(From Sheikh Ayaz’s Urdu translation of Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai’s ‘Shah jo Risalo’)
Noori, a fisher-woman from a poor Sindhi village, catches the eye of the ruler Tamachi on one of his outings. He chooses her as his bride. Soon his harem is jealous and proposes a competition to choose the best dressed bride. Noori, dressed plainly, wins and is declared queen.
Tamachi (1367–1379) was the fourth ruler of the Samma dynasty (1335–1520) in Sindh, Pakistan. Towards the end of the Samma rule, the Swarankar community settled in Sindh which is believed to have led to the beginning of Sufism in Sindh.
It is Tamachi the king who chooses the queen and not the other way around. Sufic verse will remain a cosmetic fad unless the patriarchal bias that informs Sufism is undone consciously, deliberately.
The story of the moral
Humility suits the powerful. Exhorting subservience is chapter one of Exploitation 101. This is the subtext that has kept the Risalo – like other Sufic texts – acceptable to the feudal mindset of the land.
The amoral of the story
The Risalo is interspersed with bits of verse (named waai) where the woman speaks in her own voice of her very earthly longing for her lover. This is Subversion 101 and the subtext which speaks directly to the humanity of the village folk keeping the embers of Ishq alive in spite of the kowtowing of tradition that constitutes the bulk of the text.
Voice of un-reason is sound – and fury perhaps, but that comes later. Right now it is a whisper. The listless whisper which darkens the shallow attempts at homogenization. The glisten, the sheen, the disposable wrapping that underlies stone and dirt and water. Trying to contain the overflowing ooze. This in not a warp but a singe. A voluminous dribble in a paper cup wanting to be full.
Know the high, stick to the low.