Tag Archives: Shah

People’s history of the Punjab: Humanism and equality

The poetry of Shah Hussain explored the socio-political dimensions of Punjabi society

Shah Abdul Latif Bhita’i was a contemporary poet of Bulleh Shah

Dr Manzur Ejaz writing for TFT

Islamic extremism is not new in the subcontinent: At one time even the Emperor Akbar, the most liberal among Mughal rulers, was forced to ban alcohol under the pressure of the religious establishment. However, at that time the difference was that an alternative ideology was also evolving, but this is not the case in the political discourse of today. The Pakistani state has successfully created a disconnection from the tradition of an alternative ideology by promoting the religious version of the ruling Muslim elites – most Muslim rulers were conservative Sunnis – and Mullahs.
The alternative ideology in the Punjab started with the Chishtia’s challenge to the establishment through the rebellious poetry of Baba Farid-ud-din Masood Ganj-e-Shakar (1175-1266). Baba Guru Nanak, following this tradition, critiqued the political economy as well as the system of ideas prevailing in both Hindu society and ritualistic Muslim religion. Nanak negated the political system more directly than anyone else had done in the Punjab before him.

Baba Nanak (1469-1539) was very methodical in his intellectual discourse. In his Japji Sahib, he undertook the rebuttal of the presumptions of the Hindu religion and its philosophy. He negated the Muslim practice of ritualistic practices, but because of Islam’s monotheism his criticism of it was not as harsh as it was against Hinduism. Furthermore, since he absolutely negated casteism and gender differentiations, his main target was Hindu philosophy and its practices. Probably, this is the reason that Muslims wanted to bury him according to Islamic tradition.

On the political level Baba Nanak’s main criticism was against foreign invaders and their religious pretensions. Baba Nanak is the only poet who described the invasion of the Mughal Emperor Babar, (1483-1531). He observed that Babar did not differentiate between Indian Muslims and Hindus and dishonoured their women indiscriminately. According to him, Babar arbitrarily destroyed mosques and mandirs. In conclusion he sums up:

Pap ki janj ley Kabloon dhaia, jori mangay dan vey lalo

([He] mounted an invasion with his sinful party (army) and he demands donations by force)

Baba Nanak also provided a deep insight into the exploitative economic and social systems in India. This was one of the main reasons that he attracted so many Punjabi artisans to his teachings. The class of poor Jat peasants joined him at a later stage. Baba Nanak’s complete comprehension of the system became the basis of a religious and nationalist resistance in the Punjab, while the works of Sufis were not able to induce an organized movement that could sustain itself. This had positive developments in the Punjab as far as putting an end to the invaders from the North was concerned, but Sikhism lost its edge in due course because it became just another organized religion with all the usual ritualistic aspects. Nonetheless, this negative development does not diminish Baba Nanak’s significance as a thinker espousing an alternative ideology to the one enforced by orthodox Islam and Hinduism. Continue reading

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Madhu Lal – festival of lights

LAHORE: A number of devotees have thronged to the shrine of sufi saint Hazrat Shah Hussain, also known as Shah Hussain Lahori and Madhu Lal Hussain, to mark the three-day urs of the Festival of Lights. courtesy daily times Continue reading