A review of the movement for implementation of Deen in Sub-Continent, factual situation of Hadrat Sultan Bahoo’s period and his contributions

Rana Abdul Baqi | March 20, 2013

Sultan-ul-Arifeen Sultan-ul-Faqr Hazrat Sakhi Sultan Bahoo Blog Article

I am grateful to the great grand-sons of Hadart Sultan Bahoo for affording me an opportunity to present this short research paper titled: ‘A review of the movement for implementation of ‘Deen’ in Sub-Continent, factual situation of Hadrat Sultan Bahoo’s period and his contributions’. The topic has two distinct parts: (1) ‘Reviewing the implementation of ‘Deen’ in Sub-Continent’ (2) ‘Revisiting Sultan Bahoo’s period and his contributions’. Although, in a short paper like this, it is not possible to cover all aspects of the given topic, however, I have tried to explain briefly, the Muslim conquests of India and the role played by Hadrat Sultan Bahoo for the emancipation of Islam in the Sub-Continent during his period. 

To review the movement for implementation of ‘Deen’ in the Sub-Continent, it will be in the fitness of things to briefly go through the corridor of history. As a matter of fact, during the course of history many invaders conquered India, but they could not hold on any part of the sub-continent for long and Hinduism absorbed and assimilated all foreign invaders and cultures after short durations. Even the invaders like Greeks, Kushans, Bactrians, Sakas and Huns could not hold their political and cultural control over India and with the passage of time all these foreign cultures were absorbed into Hinduism. The situation, however, changed qualitatively when Islam came to India with a highly developed philosophy and theology. Despite Hinduism’s constant political and cultural onslaughts, Islam could not be absorbed in Hinduism. Islam first came to sub-continent, with the advent of Muhammad Bin Qasim during eighth century from Arab world, and later on through the gateways of Kabul and Kandhar in North-West. Hence Islamic principles of equality, moral ethics, distribution of Zakat among poor and offering prayers, based on Quranic teachings and the Tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), attracted the local Hindus towards Islam. This fact may not be ignored that with Islamic conquests, Ulema, Masahikh and Sufia Ikram (Muslim Saints) also came to India and established Mosques, Madarssas, Khanqas and religious Darbars to preach Islam, resultantly a large number of Hindus and Sikhs accepted Islam during Muslim Rule in Sub-Continent spread over 1000 years. In spite of being one fourth of the population, until Muslims followed the teachings of Quran and the Tradition of the Prophet, they remained the masters of their destiny, but when they digressed from the Islamic rituals and teachings, their commanding position also declined gradually. 

After Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the unity of Ummah remained intact, as Sahaba e Ikram and the Family of the Prophet based their lives on fear of Allah and love of the Prophet, therefore, Shariah and Tariqah remained unified as a single entity in Islam. The word ‘Tasawaf’ signifying spiritual love for Allah and His Messenger was used much later for describing Tariqah. However, Hinduism failed to control the conversion of Hindus to Islam despite adopting harsh social measures including complete social boycott of Hindus who converted to Islam. In further accelerating the social movement against Muslim growth in the sub-continent Hinduism encouraged ‘Bhakti Movement’ for creating schism in the House of Islam. Hinduism was successful during the period of Emperor Akbar, who was forced to review the religious policy under the influence of Rajputs. Akbar removed Jazya (Islamic Tax) and started inducting Hindus in the royal court through compulsory military service, which considerably lowered the influence of Muslims in the royal court. Taking advantage of the changed policy of the royal court, Hinduism encouraged Bhakti Movement to launch spiritual attack against the decaying Muslim position in the royal court and check the numerical growth of Muslims in Sub-Continent. Hindu and Sikh Bhakats preached identity of religion and brotherhood of man by propagating the so called similarities in Islam and Hinduism i.e., Ram and Rahim, Kishwar and Karim, Kaaba and Kailash, Quran and Puran in their lectures and devotional songs. In view of Akbar’s secular religious policy, the Muslim Saints saw the transformation of Hindu revivalism under the umbrella of Emperor Akbar, with anxiety. Mujaddid Alif Sani, a Muslim Saint of his time, however, raised voice against the secular policy of the Mughal king. He was arrested during Emperor Jehangir’s era but was set free due to likely reaction of Muslim Ulema and Sufia Ikram. Bhakti Movement, though succeeded in creating some sort of schism in Muslim Ummah but failed to absorb Islam in Hinduism. However, Bhakats gradually succeeded in promoting internal conflicts among Muslims by dividing the House of Islam into two cults i.e., ‘Wahadtul Shahood’ and ‘Wahdatul Wajood’. The situation continued as such during the era of Jehangir and Shah Jehan until Emperor Aurangzaib reversed the process once again converting sub-continent into Darul Islam. But, in spite of being a staunch Muslim, Aurangzaib never crossed the limits of Islam and his attitude remained tolerant to other religions. Aurangzaib knew it well that since the days of Akbar, the tie of Islam had slackened so he wanted to bring back the waning glory of Islam in the Sub-Continent. He reversed Akbar’s secular policy by re-imposing Jazya (Islamic Tax) on non-Muslims and abolished compulsory military service for Hindus in lieu of Jazya. Aurangzaib was criticized by Hindu writers and historian for being harsh on Hinduism but a British political scientist Alexander Hamilton, who visited India during the later part of Aurangzaib’s reign, greatly appreciated the tolerant policy of the Emperor. In one of his write-ups, Hamilton wrote, “Every one is free to serve and worship God in his own way”. 

Aurangzaib’s era was important as Hadrat Sultan Bahoo emerged as a popular Saint of Punjab. His 140 books were written in Farsi, the then Royal-Court language. Sultan Bahoo, being a practicing Sufi and religious Aalim, preached fundamental principles of Islam to his students by following the path of both Shariah and Tariqah in a well balanced manner. He used to advise his students to develop the pure habits of devotional faith, self belief, honesty, truthfulness and strong desire to learn, for achieving nearness to God and the Prophet. He used to offer special prayers and often passed through the divine ‘Maraqba’ achieving nearness to God and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Sultan Bahoo’s mystical Punjabi poetry having unique wave of ‘Hoo’ mostly reflected his love for God and the Prophet. In fact, through the medium of his devotional poetry and divine guidance, Sultan Bahoo inculcated truthfulness and spiritual vision amongst his students as well as general masses. His mystical poetry was recited with religious zeal particularly in most of the villages and towns of Punjab, while the message of his Farsi write-ups spread beyond Punjab. He pursued his religious thoughts in a well balanced manner to bring the outer (Zahir) and inner (Batin) dimensions of man in consonance with divine guidance as reflected in the philosophy of ‘Wahdatul Shahood’ and ‘Wahdatul Wajood’. The first one through Islamic Shariah by acquiring the perfection of outer dimensions of religious knowledge and the second through his mystical vision following the path of Tariqah for purifying the inner self and getting nearness to God and the Prophet. In one of his poetic expressions Sultan Bahoo says:

Worldly love turns away from Allah with worries and tension Hoo

Divorce worldly wealth three times Bahoo, if truth to mention Hoo 

As a matter of fact Hazrat Sultan Bahoo admired and supported the effort of Emperor Aurangzaib to revive Islamic values in Sub-Continent. Sultan Bahoo’s period is important as it filled the gap in-between two great religious scholars of Islam, Mujaddid Alif Sani and Shah Waliullah. Mujaddid Alif Sani was an exponent of the philosophy of “Wahdatul Shahood” and had the courage to raise voice against the secular policies of Akbar and Jehangir. Whereas, Shah Wali Ullah, during the period of later Mughals tried to sort out internal conflicts which divided Ummah into Wahadat ul Wajood and Wahdat ul Shahood. He wanted to unify Muslim Scholars to defend Islam in India in a situation where Muslims were gradually losing physical power to do so. He did provide a temporary relief to Muslims in sub-continent by inviting Ahmad Shah Abdali from Afghanistan to crush Marathas, however, disunity among Muslim Rulers and Nawabeen continued unabated. No doubt, Aurangzaib’s triumph over Darul Shikoh supported by Rajput forces proved that Hinduism had failed to assimilate Islam from within. However, the later-Mughal’s failure to keep the momentum resulted in the rise of British power in India. Hinduism once again found an opportunity in British power and extended their support to British. 

Sultan Bahoo has always been an inspiring personality for knowledge seekers. He wrote about 140 books in Farsi out of which some books survived. In his books Sultan Bahoo stresses on following the Shariah, side by side explaining the outer and inner dimensions of faith through Zikr and spiritual vision. Through his divine poetry, he conveyed a message to his students for bringing inner feelings into harmony with the outer dimensions, as absent mindedness in prayers could not achieve true guidance of God. Sultan Bahoo, in his divine Punjabi poetry conveyed the message to all men to live their entire life with obedience and love of God bringing uniformity in their beliefs and actions, as Islam does not allow hypocrisy of any kind amongst the believers. His mystic punjabi poetry suitably countered Bhakti devotional songs as his poetry was popularly recited in most of the Punjab villages and towns by Muslim youth inspiring non-Muslims as well. Bahoo’s spiritual intellectual stature as reflected in his Persian language write-ups can safely be compared with famous Islamic Saint Al-Ghazli, while his religious pursuits for the unity of Ummah brings him close to the personality of Shah Wali Ullah. Bahoo’s divine poetry although in Punjabi language, had a unique spiritual effect on masses as is reflected in the Masnavis of Maulana Jalal ud din Romi. It was due to his spiritual intellect and divine messages, that many Hindus and Sikhs embraced Islam and became his spiritual students. The process of fresh conversion to Islam as started due to the teachings of Sultan Bahoo, in Punjab during was a great achievement as Punjab was the life-line to Muslim Rule in the Sub-Continent. Whenever Muslims faced a political or military threat from Hinduism, useful support did arrive from Kabul, Ghazni or Iran, thus prolonging Muslim Rule in Sub-Continent. Therefore, the spread of Islam in Punjab through the effort of Sultan Bahoo gradually converted Punjab into a Muslim majority province, the major portion of which is now in Pakistan. Sultan Bahoo’s message of tolerance and harmony between various sects of Muslims, is still relevant and there is a dire need to rejuvenate Sultan Bahoo’s spiritual work for unifying Muslim Ummah in Pakistan and the Muslim world alike. Therefore, the Islamic knowledge left by God fearing Sufis and Aalims like Sultan Bahoo, Hinduism could not assimilate Islam in its fold and even after the British take over of India, and harsh treatment of Indian Muslims, sizeable Muslim Community continued to play its rightful role in sub-continent.



This article was originally presented in International Hadrat Sultan Bahoo Conference arranged by MUSLIM Institute