The nightingale’s torment…


Post by takhalus
Rahman Baba was a famous 17th century Pashtun poet and sufi, nicknamed the nightingale of Peshawar. A symbol of Pashtun culture and poetry, his contribution to Pashtun culture was acknowledged by the provincial government which constructed a mazar near Peshawar city in his honour.

Writer William Dalrymple wrote about the mystic nature of Rahman Baba in this article back in 2004:

Last autumn I visited a Sufi shrine just outside Peshawar in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan. Rahman Baba was a 17th-century mystic poet, and his tomb has for centuries been a place where musicians and poets have gathered. A friend who lived nearby in the 1980s advised me to go on a Thursday night when great crowds of Pathans would sing mystical love songs to their saint by the light of the moon.
“What can we do?” he replied. “We pray that right will overpower wrong. But our way is pacifist. We love. We never fight. When these Arabs come here I don’t know what to do.”

I asked the guardian of the shrine what had happened to the musicians.

“My family have been singing here for generations,” he told me. “But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble. They tell us that what we do is wrong. Sometimes arguments break out – even fist fights and brawls.

“Before the Afghan war there was nothing like this. It only began when Reagan and the Saudis starting sending jihadis to Peshawar. Before that the Pushtuns here loved Sufism. Now trouble happens more and more frequently.”

A prophetic comment, as yesterday morning the shrine was bombed by militants, according to the dailytimes

Locals said the administration had also been warned before the attack to stop women from visiting the shrine.

While he would not have recognised the explosives used, Rahman Baba would have recognised this attempt by the masters of religiosity to destroy his philosophy. After all.. he was targetted by the mullahs of his time..he wrote

“I couldn’t find peace in my search for him. It became unlawful for me to be careless in my religion.”

…and sadly so it had again…rest in peace, Rahman Baba.

P.S the systematic targetting of Pashtun culture in NWFP and FATA is something which I shall be writing about another time.


9 responses to “The nightingale’s torment…

  1. stuka

    In a perverse sort of way, this is good news. The only way revolutionaries (Jihadis) can succeed is by pointing to the selfish secular, obscene elite as the target to the masses. The only way they fail is by alienating the masses.

    The only flaw in what I said above is that in this unique case, a section of the elite (Pak Army) may well be manipulating the revolutionaries for their own ends.

  2. this blog has some really good posts about this:

    and also:

    in these kind of fascist movements, how big of a role do you think mass support plays after a certain point? I am thinking that after a certain level of violence and control has been achieved, alienation of the masses becomes irrelevant, what do you think? I guess there are a lot of factors that makes this difficult to understand like the role of the army and the fact that the fascist movement is religious.

  3. Publius

    “alienation of the masses becomes irrelevant”

    Let me jump in for a moment. I would say that it matters what the alienation is against. That will determine whether a counter revolutionary violence will appear or not.

    Imaginie if you will that a communist movement had brought down a mosque in an explicitly anti religious act. That I would suspect would have caused such outrage so as to triggered a violent counter revolt.( Say the broad pattern in communist Afghnanistan).

    When all is said and done the Jihadis are acting in the name of Islam and that is their greatest shield.

  4. Rabia,

    where they deem bombs necessary they blow them and where they can work with banners, they do it with banners.
    Have you seen the banners all over Karachi that asks women to stay at home and raise children by some group called Women and Family commission.

    I have pictures on my blog if you have not seen it.

  5. I agree Tazeen, all tactics are used… why should be even surprised at this act of violence when for 30+ yrs all our singers and poets have been subjected to sustained campaign, called names like kafir, kanjar, and mirasi, etc. That would just be a build-up to what happened yesterday at rahman baba’s shrine.

    publius: I agree, it’s very difficult to fight against your religion.

  6. @Stuka
    They are not revolutionaries, its a fascist movement, and the “elite” which is behind the “Islamic state” concept , a part of it. They are funded by big businesses and petty bourgeois.
    The ordinary ppl are their victims, ordinary ppl subscribe to Islam of shrines and sufis .
    Shrines are their target so as the ppl who visit them, and the parties who these ppl vote for.


    “Desecration of Rahman Baba’s tomb is desecration of humanity”

    It is a matter of national shame for Pakistan to have sunk this low. Rahman Baba (1653 -1711 AD) commands a universal following for his mystic syncretism, has now fallen prey to the cannibalistic doctrine of bigotry and intolerance.

    The desecration of his resting place is a desecration of humanity. Jens Enevoldsen in a preface of translated poetry “Selections from Rahman Baba” 1977, says, “Rahman Baba, son of Abdur Sattar, belonged to Khalil Mohmand tribe bordering Peshawar. Born in Bahadur Killi, Rahman Baba was the king of love, the guide to contemplation, master of virtue and piety, the walking stick of the blind, the leader of poets, the saint of Pukhtuns and the master of simple verse”.

    “Return the bad things done to you with good,
    For trees are only stoned when they bear fruit;
    The good man always suffers from the bad
    The insects always seek the tender wood;

    In every storm that heart shall stay afloat
    Which carries people’s burden like a boat;
    Though God may not let evil run its course,
    RAHMAN must still the prayer for pardon quote”
    (The Golden Rule)

    Gandhara heritage which survived the Huns, Hindu Shahi, Moghal, Sikh and British periods is at mortal risk in the Islamic state of Pakistan. The buck does not stop here. The icons of sufi tradition, preaching peace and tranquility are now at the mercy of terrorists, which the Pakistani state refuses to eradicate.

    The Pukhtuns need to make a national decision today as they are being systematically annihilated and their history wiped out by the salafi wahabi tradition and their bigoted gangs, to stand up and challenge the state sponsored anarchy. For the past one year, centuries old tombs and shrines have fallen victim to terrorism disguised as Taliban vigilantism.

    The first victim was a 400 year old shrine of Abu Saeed Baba at Shaikan village, bordering Bara Tehsil, by L I vigilantes, besides killing many innocent civilians in March 2008. Later saboteurs bombed the revered shrine of Ashaab Baba at Mathra village. Besides, several historic shrines and worship places in the province have fallen prey to premeditated acts of terrorism. Renowned shrine of Pir Baba in Buner narrowly survived an attempted attack last December.

    The ANP-PPP government prides itself on being secular, too has fallen victim to this organized annihilation of their constituencies. They stand helpless and speechless. It is time the UNESCO, UN and other world bodies come to the rescue of NWFP and investigate the organized genocide and destruction of their heritage landmarks as both the government and state, has failed to identify and take action against shady terrorist organizations.

    Sarhad Conservation Network

    SCN Press Release

  8. Here is my homage to the poem of Martin Niemoller.


    When the Taliban came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they blew up the Bamiyan statues,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a Buddhist.

    When they came for the artists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not an artist.

    When they came for the journalists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a journalist.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

  9. vakibs, you are so right. How many of us spoke out against the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. If you ever get the chance, you should check out this documentary about it… especially the section about the al-jazeera reporter who filmed the whole thing.

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