Latif’s poetry is reflective of the Indo-Persian Sufi tradition.
It is therefore no surprise that the three books Shah Abdul Latif carried with him for poetic inspiration were the Quran, Jalaluddin Rumi’s Masnavi and the Sindhi verses of his grandfather, Shah Karim.
Rooted in the Sufi tradition, Shah Abdul Latif’s portrayal of the Nath Yogis represents an ideal of the Greater Jihad against the individual self, which the Prophet of Islam called the “man’s greatest enemy.”
The Hindutva rhetoric of Adityanath undermines the traditional tenets of the Nath Yogi tradition. The turn towards religious exclusivism is decidedly anti-traditional in espousing modern religious identities.
Prior to the 20th century, Karwoski notes that the political influence of the Nath Yogi community was based on the principles of religious ecumenism and inclusivity.
Religious exclusivism in the Nath Yogi tradition is a modern construct, which contrasts the non-sectarian love as embodied by the jogis of Shah Abdul Latif’s Risalo.
The concluding vai of Sur Purab sums up beautifully the love of Shah Abdul Latif for the jogis:
Lord, may my connection with the yogis not be
The yogis told me to travel to Hinglaj.
The ascetics took me to the land of the east.
That is the goal of my pilgrimage, and my resting
place; that is my journey.
The masters have shown me my place of pilgrimage
and my resting place.
The spiritual and sufi message of Ginans and Shah jo Risalo is same with different expressions and with popular stories of their times. MSMS in an interview to The " Daily Sketch of London, published on Nov 2, 1931 said," Poetry (spiritual) is the voice of God through the lips of man".
EJI AVICHAL ALLAH AVICHAL KHALEQ
AVICHAL QAIM DAYAL EJI
Everlasting is Allah, everlasting is the Creator, everlasting is the Enduring and Merciful One.
Everlasting is His existence, everlasting is His mercy, everlasting is His righteous court.
AWWAL ALLAH 'ALEEM A'ALA 'AALIM JO DHANI
QADIR PAHENJE QUDRAT SEE(N) QAIM AAH QADEEM
WALI WAHID WAHDAHU RAZIQ RUBB RAHIM
SO SAARAH SACHO DHANI CHAE HAMD HAKEEM
KAREY PAAN KARIM JURU(N) JORR JAHAN JU(N)
The very first is Allah, He is omniscient
Supreme and Lord of the universe
By His divine might He exists since infinity
He is the Lord, one and only, fosterer
Merciful and compassionate
Praise Him- The real Lord by reciting
the admiring verses for Him
It is He, the compassionate who planned
and perfected the universe.
ALLAH ALLAH SUBHAN JINEY KIYA
ILALLAH DIYA QARAR RE
PIYU MINDER JINEY DEKHIYA
SO TAR KAR LANGHIYA PAAR RE
Those who recite name of Allah and invoke zikr of Subhan Allah
Have enlighten their hearts with oure name
These are persons who realized beloved within
Have swim through the ocean of love
SAARI RAAT SUBHAN KHE JAGI JIN YAAD KAYO
UNN JE ABDUL LATIF CHAI MITTI LADHO MAAN
KOREI(N) KUN SALAM AAGHEH ACHIYO UNN JE
Remembering Allah at night Those who kept vigil
even their dust was honoured
Millions would call on their courtyard to pay homage.
PIR SADARDIN BOLIYA
KOI MON APANU SAMJHAVEY
KAPADA DHOVEY TOU KIYA HUWA
DIL DHOVEY SO PAVEY
Pir Sadardin says enlighten your heart
Washing of clothes is of no avail
But by washing of heart you will merge with Him
SUFI SAAF KAYO DHOEI WARQ WUJUD JO
TIHA(N) POY THIYO JEIREY PASAN PREE'(N) JO
The Sufi purged the inner-self from egoism
thereafter he could behold the Beloved during his life.
SAMI MARO CHATUR SUJAAN HAI
AAPEY SURESHT DIWAN
JISKEY BHAROSEY THIR RAHIYA
RAHIYA ZAMEEN AASMAAN
My lord is wisest and all knowing
He Himself manage the universe.
The planet earth and heavenly bodies
depend upon Him
JO MULLAN KHEY MEHAN(N)U SO HI MU(N) SARDAR
AAHEY ASAD ALLAH JO AALAM KHEY AADHAR
JAABAR ZULFIQAR HAR DUM JAI(N) JE HATH ME SINDHI
Mullah deny authority of Ali, where Ali is my master. The universe is supported and depend on Asad Allah. The mighty Zulfiqar is always in his hand (to manage the universe).
EJI ESO GINAN PIR BHAN(N)VEY SADARDIN
YA SHAH FAZAL KARO TOU JEEV CHHUTAN(N)A
This Ginan is said by Pir Sadardin, O Lord have mercy
so that the soul be redeemed
ADAL CHHUTA(N) NA AAU(N)
KO PHERO KAJH FAZAL JO
By your justice I shall not get salvation
It is only through your mercy I shall be redeemed
ALAF NIRAALE KHALEQ RAJA
ALLAH GHATT BI ANDAR SOI JI
Alif that is Allah is the Creator of thousands (of unniverses),
is indeed the Lord who dwells within your heart.
KORRIYEIN KITABAN ME HARF MIRYOOEI HEEK
JE TOU NAZAR NEEK TA BISMILLAH BUS THAI
In millions of books, there is only one word (Ism). If your vision is clear just bismillah is enough for you (Ali said; Ana nuktatullati tahat baa'i Bismillah).
Christopher Shackle's edition of Shah jo Risalo:
Aug 01, 2018 · 05:30 pm
The Sindhi diaspora, whether in India or around the world, has a warm spot for the name Shah Abdul Latif, an 18th-century Sufi poet from Sindh, Pakistan, and a contemporary of the better known Punjabi Sufi poet Bulle Shah.
Very little is known about Latif, except that he was a pir, or a holy man, and his title Shah hints at his possible direct descent from the prophet Muhammad. An ancestor of his, Shah Karim, is considered to be one of the earliest poets writing/composing in Sindhi. Latif is hailed as the Shakespeare of Sindhi literature.
Christopher Shackle’s edition of Risalo – Latif’s collection of his songs; the title means “the message – forms part of the respected Murty Classical Library of India published by the Harvard University Press, and is an easily accessible bilingual edition of the entirety of Latif’s works in Sindhi original and English translation.
It also comes at a special moment: at a time when Sindhi language is fast disappearing from even the isolated pockets of several Indian cities where the Sindhis live, and when the schools teaching in Sindhi are shutting down, the Risalo stands as a revived icon of the esteem and the heritage of the community.
A word about Sufism and the language would be in order here. Sufism, or tasawwuf, is a mystical tradition of Islam often quite different from what might be considered “orthodox” practices. The movement spread to South Asia with the Muslim conquest; its literary express came with the consequent contact with Persian literature.
The Sindhi language’s relation with Islam goes back to at least the 9th century when tradition has it that Quran was first translated in Sindhi. The language has more recently been political: there was a row in the Victorian colonial period about which script to write it in and more recently about its lack of status as an “official” language”. In Sindhi, the Sufi message is seen at its subtlest and most powerful in the words of Latif.
Latif’s Risalo speaks of love and the beloved and incorporates metaphors of wine and yogic practices, highlighting traditions that belie Islam’s characterization as a monolithic faith.
The verses or lyrics in the Risalo are grouped under thirty surs. While a sur is understood to be the way a particular raga or scale is sung, in the Risalo, the surs are mostly named after the theme that the majority of the verses deal with. The surs do not come with a musical notation but the musicians performing at the shrine of Latif sing them in specific ways. Some surs are dedicated to regional legends like Suhini-Sahar or Sasui-Punhun. Some speak of love in general. Some offer praise to god. But within all subsumes the idea of the beloved as god and god as beloved. In “Sur Yaman Kalyan,” Latif says:
Mother, I do not believe those who shed tears and show people how their eyes water. Those who truly think of the beloved do not weep or say anything.
And a little later:
If you think of being united with the beloved, then learn from the way that thieves behave. They celebrate by keeping awake and taking no rest all night long. When they deliberately do come out, they do not utter a word. When they are chained together and put on the gallows, they say nothing. Although they are cut with knives, they reveal nothing of what has really happened.
The idea of love as a silent phenomenon is not unusual across cultures but the way it is blended here with thievery seems unique and shocking. Also unusual is the way Latif incorporates contradictions in the way he defines Sufi ways of love and devotion:
They are grieved by being given, by not being given they are happy. True Sufis are those who take nonexistence with them.
Latif speaks of love as suffering and pain, even in terms of violent images:
False lovers escape the arrow and never let themselves be struck. Those who make themselves a mark are killed by the first shot.
On the field of love, do not care about your head. If you mount the gallows of the beloved you will find perfect health.
Sufi thought and practice conceive of love as self-sacrifice. Latif spells it out very clearly when he says that desire and death begin with the same letter. The only way to love is be ready for death, to cease to exist, to trade with one’s head. These are the pre-requisites to union:
The self is a veil over yourself; listen and mark this well. It is existence that stands in the way of union.
Misery, unbearably cruelty – such are the ways of love and what it demands:
My beloved tied me up and threw me into deep water. He just stood there and told me not to get the hem of my clothes wet.
Latif also uses local romantic stories as analogies for devotion. There is one about Suhini who is married to Dam, but crosses the river Indus or Sindhu every night to meet her lover Sahar. Someone from Dam’s family conspires to kill her by replacing the pot she uses to cross the river with an unfired one. Suhini drowns but Latif uses her journey to draw parallels with the quest for the divine beloved. The husband and the society stand for the world that stands between Sunhini and God:
Her route lies in whichever direction the river flows; only insincere girls inspect the riverbank. Those who are filled with desire for Sahar do not ask about entry points or landing places. Those who thirst for love think the river is a mere step.
Loving becomes a journey and the act of pursuing the divine. Latif turns something as illicit as extramarital love into piety. Suhini screams:
Love rages at me every day. Beloved, why do you not come and restrain it?
Besides these ways of refreshing the way trueness to god/beloved is conceived of, there is also an element of transcending religious boundaries in Latif’s poetry. Latif says that the practice of seeking god is not in any way exclusive to the pathways dictated by any religious scriptures. That is why he can see what the Hindu yogis who journey towards the Eastern sites of pilgrimages are up to:
For what purpose do the yogis follow this path? Their hearts are not set on hell, nor do they desire paradise. They have nothing to do with unbelievers, and they do not have Islam in their minds. They stand there saying: “Make the beloved your own.”
The way the Sufis and the yogis love is the same in this vision. Both are consumed by a passion for the beloved and both quietly go about their business of seeking him/her:
Ram dwells in their soul, they speak of nothing else. They filled the cup of love and drank deeply from it. After that they closed their lodges and left. With matted braids over their foreheads, the yogis are always lamenting. No one has ever spoken to ask what makes them grieve. They spend their entire life in suffering.
This kind of identification and camaraderie across religious practices is not discernible in South Asian literary traditions except, perhaps, in the work of the Indian Bhakti poet Kabir, or Latif’s contemporary Bulle Shah. Christopher Shackle’s translation goes a long way in reminding readers across communities that faith moves people and torments them too in the same way irrespective of their religiosity.
The Risalo might be held as the Quran of Sindhi literature, Shackle suggests. It is perhaps no coincidence that among the works inspirational to Latif himself was the Persian poet Rumi’s Masnavi, which in turn is idolized as the Quran of Persian literature.
Sindhi writing is among the least known regional expressions of South Asian literature. This edition brings to light an important voice from an intersection of a literary tradition and a syncretic practice. The new Risalo is invaluable for reintroducing the poet saint’s message and creating a context for reading about the ecstasy of divine love and revisiting the ways one can love.
Books Published by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Chair, University of Karachi are :
1 Spiritualism in the Poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (English) Munawar Arbab
2 Pisho Pasha (Urdu Translation by Mumtaz Solangi)) Jamal Abro
3 Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai jay doar joon Mazhabi ain Elmi Halatoon (Sindhi)
Dr. Anis Fatima Soomro
4 Sindh - Past, Present & Future (English) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
5 Sindh - Mazi, Haal ain Mustaqbil (Sindhi) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
6 Sindh - Mazi, Haal aur Mustaqbil (Urdu) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
7 Shah Latif Ji Boli (Sindhi) Jeem Ain Munghani
8 Sindhi Classic Shairan ji Lughat (Sindhi) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
9 Shah Latif Ji Shairi Mein Tashbih ain Istare Jo Tehqiqi Jaizo (Sindhi) Dr. Ume-Kulsoom Shah
10 Latif Quiz Book (Sindhi) Kamal Jamro
11 Image of Women in Shah Latif’s Poetry (English Translation by Dr. Amjad Siraj) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
12 Book of Shah Latif (English Translation by Tariq Mehmood) Gerd Lupke
13 Social Content in Shah Jo Risalo (English Translation by Anwar Pirzado) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
14 Shah Abdul Latif Aik Mufakir Shair (Urdu Translation by Abdul Haque Azim) Prof. Saleem Memon
15 Sindhi Adab jo Fikri Pas Manzar (Sindhi) Dr. Abdul Ghafoor Memon
16 Chhappar Keen Dai (Sindhi) Jeem Ain Munghani
17 Chhappar Ji Chholi (Sindhi) Amb Gopang
18 Sindh Jo Shah (Sindhi) Badar Abro
19 Panj Gunj (Urdu Translation by Dr. Nawaz Ali Shouq) Qadir Bux Bedil
20 Zindagi Jo Saffar (Sindhi) Abdul Ghafoor Bhurgri
21 Shah Latif ain Pakistani Bolian Ja Shair (Sindhi) Tariq Aziz & Kamal Jamro
22 Shah & Sindh (2 Volumes) (English, Urdu & Sindhi) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
23 Shah Jo Risalo (3 Volumes) Banhoon Khan Shaikh
24 Shah Jo Risalo (English, Urdu, Persian & Sindhi) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
25 Shah Latif Hik Mutalio (Sindhi) Azad Qazi
26 Shah Latif Ji Mosiqi (Sindhi) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
27 Tahqiq Jo Tariqekar (Sindhi) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
28 Shah Latif te Tehqiq (Sindhi) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
29 Shah Latif te Bibliography (Sindhi) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
30 Kashaf-ul-Abyat (Sindhi) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
31 Shah Latif, Shairi Aur Fikar (Urdu) Dr. Durr-e-Shahwar Syed
32 “Kalachi” Research Journal (30 Issues) Dr. Fahmida Hussain
HIKI BAANI CHITT MEY BEE SAHEB SA(N)WARI
DUNGHI HINN DARYA MAA HALLAI HAAKARI
TARAZU TAARI SATTAR SABHEI KAREY
On one end man proposes
on the other end the Lord disposes
He would help the boat cross the river
keeping it afloat
and would help us reach a safe place!
HIKI BAANI CHITT MEY BEE SATTI SAHEB
KADHEY UUNEY KUN MAA EE AAGEY JO AJAB
EE SAEI(N) JO SABAB JINN BHUDHA UKAAREY BHAAR MAA
On one end man proposes
on the other end the Lord takes a decision
Extricating from the deep eddy is his miracle
Only He has the power to save
the drowning from the deep sea
satgur kahere: naav keeje har ke naam kee
ane te maanhe saachaa bharee-e bhaar
pavan jo chaale prem kaa
to satgur utaare paar re.........................19
The True Guide says: Let the outward form of the boat be the name of the Lord, and fill it with the true load(good deeds). When the wind of love blows over, the True Guide will take you across.
MARIRAN(N) AGHEY JEY MUAA SEY MAREE THIYAN NA MAAT
HUNDAA SEY HAYAT JIAN(N)A AGHEY JEY JIYA
Those who die before their death
they really die not so as to be called dead
They would live forever
having lived even before the resurgence.
satgur kahere: jutthaa marnnaa to sab jug mare
ane saachaa na mare koi
aa gur geenaane je mare
teese bohor marann na hoy re.....................17
The True Guide says: All creatures can die false(repeated) deaths but not all of them die real deaths. Whoever dies after knowing the True Guide(or after getting knowledge from the True Guide), will not have to die again and again.
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