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“Remembering Intizar Husain”

Raza Rumi remembers Intizar Husain as a colossus of letters, but also as a formative influence for himself

(L-R) Jamila Hashmi, Intizar Husain, Masood Ashar and Kishwar Naheed

I remember the languid afternoon in Lahore when I met Intizar Husain surrounded by his friends and admirers. This formal introduction happened as poet-writer Fahmida Riaz was visiting Lahore and wanted to see Intizar Sahib – as we all called him. This was nearly a decade ago and my memory of that meeting is a bit hazy. All I remember is that Intizar Sahib showed extraordinary enthusiasm when he heard my name.

Arrey I have been reading you in The Friday Times”, he said. Bewildered, I thought that he was trying to humour a young novice with literary pretensions. Noticing my maladroit attempt to hide my expression, he added in chaste, homely Urdu: “I had thought that this guy Rumi was some old man writing about the shared cultures of the subcontinent…Aap tau naujawan nikle (you turned out to be a youth).”

In those days, I was regular feature writer at TFT and had penned many a rant on the civilisational ethos of the Indian Subcontinent that has fast eroded in the past few decades. Little did I know that it would be noted by – of all the readers – Urdu’s master fiction writer and columnist, essayist and a critic!

ishtiaq2Intizar Sahib had resisted the temptations of turning into a cult figure, a pop star or a pir

This was a moment of reckoning for me. I was but a pygmy in front of this literary giant and man of all proverbial seasons. Hearing his acknowledgment was a kind of homecoming – a process that continues, distracted by the necessities of garnering jobs and nurturing pretenses of a ‘career’. Among other reasons to change direction in my life, perhaps Intizar Sahib was a major reason. His encouragement – to an utterly unimaginative person like me – acted as an elixir.


URS TODAY-Hazrat Baha-ud-din Zakariya (RA) Multan

Iftikhar Chaudri’s excellent note on the great saint:
Hazrat Baha-ud-din Zakariya(RA) was a Sufi of Suhrawardiyya order (tariqa). His full name was Al-Sheikh Al-Kabir Sheikh-ul-Islam Baha-ud-Din Abu Muhammad Zakaria Al-Qureshi Al-Asadi Al Hashmi. Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Zakariya known as Bahawal Haq was born at Kot Kehror, a town of Layyah District near Multan, Punjab, Pakistan, around 1170.

His grand father Hazrat Shah Kamaluddin Ali Shah Qureshi al Hashmi arrived Multan from Makkah en route to Khwarizm where he stayed for a short while.In Tariqat he was the disciple of Renowned Sufi Master Shaikh Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi who awarded him Khilafat only after 17 days of stay at his Khanqaah in Baghdaad. […]

January 21st, 2010|Guest Writer, History, Pakistan, Sufism|2 Comments

“I have never become less from dying”

Rumi departed earthly life on 5 Jumadi II, 672 A.H (according to the Islamic lunar calendar; Dec 17, 1273 A.D., according to the Christian calendar). His death is referred to by Persians as “vesal”, meaning “union (with the Beloved)”, while in the Mevlevi Sufi tradition, the expression “shab-i aroos” (variously spelled “sheb-i arus”, etc., in transliteration) is used, a phrase meaning “the wedding night” — the night of Rumi’s marriage to the Beloved. (The Sufi tradition of referring to the death of a Sufi saint as “urs” — a wedding — predates Rumi, and is still used in Sufi circles.)

Over the next few days, the Sunlight mailing list will offer poems appropriate to the memory of Molana’s passing from this life, and touching on his teachings on the significance of death. […]

December 18th, 2008|Arts & Culture, Rumi, Sufi poetry, Sufism|5 Comments

Sachal Sarmast’s sufi kalaam – live recording

Cross posted from here

Sachal Sarmast's TombI recorded a few bits of performances of sufi siant Hazrat Sachal Sarmast’s kalaam (poetry) at his tomb in Daraza Sharif, some 50 kms outside Khairpur Mirs.

A trip to Khairpur cannot be complete without exploring many of its spiritual treasures. Khairpur itself is a calm, quiet city. You can feel the stillness of the air.

The Dating Season
I have heard that this stillness becomes slightly oppressive at around this very time of the year – the hot summers – when the area transforms into a gigantic dates bazaar. In the heat and stillness, dates – the prime agricultural product of Khairpur – come to ripen. Temporary shack cities spring up in the area as pickers and traders come in droves. Many use the by-products of the dates industry – the barks and the gigantic leaves – to make woven baskets, sweepers, and other handcrafted products.
Folk performer at Sachal Sarmast's tomb
Sufi Music – Live Recording at the Tomb
But I digress. I recorded several bits of music and this one is my favorite. I used an iRiver MP3 player+radio+recorder to capture the music. The night was calm and beautiful, and our small circle sat with their heads one their knees and eyes closed – in a state of absorption. in our group was Sindh’s popular activist Amar Sindhu, her faithful friend the gentle-natured Arfana Mallah, my journalist friend Afia, and our kind hosts the Joyos.

The Real Sufi was Standing Up
I shouldn’t forget to mention that I went to the tomb to learn more about “sufis.” I found that we had a […]

September 17th, 2008|Sindh, Sufi poetry, Sufism|4 Comments

Urs of Bulleh Shah in Kasur

The annual Urs of Bulleh Shah, the Punjabi mystic poet, commenced yesterday in Kasur yesterday. Bulleh’s poetry reflected his rejection of orthodox hold of mullahs over Islam, the nexus between the clergy and the rulers and all the trappings of formal religion that created a gulf between man and his Creator. A common theme of his poetry is the pursuit of self-knowledge that is essential for the mystical union with the Beloved. Among Bulleh’s timeless verse, I love this one […]

August 26th, 2008|Arts & Culture, Personal, Sufi poetry, Sufism|2 Comments

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar of Sehwan

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar‘s shrine is full of devotees these days. His Urs is a major cultural event in Sindh. The Qalandar has followers across the Central and West Asia and his shrine and festivities around the Urs are an important part of Sindh’s spiritual and cultural landscape. […]

September 2nd, 2007|Arts & Culture, media, Sindh, Sufi poetry, Sufism|14 Comments