By Sadia Dehlvi
Mar 10, 2016
Khwaja Ghulam Farid is among my favourite Sufi poets of the subcontinent. The late 19th century poet of the Saraiki language articulated Sufi philosophy in the kaafi style of verse. A Sufi scholar of the Chishti Sufi order, he authored several books of poetry of which the Dewan-e-Farid is the most well-known. It is an amazing collection of 272 kaafis, diverse in language, content and style.
Kaafis are an indigenous form of traditional Sufi verse, called Wai in Sindhi, used by both Sindhi and Punjabi Sufi poets. Kaafis are musical composition with a distinct melody and rhyme scheme with a refrain; ideal for singing. Earlier poets who wrote kaafis, included Bulleh Shah, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Madho Lal Hussaini and Sachal Sarmast.
Although Ghulam Farid wrote primarily in Saraiki, he wrote numerous kaafis in Persian, Sindhi and Brij bhasha. Khwaja Ghulam Farid’s poetry includes references to both traditional Islamic and local cultures. He wrote of the pain of separation from the divine and the love of God, the beloved.
He was born in 1845 CE to a family of Arab settlers from Mithankot in Punjab. His mother died when he was four years old. At the age of 13, he became a disciple of his elder brother, Khwaja Fakhruddin.
When Khwaja Ghulam Farid reached the age of 28, his brother and mentor died; the responsibility of carrying on the family’s spiritual legacy falling on him. The royal families of Bahawalpur were disciples of Khwaja Ghulam Farid’s family. He is buried in a beautiful mausoleum in Mithankot, now in Pakistan.
Known for pluralistic religious symbols to express his religious devotion and belief in the oneness of God, Khwaja Ghulam Farid in another verse writes, “Day and night, morning and evening, My ears hear Krishna’s flute, From the first day Ranjha graciously, plays his holy flute and lets me hear, celestial music in the mode of unity.”
In a series of kaafis that allude to praising of Prophet Muhammad, he writes, “May I call you a mosque, temple and church? May I call you the Veda and the Quran? May I call you a rosary? May I call you a cross thread? May I describe you as infidelity? May I describe you as faith? May I call you Dashrat, Lakshman and Ram? May I call you my beloved Sita? May I call you Baldev, Jaswada and Nund? May I call you Krishan, Kanhaiya and Kanha? May I call you Gita, Granth and Veda, O essential beauty! The primordial light! May I call you the witness in the city of Hejaz? May I describe you as the reason for the creation of this cosmos?”
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi
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