Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun

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.




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.



My Impressions of a Living Sufi [3 of 3]

He has a spell in his personality that commands respect and obedience, yet gives you complete freedom, to think and to blink. There is friendliness and trust in the air. You discover all this at least after twelve hours before you  convince yoorself  that he is no ordinary palmist, who knows numerology.



by Farah Karamat Raja


He had a spell in his personality. That commanded respect and obedience yet gave the freedom, to think and to blink. There was friendliness and trust in the air. I discovered all this at least after twelve hours before that I was convincing myself he is some ordinary palmist, who knows numerology. (more…)

“This body is God’s home”

Moving [counting beads] of tasbih [rosary] does not move [transform] the heart, so why hold a tasbih? If gaining of knowledge does not evoke humility [obedience] then what is the gain of [such a] knowledge? If sitting through chillas [isolation] does not bring any fruits then what is the purpose of adopting [the ritual] of chillas? Without mixing [of yogurt] the milk does not transform into yogurt even if it has been boiled many times over and turned reddish. You [Mullah] have become a professional tasbih-mover and you utter incoherent words.The jewel of your heart does not move while you are wearing garlands made of hundreds [five-twenties] of pieces /When you have to give something your throat is squeezed but when you have to get something you become a lion. O Bahu! for the stone-hearted people the rain [of love] gets wasted.



by Dr. Manzur Ejaz


Historians and commentators have provided contradictory portrayals of Sultan Bahu’s life and his political inclination. However, his poetry seems to be a coherent collection of baits (a four line verse). Neither his predecessors nor his successor poets can match his direct harsh criticism of Mullahs, Qazis and clerics of Islam. His exploration of man’s inner self is also uniquely deep.

Sultan Bahu belonged to the Awan tribe, and was born in village Anga near Shorkot, Jhang in 1631, about two-three years after Shah Jahan (1592-1666) had ascended the Mughal throne after killing many of his relatives. His father, Sultan Bazaid, is said to have been connected to Shah Jahan’s court, which is reported to have given him a large tract of land. Most historians agree that Sultan Bahu was schooled at home by his mother, Bibi Rasti Quds Sara. He was sent to Habib-ullah Qadri at Baghdad (not the Iraqi city) on the banks of river Ravi.


The tomb of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi

The main entrance to the tomb. Inside there are separate sitting arrangements for men and women, where all mumble their secret wishes to the saint.
Desperate women, under threat of divorce, pray for a son. Some are seeking good fortune, some pleading for the health of their loved-ones. Drug addicts ask for forgiveness and an opportunity to live a normal life.
This is an unusual crowd. Parents have their children with them and persuading them to ask the saint for high marks in the next examination. The young ones raise their tiny hands for blessing of the Sufi Saint.




by Hafeez R.M.


Every day, near about sunset, a steady stream of devotees crawls towards a green dome. Their destination is a grave draped in flowers. All wish to touch it but the marble railing comes their way. Not to feel belittled, they step back; sit cross-legged with head down and recite verses from Holy Qur’an. Soon the place would become congested and the khadims would persuade some in deep slumber to move out to make way for others.

A man reading Muslims’ holy book [the Quran] at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, whom many consider the patron saint of Karachi. Each December, Muslims from all walks of life converge here to attend the three-day Urs celebrations of the great saint.

There are separate sitting arrangements for men and women but all mumble their secret wishes to the saint. Desperate women, under threat of divorce, pray for a son. Some are seeking good fortune, some pleading for the health of their loved-ones. Drug addicts ask for forgiveness and an opportunity to live a normal life. This is an unusual crowd. Parents have their children with them and persuading them to ask the saint for high marks in the next examination. The young ones raise their tiny hands for blessing of the Sufi Saint.


I met the Qalander, Sufi & a Saint [3 of 4]

Qalandar is a free spirit, he has no wordly shackles and they are different from all ordinary human nature. In popular folk beliefs its considered that one Qalandar possesses the power of hundred Walis (saints). Qalandars discard the lower human nature and fly to their Lord. Qalandars can seem to be strange or act or dress strange.
Their personality is different and sometimes bizarre, but in reality a Qalandar is in Jazb, a secret reality intoxicated in the love of God and Divine Figures, messengers and saints.
They closely resemble to wandering ascetics in their outward modes and sometime in their fierce madness due to intoxication into ‘other reality’. Often time they are give nspecial vision and hidden mysteries of reality are made known to them. Some define Qalandar as an itinerant sufi, a wandering dervish, who learns and teaches during his travels and wandering.



by Farah Karamat Raja


Now the gate keeper was in the way of Sufism too, he was furious, full of wrath, abusing at the top of his voice calling names to wives, daughters etc. of the imprisoned person that I am the one working so hard, toiling in the way of God but Ali Maula and Hussain have paid no attention to me, have not accepted my “Salam” even and had visited this son of…. He was madly striking his “danda” on the iron bars. The prisoner was more scared, thought he, I want to be saved but Ali Maula and Hussain are playing games with me.

Early in the morning, they came to make the preparation; the prisoner could not stand the death, fear had clutched him badly – he was half dead already. He said “Ali Maula, this is not fair, in reward of my good deed I am getting this. I’m going to die for no reason and you are playing tricks”. Time was flying but they didn’t take him for hanging, the file was lost and the jailer according to the jail manual could not hang the man. The whole jail was turned upside down, each and every cupboard, locker, record room was searched but they couldn’t find the file. His hanging kept on being delayed, he now had a hope that he will be saved.

Ali Maula is helping me, thought he. Most importantly during all these days, the horse and the rider with the hood came to visit him each night. Now he was popular in the jail, considered a great Sufi, that Ali Maula comes to visit him each night. People started to ask him to pray for their pardon etc. As he was also free he became intense in his prayers. The family also appealed to the president, but his appeal was rejected, so the sentence of death was still in force. At least three years passed like this and the man set free again.

It so happened that when the file was found, the government changed. He was freed later.

I asked Agha Khan are you mureed [7] of someone? He said yes, I am mureed of my brother. I was surprised I asked him who is he? He said he is at present in Germany; he had controlled Lama’s over there.

Once his brother came to Pakistan and Agha Ali Khan insisted, I want to “bailt”[8]at your Pir’s hand. His Pir[9] is “Bu Ali Qalander”. He said I can’t do anything in this matter. As I pray Tahajjud[10] during the night time you should sit outside the closed door. Never knock at the door nor call me. If some day I call you then do come inside respectfully. Agha Ali Khan agreed to it. His brother used to pray Tasbeehat[11] for two or three hours, it was winter and Agha Ali continued sitting quietly outside the door, doing Zikr in his heart.

One night he heard, his brother calling him. He opened the door and went inside. The person on “Jai-Namaz”[12] was his brother but his voice was not his, style of speech was not his, it was someone else who was speaking Persian and beautiful poetry of Bu Ali Qalander in his own voice. He had  “bait” upon his hand.

Agha Ali Khan said to me, understand whatever meaning you want to understand, if you can. If you can’t, then too, it’s all right. That’s how my bait took place. I’m mureed of Bu Ali Qalander.

He had a motor cycle in his youth, used to smoke pipe. He was a lawyer by profession; one day a Sufi, a Qalander  “ Baba Mast Qalander” came and he (after seeing him) said you will be a commissioner soon and without any seriousness or intention he was deputy commissioner.

But his lifestyle has been of a Qalander. He went to a graveyard for concentration. There he used to practice fasting as prescribed in Islam but he kept them for 50, 90 days – used to do a lot of Tasbeehat, 9,000 times Darood Sharif a day. All night he kept standing before God on Namaz. He said in those days he used to fly.

Imtiaz Bukhari asked him what is the significance of Tasbeehat.? He replied that, if Rafique Ahmad Akhtar recommended Tasbeehat, it is because Tasbeehat are like plowing the barren land. Tasbeehat prepare and purify the land of heart for the seed of God. He said “I also started from Tasbeehat”.

When I asked that as you’ve said, you used to fly, was it your miracle? He looked at me, all of these are sidetracking, don’t go for them, we are out in search of God. We don’t demand and perform miracles. We demand God. He said all these things are worldly institutions. Like Jins or black magic, these are unnatural and inhuman. Natural and human intuition is directed from God.

I asked him how can we differentiate between a genuine saint and a worldly saint? He said, genuine saint will not try to make you rid of the worldly problems so that after one problem you will go to him for the second one. The genuine will make you rid of world, false will involve you more in it; while a genuine saint is like a rose, he spreads name and fragrance of Allah, whenever you leave his company, at least for few minutes you forget the world and think of God. I asked what if someone doesn’t get the right teacher.

He replied that we search for students but we don’t get them. Real students are rare. They are the ones who are in the way of God and those who are, they really find the teacher. And a student whether he gets a right person or not, he should keep on trying and should never give up because as Hazrat Shamas Tabraiz has said, Create the thirst first, for truth is given to a few. And most importantly the learner should never be disappointed because “Lover is never alone”.


Next: I met the Qalander, Sufi & a Saint [4 of 4]

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From the book “Prof. Ahmad Rafique Akhtar,  Mystery behind the Mystic”
[7] Mureed is a disciple, follower, student of some learned man, scholar, qalander, Sufi or saint. [8] Bait is a process of accepting a teacher, a guide, a saint or the head of a chain of sainthood (wilayat). [9] A Pir is a saint, a Wali, guide, or aspiritual teacher.n[10] Tahajjud is an optional prayer of Muslims. It is offered after midnight. [11]Tasbeehat are the recitations of holy verses. Though mostly recitations are of Quranic text, Tasbeehat are recitations / repetitions of holy verses as recommended by  a Pir, a Sufi, saint or a wali. [12] Jai-Namaz is usually a prayer mat or rug where Muslims offer prayers.
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