Tere Ishq Nachaya - Begum Abida Parveen
Baba Bulleh Shah

Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) is undoubtedly one of the greatest Punjabi poets of all time and a humanist par excellence. Bulleh Shah's poetry is marked by the artistic and skilful use of ordinary language as represented by common idiom through the symbolic use of everyday common rural objects. This results in the creation of down-to-earth rustic sincerity with human dignity; hence his poetry is more reasonable than emotional or passionate.

Like most sufis his poetry glorifies his 'murshid' (Guru), his spiritual guide Shah Inayat. He was a strong critic of religious orthodoxy and he directly attacked people who preached or followed sectarian paths. He is deeply religious but follows no 'ism', and finds its embodiment in universal love. He preaches a simple concept of love and humanity that serves as the common bond between individuals of all faiths, beliefs and creeds and helps in the attainment of a higher and more pure existence, eventually leading one to become one with God. Thus he says:

Masjid dha de, mandir dha de, dha de jo kucch dhainda. Par kisi da dil na dhain, Rab dilan vich rehnda. (Tear down the mosque, tear down the temple, tear down whatever is destroyable But do not break a person's heart for God resides in there).

Bulleh Shah's poetry provides humanistic solutions to sociological problems while he lives through them simultaneously pursuing his search for God. His poetry highlights his spiritual journey through the four stages of 'Shariat' (Islamic law), 'Tariqat' (the path of sufism), 'Haqiqat' (reality - God) and 'Marfat' (divinity). He begins by following rules of Islam and eventually ends up at a point where he accepts the existence of God everywhere with no discriminations whatsoever, a stage where proportion, differences and pairs of opposites do not exist. He saw God in Muhammad as well as in Christ, Krishna, a poor beggar in the street, or his own self. All religions to him were the same and none was more efficient than another in finding the supreme loved one.

The simplicity with which Bulleh Shah has been able to tackle the basic issues of life and humanity is extremely appealing. His Kafis are so popular that every Punjabi artist tries to put them to music -- be it in the folk tunes of Wadali Brothers and Hans Raj Hans in India or of Abida Parveen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and others in Pakistan or even in the rock guitar tradition of singers like Junoon. Bulleh Shah's message of peace with oneself and with the world by following the principles of universal love and brotherhood is very relevant even today.