Few verses of Shah Abdul Lattiaf
Shah Latif's Concept of
Note : Following lines have been taken
from GM Syed's Book on Shah Latif
There existed three different ideas
about nationalism in Sindh during the period of Shah Latif. They were
1. Separate nationality of Sindh,
and idea of its self-determination and progress.
2. A united nationality of India, and the idea of its independence and
3. A separate nationality of Muslims, and the idea of their domination
On the basis of the facts and
arguments presented below we can easily come to the conclusion that the
ideology Shah Latif advocated among these people was that of a separate
nationality of Sindh. Due to his belief in Pantheistic philosophy he was
convinced of the fundamental unity of all the religious. Due to the lack
of united action, in his opinion, an artificial and customary division
has developed between the people. As he views it neither all the Muslims
nor all the, Hindus were sincere to their religions. He expresses his
thoughts in a very clear manner in his verse:
You maintain the appearance of a Muslim,
but as a matter of fact, you are an Azar. (a famous sculptor) You are a
sculptor and you sell idols. You promote idol-worship, which is anathema
Addressing the Hindus, he says:
You are far from being a Hindu, and your
sacred thread hardly becomes you.
He always considered their differences
senseless and deceptive, the truth about which was beyond the
comprehension of intellectually blind. Shah Latif says:
The blind men quarreled over the shape
and form of the dead elephant. They failed to tell what it looks like.
It is only the men with vision (spiritual insight) who can truly
describe it. It is only those who possess spiritual vision who are
really able to see the (truth).
In their opinion, the religious
disputes mean no more than the blind groping in the dark, or the dogs
fighting over a bone. They always profess a faith in this manner:
You will have to develop a vision, which
can help you to see the one you love. Do not seek guidance from others,
because it does not please your beloved.
The following verse appears to expound
his central thought about religion:
This is a house, which has innumerable
doors and windows, but wherever I turn my gaze, I can see only my
In order to see the beloved (truth) it
is essential in their opinion to keep the eyes free from all blemishes.
They consider being united with the beloved the object of religion and
not material benefits:
Let your eyes be touched with the
eye-shade of the Oneness of God, and quit dualism and be elevated to
mysticism. If you find fault in the beloved, the real fault lies in your
vision. Have the strength to give your testimony for Oneness of God, and
attain the position of a true Muslims. In accordance with the teachings
of Islam, believing in all the prophets and their divine books, he
considered as an integral part of faith.
According to the thoughts expressed
by Maulana Rome in the following verse, is:
I have absorb the essential meanings of
the Holy Qur'an while I have cast away the peripheral questions for the
men of poor intellectual understanding.
He had thoroughly understood the truth
about religion. Then how could he accept the idea that people belonging
to one homeland, living in their humble abodes, belonging to the same
tribe, and living in close association with each other are not one
nation, and that they are a separate nation simply on the basis of
religious division. He considered differences of religions no more than
a fallacy of vision. He says:
What you call the voice, is merely its
echo. The voice and the echo are apparently two things. As a matter of
they are one and the same thing, and only appear two when they are
When Shah Latif prayed for the
fertility of the homeland and the prosperity of his people, he prayed
for the whole nation, without having any thought of discrimination based
on religion and faith.
It was due to these reasons that he
could not accept the idea of a separate nationality of the Muslims,
which was based on the philosophy of deism. He says:
Diversity has come into existence as a
result of oneness (of Allah). Therefore, diversity is the only the
reflection of this oneness (of Allah). The truth is only one and any
other idea or faith only serves to misguide. The real truth is that this
universe and its diverse beauty are the reflection of only that unique
He could never visualize that
humanity, creation of one God, living like neighbors and people
belonging to the same country, could be considered as a separate nation
on the basis of a few customs, traditions and beliefs, although they
believe in one and the same God following their different modes of
worship. He expresses himself reflecting this truth in a beautiful
manner in this verse:
Everything belonging to the land of my
beloved is pleasurable. If you experience to taste it with sense and
wisdom, you will never feel bitterness in anything here.
He expresses himself at another place:
All worship the same and the only
Because Shah Latif held such views
about religion, he saw no difference between friend and foe. Censuring
the weakness and defects of Muslim (Mullahs) and Hindu (Pundits)
priests, who desired to create hatred and enmity between human beings in
the name of religion, he says:
This beauty of various aspects of nature
reflects the beauty of an eternal being. However, weak-minded people can
only find fault with them. They only provoke anger and hatred by
creating the differences of Islam and Hinduism.
In the same manner, sometime in a
state of ecstasy, he addresses the fanatic sectarian elements:
If you see with some perception, all
around you, you will see a reflection of truth, and you will shed all
doubts from your mind.
He knew fully well that it is quite
easy to be called a Muslim, but to be really elevated to the position of
perfection requires suffering and self-sacrifice. Even the prophets and
the saints prayed that their life in this world might end as Muslims.
However, if the present state of Muslims is viewed, Islam is confined to
the Holy Qur'an and the Muslims have lost their faith. However, for Shah
Latif religion signified love and affection for others and
most of the Muslims had lost its awareness. Referring to this painful
situation, he says:
It is not possible for the people to look
at life with wonder. Not everyone can understand the mysteries of love.
Shah Latif was deeply grieved and
pained to see to which low level the Muslim priests (Mullah) had brought
the religion. He could observe how human beings had been split into
groups of sectarian antagonism in the name of God, and the entire
society had become diseased as a consequence of this fallacious and
poisonous teaching. Being disgusted at this deplorable state of society,
he expresses himself in the following manner:
As a result of the falsehood of the
Mullah (the priest), his mother is suffering In terrible pain. He will
simply be struck with shame when he discovers the ‘truth’ about God.
He possessed a complete knowledge
about the incidents of the history of the Muslims. There were no limits
to which Mullahs would not go in the name of Shariah and Islam.
Crucifying Mansur, having Shams Tabrez flayed, having Makhdoom Bilawal
crushed in the oil-expeller, hanging Sarmad on the cross, and having
Shah Inayat assassinated, were those incidents, which were well-known to
him. All those people were responsible for these tragic events, who
claimed to disseminate the Islamic Law, and whose entire history was
replete with the deeds of darkness.
These tragedies only served to prove
an impediment in the propagation of Islam. The prejudiced and
narrow-minded attitude of Mullahs (priests) only confined Islam, a
religion befitting human nature, to merely beliefs, forms of worship,
customs and a social attitude. When Shah Latif observed that the
adulterers, drunkards, oppressors, usurpers and the unscrupulous
exploiters of the needy and the destitute, and the men leading a life of
Luxury had become the representatives of a nation, who claimed to serve
as a pattern to be followed by the world, he found it absolutely
impossible to accept this situation and was constrained to say.
You claim to believe in your religious
creed, but you are weak in faith. Your heart is the abode of hypocrisy,
associating others with Allah. Apparently you are a Muslim but in
reality you sculpt and sell idols. (Promote idol worship)
The Idea of a United India
Although this problem originated the
philosophy of pantheism and harmonized with Shah Latif’s school of
mysticism as well, but Shah Latif’s far sightlessness had perceived that
in the vast subcontinent of India lived the people with different
faiths, social standards, languages, races and cultures, and uniting it
into one nation through an artificial plan and program was a principle
which appeared to be very good and attractive, but practically for a
long time to come it was impossible for it to be fruitful. It was on
this account that rather than an Indian united nationality he found it
much easier and more practicable to espoused the idea of Sindhi
nationality. He found himself still more firmly convinced of his view
due to the facts stated below:
A. Due to the unbiased influence of
Buddhism since the ancient times, the teachings of Guru Nanak, the
preaching of Hindu saints and pious men and the non-sectarian and
tolerant teaching of Muslim mystics, the Hindus living in Sindh were
free from religious fundamentalism and narrow-mindedness as compared to
the Hindus living in other provinces and were closer to the Muslims in
their way of life.
B. The Muslims were influenced by the
mystics, the fundamental principle of whose teachings was love. Moreover
on the one hand having no contact with the fanatic and narrow-minded
Hindus, being the majority, and on the other hand having ruled for a
long period of time they were unbiased and were firm advocates of
C. A small country, one language,
common traditions, abundance of food, people generous and patriotic,
loving, dignified and courteous: these were the virtues which were most
suitable for making the people a nation without discrimination of
religion and faith.
It appears that before arriving at
these conclusions Shah Latif had conducted a close and deep analysis of
the conditions after travelling through most of the regions of Sindh. He
observed that especially the people of two different races lived in
Sindh: one the Aryan race and the other Smat (Semitic race), and he
found some distinguishing characteristics in these two races. He
considered Baluchis as Aryans, and Samoos, Soomras and other native
people belonging to the Smat (the Semitic race). Some of the tribes Shah
Latif has especially mentioned in his poetry are the following:
Baluch: Sometime they have been called
by the names of Aryans, Keechi, Jut and sometime Areecha. These people
had migrated from Makran, Kalat, Muzaffar Garh and Dera Ghazi Khan.
Smat: This word is a combination of
Samma and Soomro. The tribes of Abro, Dasro, Jareja, Lakha Rahoo, Unar,
and Jakhra are the offshoots of this tribe. They were the natives of
central Sindh, Kachh and Kathiawar.
The Common People: Shah Latif called
these people by the names of Maroo, Sanghaar, Warehja Panhwar, Vanjara
(nomads) Mallah (Batmen), Mangta (beggars), Bhaan (Jugglers) Sodha,
Dhai, Rebara, Kachhi, Odh, Mahana and Mehar.
Shah Latif had developed a special
attachment with the Baluchi tribe. He had closely observed their virtues
of courage, determination
adherence to their pledge and the qualities of leadership. They were
completely fed up with the arrogant and fascist government of Kalhora
and their hypocritical policies. So he was beginning to see the signs of
a change in Sindh through the Baluchis and was determined to develop
self-confidence in them and give them encouragement. All the fine tunes
of the poetry of Shah Latif are replete with the praise of the tales and
characters of Baluchis. Some of the lines of his verse have become
proverbial in the praise of the Baluchis:
I am completely enthralled by the love of
It is not within my power to erase the
memory of the Baluch from my heart.
I realized the significance of love, only
when’ I developed friendship with the Baluchi.
It is always good to enjoy friendship
with the Baluchis.
I am a low caste, how can I be equal to
the racially superior Baluchis.
You must look at the Baluch, as I see
Whatever I am, it is a matter of great
pride that I am the handmaid of Baluchis
At one place making an evident
suggestive comments about the quality of political leadership of
Baluchis, he says:
No one should entertain any fear or
anxiety whose leader is Ary Jam (Baluch Chief)
These hopes and predictions of Shah
Latif were soon fulfilled. The reign of Kalhoras came to an end and the
Baluchis assumed the reigns of power. He has given utterance to his old
attachment with the Baluchis in the following manner:
The Baluch Chief had won my mind, spirit
and heart, the day God created this world.
He experienced extraordinary joy
whenever he maintained his contact with or associated with Baluchis:
I can feel the fragrance of Ary Jam (the
Baluch Chief) coming from every branch and every tree.
In my eyes, there was anxiety and
restlessness from the beginning, but the moment, I saw Punnu my eyes
At one place he blesses and prays most
sincerely for the Baluchis in these words:
Oh God, protect Baluchis from all kinds
of misfortunes and adversities.
At another place, he expresses himself
about their value and martial qualities in following words:
Warfare and military exploits are the
integral part of the character of Baluchis.
To be a Baluch, in other words to be a
man bearing those characteristic qualities most pleasing to Shah Latif,
is not within the reach of every person. In order to develop these
qualities a man requires the courage to live a life of honor rather a
life of dishonor and degradation. One has to develop the sentiments of
personal dignity and national pride, to remain firm and determined
against any temptation, and to adopt the course of independence and
truth. As in the Baluch nation, Shah Latif also observed some similar
distinctive virtues in the Smat tribes, such as trustworthiness charity,
generosity and adherence to the traditional values and to protect those
who seek refuge. Identifying these virtues Shah Latif says:
When the Samma Chief laid his hand on
their heads, they were relieved and comforted.
Oh Samma Chief, who is wearing the
headdress, symbolizing honor there are many chiefs, but you are the one
who rightfully deserves to he, crowned.
Samma Chief is anxious to demonstrate his
generosity. He goes about to find out the needs of the people. He
invites the poor and the needy to console and comfort them, not for a
day or two but it is the usual practice of his life.
Shah Latif regarded Smat as a monument
to Sindhi culture and civilization, but had also come to realize that
since a long time, as a result of remaining in power and living a life
of luxury and pleasure, they had lost the qualities of a evolutionary
character and martial spirit.
Who is aware of the wedding of Samma
The section of the society, which Shah
Latif has praised most, is the section of the poor society of Sindh, in
which are included Sindhi farmers, sheep rearing nomads, Doothi deserts
dwellers (who mostly subsist on the seeds of a variety of grass),
fishermen the people using blankets and sheets woven by themselves,
semi-naked poor and the wretched people who made their home in the
jungles and deserts. It was among these people that Shah Latif
discovered the reflection of real spirit of Sindhi and expressed a deep
sense of grief and shed tears over their poverty, homelessness, ruin,
ignorance and suffering. He considered the people of Sindh and their
future prosperity related to each other, and considered pains and
suffering a calamity for Sindh. In the same manner, he considered their
liberties and progress, a secret of the welfare and honor of Sindh.
Every nation has a role to play in the reconstruction and rebuilding of
the world and in his opinion. The Sindhis have to play their role in
this connection, and this objective can be achieved only when Sindhis
struggle to elevate to the highest level, their oldest civilization,
which they have inherited through the experience of centuries. He was
thoroughly aware of the fact that the Sindhis were much more backward as
compared to other nations. The society consisted mostly of a nomadic way
of life, and the level of national production was great deal lower as a
compared to other nations. However, inspite of this backwardness he
always made an effort to protect them against an inferiority complex as
a nation, by encouraging them to feel a sense of pride about the little
they possessed. He fully understood that until and unless the nation
developed an element of national honor and dignity, they would not be
able to develop self-confidence, and would fail to convey their message
to the world and Sindhis will continue be slaves of others politically,
economically and intellectually.
Shah Latif has highlighted this theme
in detail in "Sur Maivi". In this, he has used the metaphor of Maroo
describing the people of Sindh. He has compared the rule of foreigners
with the prison of Umer Kot, has called the ruling class by the name of
Umer Soomro, and has compared the independence of the people with the
life of picking desert flowers in Malir. In the same manner he has
called the true representatives of the Sindhi people and the patriotic
members of society who understand the real value and worth of freedom,
and really have a sympathy for the backward people, by the name of
Marvi. Shah Latif had a good reason for his conviction that Sindhis,
despite their being the victims of backwardness, are superior to other
nations of the world. He possessed a complete knowledge and
consciousness of economic backwardness, but rather than considering it
as a fault; he describes it as a reality of their situation. He says:
Marvi says ‘We have come from a country
where people are not fortunate enough to have adequate garments.Even
during a festive occasion their condition remains the same."
At one place, he describes the farming
life of Sindhis in the following manner in the words of Marvi:
My companions plucked the fruit from the
sycamore tree. In the same manner, they ate fruits, though not very
palatable, even on celebrations. Thus, I used to eat the seeds of the
beans in the homeland of my dear ones.
Describing their garments Shah Latif
Blessed are the women of my
homeland, for whom the desert serves as a dress. The honor of my
ancestors is eating the fruit growing in the desert my people, the
desert dwellers, wander in the deserts with absolute freedom. My people
have given me the dowry of privation and love of poverty.
He draws the picture of their general
condition in the following manner:
The land in which they live has no
vegetation to speak of. They drink the rainwater and the garments that
cover their person are the sheets woven from the wool. Clumps of trees
serve as their home, which have no chance of crumbling. Oblivious of
themselves, they lead a life of freedom from anxiety. Umer, they are not
obdurate but dauntless. You should never try to hurt them.
Everyday they go into the forests, and
gather the grain, which grows in wilderness, and subsist upon it. They
dry the green grass, and cook its seeds like rice. Umer, they do not
value your delicious dishes equal to the simple fare they consume.
They carry on their heads baskets, big
and small and they perspire from top to toe. Their feet are encrusted
with dusts. This is the distinction of my desert dwellers. I can
recognize them by their gait.
In the same manner expressing his
deeply felt sentiments about desert dweller, Werejhas and Panhwares, the
people of Sindh, who suffer at the hands of others because of their
poverty, who labor days and nights in the service of others, he speaks
in the following manner:
Addressing the ruler Umer he says,That he
told the people where his desert dwellers pass their life. My people
live in a land where mango trees bear fruit in their season. They gather
fodder for their cattle. There is abundance of fruits and honey in my
land. By God, everyone relishes the tastes of these gifts of nature.
Then why should not Marvi go to such a land instead of living in palaces
Then he says:
My countrymen are happy in this season.
They remain close to their fences. The plains are filled with rainwater.
Their spirit is refreshed when there is plenty of rainfall.
Blessed are the wells of my homeland,
which satisfy the thirst of my people.
My people are happy in their homeland and
pleased with grazing their cattle wild flowers and tree leaves. I love
being busy in my work and attach little value to colorful garments, I am
anxious to see my countrymen. When I reach there, I would love to wear a
milk-white headdress. My spirit is anxious to see its beloved.
The people in my land of Thar are
completely free. There is no restriction nor any tax is imposed upon
them. They pick and bring the red deserts flowers from the tree and find
a great pleasure in their arrangement. My desert dwellers are unique and
my Malir is bright and beautiful.
Shah Latif is not impressed by the
splendor, awe and the authority of the ruling class, rather he feels
proud of the nomadic civilization of the people of Sindh. Thus comparing
them, he expresses his sentiments in the following verses:
The Panhwar women, my companions, never
wear silk dresses. When they dye their hand-woven woolen covering, those
sheets look much more beautiful and attractive than your shawls. These
coverings which they use have a much greater value and importance as
compare to the silken dresses and the garments made of rich material. Oh
Umer Soomro I considered my rough sheet and covering of far greater
value and importance than the royal garments. The covering, which my
elders have given me to wear, is impossible to remove. This covering is
the symbol of my honor.
I shall never don the garments of silk
and rich material. I wish your rich coverings with work of silver and
golden thread to go to hell. I am restless to meet my people. With great
love, I shall wear the milk-white covering once I reach my homeland. My
soul is anxious to meet my beloved.
The traditional filaments of my beloved’s
engagement are more valuable for me than the golden bangles, and each
stained of my rough garment is worth millions. The one who has turned
down millions of rupees has no value for him. My whole self is engulfed
in the fragrances of my beloved’s love.
In pursuance of our tradition, black
strands of thread are tied round my wrists. Gold stands for mourning in
our culture. Even the experience of starvation in the company of my
companions is a matter of pride; in fact, it is the source of pleasure.
Shah Latif has given the people of
Sindh the message of freedom from the slavery of the rulers, snapping of
chains, destruction of the oppressive rule, and the ultimate triumph of
the people’s revolution. He has counseled people to be loyal and
determined and those who are suffering now; he has consoled and
comforted them by predicting a happy future. Giving them strength and
courage, he says:
Marvi, do not set your disheveled hair
in palaces. Until you are in Malir, leave your hair as they are. One who
believes herself a apart of the people of Malir, how can she live in
Oh Umer how the disgraced and dishonored
women, like me can wear clean garments, because their husbands have to
been the abuses hurled at them. How the women who fail to protect the
honor of their husbands can find peaceful sleep.
My husband passes his days in the desert
and wilderness, then how can I sleep in a comfortable bed.
Marvi, guard your chastity in the state
of your confinement One day you will definitely go to Malir.
My chains have wasted my body. Due to
the oppressive measures used by Umer, my body has become emaciated. I
appeal to my companions to pray that I may have the strength to maintain
The rains have come and I can see the
glare of the lightening in the clouds. I continue to shed tears
remembering those I love If they come to me, I shall indeed be liberated
from my misery.
I have survived with the hope that one
day the prison walls around me will crumble and I shall again be free.
Without discrimination of Hindus and
Muslims, Shah Latif has regarded all the people of Sindh as Sindhis. In
his poetry, the characters he has praised were mostly Hindus. Notable
among them were Hindu Raja Diach, Lakhu Phulani, the Hindu Chief of
Sindh, Rana Sodha, the Rajput of Thar, Momal, who was a Hindu Rani and
Sassi who also belonged to the Hindu community. Besides these heroes and
heroines, he mentions in his poetry Odh, Jareja, Rebara or Rebari, Jogi,
Babu, Sanyasi and Aadesi, all of whom, were Hindus. Shah Latif has
showered praises neither on Muhammad bin Qasim nor Mahmud Ghaznvi.
Rather the reader will find nowhere in his poetry the mention of these
conquerors or conquerors like them. If the religious governments of
Aurangzeb or Kalhoras had influenced him, at least he would have made
their names part of his poetry, but there is hardly any mention of
either of these two. He has, no doubt, praised the Baluchis
but it was mainly due to the fact, that the Baluchis wrested power from
the hands of Ka1horas, and in the place of their government based on
religious fanaticism, they established religiously tolerant government.
Now here in his poetry does Shah Latif make a Maulvi or Mullah as the
subject of praise. On the other hand, he has shed tears remembering the
pilgrims to Hinglaj, the bathers in Ganges and those who blow their horn
as a form of worship.