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Rahman’s life Despite the persistence of enchanting oral traditions, Kamil’s comment that “the circumstances of Rahman Baba’s life lie very much in the dark” is still the most apt summary of what we know about the life of Abdul Rahman Baba. The uncertainty about his life is increased by the lack of any eyewitness accounts, and is compounded by the enthusiastic cultivation of hagiographic legend. The legend portrays Rahman as a reclusive poet, scratching his poems in the mud of the Bara river, while strumming a rebab. At times he is overcome by a single note, and falls unconsciousas tears wound his cheeks. Rahman is found in the company of a young boy named Mujnoon, with whom he elopes. Some of these oral traditions have become enshrined as accepted fact among Pushtuns, and many are repeated in books without consideration of their authenticity. Below is some information about Rahman Baba that is based on evidence from the Diwan. Rahman’s Background Lineage is of great importance intribal societies, and Rahman leaves us in no doubt about his own Pushtun pedigree. Rahman claims to be of the Sarban tribe,who are recognized as the ‘trueAfghans’ because they can tracetheir ancestry back to the eldest son of the putative Pushtun ancestor Qais. The Sarban tribe originated in Kandahar, and migrated into thePeshawar valley from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. This period of history was characterized by a fierce rivalry between the different branches of the tribes. Rahman was a Mohmund, of the Ghoriah khel (tribe), who lived in a small pocket of Mohmand settlers on the outskirts of Peshawar. From 1550 A.D. the Yusufzai tribe had come to dominate the area, following thedefeat of the Ghoriah Khel in thebattle of Sheikh Tapur. Rahman apparently lived peacefully in thearea, and never mentions his involvement in these inter-tribal conflicts. Opinion is divided about Rahman’sfamily background. Several commentators are convinced that his family were village maliks (chieftains), while Aqab finds no evidence for this view. Whether malik or not, Rahman describes himself as a poor man: May no one be without life and livelihood, As I am lifeless and penniless. Though the wealthy drink waterfrom a golden cup, I like this clay bowl of mine. There is no specific mention of family members in the diwan, butthere has been speculation about the identity of Aziz Khan, who has been variously identifiedas Rahman’s brother, or the Malik of Bahadur village. Other unsupported stories claim Rahman’s father was named Abdul Sattar, and that offspring of his own daughter’s family are still living in the village today. Rahman’s Village There is agreement that Rahmanlived and died in the area to thesouthwest of Peshawar, along what is now the outer ring-roadof the city. His birth-place was Bahadar village, but he also livedin Hazarkhani. Oral tradition maintains that he moved to Kohat, and that he wandered asfar as India. As several have noticed, internalevidence from the diwan refutesthe view that Rahman traveled. It seems likely that Rahman spent his whole life in his own village, as he himself claims: I can swear to the fact that I donot move from my place, nor amI thankful to any creature whatsoever for anything. Neither have I seen countries down or up. My home is in the village, I don’t consider it a home, but a desertgrave. Rahman’s Dates Since Rahman lived in relative obscurity, the exact dates of hisbirth and death are not known. Approximate dates can be deduced from two historical events mentioned in the Diwan. Rahman’s date of birth can be calculated from his mention of the end of the reign of the Mughal king Aurangzeb (1659-1707 A.D.). In D46/24 he mentions his age as being ‘past 55’, and later in the same poem he refers to the accession of Shah Alum to the throne: This was the name of Aurangzeb,a chapter eaten by a cow. Now is the turn of Shah Alum, a different time and style. Since Shah Alum took the thronein 1707 A.D., and as Rahman is ashe states ‘at least 55’, that would put Rahman’s birth at no later than 1652 A.D. It would be speculative to guess just how old ‘past 55’ implies, but it wouldseem to rule out the date of 1632 A.D. given in Puta Khazana. If Rahman had been born then, he would have been more likely to have said ‘past 75’. In a similar vein, the birth-date of 1653 A.D. given by Enevoldsen is wrong by at least a year (by simple subtraction). It is unlikely that Rahman was over 60 when he claimed to be ‘past 55’, and ifthis assumption is correct, then his birth date lies somewhere between 1647 and 1652 A.D. The date of Rahman’s death is linked with poem D 102. In it he tells of the brutal revenge killings of Gul Khan and Jamal Khan, who were burnt alive withan entire wedding party. According to Raverty this event took place around 1711 A.D. Many commentators assume that Rahman’s death was also around this time, though there is no evidence that he died then.All that can be said is that he was still alive in 1711. He could well have lived for several more years. A reasonable conclusion from these two events in Rahman’s life, is that his dates are approximately 1650 – 1715 A.D. Rahman the Sheikh? Rahman’s diwan itself provides the best evidence to disprove Andreyev’s view that the “highlyilliterate Pashtun tribal society…..lay far away from the centresof Muslim scholarship and was not directly influenced by sophisticated intellectual traditions.” Rahman’s diwan displays a subtleuse of several languages including Pushtu, Arabic and Persian, as well as a wide knowledge of history, philosophyand theology. Particularly relevant to this study is the certainty that Rahman must have been trained in both fiqa (jurisprudence ) and tasawwuf (sufism) to have been capable ofwriting as he did. Though apparently at odds with each other, the teaching of both disciplines may have been the norm during his era, and it is recorded that other poets like Sadi (d.1292 A.D.) had received both. Rahman would not have had to have gone far to get thistraining, as Peshawar was starting to gain a reputation as a centre for religious learning that was later to make it a rivalto Bokhara. Pata Khazana claims that Rahman’s teacher was known to have been Mullah Mohammed Yusafzai. Rahman was anything but the uneducated Mullah that Aqab claims him to have been. Rather than suffering from too little education, Rahman complains that “learning drove me mad.” His thorough education is in keeping with Lewis’ view that “Sufism is essentially the work ofsophisticated and highly literate urban men of learning.” There can be no doubt that Rahman was a practicing Sufi, but was he attached to a particular order, either as a murid (follower) or a sheikh? Practitioners of Sufism were known by their patched cloak, which Hujwiri describes as the ‘bondage of aspirants to Sufism.’Likely from personal experience Rahman complains of the “service of the Fakir’s cloak,” and of the need to “ wash the bluish cloak.”. Although Rahman calls himself a Sheikh, it seems unlikely that he ever performed in this role, or that he was associated with any particular order. A tradition states that a guide isneeded for training in tasawwuf.Perhaps in response to this need, various unfounded theories have been made about who Rahman’s guide may have been, and to which order he wasattached. Sabir suggests that Rahman had a Naqshabandi initiation in Kohat, as well as training from the sons of Pir Baba. Schimmel casually assigns Rahman to the Chishti order perhaps basing this on Raverty’sincorrect assumption that Sufis practicing musical sam? were Chishti by default. Aqab, himself of the Qadiri order, claims Rahman was a Qadiri. There is no overwhelming evidence to prove any of these claims. If Rahman had been a member of one of the Sufi orders, modern followers of thatgroup would no doubt claim him as one of their own. Such is not the case. It is more likely that Rahman was independent, with an individualistic practice of Sufism similar to that of Shah Abdul Latif in the Sind. It is even possible that he was a uwaysi after the pattern of Pir Roshan,as is hinted at in several lines: “Those who have perfect intention of heart are guided without the guidance of a Pir” and “On the path which I travel to see my love, make holy Khizerand Ilyas my guides.” Rahman in Crisis The reverence with which Rahman is honoured by Pushtunstoday is no reflection of how he may have been regarded during his lifetime. The issue was Rahman’s neglect of the outward practices of Islam. There is a popular tradition thatis still held by some Pushtuns, that Rahman’s pursuit of God outside the mosque led to confrontation with the established religious hierarchy. His quest for God made him a solitary mystic with little interest in formal religion. Hughes records that in 1883 oneold man still knew the tree under which the villagers said Rahman used to sit and composehis poems. Rahman relates his dereliction of duty this way: Ever since I took up the work oflove in my hands, I have withdrawn from any other work. If this is not the passion of love, then what is it? Otherwise who would bandon their customs? Other lines from the diwan suggest that Rahman’s activitiesmight have further inflamed the village Mullahs: I got nothing from being a sheikhor from my righteousness. From now on it is my turn, to dowhatever I can at the tavern. I washed my hands of piety when the musician picked up therebab. Though no date is given for confrontation with the religious establishment, D 242 points to Rahman’s clear choice to no longer sit under the Tooba tree and instead to pursue tasawwufwith reckless abandon: Rather than the unacceptable worship of the hypocrite, I prefer to be drunk on Saqi’s wine. Whether knowledge, rosary or recitation, I am happier asleep than awake with these. I don’t like the Tooba tree’s shade, but prefer to be burnt like a kebab in the flames of your face. Kamil suggests that “Rahman Baba reached such a profound abandonment to God, that he also abandoned all religious and worldly duties”. Afghani states that Rahman not only left the mosque, but that a kufr fatwa (death sentence for apostasy) was passed on him by the local mullahs. Raverty reports that hewas later reconciled back into the community. Again, there are no written records to corroborate these events, but there is some evidence from thediwan that suggests that the tension may have been peacefully resolved: I couldn’t find peace in my search for him. It became unlawful for me to be careless in my religion. Rahman in English We hope you enjoy these poems. Each Poem is in the same order as the Diwan. I have added my own Titles. You are welcome to use these translations, but please add a note so that others will know where they came from like this: Translated by Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Thanks! D 1 My Lord. Look! My Lord is such a great doer of things, That my Lord commands full authority. Of great and virtuous people that one can name, My Lord is beyond them all. He is not dependent upon othersfor His needs; My Lord owes nothing to anyone. He created life from nothingness; My Lord is this kind of creator. He has fashioned all created things; My Lord hears all speech. Of which there is no similarity or likeness; My Lord is the maker of such scents. Of every structure in this world or the one to come; My Lord is mason of them all. He is the reader of unwritten scriptures; My Lord is the knower of all secrets. The overt, the covert and the part-known; My Lord knows them all. What is created, what is concealed, what is between; My Lord is aware of them all. He does not have any associate in His kingdom, My Lord is a king without a partner. His oneness is not due to weakness, For my Lord is infinite in one body. He needs friendship from no one, Whose friend is my Lord. I don’t need to look elsewhere, For my Lord is with me in my home. He is not transformed or changed O Rahmān! My Lord is always constant. D 2 Muhammad. (P.B.U.H.) If the body of Muhammad had not been born, God would not have created theworld. The whole world was created forthe sake of Muhammad; Muhammad is father of the whole world. Prophet-hood ended with Muhammad; There are no prophets after Muhammad. The light of Muhammad was in the world Before there was even a notion of Adam and Eve. Though created last in body; In reality he is the first of all. Do not consider him God. He is truly a man. All good qualities are really his. Whether prophet, saint or sinner; Muhammad is the guide of them all. Those who have accepted the religion of Muhammad Are heaven-bound; both the sinner and the pious. Muhammad is the guide of the lost, The walking stick in the hand of the blind. If there is any light, it is obedience to Muhammad. Besides this, there is no other light in the world. Muhammad is the helper of the helpless; The remedy for every suffering person. I Rahmān am a sweeper at Muhammad’s gate, May God not separate me from His door. D 3 The Way of the World. Do not consider the knowledgeable of this world as clever; The dim-witted are the clever ones of this world. Light is harām for those hearts On whom the dust of the world has settled. The worldly make useless talk; Their every expression and utterance is base. All of those that deal in the business of the world Are playing like children in the dust. All of them are nursing babies; The experienced and seasoned of this world. They will always be stupid and senseless; Those who are intoxicated with the euphoria of this world. Even wine does not have as much intoxication As the drinkers of this world get. For every ailing person there is a remedy, But there is no cure for those diseased by the world. Every burnt person can be treated in this world, But not those burnt on the spark of this world. Whatever you throw in the fire is burnt; 10 But the passion of the worldly will never be satisfied. Those enthralled by the world will drown in its sorrows; May none ever be enslaved by this world. He will forever be lying in the dark; Who is imprisoned by the belovedof this world. They are real Muslims among Muslims; Who have broken the shackles of this world. The body is left, the head is gone; The chieftains of this world are never the head. The mothers and fathers in this world are faithless; For they leave their sons and daughters as orphans. They will always have a bundle of sorrows; Those who have the turban of this world on their head. Whether you buy or sell, all is sorrow; There is nothing else in the bāzār of this world. They are all cheats and swindlers; Those who sell and buy in this world. They will never love the world If they sense its malignancy. Those who have their eye on their religion and faith 20 Won’t look to this world. Both young and old are deceitful; How can you trust the cunning of this world? The friends of the world are all enemies; There is no friend in this wide world. All those who are born depart; Come and see the destruction ofthis world. Those who are dismayed by wellsand dizzying heights Don’t walk the way of the world. As quickly as he gains the world,he loses it; I have seen the speed of this world. For a moment it is spring, then suddenly it’s autumn; The spring of this world is not forever. Even if propped up with thousands of supports, The wall of this world is without foundation. If you cover yourself with a fortof steel; Consider the fort of this world as glass. As shadows move in front of thesun, The world is forever changing. Do not expect it to improve; 30 The world is getting worse day by day. It cuts a man’s life without scissors; This very day and night of the world. After death an account will be demanded from each; According to the style and size of his life in the world. As a result, they will become a handful of dust; The beautiful rosy-cheeked of this world. They will rise as equals; The princes and beggars of this world. It will be a stain on the chest of the miser; Every darham and dinār of this world. For the contentment of the content, Let the rich and their riches be sacrificed. After death all will be tortured; The heartless and the cruel of this world. It is always tens and twenties; But none fulfills the tally of this world. At death he’s bathed and wrapped; Disgraced are the respected of this world. On the takhta he is stripped of his clothes; 40 The shameful and shy of this world. The Prophet would have had more wealth than any; If the world were of any value. Rahmān cannot elucidate the depravity of this world; So numerous are the vices of this world. D 4 Contentment. Blessed in the world are those Who have been content in it. A thousand years of Solomon’s kingdom Is not equal to a single moment of devotion in this world. One breath remembering God is better Than all the world’s wealth in this world. Those who have really gained in the world Are those who have worshipped there. If there is any blessing it is only in obedience and worship; There is no other blessing in theworld. If there is any toil or hard work;it is for the sake of religion. No other work is needed in this world. Besides God, everything else is transient; Whether sweetness or beauty inthis world. Even if he’s king he must go intothe ground; Such is the honour and respect of this world. There will not be another more stupid in the world Than he who seeks leisure in theworld. You want a few moments peace in the world; 10 Who has ever found it in the world? You build on top of shifting sands, Whatever building you erect in this world. No more than the staggering of drunkards Is a man’s standing in this world. A person who comes across a dead man’s grave Has enough advice for this world. Visit running water and judge your life’s speed by it; This hint of advice is enough in this world. These sturdy solid inns and palaces Will finally be destroyed in this world. The hungry eyes of fate are notso kind That they will leave any safe in this world. All who enter it leave again, Everyone is but a traveller in this world. Worship cannot be done on the Day of Judgment; A man is he who worships in this world. He will rise up tomorrow with these same qualities; May no one have bad-character in this world. That very thing will be his harvest after death; 20 Whatever he has sown in this world. Though that world cannot be seen in this; I can see its impression in this world. On Judgment Day we will not be able to help each other; I have seen the Judgment Day inthis world. He will be lying safe in the middleof the grave; Whoever lives unspoiled in this world. Good deeds make paradise now: piety should be carried out By anyone wanting heaven in this world. Good character, good deeds andgood manners Are both heaven and happiness in this world. Spite makes one’s life a torment; It should be avoided in this world. To be civil and respectful to everyone; This is nobleness in the world. If anyone desires great prestige; Justice holds great eminence in this world. No regret can be carried from this world, Except for love that was not extended to others. All the dealings of that world arehere; 30 If you are to do any business in the world. Unless a man’s fate is turned against him, The truth is not concealed at all in this world. Treat the good kindly, the bad harshly; If anyone aspires to sainthood inthis world. God has made saints of those Who don’t want to associate with this world. Even if the whole world were to become united; They won’t change their destinyin this world. If there is a man in the world, it is he Who has no concern for this world. Thus has life passed by Rahmān ; As a single moment spent in this world.