where not a bird can perch
burns the dhuni of yogis……..
Through, valleys, hills and along rivers he wandered… seeking the company of Nath Yogis, following their dhunis (ritual fires) which they would set alight among the highest and remote peaks of these hills.
Though born into a family of sufis, it was in the company of these yogis that Shah Latif grasped the mysteries of life and reality. He would also live among farmers and shepherds, weaving great mystical truths into their folklore and ballads. Shah Latif was an uwaisi mystic i.e. he had no predecessor or master and therefore did not belong to any of the formal sufi orders or tariquaas.
‘Hal qurban, mal qurban‘
According to Shah Latif, on the Path, both bliss of the mystical states and worldly possessions have to be sacrificed. The Path is difficult and the mountains too steep to weigh down your mind with any burdens or attachments.
Shah Abdul Latif was born in 1689 in Hala, near present day Hyderabad (Sind, Pakistan). He is believed to have roamed in the company of yogis for three years and travelled as far as Baluchistan, Rajasthan, Kutch and Kathiawar. The collection of his mystical poems titled, ‘Shah jo Risalo‘ (The book of Shah). It comprises of more than 1200 pages and contains 30 surs based on different ragas. Some of these ragas are from Indian classical music and some were originally composed by Shah Latif himself. The Risalo begins with Sur Kalyan: it describes the One God and its various manifestations and the suffering that the Seeker has to endure on the path of devotion. This is followed by Sur Yaman Kalyan and Sur Khanbhat….Sur Sarirag and Sur Samundi, the latter describes the trials and tribulations of a seafarer on his final Journey. In some of his surs, Shah Latif has dealt exclusively with the traits/signs of the true men of God: Sufis and Yogis. Above all, Shah Latif emphasises the importance of Ikhlas:sincerity and adab: right behaviour or conduct for the tavellers of the Path.The Risalo uses a combinations of metaphors, symbols and folk tales to reveal the secrets of the Path. Among the most popular of his poems, which were composed in the form of Kafis or Ways and Bayts, are those based on the folktales of legendary lovers like Sohni–Mehanwal, Sassai–Punhun and Nuri–Tamachi.
‘Surrender all actions to the Glorious whom you seek’
Without grief or thought and His grace will bring to you
what you need…..’
Shah advises the estranged lovers to forsake greed and become humble, tauba or repentance is essential on the path to the Beloved, taming of the nafs (the lower soul or the ego)symbolised by the camel and constant wakefulness, tawakkul:trust in God and complete surrender to the will of God, sabr: patience and rida: contentment advised for the lovers, travellers and seafarers.
‘Nothing that comes from the beloved is bitter
all is sweet if you taste it with faith’
Sassui, a washer man’s daughter, separated from her lover Prince-Tamachi, wandering alone in the desert, lonely and hopeless – symbolic of the various stages of the separated soul before it can be one with God: hope, longing, fear and annihilation…She finally realizes that Tamachi is no longer apart from her, but within her own heart and the outward journey is transformed into a journey within…… and finally the destination, the state fana: annihilation in God is realised. But this Path , according to Shah Latiff, is treacherous:
‘the company of the Yogis is not for the weak….only those who are predestined to wear the cap of the Sufis can walk this Path…..’
In his later years, Shah Latif settled at Bhit, not far from Hala, and spent the rest of his life in the company of his disciples. His beautiful shrine at Bhit Shah is as exquisite as his poetry.
The land of Sind also harboured other sufi saints like Lal Shahbaz Kalandar who lived on the west bank of lower Indus besides a Shiva lingam, this lingam still stands besides his tomb today at Sehwan;
Sachal Sarmast also known as the ‘Attar of Sind’, who was a companion of Shah Latif, and a sufi poet who wrote in Sindhi, Sairaki, Urdu and Persian. At Makli Hill near Thatta are buried 125,000 saints of Sind. Even the Hindus of Sind came under the influence of these great sufis. Hindu writers used Muslim imagery in their mystical poems and in the Ta’ziya during the Muharram mourning of the Shia community of Sind.
TO BE CONTINUED