High Profile Target: Rahman Baba

in homistan

Rahman Baba (~1650-1715) is perhaps the most beloved folk poet and sufi of the Pashtu speaking world. He is one star among the pantheon of Sindhi, Punjabi, Saraiki, Balochi and Pashto poets of the early modern (Shah Latif Bhitai, Sachal Sarmast, Waris Shah, Sultan Baho, Bulleh Shah etc). Writing in vernacular, but drawing extensively on Arabic and Persian poetics, Rahman offered a critical look at the ‘orthodoxy’ and his verses strive for a world (standard for Sufis) of abandonment toward God and dedication towards the fellow humans. Rather than the unacceptable worship of the hypocrite, I prefer to be drunk on Saqi’s wine. His verses are frequently seen transcribed on trucks, rickshaws – or, just his name, imbibing the vehicle with his grace. His kalam is easily heard around the country. His tomb, on the outskirts of Peshawar, is a frequent gathering place.

Major H. G. Raverty’s Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans, from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century, Literally translated from the Original Pushto; with Notices of the Different Authors, and Remarks on the Mystic Doctrine and Poetry of the Sufis (1867) begins with a chapter on Rahman Baba (or Mulla Abd-ur-Rahman, as Raverty calls him)

[Rahman Baba] is one of the most popular, and probably the best known, of all the Afghan poets. His effusions are of a religious or moral character, and chiefly on the subject of divine love, being, like the poetical compositions of all Muhammadan poets, tinged with the mysticisms of Sufi-ism, already described in the Introductory Remarks; but there is a fiery energy in his style, and a natural simplicity, which will be vainly sought for amongst the more flowery and bombastic poetry of the Persians…after a time, when the gift of poesy was bestowed upon him, he became a strict recluse, and was generally found by his friends in tears. Indeed, he is said to have been in the habit of weeping so much, as in course of time to have produced wounds on both his cheeks. His strict retirement, however, gave opportunity to a number of envious Mullas to belie him; and they began to circulate reports to the effect, that Rahman had turned atheist or heretic, since he never left his dwelling, and had even given up worshipping at the mosque along with the congregation—a matter strictly enjoined on all orthodox Muhammadans. At length, by the advice and assistance of some of the priesthood, more liberal and less bigoted than his enemies, he contrived to escape from their hands, by agreeing, for the future, to attend the place of public worship, and to pray aud perform his other religious duties, along with the members of the congregation.

Here is Raverty’s translation of a very popular Rahman Baba verse

If I say aught regarding separation, what shall I say?
0f this agony, without a remedy, what shall I say?

I have no power to breathe in the dear one’s presence :
Since I have no power, powerless, what shall I say?

When I gaze upon her, I forget myself entirely—
When I know nothing of myself, what then shall I say?

Of the state of my own heart, unto her I cannot speak—
Of that, without name or vestige, what shall I say?

Of love’s mystery, that hitherto no one hath explained—
Of the inexplicable and indescribable, what shall I say?

I am o’erwhelm’d in tears, through grief for my beloved—
Concerning such a flood as this, what then shall I say?

I, who have sunk down upon the furnace of separation—
Of the rose-bower of conjunction, what shall I say?

She plundereth one of life and goods, and stealeth the heart—
Regarding such a heart-ravisher, what then shall I say?

She is still far better than all that I can explain—
What then of the loved-one shall I, Rahman, say?*

Yesterday, his tomb was badly damaged by a bomb. The claimants being the Taliban – of Pakistan or of Afghanistan or of Mars. The impulse to bomb shrines is certainly Wahabi. They prove, again and again, that they are ruthless in their militancy. But those guns will run out of ammo, one day. Chand ko gul karaiN, to hum janaiN.

In the meantime, the intelligentsia of Pakistan best stop fucking around with conspiracy theories. Pardon my fucking Urdu.

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