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 SHAH ABDUL LATIF

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MAJOR(R)KHALID NASR
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PostSubject: SHAH ABDUL LATIF   Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:04 am

Shah Abdul Latif, The Spiritual Poet "Shah Jo Risalo




Shah Abdul Latif, a great scholar, saint and spiritual poet, was born in Hala Haveli near the Khatiyan village of Hyderabad District, Sindh in 1689. His ancestral roots lay in Afghanistan. It is said that the Shah's father, Syed Habib Shah, had migrated from Matyaru, his ancestral home in Afghanistan to Bhainpur in Sindh, in order to gain spiritual contact with Bilawal, a local pious man.
Abdul Latif received his early education from a Madrasa run by Akhund Noor M. Bhatti. He was proficient in the knowledge of Quran and the traditions. He always carried with him copies of the Quran, Masnavi Maulana Room, and Risalo of his great grand father Shah Abdul Karim of Burli. The poet excelled in the Sindhi language. He was also proficient in the Persian, Sanskrit, Saraiki, Urdu and Baluchi languages.

Shah was a missionary and believed in practical learning. It is through his journeys that he acquired the background for most of his poems. He denounced extravagance, injustice and exploitation in all forms and at all levels, and praised simplicity and hospitality. His spiritual and mystic poetry carries a message of love and universality of the human race.

In 1713, the Sufi poet married Bibi Saidha Begum. It was a love marriage. His wife died at an early age, before she could have any children. Shah never married again.

In 1742, Shah Abdul Latif decided to settle in Bhit, meaning "The Sandy Mound". Having a great passion for music, one day he ordered the musicians to play music. They played continuously for three days. When they stopped playing from pure exhaustion, they found the poet dead. He died in 1752, and is buried in Bhit. A mausoleum was later constructed there.

Before his death, fearing that people might ignore his poetry, he destroyed all his writings by throwing them in the Kiran Lake. But at the request of one of his disciples, the sufi poet asked his servant, Mai Naimat, who had memorized most of his verses, to rewrite them. The message was duly recorded and compiled. A copy of the compilation known as "Ganj" was retained at the mausoleum. The original copy disappeared sometime in 1854. It was in 1866, 114 years after the poet's death, that Ernest Trumpp, a German scholar who knew Sindhi as well as many other languages, compiled "Risalo", a complete collection of Shah Abdul Latif's poetry, along with two other Sindhi scholars.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai is always remembered for his great poetry with love and reverence.

[b][color=blue] "Jay to beth-a bhainya say a'ayatoon aheen-i
Neo mann-o l'aeen piriny-a sand-e pa'ar-a dey."
"What you consider couplets of songs, Are in-fact verses from the Holy Book,
That guide you to the Beloved's abode." ..........Bhitai
The compiled verses of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai...are called Risalo which means "Message." They are recorded from the collection of verses known as Ganj which is preserved at the mausoleum of the saint poet at Bhitsah, near Hala, Sindh. It was 114 years after his death, that the German scholar and missionary, Ernest Trumpp, first published it in 1866 at Leipzig in Germany. He had learnt Sindhi during his temporary stay at Hyderabad, where he met many Sindhi scholars, literary figures and poets, and learnt about the richness of Sindhi culture, music and poetry. He was amazed and thrilled at the beauty of Shah Latif's poetry. He was mesmerized by the fakirs, jogis, singers, and the simple common people, who recited these verses and sang them with breath-taking melody and rhythm. He was also fascinated by the vast variety of Sindhi instruments...and surs (the methods of singing). With the help of two Sindhi scholars, he undertook the work of compilation of the Risalo and called it "Shah Jo Risalo" (the Message of the Shah). The people of Sindh are indebted to Trumpp for being the first person to get the Risalo published, although due to paucity of funds, inspite of the subsidy from the Bombay government, some of the surs...click could not be included in it.

Soon after this, in 1867, Kazi Ibrahim published his edition at Bombay which unfortunately, contained many extraneous verses. In its second edition, known as Bombay Edition, published in 1877, these alien verses were removed. The Museum Edition, covering 284 pages, has been preserved in the British Museum, London, since 1844.

In 1913, the renowned Sindhi scholar, and writer of countless plays, dramas, stories and literary books, Mirza Kalich Beg, got another edition of the Risalo published at Shikarpur, Sindh. Due to many printing mistakes and inclusion of foreign verses, it could not be popular.

In 1923, Dr Gurbuxani, professor of Persian at Karachi, published his first volume which is a product of profound scholarship, research and dedication. It was followed by his second volume in 1924 and the third in 1931. Dr Gurbuxani's edition was a remarkable improvement on the earlier editions. He expunged some of the alien verses which were inadvertantly included in the earlier editions. His work was presented in an attractive print with a pleasant get-up.

In 1940, Dr H.T. Sorley, an English scholar, who loved Sindhi language and culture, especially the poetry of Shah Bhitai. He learnt Sindhi language and rendered selections from the Risalo in English verse, which he included in his book entitled, "Shah Abdul Latif Of Bhit - His Poetry, Life and Times." This book was published by the Oxford University Press. It is a remarkable work of erudition and research about Sindh, and an indispensable work for the students of the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.

In 1950, Ghulam Muhammad Shahwani, published an exhaustive edition of Risalo, with an introduction and footnotes on every page. In 1952, Maulana Ghulam Mustafa Kasmi brought out his edition of the Risalo in two volumes, which is not available anymore.

In 1958, appeared Kalyan Advani's edition, which is even more exhaustive than Shahwani's. It too contains an introduction and footnotes. In 1976 appeared his slightly abridged edition with explanation of the verses.

In 1961, Allama Imdad Ali Imam Ali Kazi, popularly known as I.I. Kazi, the first Vice Chancellor of University of Sindh - a great scholar, thinker, and philosopher - brought out his edition of the Risalo adding more verses to it with a commendable effort. He however, eliminated Sur Kedaro...click from it. Thus, his edition contains 29 surs instead of 30. he also re-arranged the order of surs.

In 1965, appeared Mrs Elsa Kazi's (the wife of Allama I.I. Kazi's) remarkable translation in verse of the selection from Risalo, with an introduction by A.K. Brohi, a renowned Sindhi scholar, jurist, and philosopher. This selection also contained an critical article entitled, "Shah Abdul Latif - An appreciationto His Art", appearing as an appendix by Allama I.I. Kazi. It was published by Sindhi Adabi Board, Hyderabad, Sindh. Although this translation is not a literal rendering, Mrs. Elsa Kazi, a German lady, has been able to convey its significance very effectively as it has a tremendous impact on the reader. Besides editing and re-arranging the Risalo, Allama I.I. Kazi has done much valuable scholarly and research work on Shah Bhitai.

Professor Akram Ansari's book, "Symbolism in Latif's Poetry", was published in 1983 by the Institute of Sindhology, University of Sindh. Dr. Dure Shahwar Sayed's book, which, in fact, is her Ph.D. thesis, "Poetry of Shah Abdul Latif," was published by Sindhi Adabi Board in 1988. Mr Tirathdas Hotchand's small books on Shah Latif's life and waht he calls, "Seven Singing Stories" of the Risalo also deserve to be mentioned in this connection. Abdul Ghafoor of Daro's translation in verse called, "The Celsetial Sunrise From Sindh", inspite of its unusual and attractive get-up, its attempt at original philosophy and the labour of love, has not been rendered effective because of its incorrect English and lack of mastery over the English language. However, it is a a welcome contribution.

Sindh's renowned present-day, progressive and ebullient poet, Shaikh Ayaz, has translated in Urdu verse the whole of Risalo with an elaborate introduction.

Bhitshah Cultural Committee, Hyderabad, has published Mirza Kalich Beg's work, "Life of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai," which was kept preserved in a manuscript form for years and which contained much useful material on the life of Bhitai and also on the Risalo. Mirza Kalich Beg, collected this information from the mouth of the people whose grandfathers had seen and even conversed with Bhitai.

Mention should also be made for the monumental work carried out bt Dr Nabi Baksh Baluch, former Vice Chancelor of Sindh University, a great Sindhi scholar and academician, whose thirst for research is unquenchable. He has made a study of 47 manuscripts and 15 printed editions of the Risalo, involving in-depth study of the source material. He also also edited the two volumes of the Risalo and is, presently, working on the remaining three volumes. The last and the most recent work on Shah Bhitai and his poetry is Muhammad Yakub Agha's "Shah Jo Risalo" alias "Ganje Latif", published in 1985 by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitshah Cultural Committee. He has not only revised, re-arranged and annotated the complete Risalo in three volumes, but has also given its literal translation. For further aid and understanding the language used in the Risalo, he intends to publish, separately, a glossary of the terms used in the original Risalo. This edition is a rare work of its own kind, for not only has Agha Yakub translated the verses and explained the philosophy underlying them, he has also quoted parallel lines from Hafiz and Roomi, the Persian poets, saints and sufis. In addition to this, he has made the surs and verses more clear by giving references from the Holy Qur'an...click and Sunnah (Hadith) of the Prophet...click. Whereas, the works of annotation and translation of the previous scholars, like Dr Gurbuxani and Kalyan Advani, was influenced by the Vedantic philosophy, Agha Yakub has done so from a purely Islamic point of view. It has to be placed on record that, inspite of many printing errors, Muhammad Yakub Agha's "Shah Jo Risalo", is an exhaustive and commendable work that has been produced so far, even though one may not agree with him on a few points.

In 1994, the Bhitshah Cultural Centre Committee, Hyderabad, published the English translation, "Risalo of Shah Abdul Latif : Translated in Verse" by Madam Amena Khamisani...click, a former professor in English literature at the Sindh University. I have found Madam Khamisani's translation easy to understand, simple and straight-forward. Her insight and use of proper words in proper place are a plus factor to this great work of art. Although retired from active service, she continues to serve Sindh and Sindhis in her own way. However, I do not completely agree with some of her translated verse - interpretation of the philosophy and thought of Shah Bhitai. In my humble effort to present Shah and his philosophy to the world on this marvelous medium, the cyberspace, I have used Madam Khamisani's translation. In some instances, where I have not been able to completely agree with her interpretations, I have used my own words and meanings in the English translation to the original Sindhi renderings.



"Go not far, Sasui! nor give the quest,
Walk not with your feet, yet sit not quite content,>br> All connection with joys of life snap,
Walk with your heart, that journey may soon end."
.........Bhitai [Sur Sasui]

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