Bulleh Shah, one of the most acclaimed Sufi poets of Punjab was a humanist and a philosopher. His poetry represents him as someone providing solutions to the sociological problems of the world as he lived through it, describing the turbulence his motherland Punjab was passing through, while concurrently searching for God.
Bulleh Shah’s poetry also highlights his mystical spiritual voyage through the four stages of Sufism: Shariat (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Maarfat (Union). The simplicity with which Bulleh Shah has been able to address the complex fundamental issues of life and humanity is a large part of his appeal.
Thus, many people have put his kafis to music, from humble street-singers to renowned Sufi singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pathanay Khan, Abida Parveen, the Waddali Brothers and Sain Zahoor, from the synthesized techno qawwali remixes of UK-based Asian artists to the Pakistani rock band Junoon.
DIFFERENT CONTINENTS, DIFFERENT CENTURIES, ONE DREAM
by N. Jayaram
Every year, an urs or commemoration of the death of a Sufi philosopher-poet-singer, takes place in the Pakistani city of Kasur, in the month of August, and that month someone posted a few lines on Facebook from a beautiful poem anyone – atheist or believer – can identify with.
Baba Bulleh Shah’s poem, Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun (text and youtube links below), has particular resonance in the context of a great deal of xenophobia and distrust of the other that we are witnessing in many parts of the world, including India.
In my southern Indian city, Bangalore, rumours recently led to the exodus of thousands of people originally from Northeastern India. The rumours were blamed on another minority in the city, the Muslims, who then felt obliged to host extensive rounds of Iftar parties (breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan/Ramzan) and dinners, inviting people from Northeastern India living in Bangalore, so as to reassure them that neither posed any threat whatsoever to the other.
It was apposite that just as the city began to recover from that ignoble trauma, the urs for a humanistic saintly figure began in another part of the subcontinent, where too large numbers of Pakistani civil society activists were energetically denouncing attacks on minorities and outrageous allegations of blasphemy. The troubles in India itself had started because of exaggerated rumours and false pictures depicting the fate of the Rohingya minority in Burma. And what is far worse, there have been clashes in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, pitting tribal people against presumed ‘outsiders’ from Bangladesh.
Who are outsiders and insiders among human beings who have been constantly migrating for thousands of years, whose DNAs can be traced back, according to overwhelming scientific evidence, to an African mother and whose languages, philosophies and religions are so interlinked? What earthly basis is there for this Auslaender raus (outsider out) thinking?
The poem by Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) contains many lines acutely relevant to the present times. This version is taken from the singer Rabbi Shergill’s websites.