Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj (1173 - 1266 A.D.)

Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj

All cultures have their own distinct identity, such as music, dance, food, attire, language. Language is probably the most important aspect of any culture. Language gives culture, a unique identity, something which is so unique that only people of that culture identity themselves with that language. There are thousands of languages in this world. From well educated secular Europeans to the Tribal living in the deepest jungles of Africa or South America, each culture with their own unique language. We have pre conceived notions about languages, such as we tend to think that the language which has a written history is more advanced than others. Oldest languages which have written history are Chinese, Latin, Arabian, Sanskrit, etc. But at some point or another a group breaks off to start off their culture and language, i.e. French, German, etc came out of Latin. Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu came out of Sanskrit, Persian, etc.

Punjabi is the language which everyone identifies with the people of five rivers. People in the area West of Jamuna and East of river Indus were called Punjabis. Punjabi culture starts its written history on the first day of the month of Ramzan in A.D. 1173 in a Punjabi city of Kothiwal. The night of birth was dark and cloudy, and the moon, whose appearance indicates the beginning of Ramzan-the lent- could not be seen. Yes! I am talking about the birth of Farid-ul-Din Masaud Shakar Ganj, the Baba Farid of PakPattan. As the moon could not be seen and men began to wonder whether to open their fast. A holy man was consulted who advised that a great Soul has born in the house of Suleiman and if that infant suckles then we can break the fast and to everybody's amazement, infant baba Sheikh Farid ji was fasting.

Baba Sheikh Farid as he is called all over Punjab, India, and Pakistan was born at the time when Punjab was going through great crossroads. Tamur the Lame, Halaku (Son of Chengez Khan), etc ravaged Punjab about 100 to 200 years before he was born. The official language of India was Turkish and Persian. The Slave Dynasty of Qutub-Ud-Din Aibak was at that time being ruled by Sultan Balban. 200-300 years earlier to the West of India, sword of Islam had swept in the countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe. In India too, Slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak tried to subdue people through force, but could only create a rift between different communities. Then came the sufi saints from Arabia and other places to spread their message of love for Allah. Sufi saints like Khwaja Qutub-Ul-Din Bakhtiar Kaki, who was a Syed of Jafiri Hussaini tribe, were very famous.

Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki was Born around 1150 A.D. and studied under Abu Hifz, a celebrated doctor of Ush, he went to Ajmer and became a disciple of Muayan-ul-Din Hasan Chisti. In due time he proceeded to Delhi where Baba Farid met him and became his disciple. Emperor Sultan Shams-ul-Din Altmish was also his disciple. He died in A.D. 1235 and was buried in Delhi, where his tomb is held in devout reverence by pious Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. His descendants are called Chistis from the tribe of his priest. - Makhazan-ul-Tawarikh.

Genealogy of Baba Sheikh Farid ji is given in the Jawahi-r-Faridi (The gems of Farid), preserved at the shrine of Pak Pattan, by Ali Asghar of Bahadal, a town near Sirhind. Baba Sheikh Farid ji descended from Farrukh Shah, who was king of Kabul and kings of Ghazni and other states were subject to him. Baba Farid ji's Great Grandfather was son of Farrukh Shah, the emperor of Kabul. During that time, Baba Faridís Great Grandfather was killed when Halaku, the grandson of Chengez Khan invaded Kabul, he killed several princes and learned men, including several of Baba Faridís ancestors. Baba Faridís Grandfather Shaikh Shaib abandoned their country and took refuge in the Punjab in A.D. 1125. The Qazi of Kasur who was acquainted with the high position Shaikh Shaib had held there, treated him and his relatives with great respect and hospitality. After some time Shaikh Shaib proceeded to Multan where he deemed he should be less exposed to worldly influences or the temptings of ambition. He took his abode in Kothiwal, now known as Chawali Mushaikh, close to Dipalpur. He established in Kothiwal a private college for religious instruction and attracted much attention. His eldest son Jamal-ud-din married Bibi Miriam, daughter of Syed Muhammad Abdula Shah - a descendant of Ali. Bibi Miriam had three sons, Khwaja Aziz-ul-din, Farid-ul- Din Masaud (Baba Farid) and Khwaja Najib-ul-din, and one daughter Khatun Jamila.

When Baba Farid was a few years old his mother taught him his prayers. The boy asked her what was gained by prayer. His mother replied Sugar. Accordingly, she used to hide some sugar under his prayer-carpet, and, when he had finished his prayers, draw it forth, and give it to him as a reward of his devotion. One day his mother forgot to put the sugar but after prayers, there was sugar under the carpet. From that day on, Bibi Miriam started calling his son Shakar Ganj, or the treasury of Sugar.

When Baba Farid was 16 years old he went to Hajj and stayed in the house of Abdul Rahim Ansari. Since, Baba Farid ji use to talk in Punjabi, an unkempt faqir on hearing Faridís language foretold the Boyís subsequent greatness. After Farid came back to Punjab, he was sent to Khwaja Qutub-ul-Din Bakhtiar Kaki at Delhi to learn theology. Qutub-ul-din finding Baba Farid deficient in scholarship sent him to the shrine of Abdul Shakur of Sarsa, near Delhi to finish his education. On that occasion Baba Farid repeated the following:-


O Farid, thou hast not walked in Godís way ;

therefore He hath no appeared unto thee

Who is there who hath knocked at Godís door

for whom it hath not been opened

Lost thy life on the way of the Friend 

if thou desire to be even as those holy men.

The high reputation Farid obtained in Delhi soon became irksome to him. He therefore made his way to Hansi, where he remained for some time. Meanwhile Khwaja Qutub-ul- Bakhtiar Kaki died at Delhi and Baba Farid paid a second visit to that city, and assumed the mantle of his late spiritual guide. He ultimately left it in the keeping of Jamal-ul-Din of Hansi and thence proceeded to Ajodhan, the present Pak Pattan. The manner in which the name of Ajodhan changed to Pak Pattan was that a canal which derived its water from the Sutlej passed near the town. It was usual for all who visited Baba Farid to wash their hands and feet there. The place then became known as Baba Sahib ji da Pak Pattan, or Faridís cleansing ferry.

Baba Farid after some time, in accordance with his motherís advice, went to forest, and lived there as an anchoret for some years on leaves of trees. On his return, when his mother began to comb his hair, Baba Farid complained that the operation caused him pain. His mother replied that he must have caused similar pain to the trees when he robbed them of fruit for food. Then he set out on another pilgrimage . This time, so as not to hurt any living thing, he tied a wooden cake to his stomach, and, it is said, subsisted on the imaginary sustenance it afforded him for this vow. Then when Baba Farid ji returned, his mother finding him that he had not lost all remnants of pride, dismissed him to do penance for a third period of some years. This time, it is said, he caused himself to be suspended by the feet in a well. He composed the following couple in reference to these circumstances.

Farid, thy body is on the stake; 

thy head hath become a cage; 

the crows peck at thy feet

If God come to me even now, happy shall be my lot.

Sheikh Farid ji made Pak Pattan a great center of Sufi Thoughts. People from all over India and Middle east would come to see him. He always used his language, that was Punjabi spoken by common people, even though he was highly learned and educated in Arabic, Persian, etc. His all couplets are written in Punjabi, with Persian script. He generally rejected offerings of money, but would accept gifts of food, etc for public kitchen. Baba Farid Ji went to Delhi again and was received with a most hospitable reception. Emperor Nasir-ul-Din Balban introduced him to his family. Baba Farid ji looked to Emperorís daughter Hazabara and asked Emperor to marry her to him. Thus Hazabra was married to Baba Sheikh Farid ji, but only after Emperor Balban promised not to give any costly gifts, Baba ji distributed all her jewels, etc to Faqirs.

Once seven hundred holy men were sitting together. An inquirer put them four questions to which Baba Farid ji replied.
Q.1 Who is the wisest of men?
A.1 He who refraineth from Sin.
Q.2 Who is the most intelligent?
A.1 He who is not disconcerted at anything.
Q.3 Who is most independent?
A.3 He who practiseth contentment.
Q.4 Who is the most needy?
A.4 He who practiseth it not.

The following sentences are taken from Baba Faridís sermons:-

Last night sad thoughts possessed me,

But afterwards I reflected on my beautiful Lover.

I said I would do everything to go to His door.

My tears ran, and my Lover then caught my sleeve.

A Student asked Baba Farid if singing was lawful and proper. He replied that, according to Islam, it was certainly unlawful, but its propriety was still a matter of discussion. Nizam-ul-dauliya told Nasir-ud-din a disciple of his, that one day when he went to visit Baba Farid he stood at his door, and saw him dancing as he sang the following :-

I wish ever to live in Thy love, O God

If I become the dust under Thy feet, I shall live

I thy slave desire none but Thee in both worlds;

For Thee I will live and for Thee I will die.
The following couplet was a favorite of Faridís
Not every heart is capable of finding the secret of Godís love.

There are not pearls in every sea; there is not gold in every mine.

Baba Farid ji visited a city called Mokhalpur, it is now called Faridkot in honor of the Baba Farid ji, it is the Indian part of Punjab. Then he turned towards the Punjabi mountains where he converted a tribe. Baba Farid ji remained there for six months and then he locked up the house in which he had dwelt, saying that his successor would open it, and then returned to Pak Pattan. As his successor Diwan Taj-ul-Din was returning from a pilgrimage to Makka and Madina, he happened to visit that part of the country. He asked people their tribe name, they said they were descendents of Qutub-ul-Alam Baba Farid Shakarganj. And thus Taj-ud-din opened up the door of Baba Farid jiís hut hundreds of years later.

Baba Farid ji died of Pneumonia on the fifth day of Month of Muharrim, A.D. 1266. The date of Baba Farid jis death is commemorated by chronograms (a) Farid Asari (b) Auliye Khudai. He was unique, a saint of God. Baba Farid ji were buried outside the town of Pak pattan at a place called martyrs grave. His torch of Sufi thoughts were carried by his successor and subsequently several others such as Bhagat Kabir, Baba Guru Nanak Dev ji, etc were affected by the teachings of the great Saint. Baba Guru Nanak Dev jiís contemporary was a Baba Sheikh Farid ji Sani, or the second Sheikh Farid ji, 6th in succession of Baba Farid Shaikh Shakarganj. Thus Baba Sheikh Farid ji Shakarganj can be truly called the founder of Punjabi literature, making Punjabi culture old than Hindi, Urdu and other languages of current times. It was much after Baba Farid ji that Kabir, Tulsidas, Mira Bai, etc started using common language of people of India. Baba Sheikh Farid ji can truely be considered a pioneer of the modern Punjabi culture and concept of Punjabiat.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Copyright © Sandeep Singh Bajwa "Personally written and published here".