HADRAT BABA BULLHE SHAH is universally admitted to have been the greatest of the Panjabi mystics. No Panjabi mystic poet enjoys a wider celebrity and a greater reputation. His kafis have gained unique popularity. In truth he is one of the greatest Sufis of the world and his thought equals that of Jalal-ud-din Rumi and Shams Tabriz of Persia. As a poet Bulleh Shah is different from the other Sufi poets of the Panjab, and represents that strong and living pious nature of Panjabi character which is more reasonable than emotional or passionate. As he was an outcome of the traditional mystic thought we can trace some amount of mystic phraseology and sentiment in his poetry but, in the main, intellectual Vedantic thought is its chief characteristic.
He was born in a Saiyyid family residing at, the village Pandoki of Kasur in the Lahore district, in the year A.D. 1680. This was during the twenty-first year of Emperor Aurangzeb’s reign. According to C. F. Usborne he died in A.H. 1171 or A.D. 1785 (i.e. in the short reign of Alamgir the Second) at the ripe old age of 78.
A large amount of what is known about Bulleh Shah comes through legends, and is subjective; to the point that there isn’t even agreement among historians concerning his precise date and place of birth. Some “facts” about his life have been pieced together from his own writings. Other “facts” seem to have been passed down through oral traditions.
Baba Bulleh Shah practiced the Sufi tradition of Punjabi poetry established by poets like Shah Hussain (1538 – 1599), Sultan Bahu (1629 – 1691), and Shah Sharaf (1640 – 1724).
Baba Bulleh Shah lived in the same period as the famous Sindhi Sufi poet , Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai (1689 – 1752). His life also overlapped with the legendary Punjabi poet Waris Shah (1722 – 1798), and the famous Sindhi Sufi poet Abdul Wahad (1739 – 1829), better known by his pen-name, Sachal Sarmast (“truth seeking leader of the intoxicated ones”).
After completing his education, it is said that Baba Bulleh Shah went to Lahore. Of the two traditions, one says that, as was customary in those days, he came to Lahore in search of a spiritual teacher, while the other relates that he went there on a visit. Each of these two contradictory traditions has a legend to support it. The first relates that while he was busy searching the intellectual circles of Lahore to find out a competent master he heard of Shah Inayat’s greatness and decided to make him his Murshid. He turned his steps towards the house of the Shah, and found him engrossed in his work in the garden.6 Having introduced himself, Baba Bulleh Shah requested that he might be accepted a disciple and taught the secret of God. Thereupon lnayat said:
Bullhia rabb da pan ai
edharo puttan odharo lan hai.
O Bulleh! the secret of God is this; on this side He uproots, on the other side He creates.
‘This’, says the tradition. ‘so impressed Baba Bulleh Shah that, forgetting his family and its status, he became Inyat Shah’s disciple.’
The second tradition says that Shah Inayat was the head gardener of the Shalimar gardens of Lahore. When in Lahore, Baba Bulleh Shah visited them, and as it was summer, he roamed in the mango-groves. Desirous of tasting the fruit he looked round for the guardian but, not finding him there, he decided to help himself. To avoid the sin of stealing, he looked at the ripe fruit and said; ‘ALLAHu Ghani’. On the utterance of these magic words a mango fell into his hands. He repeated them several times, and thus collected a few mangoes. Tying them up in his scarf he moved on to find a comfortable place where he could eat them. At this time he met the head gardener, who accused him of stealing the fruit from the royal gardens. Considering him to be a man of low origin and desirous of demonstrating to him his occult powers, Baba Bulleh Shah said ironically: ‘I have not stolen the mangoes but they have fallen into my hands as you will presently see.’ He uttered ‘ALLAHu Ghani’ and the fruit came into his hand. But to his great surprise the young Saiyyid found that Inayat Shah was not at all impressed but was smiling innocently. The great embarrassment of Bullhe Shah inspired pity in the gardener’s heart and he said: ‘You do not know how to pronounce properly the holy words and so you reduce their power.’ So saying, he uttered ‘ALLAHu Ghani’, and all the fruits in the gardens fell on the lovely lawns. Once again he repeated the same and the fruit went back on to the trees. This defeat inflicted by the guardian, whom the young Saiyyid Bullhe Shah considered ignorant and low, revolutionized his whole thought. Falling at the feet of Inayat Shah he asked to be classed as his disciple and his request was immediately granted.
The above two traditions, though different in detail, come to the same conclusion, that Baba Bulleh Shah, impressed by the greatness of Inayat, became his disciple. Bullhe Shah in his verse often speaks of his master Inayat Shah and thanks his good luck for having met such a murshid.
Bulleh shah ve nic kamini
Shah inayat tari.
Says Bulleh Shah, O God the Lord Inayat has saved me, low and mean.
Bullhe Shah di suno hakait
hadi pakria hog hadait
mera murshid Shah Inayat
Uh langhaai par.
Listen to the story of Bullhe Shah, he has got hold of the peer and shall have salvation. My teacher, Shah Inayat, he will take me across.
In an account of the Panjabi poets it would perhaps be out of place to speak at great length of Shah Inayat who wrote in Persian. But the influence exerted by him through his teachings and writings has linked him with Panjabi literature. Baba Bulleh Shah the Rumi of the Panjab, came most directly under his influence and, having learnt from him, was inspired to write his remarkable poetry. It will therefore, be proper to give a short account of this wonderful man.
Hadrat Shah Inayat and his School
Hazrat Shaikh Muhammad Inayat-ullah, generally known as Shah Inayat Qadiri, was born at Kasur in the Lahore district, of Arais parents. The arias in the Panjab were gardeners or petty cultivators. They are known to be Hindu converts to Islam and are therefore considered inferior.
He was educated after the manner of his time and gained a good knowledge of Persian and Arabic. As he was born with a mystic disposition he became a disciple of the famous Sufi scholar and saint Muhammad Ali Raza Shattari. After he had finished his studies he was created a khalifa. Later on he received the khilafat of seven other sub-sects of the Sufi Qadiri. Soon after this event he left Kasur and migrated to Lahore .The author of Bagh-i-Awliya-e-Hind says that the great enmity of the Hakim Hussain Khan compelled him to migrate, but his descendants assert that it was the order of his teacher that brought him to Lahore. Here after having quelled the jealousy of his famous contemporaries, he established a college of his own. To this college came men of education for further studies in philosophy and other spiritual sciences of the time.
Inayat Shah was a well-known Qadiri Sufi of his time. From the historical point of view the Qadiri Sufis can be traced back to the Sufi Saint Abdul Qadri Jilani of Bagdad. Jilani is also known by the names Peer Dastgeer and Peeran-e-Peer. Bulleh Shah himself has also given a hint that his “Master of Masters” was born in Bagdad but his own Master belonged to Lahore:
My Master of Masters hailed from Baghdad,
but my Master belongs to the throne of Lahore.
It is all the same. For He himself is the kite
and He himself is the string.
Such was the man whom Baba Bulleh Shah made his Murshid. This action of Baba Bulleh Shah, however, was highly displeasing to his family. His relatives tried to induce him to give up Inayat and find another murshid. But Baba Bulleh Shah was firm and paid no attention to them or to their wailings. The following will sufficiently demonstrate the indignation of the family:
Bulleh nu samjhawan aiyaan bhena te bharjhaiyaan
Aal nabi ullad Nabi nu tu kyun leekaan laaiyaan
Manlay Bulleya sada kehna chad de palla raiyaan
To Bulleh sisters and sisters-in-law came to explain (advise). Why, O Bulleh, have you blackened the family of the Prophet and the descendants of Ali? Listen to our advice, Bulleh, and leave the skirt of the aria.
To this reproach Baba Bulleh Shah firmly but indifferently replies:
Jehra sanu saiyad akkhe dozakh miln sajaiya
Jehra sanu rai akkhe bahishti piga paiya
Je tu lore bag bahara Bullhia Talib ho ja raiya.
He who calls me a Saiyyid, shall receive punishments in Hell, he who calls me an arai shall in heaven have swings; O Bulleh, if you want pleasures of the garden become a disciple of the aria.
Raeen saain sabhan thaain rab diyaan be parwaiyaan
Sohniyaan pare hataiyaan te khoojiyaan lay gall laiyaan
Arain and masters are born at every place, God does not discriminate against anyone.
Wise people don’t care for such differences, only the ugly ones do
Je tu loorain baag baharaan chaakar hoo ja raiyaan
Bulleh Shah di zaat ki puchni shakar ho razaiyaan
If you seek to the gardens of heaven, become a servant to the ‘Arains’. Why ask about the caste of Bulleh Shah? Instead be grateful in the God’s will.
Baba Bulleh Shah seems to have suffered at the hands of his family, as he has once or twice mentioned in his poetry. In the end, being convinced of the sincere love and regard of their child for Inayat Shah, the family left him alone. It is said that one of his sisters, who understood her brother, gave him her support and encouraged him in his search for truth.
After the demise of Hadrat Shah Inayat, Baba Bulleh Shah returned to Kasur. He remained faithful to his Beloved and to him-self by not marrying. The sister who understood him also remained single and kept him company in his last years. He died in A.D. 1758 and was buried in Kasur, where his tomb still exists.
May Allah SubHanuhu wa Ta’ala elevate his Status and bless with a part from the Divine Love of Hadrat Sayyid Abdullah Shah Qadiri that he had for HIM (Almighty) and accept our remembrance of the Great Wali and the Sufi Master and make it a medium for us to receive his divine mercy and blessings… Aameen!!
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