High Profile Target: Rahman Baba

Posted by sepoy on March 06, 2009 · 5 mins read

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.


sav | March 06, 2009

*TEARS* for the innocent people and the shrines. I always assumed that no matter what happens in Pakistan, the shrines and cricket would be safe. I'll pull all my hair out and wear white forever if they touch the shrines of Bahu, Bulleh or Waris (okay, I'm exaggerating, but I'll still feel like doing that!) Is it possible that the Taliban were motivated by recent reports by the RAND corporation about supporting Desi Sufi Islam to counter Taliban and other extremist movements? A sort of pre-emptive strike to make sure they remain powerful? (really I don't even know what this means, aren't the Chishti's and Deobandi's Sufi's too? Hasn't Sufi thought influenced almost all Muslim theology to some extent in South Asia regardless of sect/adherence?) Plus, some of these shrines are really powerful and wealthy institutions (I'm thinking of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar), so maybe the Taliban just wanted to loot them (not surprised). On the other hand, they say its because women visited there. Whats your take sepoy?

sav | March 06, 2009

Also, thanks for the translation of Baba Rehmans poem. I've always wondered about Pashto poetry, being more familiar with Punjabi and Urdu myself, and I'm glad I finally know where to look for starters.

Nostalgic | March 06, 2009

Intelligentsia? We have an intelligentsia? Surely you jest... On a more serious note, where is the popular outrage? After every atrocity, I hope against hope that people will shout "enough", storm the nearest mosque popular with Taliban sympathizers and terrorize the terrorists... okay, maybe that is a bit too much, but again... where is the popular outrage?

Sayeed Akram Wardak | March 08, 2009

Wahabee(Salafee)'s attack on Baba's shrine. Mowlawee Aminullah Wahabee from peshawar blew up on Thursday, 5 March 2009 the mausoleum and the Mazar (Tomb) of Rahman Baba in Peshawar. the Wahabee's are aginst visiting of shrines. hope all muslims get united aginst enemies of Islam (the wahabee and salafee).

aamir | March 08, 2009

Wardak sahib kia nazar hay kia feham. Deeda e beena. Agar dushmanan e islam ki puri list hi inayat ho to bari baat ho jaey. Aur haan yeh batanaan na bhooliey ga keh qatl aam kau shuruu kia jaey. Have you ever read even a line of baba ........... a******.

Akbar | March 08, 2009


z.kochai | March 09, 2009

khpal lala warta spak shkarri, pe pradi lala pasi karzi zhi

Akbar | March 10, 2009

There are Talibans "The claimants being the Taliban - of Pakistan or of Afghanistan or of Mars. " And then there are Talibans (according to Joe Biden) “Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated,” Biden told a press conference at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels today. “Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, of the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. Roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money.” Read whole thing here http://news.yahoo.com/s/bloomberg/20090310/pl_bloomberg/ayvhevellxa8_1;_ylt=Ap8kZeh9A3vQJZGGMijSSQQBS5Z4 and then there are "moderate Talibans" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/us/politics/08obama.html?_r=3&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all ANd here is what Stephen Walt has to say about realists foreign policy "Finally, because the world is a competitive place, realists look for opportunities to divide adversaries and to discourage potential rivals from joining forces, based on the simple idea that it is better to face weak and/or divided opponents than a strong and unified opposition. " So all this voilence may seem fueds between sunnis and whabbies(remember Shia ,Sunnie violence in Iraq). But let us not lose the bigger picture .........

Neena | March 13, 2009

Very good point by a commentator at another site. A part of the equation that is missed when talking about Pakistan is the drug mafia. The Taliban elements of the north west have certain alternative means of funding, now that they have become more tolerant of the poppy cultivators. The international illegal drug trade is worth 8 billion dollars, and most of the illegal poppies come from the frontier areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The global drug mafia has no organized presence to carry out a wholesome war, but it can very much inflict terrorist attacks and hold a country for ransom. This has happened in Mexico, Colombia and certain other South American countries in the past. To prevent his extradition to the USA, a drug mafia-lord in Colombia has conducted a series of regular bomb explosions to terrorize the population. The way these fundamentalists in NWFP of Pakistan inflict terror : murdering artists, politicians and bombing girls schools, and most pertinently : murdering journalists who are taking a neutral position and are just providing a coverage of events : indicate they have links to the underworld. Some of the acts of these fundamentalists are even against hardline Islam : digging up graves and hoisting the dead-bodies in public is not in Islamic custom. However, such gruesome acts were done by the drug mafia to terrorize the locals in other areas of the world.

Neena | March 23, 2009

There is a ray of hope in some corners of our Pakistan. Barrister-at-Law Omer Soomro has appealed to City Nazim Mustafa Kamal for the re-erection of the statue of the Father of Modern Karachi, Harchandrai Vishindas.