Four poems by Bulleh Shah (new translations)

Who I am

I know not who I am,
I am neither a believer going to the mosque
Nor given to non-believing ways.
Neither clean nor unclean,
Neither Moses nor Pharaoh.
I know not who I am.

I am neither among sinners nor among saints,
Neither happy nor unhappy,
I belong neither to water nor to earth.
I am neither fire nor air,
I know not who I am.

Neither do I know the secret of religion,
Nor am I born of Adam and Eve.
I have given myself no name,
I belong neither to those who squat and pray,
Nor to those who have gone astray.
I know not who I am.

I was in the beginning; I’d be there in the end.
I know not any one other than the One.
Who could be wiser than Bulleh Shah
Whose Master is ever there to tend?
I know not who I am.

Come my Love, take care of me

Come my Love, take care of me,
I am in great agony.
Ever separated, my dreams are dreary,
Looking for you, my eyes are weary.
All alone I am robbed in a desert,
Waylaid by a bunch of waywards.

The Mulla and Qazi show me the way,
Their maze of dharma that is in sway.
They are the confirmed thieves of time.
They spread their net of saintly crime.

Their time-worn norms are seldom right,
With these they chain my feet so tight!
My love cares not for caste or creed.
To the ritual faith I pay no head.

My Master lives on yonder bank
While I am caught in the gale of greed.
With his boat at anchor, He stands in wait,
I must hasten I can’t be late.

Bulleh Shah must find his love,
He needn’t have the least fright.
His Love is around, yet he looks for him
Misled in the broad daylight.

Come my love take care of me,
I am in great agony.


Strange are the times!

Crows swoop on hawks
Sparrows do eagles stalk
Strange are the times!

The Iraqis are despised
While the donkeys are prized
Strange are the times!

Those with coarse blankets are kings;
The erstwhile kings watch them from the ring.
Strange are the times!

Its not without reason or rhyme,
Strange are the times

Says Bulleh, kill your ego
And throw away your pride.
You need to forget yourself
To find Him by your side.

It’s all in One contained

Understand the One and forget the rest.
Shake off your ways of an apostate pest.
Leading to the grave to hell and torture,
Rid your mind of dreams of disaster.
This is how is the argument maintained,
It’s all in One contained.

What use is it bowing one’s head?
To what avail has prostrating led?
Reading Kalma you make them laugh,
Absorbing not a word while the Quran you quaff.
The truth must be here and there sustained,
It’s all in One contained.

Some retire to the jungles in vain.
Others restrict their meals to a grain.
Misled they waste away unfed
And come back home half alive, half dead.
Emaciated in the ascetic postures feigned,
it’s all in One contained,

Seek your master, say your prayers and surrender to God,

It will lead you to mystic abandon
And help you to get attuned to the Lord.
It’s all the truth that Bulleh has gained.
It’s all in One contained.

Bulleh Shah, a renowned Muslim spiritual leader of the sub continent of Indo-Pakistan, was a Punjabi Sufi poet. His spiritual master was Shah Inayat Qadiri of Lahore and because of this Bulleh was referred to as a saint or spiritual leader. Bulleh’s real name was Abdullah Shah, but he was known as Bulleh to his family and that was the name he chose to use as a poet. […]