it is the saints and Sufi poets who not only mastered in religious faculty but had a deep and perfect understanding of the poetry, a poetry which springs from the soil of Punjab. This poetry is as much a literary classic as it is an embodiment of peoples’ feelings, their culture and their whole concept of life. No wonder the music in Punjab is not only a solace to the soul but also a part of the devotion, of love and of a duty to the mystic and divine realm of one’s Guru or Master.
Seen in this context, there is a long list of mystics, the Sufis, the Gurus and the saints who themselves were a practical embodiment of the teachings of Islam and who did not preach like an orthodox Mullah. We find here the saintly stalwarts like Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, Bulley Shah, Shah Hussain, Syed Waris Shah. In this long list of “Men of God” there are many others including Hindu and Sikh mystics as well, most of whom believed in unity of God and preached something which was a blend of Islam, and local beliefs. One of these pious men was also Mian Muhammad Bakhsh of Khari Sharif.
Mian Mohammad was the last Sufi poet of the Arabic-Persian tradition in Punjab. Born in 1824 at Khari Sharif in Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, he got his education at the famous religious institution of Samar Sharif. After completing his education he travelled all over the province to quench his thirst for knowledge. Later he returned to his native land and became a disciple of Sain Ghulam Mohammad.
His period was a period of turmoil for the sub-continent for the British colonialists had coloured the land red with the native blood,
Mian Mohammad’s thoughts were a blend of Semetic and Arayan tradition with a significant texture of Islam. He believed in the unity of being. The rich tradition of Punjabi poetry mixed with the under currents of Maulana Roomi and Ibn-e-Arabi made his poetry eternal. His famous epic poem Safar-e-Ishaq popularly known as Saif-ul-Muluk is written in the same atmosphere. The poem Saif-ul-Muluk holds a unique place. In this poem Mian Mohammad explains the spiritual secrets of the Real love through a worldly love story. Mian Mohammad had an ample grasp over music which makes his diction highly mellifluous. Mian Muhammad died in 1907.
Far away from the city of oneness , logic is wandering aimlessly,
Whosoever knows the secret, He cares for nothing
Devoid of logic and reason, he dances fanaticically,
Inquiring “who am I ?” “from where am I?”
As with other masters he chose poetry as a medium to convey his teachings on the spiritual path and the higher realities in his native tongue thereby allowing access to the illiterate who could hear the verses and memorize them directly. This has been the way of the Sufis throughout history and especially in the non-Arab areas.
Literature for them is just a means of conveying the message and it has to reach out to the greatest number possible in a way that appeals to them. It is in this context that the Saif ul-Malook should be placed. To remove any doubt about the intention one has only to look at the title page of the original book: It is described there as “an epistle on tasawwuf and sulook called Safar ul-Ishq (The Journey of Love) i.e. the tale of Saif ul-Malook and Badi’ ul-Jamal”. Today most people only remember it by the name of its main character: Saif ul-Malook.
The Saif ul-Malook is outwardly a tale of the love of a prince named Saif ul-Malook for the fairy Badi’ ul-Jamal. All the trials and tribulations that had to be undergone before the two lovers would achieve union are described in detail. In reality though, it is an in depth description of the spiritual path, its way stations and its pitfalls and obstacles. Along the way Mian sahib offers jewels of gnosis for those that can recognize them as such. It is a truly amazing tale!