Last updated on June 13, 2011
By Sadia Dehlvi
Sultan Bahu founded the Sarwari Qadri Order, an offshoot of the Qadri Order. From his original name of Sultan Muhammad, he came to be called Bahu (one who is with Him), for his constant remembrance of Hu, He Alone. He wrote, ‘With one dot Bahu
Becomes Ya Hu, and Bahu is always steeped in the remembrance of YaHu (O Allah).’ Sultan Bahu family was among the descendants of Prophet Muhammad through Imam Ali. They belonged to the Awan tribe of the Hashmi clan.
The imagery of Sultan Bahu’s poetry is derived from the daily activities of villagers, like gardening and planting. Developing on the ideas of the earlier Sufis, he presented them to the rural folk in a simple poetic form. Each of his verses ended with the word Hu.
‘Alif: Allah is like the jasmine plant, which the preceptor planted in my heart—O Hu: By water and the gardener of negation it remained near the jugular vein—O Hu:
It spread fragrance inside when it appeared at the time of blossoming—O Hu:
May the efficient preceptor live long, says Bahu, who planted this plant—O Hu!’
These lines point to the recollection of Divine names, planted in the Sufi’s heart by his Master. The villagers would easily understand Sultan Bahu’s poetry with its Punjabi and Sindhi imagery.
More than 40 books on Islamic mysticism are attributed to Sultan Bahu. These include Nurul Huda (Light of Guidance) and Risaala e Ruh (Journal for the Soul. Most of these books are in Persian. It was his collection of Punjabi verses, Abiyaat –e-Bahu, on the theme of Oneness of God that has generated popular appeal. In a highly emotive style, he elaborates on the traditional belief in self-manifestation of the Absolute and the importance of a spiritual life dedicated to the pursuit of God.
Sultan Bahu’s verses are sung in many forms of Sufi music including kafis and qawaalis. The traditional singing of his kafis has established a particular form of melody not used in any other genre of music.
As pointed out at the outset, the poet’s family belonged to the Hashmi tribe who were descendants of the Prophet’s son-in-law Imam Ali. His father Sultan Bayazid was a senior official at Shahjehan court. The family settled in Sherkot village in the Jhang district, which was awarded to Sultan Bayazid for his services to the government.
Sultan Bahu’s religious education began at the feet of his enlightened mother Rasti, who had the greatest influence on him. She directed him to seek guidance from Shaykh Habibullah Qadri. He commanded Sultan Bahu to free himself from any worldly attachment that he might still possess. He journeyed home and got rid of his family’s wealth, of which he writes, “Ah! This worldly life polluted, Washing, bathing all in vain, For its sake, the doctors, scholars crouch in corners, cry in pain, For its sake these worldly people, rest not, sleep not. Ah! Their bane! Hermits, mystics, ascetics, Bahu! Burn their boats-the wise, the sane!”
He left his two wives under the care of his beloved mother and returned to Shyakh Habibullah.
Of spiritual masters, Sultan Bahu says:
“Joys of Union with your Allah,
If you wish, your master serve,
Kindly glance of his, on a rose-bud,
Turns it into flowery curve,
Transforms you so fully truly,
Head and heart, and bone and nerve,
Here and There win success,
Bahu! Serve your Murshid with full verve.”
After a period of time, Shaykh Habibullah sent Sultan Bahu to Delhi for further studies under his Master Shaykh Abdur Rahman Dehlvi. On completing his education, he returned to the familiar surroundings of Punjab.
It is said that the emperor Aurangzeb met Sultan Bahu at the Friday prayers in Jama Masjid and asked the mystic for guidance. At the premises of the mosque, Sultan Bahu related some of his teachings, which were written down by the royal scribe. This treatise came to be known as, ‘Aurang Shahi’, and is part of the large body of writing attributed to the Sufi.
Sultan Bahu died on 1 Jumada al akhira 1102 Hijri/1691 AD. His dargah is in Gargh Maharaja in the Pakistan part of Punjab, where the annual Urs celebrations are held amidst singing of the Sufi poet’s verses.
The actual number of books written by Sultan Bahu is not certain. According to tradition, he is supposed to have authored over one hundred works and treatises. The following is a list of the important works of Sultan Bahu that still exist today, and can be traced back to him with credibility. Nurul Huda, Risala-e-Roohi, Aql Baidaar, Mahq-ul-Fuqar, Aurang-Shaahi, Jami-il-Asraar, Taufiq-Hedaayat, Kaleed Tauheed, Ainul Faqr, Shamsul Arifeen, Magzane Faiz, Ameerul Quonain, Asrare Qaderi, Kaleed Jannat, Muhqamul Fuqar, Majaalis-tun Nabi, Muftahul Arifeen, Hujjatul Asraar, Jannatul Firdaus, Kash-ful Asraar, Risaala Ruhi Shareef, Abyaat Bahu (poetry), Muhabbatul Asraar, Ganjul Asraar, Dewaan Bahu, Panj Ganj, Fazlul Laqa, Jhook Sultany, Ameerul Mumineen
Of the above, Nurul Huda (Light of Guidance) and Risala-e-Roohi (Book of Soul) are the most popular, along with the poetry collection Abiyaat e Bahu.
Sultan Bahu written in his book Risala-e-Roohi (Book of Soul) for truth seekers:
He is playing the game of love by Himself
He Himself is the sight
He Himself is the seer
He Himself is the seen
He Himself is Love
He Himself is the lover
He Himself is the beloved
If you lift the veil
(You will see) that in reality, there is only One
Duality is only owing to your squint eyes
I say this, the author of this book, who resides in the sanctuary of His beauty (Jamal) and grandeur (Jalal)