Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, An Eternal Flute Song Of Love From Sindh.
Dr Surlay writes about Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai that:
No might is here of Rumi’s verse
No Jami’s soul rapt music swings
No high-tuned note of Hafiz’s wit
Within your humble minstrel song
And yet! Strange paradox it to be
That not less searching is the calm
The simple music of his lays
Than wise deep utterance of Islam.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai was born in Sindh in a prosperous family.in1690 AD or 1101 Hijri in Hala, Hyderabad .His lineage can be traced to Ali (Raziallah Taala Anhu). Initially Shah Latif came to Kotri with his father where he started formal education. There is an anecdote where it is said that he initially said only the alphabet ‘ alif’ which is the first letter in the name word for Allah. He attained mastery in Arabic, Persian, Hindi and other regional languages and their literauture. His being educated is proved “by his kalaam” according to Dr. Trump.
He was a contemporary of Mir Ali Sher, the author of Maqalat-e-Shuara. Other learned contemporaries were, Shah Inayatullah, Makhdoom Muhammad Moeen Thattwi, Makhdoom Muhammad Hashim, Makhdoom Abdullah, Makhdoom Ziauddin and Ali Sher Qaney..
He is widely studied and written about in older times by scholars such as Mirza Qaleech Baig , Dr. Gur Bakhshani, Maulana Din Mohd Wafai, Professor Jhatumal, Dr. Soorlay, Prof. Kalyan Advani and in contemporary times by Syed Hisamuddin Rashdi and Sheikh Ayaz, who has translated Shah Jo Risalo in Urdu, a widely admired endeavour. The introduction into Urdu of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai by Sindhika Academy is a great service to humanity and the lovers of “love, Tolerance, Islam and Sindh” alike. The eternal messages of Shah’s unique, universal poetry is described by Fehmida Riaz as “ his poetry showered Sindh as an all embracing rain that not only enriched the region but whole of humanity” and “ his Kalaam is a miracle, a miracle where Sindhi language is expressed in Bait genre where he is the master. His spontaneity, total abandon to eternal love thought, the timelessness, the eternity of his thought is so perfectly described in his poems in Bait genre of Sindhi poetry.” She quotes his verse:
Raheeman dhaga prem ga, mat toro chatkaye
Tootay tau phir na juray,jaray ganth par jaye!
رحیماں دھاگہ پریم گا
مت توڑو چٹکے
ٹوٹا تو پھر نہ جڑے
جڑے گا گانٹھ پر جائے
This genre of bait has an individual, unique melody, which is so prevalent in Shah ‘s poetry. This is the reason why the beautiful, soul reaching sound of his melodious poems, a message of universal love is to this day is sung in his Sindh, in the form of Aqeedat Kalaam, by devoted, dedicated musicians, on his mazaar and other places. The instruments used are also a form of string instrument known as Tanpura , so widely used in Indian music, yet unique to the devotional poetry performance of Shah Jo Kalaam.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai fell in love with a lady who was initially denied to him in marriage but according to some historians was later given to him in marriage. He started sitting in a desolate quiet place, later known as Bhit Shah, a sandy dune, where he would be surrounded by musicians, minstrels, followers and devotees. He was always engrossed in thinking, looking for answers and he was very fond of music. His religious inclination was Sufi thought which leads one to find the love of God and the path is Maarfana, meaning To know God. He was the follower of Qaadri Tareeqa.
Sindh was at that time (and still remains) a land of love, tranquility, Peers, faqirs, tolerance and basically a tranquil way of life. According to Dr. Soorlay, Sindh was like pond wherein you throw a pebble , a few ripples are created and it goes back to it’s tranquil state. The message and practice of tolerance, love of God remains to this day an identity of the lives and peoples of Sindh. Here devotees to mazaars, both Muslims and Hindus, now even Christians come in large numbers and gain some respite and attain hope, from miseries and pains(dukh) of this wretched worldly lives. Shah;s poetry reflects the healing with love and the quenching of the thirst for finding eternal peace and love in one’s own soul.He describes the worldly love and incidences of lover’s quarrels in such deep undertones of Sufistic thought, that the love of Allah shines through like a burst of sunshine after a dark rainy cloudburst. Says he;
Ghara toota tau yeh awaaz aayee
Naheen dono mein ab judaai!
Shikast jisme khakee se hai paida
Rabab –e-rooh ki naghm serai!
Wisaal-e yaar ki rahat pe qurban
Tareeq-e zuhd o rasm paarsai!
گھرا ٹوٹا تو یہ آواز آی
نہیں دونو میں اب جدائی
شکستے جسم خاکے سے ہے پیدا
رباب روح کی نغمہ سرائی
وسالے یار کی راحت پی قربان
طریقے زہد و رسمی پرسی
(Urdu translation Shaikh Ayaz)
I hear the sweet sound of the broken clay pot!
A melody to my ear, for now they are one,
Sohni and Mahiwal,
Only when the worldly body is defeated will you hear
The sweet tunes of your free soul! (Shaikh Ayaz’).
Through the path of ‘Tareeqat’ will you find
On the ‘Rabab’!
Zuhd, and the practice of abstinence
Is like the solace of finding your beloved! (translation ,my own from Shaikh Ayaz’s)
Writes Shaikh Ayaz in “Risaala Shah Abdul Latif”,
“ His poetry’s supernatural character is not shackled by philosophical explanations, but it is easily comprehended by both the learned and the ordinary”. “ He describes the everyday imagery around him, the life and tales of his folk stories, the contemporary culture and traditions in colorful and fine detail in his poetry.” “ All this has the undercurrent of his Sufiistic thought”.
Writes Sheikh Ayaz about the Sufiistic thought in Shah’s poetry ;
“ There is not evident example of Rumi’s influence on his poetic thought. He does consider life a continuous journey. He does believe that life and death are two stages in this process. Otherwise the human life journey neither has beginnings nor a final end. At times he considers life and death as two separate yet similar existences between the conscious and the sub-or-unconcious. He believes that conscious thought is afraid of the difficulties and hurdles to existence in environment and struggles to remove the hurdles but is unsuccessful usually. On the other hand when human effort is towards finding and attaining unity of existence with the real beloved that is God, then one finds refuge from pain of existence and finds the eternal bliss of being. Shah believes that “want’ is the dynamic force , soul serving, and an act requiring full concentration. The waiting, desire and wanting of something is no less enjoyable than finding your goal or beloved.”
Sur Khambat, which Sheikh Ayaz says Shah wrote mainly in the majestic honor of the prophet (peace be upon him) is full of the verses describing moonlit nights.
Kahaan woh aur kahaan too,maah-e kaamil
Tere haq mein Qayamat us ka jalwaa!
Keh husne jaawidani ke muqaabil
Theher saktaa naheen husne do roza
Tere is umr bhar ke mahaasil se
Kaheen barh kar hai us ka aik lamha!
کہاں وہ اور کہاں تو ماہ کامل
تیرے حق میں قیامت اس کا جلوہ
کے حسن جانویدانیکے مقابل
ٹھہر سکتا نہیں حسن ے دو روزہ
تیرے اس عمر بھر کے محاصل سے
کہیں بڑھ کر ہے اس کا ایک لمحہ
(Urdu poetic translation Sheikh Ayaz)
There is no comparison
Betwixt the full moon and my beloved!
His appearance is the last day
Of thine existential beauty!
Can mortal beauty exist even for a day
In the presence of eternal beauty?
Struggle in your difficult path of mortal existence
He exists eternally in infinity, his one moment , but eternal!
(English translation from Shaikh Ayaz’s Urdu poetic translation, mine).
Sur Yemen Kalyaan; which Sheikh Ayaz says means ‘to keep the heart under control’. He says that Shah describes beautifully and emphatically the difficulties and ways in which one reaches the journey to the attainment of God’s eternal love. This he describes by using simple allegories and references for everyone. Says Shah;
Thais Apne Waqaar Ko na laga
Un ke kooche mein baar baar na jaa!
Raahguzaron mein tau diye na jalaa
Raah geeron ko daaghe dil na dikha!
Lab Khamosh wa hairat abdi
Raaz kaif wa musarrat abdi!
ٹھیس اپنے وقار کو نہ لگا
ان کے کوچے میں بار بار نہ جا
راہگزاروں میں تو دے نہ جلا
راہگیروں کو داغ دل نہ دکھا
لب خاموش وہ حیرت ابدی
راز کیف وہ مسرّت ابدی
( Urdu poetic translation Shaikh Ayaz).
Pray, do not hurt your dignity, O lover,
Do not go to his street lest you are insulted!
Light not the lamps of love in pathways
Hide the wounds of love from passerby!
Lo and behold in eternal rapture,
The eternal joy of the treasures of Quest!
(English translation of Shaikh Ayaz’s poetic Urdu translation, by me)
(Risala Shah Abdul Latif , Urdu Manzoom Tarjuma, A book by Sindhika Academy, Karachi).( distributers; B-24, National Auto Plaza, Marston Road, Karachi. Ph;0213- 7737290).