The melody of the wandering ascetics, introduced by Michel Boivin

 

We wish to introduce new Sindhi poetry through excerpts of the risâlo of Shâh `Abd al-Karîm (1536-1624). He was the grand-father of Shâh `Abd al-Lâtif (1689-1752), the famous author of Shâh jo risâlo. Shâh `Abd al-Karîm lived in the village of Bulri, not far from Thatta. The risâlo is made of 92 baits which are one of the oldest samples of Sufi poetry in Sindhi. It was published and translated into English by Motilal Jotwani in 1979, in a booklet entitled Shah Abdul Karim – a mystic of Sind (New Delhi, Rajesh Publications) and reprinted by Sindhi Kitab Ghar and Indus Publications in 1986. The baits deal here with the Sufi concept of wahdat-e wujûd:

 

The Beloved has a way
unheard of and unknown,
Utter bewilderment
is the lover’s fate.

He Himself is the king,
And Himself the envoy sent,
He Himself receives the envoy
and accredits Himself.

Those for whom we yearn
are none but we ourselves;

Now, O Doubt! be gone,
We recognise the Beloved.
You were created
out of nothing;
What does your saying “I” mean,
When you are nothing still?

You live in “Nought but God”;
be not away one moment from Him;
Man is God’s manifestation,
why break this whole in parts?

He guides us to the Fount of Light,
to Himself,
So to our source we all return,
Hold fast to this root of the matter.

 

Shâh `Abd al-Lâtif Bithai was born in Hala. During his lifetime, he saw the decline of the Mughal empire, and the invasions of Nâdir Shâh and Ahmad Shâh Durrânî. According to tradition, he always kept three books with him: the Quran, the risâlo of Shâh Karîm, and the Mathnawî of Rûmî. It is said he visited many sanctuaries, including Hindu ones in the company of wandering ascetics (jogis) probably from Nathpanthi persuasion. Following Shâh Karîm’s steps, but writing in a more common language though hardly understandable for Sindhis today, Shâh Lâtif uses the folktales of Sindh for depicting the quest of the human soul toward God.

 

The ascetics, handsome and enlightning, the
world over roam;
None of them has any place his home.
Those of them that kindle Love’s fire,
Without their company, I can not live.

The horns the ascetics blow produce ecstatic
sound;
They are more precious then treasures in

A representation of Shah `Abd al-Lâtif Bithai

palaces found.
Pure gold are their horns, their possessions all;
Do not them devoid of wealth call.
You must feel yourself as reassured,

Perchance, this company may have this place
renounced;
« Let us go », they may have pronounced.
Without their company, I can not live.

The ascetics their « Ego » gather,
And set it to fire altogether.
The ascetics their « Ego » squeeze,
And devour it as they please.
Those that across the ocean to safety lead,
Without their company, I can not live.

As their dwellings I am beholding,
There arises within my heart a longing.
Not yet over is this morning,
So, the ascetics are not yet their music playing.
Those, who follow the Path of submission to
God,
Without their company, I can not live.

 

Source: G. Allana, Selections from the Risalo, Education Department, Government of Sind, Karachi, no date.

 

 

The ascetics, handsome and enlightning, the

world over roam;

None of them has any place his home.

Those of them that kindle Love’s fire,

Without their company, I can not live.

The horns the ascetics blow produce ecstatic

sound;

They are more precious then treasures in

palaces found.

Pure gold are their horns, their possessions all;

Do not them devoid of wealth call.

You must feel yourself as reassured,

Perchance, this company may have this place

renounced;

« Let us go », they may have pronounced.

Without their company, I can not live.

The ascetics their « Ego » gather,

And set it to fire altogether.

The ascetics their « Ego » squeeze,

And devour it as they please.

Those that across the ocean to safety lead,

Without their company, I can not live.

As their dwellings I am beholding,

There arises within my heart a longing.

Not yet over is this morning,

So, the ascetics are not yet their music playing.

Those, who follow the Path of submission to

God,

Without their company, I can not live.


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