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Rahman Baba: The greatest Muslim mystic and Pashtu poet of 17th Century

Art 30 Dec 2020
Reading Corner
Rahman Baba
Photo Courtesy: Writer

Abdul Rahman known as Rahman Baba is the most popular Muslim, mystic poet among Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is believed to be born in 1653 CE in Bahadur Kala near Peshawar and died in 1706CE in his hometown. He lived a life of seclusion, devoting himself to the search of God and expressing himself through writing poems in the Pashtu language.

The universality of Rahman Baba

The universality of Rahman Baba’s thoughts and feelings has the power to fascinate all the human beings living on the earth. Rahman baba’s message of deep love for God and humanity in his poetry gives him the rank of a saint among Pashtu poets. But at the same time, he is not oblivious of the injustices and inequalities prevailing in society. Therefore, he is against tyranny in all its forms. He wants peace around. Due to these subjects which he has touched upon in his poems, religious, political and literary scholars, researchers and linguists from all over the world have shown great interest in his poetry.

According to Dr. Hanifullah in his essay, The Mysticism of Rahman Baba and its Educational Implications, “Rahman Baba is not limited to a family, a tribe, a nation or a country. He is the nightingale of an infinitely wide garden of beauty in which he flies with the wings of love. And with every flight, he sings a song: “I am a human and belong to humanity, not with a specific tribe or a sect”.

Rahman Baba’s Poetic Contribution

Rahman Baba has left many poems in his native language Pashtu collected in his Diwan (anthology).

The Diwan of Rahman Baba appeared for the first in printed form in 1877.  The handwritten copies of it were circulated roundabout in 1728. The Diwan includes 343 poems out of which many have been translated into English by different writers like Henry George Raverty, A. R. Benawa, Plowden, and J. Enevoldsen.

The poetic work of Rahman Baba reflects a delicate use of Arabic and Persian language along with his native language Pashtu. He demonstrates a great knowledge of theology, philosophy and history through his poems. He seems well-versed in Islamic Law and Sufism. Beside that, he is fluent and simple in his poems which are mostly ghazals. Rahman baba seems to have a deep understanding and knowledge of the folklore, culture and the society he was born in. His verses like sayings of wisdom are quoted in religious sermons, political and public speeches. Unlike other secluded mystics, this poet was the representative of all the ills and virtues of his age, so he can truly be called a reformer.

The Mausoleum of Rahman Baba

Rahman Baba

Tomb of Rahman Baba, Photo Courtesy: Writer

The Shrine of Rahman Baba with a white dome is situated in Hazar Khwani village near Peshawar which is visited by hundreds of people every day. His pilgrimage takes place in April every year in which a huge number of his followers remember him through the recitation of poetry.

The Relevance of Rahman Baba’s Message Today

The key messages in Rahman Baba’s poetry are as relevant today as they were in the past. He spreads the importance of love, peace, compassion, eternal beauty and humanity which has a universal appeal.

Robert Sampson a teacher at Edwards College Peshawar along with Momin khan another teacher has translated the Diwan of Rahman Baba into English language titled “The Poetry of Rahman Baba – Poet of the Pashtuns”.

According to Robert Sampson if the world reads Pashtu poetry, they will find universal messages which Rahman Baba has left behind, like the following verse from his Pashtu poem.

 

Kar da gulo kra che seema d gulzar she.

Azghi ma kara pakhpo k bady khar she.

(Rahman Baba)

“Sow flowers to make a garden bloom around you”

“The thorns you sow will prick your own feet”

(English Translation)

 

(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist from Pakistan. He holds a Master’s Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])