Shrines: A Culture of Spiritual Solace
Muslims form the majority population of Pakistan at about 97 percent with Christianity and Sikhism being the visible minorities. Besides, there is a sizeable number of Hindus, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists in Pakistan. Ever since independence of Pakistan all these communities have lived in complete harmony, unity and peace. This interfaith harmony can largely be attributed to the Sufi scholars and saints whose teachings had been the main source for spread of Islam as a religion and as a way of life in this part of the world. Instead of rituals and hardcore religious practices, the Sufis’ teachings focused on universal message of peace, moral and family values and equality of human beings. In the caste-ridden society of the then Indian Subcontinent this message found a quick appeal and people, especially low-caste Hindus, embraced Islam at an unprecedented pace. The Sufi way of life emphasized upon treating all human beings with dignity, respect, and universal love. Instead of placing themselves at higher pedestals and elevated podiums Sufis found their space among the common people and lived modest lives. As a result these Sufi saints enjoyed respect and influence across all religious communities that lead to interfaith trust, harmony and peace that is so characteristic of Pakistan’s society. The list of Sufi Scholars is so big that it cannot be covered in brief article as this one. We will have a brief look at lives of some of the most prominent and most respected Sufi scholars and saints in the following paragraphs:
Sheikh Abu al Hassan Ali Hajveri, known commonly as Data Ganj Bukhsh was an 11th Century Sufi scholar and a mystic of Iranian origin from Ghazna who moved to Lahore at an early age. Sheikh Abu al Hassan is believed have belonged to the spiritual lineage of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). The Sheikh had great knowledge of theology and was an ardent writer. His book titled “Kashf al Mahjoob” (Unveiling of the Hidden Truth) on the subject of mysticism and Sufi Way of life is considered to be amongst the earliest treatises on the subject of Sufism. The Sheikh was known for his simple scholarly way of life and touched lives of people of Lahore who entered the fold of Islam.
Sheikh Ali Hajveri’s mausoleum adorably referred to as “Data Darbar” meaning “Lord’s Courtyard” is a popular destination for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. The shrine located in the North-Western part of Lahore has a mosque, a library, and a number of kitchens that serve food by day and night to the visiting devotees. Each year an anniversary conference and celebrations are held at the shrine called as “Urs Data Ganj Bukhsh” and attended by devotees of Data Ganj Bukhsh from all over the world.
Sheikh Fariddudin Ganjshakar, reverentially called “Baba Farid” was a 12th Century Muslim scholar, poet and a mystic spiritual leader who played key role in spreading Islam with his poetry, teachings and practices. Baba Farid is considered one of the most revered spiritual figure not only by Muslims but also by Sikhs and Hindus. Baba Farid was born at a small village near Multan to a very pious Muslim family and received his early education at Multan. Upon completing his early education Baba Farid travelled to Sistan and Kandhar meeting various religious scholars and spiritual leaders and then visited Makka for a pilgrimage. On his return he went to Delhi to study Sufi doctrine from Kutab ud Din Bakhtiar Kakki, a renowned scholar and a spiritual leader of his time. After demise of Kutab ud Din in 1235 Baba Farid moved to Pakpatan a small town near Lahore. On his return journey he also met Nizam ud Auliya who later became his disciple and his successor in the Sufi hierarchy.
Through his poetry as also his teachings and practices Baba Farid touched lives of many irrespective of faith and religion. His poetry carries a universal message of love, peace and tranquility and advocates interfaith harmony and love.
Baba Farid’s shrine is located at Pakpattan, Punjab that is approximately 4 hours drive from Lahore. His anniversary celebrations titled “Urs Baba Farid” are held each year in the month of Moharram according to Islamic Lunar Calendar. Hundreds of thousands of devotees attend the celebrations. People from different faiths from Pakistan, India and other parts of the world visit the shrine to pay homage and seek spiritual guidance. Baba Farid’s shrine is a popular destination for tourist from all over the world.
Hazrat Usman marwandi, popularly known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was a scholar, Sufi saint and a poet renowned all over Pakistan and Indian subcontinent. He is revered and held in high esteem by people from different faiths and followings. His message of love for humanity, forgiveness and humility promoted religious tolerance, interfaith harmony and peace amongst the local communities. He was called Lal ("ruby-colored") after his usual red attire and "Shahbaz" to denote a noble and divine spirit and a "Qalandar" which is the highest rank in the Sufi spiritual order.
Lal Shahbaz was born in Maiwand, Afghanistan in 12the Century. His ancestors had migrated from Baghdad, Iraq. Lal Shahbaz lived in the era of Rumi and had extensively travelled to different parts of the world until he finally settled at Sehwan, a small town in the Province of Sindh in 1250. Lal Shahbaz was a highly learned scholar of theology and was fluent in many languages including Pashto, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Sindhi and Sanskrit. His poetry is revered all over Pakistan-India Subcontinent and vocalized by singers and choirs from different faiths.
Lal Shahbaz’s shrine is located in Sehwan Sharif and is visited by millions of people each year. His death anniversary celebrations are held each year between 18 and 22 of Shabaan, the 8th month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar.
Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri, popularly known as Bulleh Shah was a 17th Century Punjabi philosopher and a Sufi poet. Bulleh Shah’s drew spiritual inspiration from Shah Inayat Qadiri who was Bulleh Shah’s teacher and mentor. Bulleh Shah lived in an era when Sufi poetry was at its pinnacle in the Subcontinent. His contemporary Sufi poets are some of the most respected and revered names like Rehman Baba, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Waris Shah of the fame of “Heer Ranjha”, and Sachal Sarmast. The poetry of Bulleh Shah like all other great Sufi poets carried the message of universal love, human dignity and equality and forgiveness. His poetry is venerated by people of all faiths and religions in the Subcontinent.
Bulleh Shah’s poetry has a great mystical appeal and is the subject of modern musical compositions and vocalizations. Musicians, composers and singers all over Pakistan and India have attempted to incorporate Bulleh Shah’s poetry in their works.Bulleh Shah’s shrine is located in the city of Kasur, approximately an hour drive from Lahore and is a favorite destination for visitors and devotees from Pakistan and India.
Abdur Rahmān Mohmand, reverently called Rahmān Bābā was a renowned Pashtun Sufi poet from Peshawar. A contemporary of Khushhal Khan Khattak, Rehman Baba is considered amongst the most respected and revered Sufi poet of Pakistan and India and is the most popular poet of Pushtu. His poetry carries a message of tribal peace and interfaith harmony. His work has been translated into many other languages like Urdu and English.
Rehman Baba’s shrine is located in Peshawar and visited by many millions throughout the year.