Pothi padh padh jag mua pandit bhaya na koye
Dhai aakhar prem ke padhe so pandit hoye
Most Indians know this famous Kabir saying- That brings the language of love above all the knowledge of pandits and the scriptures, Kabir does it so beautifully in 2 line couplets. Kabir couplets and Sufi music take one to a world of universal love, equality, and humanity.
Mukhtiyar Ali, the renowned Sufi singer born and brought up in nomadic Mirasi Muslim family grew up listening and singing songs of Kabir, tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Mukhtiyar Ali will be performing at the musical evening program called “Sufiyana” today in St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru at 5 PM.
Ali spent his initial years singing in bhajan Mandali during festivals like Ramanavami, Deepawali. He came to limelight with ‘The Kabir Project’. An academic project which was undertaken to study and find out how Kabir influenced people and places through his mystic couplets and poetry. The project spoke and recorded singers, Kabir Panthi activists and disciples from both India and Pakistan; their art and traditions celebrated Kabir. As part of the project a documentary was made called ‘Had Anhad – journey with Kabir’.
Sufis and Sufi Music
The Sufis were mystics. The Sufis laid emphasis upon free thought and liberal ideas. They were against formal worship, rigidity and fanaticism in religion. The Sufis turned to meditation in order to achieve religious satisfaction. Sufism is often compared with Bhakti movement. Both evolved in the medieval period of India between the 15th-17th centuries in India. Both movements brought a new form of religious expression amongst Hindus and Muslims. Like the Bhakti saints, the Sufis too interpreted religion as ‘love of God’ and service of humanity. The Sufi mystics and Bhakti saints transformed the rigid religions by breaking the walls of religions and creating a syncretic culture.
For them, caste had no meaning and all human beings were equal. Such content resonated with the common people and it does even today making India a contemporary epicenter for Sufi culture.
Sufi music is the devotional music of the Sufis, inspired by the works of Sufi poets, like Rumi, Hafiz, Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusrow and Khwaja Ghulam Farid. The Sufi saints and fakirs sang on universal love, humanity, world harmony, egalitarianism in a caste-ridden Indian society.
The Sufi movement made a valuable contribution to Indian society. Like the Bhakti saints who were engaged in breaking down the barriers within Hinduism, the Sufis too infused a
new liberal outlook within Islam. The interaction between early Bhakti and Sufi ideas laid the foundation for more liberal movements of the fifteenth century. The Sufis believed in the concept of ‘Unity of Being’ which says- that all beings are essentially one. Different religions were identical. This doctrine gained popularity in India.
A notable contribution of the Sufis was their service to the poorer and downtrodden
sections of society. According to the Sufis, the highest form of devotion to God was the service of mankind.
The Sufi movement encouraged equality and brotherhood. The Sufi saints tried to bring about social reforms too. Like the Bhakti saints, the Sufi saints contributed greatly to the growth of a rich regional literature. Most of the Sufi saints were poets who chose to write in local languages. They wrote in Punjabi, Hindawi, Deccani, and Bengali.
Listening to these bhajans which start with these words makes us feel as if we are witnessing the medieval times and as if Kabir himself is saying these words while immersed in weaving his loom.
Bengaluru is fortunate to witness such an artist.