There is hardly a verse of Sheikh which has not a social, moral, cultural and more importantly topographical context: Kashmiri historian Ishaq Khan
Rishi is a person who immerses himself into the Divine self. The spiritual thoughts nurtured by Rishis are not abstract. It is reflecting both the philosophical and pragmatic aspects of faith in its truest form.
Let us have a look at biography of our beloved Sufi Saint Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA) who came forth with an indigenous face of Islam which was subsequently known as the Rishi order of Sufism. He not only propagated Islamic philosophy and ideals in a very lucid way but strictly adhered to its guiding principles.
His expressions in form of verses are popularly known as Sheikh Shruk; they have a universal message for all. He used similes, metaphors, hyperbolas and other forms of expression. His poetic compositions are a treasure of unique culture, reflecting the spiritual bond between the Creator and His creature.
Aashiq Suey Yuess Ashiqey Seetey Dazey
Sunn Zan Pazles Punuy Paan
Asheqey Dooud Yess Wanijey Sazey
Suey Adey Watey La Makan
The Sheikh stressed the need for creating a congenial and friendly environment, devoid of any division, bias, or distrust. His verses are emblematic of his belief in universal brotherhood and religious unity. He did not address a particular class or group of people but his aim was mankind at large.
It is the versatility and beauty of his verses (Kalam) that it is being chanted or sung by the Muslims as well as Kashmiri pandits on special occasions. He advocated total surrender before Allah and compassion for all. His tour across Kashmir has a socio-ethical connotation. During his tour, he witnessed heights feudal oppression and general discontent among the masses and through his poetic compositions, the Sheikh gave expression to peoples’ sentiments.
The Sheikh voiced against such injustices and represented the collective sentiment and genuine aspirations of the people making them believe that they were not all alone in their struggle against injustice and oppression. Sheikh-ul-Alam accepted everyone irrespective of color, caste, creed, or gender.
He was against hypocrisy of the people claiming to be custodians of religion. So, throughout his life, he made it a priority to make people understand the real religion and for this purpose, he used the common poetic language. It is the ever-relevant ethos contained in his poems that grants him a significant place in the consciousness of the masses. His poetry expresses the cultural style of a great civilization in a local setting and also portrays the quality of the human spirit that flourishes within it.
One of the renowned Kashmiri historians Ishaq Khan and a former professor of history at University of Kashmir illustriously writes that: “I must confess that no translator can reproduce the sublimity and comprehensiveness of the words used by the Sheikh-ul-Alam, which means so much in a single symbol. There is hardly a verse of Sheikh-ul-Alam RA which has not a social, moral, cultural, and more importantly topographical context. He was determined to mend society from being the worst to best. He toured too many places of Kashmir, even he prescribed the names to some unknown villages, and he became successful in his mission of spreading the teachings of Islam to common people through their mother tongue so that they could understand the religion of Islam properly.”
Today when the entire world community is confronting with numerous problems and challenges like socioeconomic inequality, political instability, religious intolerance, racism, sexual assaults, killings, ferocity, global environmental issues, etc. his philosophy of life endowed with love, respect, kindness, foresightedness can prove the guiding principles for all of us to solve aforementioned issues.
Organizing annual day events or poetic symposium (Mushaira) is not enough. There is a need to organize national and international seminars so that the global community knows such personalities and their grand works. For that matter, our educational institutions like All India Radio Srinagar, DDK Srinagar, and Academy of Art, Culture JK and language can play a significant. History is filled with numerous examples where a nation promoted their indigenous heroes and their contributions to the global community.
No doubt, personalities like Asadullah Afaqi, Ghulam Nabi Gohar, G N Adfar contributed a lot as per their capacity and knowledge to explore his dynamic personality, translating his verses into English and Urdu. But there are many more facets of his life which are yet to be touched and need special attention.
Author is a teacher by profession