Baba Bulleh Shah born as Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri, known as the greatest Sufi poet of Punjab, is famous among people from all walks of life for his exemplary spiritual works and inscriptions. His works are oftentimes said to be complementary to the works of Rumi. And so his admirers do not think of him as a poet but rather, a humanist and philosopher.
Born and raised in the rich and close-knitted province of Punjab, Bulleh Shah was doused in the culture at the cusp of Islam and Sikhism. One could say, he did not belong to a sect or religion, he was simply “The Sheikh of Both Worlds”. His works strongly criticize the orthodox extremist religious philosophies. An example of this criticism will be:
“Makkay gayaan, gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow jummay parrh aaeey
Ganga gayaan, gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow gotay khaeeay
Gaya gayaan gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow pand parrhaeeay
Bulleh Shah gal taeeyon mukdee
Jadon May nu dillon gawaeeay” – Bulleh Shah
“Going to Makkah is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of prayers are offered
Going to River Ganges is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of cleansing (Baptisms) are done
Going to Gaya is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of worships are done
Bulleh Shah the ultimate is
When the “I” is removed from the heart” – Bulleh Shah
A close dissection of this excerpt reveals that acts of worship become futile if you cannot let go of the “nafs”. Nafs is an Arabic word that literally translates to “self”. Bulleh Shah beautifully disseminates the message that be it Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, your act of worship is incomplete if your heart is filled with selfish worldly desires; to reach the ultimate level of spirituality one would have to cut ties from the worldly desires and be selflessly devoted to the divine creation regardless of one’s religious associations. This religion-less take of Bulleh Shah on mysticism is what made him widely celebrated by the masses belonging to all religions and sects of the world.
Bulleh Shah’s gives the message of freeing oneself from self-created boundaries of extremism and surrendering to the idea of peace, love, and tolerance. This message of peace, love, and tolerance still lives on after the demise of the great Sufi poet, Bulleh Shah in the form of his inscriptions and teachings. Thousands of devotees irrespective of religions, sects, or castes; head to Kasur, a small town in Punjab and the home to Bulleh Shah’s shrine to celebrate the urs of Baba Bulleh Shah annually. This annual union of all religions, sects, and castes is an epitome of the message of peace and tolerance that Bulleh Shah tried to spread through his mystic teachings.