HUSAIN was born in A.H. 945 (AD. 1539) in Lahore.1 His ancestors, says the author of Tazkira were originally Kayastha Hindus who embraced Islam in the time of Feroz Shah.2 But Baba Buddh Singh is of opinion that his great-grandfather or grandfather, who became a Mussulman, belonged to the dhata clan of the Rajputs.3 Under what circumstances Husain’s family confessed the Muhammadan creed is not known. All that we know is that at the birth of Husain, the family was sunk deep in poverty. His father, who was called, nau shaikh ‘Usman,4 was a weaver. Husain never learned this trade, but on account of his father being engaged in the industry, Fard Faqir in his Kasab-Nama Bafind-gan 5 says:
Par is kasabe de vice bahute alam phazal hoai Par shah husain kabir Jo aye dargah ja khaloai.
Though in this profession many learned ones had been, yet Shah Husain and Kabir who came (in the profession) went and stood at the door (ofGod).
Husain was put under the charge .of Abu-Bakr at a very tender age and became a hafizwhen he wasten years old.6 Then Shaikh Bahlol of Ciniot (Chiniot, Jhang district), who learnt the doctrine of fana from a Sufi of Koh-Panj-Shir, came to Lahore and made Husain his own disciple.7 After a few years Shaikh Bahlol returned from Lahore and left Husain to continue his study of the Sufi practices at the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh8in Lahore.9 For twelve years he served the ashes of the pir and followed the strict Qura’nic discipline.10 He is said to have spent many a night in a standing posture in the river Ravi, repeating the Qur’an.11At twenty-six he left that pir and became a student of Sa’d-ullah, with whom he read many a book on Sufiism. Some time after this, as he was coming out of the house of his teacher with his fellow-students, he thought he had found the secret of God. Happy at his success he threw in the well the Qur’an which he had in his hand, but his companions were enraged at this act of heresy. He thereupon ordered the hook to come out. It came, and to the surprise of his companions it was as dry as before.12 Here after Husain, discarding all rules and regulations, began to dance, sing, and drink. He became a mystic. The excesses of Husain became scandalous and reached the ear of Shah Bahlol at Ciniot. The Shaikh was so much upset that he journeyed to Lahore to see things for himself. His talks with his disciple convinced him of his saintliness and he went back satisfied to his native town.13 Husain wore a red dress and came to be known as Lal Husain or Husain the Red.14 Husain was very fond of dancing and singing and mixed freely in the company of dancers and musicians. The Qadiris, to whose sect Husain belonged, generally loved music and dancing which, they, never went to the extreme which Husain reached. Husain shaved clean his moustache and beard and refused, according to the author of Hasanat-ul-arifin to accept those persons as disciples who were unwilling to shave their faces.15 This idea of Husain and his neglect of the religious duties of a Mussulman aroused suspicion, and some officials thought of punishing him; but by pointing out to them their own neglect of religious duties, Husain escaped punishment.16 LaI Husain was fortunate to have been born, to live, and to die during the reign of Emperor Akbar whose fondness for religious men and especially the Sufi was proverbial. Akbar, it appears from the writings of Dara Shikoh, knew Husain. Prince Dara writes: ‘Prince Salim and the ladies of Emperor Akbar’s harem believed in his supernatural powers and entertained respect for him.’17 The Tahqiqat-i-Cishti states18 that Prince (later Emperor) Salim was greatly attached to the saint and appointed Bahar Khan, an officer, to record his daily doings. These records, which were regularly submitted for the perusal of the Prince, were later on compiled together with the sayings of the saint and were named Baharia.19The Baharia is said to be replete with incidents relating to the supernatural power of the saint.
His Attachment to Madho
Having become a Sufi, Husain began preaching in public. A Brahman boy of Shahdara, a village across the Ravi, frequented these religious séances and showed keen interest in his teachings.20 This attracted the attention of the saint, who soon became attached to the handsome youth. This attachment developed so much and so rapidly that if on any day Madho failed to come, Husain would walk down to his house. This sort of friendship was not liked by the parents, who tried to dissuade their son from meeting Husain, but to no effect. Desirous of separating their child from the Sufi, they proposed take him to the Ganges on a certain festival day. When Madho informed saint of his impending departure, he was much distressed and begged the boy not to go with his parents. However, he promised Madho a bath in the company of his parents on the appointed day. Madho thereupon refused to accompany his parents, who proceeded alone to Hardvar. After a few days the saint asked the boy to close his eyes, and when he did so, Madho found himself on the banks of the Ganges along with his parents who had reached there by that time. After the bath he discovered that he was back in his house at Shahdara. On their return the parents confirmed their son’s statement that he bathed with them on the appointed day. This miracle, says tradition, so much impressed Madho that he confessed the Muhammadan faith and became a Mussulman.21 Another story about Madho’s conversion is that the attachment of Husain for Madho was disagreeable to the parents and created suspicion in the people’s mind.22 But Husain, unmindful of all, would go to the boy’s house when he was prevented from visiting him. Very often the parents would tell him that Madho was absent and Husain would return disappointed. One day when he had been refused permission to see the boy, he walked down to his house for the second time. On reaching the place he saw people weeping and Wailing. On inquiry, he was told that Madho was dead. The Faqir laughed aloud and walking to the dead body exclaimed: ‘Get up, Madho, why do you sleep at this hour? Get Up end see I am waiting for you.’ Upon this, continues the story, Madho jumped on his feet and followed Husain out of his parental house, never to return there again, and be a Mussulman.
Both these versions of Madho’s conversion are legendary and most probably untrue and of later origin, because how could a Sufi of Husain’s type who disregard traditional precepts convert his beloved friend to Islam? 23
Secondly, since Madho did not change his Hindu name, it is certain that he was not converted to Islam. To our mind the truth appears to have been as follows:
that Madho, convinced of Husain’s saintliness, was attached to him in the same manner as the saint was to him, and consequently, ignoring the rules of his own society, became his disciple and ate and drank with his spiritual guide. Such behavior would surely have offended the conservative Hindus who, on this account, excommunicated him and turned him out of their social fold. Thus secluded, the unfortunate Madho had no choice but to go and live with his master as his friend and disciple. Thousands of such adherents were unhesitatingly given by the Hindus to Islam and Madho no doubt had been one of these forced converts.
Madho later on was known as Shaikh Madho and his name came to be prefixed to that of the saint, 24 who to this day is known as Madho Lal Husain. The love of Husain for Madho was unique, and he did all that lay in his power to please the boy. Once, seeing his co-religionists celebrating holi 25and being desirous of doing the same, he brought some gulal (pinkish-red powder) and threw it on Husain. Husain at once joined him in the fun.26Basant or the spring festival, like holi, was also celebrated each year by Lal Husain to please Madho.26
Madho Lal Husain was held in great respect by the people, and the Hindus, though they seem to have turned Madho out of their fold, could not master their credulous beliefs in the supernatural miracle-performing power of the saint and esteemed him just as much as their Muslim brethren. The author of Tazkira fixes the number of his followers as 90,000; but other people, he says, believed the number of his faithful to reach 1,000,000.27 The same authority is responsible for the statement that Husain’s gaddis, sixteen in number, are scattered all over India.28 Four of these sixteen seats are called Garibs, or the poor, the other four are named Diwans or the ministers.29 Three are known as Khakis or the ash-smearers, and another four as Baihlavals, i.e. entertainers. Nothing is said about the sixteenth.30
Husain indulged in wine, and probably it is due to alcohol that ho died at the age of 53, a comparatively early at for saint. His death occurred in A.H 1008 (A.D. 1593) at Shahdara, where he was duly buried 31 A few years later, as predicted by the saint,32 the grave was swept away by an overflow of the Ravi. Thereupon Madho exhumed the corpse and carried it to Baghbanpura, where it was buried with pompous formalities. After his death Madho was buried by his side. Latif describes the tomb as follow:
The tomb is situated north of the village Baghbanpura. There are signs of two tombs on high platform, one of Madho and the other of Lal Husain, the actual tombs being in an underground chamber. The platform is surrounded by a wall with a gateway to the south. Between the platform and the surrounding wall is a space left for the devotees to go round,—the platform being lined on all sides with lattice-work of red stone. North of the enclosure is a tower in which is reverentially kept the impression of the prophet’s feet (Qadam-i-Rasul) and to the west is a mosque. This mosque was constructed by Mora, a Muhammadan wife of Ranjit Singh.34
La1 Husain appears to have had friendships among the holy men of his time. He was an intimate friend of Chajju Bhagat who, the tradition says, called him Shah Husain for the first time.35 He met Guru Arjun whenever he came to Lahore. We, however, cannot find any historical evidence to support the assertion ofBaba Buddh Singh, who states that when Arjun was compiling the Adi Granth, Husain submitted his verses to him for inspections but the Guru, disapproving them, refused to insert them in the Granth.36Husain’s poetry, if we may be permitted to say so, is in no way inferior to that of many others found in the body of the Granth, nor would a free Sufi like Husain careto have his verses inserted in the book of a sect then not so popular as it was to be alter a few years.
Husain’s Sufiism was of a peculiar type and presented a curious medley of Persian and Indian Sufiism. In his mystic ideas and beliefs he was more Indian than anything else, but in his daily life he followed the style of the Persian Sufis.
The following two traits of his character affirm the influence of Persianism.
The first trait was his addiction to liquor. Needless to say,wine-drinking and dancing in the wine-house became a part of his saintly profession. And when drunk, he would dance, sing his ownpoems, and preach to the crowds who gathered round him. The Indian mystic in general and the Panjabi Sufi in particular avoided wine and led simple lives, but the Sufis of Persia were often pleasure-loving people. It does not mean that they all indulged in drinking, but some of them did taste the material wine which had a symbolic meaning in their poetry.
The second obviously Persian trait was his love of a youth. As stated above, he was enamoured of Madho. This idea of loving a youth is opposed to the Indian concept of divine love. An Indian requires no semblance to attain the Divine Beloved, and renouncing all attachment depends either on his own efforts of spiritual discipline, or, keeping faith, relies entirely on divine grace. The idea of loving a youth, originally Greek, 37was borrowed by the Muslims of Islamic countries especially of Persia.
Some Sufis and some orthodox Muhammadans tell us that ‘youth-love’ was practiced for the following reasons:
1. A young man is physically more beautiful than a woman and so he inspires the Sufi better in the de scri ption of his Beloved.38
2. Man is a weak being and cannot altogether give up his natural desire to have a companion in life. If he chooses a woman companion he indulges his lust. Therefore not to incur the sexual sin, he takes a pleasing youth on whom he showers his love and kindness and in whom he confides.
3. God has no feminine attributes. He is a male and therefore to describe him and to constantly think of him, a perfect youth is desirable as constant companion.39
As far as poetry can help us, we find no immoral flaw in Lal Husain’s love for Madho. It had more moral than religious or philosophic significance. For him, this sort of love, being absolutely free from selfish desire, was in no way detrimental to the attainment of the Beloved, and was consequently elevating.
Husain has left no poetic works. His only work is a number of kafis of a highly mystic type.
His Language and Style
His verse is written in simple Panjabi, slightly overlaid with Persian and Arabic words. It excels in expression of thought and has a clear flow. In its simplicity and effectiveness it is superior to Ibrahim Farid’s Panjabi. It lacks the brilliancy of Urdu poetry but is remarkable for its just proportion of words and powerful sense of rhyme. His versification is smoother, his similes more relevant, and his words simpler but more effective than those of Ibrahim. His poetry is of a less orthodox type but is not as saturated with Indian thought as would be the poetry of Bullhe Shah. Like his character, his poetry is a curious mixture of Sufi, Indian, and foreign thought. The essential feature of his poetry which strikes the reader is that it is highly pathetic and, piercing the heart, creates a mystic feeling.
Peculiarity of his Doctrines
Husain’s peculiarity of character is also reflected in his poetry. He believes in fana but does not seem to accept the doctrine of ana’l-Haqq’ without which fana is not comprehensible. As we shall see presently, he spent his life in search of the Beloved whom he knew to be present everywhere but whom he could not see. His excessive love for Madho also proves that he did not reach those heights which Bullha attained.
Husain believed in the theory of karma, but on a rational Panjabi basis, as:
Dunia to mar javana vatt na avana Jo kich kitta bura bhala to kitta apna pavana.40
From the world one parts as dead not to return again; whatever actions wrought (be) right or wrong, according to them he shall obtain.
Husain insists on good karmas so much that several of his poems are composed to express that belief. For example:
Tari sai Rabba ve mai augan hari Sabh saiya gunvantia, tari sai rabba ve mai bat bisari Bheji si jis bat nu piari ri soi mai bat bisari Ral mil saiya daj rangaya piari ri mai rahi kuari Mai sai te parbat dar de, piari ri mai kaun vicari Kahe Husain sahelio ni amala bajh khuari.41
Save, O master God, me full of faults; all friends possess quail-ties (good karmas), save me, full of faults. The object for which (I) was sent, O dear thatalone I ignored; gathering together (for spinning) my friends, O dear, have had their trousseaux dyed (for marriage); I am left unmarried (for not possessing a dowry). Of my master (God) the mountains are afraid, poor creature, what am I? Husain says, O friends, without qualities there is but disaster.
Husain believed in samsara. This belief he appears to have borrowed from the Sikhs, a rational Bhagvat order founded at the end of the fifteenth century by Nanak Dev. The founder of this sect had endeavoured to bring samsara to the state of a science and, like the Ajivikas, professed that the wheel of samsara contained eighty-four thousand species of life, each of which in its turn possessed millions and millions of others.42 But Husain fails to have a clear grasp when he enters the details. His idea is vague, as:
Vatt nahi avana bholiai maai eh vari vela eh vari da is caupat de caurasi khanne jug vichare mil cota khade ki jana ki pausi da.43
(Soul) has not to come again (as human being), O innocent mother, this turn of time (human birth) is only for this turn (life)44 this chess board (samsara) comprises eighty-four squares (species) once separated after sufferings (of 84 species) is union (in God); what do I know that which (soul) obtains (after death in present life) ?
Below is an exquisite example in pathetic, soul-stirring words of the sufferings of Shah Husain’s soul separated from the Universal Soul:
Dard vichore da hal ni mai kehnu akkha sula mar divani kitti birahu pia khial, ni mai kehnu akkha jangal jangal phira dhudedi aje na aya mahival, ni mai kehnu akha Dhukhan dhue shaha vale japhola ta lal, Ni mai kehnu akkha Kahe Husain faqir rabbana, vekh nimania da hal, Ni mai kehnu akkha.45
The story of the pain of separation, O to whom shall I narrate, these pangs have made me mad, this separation is in my thought; from jangal to jangal I roam searching, yet my Mahival 46 has not come. The smouldering fire has black flame whenever I stir (it), I see the Lal47 says Shah Husain, God’s faqir, behold the lot of the humble ones.
Husain explained the reason of his ecstatic dancing which was against the precepts of the established Mussulman beliefs and perhaps against the injunctions of the Qur’an also.
Shah gia beshaki hoi ta mai augan nacci ha Je shahu nal mai jhumar pava sada suhagan sacci ha Jhuthe da muh kala hoya ashak di gall sacci hai Shak gia beshaki hoi ta mai augan nacci ha.48
The doubt 49 has vanished and doubtlessness is established, therefore I, devoid of qualities, dance. If I play (thus) with the Beloved I am ever a happy woman.50The liar’s face (he who accused) has been blackened and the lover’s statement has been proved true; because the doubt has vanished and doubtlessness is established, therefore I, devoid of qualities, dance.
Here is a kafi in which Shah Husain describes, in a short but forceful manner, the sarcasm of the public about his unique ways, and expresses his determination to continue his search for the divine Beloved:
Rabba mere augan citt ni dhari augan hari ko gun nai andaro fazal kari dunia valia nu dunia da mana nanga nu nang loi na asi nang na dunia vale sanu hass di jani kani Kahe Husain fakir sai da sadi dadhe nal bani.51
O God do not mind my faults; full of faults (I) without quality;—from within show compassion (enlightenment).
To the worldly the pride of the world, to the rocluse52renunciation is a cover.53 Neither a recluse I nor worldly (therefore) whosoever 54 laughs at me; says Shah Husain, God’s faqir my friendship is made with the Terrible One (God).
It appears that Husain never attained the stage of Union.He ever longed to meet God and merge himself in Him. The sentiment that his Beloved was separated from him by his own illusion or ignorance so much overpowered his soul that he sang of his pains of separation in a wonderfully touching manner. This pathos has a very lasting effect on the mind of the reader. No other Sufi can beat Husain in this respect. Here we give one such poem:
Sajjan bin rata hoia vaddia mas jhare jhar pinjar hoya kankan geia haddia ishk chapaya chappda nahi birho tanava gaddia rajha jogi mai jogiani, mai ke karchaddia Kahe shah Husain fakir sai da tere daman laggeia.55
Without the friend the nights have become longer, my flesh has fallen, my body has become a skeleton and (then) my bone rattle against each other; love can never be kept hidden, when separation has pitched its camp; Rajha is a Yogi and I his Yogin ,what has he done unto me? Says Shah Husain, God’s faqir, I have held your skirt.
The following is a true example of Shah Husain’s love for intoxicating things. He prays to God to grant him these along with wisdom and contemplation. It clearly shows that he was a pleasure-loving Sufi:
Jeti jeti dunia ram ji tere kolau mangdi kunda dei sota dei kotthi dei bhang di safi dei mirca dei be minti dei rang di posat dei bati dei cati dei khand di gian dei dhian dei mahima sadhu sang di shah Husain fakir sai da ehi duai malang di.56
All the world (people), O Rama,57 begs from you. Give the kunda 58 and sota 59 and a chamber (full) of bhang 60; give the cloth 61 and black pepper and measureless colour,62 give poppy 63 and the cup and a cati 64 of sugar; give wisdom and contemplation and the honor of sadhus’ company (says) Shah Husain, thefaqir of God, this is the request of a faqir.
Such was Husain, the unusual Sufi, who lived in the hopes of meeting his departed Beloved, but who utilized the period of waiting in drinking wine and bhang.
Sources of Information
Panjab University MS. No. 374, Folios 2—14, 743. This MS. in Gurmukhi characters contains about forty-five kafis of Husain. They are not correctly given. The compiler has mixed most of them. Some, however, are correct. Kafia Shah Husain, a small brochure containing 28 kafis, published at Lahore.65 The kafis collected from kavvalis, elders and mirasis at Lahore. On the Life of Husain the following books exist: Baharia, by Bahar Khan. We have not succeeded in tracing the book. Haqiqat-ul-Fuqara contains an account of Shah Husain. It is out of print. Tahqiqat-i-Cishti by Nur Ahmad Cishti. This Urdu book speaks of Husain at length.66 Tazkira-Awliya-i-Hind 67by Mirza Muhammad of Delhi. 3 volumes. The third volume deals with Husain and Madho.
Hasanat-ul-‘arifin 68by Maulvi Muhammad ‘Umar Khan, an Urdu rendering of the Persian work
Hasanat-ul-arifin of prince Dara Shikoh, gives an account of Shah Husain.
History of Lahore by Syed Muhammad Latif in English. Deals with Husain also.
Hans Cog by Buddh Singh contains some second hand information about Husain.
Yad-raftagan, 69 another biography of saints, contains a few pages on Husain’s life.
1. Tazkira Awliya-i-Hind.Vol.III.p.33 2. ibid. 3. Hans Cog. p. 106. We do not think there is any such clan among the Rajputs. 4. The word nau is a sareastic prefix which was added to the names of new converts by Muhammdans. 5. See darya-i-ma’rifat containing the kasab nama. 6. Tahqiqat-i-Cishti. p.43. 7. ibid…pp. 42-3. 8. See Introduction. p. xvii, n. 1. 9. Tahqiqat-i-Cishti. p. 46. 10. ibid. 11. History of Lahore .p.145. 12. This story of conversion is related in Tahqiqat-i-cishti. Pp.48-9 13.ibid. p.49 14. Tazkira awliya-i-Hind, vol. III, p.34, and yad-.rafta-gan, p.58. 15. Hasanat-ul-arifin, p.n.46. 16. ibid., p. 46. 17. Prince Dara, as quoted by Latif. See History of Lahore, p.145 18. p. 52. 19. We have not been successful in tracing this book in the libraries of London or of the Panjab. 20. Some say that he saw him while he was drinking at a bar. But Madho being a young Hindu lad could not have gone to the wine house. The account gives above, therefore, seems to be the true version. The author of tahqiqat-i-Chishti relates (pp. 50-1) that Husain met Madho while the lad went through the bazaar in a fashionable manner. He tried in vain to possess the lad for 16 years, at the end of which period he succeeded. 21. Latif on the authority of Baharia, see History of Lahore , p.145 22. Tahqiqat-i-Cishti says (pp.50-1) that his relatives seeing him sleeping in the same bed with Lal Husayn came to murder them both, but the power of Husayn made them blind and as they could not find the door, they returned. 23. According to Hasanat-ul-arifin (p. 46) Husain le credited with having been above all religions. He said he was neither a Muslim nor a pagan. i.e. Hindu. 24. Latif on the authority of Haqiqat-ul-Fuqara: History of Lahore.p. 146. 25.A Hindu carnival during which people amuse themselves by throwing color on each other. 26. Tahqiqat-i-Cishti, pp. 51-2. 27. These festivals are still celebrated at the shrine where he lies buried along with his dear Madho. 28. Vol. III, p.36. 29. The gaddi-nishin of the Lahore shrine and his relatives are uneducated and ignorant men. They said that they possessed the biography and other books of the saint but refused to show them to us. We however, collected some kafis from the books, and verified them from the kavvalis. 30. The gaddi-nishin of the Lahore shrine is the head diwan and is the spiritual descendant of Madho. 31. Tazkira, Awliaya-i-Hind, p.36. 32. ibid. p.62 33. History of Lahore, p. 146 34. ibid. p. 146. 35. It relates that after Husain had brought dead Madho to life, Chajju Bhagat addressed him as Shah (a bestowed of gifts) Husain, instead of Lal Husain. 36. Hans Cog, p. 107. 37. The Greeks, held that ‘youth love’ was the only form of love worthy of a noble soul. For detailed historical development of ‘youth- love’ philosophy see Antimachus of Colophon and the Position of Woman in Greek Poetry, by E.F. M. Benecke. 38. This is like an artist who wants a beautiful model to paint some divine subject. 39. The opponents of suffiism are of opinion that, psychologically, this love for a youth could not be possible and a Sufi kept a youth only to satisfy his animal nature. 40.From a kawali of the Lahore shrine. It is also given in Hane Cog, P. 115. 41.Panjab Univ. MS., P. 374, kafi 1. 42. Les Sikhs, p.34. 43. Hans Cog, p.112 44. According to the Hindu thought a soul can come back into the same life if his karmas allow that. A man can be born again as man, or go higher or lower in the scale as his actions permit. Husain does not seem to believe in this. 45. This kafi is found in the Panjabi University MS. No. 374 (kafi 9) butis slightly different from what the kavvalis sing. We give it according to the kavvalis. 46. The story of Sohni Mahival, generally known to the public through the Qissa Sohni Mahival by Fazal Shah and other poets. The tragedy is said to have taken place in the time of Shah Jahan, but from the above kafi seems to have been much older and is, perhaps, f ancient origin. 47. Lal here has two meanings; red consuming fire hidden under black smoke’ and ‘the Beloved hidden from us by maya or our ignorance’. 48. From kavvalis. Hans cog contains it too. 49. About God. 50. Suhagin or suhagan is a woman who has her husband living, hence happy. 51. Kafia Shah Husain, No. 1. 52. Nanga are opposite of the worldly, therefore, recluses. 53. Loi here means cover and not a blanket. It signifies that their renunciations stands guarantee for them and so nobody questions them or make fun of them. 54. Jani kani is a Panjabi expression, very difficult to render in English. It means, even a person of ordinary importance, to say nothing of others. 55. Panjab University MS. No. 374, kafi 5 and kafia 2. 56. ibid., kafi 42. 57. Ram ji here does not mean Rama, the hero of the epic but God, the omnipresent. 58. Kunda is a stone vessel in which bhang is rubbed. 59. Sota is a long piece of wood about two inches in diameter with which bhang is pressed and rubbed. 60. Cannabis indica. 61.A thin cloth for the liquid bhang to filter through. 62. Some colour, generally saffron, to give a pleasing colour to the preparation. 63. Poppy seeds which are added to the preparation. 64. Cati is big earthen vessel used for storing things. 65. Sant Singh & Sons, Lohari Gate, Lahore. 66. Koh-i-Noor press, Lahore. 67. Muir press, Delhi 1928 68. Kapur art printing Works, Lahore. 69. Islamia Steam Press, Lahore
Comment: Hello! Very nice article with a lot of research. Can u let me know about the gaddis in India mentioned in this article. Are they the followers of Shah Hussain? And where are they situated??