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Sufism in Urdu poetry


Sufism in Urdu poetry


Khwaja Mir Dard

Urdu language and literature is the symbol and heritage of the composite culture of India. The literature represents centuries old civilization and cultural history of the sub-continent. This is the reason; it contains not only the colors of sub-continental life but also the best intellectual assets of its time.  Urdu has emerged with the beginning of composite culture and consequently its literature depicts the glimpses of the composite life which makes the canvas of Urdu literature larger than any other literature in India. Classical heritage of Urdu is very important in this regard. Urdu classical literature, especially its poetry was a medium of representing global thoughts. While doing this, most poets gave ample space to Sufism in their creations. Another reason for presenting Sufi thoughts was the impact of Persian poetry on early Urdu poetry, and in Persian poetry Hafiz Shirazi and Maulana Rūm were popular due to their Sufi poetry. Therefore, early poets of Urdu also adopted Sufism as their means of communication. The main reason of flourishing such thoughts in India is that the Indian soil itself has a spiritual history which can be found in Upnishadas. Founder of Buddhist religion, Gautam Buddha also paved the way for Sufism. This was the reason why Sufis and saints were very popular figures in Indian society. After that, when Islam came to India, it introduced Sufism in its own way. As such, when we study the cultural history of India, we find that mystics, saints and Muslim Sufis played an important role in building Indian nation.

India is called a ‘land of devotion and love’ due to these Sufis and saints. Messages of Sufism and its traditions like Khanqah, Peer, Murshid, Ibadat, Riyazat, message of humanity, etc. were so popular in those days that religious leaders, poets and academicians also gave much importance to Sufism in their works. We see its impact on every Indian literature. Urdu was a lingua franca for a long period and was also an official language of India in the beginning. But, after the partition, Urdu got badly affected by linguistic discrimination, but is still a language of common people in India. This is the reason why Urdu gave space to the thoughts of every section of the society and also influenced by Persian and Arabic literatures. Urdu was under the influence of Persian from the very beginning and it also borrowed grammatical setting as well as intellectual trends from Persian. The time when Persian had achieved its universal status, Urdu was in its early stage. Hafiz Shirazi, Maulana Rūm and Umar Khayyam were known and read in India at that time too, and they are equally important even today. So, their views about Sufism were transferred into Urdu through them only. In India, Sufi movement was carried ahead by Amir Khusro, Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gesu Daraz, Shaikh Bahauddin, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Nizamuddin Aulia, Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki and so on. After that some Urdu poets gave space to Sufism in their poetry and included human life and other such issues in their works. Sufi poetry then became an important trend in Urdu literature and get popularity among Urdu poets.

Khwaja Mir Dard was also among such poets. His name was Syed Khwaja Mir and ‘Dard’ was his Pseudonym. His father Khwaja Mohammad Nasir was a good Persian poet whose Pseudonym was ‘Andalib’. Khwaja Mir Dard born in Delhi in 1720 A.D. and received all types of traditional education of that time, and spiritual education and training, from his father. Due to mystic education he spent his entire life on the footprints of Sufism. By profession he was a soldier in his adulthood. But, after the death of his father he became a Sajjadanashin (head of Khanqah). He inherited poetry and Tasawwuf from his father. He was respected by all whether poor or rich, king or beggar as he was a Sufi by nature. He left all worldliness and chose to a life of a mystic.

He witnessed the age of political and cultural anarchy in Delhi where everyone was suffering from pain and misery. In that situation only Tasawwuf (mysticism) could give them relief and peace. This is the reason why Sufi movement reached on its zenith in 18th century. Delhi at that time was a centre of insurgency, so the residents of Delhi were heading towards Awadh and Rampur states after suffering from poverty, misery and economic insecurity. But, these things did not put any impact on ‘Dard’ and he remained in Delhi till his last time. He died in 1785 and buried in Delhi itself. Dard was fond of reading and writing from his childhood. He wrote various books. One of his Diwan (collection of poetry) is in Persian and one is in Urdu. His critics are of the opinion no other Urdu poet presented Sufism as clearly in his poetry as ‘Dard’ did.

According to Maulana Mohammad Husain Azad:

As was written by him (Dard) on Tasawwuf, done by none.” (Aab-e-Hayat)

Imam Asar writes that:

“On the subject of Tasawwuf, none was such a great poet in Urdu as was he (Dard).” (Kashif-ul-Haqaiq)

Before putting some light on the Tasawwuf of Khwaja Mir Dard, let us find out what is Tasawwuf. Tasawwuf basically is an internal revolt of human conscience against overall injustice. In human history, Tasawwuf or Sufism has been a universal movement. We find Sufi tradition in most religions of the world. These traditions were prior to Islam. Tasawwuf, in a sense, is a way of prayer based on some principles. The evolution of Sufism can be understood through various schools of thoughts. Major trends of Sufism can be found among Jews, Christians, Zoroastrianism, Buddhists as well as Hindus. It is found in many small religions of the world also. As a whole, we find two extremely important trends in human life – one is linked with this world, to get more and more wealth and pomp and show, and the other is linked with monasticism where man does not like this world and wants to live a peaceful life away from population and thus takes shelter in forests and mountains. Both these trends have been there in human life from the beginning. Those who preferred to live a monastic life left this world and went to forests and mountains in search of God. On the other hand, Muslim saints and Sufis did not boycott this world. They followed Islamic principles and did not think to boycott social life for their prayers. They not only preached Islamic way of life but also gave a message of humanity to the world. They played the role of social reformer and removed various ill-wills from the society. Their institutions were of social importance in that age. These institutions not only played a major role in the building of Indian nation but also provided a different and special image to India on international map. Due to their efforts communal harmony, brotherhood, love and peace still exist in India. Khwaja Mir Dard was the follower of same route.

Famous Sufi and Urdu poet Sirajuddin Ali Khan once said about Khwaja Mir Dard after seeing him in his early adulthood:

“He is a talented youth. What I see in him, if followed in practical life, then with the grace of God he will find a prominent place in Sufism.” ( Tazkera)

No other Urdu poet gets as much name and fame in Sufi poetry as was received by Dard. We do not find such beautiful couplets on Sufism other than the poetry of Khwaja Mir Dard. There are various reasons to this: Dard was by birth a Sufi. His father Khwaja Nasir Andalib was one of the eminent Sufis of Delhi. His whole life passed while delivering the message of love and peace. Khanqah of Khwaja Nasir in Delhi was the centre of Sufis. Dard also got this spiritual education from his father. During his adulthood, Khwaja Mir Dard spent some time in some services, but he left all these things soon and became a Sufi saint and spent the rest of his life on this line. This was the reason behind his successful Sufi poetry. And that is why his poetry has ever lasting impact on its readers. His poems are totally based on his practical life and whatever he felt in real life. His philosophy doe not teach the lesson of monasticism or leaving social life.

Sufi poets give much importance to the practice of love. Bearing the difficulties of love is mandatory for them. Dard also represents same love. Love is that oven which produces sacred human being or Sufi. Dard describes some of these difficulties in his poetry:

درد  کا  حال  کچھ نہ پوچھو تم
وہی رونا ہے نت وہی غم ہے

Don’t ask the condition of “Dard”

Wailing on the pain and the pain is there again

Sufi lit a fire of love in his heart and tries to get a shelter in this fire and then gets access to Allah. But, this is possible only when your heart is clear like a mirror. Heart becomes clear only when it keeps itself from all desires of life and comes to spiritual world after leaving behind all material wishes. After passing this stage the heart gets the ability for the perception of reality. He then finds a window in his heart from where he can see his Creator, the Almighty God. As Dard says:

ارض و سماں کہاں تیری وسعت کو پاسکے
میرا ہی دل ہے وہ کہ  جہاں تو  سماں  سکے

Earth and sky are too small for you

It’s only my heart capable of accommodating you.

It gives him specialty to keep himself away from all wrong doings. He then lives in this world as a friend of all human beings.

These prints are amply available in Dard’s poetry. His poems are full of search and seeking because it is seeking which comes first in the way of Sufism and then starts the spiritual struggles. This is the reason why we see a lot of questions and queries in Dard’s poetry. These things are related to the Creator of Universe. These couplets are some examples:

درد کچھ معلوم ہے یہ لوگ  سب
کس طرف سے آئے تھے کدھر چلے

زندگی  ہے یا  کوئی  طوفان ہے
ہم تو اس جینے کے ہاتھوں مرچلے

Dard is trying to understand world through these couplets. These questions have their answers hidden in them that this world is temporary and man spends only some time in this world. So, it is important for him to be happy which is possible only when his society is peaceful. And peace and harmony are created by humans only. If all human beings of this world try to maintain peace and harmony, they can live a happy and better life.

Khwaja Mir Dard did not accept Tasawwuf as only a tradition. In case of not being a poet he might be a practical Sufi. According to him all knowledge is associated with three main subjects: God, Human being and Universe.

  1. What is God, and where is he?
  2. What is the reality of man, his position in the universe, and his relation with God?
  3. What is the relation between Universe and Human being, and what is the relation between the Universe and God?

After the concept of God, next issue is the relation between man and God. Some qualities are common between man and God. Then the question arises as whether man is parallel to God? In reality, man is not parallel to God instead his qualities are from God. He is the mirror of God and thus is a needy of God. God has created man for his expressions. God expects from man that he will maintain peace and harmony and create an atmosphere of love on Earth as God loves his creations.

According to Sufis God is free from all sins and if there is a sin in anything it has been created by us only. God has left us free for good and bad. Then comes the question as how much the man is responsible for his doings? There are two groups on this issue. One group thinks that man is in the control of his saying and doing, while the other group thinks that man is just dependent. Both these groups exist among Sufis. But, both of them agree with the conclusion that man creates his own world through his doings. Faults and errors of this world are created by us. His life will be that much peaceful as much he loves cares and sympathizes with his fellow human beings.

According to Sufis this world cannot go well without love. Love is the necessity of life both from material and spiritual point of view. Man can reach to God only through love. System of this universe cannot perform its functions without the warmth of love. Khwaja Mir Dard also recognizes this fact. He also agrees that without loving human beings we cannot love God in true sense. The same message of love makes a man a true human being and gives everyone the right to live an equal life. The man who fears from his God will never become cruel to others and will never exploit others. This is the same message of love for which Sufis are respected even today.

Poetry of Khwaja Mir Dard is full of such messages and feelings like:

باوجود یکہ پرو بال نہ تھے  آدم  کے
وہاں پہنچا کہ فرشتے کا بھی مقدور نہ تھا

Though Adam didn’t have the wings and furs

But he reached beyond the imagination of angels

Here Khwaja Mir Dard depicts the greatness of human being in his own style. It’s not in symbols like (عطار) Attar has expressed in his Mantiq-ut-tair but a direct expression of the greatness of human being. Sufis have always recognized the importance of mankind and it was known to them that human is different from other creations but they have always insisted on minimizing the feelings of being special.

Dard has also thrown lights on the realities of life. He has also presented the sadness of this life through his poetry. He also talks on moral subjects along with the greatness of humanity. His age was an age of moral degradation, so he tried to give the lesson of the greatness of humanity and that of goodness.

According to Dr. Abdullah:

“Tasawwuf is that part of Dard’s poetry due to which he got respect from his age and became a great poet and this is a reality that if Dard were not a poet (and a Sufi) then also he would have got a prominent place among the great poets of his age. We cannot deny the fact that his virtual poetry has also special values and ethos which shows that his Sufi training is stopping him from the wrong path.”

(Urdu Adab ki Ek Sadi)

Dard’s age was full of insurgency and emergency. Mass killing was everywhere. Delhi was looted several times. Throne of many kings were snatched and they were forced to live a miserable life. Such happenings gave rise to the feeling of sadness and negativity. These things also got place in Urdu poetry of that time, and Dard was also not any exception.  But he described these aspects in a positive sense that the world and human beings are also not survive for ever only God will survive, so in a very small span of time we should spend our life a memorable and use full life.

نے گل کو ہے ثبات نہ ہم کو ہی  اعتبار
کس بات پر چمن ہوس رنگ و بوکریں

زندگی  ہے يا کوئی طوفان  ہے
ہم تو اس جينے کے ہاتھوں مر چلے

In conclusion, we can say that as Khwaja Mir Dard was associated with Sufi Khanqah, so he gave message of peace and love through his poetry. Many people were associated with his Khanqah who were also overwhelmed by his thoughts. Most of the poets of 18th century also tried to understand life and the existence of human being and they recognized the importance of human love and friendship with fellow human beings. And, actually this is the lesson of Sufism. Urdu poetry is full of these feelings and there is a strong tradition of Sufi poetry in Urdu literature.


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