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Posts Tagged ‘Bulleh Shah’

First published in Islamabad Dateline

Mystifying is the turn of time, indeed. Refuted by clerics of his time, the same Bulleh Shah who was refused burial in his community graveyard is quoted by contemporary mullahs and holds worldwide reverence today.

Same can be said for all mystic poets who lived to challenge the rigid interpretation of religion prevailing in their times.

One wonders if he would have been charged for blasphemy and assassinated like Taseer or Bhatti if Bulleh were to say ‘whatever is in the heart’  in our society at present — mou’n aye baat na rehndi aye.

His words elevated his stature after death and today only few dare to challenge the great Bulleh Shah as he lays peacefully in his grave in Kasur. Elite of the city pay handsomely to be buried near the man they had once snubbed.

Bulleh Shah’s poetry is mainly colored with the philosophy of re-union with the beloved — God. He believes in serving humanity and loving beyond regions and religions, something that he does not separate from worship of God.

We can relate to him as he was a product of our society. His overwhelming audacity and almost arrogant critique of the religious orthodoxy strikes upfront. His poetry is filled with direct attacks on mullahs:

Mullah and the torch-bearer, both from the same flock
Trying to give light to others; themselves in the dark

Bulleh Shah was a humanist. He provided solutions to sociological, political, cultural and religious problems of the world around him.His words preach religious tolerance and teach the art of agreeing to disagree peacefully — something that is the need of the hour in our times as well. He embarked on the mystical journey to search God whilst describing the turmoil his homeland, Punjab, was passing through.

His poetry highlights mystical spiritual journey through four stages of Sufism — Shariat (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Marfat (Union).

He starts from the rules defined by Islam, and eventually ends up where he accepts the existence of God, everywhere, with no bias between different religions, finally experiencing union with God.

Pointing at someone else’s faith would only unveil how weak one’s faith is. Picking up guns, instead of pens to enforce your way of thinking would never have an effect that the likes of Bulleh Shah had, through their soul-searching and heart-melting poetry.

O’ Bulleh Shah let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognizes our caste (or race, or family name)

Unfortunately, we have not provided high accolade to this great mystic poet in our educational curriculum. He is known to the youth only through artists like Abida Parveen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Saeen Zahoor, Junoon and Noori.

And if questioned, how Bulleh changed me? Almost every time I hear Abida Parveen giving voice to his words I can imagine him singing and dancing to please the beloved, losing his caste, because love never had a caste or sect. I find myself dancing with him, at times. I find myself criticizing the authority our society has given to clergy.

In Pakistani society, hatred and differences are usually magnified and celebrating diversity is the need of the hour. Bulleh’s message if properly infused can fight extremism and inspire about a positive change which is much needed in these troubling times.

Neither Hindu nor Muslim,
Sacrificing pride, let us sit together.
Neither Sunni nor Shia,
Let us walk the road of peace!

When inquired with Raza Rumi, an intellectual and writer based in Lahore, about his views on the importance relaying the message that Bulleh Shah gave, he replied, “Bulleh’s poetry reflects his rejection of the orthodox hold of mullahs over Islam, the nexus between the clergy and the rulers and all the trappings of formal religion that created a gulf between man and his Creator. His message is clear and pertinent for the current crisis in Pakistan where the clergy has occupied public space and is nurturing a culture of intolerance.”

Bulleh’s poetry and its innate message can be a rallying point for a progressive Pakistan where humanism can prevail. In the current dark times, we have to reclaim Bulleh Shah and introduce the rich, plural heritage of Pakistan to the youth and younger generations.

Tear down the Mosque, tear down the temple
Tear down every thing in sight
But don’t (tear down) break anyone’s heart
Because God lives there

The world is becoming polarized, with hatred being fed to masses everyday, on religious and ethnic grounds. Instead of burning it down, we have to repair the damage done — stitch by stitch and any such voice which attempts to build these ideals should be glorified if we dream to make this world a better place for coming generations. One such voice is that of Bulleh Shah.

How true were his words about his own physical death:

Bulleh Shah asaa’n marna naahi; gor pya koi hor!  [Bulleh Shah! I will not die; someone else lays in the grave]

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi


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My diary (log) was published in December issue of  Media Voice Magazine (Page 66-77)

Text version:

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi and his friends took a journey from Islamabad to the flood-affected South Punjab with relief materials on October 23. From Nature’s fury and terrorism to snack stopovers, his log speaks of varied experiences.

1700hrs (October 23, 2010)
I was en-route Lahore with three volunteers to make a delivery of relief items to flood affected South Punjab. Hammid Ali, an MBA student, Shakeel Ahsan, an HR executive and Hammad Atta, a telecom engineer were with me on the trip started from Islamabad. We would meet more volunteers in Lahore where we will have to load three trucks with relief with relief items overnight and start our journey early morning the next day.

2000hrs (October 23, 2010)
Talking about the spot-fixing scandals of Pakistani cricketers on the Motorways we had a snack-break. Everyone had his own perception of what’s happening with Pakistan cricket, and same variation of perceptions existed about socio-political problems that we were facing. One wondered, if we will ever find common grounds to move forward.

2300hrs (October 23, 2010)
Markets and hang-out places remained open till late night in Lahore unlike Islamabad which closes down by 9pm. Lahori boys get hyper on weekends and horde the roads on their bikes. Driving through the haphazard traffic wasn’t an easy task. We finally reached the whole-sale bazaar near railway station in Mughalpura, where our trucks were ready to be loaded.

0200hrs (October 24, 2010)
Trucks were loaded. More volunteers arrived from Lahore. A US –based filmographer, Yasmin accompanied us to make a documentary. We had earlier asked for two trucks. One more truck had to be arranged, which demanded huge amount. Although I was angry at the truck-driver who was being unreasonable and cashing in on our emergency need, we had no other option but to hire him.

0500 (October 24, 2010)
Trucks were on their way to Daira Deen Panah, a town adversely affected by monstrous flood water. We had time to kill, and we decided to visit Data Sahib (mausoleum of Hazrat Ali Hajveri, the famous Sufi saint). This tomb recently faced the brunt of a terrorist attack killing many. Many malangs/wanderers were sitting around the tomb, and the atmosphere was simply ecstatic. After paying homage to Data Sahib, we then had to have sizzling breakfast of halva-puri in ‘andaroon’ Lahore (old Lahore which was a walled city).
 

0800 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
We are on the way to South Punjab now. In the coaster with loud music playing ‘chal way Bulleya othay chaliyeh’ singing, chatting and some playing cards. We are total 12 relief workers. I and Maryam were talking about how after Ramadan, donations have dwindled and people are not donating open-heartedly. The initial phase of immediate relief did not require as much money as the rehabilitation phase. 
 
1500 hrs [24th Oct, 2010] 
After 10 hours journey, we reached Kot Addu, whose town Daira Din Panah we had to hit. We had been here twice before, but then it took 26 hours as roads were blocked and bridges dismantled. Situation had changed as now only traces of water and its destruction remained. Our trucks were still 2 hours behind and again, after having a delicious lunch we visited the shrine of Syed Abdul Wahab Bukhari, known as Deen Panah, on whom the town was named. Locals told us how flood waters could not drown one street in their town, that was, where the shrine was located. 
 
1600 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
We started making lines of flood affectees, our one team was here yesterday to distribute coupons in affected families. Now we called all of them, and asked the head of families to stand in a line. This impossible process of filtering out genuine affectees, trying to make others, who did not have the coupons understand that we cannot accommodate them due to our limited capacity was tedious and heart wrenching. Female volunteers made females stand in a line, where as, male volunteers made males stand a triple line to ensure distribution without hassle. 
 
1700 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
Now our trucks had arrived and we started the by-hand distribution process. Each victim had coupons signed and counter signed by us, along with his National ID card to ensure genuine-ness. This process continued till it was dark and after 3 hours of distribution, reaching out to 1000 families we called it a day.
 
2100 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
We called this delivery, the mystical delivery as once again we decided to visit tombs of Shah Shams Tubrez and Shah Rukh ne Alam in Multan after having dinner at Pizza Hut. The driver and conductor with us strangely took interest in trying ‘how a pizza tastes like’. We went to the tombs, which are located adjacent to each other and had never seen such tight security ever before. Police officials told us, this area was under threat from terrorists, who had been on ‘blast a shrine’ spree. An old woman sat infront of Tubrez’s shrine, asked us to go back to Lahore and pay homage to Data Ali Hajveri on her behalf. 
 
2300 hrs [24th Oct, 2010]
Now we were on our way back to Lahore. On our minds, the sad faces of victims who had nothing left. Schools, hospitals, homes – all washed away. Another thing that continually became a topic of discussion was our nations reaction to national disasters which showed a ‘sudden burst of patriotism and then relative numbness’. Such was the case with Pakistan floods 2010. When the disaster struck, immediate emergency relief aide needed was nothing compared to what’s needed for rehabilitating 22 Million affected souls. Regular stops were made on juice corners, truck driver hotels and pan-shops on our way back as we had no deadline to meet. Most of us were so exhausted that we went to sleep in our coaster. Others continued to ‘fight’ on issues such as cricket, Zardari, US involvement in our internal affairs and what not.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer, a poet and a social activist who is the founding force & chairperson of Pakistan Youth Alliance(http://www.pya.org.pk/). He can be found tweeting @Ali_Abbas_Zaidi (http://twitter.com/#!/Ali_Abbas_Zaidi) & is available on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/aliabbaszaidi

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Cutting the long story short, darya ku koozay may bund kiya, Bulleh Shah in this masterpiece replies to all those who discriminate on the basis of caste, race or family lineage. Syed Abdullah Shah (aka Bulleh Shah) was a “Syed”.

Bulleh Shah's tomb in Kasur

Syeds were considered superior in knowledge and spirituality owing to their lineage from Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), they enjoyed special reverence on these basis from others. It was considered “demeaning” for a man to be a syed and have a non-syed teacher/murshid/guide/rahbar. People, even those from his very family (like he mentions in the kalam, his sisters and sisters in law) discouraged Bulleh Shah from accepting Inayat Shah as his master/murshid in spiritual matters as Bulleh Shah had already accepted him as his spiritual guide in Sufi tradition. Inayat Shah was an “Arain”. But Bulleh showed great love and reverence for his master and did not pay any heed to this objection.

As regular practice, first download this kalaam sung by the queen, Abida Parveen. Click here

And then try to understand what he is trying to say.

BULLEH NU SAMJHAWAN AAINAN BHAINAN TE BHARJAIAN

MAN NE BULHYA SADA KAHNA CHAD DE PALLA RAIAAN

AAL-E NABI AULAD-E ALI NUN TOON KION LEEKAN LAINAN

JEHRA SANOON SYED SADDE DOZAKH MILAN SAZAIAAN

JO KOI SANOON RAEEN AAKHE BHISHTEEN PEENGAN PAIAAN

RAEEN SAEEN SABHI THAEEN RAB DIAN BE PARWAAIAN

SOHNIAN PARE HATAIAN NE TE KOJHIAN LE GAL LAAIAN

JE TU LOREEN BAAGH BAHAARAN CHAKAR HO JA RAEEAN

BULHE SHAH DI ZAAT KI PUCHNA-EN SHAKAR HO RAZAAIAN

To counsel Bulleh, his sisters and sisters in law have come
Pay heed to us and give up mixing with the low caste Araeen
You are a scion of Ali,the Prophet, why must you shame our fair clime.
Those who call me Syed, are destined to hell made for them
Those who call me Araeen, have the swings in heaven laid for them
The low caste and the high caste, are created by God who cares not for family
He regards the beautiful and cherishes the not so comely.
If you wish to enjoy the glory of the Garden, go and serve the Araeen
Why bother about Bulleh’s caste? Obey the command that comes from Saeen

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Mystifying is the turn of time, indeed. The same Allama Iqbal who was given fatwa’s on, by his contemporary “Mullahs” is now quoted by well-reputed Mullahs of the same school of thought.

The same Bulleh Shah, who had been refused by the mullahs to be buried after his death in the community graveyard because of his unorthodox views, today enjoys worldwide reverence and is quoted by contemporary mullahs. The tomb of Bulleh Shah in Qasur and the area around it is today the only place free of collective refuse, and the privileged of the city pay handsomely to be buried in the proximity of the man they had once rejected.

Maulana Rum (aka Rumi), who was condemned as a kaafir, is not only the top selling poet across the globe but is held in high reverence by people of all religions.

I have written on this topic previously, the verses of Bulleh Shah force me to write again. Every word that was misinterpreted by mullahs, can serve a cure for all the ills we are facing in our times.

Chal Way Bullehya Chal O’thay Chaliyay
Jithay Saaray Annay
Na Koi Saadee Zaat PichHanay
Tay Na Koi Saanu Mannay
 
O’ Bulleh Shah let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognizes our caste (or race, or family name)
And where no one believes in us
 
Masjid Dha Day, Mandir Dha Day
Dha Day Jo Kujh Disda
Par Kissay Da Dil Na Dhawee(n)
Rub Dilaa(n) Wich Wasda
 
Tear down the Mosque, tear down the temple
Tear down every thing in sight
But don’t (tear down) break anyone’s heart
Because God lives there
 
Hindu na nahi musalmaan,
Baheeye tiranjan taj abhimaan.
Sunni na naheeN ham sheeya
Sulha kuhl ka maarag leeya.
 
Neither Hindu nor Muslim,
Sacrificing pride, let us sit together.
Neither Sunni nor Shia,
Let us walk the road of peace.

 

Props to Junoon, Rabbi, Abida Parveen, Saeen Zahoor and other musicians of our times for helping the new generation in rediscovering the message of Bulleh Shah. Junoon started the trend and was labeled as “Sufi Rock Band” – The message that pierced my heart was through them, when I was 12.

This first aspect of Bulleh Shah’s poetry and philosophy that strikes upfront is his bold and almost arrogant critique of the religious orthodoxy of his day; specifically the Islamic religious orthodoxy. His poetry is filled with direct attacks on anyone claiming control over religion.

Mulla tay mashaalchi dohaan ikko chit
Loukan karday chananan, aap anhairae vich
 
Mullah and the torch-bearer, both from the same flock
Trying to give light to others; themselves in the dark 

 

Bulleh Shah’s poetry portray him as a humanist. Someone providing solutions to the sociological/political/cultural problems of the world around him, describing the turbulence his homeland of Punjab is passing through, while simultaneously searching for God. His poetry highlights his mystical spiritual journey through the four stages of Sufism – Shariat (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Marfat (Union). He starts from the rules as laid down by Islam, and eventually ends up at a point where he accepts the existence of God, everywhere, with no discrimination between different religions, finally becoming one with God.

Pointing at someone else’s faith would only unveil how weak your faith is. Picking up guns, instead of pens to enforce your way of thinking would never have an effect that the likes of Bulleh Shah had through his soul-searching and heart-melting poetry.

Islam was never spread by sword. It wouldn’t be the fastest growing religion on earth if that were the case. Islam is spread by the message of love and by deeds, not the way Taliban “ENFORCE” it.

Lord Almighty Himself says:

There shall be no compulsion in religion – [2:256]

I cannot help pasting the verse below:

Bulleh-a aashiq hoyiyon Rabb da, Hoai Malamat Lakh
Tenon Kafir Kafir aakhdey, toon aaho aaho aakh

O Bulleh, just love your God and ignore the chidings
When they say you are an infidel, say “yes I am one”

 

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Everyone must have listened to the mesmerizing Aik Alif, performed by Saeen Zahoor and Noori brothers in the famous Coke Studio – Season 2. Saeen Zahoor’s gripping performance in the song and the depth of his voice brought tears in my eyes. The eternal words of Baba Bulleh Shah were masterly transformed into a masterpiece of musical art, which is often held to be the ‘food for soul’.

Download the audio – Aik Alif – Saeen Zahoor with Noori

Or view the video of this larger than life performance – Video

And do not stop here. Please!

Try to understand the crux of what Bullah was trying to tell you. Aik Alif or Aik Alif teray darkaar is a famous poem of Bulleh Shah, in which he tries to imply that there is a difference between conventional knowledge acquired by books and knowledge gained as a result of spiritual intimacy with the One. I am pasting below, an excerpt from The Way of Illumination by Inayat Khan:

“In the life of Bullah Shah, the great saint of Punjab, one reads a most instructive account of his early training when he was sent to school with boys of his own age. The teacher taught him Alif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. The other boys in his class finished the whole alphabet set while he was mastering the same letter. When weeks had passed, and the teacher saw that the child did not advance any further than the first letter Alif, he thought that he must be deficient and sent him home to his parents, saying, ‘Your boy is deficient, I cannot teach him.’

The parents did all in their power for him, placing him under the tuition of various teachers, but he made no progress. They were disappointed, and the boy in the end escaped from home, so that he should no longer be a burden to his own people. He then lived in the forest and saw the manifestation of Alif which has taken form in the forest as the grass, the leaf, the tree, branch, fruit, and flower; and the same Alif was manifested as the mountain and hill, the stones and rocks; and he witnessed the same as a germ, insect, bird and beast, and the same Alif in himself and others. He thought of one, saw one, felt one, realized one, and none else besides.

After mastering this lesson thoroughly he returned to pay his respects to his old teacher who had expelled him from school. The teacher, absorbed in the vision of variety, had long ago forgotten him; but Bullah Shah could not forget his old teacher who had taught him his first and most inspiring lesson which had occupied almost all his life. He bowed most humbly before the teacher and said, ‘I have prepared the lesson you so kindly taught me; will you teach me anything more there may be to learn?’ The teacher laughed at him and thought to himself, ‘After all this time this simpleton has remembered me.’ Bullah Shah asked permission to write the lesson, and the teacher replied in jest, ‘Write on this wall.’ He then made the sign of Alif on the wall, and it divided into two parts. The teacher was astounded at this wonderful miracle and said, ‘Thou art my teacher! That which thou hast learnt in the one letter Alif, I have not been able to master with all my learning,’ and Bullah Shah sang this song:

Oh! friend now quit thy learning,
One Alif is all thou dost need.
By learning thou hast loaded my mind,
With books thou hast filled up thy room.
But the true knowledge was lost by pursuing the false, So quit now, O friend, the pursuit of thy learning.

Every form seems to be derived from another, all figures being derived from Alif, which is originally derived from a dot and represents zero, nothingness. It is that nothingness which creates the first form Alif. It is natural for everyone when writing to make a dot as soon as the pen touches the paper, and the letters forming the words hide the origin. In like manner the origin of the One Being is hidden in His manifestation. That is why Allah, whose name comes from Alif, is hidden under His own manifestation. The same form of Alif is the figure one in English, and in both aspects this form reveals its meaning. This meaning in its various forms is seen in all aspects of nature. As Omar Khayyam says:

My soul said, ‘I desire the mystic knowledge:
Teach me if it be in thy power.’

I said, ‘Alif.’

She answered, ‘Say no more; If one is at home,
a single letter is enough.’”

Original poem in Pubjabi with my English Translation is given below:

Parh parh ilm te faazil hoya

(You read all those “conventional” books and call yourself knowledgeable)

Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na

(But you never bothered to read yourself/ to dive inside your self and seek the inner universe)

Bhaj bhaj warna ay mandir maseeti

(You run to enter your mosques and temples ( to seek spiritual intimacy with your maker) )

Te kaday mann apnay wich warya ee na

(But you never tried to enter your own heart)

Larna ay roz shaitaan de naal

(Everyday you claim to fight Satan)

Te kadi nafs apnay naal larya ee na

(But you never fight your own Ego / your lower self)

Bulleh Shah asmaani ud-deya pharonda ay

(Bulleh Shah you try catching, which is in the sky ? / Which flies in the sky)

Te jera ghar betha unoon pharya ee na

(But you never get hold of what sits inside yourself/ You never understood that what you seeked in the skies was actually INSIDE YOURSELF)

Bas kareen o yaar

(Stop it  my friend)

Ilm-oun bas kareen o yaar

(Stop seeking all this knowledge my friend (that doesn’t help you attain closeness with Him))

Ik Alif teray darkaar

(Only an Alif is what you need)

Bas kareen o yaar

(Stop it all my friend)

Ilm-oun bas kareen o yaar…

(Stop seeking all this knowledge my friend)

Allah Sayyaan Allah Sayyaan

(God is Greatness, God is All)

Nee main jaanaa Jogi de naal

(I shall follow the Jogi {ascetic/Sufi})

Jo naa jaane, Haqq ki taaqat

(Those who deny the strength of Truth)

Rab naa devey us ko Himmat

(God shall not give them courage)

Hum Mann ke darya mein doobey

(We have drowned in the river of Self/ We have dived our inner being and tried to grasp the mysteries that lie hidden within our own existence)

Kaisi nayya? Kya manjhdhaar…

(The boat and the flowing waters do not matter/ The hustle and bustle of this temporary world does not matter)

Bas kareen o yaar

(Stop it all my friend)

Ilm-oun bas kareen o yaar

(Stop seeking all this knowledge my friend)

Allah Sayyaan Allah Sayyaan

(God is Greatness, God is All)

Signifance of Alif:

In Arabic numerology or Abjad, the Alif represents the number one and belongs to the element of fire, therefore illumination.

It symbolizes the selfness of God as well as His unity. The Arabic letter Alif is equivalent to the letter ‘A’ in the English alphabet or Alpha in Latin. It is the first letter in the Arabic character set. The letter also takes on the archetypal value of the whole alphabet, which it begins and is thus also identified with Adam, the archetypal man or father of humankind.

Alif is the first letter in the Name ALLAH.

If we take away the first letter which is Alif we arrive at: Lillah. If we now take away the first letter Laam from Lillah we arrive at: Lahu. If we now take away the next Laam from Lahu we arrive at: Hu – the Divine Pronoun, pointing to the Real Being – the Real Alone.

La ilaha illa Hu – there is no other reality but Hu

Now listen to the song again and tell me if you don’t get ghoosebumps and tears don’t flow down your cheeks 🙂

Yours truly,

P.S: Courstery MysticSaint for the significance of Alif

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