Metropolitan cities lead when it comes to research because they have the wherewithal needed to do research on any subject. Sadly, research centres in our urban areas aren’t remarkable because; (a) they are ill-equipped (b) they are poorly-funded, (c) they are directionless and lack clarity of vision (d) they are manned by academics with bureaucratic disposition. The result is that they barely produce that much which justifies their existence.
Quality has never been a priority. Can you remember any book worth the name produced by our universities and institutes in the recent past? Our academic space is full of ‘Dr.(s)’ whose dissertations gather dust buried somewhere as they have been written only to get a pay raise and a quick promotion.
Serious and dedicated scholars are exception. One such scholar is Fazal Farid Laleka who lives away from Lahore in Bahawalnagar. He is a serious scholar and a dedicated researcher. His grasp on and knowledge of music is an asset rarely found in our society that loves to demonise music and musicians. He also owns a big personal library that has some rare old manuscripts and books. He generously welcomes students and researchers who seek access to his library. The measure of his research and scholarship, can be one of his books Chhichh Patar [A Treasured Document] published by Sanjh publishers, Lahore. Two of the issues taken up and researched in the book are very rewarding. He takes up some old questions, discusses and analyses them, and in the process raises new ones.
The first one deals with the poet Bulleh Shah’s name. It’s believed that Bullah’s real name was Abdullah. In support of this name scholars quote lines from his two different lyrics where the word Abdullah is mentioned. “Zahir bahir dera laio /aapay dhaundhaun dhol wajaio / jag te apna naam jataio / phir Abdullah de ghar dhaaida/ hunn kis thein aap chhupaida” (You yourself encompass the exterior and the interior/ you yourself loudly beat the drum / you let yourself to be perceived in the phenomenal world/ then you march over to Abdullah’s house/ now how can you keep yourself hidden from the eye).
Fazal Farid asserts against the current view that in this context the word Abdullah doesn’t refer to the poet’s name but clearly to the father of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In the Sufi tradition birth of Prophet (PBUH) is celebrated as a divine manifestation. There is yet another verse where the word Abdullah is found. But it’s not in the Anwar Ali Rohtki’s compiled version of Bulleh Shah’s lyrics Qanun-e-Ishq published in 1889.
Later Bhai Prem Singh Zargar Kasuri compiled and published his Kafi Ha e Bulleh Shah in 1896 where we come across the following verse: Hunnun’allah aakhke tum karo duaaein / piya hi sabh ho gia, Abdullah nahein (Now after uttering I am Allah seek blessings (to ward off the wrath of clergy)/ the beloved becomes all; worshipper comes to naught). Here, Fazal Farid asserts, the Arabic word Abdullah (Abdu’l-+ lah) is used in the literal sense; servant of Allah (God), a worshipper.
In the present context it isn’t used as a proper name. The verse means that at the higher stage of development man and God become one, the distinction between the worshipped and the worshipper is eliminated.
And now comes the real punch. He claims that Bulleh Shah’s real name was Bu Ali. Bullah is the shortened version of Bu Ali. Shortened version of Abdullah in Punjabi is Dulla. Legendary rebel Abdullah Bhatti is quoted as a historical example who is invariably called Dullah Bhatti. To support his claim, he quotes Khawaja Ghulam Rasul Taugervi’s chronicle (Mulfuzaat) titled Anwar ul Asraar (Lights of the Secrets) who lived in the district of Bahawalnagar. This is what one finds on pages no 259 and 260: “Mian Hafiz Ghulam Farid Baghban, the follower of Syed Bu Ali Shah, aka Bulleh Shah, at the gathering of Naushai sahib’s death anniversary, presented himself to Khawaja Ghulam Rasul for the third time. He (Khawaja Ghulam Rasul) was doing his ablutions. After having finished, he asked me to recite some verses of Bu Ali Shah while he would circumabulate the shrine. I recited the two liner: Chet chaman moo’nkoelin, sabh kuku karan pukaar / mein sunn sunn kann kann mur mitan, mera kab ghar aaway yaar (Spring in the garden, the cuckoos call out to their mates/their fiery koo-koo makes me fall apart, when would my love come home? He said: “Keep repeating it. Recite nothing else”, narrates Khawaja Abdul Haleem, the compiler of the chronicle. You are free to draw your conclusion.
Fazal Farid’s another researched article is on “Masnavi Madan-e-Ishq” which is not much quoted or discussed by scholars and editors of Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s poetic work. This book was printed in October 1882 at Gulzar-e-Muhammad Press, Lucknow and the publisher was Khair Muhammad Tajir Kutab, Multan. Khawaja was alive when the book was brought out. It has 96 pages and 131 lyrics (Kafian). It should have been the basis of all subsequent editions but sadly it has been ignored by all editors, regrets Fazal Farid.
Khawaja’s currently popular ‘Diwan’ is based on the collection compiled and edited by Allama Azizur Rehman. Fazal Farid brings to fore the discrepancies between the ‘Kafis’ one finds in the ‘Masnavi’ and their versions in the later editions. Discrepancies aren’t a few but many. The list is long and needs scholarly attention. The originally published lyrics are poetically more powerful. Another thing that comes to his notice is that certain overzealous Seraiki editors aspiring for Seraiki exclusivity have messed with Khawaja Farid’s phrases and words which are common to Punjabi and Seraiki. Words such as ‘tera, teri, merameri’, for example, have deliberately been changed into ‘tedatedi, medamedi’, and ‘koo’n’ has replaced ‘noo’n’. Such an act reflects badly on the editors involved. It makes their intellectual integrity suspect. No one has the right or authority to distort the well-known verses of a classical poet.
Fazal Farid’s research work is a must read for all those who are interested in our literary and cultural traditions. — firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2021