Sindhi literature writers have contributed extensively in various forms of literature both in poetry and prose. Sindhi language has remained cradle of civilization and confluence of various cultures from the initial times.
Sufi literature and poetry
The earliest reference to Sindhi literature is contained in the writings of Arab historians. It is established that Sindhi was among the earliest languages of the East in which the Quran was translated in the eighth or ninth century AD There is evidence of Sindhi poets reciting their verses before the Muslim Caliphs in Baghdad. It is also recorded that treatises were written in Sindhi on astronomy, medicine and history during the eighth and ninth centuries. Shortly afterwards, PIR NOORUDDIN, an ISMAILI Missionary, wrote Sufistic poetry in Sindhi language. His verses, known as "ginans", can be taken as the specimen of early Sindhi poetry. He came to Sindh during the year 1079 AD. His poetry is an interesting record of the language which was spoken commonly at that time. He was a Sufi and a preacher of Islam. His verses are, therefore, full of mysticism and religion.
After him, PIR SHAMS Sabzwari Multani, PIR SHAHABUDDIN and PIR SADRUDDIN are recognized as poets of Sindhi language. We even find some verses composed by Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, in Sindhi language. PIR SADRUDDIN (1290–1409 AD), was a great poet, saint and Sufi of his time. He composed his verses (ginans) in Lari and Katchi dialects of Sindhi. He also composed the "ginans" in the Punjabi, Seraiki, Hindi and Gujarati languages. He modified the old script of Sindhi language, which was commonly used by the lohana catse of Hindus of Sindh who embraced Islam under his teaching and were called by him 'Khuwajas' or 'Khojas'.
During Samma Rule of Sindh(1351 AD-1521 AD) Sindh produced may scholars and poets of high stature.Sammas were original inhabitant of Sindh.This period has been captioned as "Basic period for Sindhi poetry and prose".Mamui Faqirs'(Seven Sages) riddles in versified form are associated with this period.Ishaq Ahingar (Blacksmith) was also a famous poet of this period. The most important person, scholar, Sufi and poet of this period is Qazi Qadan(d-1551 AD).He has composed Doha and Sortha form of poetry and are an important landmark in history of Sindhi literature. Shah Abdul Karim Bulri, Shah lutufullah Qadri, Shah Inayat Rizvi, Makhdoom Nuh of Hala, lakho lutufullah, Mahamati Pirannath and many others are the renowned literary personalities of this period who have enriched Sindhi language with mystic, romantic and epic poetry.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai
The age of Shah Abdul Latif(Kalhora period) is most significant in the history of Sindhi literature.It was during this age that Sindhi was standardized.Sindhi classical poetry achieved its full blossom in the poetic work of Shah abdul Latif Bhittai. Dr. Sorely, who compared the poetry of the great poets of all major languages of the world, including Greek, Latin and Arabic, in his book Musa Pravaganus, gives first place to Shah Latif for his language and thought. He invented a variant of tanbur, a musical instrument still used when his verses are sung by people who love his literature. He wrote Sassi Punnun, Umar Marvi in his famous book Shah Jo Risalo.
Bhittai gave new life, thought and content to the language and literature of Sindh. He traveled to remote corners of Sindh and saw for himself the simple and rustic people of his soil in love with life and its mysteries. He studied the ethos of the people and their deep attachment to the land, the culture, the music, the fine arts and crafts. He described Sindh and its people. Through simple folk tales, Lateef expressed profound ideas about the universal brotherhood of mankind, patriotism, war against injustice and tyranny, and above all the romance of human existence. He was a great musician also and he evolved fifteen new melodies (swaras). The great beauty of his poetry is that his every line or verse is sung till this day with a specific note or melody.
Another notable Sufi poet of Kalhora period is Sultan-al-Aolya Muhammad Zaman whose poetry is published with title Abyat Sindhi.
Sachal Sarmast, Saami and Khalifo Nabi Bux Laghari are celebrated poets of the Talpur period in Sindh (1783–1843 AD). Khalifo Nabi Bux is one of the greatest epic poets of Sindh, known for his depictions of patriotic pathos and the art of war. Rohal, Sami, Bedil, Bekas, Misri Shah, Hammal Faqir, Dalpat Sufi, Sabit Ali Shah, Khair Shah, Fateh Faqir and Manthar Faqir Rajar are some of the more noteworthy poets of the pre and early British era.
Early Modern Period
Modern Sindhi literature began with the conquest of Sindh by the British in 1843. The printing press was introduced. Magazines and newspapers brought about a revolution in Sindhi literature. Books were translated from various European languages, especially from English. People were hungry for knowledge and new forms of writing. The accelerated pace of literature production can be judged from the example of Mirza Kalich Beg, who in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth wrote more than four hundred books, including poetry, novels, short stories and essays. He also wrote on science, history, economics and politics. Thousands of books were turned out at that time on all forms and facets of literature. Hakim Fateh Mohammad Sewhani, Kauromal Khilnani, Dayaram Gidumal, Parmanand Mewaram, Lalchand Amardinomal, Bheruamal Advani, Dr. Gurbuxani, Jhetmal Parsram, Sayaid Miran Mohammad Shah, Shamsuddin 'Bulbul' and Maulana Din Muhammad Wafai are some of the pioneers of modern literature in Sindhi language.
Modern Sindhi literature
After World War I, the social and economic scene of the world underwent a tremendous change. The aftermath of the war and the socialist revolution of Russia affected the literature of every country. Sindhi literature too was influenced by these trends. Creating new awakening in the minds of the people working in the field of literature, they began to translate the new social consciousness into artistic forms of literature. They were now more objective and less romantic. Progressive thoughts opened the door for new trends in Sindhi literature.
Soon the struggle for freedom from the British also gathered momentum. This gave further momentum to literature. Consciousness about history and cultural heritage of Sindh served as a catalyst for research and intellectual upsurge. Scholars like Allama I. I. Kazi his wife Elsa Kazi, Rasool Bux Palijo, G. M. Syed, Umer Bin Mohammad Daudpota, Pir Ali Muhammad Shah Rashidi, Pir Husamuddin Shah Rashidi, Maulana deen Muhammad Wafai, Chetan Mariwala, Jairamdas Daulatram, Hashoo Kewal Ramani, Bherumal, Mehar Chand Advani, Dr. Abdul Majeed Sindhi (Memon), Badaruddin Dhamraho, Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo, AllahDad Bohyo, Tirath Wasant and many others produced learned treatises on various aspects of history, culture and other social subjects.
Mir Hasan Ali and Mir Abdul Hussain sangi, Khalifo Gul, Fazil Shah, Kasim, Hafiz Hamid, Mohammad Hashim, Mukhlis, Abojho, Surat Singh, Khaki, Mirza Qalich Baig, Zia and Aziz were the pioneers of poetry in Persian meter.But the modern form and content of Sindhi poetry were given a new impetus by 'Bewas', Hyder Bux Jatoi and Dukhayal. There have been innumerable poets who have composed verses in the same vein.
The novel and short story became the main forms for prose. Hundreds of novel and short stories were translated from the European and modern languages of Pakistan. World War II saw the emergence of novelists and short storywriters like Narain Das Bhambhani, Gobind Malhi, Sushila J. Lalwani, Lokram Dodeja, Sundri Uttamchandani, Popti Hiranandani, Dr. Moti Prakash, Sharma, Kala Sharma, G L Dodeja, Padan Sharma, Ghulam Rabbani Agro, Usman Deplai, Jamal Abro, Shaikh Ayaz, Rasheed Bhatti, Hafeez Akhund, Amar Jaleel, Naseem Kharal, Sirajul Haq Memon, Agha Saleem, Anis Ansari, Tariq Ashraf, Ali Baba, Eshwar Chander, Manak, Asghar Sindhi, Adil Abbasi, Ishtiaq Ansari, Kehar Shaukat, Mushtaq Shoro, Shaukat Shoro, Madad Ali Sindhi, Rasool Memon, Akhlaq Asnari, Reta Shahani, Rehmatullah Manjothi, Badal Jamali, Ishaque Ansari, Jan Khaskheli, Hasan Mansoor, Pervez, Shakoor Nizamani, Tariq Qureshi, Munawwar Siraj, Ismail Mangio, Fayaz Chand Kaleri, Ayaz Ali RindAltaf Malkani and many others. Sindhi dramas have also been flourished during past a few decades. Aziz Kingrani is one of the prominent playwrights who has written scores of Sindhi plays.
For the last several decades, young writers experimented with new forms of prose as well as poetry. Free verses, sonnets and ballads have been written alongside the classical forms of poetry such as Kafi, Vaee, Bait, Geet and Dohira.
A few famous poets of today's Sindh are Makhdoom Muhammad Zaman Talib-ul-Mola, Ustaad Bukhari, Shaikh Ayaz, Darya Khan Rind, Ameen Faheem, and Imdad Hussani. Mubarak Ali Lashari is also a prominent name in literary criticism whose book Kuthyas Kawejan has been published.
In 1952, Noor-ud-din Sarki and Abdul Ghafoor Ansari restructured the literary forum of Sindhi language and called it Sindhi Adabi Sangat. Initially its activities were confined to the city of Karachi. Inspired by the success of its activities in Karachi, interest developed throughout the rest of Sindh, leading to the emergence of branches in other parts of Sindh. It now attracts most of the Sindhi literary figures all over the world; besides branches in Pakistan, there are now chapters overseas as well.
Your Beloved is within yourself
return home and ask inwardly
It is no use going out to seek the Beloved
JO TUU(N) DHOREI(N) DHUUR SO SADA AAHEY SAAN(N) TOU
LALLAN LAAI LATIF CHAAEI MUNJHI THI MA'ZUUR
MUNJHA(N) PAEI PARORR TOU MUNJH AAHES TAKIYO
He is always with you
Latif says, “look for the Beloved within yourself”
You will know from within
He resides in you
HULL HEEI(N) SEE(N) HOTT DHEY PEERAN KAR MA PUNDH
RAAI PUCHH MA RIND RIRRAH RUHAANI SUSUI
Walk on with the heart to the Beloved
walk not by foot
O’ Seeker! Ask not for the track on sand
let your soul crawl
PEEI JA PAAN(N) MEY KAYUM RUH RIHAAN(N)
TA NAKO DHUNGHAR DHEH MEY NAKA KEECHIN KAAN(N)
PUNHU THIYUS PAAN(N) SUSUI TAA SURR HUUAA
As I turned inwards and conversed with my soul
There was no mountain to surpass and no one to care for
Susui became Punhu after grief, trials and turbulence
(Susui being adept, merged with Punhu ie Lord)
Tributes to those pains
which stayed with me in my suffering
The Beloved bears not a single (pain)
all of them are with me
When I die, these pitiable (pains)
would part away from me
CHITTAR RAHEY NA CHITT SUURA(N) SABAR NA KAREY
SAJAN(N) SAAREY NITT VEGHAN(N)U THIYO WAJHJILI
My mind does not stay cheerful
and is not patient due to agony
Remembering the Beloved
it becomes crazy in sadness
JADHAA(N) KAR JAANI SAJAN(N) SAA(N)G SADHAARIYA
RAATIYA(N) RAAHAT NAHEY KA DHEIHAA(N) HAIRAANI
AAU(N) PAHENJHEY PREI(N) TAA(N) KORREIN QURBAANI
RAZA RABBANI NA TA KARIYAA(N) WUSS VISAAL JA
Since the Beloved has left for his journey
I have had no serenity at night
or calmness during day
I would sacrifice myself million times over him
If Allah so wishes
I would endeavour for the union with him
26 Nov 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com
Sufism Is At the Heart of the Sindhi Identity for both Hindus and Muslims
By Pranav Khullar
Nov 24, 2018
In the once-united Indian subcontinent, Sufi poetry and thought became the blaming influence among different communities and faiths during the Middle Ages. Absorbing the finest tenets of Hinduism and Islam, Sufi spiritual thought touched a chord in the hearts of thousands and offered a world view without any ethnic or community differences. As it grew in various parts of the Punjab and Sindh, the Sufi ethos became the touchstone of peace and understanding between different faiths. Sindh, now one of the four provinces of Pakistan, has always been well-known for the large number of mystics and minstrels who practiced and preached in the subcontinent.
Sufism has been at the heart of the Sindhi identity for both Hindus and Muslims of that area. In fact, Sindh even today has the highest percentage of Hindu residents. Popular folklore has it that 125,000 mystics are buried on Makli Hill, near Thatta, near the apex of the Indus River Delta, the Makli necropolis now a Unesco world heritage site. The name Makli was derived from a pilgrim going into spiritual ecstasy at this point, and declaring the site to be Mecca for him. The place was then hailed as the ‘little Mecca’ and became Makli later.
Renowned Sufi poet of the 16th century, Shah Abdul Karim, known for his learning and piety, wrote 92 beits proclaiming the brotherhood of man and the unity of God, which are recited by the devout to this day. Towards the middle of the 17th century, Sindh produced another great Sufi saint, Shah Inayat, popularly known as Shah Inayat of Jhok, and his beits and bol, verses, enthralled the desert. His hymns inspired the people to revolt against the unjust Zamindari system. A God-intoxicated saint, Shah Inayat was persecuted for his views and his execution made him a hero of many a Sindhi legend and folklore.
By the end of the 17th century, there appeared the greatest Sindhi Sufi poet who infused new life and gave new hope to his people. His name was Shah Abdul Latif, meaning the Gracious of the Gracious. Well-versed in Quranic traditions and Vedantic thought, Shah Latif knew seven languages and was called ‘Sufi-e-Haft Zaban’.
Shah Latif’s greatest contribution to Sufi thought were his spiritual sermons which were compiled by his disciples, and are called Shah Jo Risalo, The Message of Shah. Risalo is neither a philosophical treatise nor a literary masterpiece, but it transports readers to new spiritual heights.
Shah Latif was a Sufi poet in the ancient Vedic tradition in which saints and sages possessed nothing and whom nothing possessed except the name of God, the service of the poor and welfare of humanity. He believed that while intellect is bondage, faith is the liberator. While the Ulema learn from books only, the mystics learn from their experience of God-Infinite. Shah Latif liked the company of Hindu saints and visited Hindu centres of pilgrimage. At Dwarka, he danced while reciting the name of Krishna. In spite of his vast erudition, he found comfort in mysticism than in theology.
In the larger framework, Shah Latif was a part of the Bhakti Movement that swept the country from 13th to the 19th century in one form or the other. He adopted the Hindu ritual of ‘shaving the head’ for every new entrant in the Khanqah, the place for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, offering sherbet to every visitor. He made no distinction between a Gurukul and a Khanqah, between a Mandir and a Masjid. Shah Jo Risalo is said to have 30 Suras, chapters that are sung like ragas in Indian classical music. They explore the inner restlessness of the soul and the need to anchor this restlessness in God.
At the peak of this Sufi mountain, one also has Sachal Sarmast. Writing about Sachal, Kalyan Advani, author of Sarmast, a monograph, says, “He remained throughout his life under the wondrous spell of the great mystic martyr, Mansoor, although he himself did not adorn the gibbet, much as he coveted it. He proclaimed his Master’s message to the world, like a muezzin from a tower, crying Anal Haq — ‘I am the God/I am the Truth’. He wrote nearly one lakh verses.
Sachal’s tradition was carried on by a number of Hindu Sufi poets, particularly Bhai Chainrai, popularly known as Sami, a name he took on to honour his master, Sami Meghraj. He is the first Sindhi-Vedantic poet who wrote 3,500 Sufi hymns in the form of beits, followed by Bhai Dalpatrai, another Sufi-Vedantic mystic poet, whose poetry is an amalgam of Sufi thought and Advaita Vedanta.
Kabir of the Sindh:
Sufi Rohal Faqir was yet another saint who carried on the tradition of his great preceptor Shah Inayat. Local folklore has it that Rohal is the Kabir of the Sindh province. He wrote Bhakti verses in Hindi besides in Sindhi and Saraiki, a western Punjabi-Sindhi dialect, which connoted the language of the immigrants from Baluchistan to Sindh.
Annemarie Schimmel, renowned Sufi scholar, writes on how in Sindh, the borders were never hermetically closed between Islam and Hinduism. She cites ‘Sur Ramkali’ in Shah Abdul Latif’s Risalo, in which the mystic praises the wandering Hindu yogis as seekers of that universal Truth.
Inspiring people to seek the love divine, Sindhi Sufi poetry sent out a powerful message of love, peace and understanding, even as it exhorted the seeker to rise above petty trifles of living and seek out the inner truth that bonds us all together.
SHAH ABDUL LATIF’S ROMANCE
A Review of Padmashree Dr. Motilal Jotwani’s “Shah Abdul Latif”
By Aruna Jethwani
It was by sheer chance that I discovered Dr. Motilal Jotwani's Shah Abdul Latif – the mystic Sufi poet of Sindh. I was searching for matter on Wai and no one around me had any clue to it. Wai is a unique form of philosophical verse adopted by Shah Abdul Latif in his Risalo. My visit to Banni in Kutch and a meeting with Wai Singers there whetted my appetite for Wai. It is then that a kind hearted soul put the book into my hands. The book was full of surprises, the first being its publisher – Department of Culture, Government of Sindh, Pakistan! The second surprise was its foreword written by Professor R. K. Dasgupta of Delhi University. The third surprise was its purpose “to give Shah Abdul Latif a rightful place in the mainstream of Indian Philosophic thought, aesthetic values and poetic form.” The author therefore has endeavored to bring out a spiritual concept of oneness in the Sufi Saint poetry, which was regarded till recently Islamic and Mystical.
The book merits the romance of Shah Abdul Latif's life in the delicate way, weaving it with the background of the historical turbulence and terrorism of those times. The romantic story, which captures our hearts and souls, is historically authenticated. As one reads the life of Latif, one learns of the life of mystics during the time of Aurangzeb, and at once realizes the balancing forces of spirituality against the atrocities inflicted by the rulers.
The book Shah Abdul Latif is not only an interpretation of history; it is also the poetic pathos of pain of a man who loved deeply – a woman, a family, a community and of course god the Beloved.
The book brings out the uniqueness of Indian Sufism in Shah Jo Risalo. Shah Abdul Latif takes the form of a lover (woman) yearning for her beloved (man). Marvi for Umar, Susui for Punhu, and Mumal for Rano.
The Islamic Sufism follows the reverse pattern. This perhaps is the reason why an eminent Sufi like Shah Abdul Latif does not find any mention in the books on Sufism.
Susui wails: my eyes are parched with pain.
Oh Beloved for a glance of thee
Shah Abdul Latif's poetry is practical as it glorifies the love of man for humanity and depicts the union of the High and the seemingly Low e.g. Jam and Nuri. The mystic union shown in the various Surs are more Vedantic in nature. Perhaps this is the biggest contribution of the book which has brought out in great length the Vedantic Sufism.
As I turn inwards and conversed with my soul,
There was no mountain to surpass
And no Punho to care for
I myself became Punho
Only while Susui did I experience grief.
Or to quote Dr. Jotwani, Marvi achieves union with Umar:
Before God created universe, saying “be”
And we were not yet separated from him
My relationship began there and then
Oh my beloved, I still hold this cognition in me!
The Shah Jo Risalo gives the message of peace and this is also well brought out in the book:
The Yogis became again the whole, their only concern,
Whose seat is nothingness; I cannot live without them,
Shah Abdul Latif, his life and work, by Padamshree Dr. Motilal Jotwani is a slim volume of 166 pages. It is a rich treasure, a noble gift to the Sindhi Community: Its language of alliteration, the folk music basis, the various form of Doha including Wai, the various emotions, the Bhakti and the Vedanta. The few verses of Shah translated into English are excellent and deserve Kudos.
Your manifestations are written
in thousands and millions
Spirit is present in every one
appearances are diverse
O’ Lord! How far and how many attributes
of yours can I describe?
SUBB KAHEI(N) DHAA(N) SAAMUHU(N) KO HUNDD KHAALI NAH
AHAD JEY AARAKH THIYA SEY KAA(N)AR KABA KAAH
MUHEB MUNJHEEN MON MAH MUU9N0 AJHAAN(N)E(N)DEY AJHIYO
He is in front of every one
no place is empty of Him
Of what use are those cowards
who are ignorant of the one?
Although an illiterate
I could discover the Beloved within
SAAHAR JA SEE(N)GHAAR AN(N) LIKHIYA AGHEY HUAA
NAKA KUN FAYAKUN HUEI NAKA BHI PACHAAR
MALIKAA(N) MAHAND HUEI TOUDHEY JI TA(N)WAAR
MUHABBAT SAAN(N) MEHAAR LAYAAEI(N) LATIF CHAI
The attributes of the Beloved already existed
even before they were not written
Neither there was “Be and it became”
nor there was any utterance
Your sweet talk was there
even before the angels existed
“With love she embraced the Beloved”, says Latif
JARR THAR TAKH TA(N)WAAR WAN(N) TAN(N) WAAI HEKARI
SUBBEI SHAI THIYA SURI SAZAWAAR
HAMAEI MANSOOR HAZAAR KAHRA CHAARHIYO CHAARHEI(N)
The seas, oceans and lands mumble intensively
even the trees and shrubs voice the same
All proclaimers of Truth deserved the gallows
Since there are thousand Mansoors
how many would you hang?
NA UMEDI JI NAJHAREY PEHI PUSS ALLAH
CHITTO RABANI RAAH MERADAN MAKHFI KAYO
In despair, just look to Allah
The road leading to Him is very clear
only the seductions have veiled it
TOU MUNJH DOST THIYO MOTTI PUCHH TA PAAEI(N)
ABUSS AGHAEI(N) WINJHEIYO GHOLEI(N) KAANDH KHEY
Your Beloved is within yourself
return home and ask inwardly
It is no use going out to seek the Beloved
HULL HEI(N) SEE(N) HOTT DHEY PEERAN KAR MA PUNDH
RAAI PUCHH MA RIND RIRRAH RUHAANI SUSUEI
Walk on with the heart to the Beloved (rind)
walk not by foot
O’ Seeker (susuei)! Ask not for the track
let your soul crawl towards Him
JHAN(N)I SU(N)JHAN(N)I VIHAA(N) KEI(N) MAATH KAREY
UNDDER AAG ISHQ JI APPAR ADHAAN(N)I
AL ISHIQ NAARULLAHIL MU'AQADAH KHORRI JEI(N) KHAAN(N)I
AAHEY AARYAAN(N)I BHIYO SARTIYU(N) SUJHEY KEEN KI
How can I sit quiet intentionally?
The fire of love inside me
has intensified into a blaze
“Love is the fire kindled by Allah”
it is burning like a furnace
There is only one Allah, O’ Friends!
I know none else
Stick to your path, never turn away your neck
Else, a clout would twist your face, says Latif
KUNDH MA FEERIJ KADHAHEI(N) WATHIYO WA(N)J RAAH
AJJ KI SUNJH SUBAAH NEEI DHARENDHAI DHUUR MEY
Never turn away your neck, stick to the path
Either today or tomorrow
you would be thrown in the dust
DEKHI(N)DEY DEEDAAR KHEY KEEN SU(N)JHATO KUL
TAAZI TU(N)BELAN MEY AAHEY AHAATO JHAL
HUAA JEY AMAL SEY HISAABAA(N) HU(N)JHI WIYA
Even after having manifestation of the Lord
they recognized not the universe
The pedigree horses are in the stable
surrounded by ignorance
And those who were knowledgeable
their calculations confused them
LOCHAA(N) THI LA HUDD MEY HADI LAHAA(N) NA HUDD
SUPRIYAA(N) JEY SUU(N)H JO NAKO QUDD NA MUDD
HIT SIKAN(N) JI ADAD HUTT PREI(N) PARWAH NAH KA
I wander and ponder in unbounded space
but find not His limit
The beauty of the Beloved
has neither limit, nor any boundary
While I yearn abundantly here
the Beloved remains unconcerned there
DEKHENDEY DEEDAAR KHEY KALL SU(N)JHAN(N)EY KEI(N)
JAANIB MUNJHA(N) JEI(N) MAHRUM EI MU(N)JHI PIYA
Even after having manifestation of the Lord
They recognized not the universe
While to appreciate the Beloved
the frustrated got confused
KADHAHEI(N) DAR KUSHADA DILBAR JA SUNDA KADHAHEI(N) PURIYO DHIYAN
KADHAHEI(N) WAN(N)JHA WA(N)JHI NA SUGHAA(N) KADHAHEI(N) SAJAN(N) PAAN(N) SADHEEN
KADHAHEI(N) KUCHHAN KEEN KI KADHAHEI(N) BHAAJH MUNJHAA(N) BOLEEN
KADHAHEI(N) QOUL KAREEN KADHAHEI(N) HARF NA KUCHHAN HEEKARO
Sometimes the Beloved’s doors are wide open
sometimes they are closed
Sometimes I can not enter
sometimes He Himself calls me in
Sometimes He is absolutely silent
sometimes He is mercifully chatty
Sometimes He promises a lot
sometimes would converse not
The Peace Message
December 29, 2015, 4:10 AM IST Economic Times in The Speaking Tree | Spirituality | ET
By Aruna Jethwani
Every community that migrates, whatever the reason, contributes to its new region of settlement. In Sindhi culture and literature, the most prominent name is that of Shah Abdul Latif. His spiritual literature is considered very similar to that of Rumi’s. He has been the single most influence on the life of the people of Sindh, whether they are Hindus or Muslims. His family had migrated from Herat in Outer Mongolia.
He was a third-generation Sindhi who gave to the world the unique religion of Secular Sufism; his work, ‘Shah Jo Risalo,’ is pure spiritual vedanta. It is the most beautiful gift he gave to the world. He enriched the Sindhi language with Persian and Arabic words, so much that today linguists consider Sindhi to be the richest language in the world.
What have Hindu Sindhis given to the world? They have given the world true secularism without any divisions of caste, creed or religion. And the wisdom of education and healthcare that is visible in numerous schools and colleges, as well as hospitals wherever they have settled down, be it India or foreign lands.
Greater than this is their unique peace contribution: peace, which is seen in the 7,000-yearold Sindhu civilisation, one that supported and sustained the great civilisations of Babylon and Egypt.
Not a single war weapon is found in the excavation of Mohenjo-daro, indicating that more things are wrought by cooperation than confrontation. Perhaps the concept of non-violence came from here.
A momentary glimpse of Shah Abdul Latif
November 18, 2016 Samaa Digital
By: Nazia Memon
Shah Abdul Latif is known throughout the length and breadth of Sindh, not only as a great poet of the highest order but as a saint, a Sufi and a spiritual guide. It is the spiritual significance of his poetry, couched in the most touching words, harmonized with a musical setting, that makes a direct appeal to the hearts of the listeners, including the elite and the man in the street.
People of Sindh shower their love to Bhittai and call him “Lakhino Latif” “Bhittai goth” he is worldly ranked among the classical great poets, and his poetry been translated in many languages including Urdu and English.
On his “urs” it’s very much needed to have a glimpse of his life to see that centuries ago how he could stand against the odds of society and challenged those norms with his spiritual poetry and moral? For that let’s have a look on his life and learn where we are failed as a society. I just want you all to have a brief view about two major aspects of our society regarding religion and women in the light of Shah’s poetry and life.
Shah Abdul Latif was born in a well known and much respected “Sayed” family but he never showed his liking for the comforts of life. He was kind, magnanimous, compassionate and amiable in his attitude and nature.
He was concerned about spiritual evolution with the sole purpose of seeking vicinity of the divine. In quest of religious truths Shah Abdul Latif travelled a lot, almost three years long with jogis and sanyasis to find the truth, peace and harmony.
Shah Latif was deeply grieved and pained to see to which low level some Muslim priests (clerics) had brought the religion. He could observe how human beings had been split into groups of sectarian antagonism in the name of religion, and the entire society had become diseased as a consequence of this fallacious teaching. Being disgusted at this deplorable state of society, he found it absolutely impossible to accept this situation and was constrained to say.
"You claim to believe in your religious creed, but you are weak in faith. Your heart is the abode of hypocrisy, associating others with Allah. Apparently you are a Muslim but in reality you sculpt and sell idols".
And addressing a common man shah said;
"You will have to develop a vision, which can help you to see the one you love. Do not seek guidance from others, because it does not please your beloved".
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai had thoroughly understood the truth about religion. Then how could he accept the idea that people belonging to the same homeland are not united and that they are a separate nation simply on the basis of religious division. He considered differences of religions no more than a fallacy of vision. He says:
"Diversity has come into existence as a result of oneness (of Allah). Therefore, diversity is the only reflection of this oneness (of Allah). The truth is only one and any other idea or faith only serves to misguide. The real truth is that this universe and its diverse beauty are the reflection of only that unique being".
Shah Latif held such views about religion, he saw no difference between friend and foe. Censuring the weakness and defects of Muslim and Hindu priests, who desired to create hatred and enmity between human beings in the name of religion, he says:
"This beauty of various aspects of nature reflects the beauty of an eternal being. However, weak-minded people can only find fault with them. They only provoke anger and hatred by creating the differences of Islam and Hinduism".
In the same manner, sometime in a state of ecstasy, he addresses the fanatic sectarian elements:
"If you see with some perception, all around you, you will see a reflection of truth, and you will shed all doubts from your mind".
He could never visualize that humanity, creation of one God, living like neighbors and people belonging to the same country, could be considered as a separate nation on the basis of a few customs, traditions and beliefs, although they believe in one and the same God following their different modes of worship. He expresses himself reflecting this truth in a beautiful manner in this verse:
"Everything belonging to the land of my beloved is pleasurable. If you experience to taste it with sense and wisdom, you will never feel bitterness in anything here".
Now let’s have a look how he (Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai) regarded a women in his poetry! though women were considered a weaker section of society as compare to present (it’s not much different but slightly better now) female characters were portrayed as protagonists in Bhittai’s poetry.
The seven women of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetry are known as “Shah joon Soormiyun” (Seven queens) heroins of Sindhi folklore who have been given the status of royalty in “Shah jo Risalo”.
The Risalo is written in poetic verses, and there are more than 30surs and seven queens “Satt Soormiyun” mentioned in “Shah jo Risalo are Marui,Moomal, Sassui, Noori, Sohni, Sorath-Rai Diyach and Lilan.
As I mentioned already that Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai has travelled in the search of truth he came across to know about these women characters and experienced what their struggle must have been like. Perhaps what Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai saw in his tales of these women was an idealised view of women hood, their positive qualities, determination, faith, their honesty, integrity, devout,piety and loyalty.”
The verses of the Shah jo Risalo describing their trails are sung at Sufi shrines all over Sindh and especially at the “urs” of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai every year at Bhit Shah.
As many intellectuals, writers and poets said Shah Latif was a feminist poet and all heroic charters in his poetry were women.
To me it’s fascinating that “Bhittai the feminist” portrayed women as symbol of courage”.
Today to keep Bhittai in my mind I have one simple question to ask our men what does is take to be called a feminist?
May be through finding an answer we will get near to the solution and that would be the turning point or reformation of developed society.
And the best tribute to Shah Latif will be to understand and implement his message not only for the reformation of individual life but also for a healthy change in all spheres of society.
Author is Producer at Sairbeem and also works for BBC.
SHAH ABDUL LATIF BHITTAI
October 18th, 2015 · Adeel Zaidi
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (also referred to by the honorifics Lakhino Latif, Latif Ghot, Bhittai, and Bhitt Jo Shah) (1689 – 1752) was a Sindhi Sufi scholar, mystic, saint, poet, and musician. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Sindhi language. His collected poems were assembled in the compilation Shah Jo Risalo, which exists in numerous versions and has been translated to English, Urdu, and other languages. His work frequently has been compared to that of Rumi: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, described Shah Latif as a “direct emanation Rumi‘s spirituality in the Indian world.”
He settled in the town of Bhit Shah in Matiari, Pakistan where his shrine is located. The major themes of his poetry include Unity of God, love for Prophet, religious tolerance and humanistic values.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai was born in 1689 in Hala Haveli’s village Sui-Qandar located near Hyderabad, Pakistan. Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai was son of Syed Habibullah and grandson of Syed Abdul Quddus Shah.
According to most scholars, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s lineage goes back to the Khwarizim Shahs, others claim he was a descendant of Mohammad and grandson of Mohammad. He however used the term “Shah” as a surname.
His ancestors had come from Herat in Afghanistan to Sindh, after it was sacked by Timur and his Mongol forces. Shah Abdul Karim Bulri (1600s), whose mausoleum stands at Bulri, about 40 miles from Hyderabad, a mystic Sufi poet of considerable repute, was his great, great grandfather. His verses in Sindhi are existent and his anniversary is still held at Bulri, in the form of an Urs.
His father Syed Habib Shah, lived in Hala Haveli, a small village, at a distance of about forty miles from Matiari and not far from the village of Bhitshah. Later he left this place and moved to Kotri, where Shah Abdul Latif bhittai spent some part of his adolescent life.
The early life
Most of the information that has come down to us has been collected from oral traditions. A renowned Pakistani scholar, educationist, and a foremost writer of plays, dramas and stories, Mirza Kalich Beg has rendered a yeoman service to Sindhi literature by collecting details about the early life of Shah Bhittai, from the dialogues that he has constantly held with some of the old folks, still living at that time, who knew these facts from their fathers and grandfathers for they had seen Shah Latif in person and had even spoken to him.
The next day I sat down, and listened to the Story of the ‘Vairagis.’ Their salmon-coloured clothes were covered with dust. The lonely ones never talk to anyone about their being. They move about unmarked amongst the common folk.” ……..Shah Latif Bhittai
He was born around 1689 CE (1102 A.H.) to Shah Habib in the village Sui-Qandar a few miles to the east of the present town of Bhit Shah (named after him), on Safar 14, 1102 A.H. i.e. November 18, 1690 CE. He died at Bhit Shah on Safar 14, 1165 A.H., i.e. January 3, 1752 CE. In his memory, every year, on 14th Safar of the Hijri Calendar, an Urs is held at Bhit Shah, where he spent the last years of his life and where his elaborate and elegant mausoleum stands.
Latif got his early education in the school (maktab) of Akhund Noor Muhammad in basic Persian (the government language at that time) and Sindhi (local spoken language). He also learned the Qur’an. His correspondence in Persian with contemporary scholar Makhdoom Moinuddin Thattvi, as contained in the Risala-i-Owaisi, bears witness to his scholastic competence.
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.” …..Bhittai [Sur Yaman Kalyan]
The Urs is a grand festival in Sindh, where people from almost every village and town of Sindh and from different cities of other provinces of Pakistan – rich and poor, young and old, scholars and peasants – make a determined effort to attend. The Urs commences every year from 14th Safar (2nd month of Hijra calendar) and lasts for three days. Along with other features, like food fairs, open-air markets selling Ajrak and Sindhi Caps among others, and entertaining and competitive sports, a literary gathering is also held where papers concerning the research work done on the life, poetry, and message of Bhittai, are read, by scholars and renowned literary figures. His disciples and ascetics, singers and artists, gather around and sing passages from his Risalo. Scholarly debates and exhibitions of his work and traditional Sindhi artefacts are also organised.
Sleeping on the river’s bank, I heard of Mehar’s glory, Bells aroused my consciousness, longing took its place, By God! fragrance of Mehar’s love to me came, Let me go and see Mehar face to face.” …..Bhittai [Sur Suhni]
The mausoleum over his tomb was built by Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, to commemorate his victory over the Rao of Kuchh a Maratha ally in the Thar Desert.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, had emerged as a very popular figure during his lifetime, due to the increasing and growing numbers of his followers.
Young Shah Abdul was raised during the golden age of sindhi culture. His first teacher was Noor Muhammad Bhatti Waiwal. Mostly, Shah Latif was self-educated. Although he has received scanty formal education, the Risalo gives us an ample proof of the fact that he was well-versed in Arabic and Persian. The Qur’an, the Hadiths, the Masnawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, Shah Inayatullah, along with the collection of Shah Karim’s poems, were his constant companions, copious references of which have been made in Shah Jo Risalo. He is also known for his famed Calligraphic, and hand written skills he made several copies of the Qur’an.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, received his higher education in the Maktab of Akhund Noor Muhammad in basic Persian (the official language of the Mughal Empire) and Sindhi. He is also known to have memorized vast passages of the Qur’an. His correspondence in Persian with contemporary scholar Makhdoom Moinuddin Thattavi, as contained in the Risala-i-Owaisi, bears witness to his scholastic competence. In his poems he writes about Sindh and its neighbouring regions, he mentions the distant cities such as Istanbul and Samarqand, he also writes about Sindhi sailors (Samundi) their navigation techniques voyages as far to the Malabar coast, Sri Lanka and the island of Java.
Appearance and characteristics
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, mentions his travels in the Risalo.
Sindhi historians believe that the Tambura was invented by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
In appearance, Bhittai was a handsome man, of average height. He was strongly built, had black eyes and an intelligent face, with a broad and high forehead. He grew a beard of the size of Muhammad’s beard. He had a serious and thoughtful look about himself and spent much time in contemplation and meditation, since he was concerned about his moral and spiritual evolution with the sole purpose of seeking proximity of the Divine. He would often seek solitude and contemplate on the burning questions running through his mind concerning man’s spiritual life:
Why was man created?
What is his purpose on this earth? What is his relationship with his Creator?
What is his ultimate destiny?
Although he was born in favoured conditions, being the son of a well-known and very much respected Sayed family, he never used his position in an unworthy manner, nor did he show any liking for the comforts of life. He was kind, compassionate, generous and gentle in his manner of speech and behaviour which won him the veneration of all those who came across him. He had great respect for woman, which, unfortunately, the present day Vaderas (the landlords) do not have, and he exercised immense reserve in dealing with them, in an age when these qualities were rare. He hated cruelty and could never cause physical pain to any man or even to an animal. He lived a very simple life of self-restraint. His food intake was simple and frugal, so was his dressing which was often deep yellow, the colour of the dress of sufis, jogis, and ascetics, stitched with black thread. To this day, his relics are preserved at Bhitsah (where his mausoleum stands), including a “T”-shaped walking stick, two bowls, one made of sandal-wood and another of transparent stone, which he used for eating and drinking. His long cap and his black turban are also preserved.
Cloud was commanded to prepare for rain, Rain pattered and poured, lightning flared. Grain hoarders, hoping for high prices, wring their hands, Five would become fifteen in their pages they had planned. From the land may perish all the profiteers, Herdsmen once again talk of abundant showers, Latif says have hope in God’s blessed grace.” ……Bhittai [Sur Sarang]
Quest for religious truths
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, traveled throughout Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan and the Thar Desert.
In quest of religious truths, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai traveled to many parts of Sindh and also went to the bordering lands as far as Multan. He became well known to the rulers at height of the power and rule of Kalhoras in Sindh. However he independently traveled with Sufi brotherhoods visiting towns and cities, to preach the teachings of Islam. Throughout his travels he went to hills, valleys, riverbanks, fields and mountains where he met the ordinary simple people. He is known to have traveled to the Ganjo Hills in the south of Hyderabad, Sindh.
He also writes about the adventures of Samundis (Sindhi Sailors) and how they voyaged to Lanka and Java, in the Sur Surirag and Sur Samundi, he writes a detailed account on Thatta and the port Debal. He is known to have traveled with Baloch nomads and tribes into the mountains in Las Bela, Balochistan. For three years, he traveled with these jogis and sanyasis, in search of the truth, peace, and harmony. At several places in the Risalo, mention has been made of these jogis and of his visits to these wonderful, holy and peaceful places. He also traveled to such far away places in the Thar desert such as Junagadh, Jaisalmer.
In deserts, wastes and Jessalmir it has rained, Clouds and lightning have come to Thar’s plains; Lone, needy women are now free from care, Fragrant are the paths, happy herdsmen’s wives all this share.” ……….Bhittai [Sur Sarang]
Piety and ascetism
By the time he was a young man of twenty one years, he began to be known for his piety, his ascetic habits and his absorption in prayers. Observation and contemplation were chief traits of his character. A number of people flocked round him adding to the already large number of his disciples. This aroused jealousy of some powerful, ruthless, tyrannical persons – landlords, Pirs, Mirs, and Rulers – who became his enemies for some time. Later, seeing his personal worth, and the peaceful and ascetic nature of his fame, abandoned their rivalry. At this time he was living with his father at Kotri, five miles away from the present site of Bhitshah. It was here that his marriage was solemnised in 1713 CE with Bibi Sayedah Begum, daughter of Mirza Mughul Beg. She was a very virtuous and pious lady, who was a proper companion for him. The disciples had great respect for her. They had no children.
In the true ascetic spirit, Shah Latif was now in search of a place where in solitude, he could devote all his time in prayers and meditation. Such a place he found near Lake Karar, a mere sand hill, but an exotic place of scenic beauty, four miles away from New Hala. This place was covered by thorny bushes surrounded by many pools of water. It was simply and aptly called ‘Bhit’ (the Sand Hill). On the heaps of its sandstones he decide to settle down and build a village. As it was sandy, he along with his disciples dug out the hard earth from a distance and covered the sand with it to make the ground firm. After months of hard labour, carrying the earth on their heads and shoulders, the place was now fit enough for the construction of an underground room and two other rooms over it, along with a room for his old parents. A mosque was also built and the houses of his disciples properly marked out. In 1742, whilst he was still busy setting up a new village, Bhit, he got the sad news of the death of his dear father.. Soon after this Shah Latif shifted all his family members from Kotri to Bhitsah, as the village now began to be called. His father was buried there, in accordance to his will, where his mausoleum stands only eight paces away, from that of Shah Abdul Latif, towards its north.
The final years
For the last eight years of his remarkable life, Shah Latif lived at Bhitshah. A few days before his death, he retired to his underground room and spent all his time in prayers and fasting, eating very little.
Laggi Laggi wa’a-u wiarra angrra latji, Pa-i khanen pasah-a pasan karran-i pirin-a jay.” ……Bhittai “Wind blew! The sand enveloped the body, Whatever little life left, is to see the beloved.
After 21 days in there, he came out and having bathed himself with a large quantity of water, covered himself with a white sheet and asked his disciples to sing and start the mystic music. This went on for three days continuously, when the musicians, concerned about the motionless poet, found that his soul had already left for its heavenly abode to be in the proximity of the Beloved for who he had longed for, all his life, and only the body was there. He suffered from no sickness or pain of any kind. The date was 14th Safar 1165 Hijra corresponding to 1752 CE. He was buried at the place where his mausoleum now stands, which was built by the ruler of Sindh, Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. His name literally means ‘the servant of the Shah’. He, along with his mother, had adored and revered Shah Latif and were his devoted disciples. The work of the construction of the mausoleum was entrusted to the well-known mason, Idan from Sukkur. The mausoleum, as well as the mosque adjoining it, were later repaired and renovated by another ruler of Sindh, Mir Nasir Khan Talpur. A pair of kettle drums, that are beaten every morning and evening even till today by the fakirs, jogis and sanyasis, who frequent the mausoleum, were presented by the Raja of Jesalmeer.
Korren kan-i salam-u achio a’atand-a unn-a jay.Countless pay homage and sing peace at his abode.
“Tell me the stories, oh thorn-brush, Of the mighty merchants of the Indus, Of the nights and the days of the prosperous times, Are you in pain now, oh thorn-brush? Because they have departed: In protest, cease to flower. Oh thorn-brush, how old were you When the river was in full flood? Have you seen any way-farers Who could be a match of the Banjaras? True, the river has gone dry, And worthless plants have begun to flourish on the brink, The elite merchants are on decline, And the tax collectors have disappeared, The river is littered with mud And the banks grow only straws The river has lost its old strength, You big fish, you did not return When the water had its flow Now it’s too late, You will soon be caught For fishermen have blocked up all the ways. The white flake on the water: Its days are on the wane.” ……Bhittai [translated by Prof. D. H. Butani (1913-1989) in The Melody and Philosophy of Shah Latif
According to Sindhi historians young scholars such as Abul Hassan Thattvi (author of the Muqadamah as-Salawat, Hanafi Compendium) also wrote and sought advise from the elderly Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and frequently traveled to Bhit Shah.
The Seven Queens of Sindh
The women of Shah Abdul Latif’s poetry are known as the Seven Queens, heroines of Sindhi folklore who have been given the status of royalty in Shah Jo Risalo. The Seven Queens were celebrated throughout Sindh for their positive qualities: their honesty, integrity, piety and loyalty. They were also valued for their bravery and their willingness to risk their lives in the name of love. The Seven Queens mentioned in Shah Jo Risalo are Marvi, Momal, Sassi, Noori, Sohni, Sorath, and Lila.
These tragic romantic tales are Momal Rano, Umar Marvi, Sohni Mahiwal, LiLa Chanesar, Noori Jam Tamachi, Sassi Punnun and Dhaj, Ror Kumar or Seven Queens of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Heer Ranjha and Mirza Sahiba, including Sohni Mahiwal and Sassi Punnun are the four other tales from Punjab, narrated in Punjabi by various other Sufi poets like Waris Shah. Sassi Punnun and Sohni Mahiwal are culturally included in both Punjabi and Sindhi traditions. These nine tragic romances from South Asia (all from now days Pakistan)have become part of the cultural identity of Pakistan.
Perhaps what Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai saw in his tales of these women was an idealized view of womanhood, but the truth remains that the Seven Queens inspired women all over Sindh to have the courage to choose love and freedom over tyranny and oppression. The lines from the Risalo describing their trials are sung at Sufi shrines all over Sindh, and especially at the urs of Shah Abdul Latif every year at Bhit Shah.
Located at the confluence of Arab, Persian, Central and South Asian cultures, Pakistan has become a land of Sufi saints whose message of peace, love and compassion has played a pivotal role in promoting interfaith harmony and creating a tolerant society that allowed integration of peoples in a caste ridden culture. Their egalitarian teachings, which focused upon ascendancy of soul over body and mind, offered hope to the indigent, who slogged for survival in an epicurean culture. Their altruism left an everlasting impression on the lives, ethos and culture of the people.
These Sufi saints, most of whom were scholars and poets, advocated introspection and meditation to gain spiritual enlightenment that would not only steer the mind away from mundane misery and address social injustice but also nurture noble values of passion and compassion. Their benevolent abodes became natural preserves of learning and relief during their lifetime; however, people continue to throng shrines of these pristine princes for spiritual enlightenment, centuries after their passing away. These shrines are spread across the length and breadth of the country while the anniversaries of these Sufi saints are celebrated like cultural festivals with music, dance, sports events, entertainment and exhibitions.
There would hardly be a town in Pakistan that does not host a shrine of a Sufi saint. It may be worthwhile to recall that major cities in Pakistan are built around these Sufi saints. For example, Karachi is the final resting place of Abdullah Shah Ghazi (720-773) while Lahore is hosts the shrine of Ali Hujviri, alias Data Ganj Baksh (990-1077). Capital city Islamabad is also built around Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi, alias Bari Imam, (1617-1705). Devotees celebrate their anniversaries, called Urs, with religious fervor.
Prominent Sufi saints in Pakistan include Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) who is also a world renowned poet, Baba Farid Shakar Ganj (1173-1266), Bahauddin Zakaria (1170-1267), Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1177-1274), Pir Mehr Ali Shah (1859-1937), Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689-1752), Sachal Sarmast (1739-1829), Sultan Bahu (1630-1691) and Waris Shah (1722-1798), to mention but a few in alphabetical order. Some of these Sufis were poets and philosophers while others were simply sublime souls that charmed all and sundry. The list is, however, simply indicative and may run into thousands if not millions, if we conscientiously counted them all.
After having worked in a multicultural milieu for three decades, I began to appreciate the mores of mysticism that underline the need for passion, compassion and a wholesome harmony among humankind. I also realized that the message of a great mystic poet, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai remained little known to the outside world, mainly because of linguistic barriers. Initially, I translated a concise compilation of his Risalo, which was published by Roshni publications, Hyderabad in 2012, under the title “Apostle of Love”. The book was honored with “Shah Latif Award 2012” as also the “Mysticism Award 2009-2012”. In the meanwhile, I continued working on interpreting more verses of the poet philosopher. This translation entitled “Shah Jo Risalo/Message of Shah” was also published by Roshni publications in 2014. However, for the global audience, who may not be familiar with indigenous terms and expressions or the profound metaphors, I decided to bring out a global edition, which too was published in 2014 by the Author House UK. The book entitled “Mystic Melodies/Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai”, which contains prologues to all the ragas and requisite glossaries, has been made available worldwide in print and electronic form.
SINDH Muhinji AMMA (Sindh my mother)
April 15, 2013 ·
Main article: Sindhi language
The first complete translation of the Quran was completed in 884 CE in Mansura by the orders of the Abbasid Emir Abdullah ibn Umar ibn Abdul Aziz on the request of the Hindu Raja Mehruk.
Sindhi is spoken by more than 35 million people (2011) in the province of Sindh. However 25% people are Sindhi-speaking in the largest city of Karachi, Pakistan. Karachi is also populated by migrants from India who speak Urdu and form about 30% of the city. The other migrated inhabitants of the city are Biharis from Bangladesh, Pastuns from Khaybar Pakhtoonkhwah, Punjabis from various parts of Punjab and other linguistic groups of Pakistan. Most of these Urdu-speaking people sought refuge in the city from India during the partition of British India, and they settled in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkar and other cities in Sindh. Sindhi is an Indo-European language, linguistically considered to be the sister language of Sanskrit. Balochi, Gujarati, Rajasthani language have influences of Sindhi and Sanskrit however accommodating substantial Persian, Turkish and Arabic words.
In Pakistan Sindhi is written in a modified Arabic script, where majority Sindhi population is Muslim. Hindu sindhis who migrated to India after partition(currently are about 6 million) still register their mother tongue as Sindhi, meanwhile 7 million Hindu Sindhis are living in Pakistan.
Key dialects of Sindhi:
Kutchi, Lasi, Parkari, Memoni, Lari, Vicholi, Utradi, Macharia, Dukslinu (spoken by Hindu Sindhi) and Siraki. During British colonial period, Siraiki evolved as a separate language.
JOGHIYAN JOGH SAHAAI JOGH BI S AHEEN JOGHIYAN
JOGHIYAN SUNDI JAAN MEY GHUJH GHUJH GHUJHANDAR AAHE
HAAI MUU(N) KHEY WAAI JO AAU(N) JOGH NA SIKHI
The ascetics deserve renunciation
Renunciation too deserves ascetics
They have mysterious secrets in their soul
Alas! I did not learn abnegation
JOGHI KANDH KAPAAI KUNN KAPAAEIN(N) MIR KI
SUHBAT TU(N)HJI SYED CHAWEY SAAMIYAN WATT SAMAAI
YAHDILLAHI BI NOORIHI MU(N)AYASHAI EEI(N) UNHEEN LAI AAHI
HEE TINEEN JI JAAI JINEEN BHAEI JUG CHHADHIYA
O’ ascetic! Get yourself beheaded
ripping ears is normal
“Correlate your company” says Syed
“With the holy men”
“Whom so Allah wills
He guides him towards his light”
is an observation for such seekers
That is the abode of those
who have renounced both the worlds
KEEHI KA MA KAPARRI THA AHRI RAWASH RAWAN
NA KA DIL DOZAKH DHEY NA KO BAHESHT GHURAN
NA KO KUM KUFAAR SEE(N) NA KA MUSALMANI MON
UBHAA EEI(N) CHAWAN PREI(N) KAJO PAA(N)HJO
With what intention
the ascetics adopt such conduct?
They neither think of Hell
nor do they demand Paradise
They have no concern with the infidels
nor with the believers
They stand up and say
“O’ Beloved! Accept us as yours”
ADESIYAN ADAB AAHEY AKHIRRIYAN MEY
TINN JO HASAB NASAB NAHEY KI NA AMMA NA ABB
SAMIYEN KHEY PREI(N) RUH MEY RAHIYO RUBB
RAI LANGHUTI LUBB PACHHI KUN NA PAAN(N) SEE(N)
Ascetics’ respect is manifested in their eyes
They have not any pedigree
nor have a family distinction
Whatever the way the ascetics may be
the Lord resides in their soul
Except loincloth as their wealth
they save nothing else
GUL GUL PASSI GHODHARIYA GHAN(N)A MA BHAEINJH
SO EE SUNJHA(N)NREEJ HI HU AAHEY HEEKARRO
O’ ascetic! Perceiving flowers and hues
believe not in multiplicity
Identify him; He is the only one
KURR KAMAAEYEI KUCH UTHHI ORR ALLAH SEE(N)
KUDDH TUU(N) DAGA DIL MA SAHEB WAN(N)EY SUCH
MUHABAT SUNDO MON MEY MAAN(N)IK BHARIJ MUCH
UNN PAR UTHHI ACH TA SOUDO THIYEE SAFFARO
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
WISRIYOM SABAQ PAHREE(N) SITT NA SU(N)MBHRAA(N)
AJHAA(N) HI WARAQ HIU MUTAALIOU NA THIYO
I have forgotten the covenant with him
I even remember not its first line
I haven't fully read the relevant page
JEY BHAAEI(N) JOGI THIYAA(N) TA SU(N)GH SUBAI TORR
JEY JAAWA NA JAAPANDA JEEI TINEEN SEE(N) JORR
TA TUU(N) PAH(N)CHI TORR MUHABAT JEY MAIDAAN MEE(N)
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
JEY BHAAEI(N) JOGI THIYAA(N) TA PAR GURU JEY PAAR
HAWAAU(N) H UNGHLAAJ DEH VEENDEY SUBB WISSAR
NAA(N)GA NAATH NIHAAR SAAMI WADHEY SIKK SEE(N)
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
JEY BHAAEI(N) JOGI THIYAA(N) TA MON PUREY MUNJH MAAR
DAAYEM DHU(N)HEE(N) DIL MEY MON SEE(N) MALHAA VAAR
SAH SUBB KA AAR AAGEY UNN JEY ADAB SEE(N)
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
JEY BHAAEI(N) JOGI THIYAA(N) TA KEEN PIYAALO PI
NAAH NIHAAREY HUTHH KAR AAU(N) UTT NA THI
TA SUNDO WAHDAT VEE TAALIB TORRAA(N) MAN(N)E(N)
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
WISRIYOM SABAQ PAHREE(N) SITT NA SU(N)MBHRAA(N)
A(N)JHAA(N) HIE WARAQ HAAI MUTAALI'A NA THIYO
I have forgotten the covenant with him
I even remember not its first line
I haven't fully read the relevant page
KAAYO KAMAAYOM MOTI MUU(N) NA WAN(N)JIYA
SEEHI JO SEYYED CHAVEY WIKHAR WAHAAYOM
HAIRO HAAL SUNDOOM TOH TU(N0JHI UBHAA(N)
I have dealt in imitation
and purchased not the precious stones
“I have traded “stock of lead,” (instead of gold) says Latif
That is my state of affairs, I seek your grace
KUCH KAMAAYOM KURR BHAGHAM 'AHAD ALLAH JA
PINJHRO JO PAAPAN JO SO CHOTTI TAAEI(N) CHUR
MA'LUUM ATHAI MURR GHORHAA INHEI GHALLH JO
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?
KURR KAMAAYEI KUCH UTHI AUR ALLAH SEE(N)
KADDH DAGHAA DIL MAA(N) SAHEB WAN(N)EE SUCH
MUHABBAT SUNDO MON MEE(N) MANEK BHAAREJ MUCH
UNN PAR UTHI ACH TA SOUDO T HIYEE SAFARO
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
MULH MAHAA(N)GHO QATRO SIKAN(N) SHAHAADAT
ASAA(N) IBAADAT NAZAR NAAZ PREI(N) JO
A drop of love is precious, yearning is martyrdom
We are to worship, He is to bless us
Alternative Source to Study the
History of Sindh
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689-1752), the poet par
excellence of the Sindhi language and literature lived for 63
years during the last decade of the seventeenth century and
the first five decades of the eighteenth century. This was a
turbulent period in the history of Sindh and the Indian
subcontinent. Despite the fact that Latif belonged to an elite
class of his times, he never associated himself with this
class, which was involved in the worst kind of oppression of
the masses. On the contrary, he pleaded the cause of
oppressed classes of Sindhi society. Hence, Latif’s poetry
can be taken as an alternative source in the examination of
the history of Sindh. The purpose of this paper is to study
his poetry as a significant source of understanding the
socio-political and economic conditions of his contemporary
times. This is a study in historiography. We do not intend to
discuss historical events of Shah Latif’s period as the
independent variables but to interpret them in the light of
Much has been written on the life and work of Shah
Abdul Latif Bhitai but a few authors have attempted to look
into his poetry in the light of socio-political history of Sindh.
The purpose of this article is to study Shah Latif’s poetry as
an alternate source of understanding socio-political events of
the poet’s epoch. H. T. Sorley, G. M. Syed and Muhammad
Ibrahi Joyo are a few names who have revisited and
reinterpreted Shah’s poetry in the shadow of socio-political
and religious conditions of his times. This paper is an
extension of the research and investigation patterns
introduced by these experts on Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.
Shah Abdul Latif belonged to that category of poets who
never praised the rulers. Instead, he advocated the cause of
the oppressed classes without any distinction of religion,
caste and creed. G.M. Syed in his work, Shah Latif and His
Message, has portrayed Latif as a nationalist and patriotic
poet because of his immense love and commitment to Sindh
and its people.
Shah Abdul Latif traveled throughout the nook and
corner of Sindh and the surrounding areas. He met people
from all walks of life and observed their ways. Hence, his
poetry depicts a true picture of the socio-political and
economic conditions of Sindh during the eighteenth century.
He joined the company of jogis and sanyasis.
He wandered from place-to-place with these Shaivite
mendicants. His travels across Sindh and its vicinity
provided him an opportunity to mingle with the masses and
experience their problems and pains. His monumental poetic
work, Shah-jo-Risalo, reveals much about his travels along
with the Hindu recluses. In his poetry, he expresses his
admiration for the Shaivite jogis and sanyasis, particularly
on account of their monotheistic beliefs. In the chapter (sur)
entitled Ramkali, Latif says:
Their ego the ascetics have killed
They wish their unity with God to be fulfilled
Those who have adopted nihilism
Without their company I cannot live
The first day brought wisdom’s gain
That not far one brief moment’s spell
Holy men with health feel well
No daytimes four long watches tell
For them a tale of crushing pain
So sing the Sayid, jogis roam
Amongst the people quietly
Food and cloth for their pleasure
From them God will stay
Still farther and away
The quilt that to me guru gave
For me it is the greatest honour I have
Disciples, the quilt round your body throw
And on bended knees before him bow
In 1707, when the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb died,
Shah Abdul Latif was a young man of 18 years. The death of
the emperor caused the beginning of the decline of Mughal
rule in the Indian subcontinent. The disintegration of the
Mughal Empire paved the way for the rise of the Kalhoras in
Sindh. Latif witnessed the rule of two Kalhora rulers: Mian
Yar Muhammad and his son Mian Noor Muhammad.
Earlier, in 1592, Akbar had conquered Sindh and made it an
integral part of the Mughal Empire. During Mughal rule,
Sindh was included in the Suba (province) Multan. It was
divided into two administrative units called the Bakhar
Sarkar (Upper Sindh) and the Thata Sarkar (Lower Sindh).
In 1701, Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro was appointed as the
Governor of Upper Sindh by the Mughal emperor. Later on,
the governor began to establish his control over the southern
parts, as a result of which Sindh virtually emerged as a
unified and independent kingdom. The Kalhoras, who were
originally religious mendicants, assumed political power and
established a tyrannical quasi-theocratic regime. In 1737,
during the days of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro, Nadir
Shah invaded Sindh and the Kalhoras were forced to accept
the suzerainty of the Persian monarch. Nadir Shah took the
three sons of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro as hostages on
the condition to release them on payment of tribute. In 1747,
just 10 years after Nadir Shah’s invasion, Ahmed Shah
Durrani attacked Sindh and the region came under his rule.
After the death of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro,
Sindh experienced a terrible civil war
among his three sons.
It is apparent that the subordination and subjugation of
Sindh by foreign powers and the destructive civil war must
have compounded the sufferings of the common people, who
were already groaning under the tyranny of the quasitheocratic Kalhora rule.
Shah Abdul Latif could not remain
immune from such a dismal situation and identified himself
with the suffering masses. He expresses his feelings in the
sur entitled Hussani:
O my pains! Do not shake me further, because I am
already woe-ridden. My sorrows melt me, like salt
dissolves in water.
In the same chapter, Latif portrays a picture of the
oppressed masses in the following words:
I received sorrows at the time of my birth: They
multiplied when I became an adult. Only the sorrows
and agonies are my fortune.
In the chapter entitled Mazoori, Latif complains:
I am grief-ridden, how can I show any anger. I am
famished, how can I smile. How can I think about my
marriage, when I do not have a piece of cloth to cover
Portraying the misery of the poor people during winters,
Northern wind blew strong. I did not have quilt or
mattress. My whole night passes in a struggle to pull
four corners of my head-covering (chunni) to cover
myself (to keep myself warm).
Such miserable conditions created a sense of insecurity
among the common masses. They became indifferent to the
prevailing political affairs of the region out of sheer
helplessness. They were unaware about their socio-political
and religious rights. Hence, they accepted the worst form of
oppression as the Will of God. Hindus were subjected to
religious persecution by the sectarian Kalhora regime.
According to Sorley, ‘The Hindus’ position deteriorated still
further, they came to be regarded as a sort of gold mine to be
drawn upon at will.’ In these circumstances, Latif raised his
voice and asked the inhabitants of Sindh to unite on a
common platform without religious discrimination. He
urged them to initiate a struggle with the noble purpose of
achieving political freedom and social justice. He advises:
Do not detach yourself from the group of companions
when they pouch through mazy passes. Otherwise
you would fall behind and miss the path, which, your
companions might take.
The eyes of Moomal (one of the heroines of Latif and
Gujar by caste) are the iron arrows. She can wound
the rulers with these arrows. Go and witness
numerous graves of foreigners on the bank of Kaak
Latif composed several verses that deliver an
unambiguous message of unity to the people of Sindh. These
verses also emphasize the need of a ceaseless and untiring
struggle for the purpose of reaching one’s destination.
Shah Latif’s Poetry:
An Alternative Source to Study
are several chapters (surs) in the Shah jo Risalo — Sur
Suriraag, Sur Sassue, Sur Mazoori, Sur Desi and Sur
Hussaini — which stress on unity and constant struggle. In
Sur Suriraag, Latif advises the people not to be sceptical of
dangers, but to be brave and courageous in order to face
adverse circumstances, as that is the only way to reach the
ultimate destination. In this very chapter, Latif gives a clear
message to the people of Sindh that laziness would not
resolve their problems, and that only their unflinching
determination can enable them to face the worst situations
in their lives.
If the sea is rough do not go to sleep.
Shore is surfridden like froth in a jar. Do not be skeptical but face
the high tides, otherwise there will be more pains for you.
Sassue seems to have been Latif’s most favourite
heroine. He has devoted five chapters of the Risalo to her
sufferings and audacity. In his verses, the poet tried to depict
Sassue as a role model for the Sindhi people because of her
unwavering determination, untiring struggle and
unbreakable courage to reach the desired destination.
Presenting Sassue as a symbol of the perpetual struggle, Latif
O Sassue! Do not sit idle at Bhambhor, but strive
hard to [to meet Punhoon]. The tough mountains will
navigate you to your destination [i.e. do not be afraid
of the rugged mountains]. O Sassue! You can reach
Punhoon only if you move on your head [i.e. if you
become tired of walking on your feet, you should not
hesitate to crawl on your way to Punhoon].
Millions of thorns have pricked my feet. My fingers
have become so stiff that they cannot bend any more.
No matter if pointed stones have injured my feet, still
I intend to move without wearing any footwear.
In Sur Desi (which also focuses on Sassue), Latif argues
that if one has a strong will to reach one’s destination, then
all hardships of the journey would be rendered insignificant:
Rough mountains are meaningless for me: they can
not obstruct me from reaching Punhoon. I can cross
millions of such mountains because my love has
made me so strong.
One of the couplets of Sur Hussaini advocates an
Do not care about hot or cold weather. Do not think
about rest. You should push forward without wasting
your time because if you become late, darkness will
spread all around and you will not be able to see the
footprints of your beloved.
During Lartif’s era there were two icons of political
power in Sindh. First; the Sayeds, the Pirs, the Pirzadas, the
Qalandars and the Sufis and second was the Persian
language. Sorley, on the authority of Alexander Barnes, has
mentioned that ‘there is no country in Asia or on earth that is
so perfectly priest-ridden. He further maintains, ‘Sayeds
and Fakirs began to be treated with great respect, which the
taxation system acknowledge, while the ordinary cultivating
and pastoral class, the true Sindhis, the Jats and camel men,
the fishermen and hunters were fully exploited’. Latif
strongly condemned the clergy and other religious groups
who exploited the masses in general, and religious minorities
in particular. He took a courageous stance by daring to
condemn them in strong words. On several occasions, Latif
bitterly slates the mullahs and the so-called holy men who
used religion as a tool of exploitation. He says:
My lord and Master puts
The mullahs to their shame
Shame on the mullah who is
concealing the real message of Allah.
Faith does not in that direction lie
That the Kalima you day and night cry
Your heart is imprisoned in falsehood
With Islam you mask your face
Within, many idols hold their place
During Latif’s times, Persian language was considered as
a sign of aristocracy and pride. It was the language of the
court and the elite classes. A common Sindhi proverb during
Latif’s time was: ‘Proficiency in Persian language would
enable you to ride on the horse back.’
According to a common practice in the Kalhora period,
only the elite classes (Peers and Syeds) were allowed to ride
on horses. Latif strongly objected to this discriminatory and
In Latif’s days, the intelligentsia of Sindh believed that
the Sindhi language could not be used as a medium to
express sophisticated ideas. Falsifying this notion, Latif
chose the Sindhi language as an instrument to express
sophisticated and subtle ideas related to philosophy, religion,
love, patriotism and universalism. Latif not only preferred
the vernacular Sindhi to Persian, but he also employed local
prosody of Schand Videya instead of the well-established
Persian rules of composing poetry called Ilm-e-Urooz. By
doing so, Latif linked the Sindhi language with local
traditions. He also eliminated a sense of inferiority among
the Sindhi masses, which had been internalized owing to the
hegemonic notions of the alleged superiority of Persian.
Shah Abdul Latif was a strong proponent of pantheism.
According to this theory, all religions are merely different
paths leading towards one supreme goal, that is, God (Allah).
According to another interpretation of this idea, ‘God and
creation can be understood as two aspects of one reality’.
Latif tried to transform the theological concepts of
pantheism (Wahdat-ul-Wujud or Hama Oost) into a
political theory based on the spiritual unity of human beings.
His political doctrine was based on the principle of ‘creating
unity from diversity’. On these foundations, Latif wished to
see the reconstruction of Sindhi polity. He desired to build a
Sindhi society on the principles of equality of human beings,
social justice, an exploitation-free economic system, dignity
of labour, respect for women folk, religious tolerance, and peace.
While articulating the doctrine of ‘UNITY IN DIVERSITY’, Latif
Diversity has emerged from unity. Hence diversity
and unity are inseparable. The only truth is that the
just path is the path of unity, not duality.
In another verse, Latif tries to explain his understanding
of ‘unity in diversity’ by employing the phenomenon of echo
as a metaphor:
What you call echo is in fact the reflection of the
voice. Voice and echo are not two separate things, but
they are one and the same.
In a further elaboration of the same theme, he states:
My love Like a fortress with million doors and windows
When I glance knowingly Lo and behold
All phenomena disappear except my love.
The Influence of Shah Inayat
Though Shah Abdul Latif belonged to an elite class of
Sindh, he disowned his inherited social association and
expressed his solidarity with the oppressed groups,
particularly when they rose in revolt. His progressive attitude
can be understood in the context of the tragic incident (in
1718) of Jhok, when Shah Inayat — an eminent sufi, a
reputed poet and, above all, an unmatched social reformer
was assassinated. The deceased had a great influence on
Latif, who used to visit the former. Shah Inayat had taken
revolutionary steps for the betterment of the oppressed
classes. In this regard, he established a commune-based
society in Jhok; a society free from all kinds of exploitation.
The basic principle of this society was, ‘Every one works
according to his strength and gets according to his needs.’
In the light of this unprecedented move, Sebte Hassan in his
book, Naveed-e-Fikr, has proclaimed Shah Inyat as the
socialist sufi. The emergence of such a society was an
obvious threat to the existing power structure which was
dominated by the Syeds and Pirs, who were exercising
‘almost regal power’. Consequently, the Kalhoras, Nawab
Azam, the Governor of Thatta, and several other influential
persons, including religious leaders, formed a united alliance
against Shah Inyat. They also sought the assistance of the
Mughal Court at Delhi where, at that time, the reins of the
Empire were in the hands of Farukh Siyar.
Having received both material and moral support from
Delhi, they attacked Jhok. Shah Inyat resisted three regular
armies with untrained disciples (murids) for four months.
When the government forces lost every hope of victory, ‘they
took to deception, and sent a letter (to Shah Inayat),
requesting peace in the name of Allah. The generous hearted
sufi fell into the trap. When he came out for a dialogue he
was arrested and later on beheaded, and his severed head
was sent to Delhi.
Shah Inyat’s tragic death agonized Latif and he
composed at least eight verses in Sur Ramkali to express his
Good seeker’s voice today I miss
The courtyard now is desolated,
The sight of empty places here
Kill me, so torturous it is
Who to the soul gave life and bliss
The selfless ones are departed35
None of the ascetics is available in any house today. I
kept weeping whole night in their memory: The
Lahutis whom my heart remembers have departed.
Universalism and Equality;
Latif’s love and reverence for the revolutionary sufi,
Shah Inayat, shaped his political ideas. Latif was the
proponent of a social system free of economic exploitation
and advocated equal rights for all segments of society,
without any religious or caste discrimination. He was
opposed to the theocracy and regarded religious beliefs as a
personal matter of the people. He was entirely different in
his beliefs and convictions as compared to the mullahs and
makhdoom who enjoyed considerable clout in the
contemporary socio-political life. It may be emphasized here
that Latif had firm faith in the principles of religious
freedom, equality of human beings and social justice for all
the religious communities, creeds and castes.
Supported by his faith in the ‘spiritual unity of human
beings’, Latif emerges as the proponent of equality among
different countries of the world. He does not believe in any
fascist doctrine of national chauvinism. He links the
prosperity of his homeland Sindh with the prosperity of the
world at large. He does not pray only for the prosperity of his
beloved motherland — Sindh, but also wishes good fortune
for Istanbul (Constantinople), China, Samarqand, Rome,
Kabul, Qandhar, Delhi, Girnar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Bhuj and
Umarkot. In Sur Sarang, he prays:
All signs of downpour have appeared. The skies are
covered with clouds and there is a lot of lightning all
around. Some of these clouds and lightning have left
for Constantinople and some have turned towards
West. Some have moved to China and others went to
Samarqand. Some of them are destined for Kabul and
Rome. Delhi, Deccan, Girnar, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and
Bhuj would also receive their share of rain. Some
clouds trekked to Umarkot for the purpose of
bringing prosperity to the people of that area. O my
Lord! Keep Sindh prosperous for all times to come
and also bless the entire world with happiness and
Notwithstanding his love for all countries, Latif uses bitter
language for the kingdoms that intend to colonize other areas. In
one of the verses of Sur Sariraage, he predicted the arrival of the
Phalangis/Firangis (the British) in Sindh. According to Fatmi, it
was the prophetic warning against the consequences of Mughal
ruler Farrukh Siyar’s firman [order] of A.D. 1717 which, among
other concessions, made the [East India] Company’s trade
customs free throughout the imperial territory for an annual
tribute of the paltry ‘sum of three thousand.’ Let us read the
My bark in mid-stream may sink, may sail
What was thought so perfect now doth fail
The guides are not be seen in rightful place
The prowling pirates (firangi) up and down do pace
My Lord my modest craft protect
When proud vessels have been cruelly wrecked
Being a pantheist, Latif believed not only in equality of human
beings but also in the equality of all religions. In his perception,
religion could not be the basis of nationalism. It seems that like
other Sufis, Latif believed in Islamic teachings which advocate that
there is no compulsion in religion and that ‘for you your religion
and for me mine’. It is because of this perception that Shah jo
Risalo contains several verses that bitterly criticize Hindus and
Muslims for their religious sectarianism. Criticising the Muslims,
It is your misconception that by reciting Kalima you
have become a true Muslim. How can you become a
Muslim when your heart is filled with evilness and
duality? You look like a Muslim, but in reality you are
an idol worshiper.
In another verse, Latif condemns fanatical Hindus by
pronouncing them as non-Hindus:
You are not loyal to your belief of infidelity. You are
not true Hindu. You should not wear the sacred
thread. You should also not wear the tilak on your
forehead because you are not loyal to your belief.
In the light of these verses, one can draw the inference that for
Latif an individual or a group could not be judged on the basis of
their religious beliefs, but only on the basis of their deeds. He
suggests, by implication, that these deeds meant selfless service
for the humanity at large:
Prayers (namaz) and fasting are good deeds, but
these would not lead you to your beloved. In fact, the
deeds that will lead you to your beloved are some
Patriotism, protest against tyranny and an unshakable desire
for freedom constitute the fundamental elements of Latif’s poetry.
He has raised these issues in his Sur Marui. Marui was a poor girl
who lived in a village called Malir. She was betrothed to a man of
her own tribe. Another person, who wanted to marry her, was
filled with jealousy when he came to know about Marui’s
engagement. This man went to the king Umar Soomro and met
him in his fort, known as Umar Kot. He suggested to the king that
he should abduct Marui and marry her, because he was the only
person who deserved to marry such a beautiful girl. Umar Soomro
kidnapped Marui and confined her in Umar Kot. Marui refused to
become a queen and turned down all the offers of a luxurious life.
She remained loyal to her poor people and her native place Malir.
Umar Soomro imprisoned her in Umar Kot for one year. But he
could not shatter her determination and commitment to her
people. In Sur Marui, Latif symbolizes Marui as a person of
unwavering resolve, uncompromising loyalty, firm commitment to
freedom and ever ready for sacrifice. That the poet attached
utmost importance to Marui’s struggle and principles is
manifested in the following lines:
O Soomra! So long as I am alive I will not wear silken
garments you gave me. I love to wear my ancestral
head-cover. I will never marry you.
We poor people do not barter our kinsmen for gold. I
will not do any thing unconventional in Umar Kot. I
love my sheds. I will not exchange them with
O Soomra! If I die in Umar Kot remembering my
native place, kindly send my corpse to my people. I
believe that the fragrance of the plants of Malir would
Besides patriotism, Latif emphasizes the need to inculcate a
sense of courage and sacrifice among the people of Sindh. In Sur
Kedaro, dealing with the sacrifices of Imam Hussain, the
grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Latif urges the
people of Sindh to rise against their illegitimate rulers and, in the
effort, not hesitate to sacrifice their lives. He motivates them in the
In the battlefield, brave people face each other with
courage. Their shining swords clash with a din. The
combatants charge each other fearlessly. The tossing
chopped heads are spread everywhere in the
Horses and bridegrooms (warriors) have very short
lives. They spend a part of their lives in prisons or
forts, and the remaining part of it in the battlefield.
In Sur Yaman Kalyan, Latif expresses his admiration for the
spirit of sacrifice, even if the life itself is short. While doing so, he
employs the metaphor of the moth, which is known for its extreme
love for luminosity and its willingness to sacrifice its life.
Moths have a strong will to sacrifice their lives, so
they jump into the blaze. They get burnt, but never
weep or wail. They sacrifice their life for truth.
In Sur Kalyan Latif declares:
Gallows are life embellishment for true lovers. They
always prefer death instead of turning their faces on
gallows. From the very first day they are determined
to sacrifice their lives.
Women as Symbol of Non-Conformism
Like other sufi poets of the Indus Valley, Shah Abdul Latif
accords a large space to women in his comprehensive poetic
discourse. He has chosen several local folktales and ballads from
Sindh, Balochistan, Rajasthan and Punjab, and has employed
them in such a manner that his ideas are easily understood by the
common people of Sindh. He has accepted and legitimized the role
of women and, thus, has contributed to improving the status of a
hitherto oppressed and marginalized section of society. He has
expressed unlimited admiration for women, who have been
depicted as heroines in the above stories. In Sur Sassue, Latif
presented Sassue as the symbol of courage, determination and
struggle. In Sur Sohni, he portrayed Sohni as a courageous woman
who did not hesitate to break prevailing traditions. In Sur Kamod,
he presented Noori as a submissive woman who demonstrates her
gratitude to King Tamachi, who accepted her as his queen despite
the fact that she belonged to a low caste. However, despite her
submissiveness to King Tamachi, she remained loyal to her own
people — who were poor and down trodden — and used her
influence to solve their problems. In contrast to Noori, the poet’s
other heroines demonstrate high values of courage, pride and
sacrifice. In Sur Marui, Latif has depicted Marui as a symbol of
patriotism, determination and sacrifice. In Sur Rano and Sur
Leela Chanaser, the poet has shown Moomal and Leela as wives
who lost their husbands because of their arrogance, carelessness
and mistakes. Later, they realized their folly and struggled hard to
reunite with their husbands.
To sum up, Shah Abdul Latif’s poetry is an alternate source
that helps understand the socio-political and economic conditions
of Sindh during the first half of the eighteenth century. During this
period, the people of Sindh suffered due to foreign subjugation
and internal suppression. The miseries suffered by the common
people made them indifferent to the prevailing material conditions
and they accepted the suffering as the Will of God. In such
circumstances, Shah Abdul Latif raised his voice in support of the
oppressed masses of Sindhi society. He not only tried to eliminate
the sense of alienation among the masses but, through his poetry,
he also taught them the values of self-respect, equality of all
human beings, political freedom and social justice. His deliberate
choice of the Sindhi vernacular instead of the official Persian for
expression was intended to eliminate the prevailing sense of
inferiority among the Sindhis and to create a sense of high
intellectual attainment in them. This choice generated a sense of
pride among the Sindhis, besides inculcating in them a sense of
respect for their language and culture. The subject matter of Latif’s
poetry is the common people of Sindh, such as herdsmen,
peasants, camel breeders, weavers, fishermen, ironsmiths and
seafarers. He also gave a great importance to women in his verses.
He not only addressed women directly, but also gave them a
central position in his thematic discourse. He was all praise for his
heroines who emerged as the symbols of courage, determination
and struggle. If Sassue has been portrayed as the symbol of firm
commitment, Marui emerged as the icon of patriotism. Latif’s
poetry reveals that he opposed any political role for religion in
Sindh polity, but he did accept religion as a personal matter of the
people. He criticized the Hindus and Muslims who used religion
for planting seeds of hatred among the people. Keeping in view the
heterogeneous character of Sindhi society, he suggested the
formation of a new society, which was based on equality among all
human beings, without any discrimination based on religion, caste
and creed. Translating the theory of pantheism into a political
doctrine, he wished to see the Sindhi polity of his times as an
emerging ‘unity from diversity’. His admiration for Shah Inayat
reflected his ideas regarding socio-economic justice. Through his
poetry, he encouraged the masses to fight against all kinds of
exploitation and injustice. He appeared as a proponent of untiring
struggle and sacrifice to achieve the goals of political stability,
social justice and communal harmony.
Making the body a mosque
the heart a chamber for contemplation
observe not only the forty days conventional meditation
Remember the Invisible (Lord) all the times
then you will know by yourself
that He is every where
Mumbai, Feb 01: Sufism in Sind was an indigenous movement which absorbed in itself the finest of Islam and Hinduism, thereby laying the foundation of what is termed the composite culture of India. Sindhi sufism like sufism in Kashmir stood for raising the quality of life through God, realisation and social service. It was largely influenced by the Vedanta. It embraced all Gods.
Sindhi sufi poetry is traceable to seven ‘‘baits’’ (slokas) of Memoi saints of the 14th century predicting the future of the unhappy valley. There are some ‘‘baits’’ of Qazi Kadan (died 1551) which talk of ‘‘tauhid’’ (unity of Being). The 16th century produced a great sufi poet, Shah Abdul Karim (1536-1622). His 92 baits proclaiming the brotherhood of man and the unity of God are recited by the devout.
Towards the middle of the 17th century, Sind produced another great mind Shah Inayat. His baits and bols enthralled the desert. He inspired the people not to accept an unjust feudal system.
By the end of the 17th century, there appeared the greatest sufi poet of Sind, Shah Abdul Latif (1689-1752), who infused new life into the desert and gave hope to the people suffering under unjust and corrupt rulers. He was well versed in Quranic traditions and Vedantic thought. Known as Sufi-e-Haft Zaban, the Shah knew seven languages including Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit.
Shah Abdul Latif’s greatest contribution to sufi thought are his spiritual utterances compiled by his disciples. They are called ‘‘Shah Jo Risalo’’ (The message of Shah). Risalo is neither a philosophical treatise nor an intellectual masterpiece but it transports the readers to new spiritual heights. It brings new fellowships into being.
Shah Abdul Latif was a sufi poet in the Vedantic tradition of sufi saints who possessed nothing and whom nothing possessed except the name of God and service of humanity. The Shah believed that while intellect is a bondage, faith is the liberator. Shah liked the company of Hindu yogis, he visited Hindu centres of pilgrimages where he danced reciting the name of Krishna.
Shah’s ‘‘swars’’ or ‘‘surs’’ are musical compositions set to the tunes of Indian classical moulds like the Sikh Gurbani. In Sur Khahori, Shah refers to the Kali temple whereas in Sur Ramkali he sings of Guru Gorakhnath.
Sindhis are a secular people who had translated the Quran Sharif into Sindhi in 1746 and also the Bible into Sindhi in 1825 much before the British conquered Sind in 1843. Recently the love legend of Sassi Punnu, a Sindhi classic, was given a sufi touch when Sassi sings in the desert in search of Punnu in the midst of a terrible dust storm. In desert sufi terminology, life is a bride whom death the bridegroom comes to take away.
THE BEST POETRY VIDEOS ON THE WEB
Poet: Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai
“So Heddan So Hoddan” (Like Here Like There): the Sufi poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai
22 February, 2012 by Dave Bonta
Poet: Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai | Nationality: Guararat, India, Pakistan, Sindh | Filmmaker: Anjali Monteiro, K.P. Jayasankar
The trailer for what sounds like a fascinating film about the survival of the poetry and music of the Sindhi Sufi Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (or Bhitai), directed by Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar. The trailer includes one of Bhittai’s poems. Let me just copy the description from Vimeo:
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a medieval Sufi poet, is an iconic figure in the cultural history of Sindh. Bhitai’s Shah Jo Risalo is a remarkable collection of poems which are sung by many communities in Kachchh and across the border in Sindh (now in Pakistan). Many of the poems draw on the eternal love stories of Umar-Marui and Sasui-Punhu, among others. These songs speak of the pain of parting, of the inevitability of loss and of deep grief that takes one to unknown and mysterious terrains.
Umar Haji Suleiman of Abdasa, in Kachchh, Gujarat, is a self taught Sufi scholar; once a cattle herder, now a farmer, he lives his life through the poetry of Bhitai. Umar’s cousin, Mustafa Jatt sings the Bheths of Bhitai. He is accompanied on the Surando, by his cousin Usman Jatt. Usman is a truck driver, who owns and plays one of the last surviving Surandos in the region. The Surando is a peacock shaped, five-stringed instrument from Sindh. The film explores the life worlds of the three cousins, their families and the Fakirani Jat community to which they belong.
Before the Partition the Maldhari (pastoralist) Jatts moved freely across the Rann, between Sindh (now in Pakistan) and Kutch. As pastoral ways of living have given way to settlement, borders and industrialisation, the older generation struggles to keep alive the rich syncretic legacy of Shah Bhittai, that celebrates diversity and non-difference, suffering and transcendence, transience and survival. These marginal visions of negotiating difference in creative ways resist cultural politics based on tight notions of nation-state and national culture; they open up the windows of our national imaginary.
Shah Abdul Latif, a great scholar, saint and spiritual poet, was born in Hala Haveli near the Khatiyan village of Hyderabad District, Sindh in 1689. His ancestral roots lay in Afghanistan. It is said that the Shah’s father, Syed Habib Shah, had migrated from Matyaru, his ancestral home in Afghanistan to Bhainpur in Sindh, in order to gain spiritual contact with Bilawal, a local pious man.
Abdul Latif received his early education from a Madrasa run by Akhund Noor M. Bhatti. He was proficient in the knowledge of Quran and the traditions. He always carried with him copies of the Quran, Masnavi Maulana Room, and Risalo of his great grand father Shah Abdul Karim of Burli. The poet excelled in the Sindhi language. He was also proficient in the Persian, Sanskrit, Saraiki, Urdu and Baluchi languages.
Shah was a missionary and believed in practical learning. It is through his journeys that he acquired the background for most of his poems. He denounced extravagance, injustice and exploitation in all forms and at all levels, and praised simplicity and hospitality. His spiritual and mystic poetry carries a message of love and universality of the human race.
In 1713, the Sufi poet married Bibi Saida Begum. It was a love marriage. His wife died at an early age, before she could have any children. Shah never married again.
In 1742, Shah Abdul Latif decided to settle in Bhit, meaning “The Sandy Mound”. Having a great passion for music, one day he ordered the musicians to play music. They played continuously for three days. When they stopped playing from pure exhaustion, they found the poet dead. He died in 1752, and is buried in Bhit. A mausoleum was later constructed there.
Before his death, fearing that people might ignore his poetry, he destroyed all his writings by throwing them in the Kiran Lake. But at the request of one of his disciples, the sufi poet asked his servant, Mai Naimat, who had memorized most of his verses, to rewrite them. The message was duly recorded and compiled. A copy of the compilation known as “Ganj” was retained at the mausoleum. The original copy disappeared sometime in 1854. It was in 1866, 114 years after the poet’s death, that Ernest Trumpp, a German scholar who knew Sindhi as well as many other languages, compiled “Risalo”, a complete collection of Shah Abdul Latif’s poetry, along with two other Sindhi scholars.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai is always remembered for his great poetry with love and reverence.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003
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