Every time I pass by the ‘Lal Khoo’ inside Mochi Gate, the place where Guru Arjan was imprisoned and where Hazrat Mian Mir fed him with ‘barfi’ from the shop opposite, it enrages me to see a local mullah collecting money, allegedly for his mosque.

This mullah has changed the name of the well and the legendary tree to some holy Islamic one, and when Sikh pilgrims come there to tie red ribbons, he removes them and scolds them. Local shopkeepers tell me that the mullah has become a rich person. If anything, this is a major setback to our history. All attempts to stop him are faced by communal threats. Such has become our heritage and our weak and useless establishment.

But then as one thinks of this one is reminded of a somewhat dissimilar person, but then few know about him. In my books he is an outstanding human being. So let me narrate the real-life story of Hakeem Mirza Jogi Allah Yar Khan who lived in Anarkali bazaar and was one of Lahore’s outstanding ‘hakeems’.

Unlike the illiterate mullah of ‘Lal Khoo’, this hakeem was a highly literate person who admired the deeds of the last Sikh guru Gobind and how he sacrificed his four sons to the evils of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. In the end Guru Gobind was killed on the Oct 7, 1708 by the troops of Aurangzeb.

The ancestors of Jogi Allah Yar Khan had migrated from Deccan three centuries earlier, and they were a long time of ‘hakeems’. Allah Yar Khan was born in Lahore in 1870. He was an impressive tall and handsome man who always wore a clean ‘achkan’ and a crispy white shalwar with a well-clipped moustache and a ‘kaskhazi’ beard. His tall black cap made him stand out and a lot of people in the old city believed that he was a god-gifted ‘hakeem.’

But then the ‘yogi’ was very interested in the Shia tradition of ‘Marsyas’ and produced some very fine ones. He followed the traditional processions of mourning for the tragedy of Karbala. As he studied this and other similar tragedies, he came across that of Guru Gobind and the slaughter of his four sons.

The personality of Guru Gobind impressed him, and he studied his career in great detail. The result was that he produced two amazing literary books by titles ‘Shaheedan-e-Wafa’ and the second was ‘Gang-e-Shaheedan’. Among the Sikhs, as well as Lahore’s literary circles, these two books were acknowledged as classics.

But the extremist Muslims priests thought otherwise and declared him a ‘kafir’. His humorous reaction was: “This means I am a true Muslim”. The two books are a poetic description of firstly, the martyrdom of the two younger sons of Guru Gobind, and the other is about the martyrdom of the two elder sons of the guru. So powerful are the verses that pre-Partition Sikhs would read them aloud in processions in the lanes and streets of Lahore and Amritsar on special occasions.

He would be specially invited to recite his creations at the ‘Jor Melas’ in Nankana Sahib and Chamkaur Sahib and other special places. The mullahs dubbed them ‘Marasiyan da band’ to degrade him and his works. This often led to clashes with the Sikhs of Lahore who defended and admired the works of a Muslim poet and scholar.

But as the works of Hakeem Yogi Allah Yar Khan became more and more popular, with even Allama Iqbal declaring him a genius, the mullah’s of Lahore collectively not only declared him a ‘kafir’ but forced all mosques not to let the yogi enter any mosque.

This stricture lasted for a good 30 years and when the yogi recited the Quran in a most beautify manner they requested people not to listen to the hakeem.

The worse was when a delegation of Lahore mullahs approached a British official to stop him from reciting the Quran. The official retorted: “We understand he is very literate. What better can you wish for!” So that was a let down for the mullahs opposed to a scholar writing about Guru Gobind. The reaction to this was that Sikhs all over the Punjab were provided the two classic works of Hakeem Yogi Allah Yar Khan.

Once Pakistan was created in 1947 he was 77 years old, and the Sikhs of Lahore left because of Partition. This provided the ‘mullahs’ of Lahore with an opportunity to come down on the ‘yogi’ hakeem. They approached him and ‘requested’ – if demanded is not a better word – to seek forgiveness and recite the ‘Kalima’ in their presence.

His response was amazing. He said: “Firstly, there are no mullahs in Islam. Secondly, to question the belief of a Muslim is a cardinal sin. Thirdly, if you expect me to seek forgiveness for telling the truth, well that will never happen. Guru Gobind was a great freedom fighter against foreign forces, this has nothing to do with religion. The shocked mullahs threatened him, to which he said: “You tell me any verse to recite from the Quran and I will recite it. But then you must recite any verse I request”. The mullahs backed off.

To this they said that why do you want to die a ‘kafir’ and not a Muslim. He retorted: “I am Muhammad’s (pbuh) kafir who insists on telling the truth. I can clearly see Guru Gobind in Heaven”. The mullahs left.

Hakeem Mirza Jogi Allah Yar Khan died in Lahore in 1956 at the age of 86. Just where he was buried I have not been able to find out. An effort is needed to find his grave, so that sensible people can lay rose flower petals to honour one of the Lahore’s great, yet little know, poet and scholar.

Last Tuesday, a large group of scholars of Amritsar collected at the Golden Temple to put up a portrait of Lahore’s great poet. Among Sikhs he is honoured like few are. Let me end this piece with a verse from his works:

Dandak main phir Ram to Sita bagal mein; Sach ketha hoon Gobind ka rutba hi digar ha.

(When Ram was exiled, Sita was always with him. I swear the status of Gobind remains unique.)

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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