About Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai
Shah Abdul Latif, a Sayed and a Saint, a great scholar, an observer, a thinker, and a mystic, and an unobtrusive missionary, and more prominently an illustrious spiritualised poet of many dimensions, was born in 1102 A.H. corresponding to 1689 A.D. in Hala Haveli near Khatiyan village in Hala Taluka of Hyderabad District, Sind. His ancestors originally belonged to Herat in Afghanistan. One of them, Mir Hyder Shah, had visited Sind and married and remained at Hala for about 31/2 years. He then went back to Herat. It is said that Shah’s father Sayed Habib Shah had shifted from Matyari, his ancestral place, to Bhainpur to have spiritual contacts with Makhdum Bilawal, a local pious man. He is different from Makhdum Bilal of Dadu district, who had died earlier during the reign of the Arghuns.
The poet seems to have received good education. It commenced at the madressah of Akhund Noor Muhammad Bhatti, situated about 6 miles away from Shah’s residence. Whether it was continued and concluded cannot be ascertained. Some persons think that Shah had no schooling. That is simply absurd. One has only to read his Risalo to admit it. He was proficient in the knowledge of the Quran, and the traditions. His knowledge of the Sindhi language was remarkably extensive and that of the Persian was adequate. He knew to some extent the Sanskrit, Saraiki, Urdu and even Baluchi languages. He should rank in history as one of the great scholars that Sindh has produced. He always carried copies of the Quran, Masnavi of Maulana Roomi and Risalo of his great grandfather Shah Abdul Karim of Bulri. That is significantly indicative of his literacy.
Before his marriage and settlement on the Bhit (which means a sandy mound), Shah is reported to have met some nomad ascetics on the Ganjo mountain near Hyderabad when he was about 21 years old. He accompanied them in their wanderings to Hinglaj, Jhunagadh, Lahut, Lakhpat, Jasalmere and the desert area of the Tharparkar district of Sindh. He is said to have visited Hinglaj second time too. It was there that due to a disagreement, the ascetics left him while he lay asleep.
Shah believed in the practical learning i.e. in observation and contemplation. He considerably increased his knowledge by personal contacts during his peregrinations. He acquired the basic material for most of his poems during that period. It was these journeys too that helped the poet to reach the conclusion that for spiritual evolution and reunion with Allah, the seeker had only to look within himself, and that wanderings would not be helpful to him.
In 1713 A.D. the poet married Bibi Saidah Begum, a daughter of Moghul Beg, a Moghul noble man of Kotri. It was a love marriage. But Shah had no child though they lived quite happily all their life. Bibi Sahiba died during the life time of the poet. However he did not marry again even though his disciples had offered to arrange for his second marriage.
In 1742 A.D. inspite of some sort of opposition from the then Mukhdum of Hala and Sayads of Matyari, the poet decided to settle on the Bhit or the sandy mound. He constructed some houses there for himself and his disciples. in the same year his father died, and immediately thereafter he shifted to the new settlement.
Shah seems to have been influenced by the Qadri, Chishtia, Suharwardi and Nakshbandi Schools of thought. He strongly supported and dilated on the doctrine of ‘wahdatul wujud’; or Monism, which is the gravitational pull in his poetry. But he presented his views on it in such a manner that not a single protest was raised against it from any quarter. In fact like the Shaikh-e-Akbar Muhiuddin Ibn Arabi, he realized it much too well that Allah remains Allah even if there is chaos in the universe, and the man remains the man despite his progress. To bridge up the distance between them the poet preached love of Allah and of His creatures.
Music however was his chief attraction. He liked to be entertained by music accompanied by instruments in spite of the fact that some times it evoked temporary protests from the orthodox Muslims. Personally too he knew how to sing and play the Yaktaro. In fact he was quite good at both.
He denounced extravagance, aggression and exploitation in all forms and at all levels and praised simplicity, hospitality and cordiality, which, in fact, are the basic fundamentals of a balanced and truly religious life. His verses perching love also carry a message and exhortation for struggle against tyranny and injustice. Simultaneously he stressed.
- Universality of the human race and thee interconnection of its parts,
- Basic equality of all human beings irrespective of their social status
- Dignity of labour and continuity of effort to achieve progress in all spheres, material as well as spiritual, and
- Solidarity among different constituents of the society.
With regard to Shah’s religion and conduct there should be no controversy. In that connection the following anecdote about the life of the prophet of Islam is relevant:-
After the prophet’s death a local Arab enquired from Hazrat Bibi Aisha about the general conduct of the prophet. She replied: “Have you read the Quran? Then look into its provisions to know how thee prophet lived and conducted himself”.
Similarly I would suggest to the readers of the Risalo to know Shah’s religion and general conduct from its contents. The author of Surs Kalyan and Yaman Kalyan cannot but be at peace with Allah, with himself and with his fellow beings. Shah had no dissentions with any person. He never advocated a schism in the religion. He believed in Allah, His Final Apostle and in the Divine nature of the Quran. He believed in the Doom’s Day. He did not discriminate between the four Caliphs. He never said a word against the first three Caliphs. He praised Hazrat Abdul Kadir Shah Jilani and had a good word for Hazrat Bahauddin Zakariya of Multan. He followed the teachings of Moulana Roomi. His associates, as for as I know, were sunnis. These are the indications of his being a Sunni. The verse No 3 chapter 1 of Sur Kalyan refers well to the four caliphs of the Prophet. Shah was a better better type of Sunni with all the traits of a good Shia. According to Mirza Kalich Beg, some body enquired from Shah if he was a Sunni or Shia, He replied “I am between the two”.
On 14th Safar 1165 (1752 A.D). Shah ordered his disciples to play music, and sat wrapped in a sheet of cloth, hearing it, Allah alone knows when his soul departed, when the musicians became exhausted after playing instrumental music for nearly three days, and the poet remained motionless, they realised that he was dead. He was buried on the Bhit and the present mausoleum was later constructed under order of Miyan Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, his disciple and ruler of Sindh. Mir Nasir Khan Talpur extensively repaired it. His nephew’s son, Sayed Jamal Shah, who also lies buried near him under the same mausoleum.