In this post, a brief but comprehensive account of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689/1690 – 21 December 1752), one of the Sufi saints of Sindh is given.
Birth and family
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai was one of the great Sufi saints, mystics,s, and poets of the Indian subcontinent. He was born in 1689 or 1690 in Hala near present-day Hyderabad in Sindh to a Sayed family. He is also famous as Bhit Jo Shah among his devotees which means the saint of Bhit, a place in Sindh where he spent the last days of his life.
Abdul Latif Bhittai left home at the early age of 20 in search of knowledge. He traveled throughout Sindh and places in its vicinity for three years. During this he across a number of jogis, Sanyasis, and mystics who greatly influenced the approach of the future great Sufi poet. His role will be remembered for his services whenever there is a discussion on Sufism and the role of Sufi saints in the spread of Islamic mysticism in India.
Poetry of Abdul Latif Bhittai
Scholars consider Abdul Latif Bhittai as the greatest Sufi and national poet of Sindh-speaking people. Some scholars equate his poetry work ‘Shah Jo Risalo’ with the great Sufi scholar and intellectual Jalal Uddin Rumi’s literary work ‘Masnavi’. Shah Jo Rag is a performance that takes place every Thursday evening at his shrine in Bhit Shah. Singing of the saint’s poetry by traditional musicians, the dance performed by faqirs on the music in a typical ecstatic manner features the evening event.
The great saint was popular among people of all faiths that lived in Sindh. He still remains so to date. His poetry is popular among both Hindus and Muslims alike. People recount and sing the folk tales of the Shah jo Risalo to their children. Moreover, his shrines are frequented by both local Hindus and Muslims with great reverence all because of his piety and spirituality.
What is Shah jo Risalo?
Shah Jo Risalo is a collection of poems and songs of Abdul Latif Bhittai in Sindhi compiled by his devotees later on. The compilation was completed and published in 1866. The poetry work of Bhi Jo Shah has been translating into many languages including Urdu and English.
important features of the poetry
The following are the main features of the poetry of Abdul Latif Bhittai:
The poetry is in simple language that common people can easily understand.
Music friendly lyrics
Another important feature of Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetry is that it can easily be put into moving music.
Death and shrine
Abdul Latif Bhittai passed away on December 21, 1752, at Bhit Shah in Hala in modern-day Sindh in Pakistan where he spent his last days. A shrine was built on his tomb in Bhit Shah in later years. The shrine is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites today.