Shah Latif and His Message - G. M. Syed
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Chapter 9
The Message of Shah Latif for the Sindhis

Earlier in the chapters of this book, I have already explained that my purpose has been to highlight the political significance of Shah Latif's poetry. Therefore, I would throw light only on the political aspects of the message of Shah Latif for the Sindhis.

So far the poetry of Shah Latif has been analyzed and viewed mostly in the light of mysticism, but as it is clearly evident it can be studied from every point of view. As far as I understand there is a special message for the people of Sindh in his poetry. If considered deeply his message can prove a great source of guidance for the Sindhis in unraveling and solving most of the political problems faced by them today.

Some of the most significant messages, which are evident in Shah Latif's poetry, are the following:

1. Patriotism

The most important aspect, which Shah Latif has emphasized in his poetry, is the spirit of patriotism. On this particular theme, the essence of his poetry is that only the people who do not possess any sense of honor can neglect and forget it. Sur Marvi is particularly replete with these ~ and sentiments, and Shah Latif not only considers the spirit of patriotism an integral part of faith and religion but also its very foundation.

The political strategy of the rulers of the times of Shah Latif and the rulers of today is almost the same. They, in their time, paying lip service to Islam and Islamic Shariah indulged themselves in domesticating dogs, hunting, luxurious living and wasting the major portion of the wealth of the country in maintaining their hold and power, and there existed no conformity between their word and deed. To a great extent, the present rulers are following the same policy. As in those days, people were deprived of their right to free expression of opinion and ideas. The conditions are no different today. As in those days in the name of Islamic brotherhood, people were deprived of the right to free expression of their opinion and ideas, the conditions prevailing today are no different.

Therefore, if we do not derive the idea of Sindhi nationalism from his poetry, then the entire Sur Marvi, which is the very essence of Shah Latif's poetry, becomes merely purposeless and traditional. I have already mentioned that since the earliest time of Islamic history there have been two different types of Muslims. Those who have a conception of the progress of humankind on the basis of patriotism and those who are desirous of the leadership of humankind through wielding power over them. Both these groups have their own arguments to justify their ideas, the brief account of which has been presented earlier. It would be quite adequate to emphasize that Shah Latif subscribed to the former school of thought, and for this very reason he has expressed his admiration of the spirit of patriotism. The terminology used for both these above-mentioned views in the present time can be "nationalism" and Pan-Islamism.

Shah Latif advocated the conception of nationalism and patriotism, which are synonymous terms. One thing should be made clear that the Sindhis who are the admirers of Shah Latif also desire to be the followers of Dr. Iqbal. Either they have failed to comprehend the essence of the ideas or thought of both these poets or they are deliberately trying to deceive themselves as well as others. No one can set his foot in two boats travelling in opposite directions.

The conclusion of the above discussion is that the first message of Shah Latif expresses his love of the objectives of the political, economic, intellectual freedom and the progress of Sindh, and this can indeed be the significance of patriotism for the people of Sindh.

2. Self-knowledge

Great stress has been laid on the concept of self-knowledge ~ the poetry of Shah Latif. Most of the people have interpreted this concept of self-knowledge as "spiritual elevation and consciousness" from the point of view of mysticism. They say in accordance with the philosophy of pantheism, "your beloved (God) is an integral part of your self, and it is a futile exercise to search it beyond your self." After you have been blessed with inner enlightenment you simply need to look into your soul, and you will be blessed with the vision of your beloved. Shah Latif says:

Sassi, why do you trace the paths of jungles in the search of Punnu. Your beloved is not hiding himself from you, so try to reach your beloved here. You will have to take courage to prove faithful to. Punnu. If you try to look into your soul, you will not find it difficult to see him there.

The above verses can also signify that why do you have to knock at the doors of others in order to achieve your objective. Punnu (my beloved) which Shah Latif means the national objectives) is not beyond your reach and for this you should concentrate on your internal unity, cohesion and aspirations, and you would be successful to achieve the objective of your desires. Your national prestige, the symbols, race and cultural heritage and the consciousness of their immeasurable value is firmly associated with the idea of self-knowledge. There is a specific purpose in the creation of man and he is responsible for performing some specific duties. In order to achieve this objective and to execute his duty, every individual and nation have to play their role.

In the same manner the people of Sindh have an ideal before them and in the identification of this ideal lies the secret of the "self-knowledge" of the Sindhi people, and the ideal of the Sindhi people is that when the nations of world are invited to assess the value of the twine spun by them, and when the judge of their craftsmanship is called upon to give his decision, they should be able to prove their worth, so that they do not have to hang their heads in shame.

This aim can be achieved only when every native of the land of Sindh learns to sacrifice his personal and class interests over the collective and common interests of the nation. In the practice of the concept of self-knowledge there hag to be elimination of the individual and survival of the nation. The most essential lesson of self-knowledge is to let the individual self be absorbed in the nation. Shah Latif says:

Sassi, the significance of your life is greatly enhanced when you allow yourself to make your sacrifice. The woman who claims to be a wife can only reach Punnu when she has tasted death.

When the entire poetical work of Shah Latif is closely analyzed, it would become evident that if the purpose is to achieve the objective, the beloved, the destination and reaching the separated dear ones, it is essential to go through suffering, grief and adversities. There is hardly one can gain anything by sitting idle.

3. Fearlessness and Courage

The third message of Shah Latif for the people of Sindh is to develop the virtue of courage. The nation, which becomes a prey to the evil of fear, would neither be able to achieve independence nor progress. If they are infused with the spirit of faith there would be no place for fear in their hearts. However, if they are overwhelmed by fear, it would signify lack of faith. A Muslim has no weight and significance if he does not have faith. Fear can only possess their hearts if there is cowardice, ignorance, inferiority complex and disunity among them. If some selfish and self-interested elements are guilty of oppression against the people with the purpose of consolidating and maintaining their power and hold over them, taking advantage of their mutual conflicts and even civil war, the foreign elements succeed in enslaving the entire nation through their terrorist activities, and people are deprived of courage and determination as a consequence of fear and inferiority complex. Under such circumstances, the struggle for independence is not a child’s play. On this arduous path there has to be courage which brushes away the fear of consequences and requires men to be prepared to let their heads be severed from their bodies. One has to cross the vast oceans of fear, in which the ferocity of the turbulent sea and the whirlpools can shake the will, in which the ships of enormous bulk can easily be swallowed up and disappear, where in whichever direction one looks, there are innumerable crocodiles and sea monsters waiting restlessly to swallow their prey. It is indeed a very delicate situation. However, those who are devoted and dedicated to achieve their aim and those who possess indomitable courage, succeed ultimately to cross the ocean. Expressing his sentiments of admiration for such people Shah Latif says:

Wherever the river is rising, there is the way for those who dare. The false and week-minded people wait for others to help them, but those who are obsessed with the love of the beloved, are never daunted by the dangers. The swollen rivers cannot stand in their way.

In this way looking at the ignorance, inferiority complex, disunity and lethargy among the Sindhi people, Shah Latif has advised the only remedy for these national ailments, which is courage and bravery.

4. The Spirit of Sacrifice

The fourth message of Shah Latif for the Sindhi people is to have the courage to sacrifice their personal, class and party interests over the progress and independence of the nation and the country. No nation can hope to achieve the goal of progress whose people are not infused with the spirit of sacrifice for the nation and the country. Shah Latif says:

Sassi, if you had died yesterday, you would have been united with your beloved. No one has heard any person achieving this objective without the sacrifice of his life.

Shah Latif says that to attain the elevated and honorable place of sacrificing oneself for the nation, one needs tremendous courage. Learn this lesson from the moths, who embraces the flame of the lamp in a state of obsession and let themselves be consumed by fire, because those who are inspired with the spirit of freedom burn like fuel in the furnace of the blacksmith:

How sad that the coals are burnt twice, once in the furnace of the goldsmith and then used as fuel for domestic consumption. It was for this characteristic that the blacksmith has preserved them.

The blacksmith burns the coals and then puts them out, to be burnt again. But these persevering coals continue their work. After presenting this example of perseverance, Shah Latif addresses the national leaders:

 Oh man, if you are prepared to have your head severed take your seat here, or go your way. This is the country of those people who have the courage to hold the dagger in their hands.

Continuing his counsel about self-sacrifice, he says:

Oh man, if you have really learned to love, do not moan when the dagger touches your throat.

Then Shah Latif continues:

To be dauntless is the tradition of the those who love. A few moments spent in the company of friends is of far greater worth than the life of others. My life can never be equal to the high place of my friend.
In the same manner, Shah Latif expresses his idea about the temptation of the cross:
The truth is that the scaffold is the true place of the lovers. Returning from this place is a cause of humiliation for them. Their life is no mystery for the people. From the beginning lovers have let themselves be sacrificed.

He further says that only by the one or two lovers of their country, the patriots who are prepared to lay down their lives can the country and the nation be saved. It is greatly desirable that innumerable people are infused with .the spirit of sacrifice, because the various stages of the trial of: their spirit will demand from them to bleed, be killed, and to be dismembered, which is their mark of distinction and it is through the sacrifice of their lives that they would ultimately be blessed with the knowledge of the truth.

5. The companionship and support of the oppressed

For every Sindhi the message of; shah Latif mentioned above holds a tremendous appeal, but he was aware of the fact that it was not easy to develop such virtues, and attaining the goals of freedom and progress required facing extraordinary obstacles and difficulties.

In this journey lay the burning deserts and exhausting wildernesses, and in which stood the Rocky Mountains. For the exhausted and weather-beaten traveler there was nothing to boost his spirit on the path which presented a picture of terrible devastation all around. The rocks and stones further aggravated the situation. These are forests infested with poisonous snakes ready to attack the travelers. Under such precarious situation, even the fellow travelers are forced to deceit, and only those people can march ahead who are bestowed will iron will and are firm of heart, and who are simply obsessed with the idea of reaching their goal.

Therefore, the message of Shah Latif is especially intended for the working and oppressed Sindhi people. He has at various places in his poetry particularly addressed the poor laboring people, the cowherds and shepherds, the poor tenants sweating in the fields of their masters, those who have made the forests and the wilderness their home, the fishermen who catch fish with primitive methods, the boatmen, and those who appreciate and admire truth and entertain the feeling of sympathy for others. Shah Latif has expressed his love for these people and has interpreted their feelings and highlighted their character.

He was fully aware of the fact that his counsel and message would leave those apathetic people unaffected who are hostile and unfriendly toward the people, aspire to high positions, accumulate wealth, love comfort and pleasure, crave for sensual pleasures, the self-righteous, inveterate gluttons, profiteers, those who sacrifice and betray the interests of the country and the nation, for the influential position in the government; who connive at oppression out of fear, who act as sycophants toward the foreigner to secure personal benefits, who hypocritically raise religious slogans despite their unethical conduct, who exploit the poor, the illiterate ignorant and indigent nomads for their personal advantage and those who believe in acquiring and establishing power through oppression and injustice. Shah Latif speaks in no uncertain terms about the people of such character:

How can the women who are not disturbed and anxious over being separated from their beloved share the sufferings of others. They express themselves in hypocritical grief. Those who sincerely grieve do not have to resort to such stratagems.

He desires to save the oppressed and the indigent people of Sindh from poverty, ignorance, immorality, tyranny and oppression to bring about unity among them, because in his opinion these are the people who are the source of independence and progress of the country and the nation. He says:

Oh, the oppressed and the sorrowful let us sit down and share our sufferings. Let us together revive the memories of our grief, which is common, although each one of us has gone through in a lesser or a greater degree. Since these sufferings are in accordance with the Divine will, so I accept them most willingly.

Shah Latif never expected to hear about the sufferings of people from the people living in palaces and bungalows, wearing gorgeous clothes, treating themselves with sumptuous dishes, ostentatiously riding elephants and well-bred horses, because it is quite evident in only those people who understand pain and sufferings and those who go through them. He says:

How can the healthy understand the condition of the sick. Those who are ruined by sickness or (love) can never rise again. Mostly their time is spent in crying over the separation from their beloved.

He counsels the really patriotic people to go and care for the poor living in huts, deserts, wildernesses, hospitals and prisons, to appreciate their sufferings and launch a sincere effort to eliminate hunger, poverty, disease and adversities. It is only through this spirit of service that they can truly deserve to be called the faithful servants of the nation. He says:

It is our responsibility to stay for the night with those who are wounded and in pain. They are the people who hide their wounds from others, and secretly find a treatment.

The class of people who held the reign of the leadership of the nation and country during the times of Shah Latif, despite their tall claims had only made the common man indigent, deprived him of education, oppressed and cowardly. Disgusted with this class which looked after their selfish interests only, Shah Latif says:

The quacks have played havoc with my body and I have not yet come across any one really capable and suitable. These ignorant medical practitioners have succeeded only in inflicting wounds on my body.

In the same manner Shah Latif has expressed his disgust and displeasure with the Mullahs and priests who are prejudiced, narrow-minded, and selfish and who exploit religion for material gains. Considering their pretentiousness no more than hypocrisy, he says:

People are busily engaged in reading books, but they never allow them to take hold of their mind. So, the more they read these books, the greater are their sins.

He considers some conditions necessary for the leaders of the country and the nation and whoever can fulfil these conditions can be considered a true national leader in his opinions. He says:

Counseling people, he tells them to give up their greed and avarice. No one can hope to reach the beloved and at the same time loving sleep and idleness.

The leaders who do not develop these characteristics and prefer the comforts of today rather than building a future and sacrifice the national interests over the personal and selfish interests, and the collective national interests over the interests of a class, Shah Latif expresses his sentiment about such people in the following verse:

The woman who pays her whole attention to her make up, very likely she can lose her husband and the one for whom her ornaments engage her entire attention, she also, like Leelan can lose her husband.

Despite the fact the people in power had the only aim of promoting their own welfare, he was not disappointed with the people of Sindh and considered it essential to encourage the poor, miserable, oppressed and illiterate people:

Thou grief-stricken Sassi, do no speak further about your suffering and worries. Leave your home, and go out in search of your Punnu. When you ultimately find him he will express his love for you and talk to you lovingly.
 Once again rise, and set about on your journey. It is your faith which will propel you forward and strengthen your will and determination.

He considers it essential for the patriotic people to be prepared to suffer grief and adversities and to which they will have to get accustomed because unless the people develop the spirit to struggle in their life no noble idea can take any shape nor can any nation make a great achievement. He says:

 Sassi says, "I have been successful in getting a moment of being united with my beloved alter sacrificing many comfort. Only through this sacrifice, I have been able to find my beloved."

The courage and honor which the national leaders acquire through getting accustomed to a life of struggle, and the aspiration which are born in them to confront every difficulty in the service of the country are described by Shah Latif in the following manner:

Their dress is torn at the elbows. They march forward alone on the path, there is nothing but suffering and grief, they do not let others share their trials, and tribulations and they boldly say that suffering is the symbol of their life. They have experienced nothing but grief and deprivation since their childhood.
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