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Home Page > Punjabi Sufi Poets > SHAIKH IBRAHIM FARID SANI


Lajwanti Rama Karishna
May 18th, 2008
4 / 5 (1 Votes)


(c. A.D. 1450—1575)

The first Panjabi Sufi poet known to us is Shaikh Ibrahim, a famous pir of the Panjab. All authorities agree in saying that he belonged to the Chishti order of the Sufis, and lived between A.D. 1450 and 1575.

The Chishtis of the Panjab

This order was originally founded by Abu izhak Shami of Chisht,1 but in the Panjab it was revived in the thirteenth century2 by Faridu’ddin, generally known as Shakar Ganj.3
The grandfather of Faridu’ddin migrated to India from Persia early in the twelfth century. Farid was born fifty years later in the village Khotwas4 near Multan, in the year A.H. 565 (A.D. 1171.2).5 He became a disciple of Qutbu’ddin of Delhi. On his master’s death he inherited his patched mantle and other personal belongings. He came to settle down at Ajodhan afterwards known as Pak Patan.6 From here he began his missionary work in the Panjab. On his death, his work was carried on by his descendants from Pak Patan, and his disciples scattered all over northern, India to carry his message, always looking to Pak Patan as their spiritual centre.7 Shaikh Ibrahim was the eleventh descendant of Faridu’ddin. The following is the genealogical order:8
Hazrat Baba Faridu’ddin Ganj-i-shakar
Diwan Badr-ud-Din Sulaiman
Diwan ‘Ala-uddin Mauj-i-Darya
Diwan Mu’izzuddin
Pir Fazl-ud-din
Khwaja Diwan Munawar Shah
Pir Diwan Baha-uddin Harun
Pir Shaikh Ahmad Shah
Pir Ata-ullah
Khwaja Shaikh Muhammad
Shaikh Ibrahim Farid Sani
Not much is known about the birth and childhood of Ibrahim. There is complete silence with regard even to the date of his birth. The Khulasat-ul-Tawarikh states that he died in A.H. 960 or A.D. 1554 at Sirhind where he was buried after a spiritual reign of forty-two years.9 But both the Jawahir-i-Farid and the Gulzar-i-Faridi relate that he died at Pak Patan in the year A.H 959 or A.D. 1553-4.10

In Pak Patan there is still a tomb known as that of Ibrahim. We therefore believe that he died at Ajodhan as the two above-mentioned biographies state.11 He is said to have reigned as the pir for forty-two years, and therefore his birth must have taken place some time in the middle or the end of the fifteenth century.

After having pursued the Ordinary curriculum of secular studies he was initiated into the Cishti order and went through the spiritual training of a Sufi. In course of time he succeeded his father Khwaja Shaikh Muhammad in A.H 916-17 and became the gaddi-nishin.12 He seems to have resend Farid closely in person and in sanctity, and therefore was named Farid Sani or Farid the Second. He had frequent interviews with Hindu saints and reformers, and with dervishes of Islam.13 The titles and appellations which Ibrahim bore 14 show the great influence he wielded over the masses. He was called
Farid Sani or the Second.
Salis Farid or Farid the Arbitrator,
Shaikh Ibrahim Kalan or Ibrahim the Elder,
Bal Raja or the mighty king.

This last named is a Hindu appellation applied only to a person who holds great spiritual power. To the Hindus and the masses he was also Shaikh Brahm. Brahm is a corrupt form of Ibrahim.15 Ibrahim’s popularity amongst the Hindus of his time is rather amazing.

A long residence in India, a sincere study of her religions and philosophies and the political environment had weakened the proselytizing zeal which animated the soul of Farid the First.16 The Sufis were not very popular with the rulers, and so they could befriend the cause of the people, and ensure their own safety against the tyranny of a fanatical ruler only by their influence over people belonging him blind. Early in the morning the Shaikh ordered his servant to fetch water for his ablutions. The servant saw the blind thief and informed his master. The thief confessed his guilt and begged the pir’s pardon Thereupon the saint prayed and the sight of the thief was restored. He then wave up thieving and became a murid of the pir.20

Another legend is that in a season of drought the pir was besought to save the people from disaster. Pitying the sufferers, he took off his turban and whirled it round, upon which rain fell in torrents.21

The Shaikh was held in esteem amongst the distinguished holy men of those days. He had various disciples, the most famous of them being Shaikh Salim Chishti of Fatehpur.22

The Literary Work of Farid

Ibrahim’s literary works in Panjab consist of a set of kafia and a hundred and thirty ashloks. Besides these, we have been able to trace a Nasihat-Nama among the Panjab University manu scri pts.23 The style of this is akin to that of Farid and so is the language It is a book on religious injunctions tinged with Sufi beliefs. It clearly indicates that he belonged to the orthodox school. The remainder of Farid’s verse is all found in the Adi Granth. The Gulzar-i- Farid says that this verse was inserted in the Granth by Guru Nanak with the permission of the Pir Shaikh Brahm. The same authority states that only after having seen the book Which Nanak submitted to inspection did the Shaikh give Permission to add his sayings.24

Historically, the Granth was compiled by Guru Arjun and not by Nanak, and if the permission was obtained it would have been the fifth Guru who procured it from the reigning pir.25 In their correspondence the Gurus addressed each other as Nanak 26 and this may have led the author of the Gulzar-i-Faridi to make the mistake.

Shaikh Ibrahim’s Panjabi poems, though they had won him the love of the people, failed to procure him the praise of the learned, who looked disdainfully at the poets of the living languages and refused to recognize them as such. The Panjabis therefore should thank Guru Arjun for having written down a major part of the verse of this first Panjabi Sufi poet.

As has been mentioned above, Farid Sani was the name conferred on Shaikh Ibrahim for his high sanctity. He, however, employed it as his nom de plume.27 The common belief, therefore, is that the verse of Farid in the Adi Granth was composed by Farid the First. McAuliffe is certain that ‘it was Shaikh Brahm who composed the shaloks bearing the name Farid in the Granth’.28 But. Baba Buddh Singh is of opinion that they are mixed compositions of the Farids, the First and the Second. The argument of McAuliffe that Farid the First did not live in the time of Nanak and, since Nanak had interviews with Ibrahim, the shaloks must be the Sheikh’s, is not very strong or logical. In the Granth we find the hymns of those saints who lived long before Nanak and also of those with whom he never had any personal relations. Baba Buddh Singh29 bases his argument on two facts: that since Amir Khusro who came to India could write in Hindi, why could not Faridu’ddin who was born and brought up in the Panjab write in Panjabi? And some of the shaloks, such as

Farida roti meri kath di lavan meri bhukkh,
Jinha khadhia copria soi sahange dukkh.

Farid, my bread is of wood and satisfies my hunger; those who eat buttered bread will undergo suffering,
clearly indicate the incidents which took place in the life of Farid the First and so must be his. Thus he makes Farid and Ibrahim the conjoint authors. The first of these two arguments is not at all convincing, and the second can be rendered futile by the fact that the incidents of the founder’s life were versified by his descendant and successor.
Though his argument is equally weak we agree with McAuliffe, as his conclusion has the support of one of the shaloks of Farid found in the Granth. It says,
Sekh hayati jag na koi thiru rahia
Jisu asani ham baitthe kete baa gaia.30

O Shaikh no life in the world is stationary. The seat on which I am seated has been occupied by many.
From the above poem we understand that the author was not Faridu’ddin but a descendant, who was occupying his spiritual seat, hence Fund the Second.

Language’ and Style

Shaikh Ibrahim preached in Panjabi to the congregations assembled at Pak Patan.31 His language was, therefore, a Panjabi comprising various dialects, and was simple and natural. The one dialect which is strikingly prominent in his language is Multani.  The influence of Lahndi is also visible.  A few words of Hindi and Persian are found in his verse, but they were rarely words which the Panjabi People could not understand. He composed a few poems in Hindi, which fact proves that he had a good command over that language. But we cannot help stating that his verse is at its best in Panjabi. Though his poetry is natural, forceful, and impressive, it lacks that intense feeling which characterizes the poetry of Husain. Except for this want of feeling, it is expressive and intelligible, and demonstrates the restlessness of the author’s soul for the Divine Union.  His verse, though it does not conform to the Persian rules of prosody, is overlaid with similes, very human, and sometimes incoherent and unsuitable for the Divine Beloved, as in Persian poetry. Considering that he was the first Sufi who replaced Persian by his mother-tongue this defect can be ignored. His highest merit lies in the fact that he was the first Mussulman saint who composed verses in Panjabi and was the pioneer of Panjabi Sufi poetry.


Religious Tenets

Unity of the Godhead and Muhammad’s religion being the only true way to attain salvation was the creed of the orthodox Sufi missionaries, like the pioneers of the Qadiri and the Cishti orders in India.
But as tolerance was their motto they soon became the friends of the people. They influenced the people’s thought and were themselves influenced in turn, and began to doubt the asserted monopoly of the Muslim path to God. Such appears to have been the state of Sheikh Ibrahim’s mind when he became the pir of Pak Patan. He could not openly criticize the established beliefs of his order as he was the hereditary incumbent and derived his power and prestige there from, but this could not prevent his holding some personal views. The uncertainty as to whether Islam or Hinduism was the true path perplexed him greatly. During one of his interviews with Nanak he says:

Ikk Khudai dui hadi kehra sevi kehra  hadda raddi. 32

There is one Lord and two teachers:33 ­ which shall be served (adopted) and which censuring rejected?

Nanak replied:
Sahib ikko rah ikk, ikko sevie aur raddi
duja kaho simarie jamme te mar jai.
ikko simaro Nanaka jal thaI  rahia samai.34

There is but one Lord, and one way. Adopt the one and reject the other.35 Why should one worship a second, who is born and then dies? Remember Him alone, Nanak, who is present in water (seas) and on land.

The Shaikh was very pleased with the Guru’s reply, but convinced like all Sufis that a patched coat and mean appearance humbled the heart and obtained salvation, he advised

Par patola dhaj kari kambalri Pahiroi
Jini vesi Sahu milai soi ves karoi.36

Tear your clothes into tatters and wear a blanket instead. Adopt the dress by which the Lord may be obtained.
The Guru, who had great respect for the Sheikh, agreed with him that faith and devotion were the only means to reach the ideal but could not listen to this advice of Ibrahim,. He was a staunch believer in karma-yoga and an enemy of outward signs and symbols. He told the Sheikh that while wearing secular costume one could find the Lord, if one loved Him.37
Ibrahim could not support Nanak’s view. But he was extremely happy to find someone who like himself thought that there was only one way, a belief so dear to his heart. So, while bidding farewell, he remarked: ‘O Nanak thou hast found God, there is no difference between thee and Him.’38 This compliment illustrates faithfully how far the Sufi beliefs of Ibrahim had changed under the later Bhagvat influence.

Towards the end of his career Ibrahim appears to have set aside the remaining fanatical side of Islam. His faith in the prescribed Sufi code and Qur’anic beliefs seems to have fallen into the background. The following will confirm our view by showing the change in the Shaikh’s ideas:

Farid, men carry prayer-carpets on their shoulders, wear a Sufi’s robe and speak sweetly, but there are knives in their hearts.39

His belief with regard to God and His grace is very vividly shown here:

In the lake (world) there is one Swan (good soul) while there are fifty snares (bad souls); O True One, my hope is in Thee.

In Farid’s verse there is no formal exposition of any Sufi doctrines. It comprises short love poems and couplets on religious subjects in general. Some of his poems show a strong colour of Hindu thought, specially the doctrine of ahimsa.

He says:

Farid, if men beat thee with their fists, beat them not in return, kiss their feet and go beck.40

And again:

All men’s hearts are gems, to distress them is by no means good: if thou desire the Beloved, distress no one’s heart.

Humility is also a great quality with, the Shaikh Farid, revile not dust, there is nothing like it. When we are alive it is beneath our feet, when we are dead it is above us. 41

The fame of Shaikh Ibrahim has surpassed that of the sect of which he was the spiritual head. For centuries together and even to the present day, the poet has been looked upon as a saint by thousands of his countrymen who never heard the name Cishti. Many of his couplets are household words, and hundreds of completely uneducated men and women make frequent use of them. We have given above those shaloks which are repeated in Hindu and Mussulmsan homes every day. They will serve as specimens of his literary genius and also of his popularity.



1. Ain-i-Akbari, Vol.III, p. 367.
2. Rose, A Glossary of the
Tribes and Castes of the Panjab, Vol.III. p.432.
3. This
title originated from a miracle performed by him. It has many versions one of which is that he was told by his mother that the reward of prayer was sugar. She used to hide some under his prayer-carpet, which the boy Farid got after the prayer. One day his mother went out, and he had to pray alone. After his prayer he lifted the carpet found a great supply of sugar — a miraculous gift of God. His mother was surprised on her return borne and named him Shakar Ganj or Treasury of Sugar.
4. Ain-i-Akbari (English translation), Vol. III. p. 363. Garçin de Tassy translates it Ghanewal.
5. ibid.
6. Macauliffe states (Sikh Religion. Vol.VI. p. 387) that the name was changed on account of a canal in which it was usual for all who visited Farid to wash their hands. The canal came to be known as
Baba Sahib ka pak patan or  Farid’s cleansing ferry. This is not a satisfactory explanation. Ajodhan being the seat of Farid was therefore known as Pak Patan --- holy town or city.
7. The sect maintained its integrity till very late, when it was split into two sub-orders, the Nizamia and the sabirias, the former from
Nizamu’ddin Awliya, a disciple of Faridu’ddin, and the latter from Sabir, cousin and son-in-law of the founder (see Rose’s Glossary, Vol. III. p. 432).
8. See
9. As quoted by Macauliffe in his
Sikh Religion. Vol. VI. p. 348.
10. Jawahir-i-Faridi, p. 294 and Gulzar-i-Faridi, p. 81.
11. We have been unable to find any trace of his tomb in Sirhind. In some of the old biographies of saints do we find that he died at Sirhind.
12. Jawahir-i-Faridi
, p. 292
13. He had two meetings with Nanak (see Janam Sakhi Bala and the puratan
)- The Gulzar-i-Faridi is fill of accounts of such interviews.
14. These titles and appellations we have collected from the Gulzar-i-Faridi pages. Macauliffe also mentions them in his book. See Sikh Religion Vol. VI, p. l02
15. The Gulzar-i-Faridi (p. 79) also calls him Ibrahim or Baram. The Janam Sakhis all call him Brahm, see Bala –Janam Sakhi, p. 543.
16. Even Farid the First was not
altogether engaged in the work of conversion. His efforts were often Supplemented by two factors:
(1) The Political domination left the Hindus helpless, especially economica
lly. Economic difficulties therefore compelled them to embrace Islam, which at once raised their status.
(2) The social
disintegrity of the Hindus supplied him with converts. If a man of high caste ate or drank at Farid’s or at any Mussulman’s house he was excommunicated, and in the absence of ‘repentance’ was forced to become a Sufi hence a Mussulmen. The members of the neglected lower classes also professed the Islamic creed.
17. An interesting example of this is given in Taikh-i-Daudi (E. & D. ed., Vol. IV, pp. 439.40). Mia Abdullah of Ajodhan forbade
Sultan Sikandar Lodi to carry out his resolve to massacre the Hindus assembled at Kurukshetra. The Sultan was thereupon enraged and putting his hand on his dagger, exclaimed: ‘You side with the infidels, I will first put an end to you and then massacre the infidels.’ But the personality and the popularity of Abdullah soon appeased his wrath and he gave up both his resolves, i.e. to massacre the saint and the infidels. Later on, inspired by the policy of Aurangzeb, the hereditary incumbents of Pak Patan changed the creed of tolerance advocated by their predecessors, and became the supporters of fanaticism of which Farid the First had disapproved. See Rama Krishna, Les Sikhs, p. 191.
18. Garciin de Tassy finds Hindu influence even at the end of the nineteenth century: see La Religion Musalmane dans l’Inde.
19. Junayd as quoted by Nicholson in The Mystics of Islam, p. 131.
20. Gulzar-i-Faridi  p. 80.
21. Jawahir-i-Faridi,  p. 294.
22. Macauliffe, Sikh Religion, Vol. VI, p. 358.
23. MS. 374 Folios 2-14, 743.
24. Gulzar-i-Faridi p.
25. Farid Sani died in A.H 959 (A.D 1553-4) early in the reign of Akbar
while Guru Arjun compiled the Granth much later (A.D. I581-1606).
26. Munshi Fani says that Guru Har Gobind when he wrote to him signed his name as Nanak. See Dabistan, Vol. II. p. 236.
27. Sikh Religion, Vol. VI, p. 357.
28. ibid.
29. Hans Cog. p. 69.
30. Adi Granth, Asa Sekh Farid, Shalok 5. 
31. The custom
Prevails even at present but in a very degenerate manner.
32. Janam Sakhi (Bala, p.544)
33. Muhammad and the Hindu avataras.
34. Janam Sakhi, p. 544
35. By One, Nanak means the way of faith and devotion.
36. Janam Sakhi,
p. 545.
37. ibid.
38. How closely this resembles the Vaisnava belief: Hari hari Jan douek h
ai, bimb vicar kol nai, jal te uthe tarang jiau jal hi bikke samai; i.e. God and saints are one and the same. The idea that; the saint are His mere reflection exists no more, for as a tide rises from deep waters and waters it ebbs, similarly the saints emerge from God and in Him they merge.
Sikh Religion, Vol. VI, p. 398.
40. ibid., p. 394. This reminds one of the Vaisnava legend in which Bhrigu kicks Visnu while he is asleep. Visnu wakes up sad begins to massage Bhirgu’s foot saying that his hard body must have hurt, his foot.
41. Sikh Religion, Vol. Vi, p. 394.


Visitors Comments

Name:Ismail Patel
Date:29th October

Comment: Like Sheikh Farid Sani i feel deeply perplexed about religion and being muslim i am practicing a hindu meditation and enjoy the deep and profound experiences and feel that this is what i need.

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