Bulleh Shah is believed to have been born in 1680, in the small village of Uch, Bahawalpur, Punjab, now in Pakistan. His ancestors had migrated from Bukhara in modern Uzbekistan.
When he was six months old, his parents relocated to Malakwal. There his father, Shah Muhammad Darwaish, was a preacher in the village mosque and a teacher. His father later got a job in Pandoke, about 50 miles southeast of Kasur. Bulleh Shah received his early schooling in Pandoke, and moved to Kasur for higher education. He also received education from Maulana Mohiyuddin. His spiritual teacher was the eminent Sufi saint, Shah Inayat Qadiri.
Little is known about Bulleh Shah’s direct ancestors, except that they were migrants from Uzbekistan. However, Bulleh Shah’s family was directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH).Poetry Style
The verse form Bulleh Shah primarily employed is called the Kafi, a style of Punjabi, Sindhi and Siraiki poetry used not only by the Sufis of Sindh and Punjab, but also by Sikh gurus.
Bulleh Shah’s poetry and philosophy strongly criticizes Islamic religious orthodoxy of his day.
A Beacon of Peace
Bulleh Shah’s time was marked with communal strife between Muslims and Sikhs. But in that age Baba Bulleh Shah was a beacon of hope and peace for the citizens of Punjab. While Bulleh Shah was in Pandoke, Muslims killed a young Sikh man who was riding through their village in retaliation for murder of some Muslims by Sikhs. Baba Bulleh Shah denounced the murder of an innocent Sikh and was censured by the mullas and muftis of Pandoke. Bulleh Shah maintained that violence was not the answer to violence.Bulleh Shah also hailed Guru Tegh Bahadur as a ghazi (Islamic term for a religious warrior) and incurred the wrath of the fanatic muslims at the time.
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Bulleh Shah’s writings represent him as a humanist, someone providing solutions to the sociological problems of the world around him as he lives through it, describing the turbulence his motherland of Punjab is passing through, while concurrently searching for God. His poetry highlights his mystical spiritual voyage through the four stages of Sufism: Shariat (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Marfat (Union). The simplicity with which Bulleh Shah has been able to address the complex fundamental issues of life and humanity is a large part of his appeal. Thus, many people have put his kafis to music, from humble street-singers to renowned Sufi singers like the Waddali Brothers, Abida Parveen and Pathanay Khan, from the synthesized techno qawwali remixes of UK-based Asian artists to the rock band Junoon.
Bulleh Shah’s popularity stretches uniformly across Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, to the point that much of the written material about this philosopher is from Hindu and Sikh authors.The ancestral village of Bulleh Shah was Uch Gilaniyan in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
From there his family first shifted to Malakwal (District Multan, Pakistan) and then to Pandoke, which is about 14 miles southeast of Qasur (Pakistan). Bulleh’s earlier name was Abdullah Shah, later on it changed to Bulleh. His family background was religious, his father being a highly religious person. Bulleh Shah was the disciple of a Qadiri Sufi.
Bulleh composed a lot of poetry in Saraiki,
the local spoken language. His style of poetry is called Qafi, which was already an established style with Sufis who preceded him. The tomb of Bulleh Shah is in Qasur (Pakistan) and he is held in reverence by all Sufis of Sindh and Punjab.
The poem below is typical of Bulleh’s
view of the world. He sees the common underlying reality that lies beneath the mundane, and rejoices in its all pervasiveness. This concept is similar to the monotheistic, omnipresent concept of God that we come across in Sikhism and the Upanishads.The second tradition says that Shah Inayat was the head gardener of the Shalimar gardens of Lahore. When in Lahore, Baba Bulleh Shah visited them, and as it was summer, he roamed in the mango-groves. Desirous of tasting the fruit he looked round for the guardian but, not finding him there, he decided to help himself. To avoid the sin of stealing, he looked at the ripe fruit and said; ‘ALLAHu Ghani’. On the utterance of these magic words a mango fell into his hands. He repeated them several times, and thus collected a few mangoes. Tying them up in his scarf he moved on to find a comfortable place where he could eat them. At this time he met the head gardener, who accused him of stealing the fruit from the royal gardens.
Considering him to be a man of low origin
and desirous of demonstrating to him his occult powers, Baba Bulleh Shah said ironically:‘I have not stolen the mangoes but they have fallen into my hands as you will presently see.’ He uttered ‘ALLAHu Ghani’ and the fruit came into his hand. But to his great surprise the young Saiyyid found that Inayat Shah was not at all impressed but was smiling innocently. The great embarrassment of Bullhe Shah inspired pity in the gardener’s heart and he said: ‘You do not know how to pronounce properly the holy words and so you reduce their power.’ So saying, he uttered ‘ALLAHu Ghani’, and all the fruits in the gardens fell on the lovely lawns. Once again he repeated the same and the fruit went back on to the trees. This defeat inflicted by the guardian, whom the young Saiyyid Bullhe Shah considered ignorant and low, revolutionized his whole thought.Falling at the feet of Inayat Shah he asked to be classed as his disciple and his request was immediately granted.