I went to Bagdad and I have struck a bargain in chief Hoo
Purchased minute weight of inner intellect for the price of heavy burden of grief Hoo
Weight was heavy Journey was far, finally I have reached destination Hoo
Recognised the Essence and Attributes ‘Bahoo’ then attained Divine beauty’s manifestation Hoo
Sultan Bahoo is one of the greatest Sufis of the world and his thought equals that of Jalal-ud-Din Rumi, the great and famous Persian Sufi poet of twelve century. According to all records available, he was a man of God. With his heart fully and deeply immersed in love of God and his feet firmly planted in the celestial spheres, he ardently longed to become one with the Primal Unity. He authored more than 140 books in Persian on mystical truths. In the Indo- Pak Sub-Continent, he is more renowned for his poetry; in Punjabi poetry that sings of love for God and pours forth his spontaneous and passionate longing for God. His path is the Sufi path of Love, and his surrender to the Divine Beloved is unconditional and complete. There is no ulterior motive in his pure love for God; he desired nothing but God only.
Human societies are united by certain common shared feeling, desires and values, e.g. the desire for safety of human life and respect for human dignity, the ideal of peace, harmony, equity, justice, fair play and desire for personal relationship of love with God. When these drives are deprived of positive cultivation, a society is formed wherein greed, materialism, animosity, cut-throat competition and hatred run rampant. Such a society promises nothing in the way of goodness and decency. When faith in God & Judgment day, the values of love and respect for fellow human beings, sincerity, honesty, purity, truthfulness, mercy, giving and caring that underlie the ideal of human perfection are spurned and violated then the society becomes completely disordered. As a result chaos & confusion reign.
However, it is imperative to set up balance & order in human societies, so that humanity can conform to nature’s universal harmony & live in accordance with their own innate disposition. Society can be rescued if we listen to the sincere voice of Sufis like Sultan Bahoo and practice their teachings. Sufis are truly people of knowledge, for divine truths are revealed to their hearts. Sufis are spiritual athletes who embody the best qualities of the perfect ideal man. They are beacons of light. As Sufis have their hearts filled with the most sublime ideals and love of God, they become the source of spreading goodness and happiness around them. They do not think of their own happiness or comforts for they have transcended all selfish interests; they, absorbed as they are in oneness and love of God, serve His creation and try to alleviate their distress.
Sultan Bahoo offers a vision of universe based on the principle of Love. Questioning and rejecting the monolithic and exclusive structures of thought and feelings, Sultan Bahoo’s concept of inclusivity, all embracing love is a strong deterrent to the discourse of clash of civilizations, and Othering that stems from ignorance of the intrinsic beauty of Islam that means peace. This myopic world-view based on a fragmentary concept of truth and reality generates bias, suspicion, division, hatred, hostility, injustice, violence and aggression. Observers make the mistake of attacking “Islam” & demanding its reform, instead of understanding the abuse of religion for vested interests. It is often said that Islam has failed to solve the problems of life, that it cannot eradicate social evils & ensure peaceful existence. Islam has come to be equated with fanaticism and terrorism. However, Sultan Bahoo points out that this misperception arises from misinterpretation of religion by selfish & corrupt jurists, religious scholars. One of the root causes of this misinterpretation of Islam as a religion of violence is ignorance of the true teachings of Islam. This misinterpretation can be corrected by understanding Sultan Bahoo’s lore as the intrinsic values of Islam are embedded in Sufi literature, for Sufis are the friends of ALLAH. They enjoy proximity to ALLAH; they are the custodians and guardians of truths revealed in the HOLY QURAN and practised by the Prophet Muhammad (PSBUH). They are lovers of ALLAH, whose hearts have been purified of all desires.
A Sufi is a wali, friend of God; he is a muqarab, i.e. close to God. As Sultan Bahoo says,
I am a bird of paradise that flies high
In the heavens of God’s blessing
In my word is hidden the command of God;
In my will lies the power to reverse destiny
Trivial before me is the wisdom of Plato and Aristotle;
Millions like Hatem (Hatem Taa’’), unmatched in their generosity are but beggars at Bahoo’s door (b,175)
However, despite the fact that a Sufi has his feet planted in the 7th heavens, though he can give sight to a person born blind, can turn back the shot arrow, yet he looks upon himself as nothing, as Sultan Bahoo says; that he finds himself even less significant than a ratti, the smallest measure of weight. This is because he knows that Allah is the Absolute Reality, the one and the only Sovereign Power, Allah has all the power and treasures. This knowledge inculcates humility, the cardinal virtue in all the religions. Such a person, who looks upon himself as less than a straw, ratti or gnat, whose objective of life is annihilation, self-naughting, effacing his separate identity in the Ocean of Divine Love, can never think of exercising power over fellow human beings or cheating or hurting them. One, who is drowned in love of God, reflects the divine attributes of generosity, forgiveness, compassion and mercy.
Drawing upon the Quranic verse, “God does not like proud, boastful men.”(Q465), Sultan Bahoo writes, if someone splatters you with dirt be like a dunghill, take it without reproach, let them hurl abuse at you –accept it in humility bear complaints, censure, blame, calumny, with patience –for the sake of the Beloved .(B,62)
Here is a lesson in humility, tolerance, patience and forgiveness. There is no anger; neither reaction, nor retaliation .These verses are reminiscent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PSBUH)’s forgiveness of the people of Taif , who abused him, pelted stones on him, but he patiently bore their reproaches and slander. Not only he forgave them, he also prayed for them, for he is, as he told the Archangel Gabriel, Rahmat-al Aalmeen, Mercy without any discrimination, for all the inhabitants of multiple universes. In the unifying vision of Oneness of God, i.e. wahdat, all the polarities and differences are resolved and all are seen as creatures of the same Creator.
Sultan Bahoo, like all Sufis, believed in God who is Rab-al-Alameen, the nourisher, the sustainer of all the universes. Long before the scientists forwarded the idea of multiple universes, Sultan Bahoo talked about more than 18 universes that teem with life. Sultan Bahoo’s teachings rest on the Quranic precepts and Prophetic Traditions and practices that serve as a beacon light to dispel ignorance that breeds hatred, vengeance. Like all Sufis, Sultan Bahoo’s mentor is Prophet Mohammad PSBUH), who 1400 years ago well before Magna Carta and the UN Charter of Human Rights, put forth the ideas of social justice, respect for human dignity, equity, equality, rights and duties and accountability. Similarly, like all Sufis he believed that Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him) is not only the Prophet of Islam, but the benefactor of entire humanity, who conquered Mecca without shedding a single drop of blood, granted amnesty to all the conquered, forgave even his worst enemies who had mercilessly killed his dear ones; rather he prayed for his enemies.
Thus Sultan Bahoo’s world view was cosmopolitan. He believed that one, who loves God, necessarily loves and respects His entire creation. Love, respect and service of humanity are mark of reverence for God, the Creator. Fully cognizant of Primal Unity at the core of diversity at all levels, Sultan Bahoo’s message to humankind is to go beyond mere tolerance of difference of beliefs, and engender compassion, respect and love for the totality of humanity in its diversity.
Sultan Bahoo practiced what he said. There was no discrepancy, contradiction between his words and practice. He lived a life that demonstrated and testified his lofty message of love and respect for the entire humanity irrespective of their faith, colour or race. His shrine was open for all. Like Maulana Rumi, he invited all to join his caravan of Love, whether they pray in Church or temple, mosque or synagogue, can join his caravan of Love. Referring to the message of peace, harmony and love embedded in Sufi literature, A.J. Arberry (1956) the famous orientalist/scholar on Islamic mysticism wrote, “Mankind is hungry, but the feast is there, though it is locked up and hidden away”. The aim of this website, like translations of Sufi literature, is to put it within reach so that, like “Heroes of Homer we may stretch out our hands to the good cheer laid before us” (7).
Evincing a perfect synthesis of heart, head and hand, Sultan Bahoo’s altruism and magnanimity was evidenced in the food (langar) that was indiscriminately served to all the people belonging to different religions who came to visit him. Moreover, the food constituted of lentils that are eaten alike by Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Unlike some food items, lentils are not forbidden in any religion. This act of inclusivity was an explicit message to rise above petty differences and sit together. What else could be a better symbol, occasion and opportunity for interfaith dialogue and harmony? This was a simple but beautiful example of “feast” for all.
Sultan Bahoo strongly criticizes the hypocrisy, arrogance, greed and selfishness of such religious scholars and preachers who are accomplished in theological doctrine & religious dogma, but who use religion for markocentric motives. He condemns the so called religious leaders who abuse religion, distort its teachings to deceive and exploit people. In their greed for wealth, power and fame, they use religion as a tool for self-aggrandizement. Comparing them to bandits, Sultan Bahoo condemns their egotism. The scholar, who is proud of his learning, thrives on self-promotion. Sultan Bahoo says, with books under their arms, they swan around, selling their honour. Wherever they find an affluent household, they read the scripture in loud, fervent strains for a lucrative commission.
Allah commands in the Quran (Baqara 2.41), “Do not sell My Revelation for a trifling price” (such as money, power, status and become renowned). In this context, Sultan Bahoo writes, “O Bahoo! They have put God’s name on sale just to make a living.” Scholars, jurists, religious leaders are duty bound to make things easy for common people for they are trustees of responsibility that even the mountains had declined to accept, that is, the responsibility to spread love among different people and knit them together as one family. Sultan Bahoo envisioned a civil society based on the principles of equity and social justice. The concept of equity, fairness and social justice is well entrenched in Sultan Bahoo’s teachings. Therefore he time and again instructs qazi and mulla, the two symbols of authority, law and religion to respect the inherent human dignity, equal & inalienable rights of all members of human family, for this is the foundation of freedom, justice & peace in the world. Deficiencies of the heart & soul are a threat like a terrifying tornado that can destroy completely balance and equity in society.
S.B believes that human beings are created to give and share the bounty of God. The riches of this world are a gift and loan from God. They should be shared with fellow human beings. This is equity, fair play. He condemns materialistic, miserly people and says, when it comes to giving, you feel strangled; when taking, you grab like a lion (B.43) This thrust for acquisitiveness subjects us to the bondage of materialism, ego.
Sufism should not be confused with occult, clairvoyance, magic and miracle mongering, as Sultan Bahoo says, Walking on water is not spirituality nor is praying on mats suspended in mid air They alone may be called mystics, O Bahoo, Who have enshrined the Friend in their hearts (177)
Sultan Bahoo’s views radiate optimism and hope for he holds fast to the belief of divine imprint on human beings who are programmed to strive against the negative and selfish pulls of self. This faith in the possibility of upward movement, spiritual development and building a personal relationship with God of love is an antidote to cynicism, pessimism and nihilism. Sultan Bahoo says, “This body of yours is the True Lord’s dwelling.” This optimistic view of human nature gives us hope in the possibility of moral elevation and spiritual uplift. Reductive view of human nature that reduces it to animal instincts and monetary motives only breeds scepticism, nihilism, uncertainties and despair.
Human life in this world is a composite of 2 distinct powers, soul & ego, nafs-e- ammara, the lower or animal self that incites evil and prompts base desires. Within human breast, soul and ego are in constant strife. When these 2 powers act in harmony, i.e. when the ego is tamed by soul, the result is social balance, but when they remain in conflict with each other, and ego dominates soul and emerges victorious, it results in a disastrous imbalance that extends from the individual to all the levels of society for an individual is the nucleus of society. Sultan Bahoo likens a spiritually bankrupt society to a dark jungle.
In order to create a balanced society based on the principles of equity, justice, giving, service given by Sultan Bahoo, the first requisite is to engage oneself in the greater jehad against the pull of the lower self that incites us to be aggressive, arrogant and violent in acquiring money and power. Unflagging effort is required to convert negative into positive in order to create an ideal society. It is written in the Holy Quran:
“Indeed! Allah will not change the good condition of the people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves” (Rad 13: 11).
Good deeds are the essence of all the religions. It is written in the Quran: “Doubtless, the grace of God is on them who perform good deeds” (482).
Almighty Allah says that he sent the holy Prophet Muhammad (PSBUH) to teach the best manners to human beings, and Sufis have been entrusted to carry and spread the light and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PSBUH). Good conduct is a prerequisite to ascend the ladder of spirituality. The Quran says, “The best among you are those who practice piety.” Without it, the seed of spirituality cannot germinate in the soil of heart. In fact, good conduct & spiritual progress are concomitants of each other. Good deeds form the basis of spiritual development. Sultan Bahoo says that without good deeds no one can be accepted in the court of Almighty. Only those whose motives are good, pure and sincere can reach God:
God is realized by those, O Bahoo, Who is pure of heart, noble of intent (B.63)
Sultan Bahoo condemns the hypocrisy of those who keep vigil at night but indulge in backbiting & slander during day time. The way to God cannot be treaded successfully simply through observing rituals and formal practices. If a person fasts, keeps vigil at night, recites Quran and offers prayers regularly, but his heart is contaminated with envy, malice, lust for power, hatred, selfish desires, greed, his observances of rituals will remain a barren practice. Sultan Bahoo compares people whose knowledge & piety harm rather than benefit others to a shade less tree, coarse cloth that can give no comfort to body. Sultan Bahoo says,
If God could be found by bathing in holy waters frogs & fish would find him
If God were realized by cutting off your hair, sheep &goats, which are shorn for their wool, would realize him too
If God were found through mighty vigils, bats & owls would find him
If God could be found through celibacy castrated bulls should also discover him
God is realized by those O Bahoo, Who are pure of heart, noble of intent. (B. 63)
He commends sweetness of tongue, commitment to one’s words, full & single minded faith & utter humility. He says: I could sacrifice myself a 100 times For those who never say a dispiriting word; A thousand times for those who stand firm by their word A million times I could make an offering of myself O people who keep their ego on a leash; And a billion times to the pure as gold, Who present themselves like the base metal lead. (B, 108)
Harmony in society arises out of co-existence of different belief-systems in society. If the diverse belief systems adopt an inclusive, not an exclusive world view, recognize, accept and respect the diversity inherent in life, then social balance can be established and consolidated.
The masses in the hand of the so called religious leaders, who are corrupt, have been dragged into folly. The ill-intentioned corrupt political and religious leaders have sown conflict and hatred, turning society into “enemy-camps”. They have destroyed balance and robbed people of peace and security. Their teachings and activities defy and ridicule the essence of religion. That is why Sultan Bahoo says, I am neither a Sunni nor a Shia both make me sick, and both cause me heart burn. His disgust with Shia and Sunni is a rejection of division of humankind into warring groups. This is a protest against sectarianism, prejudice, hatred, hard-heartedness and consequent aggression and violence. Multitudes are fooled and set against each other, with wrong being shown as right & truth presented as falsehood. The consequences are extremism, retaliation with anger and brute force. Forgetfulness of the Divine Truths has plunged society into fanaticism and terrorism. Opposed to this parochial narrow approach that divides society into alienated warring groups, that destroys peaceful co-existence of different religious beliefs, is the broad and broadening stance of Sultan Bahoo, whose criterion, yard stick of human excellence is love of God. He says,
I sacrifice myself to those O Bahoo who enter the arena of Love and win its game (B181).
It is urgently required to draw international attention to Sultan Bahoo’s sublime and humane voice in the midst of cacophony of sounds of hatred. As in a family, we forgive mistakes of our near and dear ones, and begin again to renew ties, balm painful wounds, and foster love, similarly this basic basis of family has to be extended to the larger family of humanity.
Beginning with forgiveness, tolerance, we have to move on to compassion, respect, love, only then peace and harmony can be established between conflicting beliefs and ideologies. This is the scaffolding for interfaith dialogue that can engender a stable society, throw bridge over polarized views and serve to connect different and even warring creeds. Sultan Bahoo’s unifying vision of Oneness in which different and divergent points of views co-exist peacefully and harmoniously, his inclusive world-view that brings together all the people in all embracing fold of Divine Love; the sublimity, profundity, and breadth of his thought; magnanimity of his spirit and emotions call for a deeper understanding and appreciation of his moral and spiritual achievements with a view to benefit entire humanity.