Ideas of One Humanity, Love and Peace in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” with a Hindu Bhajan

“Say Nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life. If it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be bad.” — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Credit: Istockphoto.com.

Credit: Istockphoto.com.

Ancient voices are talking to us. Their message is clear: You are One Humanity. The God of the Vedas, of the Torah, of the Bible, of the Qur’an and of Guru Granth of Sikhism is One. Back in time, as much as four thousand years ago the Vedas had a profound message for humanity.

“That which exists is One; Sages call it by different names.”  [1]

Fourteen hundred years ago the message of the Holy Qur’an was loud and clear:

“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul .” — 4:1

Prominent sentiments of the Qur’an are compassion and peace to all. So much so that the salutation of Muslims is Salam: peace and security to you. The thrust of Emanuel Kant’s philosophy is humanism and service to humanity as its core gospel. He said that a Moral Law, which was not dependent on sensory perceptions or on human reason was innate in every person and applied to all humanity, to all faiths and at all times. His maxim was:

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”

The saying which is engraved on the grave of Emanuel Kant captures the essence of his philosophy:

“Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and more intensely the reflection dwells on them: the starry heavens above me and the Moral Law within me.” [2]

Why, then have we lost this inner compass? Why, then are we not listening to these ancient voices? Yes, we need different religions, because they are the inner compasses that show us the way, they amplify the ancient messages. Above all they are the essential vital conduits of a man’s search for his identity. I say “a man’s search for his identity” not for his God. We must not fool ourselves to think that we are searching for God in our religion or that in our rituals and ceremonies we are serving that higher Being. How can we come face to face with our God, when we have not come face to face with our own salves, have not gauged our own identity, categorized our own inner motives and calibrated the Moral Law that guides us. The message of Imam Ali is clear:

“He who knows himself knows his God.” [3]

The craving for love in our hearts must first reflect in our love for our Brethren and for greater humanity. Our deep desires for security and peace must spread out in ever-increasing circle as goodwill and peace in our homes, in our cities and in our nations. The frenzy of greed and blood-letting, the violent conflagrations and wars that beset our world betray our collective pretenses of love and peace in our hearts. What God are then we searching for and what God are we serving?

Yes, we need religions; religions that have tolerance and compassion and promote love for all and unite rather than divide. Swami Vivekanadasays, “As soon as a man stands up and says his religion is the only true religion, he is a tyrant and a rake atheist. The truth of his religion is proven by the truth of all the other religions.” [4]

Humanity has progressed along tribal lines. [5] Each tribe’s rituals, ceremonies, beliefs or lack of them have evolve suited to each tribe’s temperament, customs and locality. No religion is wrong and no religion has monopoly over truth. Truth is a multi-faceted mystery. Penetrating to its core may not be possible and hence exclusive claim to Truth may be a philosophical paradox at best. Our happiness and satisfaction must be anchored on pluralism and the underlying unity of faiths of mankind. The search for God must encompass the essence of His qualities in our hearts, that of love, that of compassion and love for Truth.

I want to explore two different old traditions which echo these messages of antiquity. One is from the Shia Ismaili Ginanic tradition and the other is from the Hindu Gujarati tradition. Poets from these two different traditions, separated from each other by almost three hundred years, framed these noble messages in their poetry. Pir Shams Sabzwari (13th CE) of Persian descent came to the Indian sub-continent as an Ismaili missionary and composed beautiful Ginanic poetry in mostly old Gujarati (Prakrati). Hindu saint-poet Nersi Mehta (16th CE), composed his poems in his vernacular Gujarati as well. Both these saint-poets were love intoxicated with the radiance of Infinity. The works of both are replete with explicit indications of having drunk from the cup of the Beloved, and mention gazing on the face of the Supreme Deity. Both performed Karamat, (powers to perform miracles that according to Islamic tradition [6] God bestows upon his saints). The vitality and energy of their compositions are such that even today some seven centuries later, their Ginans and Bhajans are current and form active gayaki (singing) components of rituals and ceremonies both in the East and the West. Their messages are as fresh.

Pir Shams Sabzwari [7]

Pir Shams Sawzwari came to India from Sabzwar in Persia in the 13th Century CE to preach and propagate Ismailism and is known to have conducted his mission in several provinces stretching from Sindh, Gujarat, Kathiwad, Kutch up to Kashmir. What is remarkable is that although he was from Persia, he was proficient in many languages and dialects of the lands in which he conducted his mission. When he composed his Ginans, Gujarati grammar was not even systematized, and yet his compositions in Gujarati are sublime. The honour of systematizing Gujarati grammar goes to Hindu saint-poet Narsinha Mehta (16th CE) who is considered poet laureate of Gujarat. It would be 250 years in the future that Narsi Mehta, a native of Gujarat, would compose his Bhajans and Chands (various forms of religious poetry) that would systematize Gujarati grammar and vocabulary. At the earlier date when Pir Shams conducted his mission, Gujarati Language as it is practiced today was preceded by Prakrati or Old Gujarati. It is most certain that both Pir Shams and Narsi Mehta composed their poetry in Prakrati and it is also evident that their works have undergone alteration and modernization over the years. It is a fact that Narsi Mehta never wrote down his compositions. Such was the impact of his works that his poetic treasure was kept alive by an oral tradition for 150 years, before they were put to paper.

On the other hand the works of Pir Shams, and other Ismaili dais (missionaries) in India have been jealously guarded and kept alive in written and gayaki form for the last 700 years by the Khoja Ismailis all over the world. It is also a fact that the poetic contribution of Pir Shams and other Ismali dais to Gujarat language is mostly unknown and unappreciated in Gujarati.

Narsi Mehta [8]

Narsi Mehta was born in a noble Vaisnav family. He was orphaned at a young age and was unable to speak until he was eight. Then a saint blessed him and asked him to pronounce the name of Krishna, the Hindu reincarnation of Vishnu. This unlocked his tongue and from this young age he became a devotee of Krishna. He spent his life in poverty and kept company of saints and composed a plethora of religious poetry. Such was his faith that it is reputed that the object of his love and devotion, Krishna was forced on several occasions to come to his aid. The accounts of these Karamats he captured in his poems such as Kuwarbai nu mamru [9] and Hundi. [10]

One Humanity and Unity of Faiths

One Ginan from Pir Shams’s vast collection that I want to cite is Hum Dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase (recitation link below) which magnificently portrays the themes of One Humanity and Unity of Faiths. The Bhajan of Nersi Mehta that amplifies the same message, that I would like to cite for comparison is Akhil Brhmnd ma Ek tu Shree Hari. Despite the centuries that separated these two saint-poets, such is the synergy between these two compositions, such is the resonance of the messages of the Vedas, the Koran and all other ancient Books, that it appears as if the two poets were under the tutelage of the same teacher.

Before I present the translations of Hum Dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase and Akhil Brahmand ma Ek Tu Shri Hari, I point out the critical verses from both these translations.

Hum Dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase opens with a verse that situated or established the relationship between the devotee and the creator which is amply illustrated by a Hadith of the Prophet:

“Neither My earth, nor My heavens can contain Me, but the heart of a believing servant contains Me.”

In Verse 3 of Hum Dil Khalak Pir Shams asks penetrating questions: If this earth and all it contains are made of clay, how does one distinguish who is a Hindu or who is a Muslim? If the Lord that we claim as our own is formless and nameless, how will a Muslim or a Hindu recognize him? At a single stroke Pir Shams lays bare the divisive notion that separates us and questions the exclusivity and monopoly to truth in religion. The proper place of worship he say is not the mosques or the temple but the heart of the devotee. In the subsequent verses he says that in observing the outward rituals and worship of our individual faiths, we forget the essential unity that binds us all.

Narsi Mehta continues this theme. In the opening verse of Akhil Brahmand ma Ek tu Shree Hari, Narsi Metha makes the bold declaration of Unity of God. Tawhid is beautifully stated: In the entire Universe, Oh, Lord you alone are the essence, despite all the various forms and names of your manifestations.

Continuing this bold declaration Narsi Mehta quotes the ancient Vedas and the Samhitas and says: be not confused about the various shapes and forms of ornaments, in the end their base is gold. In Verse 4, Nersi Mehta identifies the source of the error of multiplicity. What has led a man’s inner compass to lose direction. His answer is honest as it is bold: the books of Old have not be honest. They have created strife by withholding the Truth. As a result everyone worships what he likes, thinking that the object of his devotion is the ultimate Truth.

In a study of the Ginan Aad thanki ek Shun nipaya, tyre shun ma thi shabada nipaya [11], Dr. Farouk Topan, made a study of the concept of Void and how from this Void proceeded a Word which was the microcosm of the entire universe. Nersi Mehta echoes the same idea in the second part of the first verse of Akhil Brahmand ma. Here he states that The creative urge of the Supreme Being is seeking an expression and finds it in the primeval Void, from which proceeds a Word which contains within it the entire universe.

If one examines the last Verses of both translations, one sees the striking similarities of the sentiment and energy that drive the compositions. Both Pir Shams and Narsi Mehta guide the devotees to direct their searches for the Truth in the inner self, which is where the Lord resides and it is love and devotion that will compel the manifestation of the Lord.

Ginan Hum Dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vasejee
(link to recitation, below)

Verse 1

Eji…Ham dil khalak Allah sohi vasejee
Jene kayam kudrat chalii
…Aabhi Allah

O Lord you are ever-present in my heart
You, who are the creator of the universe
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 2

Eji Sun be mullah, sun be kazi
Aa sresti kene rachai
…Aabhi Allah

O you mullah, O you judge, I ask
Who created this universe?
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 3

Eji Isre maati mahe thi saari duniya nipa yi,
Is me kaun Hindu kaun Mulaman?
…Aabhi Allah

From clay this whole world he created
Who then, is a Hindu and
who is a Muslim among you?
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 4

Eji Hindu sohi jo adsath tirth jave,
Musalman masita
…Aabhi Allah

Hindu is one who makes pilgrimages of
68 sacred sites, Muslim is one
who frequents the mosque
…You who are the true Lord

 Verse 5

Eji Mere Shah ku Hindu na jane, Musalman na buje
Shah baytha niranjan hoi
…Aabhi Allah

When the Lord himself is formless,
How will a Hindu know him
And how will a Muslim
recognise him?
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 6

Eji Man mera musalla, Allah mera kazi,
Kaya hemeri masita
…Aabhi Allah

My mind is my prayer niche,
and Allah is my Judge,
My body is my mosque
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 7

Eji Ander baith me namaz guzaru,
Murakh kiya jane taat hamari
…Aabhi Allah

Sitting in my inner mosque,
I offer my prayers,
How will a fool know this secret?
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 8

Eji Aave to rozi nahi to roza,
Aaysa aaysa dhyan
mere Saheb ji dharna
..Aabhi Allah

If my Lord bestows
sustenance I am grateful,
if not I am thankful,
Steadfast in my prayers,
I put absolute trust in my Lord
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 9

Eji Moman sohi jo sab maramaj jane
Alam rahsar chalna
…Aabhi Allah

A true devotee knows this inner secret,
and walks the straight path
…You who are the true true Lord

Verse 10

Eji Ginan dhiyn mahe serve sudh pai
Khoj khoj kar milna
…Aabhi Allah

Always engrossed in Ginan (wisdom)
and zikr (contemplation),
Such a devotee searches his inner self
to know and meet his Lord
…You who are the true Lord

Verse 11

Eji Bolya Pir Shams suno mere bhai,
Pir bina paar kiyu tarna…
…Aabhi Allah

Pir Shams says listen to me my brother,
Without true guidance
(from those who know and
have reached the end)
how will you cross this ocean?
…You who are the true Lord

~~~~~~~

Bhajan Akhil Brahmand ma Ek Tu Shree Hari

Verse 1

Akhil brahmand ma ek tu Shree Hari,
Jujav rupe anant bhase,
Deh ma Deva tu, tej ma tatva tu,
Shunya ma shabda thai Ved Vase
…Akhil

In the entire universe,
you alone are eternal existent,
yet infinite forms you assume,
In the body, you are the divine soul,
In Light, you are the essence,
In the Void, you became the Word
that the Sacred Veda have sung about
…In the entire universe…

 Verse 2

Pavan tu, pani tu, bhumi tu,
bhudhra vruxsa thai phuli rahi yo aakashe
Vividh rachna kari anek ras leva ne,
Shiv thaki jiva thyo aj aasha ye
…Akhil…

O sustainer of the universe, you are wind,
you are water you are earth,
you are also the out stretched
tree of creation blossoming in the sky.
It is only to taste the nectar of manifold
creation that you created the various
Deva (gods) and through them the soul
…In the entire universe…

Verse 3

Ved to aam vade, shuruti-smaruti shakh de
Kanak kundal vishe bhed na hoy,
ghaat ghadiya pachi nam rup jujva,
ante to hem nu hem hoi
…Akhil

Vedas and Samhitas confirm that
ornaments differ not in material,
but only in their shapes, forms and names.
At the end it is all Gold
…In the entire universe…

 Verse 4

Granth e gudbad kari, vat na kari khari,
Jeh ne jeh game tene puje,
Man vachan aap mani lahe,
satya chee ej man em suje
…Akhil…

Books of old have created a strife
and have not told the truth.
Everyone worships what they like,
believing in the objects of their
worship with heart, words and deeds
…In the entire universe…

Verse 5

Vrux ma beej tu,
beej ma vrux tu,
jou patunt ro eej pase
Bhane Narsanyo, a man tani shodhna,
preet karu, prem thi pragat thaa se
…Akhil… 

 You are tree in the seed and seed in the tree
The one I see far and separate
from me is much closer and near
Narsi Mehta says, search in your heart
with affection and loving devotion
and he will manifest for sure

What now? These ancient voices have withstood the test of time. Their messages of unity, of love and of compassion are ever green. Their echoes are all around us. On this caravansari of life, as we sit around log fires at nights with our fellow travelers and sip Star Bucks and Nespresso coffees, we must share and sing these songs so that as we continue in our journeys we propagate their noble messages to others and pre chance this may swell into a huge surge and encompass total humanity and supplant peace where there was strife, germinate love where where was hate and banish for ever the evil shadows of wars and strife.

Date posted: Saturday, June 14, 2014.
Date last updated: Sunday, June 15, 2014, 11:25 ET (new image and credits).

Copyright: Shiraz Pradhan. 2014.

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan

About the author: In parallel with his international engineering consulting assignments, Shiraz Pradhan (B.Sc. MSME, C.Eng, Fellow I. Mech. E) has continued his ties with religious education (RE), teaching RE classes in UK, Canada, USA and Japan and delivering special lectures on some of his previous articles published in Ismaili magazines.

He is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts. The other areas of his interest include the synthesis of the Khoja Ginanic tradition with the broader Ismaili philosophy and theology, the preservation of its gayki (singing) tradition, the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity and the Vedanta.

_________________

Recitation of  “Hum dil Khalak” by the late Rai Jafersadiq Surmawala

Jafersadiq Surmawala

Jafersadiq Surmawala

A note about the ginan reciter: During his lifetime, Rai Jafersadiq Surmawala (d. April 2008) had the distinction of serving the Ismaili community in India and Pakistan in honorary capacities as a scout, a renowned vocalist as well as a religious education teacher, where his mission also included teaching Ismaili youngsters on the proper recitation of ginans. Rai Jafersadiq enjoyed the singular honor to sing a very popular song “Takht Nashini Shah Karim ni Aavi Gajati Aaj Re” in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, during his ceremonial installation as the 49th Ismaili Imam in Karachi, Pakistan in 1957. The rich oral tradition and recitation of ginans composed by Ismaili Pirs hundreds of years ago continues to thrive within the Ismaili community because of contributions made by outstanding individuals like Mr. Surmawala. Through the numerous recordings, Rai Surmawla’s melodious voice continues to illuminate the hearts and thousands of Ismaili souls around the world.

Credit: The ginan recording was provided to Simerg by Arzina Merali of Edmonton, an individual who takes an immense amount of interest in collecting and recording ginans from numerous sources around the world. Simerg hopes to publish a list of ginans in Arzina’s growing collection.

References:

[1]. Lectures of Swami Vivekanad, Vol 1, Pages 349 -352, Advait Ashram.
[2]. Sophie’s World, Phoneix House, UK, Pages, 278-281.
[3]. Maxims of Ali.
[4]. Lectures of Swami Vivekanad, Vol 1, Advait Ashram , pp 319-326.
[5]. The Mythic Dimensions, Selected Essays, 1959-2987.
[6]. The Passion of al-Hallaj, Vol. I Bollinger Series, XCVIII, Princeton University Press, pp 291-294.
[7]. Short sketch of Pir Shams Sabzwari life, Zawahid Noorally, Karachi Pakistan
[8]. Narsi Mehta, Life Sketch, Wikipedia.
[9]. Kuwarbai nu Mameru, Nersi Mehta Life Sketch, Wikipedia where this incident is described.
[10]. Hundi, Youtube, where there are several audio versions of this incident
[11]. A Brief Intuitive Note on the ‘Void’ with Reference to the Ginan “Aad Thaki” by Farouk Topan (on this website).

Articles by Shiraz Pradhan on this website:

  1. Concepts of Modern Cosmology and Astrophysics in Two Ismaili Ginans, Choghadia and Mul Gayatri

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters. Please visit the Simerg Home page for links to articles posted most recently. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click Table of Contents.

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