Sufism brings to mind spiritual medieval sages meditating in some foreign, mystical lands. It is an idea far removed from the so-called civilised and modern world. Yet is this very idea that has enriched the lives of its followers with virtues like harmony, humility and love — requisites for any peaceful and progressive society.
These were views of speakers at an event aimed at paying tribute to the great Sufi and humanist Baba Bulleh Shah at the Writers House of Pakistan Academy of Letters on Friday. The speakers included Professor Saeed Ahmed Farani, who has translated Shah’s wisdom from Punjabi into English and Dr Khadim Hussain Soomro, who is a noted scholar, researcher and author of over 40,000 books on mysticism and Indus Valley civilisation. The session was moderated by the Pakistan Intellectual Forum Chairman Hashim Abro.
Soomro underlined the need for reviving the local culture. Had the teachings of Sufi saints like Shah, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Waris Shah, Lah Shahbaz Qalandar, pbeen followed, there would be no discord, conflict or discrimination, he said. “Poetry is not the preparation for life but life itself. There is a need to read, research, and understand the message of humanity as taught by Bulleh Shah.”
Gul Muhammad, a young musician, performed selected verses from Shah’s poetry, with a variation of pop. His rendition of “Tere ishq nachaya”, “Bulla ki jana mein kaun” and “Ni mein kamli haan” invited much applause from the audience. Muhammad has been researching the mystic genre as a means to explore the messages behind Sufi poetry and spread it among the youth.
“Shah operated on a different orbit altogether. It is hard for a common person to understand the quest of his knowledge and spiritual journey. People mediate and chant mantras but very few come close to comprehending Shah’s philosophy,” Farani commented.
Nasreen Cheema, a guest said, “It’s the powerful message of the Sufis that the fundamentalists feel threatened by. Shah’s poetry sinks into the soul,” she said.
Britta Petersen, another guest, enjoyed the programme even though she does not comprehend Punjabi and is learning Urdu. But through the course of the session, she picked up some bits of Persian poetry, nodding in appreciation. “It was excellent. If people actually followed these teachings, the country won’t be facing many of the prevalent problems.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2013.