Foundation, NJ  U. S. A 


In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.


the Message Continues i/61   -   Newsletter for  September  2006



Article 1: - Article 2: - Article 3: - Article 4: - Article 5: - Article 6: - Article 7: - Article 8: - Article 9: - Article 10: - Article 11: - Article 12:




Shah Husayn

Born in 1538 into a weaver family, a fact he never felt ashamed of, Shah Husayn received his early education in a mosque as was the tradition. At an early age he had committed the Quran to memory and mastered other faculties of religious knowledge.

Growing as a religious scholar, his devotion and piety impressed many people so much so that he attracted a large number of followers. But when he publicly announced his infatuation with a Brahmin boy, Madhu Laal, he actually invited the wrath of the so-called custodians of religion, who quickly unleashed their hatred against him. His followers thinned away. However, those who had accepted him with full conviction, remained loyal to him, interpreting their saint’s love pronouncement as a ploy to get rid of unwanted elements and to be left alone.

After initial reluctance, Madhu Laal reciprocated the affection wholeheartedly. Shah Husayn became Madhu Laal Hussain, singing and dancing in ecstasy in the streets of Lahore. Poetry began to flow smoothly from his lips like water from a spring. Madhu’s name was barely mentioned in Husayn’s poetry, which was actually a commentary on the culture and history of the subcontinent in his time.

The story moves further. Madhu became his vicegerent and when he died, he was buried in the same grave where Shah Husayn lay. The tomb is located adjacent to the Shalamar Gardens, built by Emperor Shah Jahan, in Lahore. An annual festival of lights (Mela Chiraghan) held there is a popular event of Lahore. Devotees converging to celebrate the event include Sikhs and Hindus. In fact, the “mela” was initiated by a courtesan of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, who himself is reported to be a devotee of the late Sufi poet.

A contemporary of emperor Akbar, Shah Husayn had several disciples among the Mughal princes. But it is also believed that Shah Husayn supported Dulla Bhatti, a Robinhood of sorts who challenged the authority of the regional Mughal generals. He was finally hunted down. A Punjabi film portraying Bhatti’s life had become very popular in the early 70’s.

In the year that Shah Husayn was born, a great poet and visionary of Punjab had passed away. He was none other than Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion and the kafi.

The kafi is a short poem, or lyric. Shah Husayn’s kafis are particularly crisp because of their brevity, usually four to 15 lines including the refrain. The later generation of Sufi poets such as Bulleh Shah, Ghulam Farid and Sachal Sarmast wrote longer versions of the genre. It is quite apparent that these poems were written, if they were written at all, for music composition. Some of them even mention the ragas they are to be composed in. But many “smart” singers have taken liberty with the poems and tampered with them extensively. There are poems which seem to have a word or two missing. But in many cases the addition, or distortion, by these music composers exposed their own lack of understanding.

In his kafis, Shah Husayn used the female pronoun more often than other Punjabi Sufi poets did to express his emotions. It is commonly held that the use of the feminine gender was an attempt by the poets identifying themselves with the oppressed class that was women. Drawing imagery from his ancestral weaver craft, Husayn highlighted the plight of women in general and working women in particular. The motherdaughter affinity is a theme he used effectively to compose his haunting lyrics. “O mama, who do I tell the state of my separation ... ?” The loving mama is invoked in his kafis frequently as a source of solace to the distressed young woman.

But when he wants to depict the courage of women, he presents the folk character of Heer to stress his point. Heer was a symbol of defiance to society as she had expressed her willingness to elope with Ranjha, who groped for a less challenging path to reach his destination.

Muzaffar A. Ghaffaar, the author of the volumes under review, has done a very wise thing while purging the text of weeds. He says he has deleted at places a word or two which he might have found incoherent, but he has not dared to add even a single word of his own.

The book contains 104 kafis. This is a fair representation of the poet considering that Ghalib’s matchless diwan has around 2,000 couplets. Ghalib had, of course, written ghazals, marsias and sehras that could have filled many more such diwans, but many critics believe that this is the selection that has given him immortality. On the other hand, Mir Taqi Mir did not make such a selection and his bulky diwan drowned the verses that could have distinguished him. The author says he has left out the poems that contained words that disfigured them and he suspected them to be an intrusion.

Ghaffaar has embarked on a very arduous journey of bringing the Punjabi poets “within reach” to the English reading population. His earlier two-volume book on Bulleh Shah was a remarkable job indeed. This one has surpassed the earlier work both in quality and quantum. That more such volumes on other Sufis are in the works shows the perseverance in hard work of the author.

He follows the pattern he has begun within his book on Bulleh Shah Within Reach. First, he presents the kafi in Nastaliq, or Urdu script. Then he gives its Gurmukhi version, followed by Roman English. Then there is the glossary of each line before its versified translation in English. Finally, there are the notes, explaining one or two lines at a time. The alphabetical glossary at the end of the book makes the reader’s job easier still.









All material published by / And the Message Continues is the sole responsibility of its author's).

The opinions and/or assertions contained therein do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of this site,

nor of Al-Huda and its officers.

Website Designed  and  Maintained    by    Khatoons Inc.  Copyright © 2001  CompanyLongName , NJ  USA