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Life and teachings of Sheikh Farid, a Sufi mystic

April 23, 2022 10:56 PM
Mazar Baba Sheikh Farid , Pakpattan, Pakistan
Dr Amrit Kaur

Sheikh Farid a Sufi mystic and teacher, who is also known to be the first  recorded poet in the Punjabi language is one of the 15 Bhagats whose hymns  Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji included in Sri Adi Granth Sahib. In compiling Sri Adi  Granth Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, in addition to the hymns of his  predecessor Sikh Gurus and his own hymns included the hymns of 15  Bhagats, 11 Bhatts and four others closely associated with the Sikh Gurus.  These 15 Bhagats include (i) Bhagat Jaidev Ji (ii) Sheikh Farid Ji (iii) Bhagat  Trilochan Ji (iv) Bhagat Namdev Ji (v) Bhagat Sadhna Ji (vi) Bhagat Ramanand  Ji (vii) Bhagat Ravidas Ji (viii) Bhagat Kabir Ji (ix) Bhagat Sain Ji (x) Bhagat  Dhanna Ji (xi) Bhagat Pipa Ji (xii) Bhagat Beni Ji (xiii) Bhagat Bhikhan Ji (xiv)  Bhagat Sur Das Ji and (xv) Bhagat Parmanand Ji. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji  (1666-1708) gave this Holy Scripture the final form by including the hymns of  the ninth prophet-teacher of the Sikhs Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and  which is the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. This Holy Scripture is unique in the  sense that it includes the hymns of Hindu as well as Muslim saints belonging  to various castes and creeds which include Muslims, Rajput, Brahman, Jat,   washerman, calico-printer, chamar, kasaee, weaver and barber born in  different parts of India.  

Shaikh Farid Ji‟s four shabads (hymns) two in raag soohi and two in raag assa  and 112 slokes have been included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He was born in  1173 AD in the month of Ramadan. His place of birth which is close to Multan,   was called Kotheval which is about 10-12 miles from Multan which is now  popularly known as Chawli Mashayakh. On April 4, 1179 AD his father died  when he was still a child, his mother Bibi Kursham Ji an extremely pious lady  brought him up. The newly born child is said to have been named after the Sufi  poet Fariduddin Attar, author of several works on Sufi philosophy. The child  became famous by the first part of his name 'Farid' which is an Arabic word  and means „Unique‟. He also acquired the appellation of Shakarganj or Ganj Shakar (Treasury of Sugar) or Pir-i-Shakarbar. He grew up to be a great saint,   combining with holiness learning in all the sciences comprehended at that time  under Islamic religious studies, such as canon law, jurisprudence and mystical  philosophy. He is one of the founding fathers of the famous Chishti Sufi order  in India, which began its long course in India towards the close of the twelfth  century with the coming of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti who came to India  during the reign of Rai Pithora or Prithavi Raj Chauhan, the last Rajput king of  Delhi whose kingdom stretched to Ajmer and beyond. His spiritual perceptor Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki was a disciple of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti.  

Just as in the history of Hindus Bhakti lehar flourished as a reform movement, in Muslim religion Sufism flourished as a reformist lehar. The aim of these  reformist lehars was to delete fanaticism, narraowness and rituals among the  disciples and to highlight the slogan of equality. Chishti lehar with which Shaikh Farid Ji is related was founded by Khwaja Abu Ishhak Shammi Chishti Ali. Chishti or Chesht is a tariqa, an order or school within the mystic Sufi  tradition of Sunni Islam. The Chishti Order is known for its emphasis on Love,   Tolerance and Openness. Chishtis preach about loving all fellow creatures irrespective of their religion or social status. The key teachings include charity  and compassion for the poor and helpless, leading a pure life of devotion to the  Divine, and achieving oneness with God in the Service of His Creation. 

His father Shaikh Jamaluddin Sulaiman Ji who was the second Khalifa of  Islam family related according to current tradition to the rulers of Kabul by ties  of blood. He left his home in Central Asia during the period of Mongol  incursions in the course of the twelfth century seeking safety and to find some  place to settle in and came to Punjab where already under Ghaznavi's rule  several religious centres had developed and sizeable Muslim population had  grown in the areas now included in West Punjab (Pakistan). 

About the appellation of „Shakarganj‟ popularly given him, it is related that in  order to induce the child to say his prayers regularly, his mother used to place  under his prayer-mat a small packet of shakar or country sugar which the  child would get as a reward. It is said that once she forgot to provide the  incentive. Such was the piety of the child and such the divine favour that a  packet of shakar nevertheless appeared in the usual place. It was attributed to  a miracle, and hence the appellation 'Shakarganj'. Some scholars trace the  appellation of „Shakarganj‟ to the blessings of his spiritual perceptors Khwaja  Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, who praised the sweetness of his disposition and  praised him by saying “Thou shalt be sweet like sugar”. 

Shaikh Farid Ji had four marriages. The last wife was Hazbara, the daughter of  the king of Delhi Nasirudin Mehmud. He had five sons and three daughters.  The sons were (i) Abdulla (ii) Badrudin Suleman, (iii) Bahawudin (iv) Yakub (v)  Nizzamudin and (vi) Nasrudin. According to some scholars he had five sons and  they delete the name Nasrudin. The names of the daughters were (i) Fatima (ii)  Mastoora and (iii) Shareefa.  

The mother of Shaikh Farid Ji had a deep influence on his personality.  Therefore he had deeply studied the Holy Quran at an early age and he  remembered several parts of this Holy Book by wrote. After attaining early 

education in the village Masjid he went to Multan for higher education and that  is where he adopted Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki as his spiritual  perceptor who was related to Chishti movement. Following the instructions of  his spiritual perceptor he travelled widely and exchanged spiritual knowledge  during these travels. During these travels he met spiritual persons which  included (i) Shahabdin Suhravardi (ii) Saifdin Bahaudin Zakria and (iii) Farid 

Din Attaar Nemapuri. He visited Delhi, Ajmer, Hansi, Ajodhan (Pakpattan),   Sirsa, Faridkot, etc. He went to Mecca for pilgrimage to Hajj. Because of these  travels his spiritual powers became popular. High ranking Maulvis, Sufi faqirs  and scholars of Islam visited him to have spiritual dialogues with him. In India  Chishti movement was founded by Sufi Faqir Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti who  had come to India in 1190 AD. The founder of Chishti movement was Khwaja  Abu Ishhak Shammi who was from Syriq the ninth spiritual successor of  Chishti Ali and came from Afghanistan. Sharif 'Chist' also known as chisht-e 

sharif is a town situated on the northern bank of the Hari River in Herat  Province of Afghanistan. It is the administrative centre of Chishti Sharif District  of Afghanistan. In India Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki who became the head of the  movement entered India with the army of Shahab-ud-din's army. He did deep  worshipping in Lahore and also wrote several books from Lahore. Khwaja  Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki went to Ajmer and founded the Chishti movement  in India. After the death of Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in 1235 AD the  followers of Chishti movement established Shaikh Farid Ji as the head of the  Chishti movement. Thus, it was after Faqir Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti's death  that Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki became the head of the Chishti  movement. The word Chishti is traceable to the place named 'Chisht' in  Afghanistan where Khwaja Abu Ishhak had founded the Chishti movement. The famous Muslim traditions which prevailed in India at that time included (i)  Qadri (ii) Suhravardi (iii) Chishti (iii) Nakashbandi and (v) Shattari.  

Just as in the history of Hindus Bhakti lehar flourished as a reform movement, in Muslim religion Sufism flourished as a reformist lehar. The aim of these  reformist lehars was to delete fanaticism, narraowness and rituals among the  disciples and to highlight the slogan of equality. Chishti lehar with which Shaikh Farid Ji is related was founded by Khwaja Abu Ishhak Shammi Chishti Ali. Chishti or Chesht is a tariqa, an order or school within the mystic Sufi  tradition of Sunni Islam. The Chishti Order is known for its emphasis on Love,   Tolerance and Openness. Chishtis preach about loving all fellow creatures irrespective of their religion or social status. The key teachings include charity  and compassion for the poor and helpless, leading a pure life of devotion to the  Divine, and achieving oneness with God in the Service of His Creation. 

This movement was respected very much because it was related to Khalifa Ali.  Shaikh Farid Ji's disciple Nizzamudin Andia made it very popular and several  persons became followers of Shaikh Farid Ji. Because of his sweet personality  Shaikh Farid Ji became popular with the name of 'Baba Farid Ji Shakar Ganj'.  The appellation 'Baba' was attributed to him by his spiritual perceptor  Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki when Shaikh Farid Ji was lost in a deep thought.  The word 'Baba' is indicative of the words 'old' and 'scholar', In Islam religion  'Shaikh' is the name given to a high ranking sect. The meaning of the word  'Shaikh' means 'unique' and 'unparalleled'. Thus it is clear that the name  Shaikh Farid Ji is indicative of prestigious, knowledgeable, experienced,   unique, unparalleled and sweet. Because of his thoughts and sentiments  Muslims as well as Hindus came to him in large numbers. Some scholars  consider him as a 'Pir' of both Muslims and Hindus. He did not like harsh  language. He was full of sweetness, mercy, sympathy, fogiveness and humility.  

In all religions of the world three ingredients exit 'creed' (belief), 'code'  (tradition) and 'conduct'. Shaikh Farid Ji in his hymns has considered these  three elements as very necessary.  

Regarding 'creed', for God he has used the words Khuda, nurturer, beyond  comprehension, limitless, truth, husband, pritam, beloved, prabhu, allah, pir,   sain, rabb, loveable and friend which shows that talking about God he has  used the words from Vedas (the books of Hindu philosophy) and Katebas i.e.,   Tauret, Anjeel, Quran and Zamboor.  

He says, (SGGS, P 488) O Lord, Sustainer and Cherisher, You are infinite,   unfathomable and endless. Those who recognize the true Lord I kiss their feet.  I seek your protection. You are the forgiving Lord. Says Shaikh Farid Ji, Please  bless Farid with the bounty of your meditative worship.  

He further says (SGGS, Page 1378) Fareed, why do you wander from jungle to  jungle, crashing through the thorny trees. The Lord abides in the heart, why  are you looking for Him in the jungle? He further says (SGGS, P 1381) Fareed,   the Creator is in creation and the creation abides in God. Whom can we call  bad? There is none without Him. 

God says, "If you reform yourself, you shall meet me and meeting me, you shall  be at peace. O Fareed, if you will be mine, the whole world will be yours (SGGS,   Page 1382).

He says (SGGS, Page 1381) Fareed, work for your Lord and Master, dispel the  doubts of your heart. The dervishes, the humble devotees, have the patient  endurance of trees.  

Regarding code he was deeply engrossed in sharrah (religious code of Quaranic  law). He says the person who sleeps during early hours lacks the precious time.  Those who do wuju (the ablution before Muslim prayer) and recite nimaaz five  times can attain the blessings of God Almighty. Expressing his love for God  Almighty he says (SGGS, P 1379) Fareed, the path is muddy and the house of  my beloved is far away. If I go out my blanket will get soaked but if I remain at  home, then my heart will be broken. My blanket is soaked, drenched with the  downpour of the Lord's Rain, I am going out to meet my Friend, so that my  heart will not be broken.  

Regarding tradition, he discarded rituals. He says (SGGS, P 1381) Fareed; O; faithess dog, this is not a good way of life. You never come to the mosque for  your five daily prayers. He further says (SGGS P 1381) Rise up, Fareed and  cleanse yourself, chant your morning prayer. That head which does not bow to  the Lord what is to be done with that head? Put it in the fire place, instead of  firewood. He also adds (SGGS P 1381) the head which does not bow to the Lord  chop it off and remove that head.  

Shaikh Farid Ji says (SGGS P 1382) Fareed, musk is released at night. Those  who are sleeping do not receive their share. He says (SGGS P 1384) the first  watch of the night brings flowers and the later watches of the night bring fruits.  He says (SGGS P 1383) Fareed, I have torn my clothes to tatters; now I wear  only a rough blanket. I wear only those clothes which will lead me to meet my  Lord.  

He says (SGGS, P 1382) Farid, this body is always barking, who can stand this  constant suffering? I have put plugs in my ears. I do not care how much the  wind blows. Shaikh Farid Ji has expressed beliefs in forgiveness and expressed  the view that God is considered as master and he himself as his humble  servant. His following hymns reveals the path to liberation (SGGS, Page 488). 

Regarding conduct he says (SGGS, Page 1378) Fareed, if you have a keen  understanding; then do not write black marks against anyone else. Look underneath your own collar instead. Fareed do not turn around and strike  those who strike you with their fists. If they come to your home kiss their feet,   and return to your own home. 

He says (SGGS, P 488) they alone are true, whose love for God is deep and  heart-felt. Those who have one thing in their heart, and something else in their  mouths are judged to be false.  

Talking about his old age he says (SGGS, P 1382) Fareed, my withered body  has become a skelton; the crows are pecking at my palms. Even now, God has  not come to help me; Behold, this is the fate of the mortal being. Shaikh Farid  Ji says (SGGS, P 1381, 1382) Farid, answer with goodness; do not fill your  mind with anger. Your body shall not suffer from any disease, and you shall  obtain everything. He says (SGGS, P 1378) Fareed do not slander the dust;  nothing is as great as dust, when we are alive, it is under our feet and when we  are dead, it is above us.  

He further says (SGGS, P 1378) Fareed, these eyes which have enticed the  world, I have seen these eyes. Once they could not endure even a bit of  mascara, now the birds hatch their young in them. He further says (SGGS, P  1382) O crow, do not peck at my skeleton; if you have landed on it, fly away, do  not eat the flesh from that skeleton within which my husband abides. He adds  (SGGS, P 1378) Fareed when there is greed, what love can there be, when there  is greed, love is false.  

About the literary richness of Shaikh Farid Ji's bani it may be said that Shaikh Farid Ji's hymns are a synthesis of Sufi poetry and Bhakti poetry. Poetic  imagery and poetic depiction are the chief positive points of Shaikh Farid Ji's  hymns.  

He says (SGGS, P 794) you were not able to make yourself a raft when you  should have. When the ocean is churning and over- flowing, then it is very  difficult to cross over it.  

About morality, Shaikh Farid Ji's philosophy, is a combination of  humanitarianism and theism. The above mentioned discussion makes it clear  that the place of Shaikh Farid Ji in Sufi-poetry, Bhakti-poetry, Punjabi poetry and Gurmat-poetry is of high esteem. He has explained the concepts in a very  tranquil, easy and sweet language.  

Shaikh Farid Ji left for his heavenly abode in 1266 AD in Pakpattan (Pakistan).  In this city Urs or Urus, the death anniversary of Shaikh Farid Ji is observed  every year. The word Urs or Urus is an Arabic word literal meaning of which is  wedding, but it is celebrated as the death anniversary of Sufi Saints, usually  held at the Saint's dargah (shrine or tomb). In fact the words 'Urs' or 'Urus' are 

used to denote the death anniversary of a Sufi Saint. In most Sufi orders such 

as Naqshbandiyyah, Suhrewardiyya, Chishtiyya, Qadiriyya etc the Urs is  celebrated with enthusiasm because the devotees refer to their saints as lovers  of God. The Urus festival is an annual festival held at Ajmer, Rajasthan, India  which commemorates the anniversary of the death of Sufi Saint Muinuddin  Chishti the founder of the Chishti Sufi order in India. It is held for over six days  and nights long dhikar (Qwwali singing). It is believed that a person who prays  with a pure heart at Ajmer Sharif Dargah, gets all his or her wishes fulfilled. 

In Pakpattan often referred to as Pakpattan Sharif, "Noble Pakpattan"  (Pakistan) the sacred memory of Shaikh Farid Ji is preserved in Ziarat-e Dargah Hazarat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar also known as Dargah Sharif Hazrat Khwaja Fareedudin and Masood Ganj Shakar Chishti Re, where annually Urs  of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar Ji is celebrated. By this time 778 annual Urs of  Baba Farid Ganj Shakar Ji have been celebrated. Annually at Urs fair about 2  million visitors visit Pakpattan. 

Pakpattan is called the city of Baba Farid Masood. It is also often referred to as  'Pakpattan Sharif' which is the capital city of the Pakpattam District, located in  Punjab province of Pakistan. It is the 48th largest city of Pakistan by population  according to the 2017 census. It is the seat of Pakistan's Chishti Order of  Sufism and is a major pilgrimage destination on account of the shrine of  Fareedudin Ganjshakar, the renowned Punjab poet and Sufi saint commonly  referred to as Baba Farid Ji.  

It was the first four main Sufi orders (Chishti, Qadri, Suhrawardi and  Naqshbandi) to be established in this region by Khwaja Muinudin Chishti who  introduced the Chisti order in India at Ajmer, Rajasthan sometimes in the  middle of the 12th Century. The first one to call himself Chishti was Abu Ishaq 

Shammi. The next in the Silsila of the Chishtiyya is Khwaja Maudud Chishti.  

The language of Shaikh Farid Ji is of an extraordinary power and sensitivity.  The voice of human suffering is found in it and such expression is heard  seldom and only in greatest poetry. His language is an authentic idiom of the  country-side of South-Western Punjab where he spent the major portion of his  life. The main theme of Sheikh Farid Ji's bani is what the Indian critical  terminology would call vairagaya. The city of Faridkot bears his name. It was  earlier called Mokhalpur. Shaikh Farid Ji stopped by this city and sat in  seclusion for forty days near the Fort of King Mokhal. Shaikh Farid Ji left for  his heavenly abode in Pakpattan in 1266 AD at the age of 93 years. He is  respected by the Sikhs because his 4 hymns and 112 slokes are included in Sri  Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. 

REFERENCES  

The references used in this write-up include: 

(i) Shabdarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 1964  

(ii) The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism published by Punjabi University, Patiala,   Part II (1996) 

(iii) Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha's book Mahankosh (1930) 

(iv) Guru Granth Sanket Kosh by Piara Singh Padam and others (1994)  

(v) Dharampal Single and Baldev Singh Baddan's book Baba Shaikh Farid:  Jeewan te Rachna (2006) 

(vi) M.A. Macauliffe's Book The Sikh Religion (2009)  

(vii) Satish Chander's book History of Medieval India (2012) (viii) Giani Partap Singh's book Bhagat Darshan (2003)  

(ix) Varran Bhai Gurdas Ji: Varaan Gian Ratnavli (Editor) Shiromani  Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (1990) 

(x) Sarbjinder Singh's book The Divine Revelation (1999) 

(xi) The Book Shabad Shalok Shaikh Farid Sahib by Bhai Vir Singh (1909)  (xii) Sadhu Ram Sharda's book Sufi Matt ate Punjabi Sahit (1973) and (xiii) Pandran Bhagat Sahiban by Sukhdev Singh Shant (2018) Although reference has not been given at each place. 

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