Punjabi Sufi Poetry From Farid to Farid

by Christopher Shackle, Edited by Anshu Malhotra, Farina Mir
Chapter/Section Title:
Punjabi Sufi Poetry From Farid to Farid
Book Title:
Punjab Reconsidered: History, Culture, and Practice
Anshu Malhotra, Farina Mir
New York
Book Publisher:
Oxford University Press
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Christopher Shackle

Punjabi Sufi Poetry from Farid

Originally completed as a moderately-sized PhD over three-quarters of a century ago, Lajwanti Rama Krishna's Panjabi Sufi Poets! rather remarkably remains the nearest thing to a standard work in English on its subject. It is the purpose ofthis chapter to suggest that a proper understanding of the full evolution of tradition of Sufi poetry in Punjabi requires a rather radically revised approach.

Her account is one ofrise and fall. Beginning with a chapter on the poetry of Farid included in the Adi Granth, which she attributes to Baba Farid's early sixteenth century successor 'Farid II', she goes on to outline the lives and poetry ofShah Husain (d. 1593) and Sultan Bahu (d. 1691) before providing a more elaborate treatment of Bullhe Shah (d. 1758), whom she rightly describes as the greatest ofall Punjabi Sufi poets. Much more questionably, however, she sees that greatness as being the product of a progressive move away from his circumscribed Islamic origins, eventually culminating in a fully fledged universalism inspired by the monism ofVedanta. The five remaining chapters then pay decreasing attention to Bullhe Shah's more significant successors, such as Ali Haidar (d. 1785) and Hashim Shah (d. 1823) and their lesser contemporaries, before finally petering out with a desultory mentio-?-of a few very minor nineteenth-century poets. The influence ofRam a Krishna's approach remains significantly evident in later studies, notably including quite a number ofthose similarly written in English by Indian authors.2

In reaching for a better understanding of Punjabi Sufi poetry, the present chapter tries to open up new ways ofunderstanding this wonderfully rich tradition by coming at it rather differently. We begin with some general reflections on the special problematics of Punjabi literary history, with particular reference to the Sufi poetic tradition. It is suggested that the writing of the history of Punjabi literature of the pre-colonial period is an exceptionally difficult undertaking. Not only is the surviving material frequently rather sparse in quantity, and often very imperfectly preserved textually,3 but it is also quite heterogeneous in inspiration, comprising a whole variety of traditions far from being confined to the familiar Sufi and Sikh types.

We then approach the Sufi poetic tradition not as usual from its fragmentary beginnings, but from its end in the later nineteenth century. Not only are the lives and circumstances of the last great exponents of the tradition far better attested than those of the earlier poets, but the fact that they were active in the period when the introduction of printing had established an active vernacular publishing industry in the Punjab means that the texts of their poetry are far more reliably preserved. This relative abundance of reliable evidence can, it is argued, afford a much better basis for understanding the Sufi poetry of earlier periods than a priori generalizations about the ecumenical character of medieval Indian spirituality, allowing the construction of a fuller picture of the tradition by giving as much weight to its late classics as to its fragmentary earliest records.

We then move back in time to a summary consideration of the contrasting special characteristics of the earliest Punjabi Sufi poetry, the verses of Farid preserved in the Sikh Adi Granth (1604), and the vexed question of their precise relationship to the famous figure of Baba Farid (d. 1265). Here it is suggested that in the absence of direct attestation of links between the poetly and the life in the case of Farid, not to speak of other Punjabi Sufi poets, much may usefully be suggested by comparative study ofevidence from Sindhi, the nearest regional tradition ofvernacular Sufi poetry. This is illustrated with particular reference to the early Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Karim (d. 1623).

The final sections ofthe essay then deal with the three best known poets o{the Mughal period, whose three centuries are sparsely represented respectively by Shah Husain, Sultan Bahu, and Bullhe Shah. Attention is drawn both to characteristic features of stylistic evolution, which it is possible to begin to discern only from this period, to typical differences between these poet~, and to the serious flaws in Lajwanti Rama Krishna's re-casting of these Sufis as religiously universalized exponents of a shared pre-modern Indian spiritual understanding. It is also emphasized how the textual evidence for this period is much more poorly established than it is for the later Sufi poets of the nineteenth century with whom we began.


Literary history might be minimally defined as the diachronic arrangement of texts and their authors. As such, it is an untidy exercise at best, since it must awkwardly straddle the divides between history and criticism as it tries to organize all sorts of different literary materials produced across time into intelligible schemes of classification.4 In the case of pre-modern South Asia, the writing of literary history is made even less tidy by overlapping boundaries of language, religion and poetic genre, not to speak of the massive gaps and the many well known historical difficulties which are presented by uncertain biographical data, unreliably dated texts, and poorly established textual transmission. This pervasive absence of objectively verifiable data can often make itdifficult to establish agreed standards of authenticity.5

Given the cultural and political divides which characterize the region, it is no surprise that the history ofPunjabi literature has always been a particularly problematic one to write. It is, for instance, notable that there is no coverage of Punjabi literature in the two major recent English-language histories of Indian literatures published in the West: the multi-volume History ofIndian Literatures published by Brill in die 1970s under the general editorship of J.S. Gonda and the large multi-authored single volume more recently edited by Sheldon Pollock. 6 A similar gap existed for a long time in the Sahitya Akademrs m<].jor English-language series ofhistories ofIndian literatures. In the e;nd this was partially filled by the dual-authored history by Sekhon and Duggal, which in its turn was'then supplemented by two separately published volumes authored by Sekhon alone?

Like some of the Punjabi-language histories published in India since 1947, the failure of the Sekhon-Duggal volumes to construct a persuasive single narrative illustrates the intrinsic difficulties of finding a satisfactory arrangement for a comprehensive Punjabi literary history. Historians of Hindi literature can achieve this through depicting the parallel traditions ofsagul; bhakti and nirgul; bhakti and of Muslim and courtly literature, variously written during the premodern period in Braj Bhasha, Avadhi or Khari Boli, as all leading to the unitary modern literature written in the modern standard Hindi which was developed to express an Indian national consciousness.8

In a way, this was also the approach attempted early in the last centmy for Punjabi by Bava Budh Singh, the amateur enthusiast who created Punjabi literary history, and whose work was extensively cited by Lajwanti Rama Krishna. Loosely designed as a kind ofencyclopaedic anthology, Budh Singh's three pioneering volumes9began with a celebration of the primacy of Guru Nanak and the contributions ofthe later Sikh Gurus, then detailed the poetry ofthe Sufis and other mostly Muslim authors which dominated the following period, before describing the modern Punjabi literature then being created by the authors of the Sikh renaissance led by Bhai Vir Singh.

In reality, however, the attempted harmonization of the Muslim with the Sikh tradition, with its more or less explicit idealization of a single Punjabi cultural identity, conspicuously failed to achieve political embodiment when Punjab was divided along religious lines in the Partition of 1947. For the few historians of Punjabi literature in Pakistan,1O this has allowed medieval or modern writings in Gurmukhi script to be almost completely ignored. Indian scholars writing in either English or Punjabi, on the other hand, in their attempts to embrace the hugely significant pre-modern Muslim Punjabi poetry, especially that of the Sufis, have often been led into .. maintaining the over-readiness to smooth over the differences of Sufi from Sikh and other bhakti literature which was so characteristic of the nationalist period during which Lajwanti Rama Krishna's thesis was written. These dangers seem best avoided now by adopting


the alternative encyclopaedic approach 11 exemplified to good effect in R.S. Jaggi's five-volume literary history,12 which prefers to offer separate parallel descriptions in order to do justice to the parallel traditions of pre-modern Punjabi literature, even at the risk of sacrificing the attractive simplicity of the n~tionalist agenda's unitary narrative. I

Against these general considerations, we may now move on to a characterization ofsome ofthe salient features ofPunjabi Sufi poetry in relation to other pre-modern literary traditions. Here we shall reverse the usual order of leading from a sketch of the beginnings of Sufism in India through to its first local poetic manifestations, and we shall begin instead with the culmination of the tradition in nineteenth-century Punjab. It is in fact a significant weakness of


Lajwanti Rama Krishna's book, in which she is followed by many .1 later Indian critics and literary historians, that quite inadequate coverage is given to the nineteenth centmy, when she asserts that 'the real Sufi ceased to exist'13 due to the new outlook produced by political change and to the degeneracy ofSufi institutions. However convenient it may be to a nationalist reading of Indian history, this judgement seriously spoils the whole story ofPunjabi Sufi poetry by altogether leaving out any serious engagement with its last and best attested period, which saw the production of poetic masterpieces little known in India, but continuing to possess great Hving significance in Pakistan.




One of these great nineteenth-century Sufi saint-poets is Khwaja Ghulam Farid (1845-1901), who succeeded his father and elder brother to the leadership of a prominent Sufi lineage which commanded the allegiance of the nawabs of the princely state of Bahawalpur, then a remote and largely desert region situated in the extreme south-western corner of Punjab. Khwaja Ghulam Farid's lineage dated from the eighteenth century revival of the same Chishti order (tariqa) first founded in. Punjab by the great medieval saint Baba Farid Shakarganj, with whom he is not to be confused, although he too used the poetic signature 'Farid'. As a

I .

poet, Khwaja Farid is mainly known for his divan, a wonderful collection of 272 mystical kafts and the hymns which are the main genre of lyrical Sufi poetry. Designed for singing by professional musicians in qavvali at the tombs ofthe saints which are the centres ofSufi cultic activity, Khwaja Farid's kafis are especially notable for the sophisticated variety of their language, style and content.

Exceptionally carefully organized, first by the final letter of the main rhyme (radif) and then by the initial letter of the first verse, Khwaja Farid's divan was first published one year after his death in the Lahore-printed 1902 edition authorized by his son and successor. This was f~llowed in 1944 by a magnificent edition with Urdu commentary and introduction produced under .the auspices of the

. Nawab of Bahawalpur.14 The kafis are predominantly written in a rather pure form of the local speech traditionally labelled 'Multani', which is nowadays generally known in Pakistan as 'Siraiki',15 but they also include numerous verses in other languages such as Braj Bhasha, Urdu, Persian, even Sindhi.

Khwaja Farid's Sufi message of celebration of both the pains and the joys of mystical love for the Divine Beloved is expressed in a rich multiplicity of styles and images, which famously includes both very frequent special reference to the romantic legend ofSassi and Punnun and remarkably original evocations of the natural beauties of the deserts of Bahawalpur which were of special significance to Khwaja Farid as manifestations ofdivine beauty. They also include many striking uses of the love-imagery of the Persian ghazal and a whole range of Islamic and Indian references in celebration of mystical experience of oneness:

I)ihan l'tltin sanjh subahin Kanrin Ka1J. bajavim bin Qudsi bansi anhad azlun Ranjhan phuk sU1J.avim Jazlun Rakh rakh vahdat di a 'in

Day and night, morn and eve My ears hear Krishna's lute. From the first day Ranjha graciously· Plays his holy flute and lets me hear Celestial music in the mode of unity. 16




Other unpublished works attributed to Khwaja Farid include some Siraiki dohras in the couplet form used by the Sufis for their shorter verses, besides a collection of rather run-of-the-mill Urdu ghazals,17 and a short Sufi treatise written in Persiap prose~ Persian prose was also the medium used for the hagiographic literature devoutly composed by his disciples, notably the Maqabis ul Majalis [The Sparks of the Assemblies] relating to the last decade ofKhwaja Farid's life which was composed in five volumes by his follbwer Rukn ud Din in the ma!fuzat genre used to record a Sufi saint's sayings and actions. IS There is also quite a considerable secondary literature in Urdu which casts light on matters passed over by the early hagiographers, such as Khwaja Farid's romantic attachment to a girl of the desert tribe which is celebrated in some of his kafis.19

The other great Sufi poet of the period is also a Pir from a remote frontier region, this time the Mirpur District which was then a part of the Dogra state ofJammu and Kashmir. This was Khwaja Farid's close contemporary Mian Muhammad Bakhsh (1830-1907), who succeeded his elder brother to the headship ofone ofthe very numerous local lineages of the Qadiri tariqa which had become by far the most widespread of the Sufi orders after its introduction into Punjab in the later fifteenth century. Writing in'the standard pre-modern Muslim poetic language, with some use of distinctive local vocabulary, Mian Muhammad worked primarily in the genre of the qissa, the verse romance which is the main narrative genre of pre-modern Punjabi litera~ure, and which in his hands becomes a vehicle for the direct expression ofSufi ideas.

Besides an ~ncyclopaedic oeuvre which includes several treatments of local romances like those of Sohni-Mahinval and Mirza Sahiban, reworkings of Persian romantic narratives, and hagiographic poems on the miracles of the Prophet and of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (d. 1166), the founding saint of the Qadiri order, he is best known for his great poem SaifulMuluk (1863), a lengthy retelling in some 9000 verses from a profoundly Sufi perspective ofa story familiar from the Arabian Nights. 20 Published in at least fifty different editions since its first printing in 1880, and frequently recited to a distinctive melody (lai), Mian Mvhammad's SaifulMuluk, properly called Safar ul1shq(The Journey pfLove), continues to enjoy a massive local popularity which is entirely comparable to the reputation of Varis Shah's Hir (I766) in central Punjab.

Along with the oral composition of a great quantity of occasional verse, which is only imperfectly preserved, Mian Muhammad later wrote a spirited defence in Punjabi verse of the practice of devotion to Sufi tombs, then coming under attack by Muslim reformists, while in Persian prose he updated a lengthy memoir of his spiritual lineage, which was liter published in an Urdu translation by his leading disciple Malik Muhammad, a contractor from JhelumY Malik Muhammad also wrote a valuable Urdu life of his master, which emphasizes the intensity of his devotion to the Prophet, to Shaikh Abdul Qadir and to the Pirs of his own lineage, and his personal combination of intense mystical devotion with strict Islamic observance, as well as his miraculous powers and his poetic creativity.22

Exceptionally full records thus exist for these two great Sufi poets, whose maturity coincided with the establishment of the new print culture promoted by the Lahore publishing industry. All their most significant works are available in authentic contemporary editions, often also in corrected versions by later editors, making it possible to offer confidellt comment both on such detailed matters as their language and style, and on the general emphasis and content of their oeuvre, with its characteristic creative combination of elements from their shared triple heritage ofthe Islamic learning which underpinned their Sufi understanding, the Persian poetry which suffused their literary culture, and the local stories, conventions and images which give their poetry so much of its distinctive appeal,23 Complementing each other in genre and coverage, the extensive poetic output ofthese two very different poets collectively constitutes a uniquely comprehensive statement of the pre-modern Sufi literalY tradition in the final decades of its vital period, and offers a uniquely rich textual resource against which to understand the work of the earlier Punjabi Sufi poets.

We are also quite well provided with a wider context for the'; activities of these two poets. The nineteenth century, thanks to its comparative closeness to our own time and to the relative abundance of available contemporary materials, is in general a period easier to grasp than the pre-modern centuries of the Mughal· era. Although


the written biographical records are ofcourse heavily slanted towards hagiography, they were composed very near the lifetimes oftheir subjects, and their relative fullness makes it possible both to feel some confidence in establishing links between, the poets' lives and their poetly. Both were defined in life by their hereditary connection with Sufi shrines sited out in the far west ofthe region and by their formal role as Pirs, but Khwaja Farid's status as personal spiritual guide to a major ruling prince and the twin poetic celebrations in his lyrics of his beloved desert and of his desert beloved were very different from Mian Muhammad's reluctant assumption ofresponsibility in rriiddle life for a relatively minor local shrine and his combination of a strict personal celibacy with repeated poetic expression in his extended narratives of a passionate devotion to the miraculously all-powerful master-saint Shaikh Abdul Qadir. We can therefore see how the collective label of 'Punjabi Sufi poet' can embrace rather different kinds of Sufi and different kinds of poet.

In other words, it is with this period around these two major poets that a literary history of Punjabi Sufi poetry becomes a truly realistic undertaldng rather than a speculative and uncertain enterprise of reconstruction. As may already have become apparent through what has not been said, the Islamic context in which they defined themselves is sufficient for understanding both these poets. Both of them were based in Muslim majority areas out to the west situated so far from the central Punjab heartlands that Sikhs hardly figure in their imagination, and Hindus fre background figures only, albeit politically significant if spiritually subordinate ones in Mian Muhammad's Jammu. Their frequent celebration of the central mystica1 conception of the unity of Being (vahdat ul vuji:td) or 'all is He' (hama itst) is certainly reflected in the poetic expression of the meaninglessness of outward religious distinctions. But, outside their Sufi poet~y, this did not stop them from revealing indifference, at best, to non-Muslims or from expressing strongly negative views of the position of other Muslims, whether in Khwaja Farid's strongly anti-Shia sentiments or Mian Muhammad's opposition to the anti-Sufi stance ofthe Wahhabi reformists.24 Nor did it mean that their literary inspiration is not entirely explicable in terms ofan exclusivelytJ~sli~ spiritual.universe, requiring no invocation of a supposecUr more sIgmficant IndIc framework.


The lengthy conclusion to Mian Muhammad's SaifulMuluk includes an extended evocation of his poetic predecessors. This pioneering poetic history of Punjabi Muslim literature begins with a catalogue of the main genres before listing the great Sufis of the past:

The land ofPunjab has had many poets full ofwisdom, who have composed brilliant kafis, bdrdn-mdhs, dohras and baits. Some have· composed and written books, qissas and risaias. Where now has that company gone, Muhammad? Look and take careful stock.

First is Shaikh Farid Shakarganj, true knower and possessor of sainthood. Every utterance ofhis tongue is a guide on the true path. Then there was a Sultan Bahu, a special hero in the cause of truth. The dohras which he uttered shine out in both worlds. On listening to the kafis of Bullhe Shah, inner unbelief is broken. He ,swims about in the ocean of Oneness.25

In this passage we are taken straight back to the head of the list of Punjabi poets, with the praise of Shaikh Farid Shakarganj (11731265) whose life as the great Chishti Pir ofAjodhan in Punja,b during the period of the Delhi Sultanate is notably recorded in the wonderful maij'uzdt of Farid's most famous disciple, Khwaja Nizam ud Din Auliya; completed in 1322 by Amir Hasan as Favd'id al-Fu'dd (The Morals for the Heart).26 But while the records of Shaikh Farid's life are quite comparable in approach and authenticity to those available for our nineteenth-century Sufi saint-poets, they have nothing to say about him as a Punjabi poet. It has therefore been something of a problem for Punjabi literary historians to link the historically well established Shaikh Farid with the so-called Farid-bdlJi, the small corpus ofpoetry attributed to Farid in the Sikh Adi Granth compiled some 35Q years after the saint's death by Guru Arjan.

This disjuncture between text and context has made the authorship and authenticity ofthe Farid-bdlJi one ofthe most vexed questions of Punjabi literary history. The controversy need not be gone into here, since ample accounts of the latest scholarly consensus are availableY This ovetturns the now quite outdated attribution of theFarid-' bdlJi by Lajwanti Rama Krishna,28 following Macauliffe and others, not to Farid himself but to his sixteenth-century successor Shaikh Ibrahim known as 'Farid Sani' or Farid II, a contemporary of Gur~


Nanak's who figures in the later Sikhjanamsdkhi literature. Instead, the modern position reasserts the traditional identification ofShaikh Farid himself as the putative auth~r of theFarid-bdtti, with the necessary scholarly caveats taking account. of the strong probability of accretion and textual corruption through presumed oral transmission in the period preceding the compilation of the Adi Granth.

As the only part of the Adi Granth of discernibly Sufi inspiration, the Farid-bdtti is certainly of exceptional intrinsic interest as well as symbolic importance. It is however quite difficult to reach a full understanding, partly because there is so little of it, only 112 short shaloks of very miscellaneous content plus four short hymns, amounting only to some seven printed pages of the massive scripture. Interspersed verses by the Sikh Gurus suggest that Farid, like Kabir and other nirgul). Sants, was taken as a figure of parallel spiritual prestige whose message was in partial if imperfect harmony with their own, an understanding heavily underscored in the later janamsdkhi literature, where verses ofFarid are cited in reconstructed disputations designed to show the superiority of Guru Nanak.

Like the couplets of the Gurus and the Bhagats, the Farid shaloks are in the familiar mediaeval style particularly favoured in the nirgul). tradition but also adopted by some early Indian Sufis. Most are in the metrical form of the doha}9 whose four short half-verses are cast in the highly compressed style still made possible by the richly inflected language ofthe period. Their most typical theme is that ofthe urgent need for loving devotion to the eternal Beloved as the only antidote to the inexorable passage of a human life towards old age and death:

Farida: kalin jini na ravia, dhauii riivai koi

Kari sdni siu pirahari, rangu naveia hoi

Farid: who delights with white who did not delight with black?

Practise tender love for the Lord, the colour will be renewed.3D

In many of the shaloks the poet's signature is superfluous to the metre, as here, so in itself provides no guarantee of authenticity. But a recognizable poetic persona underlies most of the shaloks, and clearly apparent connections of content across the corpus are reinforced by a notably distinct preference for dialectal words and forms f~msouth'-western Punjab:




Faridii: naru!h'i kantu na riivio, vacjeJ,i thi muiiisu

Dhana kitkendi gora men, tai saha na miliiisu

Farid: when young she did not delight her spouse, when old she died

In the grave the woman cries, 'I did not find you, Lord!'3!

On the basis of this typical feature of the Farid shaloks, it may be suggested that there was a particular association between southwestern Punjabi and the early Sufi literalY tradition:32 This would be consistent with the importance of such sites as Multan and Uch as centres of Sufi activity, and would be a further illustration of the characteristic association of languages of particular regions with the verse literatures of the various religious traditions of the mediaeval period. Thus in the east ofthe 'Hindi' area, the tradition ofdevotional writing in Avadhi was first established by the Sufis, then taken over for Ram bhakti by Tulsi Das, and Braj Bhasha was ofcourse naturally always closely associated with Krishna bhakti, while Khari Boli had particular associations with the nirguf.1 Sants, and is also prominent in the mixed language of the Sikh Gurus, along with central-western forms of Punjabi.

The evidence from the Farid verses in support ofthis suggestion is further underlined by the imitative use by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan of a distinctive language in some ofhis shaloks, which are separately labelled as 1)akhafle or 'southern verses', as in the set which precede the stanzas of his Vtlr in Rag Maru:

[pakhaf/e M5]

jii mit passi hattha main, piri mahinjai niili

Habbhec}ukkha uliihiamu, Niinaka nadari nihiili

When I look into my heart, the Beloved is there with me

And through His grace is Nanak from all griefs set free.33

Here the Guru catches the distinctive Faridian tone while even exaggerating the linguistic peculiarities of the Faridian style by adding to south-western Punjabi forms such distinctively Sindhi


items as mu[li} passi[li} 'I see' or mahilijai 'mine'.

Since such items ar~ not characteristic ofthe Farid shaloks them

selves, the, claim sometimes advanced by Sindhi scholars that Farid

may be seen as a pioneer of Sindhi literature34 might be dismissed

as an untenable expression of modern linguistic chauvinism. But


it would be unwise similarly to dismiss the comparative value of early Siildhi literary evidence in amplifYing our understanding of the context and character of the Farid shaloks as the isolated sole record of the early Sufi tradition of Punjabi literature. The much more conservative linguistic character of Sindhi, as compared to all main varieties of Punjabi, encouraged the cultivation of the compressed doha form long after its obsolescence in Punjabi, well into the era of more abundant contemporary Persian hagiographic records.

Here the prime relevant text is the Persian maijUzdt ofGuruArjan's older contemporary, the Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Karim ofBulri (1536-1623). Written around 1630by one of his disciples with the title Baydn ul 'Arifin (Account of the Gnostics), this book contains ninety-three verses in Sindhi by Shah Karim, along with seven others by his predecessor Qazi Qadan (1463-1551), who became a devotee of the Mahdi ofJaunpur and who was appointed qazi ofBakhar in Upper Sindh. Verses by these two poets, of exactly the same formal type as those of Farid, that is the doha or its reverse the sorathd, are here each preceded by anecdotes which authentically reflect early Sufi understandings of their genesis.

Sometimes these stories are of a familiar type, like the one which tells how Qazi Qadan was one day alerted to the entry into his mosque ofa naked ascetic who had laid down and gone to sleep with his feet pointing towards Mecca. Outraged by this disrespect the Qazi rushed in to beat him, but when he went to his feet found his head there instead and vice versa. When he was reduced to despair, the holy man looked at him and said, 'Set the feet whither you will, but keep the heart towards the Lord.' So the Qazi put down his stick and became a seeker of God, uttering this verse:

jogiya jiigii 'iyosi, sutto hu 'asu nincja men

Tihiif/ po'i tha osi, sandi piryiin pechare

The yogi woke me up when I lay asleep Mterwards I recognized the path to the Beloved.35 Elsewhere, however, the connection between ~necdote and verse is more surprising. One feature of the early Sindhi verses notably lacking in Farid is the incorporation of references to the famous

local romantic legends, whose tragic heroines are used to symbolize the yearning of the Sufi for his divine Beloved. In _the following episode from the seventh chapter of the Bayan ul 'Arifln, devoted to the description of ecstasy and passion, Shah Karim is first overcome by his meditation on the memory of the martyrdom ofImam Husain:

One day the holy Pir remembered the story of the fair Imams in his heart and was moved to shed floods of tears. Then he sat in focused meditation. Raising his head again and again, he uttered the name of Imam Husain, with the tears pouring from his eyes for a long time. He remained seated in meditation, uttering the name of the holy Imam, and lamenting all the while, unable to speak because of his weeping:

He is then moved to utter a verse which expresses the same sort of passionate lament by invoking the romantic legend ofSohni, the her·oine about to drown while seeking her beloved Mehar (the Punjabi


Ghoriya Izl na tdti, mihdro'i mana men Jo pur,ta pe'i rdti, ta ha sd'iru haa sohar,ti

Aware of nothing else, the poor girl has only Mehar in her heart. When the night falls, there is the same river, the same Sohni.3~

Shah Karim is thus in more ways than one the true ancestor of the rich later tradition ofSufi poetry in Sindhi, with its characteristically interwoven simultaneous reference to local and to Islamic materials. The treatment of all these materials has its apogee in the greatest Sindhi literary classic, the Risalo of Shah Karim's great-great-grandson, Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit (1689-1752). Arranged by the ragas to which they are performed, also according to their subject matter in the case of the sets of verses celebrating the fate of individual legendary heroines, the verses in this very large collection are still in the classic medieval form of the doha, corresponding to the genre labelled shalok of the Adi Granth, but called by the Arabic word bait in Sindhi. The long retention down to the nineteenth century of this succinct metrical form in Sindhi may partly be accounted for by the way that the relative conservatism of Sindhi grammatical morphology makes for brevity. It may however be noted that many modern accounts of Sindhi Sufi poetry by Hindu authors writing


. i \


in English tend to minimize its clearly Islamic character in favour of the-wishful argument that its. Sufi ~mphasis on the oneness of being must clearly derive from the uni'que inspiration ofVedantic



In the light of the comparative perspective provided by this detour into Sindhi, we may now resume our account of the earlier Punjabi Sufi poets by first observing that, in contrast to the unbroken Sindhi poetic tradition, there is in Punjabi a marked disjuncture between the earlier poetry uniquely represented by the Farid verses on the one hand and the later Sufi poetry of the Mughal period on the other. The textual evidence for this period is again patchy, making .,I it necessary to approach it with a good deal of caution. For a start, while the overall linguistic style ofthe poetry may be characterized as being marked by a continuing preference for western Punjabi forms along with a naturally considerable use of Perso-Arabic vocabulary, there is for two or three centuries no textual evidence for any of the Punjabi works attributed to the three main figures of the period, until the appearance of the first printed editions of the 1880s and 1890s which were compiled from the oral tradition of the qavvals

who sang their lyrics. The very unevenly available biographical and other textual sources are also seldom well matched to the extant poetry in terms of directly yielding clear contemporary contexts for it in the way which has been seen to be possible for the Sindhi verses

of Shah Karim.

One of the misleading features of Lajwanti Rama Krishna's pioneering study is the way in which it blurs the differences between the Farid verses and the classic Sufi poetry of the Mughal period through her attribution of the Farid corpus to the early sixteenthcentury Shaikh Ibrahim called Farid Sani ('Farid II'). The date ofthe corpus is thus advanced by some three centuries, bringing it close to the time of the next significant Punjabi Sufi poet, Shah Husain of Lahore (1539-93). Shah Husain was a close contemporary of Guru

Arjan, and was indeed portrayed in the later Sikh tradition conveyed by th~ encyclopaedic memorialist Santokh Singh as having tried unsuccessfully to get his poetry included in the Adi Granth.38 He was also a contemporary of the Sindhi Shah Karim, and like the latter he was affiliated to the Qadiriyya which after its introduction into the region in the preceding century rapidly became the leading Sufi order in Punjab.

Shah Husain was a figure whose far-out life style as a malamati Sufi who rejected many social norms attracted considerable contemporary attention. Known in~his day to members ~f the imperial family, he later received mention in the Hasanat ul 'Ariftn (Beauties of the Gnostics), a brief account of the outspoken utterances of the Sufis compiled in 1652 by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh.39 A fuller account ofShah Husain's life was also recorded in Persian verse by his devotee Shaikh Mahmud in the remarkable lengthy memoir called Haqiqat ul Fuqara (The Reality of the Sufis) which dates from 1662. Besides the usual descriptions of his vast following and numerous miracles, this gives often very explicit details of his antinomian life style, including his drinking and his homoerotic infatuation with the beautiful young Brahmin boy Madho Lal, which has caused particular problems for many twentieth-century critics like Lajwanti Rama Krishna.40

In Shah Husain's case, the hagiographic record is certainly more

reliably attested than the Punjabi poetry. While these early sources

also speak of Shah Husain's fondness for dancing and singing, none

of them quote any Punjabi or Persian verses by him. The only com

position which seems to be reliably attributed to him is a Persian

treatise on Sufism,41 which suggests a rather different profile from

the Punjabi poetry on which his fame rests today. Moreover, since

the first printed edition ofthe Punjabi poems dates only from 1897,42

that is 300 years after his death, it has to be uncertain how many of

the existing kafis attributed to Husain are authentic, or indeed if

others may have been lost. It is also perhaps significant that he is not

prominently listed in the rather comprehensive catalogue of some

forty Punjabi poets compiled by Mian Muhammad in the 1860s.

Whatever the authenticity of the extant Punjabi poetry may be,

it certainly does not offer any clear reflection of Husain's way oflife,

which seems to have been more attuned to the urban world of the

Persian ghazal than to the more sedate rural setting of most Punjabi




poetry~ It is certainly notably different in style, language and content

from the Farid corpus. Instead of the shalok, the dominant form is

the kafi, with its characteristically more relaxed and lyrical expres

sion. Most ofthe 150 or so kafis attributed to Shah Husain are quite

brief compositions consisting ofa limit~d humber ofsimple verses.

Their typical themes, which were to be much more fully exploited in the kafis of Bullhe Shah, partly overlap with those found in Farid. Examples include the description of the demands of the mystical path in the well-known short kafi with the refrain Mushkil ghat foqiri da 'The faqir's path is hard!',43 or the continual need for vigilance with death always lurking just round the corner, as in the refrain of another poem Vela simran da ni uth Ram dhiae 'Now is the time to remember, girl, arise and meditate on God!'44 Besides this occasional use of the name 'Ram' for the Divine, there is however little of the kind of Hindu reference which might be expected from the connection with Madho. Instead, Shah Husain's verse is distinguished by a notable use ofthemes clearly related to folk-poetry, such as the songs associated with the spinning-parties which were an important part of a young girl's life.

The most notable innovation evident in Shah Husain's poetry as compared with the Farid verses is one which was to become a central feature of the Punjabi Sufi poetic tradition. This is the frequent reference for the first time to the great Punjabi romantic legend of

i ,

Hir-Ranjha. In many ofhis most affecting lyrics the poet adopts the


I i j

female persona of the heroine in her desperate love for Ranjha, who

: i

symbolizes the Divine, as in the following kafi: My heart begs for Ranjha

I roam the forests searching

For Ranjha to be with me.

Here come the buffaloes, but not my love: Hir cries out in Jhang.

I wander madly night and day The sharp thorns scratch my feet.

Husain the humble faqir says:

How can I find Ranjha.45


The next Punjabi Sufi poet placed aft~r Shah Husain by Lajwanti Ram~ Krishpa and most later literary historians is Sultan Bahu of


Jhang (1631-91), who directly follows Farid in Mian Muhammad's catalogue. He too was affiliated with the Qadiriyya, although through quite different connections, and he later established his own branch of the tariqa, which he called Sarvari Qadiri. All modern accounts of Sultan Bahu's life46 depend on a much later source, the hagiographic memoir Manaqib-e Sultani (Glories ofthe Sultan), compi~ed some six generations later by a descendant called Sultan Ham1d. This depicts him as a powerful Pir with a devoted local following in western Punjab, a profile not unlike that which was drawn earlier in this chapter for our nineteenth-century Sufi poets, albeit one which Lajwanti Rama Krishna47 found awkward to fit with her idealized model of the Punjabi Sufi poet as a free spirit transcending communal ties.

Confirmation of Sultan Bahu's self-definition as an authoritative teacher of Sufi doctrine and practice comes from his own writings, ofwhich far more have been preserved than is the case for any of the other Punjabi Sufi poets. By far the greatest part of his comprehensively recorded output is not in Punjabi at all, however, taking instead the form of Persian prose treatises.48 Said originally to number over 140, over two dozen of these survive with many available in modern Urdu translations. Their typically didactic tone may be illustrated in this brief extract from his Persian treatise called Mihakk ul Fuqara (The Sufis' Touchstone), which demonstrates the characteristic use ofacrostic formulae as mnemonic devices and ofscriptural quotation and commentary to give authority to the argument:

o true seeker, know that the path of the journey is the way of divine knowledge. So any seeker of the Lord who has no knowledg~of Sufism is utterly lost. The word for Sufism, thai is TaSaVvuF, consists.of four letters:49

The first letter is T, which stands for Tasarruf, or applying the self to the path to God; ... The second letter is S, which stands forSirat, the straight path, I.e. proceeding on the way to God; , .. . The third letter is V, which stands for Va da, the false promise which IS to be avoided; The fourth letter is F, which stands for Fath ul Ghaib, or conquest ofthe unseen, and for Fanafi'nNafi, or annihilation in the self.






Anyone who does not possess the knowl~dge of these letters and who does notact upon them can never know abo4t Sufism.

The other meaning of Sufism is that it comes from the name ofAllah, . that is, the knowledge ofA, and the meaning ofA is written in the holy verse 'Hetaught Adam the names [of them all]' [Quran 2:31], i.e. 'We taught Adam (upon whom be peace!) all the names'. The Sufis say that here 'all the names' mean all types of knowledge; of intellects and of degrees, which lead from theory to 'reality and whose outer and inner degrees are with the Lord.50

Like so many other Sufi teachers from Rumi onwards, Sultan Bahu also had an ecstatic side which he expressed in poetry. This is notably revealed in some ofhis Persian ghazals which are of the ecstatic mys tical kind which so memorably fill in Rumi's great Divan-e Shams-e


Az man hazar man man· vaz man hazar hai hai Hai hai hazar az man az man hazar hai hal

From me there came a thousand 'I's, from.'!' a thousand 'ah, ah's A thousand 'ah, ah's from me, from 'I' a t~ousand 'ah, ah's!51

Nowadays, though, the Persian poetry ofSultan Bahu has become largely unknown, just like the equally forgotten if more polished courtly verse produced over the centuries in such quantities by local poets writing in Lahore and other centres. What he is instead remembered for are the 190-odd verses he wrote in Punjabi, which in Pakistan at least seem to have gained considerable popularity since Lajwanti Rama Krishna's day. 52 Once again the textual record goes back only to the first printed edition, published about 200 years after the poet's death. 53 Here Sultan BahlJ.'s verses are mechanically arranged by their first letter to form a sort ofsi-hat:ft sequence, that is, a poem consisting of thirty stanzas each commencing with the successive letters of the Arabic alphabet with which their initial words begin. In the case of Sultan Bahu's collection, however, there is no thematic connection between the verses. They are collectively known as abyqt, the Arabic plural of bait 'verse', the same term confusingly used to mean~ doha in Sindhi, whereas Sultan Bahu uses the longer davayye metre also commonly employed in narrative qissa poems such as Mian ,Muhammad's Saif ul Muluk. Since he usually writes

four-line verses, there is characteristically much less compression in

their expression than in the shaloks of Farid. A further characteristic

of Bahu's abyat is that hit, the syllable used by the Sufis to evoke the

DivIne 'He', is added to the end of each line. 54

In some ways, the abyat are closer to the teaching style ofthe Farid shaloks than to the lyric kalis of Shah Husain or Bullhe Shah. The poet normally speaks as male teacher rather than as female lover, and there is virtually no reference to local stories although there is plentiful mention of Sufi and other Islamic doctrine. Perhaps the most notable new topos found in Bahu's abyat is the frequent proclamation of the superior validity of true devotees over superficial . differences between Hindu and Muslim, as illustrated along with the formal characteristics of the language and the metre in the following


Nitn: na oh hindit na momin, na sijda den masitl, hit

Dam dam de vich vekhan mauia, jinhan qaza na kUi, hit

Ahe dane bane divane, ziit sahi vanj kiti, hit

Main qurban tinhan ton, Eahit, 'ishq bazi jin iitl, hit

eN) Not Hindus or believers, not bowing down in mosques, Hu

With every breath they see the Lord, and never skip a prayer, Hu

,They once were wise and then went mad, by truly knowing God, Hu

I am devoted, Bahu, to those who have chosen the game oflove, Hu55

As should be apparent from what has been said about Sultan Bahu's Persian writings, this poetic rejection ofHindu-Muslim distinctions certainly does not entail rejection of a Muslim spiritual identity.


The same issue arises with even more force in considering the work ofthe third poet on Mian Muhammad's list, the great Bullhe Shah of Kasur q680-1758). Here for once we need not differ from Lajwanti Rama K]rishna's opening assessment:

Bullhe Shah is universally admitted to have been the greatest of the Panjabi mystics. No Panjabi mystic poet enjoys a wider celebrity and a great reputation. His kafis have gained unique popularity. 56


Bullhe Shah is indeed by far the most famous and popular of all the 'Punjabi Sufi poets, and his poetry continues to exert a wide and powerful appeal across religious boundaries. For long preseJ,Ved orally, it first began to appear in! printed editions in the late nineteenth century. Fittingly enough, of the two significant early editions one was published by a Muslimdevotee, the other by a local Sikh enthusiastY Consisting ofabout 160 kalis, which are generally more substantial in size as well as being consistently finer in poetic and spiritual quality than Shah Husain's, along with miscellaneous Punjabi verses in other genres, Bullhe Shah's oeuvre is bulkier than the preserved Punjabi poetry of either Shah Husain or Sultan Bahu . Given the history of its transmission, some questions of textual authenticity must apply here too, but the power and coherence of Bullhe Shah's poetic personality is certainly a sufficient guarantee of the genuineness of the core corpus.

Considering the enduring subsequent fame of his lyrics, it is on the other hand remarkable that there syems to be no early written record at all ofBull he Shah's life, although the area in which he lived in central Punjab is evident from his tomb at Kasur and the expressions in his poetry of his utter devotion to his Pir, Shah Inayat of Lahore, who is regarded as a manifestation of the Divine Beloved:

You hastened to me ofYour own accord'

How long can You remain in hiding?

You have come as Shah Inayat

Peeping out at me!58

Shah Inayat is known to have been affiliated both to the Qadiriyya and to the Shattari order, which was notable for its particular interest in Hindu esoteric religious practice, as evidenced in the writings of two of its earlier Shaikhs, Abdul Quddus Gangohi (d. 1537) and Muhammad Ghaus (d. 1563). The Shattari connection may help account for the notable proclamations of the meaninglessness of outer religious distinctions-far more explicitly expressed than tho,se found in Sultan Bahu's Punjabi verses-which are so marked a feature ofJ?ullhe Shah's poetry.

Bullhe Shah's cross-communal appeal ~f course importantly derives in part from this very feature. The classic status of his

------.~----~-.~-.. ~~--~--~----.-.~~

poetry is, however, equally due to his extraordinary gift for the seemingly simple use of natural Punjabi language to e¥press profound spiritual truths. The refrains of quite a number of his kitfis show this gift of combining familiarity with suggestiveness so strikingly as to have become virtually proverbial sayings. Examples includeUth jag ghurare mar nahin (6) 'Get up, awake and do not snore'; Sab ikko rang kapahin da (70) 'All cotton bolls are coloured white'; lshq di naviyon navin bahar (76) 'The spriIig oflove is ever new'; Katt kure nd vatt kure (81) 'Stay put and spin, my girl'; Meri bukkal de vich chor (118) 'There's a thief in the folds of my veil'; Munh.ai bat na raihndi e (113) 'I can't help myself saying'; or the famous Hindu nan nahin mussalman (153) 'Neither Hindu nor Muslim'.

The verses of Bullhe Shah's lyrics are equally remarkable for the comprehensiveness and variety oftheir content, making them so successful a medium for imparting that sense of universality which is necessary for openness to the Sufi understanding of the 'Unity of Being'. As in all Sufi poetry, there is a frequent expression of contempt for mere learning: 7lm01i bas karin 0 yar (79) 'That's enough of learning, friend'. So too is there a regular dismissal ofoutward ritual: Roze hajj namaz ni mae, mainun piya ne an bhulae (64) 'Fasting, pilgrimage and prayers, mother, all these the Beloved has made me forget'. Equally characteristic of Sufi poetry, though, is the regular citation of key scriptural texts in Arabic: 'Thumma wajhu'llith' dasnaen aj 0 yar (80) 'Today, Beloved, you tell us that "[Wherever you look,] there is the face of God".

The sheer range of reference in Bullhe Shah's poetry is in fact one of its most remarkable features. Thus the universal operation of the divine power of love is celebrated in catalogues which embrace the prophets bfIslam, the Sufi martyrs, the lovers ofPunjabi legend, and the figures of Hindu mythology, as in the long kitfi with the refrain Rahu rahu oe 'ishqa marya i:

Stop, stop, love, you have slain me

Did you ever deliver anyone safe?

You made Moses climb up Sinai

You had Isma'il sacrificed

You had Jonah swallowed by the whale


Oh, how you exalted them ... You had the throat ofSarmad split You made Shams utter the words: 'Arise by my command' and then You had him flayed from head to foot ... Sir love then rushed on Hir Then made Ranjha pierce his ears When he came to marry Sahiban Mirza's head was sacrificed ... And what did you do to the Gopis You had Krishna steal their butter You had king Kans dragged before him To be tugged by his topknot and thrown down ...59



Of all these sets of figures, it is of course the Hir-Ranjha pair who carry the greatest emotional affect in Bullhe Shah's poetry. As in most other respects, here too the poet's adoption ofthe persona of Hir is more powerfully expressive than is generally the case in Shah Husain's kitfis. Contrast with the example of the latter cited above the famous verses of Bullhe Shah:

Ranjha Ranjha kardi ni main ape Ranjha hoi Saddo ni mainini Dhido Ranjha Hir na akho koi

Repeating Ranjha's name I've myself become Ranjha Call me Dhido Ranjha, let no one call me Hir!60

An important reason for the poetic exploitation of the HirRanjha story above all the other Punjabi romantic legends is the double suggestiveness of Ranjha's initial similarity as flute-playing herdsman to Krishna, then later in the story ofhis emergence in the guise ofa yogi coming to win back Hir after her enforced marriage: Ranjha jogit'a ban aya, vah sangi sang rach4ya (61) 'Ranjha has come as a yogi, oh what a show he's put on'. It is in Bullhe Shah that we first find this twin takeover into the Sufi poetic tradition of central themes from both Nath yoga and Krishnaite sagu.Q. bhakti.61 So the kitfi by Khwaja Farid which we quoted earlier in this paper derives

directly from Bullhe Shah's Bansi Kahn acharaj bajai:

Krishna has played wonderful music on his flute

o flute playjng herdsman Ranjha YO.llf music js in tune with all things ...62



This range of cross-religious reference, along with the fre

quently expressed repudiation of narrow credal definitions and their associated rituals has encouraged twentieth-century critics to construct a whole variety of 'Bullhe Shahs' to suit their own preconceptions. Thus the pioneering Punjabi literary scholar Mohan Singh in his 1930 Gurmukhi edition ofselected kafis 63 emphasizes Bullhe Shah's essential harmony with the Sikh Gurus, while some Pakistani critics are conversely anxious to emphasize his credentials as an orthodox Muslim.64 Given the virtual absence of reliable biographical data to which to anchor the interpretation of this subtle poetry, it is perhaps unsurprising that, more than any other . Punjabi Sufi poet, Bullhe Shah has provoked such confusions of understanding. These have been very usefully mapped in two articles by Robin Rinehart on the reception history of Bullhe Shah's poetry, although she is perhaps insufficiently dismissive ofsome of

the extremer readings.65

While fully recognizing that the apparent simplidty of Bullhe

Shah's poetry can make it difficult to pin down, we would once again

argue that it is best appreciated in its own Sufi context. Take for exam

ple the refrain and opening verse of one of his most familiar lyrics:

Bullhii kih jiiniin main kaun

Bullha, how can I know who I am? I'm not a believer in the mosque Nor taken up with the ways of unbelief Nor am pure amongst the defiled Nor am I Moses, nor am I Pharaoh 66

For Lajwanti Rama Krishna, who places this as a work of his maturest period according to her quite unsubstantiated ~hronological division of Bullhe Shah's poetry, which sees him as moving from being a mainstream Sufi to becoming an out-and-out Vedantic monist, this celebration of having broken 'all shackles of countly, religion, convention and sect' is taken as evidence that his pantheism 'was Hindu in his entirety and therefore differed a good deal from the pantheism of the Sufis' Y It is true that the contrary position, that Indian Sufi poets reiterate the message of Rumi and the other Persian masters, which was notably espoused by, for instance, the


great scholar of Sufi literature Annemarie Schimmel,68 can be open

to accusations ofexcessive vagueness, and ofnot doing sufficient jus

tice to local difference. But in this particular instance as elsewhere,

Bullhe Shah's Bullhd kih jdndn main kaun surely effects a direct tran

screation from an Anatolian to an Indian context a famous Persian

ghazal written some five centuries earlier by the great Jalal ud Din

Rumi (d. 1273):

Chi tadbir ai musalmiilJiin ki man khud-rii namidiinam Na tarsii nai yahudam man na gabram nai musalmiinam

What can I do, 0 Muslims, for I do not know myself I'm not a Christian nor a Jew, not a Zoroastrian nor a Muslim.69

Enough, though, has perhaps now been said to indicate how a history of Punjabi Sufi poetry more satisfYing than the partisan and incomplete narrative set out by Lajwanti Rama Krishna might be conceived. While having to cope as best it can with the inadequacies and silences in the historical record, such a literary history might hope to do justice to the different individual characteristics as much as to the generic similarities observable between those fyw collections which have come down to us from earlier centuries. Our argument has been that the gaps can be partly filled in by using comparative evidence from neighbouring literatures, but also by looking at the tradition across the whole period of its quite lengthy if hardly con

tinuous evolution. . In this way, it might at last be possible properly to understand Punjabi Sufi poetry as a literary tradition' in its own right, distinguished in both its inspiration and expression from the various parallel literary traditions ofPunjab, most notably ofcourse the Sikh literature but also the products of other nirgul) bhakti and sagUl) bhakti traditions. Although the argument is still perhaps too easily attractive to Indian nationalist sentiment, it can hardly be maintained that just because it too strives towards the ideal realization of the Unity of Being, the best Indian Sufi poetry must be essentially Indian in its inspiration, having nothing much to do with Islam. As human. beings, we may all assent to the essential identity of the spiritual message of the great teachers and poets of the past.

As literary historians, though, we need to do proper justice to the differences in expression of that message observable from one tradition to another and from one periodto another. In this way might hope to tell the whole story of the Punjabi Sufi poetic tradition from Baba Farid to Khwaja Ghulam Farid, or what in Pakistan is sometimes more succinctly denoted as Farid se FarM tak 'from Farid to Farid'.


1 Lajwanti Rama Krishna, Paftjdbi Sufi Poets A.D 1460-1900, London [Calcutta printed]: Oxford Universitr Press, 1938, abbreviated as PSP in subsequent references below. Originally submitted as a University of London PhD in 1934, the book has been subsequently reprinted in India, Delhi: Ashajanak, 1973 and translated into Urdu in Pakistan as Panjdbi ke Sttfi Shd'ir, trans. Amjad Ali Bhatti, Lahore: Book Home, 2004. Described as coming from a Hindu family with Sikh connections, Lajwanti Rama Krishna was clearly a person of considerable determination, beiI)g the first Indian woman to obtain a doctorate in France, her thesis being, published asLes Sikhs: Origine etdeveloppementde la communautejusqua nosjours (1469-1930) [The Sikhs: origin and development ofthe community down to the present day

(1469-1930)], Paris: Maisonneuve, 1933. Anyway marginalized by its language and adding little to English-language studies of the time, this was a rather conventional survey compiled from an uncritically nationalist perspective. Unlike PSP, it has thus long been forgotten, partly also no doubt because of the much more active cultivation of Sikh studies since the 1930s, as compared to research in Punjabi Muslim studies.

2 For example, S.R. Sharda, Sufi Thought: Its Development in Panjab and its Impact onPanjabi Literature from Baba Farid to 1850 A.D, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1974, Surindar Singh Kohli, Bulhe Shah, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1987, published in the Makers of Indian Literature series, or Lochan Singh Buxi,Prominent Mystic Poets of Punjab, New Delhi: Ministty ofInformation and Broadcasting, 1994.

3 That is, outside the abundant Sikh scriptural tradition (whose language is itself, however, only partly to be properly identified as Punjabi).

4 For a stimulating general discussion of the problematics of the genre, see David Perkins, Is Literary History Possible?, Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 1982.

5 This is not of course to deny the validity of other approaches. While the lack of evidence for earlier periods must probably confine, for example reception histories -torecent decades, the possibilities of a synchronic approach to the published; Punjabi literature of the earlier colonial period have been very interestihgly explored in Farina Mir, The Social Space ofLanguage: Vernacular Culture in British Colonial Punjab,

Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010'. 6 Sheldon Pollock (ed.), Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructionsfrom South Asia, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

7 Sant Singh Sekhon and Kartar Singh Duggal, A History of Punjabi Literature, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1992, with two chapters on the Sufi poets on pp. 16-25 and pp. 64-73, was followed by Sant Singh Sekhon, A History ofPanjabi [sic] Literature, 2 vols, Patiala: Punjabi University, 1993, 1996, which deals with the Sufi poetry in vol. 1, pp. 15-33, and vol. 2, pp. 1-49.

8. C£ the classic accounts by Hazariprasad Dvivedi, Hindi Sthitya: Uskd Udbhavaur Vikds, Delhi: Attarchand Kapur, 1955, and Ramchandra Shukla, Hindi Sthitya ka Itihds, Kashi: Nagari Pracharini Sabha, 2008, a seventh edition which confirms its enduring status since its,first publication in 1951. As has often been observed, however, the apparent coherence ofsuch versions of Hindi literary history is achieved only by the negation of Urdu. While that is another story which can hardly be gone into here, the great difficulty of achieving an integrated HindiUrdu literary history was recently brought home to me by the p,erceived necessity for two separate introductions (by Vasudha Dalmia and myself) to the anthology of translations from both languages published as Shobna Nijhawan (ed.), Nationalism in the Vernacular: Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature ofIndian Freedom, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2009.

9 Budh Singh, Hans Chog(1915), KoilKu (1916), BanbihdBol (1925), all published Amritsar: Phulvari Agency. See further my chapter 'Making Punjabi Literary History', in Christopher Shackle, Gurharpal Singh, and Arvind-Pal Mandair (eds), Sikh Religion, Culture and Ethnicity, Richmond: Curzon, 2001, pp. 97-117.

10 Cf. Abdul Ghafur Quraishi, PanjdbiAdab di Kahdni, Lahore: Aziz Book Depot, 1972, Hamidullah Shah Hashimi, Panjdbi Adab di Mukhtasar-Tdrikh, Lahore: Taj Book Depot, c.1973, Faqir Muhammad Faqir, Panjdbi Zabdn va Adab ki Tdrikh, Lahore: Sang-e Mil, 2002. But see Shackle, 'Making Punjabi Literary History', for the more catholic approach of the older Muslim pioneer ofPunjabi literary history Maula Bakhsh Kushta in his Panjdb de Hire, Amritsar: Dhani Ram Chatrik, 1939 and Panjabi Sha'iran da Tazkira, Lahore: Maula Bakhsh Kushta and Sons, 1960.

11 Cf: Perkins 1992, pp. 29-60 for the perennial tension between encyclopaedic and narrative approaches to literary history.

12 Ratan Singh Jaggi, Panjabi Sdhitt da Sarot-Miilak Itihiis, 5 vols, Patiala: Punjabi University, 1998-2002. Jaggi's approach entails the disconnected treatment of the Sufi poets across several volumes, so vol.1, pp. 239-79 deal with Farid, vol. 3, pp. 158-2.16 with Shah Husain and Sultan Bahu, and vol. 5, pp. 13'i-74 with poets from Bullhe Shah down to Khwaja Farid.

13 PSP, p.125.

14 Divan-e Farid (ed.) Aziz ur Rahman, Bahawalpur: Aziz ul Matabi', 1944. A partial translation is available in Fifty Poems ofKhawaja [sic] Farid, trans. Christopher Shackle, Multan: Bazm-e-Saqafat, 1983

15 As a result of his combination of purity of local idiom with regional spiritual prestige, Khwaja Farid has since the 1960s become a prime symbol for the movement for the separate recognition of Siraiki cultural and political identity in Pakistan, cf. Christopher Shackle, 'Siraiki: A Language Movement in Pakistan', Modern Asian Studies,11(3), 1977, pp. 379-403. For the purposes of the present argument, however, the exclusivist rival claims laid by modern protagonists ofPunjabi and Siraiki to the largely overlapping Muslim poetic heritage ofthe past are set aside, in the same way that a comprehensive Punjabi language area may be constructed as embracing divergent regional standards like Siraiki as well as the more narrowly defined standard Punjabi based on the Majhi dialect of Lahore and Amritsar, c£ Christopher Shackle, 'Panjabi', in George Cardona and Dhanesh Jain (eds), The Indo-Aryan Languages, London and New York: Routledge, 2003, pp. 581-621.

16 Divan (ed.) Aziz ur Rahman, kafi 110, p. 367.

17 See further my summary treatment in 'Urdu as a Sideline', in Christopher Shackle (ed.), Urdu and Muslim South Asia: Studies in Honour ofRalph Russell London: SOAS, 1989, pp. 77-91.

18 C£ the Urdu translation published as Maqabis ulMajalis (ed. and trans. Vahid ;Bakhsh Sial), Lahore: Islamic Book Foundation, 1979 and my English translation of the first volume published as The Teachings of Khwajd Farid, Multan, Bazm-e Saqafat, 1978.

19 See further Masud Hasan Shihab, Khwaja Ghulam Farid (Hayat va Sha'irl), Bahawalpur: Urdu Academy, 1963, and Christopher Shackle, 'The Shifting Sands of Love', in F rancesca Orsini (ed.), Love in Many Languages: A Cultural History of Love in South Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 87-108.

20 The best edition, with complete verse-numbering, is Saif ul Muluk (ed.) Muhammad Sharif Sabir, Lahore: Sayyid Ajmal Husain Memorial Society, 2002, while a complete Urdu prose translation is available as Saiful Muluk, trans. Mian Zafar Maqbu,l, Lahore: Shaikh Muhammad Bashir and Sons, n.d .. The South Asian context df the story is described in C. Shackle, 'The Story of Saif ul Muliik in South Asia', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 17 (2),2007, pp. 1-15. One of Mian Muhammad's shorter early poems, his Qjssa Shaikh Sunan in which Shaikh Abdul Qadir becomes a prominent figure in the well-known story by 'Attar', is described in my chapter 'Representations of'Anar in the West and ih the East: Translations ofthe Mantiq al-Tayn, in Leonard Lewisohn and Christopher Shackle (eds), 'Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition: The Art ofSpiritual Flight, London: I.B. Tauris, 2006, pp. 165---93.

21 Published as Bostan-e Qalandari (The Orchard of Dervishry), Jhelum: Munshi Muhammad Hasan ud Din, 1930.

22 Commissioned by a Jhelum bookseller to accompany an edition ofSaif ulMuluk and completed less than two decades after Mian Muhammad's death, Malik Muhammad's memoir is alsb appended as 'Savanih-'umri' to one edition ofSaifulMuluk, Muzaffarilbad: Nizamat-e Auqaf, 1994, pp. 570-638. 23 This threefold profile is developed further in Christopher Shackle, 'Styles and Themes in the Siraiki Mysticill Poetry of Sind', in Hamida Khuhro (ed.), Sind through the Centuries, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1981, pp. 252-69.


24 For the former's anti-Shia views cf. my translation of The Teachings ; I ofKhwaja Farid, pp. 41-2. Mian Muhammad's strong anti-Wahhabi



stance is set out in his 1877 poem Hidayat ul Muslimin (Guidance


to Muslims) (ed.) Mahbub Ali, Muza.ffarabad: Nizamat-e Auqaf,




25 SaifulMuluk (ed.) Sabir, verses 9018-22, p. 487.

26 Available in English as Arnir Hasan Sijzi, Nizam ad-Din Awliya: Morals for the Heart (ed.) and trans. Bruce B. Lawrence, New York and

Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1992.

27 See particularly the careful discussion in Ratan Singh J aggi, Panjabi Sdhitt, vol. 1, pp. 240-80 and the late Pritam Singh's substantial monograph Sri GurU Granth Sahib vale 'Sekh Farid'di Bhal (The Search for the 'Shaikh Farid' of the Guru Granth Sahib), Arnritsar: Singh Brothers, 2008. In broad harmony with these authorities, my own understanding is set out in the as yet unpublished paper 'Sikh and Muslim Understandings of Baba Farid', delivered as the Arnrit Kaur Ahluwalia Memorial Lecture at UC Berkeley in April 2008.

28 PSP, p. 6. 29 C£ Karine Schomer, 'The Doha as a Vehicle of Sant Teachings', in

K. Schomer and W.H. McLeod (eds) ,The Sants: Studies in a Devotional

Tradition o/India, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987, pp. 61-90.

30 Shalok Farid 12, Adi Granth [hereafter AGj, p. 1378.

31 Shalok Farid 54, AG, p.1380.

32 C£ my earlier study, 'Early Vernacular Poetry in the Indus Valley: Its Contexts and its Character', in A.L. Dallapiccolaand S. Z.-A. Lallemant (eds), Islam and Indian Regions, Stuttgart: Steiner, 1993, vol. 1, pp. 259-89.

33 Marit ki ~rM5 4.1, AG, p. 1095.

34 As, for instance, in the introduction to an edition of the Farid-ba1J.i in Sindhi script, Baba Farid Ganj-e Shakar ja Doha (ed. and trans. Agha Salim), Jamshoro: Institute of Sindhology, University of Sindh, 1990, pp.26-30.

35 Shah Karim Bulri'a varejo Kaldm (ed.) Umar b. Muhammad Daudpoto, Bhitshah: Shah Abd ul Latif Cultural Centre Committee, 1977, p. 129. 36 Ibid., pp. 102-3. 37 Notable examples ofthis reading of Sindhi Sufi poetry, which is exactly comparable to the approach of PSP, include such standard studies as L.H. Ajwani, History 0/ Sind hi Literature, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1970 or MotilalJotwani, Sufis o/Sindh, New Delhi: Ministry ofInformation and Broadcasting, 1996. C£ Ajwani 1970, p. 75: 'The great defect of Sorley's study of Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit is that he wants to crib and confine him into the narrow mould of a dogma that he calls Islam, instead ofviewing him as a typical, true Indian rishi, the man who had a darshan or vision of God, and who passed on that vision in ecstatic words to his rapt hearers.' 38· Santokh Singh's account is reproduced in M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909, vol. 3, pp. 62-3. 39 Dara Shikoh, Hasanat ul 'Arifin (ed.) Makhdum Rahin, Tehran: Visman, AH 1352sh. = 1973, pp. 57-8.

40 PSP, pp. 16-19. The short monograph in the Makers of Indian Literature series by Harjinder Singh Dhillon, Shah Husain, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2000 focuses on the Punjabi poeuy and avoids too many' awkward details of Husain's life in favour of a generalized characterization of Shah Husain as a malamati Sufi. For a more insightful creative interpretation of the significance of the extraordinary depiction' of the saint in the Haqiqat ul Fuqara, see now Scott Kugle, Sufis and Saint's Bodies: Mysticism, Corporeality, andSacred Power in Islam, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007, pp. 181-220. But his chapter pays only passing attention to Shah Husain's Punjabi poetry.


411 have been unable to obtain a copy of the modern edition of this work, reported as 'Risala-e Tahniyat' (ed.) M. Iqbal Mujaddidi, published in Ma'arif (Azamgarh), August 1970, also in Sahija, Lahore, July 1972.

42 This was Kajiyan Shah Husain, Lahore: Dayal Singh, 1897, according to Shahbaz Malik, Panjabi Kitabiyat, Islamabad: Pakistan Academy of Letters, 1991, no. 3300/1, p. 185.

43 Kafiy'an Shah Husain (ed. and trans.) Abdul Majid Bhatti, Islamabad: Lok Virsa, 1977, kan 107, p. 120. 44 Bhatti (ed.), kan 138, p. 152.

45 Bhatti (ed.), kan 9, p.lO, where the refrain appears as Maint/d dil Ranjhan raval mange In other editions the opening words 'my heart' are regularized to the standard modern Punjabi mera dil, while in the slightly more critical edition Halat va Kdflyan Madholal Husain (ed.) Mohan Singh Divan, rev. M. Habibullah, Lahore, Malik Nazir Ahmad, n.d., kaft 18, p. 28, they are written as mainrji dil that is, with dil as feminine, as in modern Siraiki merli diL This is a small but typical illustration of the impossibility of fitting the pre-modern literary heritage into neat modern linguistic categories on the basis of very imperfectly

.' established texts, c£ note 15 above. '. 46 C£ Ahmad Saeed Hamadani, Hazrat Sultan Baha: Hayat va Ta'limat, Lahore: Sultan Bahu Academy, 1987.

47 PSP, p. 29.

48 C£ Zuhur ud Din Ahmad, Pakistan men Farsi Adab ki Tarikh, vol. 3, Lahore: Majlis-e Taraqqi-e Adab, 1974, pp. 165-74, also Hamadani 1987, pp. 70-2. 49 That is, as written in the Persian script.

50 Sirr ul 'Urqfo Kalan (Urdu version ofMihakk ul Fuqara Kalan), trans. Muhammad Sharif, Faruqabad: Maktaba-e Naqshbandiyya Qadiriyya, c.1993, pp. 75-6.

51 Divan-e Baha (ed.) Ahmad Saeed Hamadani, Jhang: Hadra:t Ghulam Dastgir Academy, 1998, ghazal31, p. 35. 52 PSP, p. 32.

53 Early editions are helpfully discussed in Kalam-e Sultan Baha (ed.) Nazir Ahmad, Lahore: Packages, 1981,'pp. x-xix, beginning with an edition of 1891. But an edition of 1878 is listed in Malik 1991, no. 3052/, p. 176.

54 Doubts have been plausibly voiced as to whether this characteristic ha is any more original to the abyat than the acrostic si-harft arrangement of all modern editions of Sultan Bahu. C£ Kalam (ed.) Nazir Ahmad, pp. xix-20, also Abyat-e Sultan Baha( ed. and trans.) Sultan Altaf Ali, ~ahore: Haji Muhammad Ashfaq Qadiri, 1975, pp. 18-21

55 Kaldm, (ed.) Nazir Ahmad, no.18I, p. 87. The best ofthe several available translations ofthe abyatis Death before Dying: The Sufi Poems ofSultan Bahu (trans. JamalJ. Elias), Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1998.

56 PSP, p. 40.

57 Qanun-e 'Ishq, ed. Anvar Ali Rohtaki, Lahore: Allah-vale ki Qaumi Dukan, 1889, and Kaftha-e Hazrat Bullhe Shah Sihib Qasuri by Bhai Prem Singh Qasuri, Kasur: The editor, 1896).

58 Kulliyat-e Bullhe Shah, (ed.) Faqir Muhammad Faqir, Lahore: Panjabi AdabiAcademy, 1960), kafI 95, p. 206. The following numerical references in the text are to the kafI numbers of this edition.

59 Faqir (ed.), kafi 65, pp. 126-34. For an English version of the whole poem, cf. J.R. Puri and T. Shangari, Dera BabaJaimal Singh: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1986, pp. 335-9. A full edition of the poetry in Gurmukhi script with facing English translation is to appear in the new Murty Classical Library of India series as Bullhe Shah, Sufi Lyrics, trans. Christopher Shackle, Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, forthcoming. 60 Faqir (ed.), kafI 62, p.123. 61 Cf. Denis Matringe, 'Kr~l}.aite and Nath Elements in the Poetry of the Eighteenth-Century Panjabi SUfi Poet Bullhe Sah', in R.S. McGregor (ed.), Devotional Literature in South Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp.190-206. 62 Faqir (ed.), kafI 28, p.46. 63 Bullhe Shah, 50 Kaftan (ed.), Mohan Singh Ubirai, Lahore: University of the Punjab, 1930. 64 For example, Nazir Ahmad in his fine edition published as Kalam-e Bullhe Shah, Lahore: Packages, 1976. 65 Robin Rinehart, 'Interpretations of the Poetry of Bullhe Shah',InternationaljournalofPunjab Studies, 3 (1), 1996, pp. 45-63; and 'The Portable Bullhe Shah: Biography Categorization, and Authorship in the Study ofpunjabi Sufi Poetry',Numen, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 53-87. 66 Faqir (ed.), kafI 27, p. 44. 67 PSP, pp. 58-9. _ . 68 Cf. for example, her classic study As Through a Veil' Mystical Poetry in Islam, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982, especially the chapter on :Mystical Poetry in the Vernaculars', pp. 135-69. 69 Jalal aI-Din Rumi, Barguzida-e Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, Tehran: Amir Kabir, n.d., p.1l5. Cf. Kalam (ed.), Nazir Ahmad, p.L06, and the numerous parallels with Persian Sufi poetry adduced in Qanun-e 'Ishq (ed.), Anvar Ali Rohtaki.

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