Rahman Baba

V.V.S. Manian

“I am a lover, and I deal in love.
Sow flowers, So your surroundings become a garden.
Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet.
We are all one body,
Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.”
– Rahman Baba
Rahman Baba also known as Abdul Rahman was a legendary Pashto poet who was known for his Sufism. He has enlightened Pashtoons through his legendary poetry for over 300 years. Pashtoons around the world honour him as Baba (grandfather).
Rahman Baba was born in the Saban tribe in 1650, in Peshawar when Moguls were ruling the sub-continent. His forefathers migrated to the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan and settled in Peshawar valley between 13th to 16th centuries. He grew up in a tiny pocket on the outskirts of Peshawar. He lived peacefully in the area focusing on writing poetry. He never got involved in the fierce inter tribal conflicts of his time.
Through his poetry, Baba spread Islamic theology in Pashtooon society. He was the most popular poet in Pashtoon history. He was known for simple living which is reflected in one of his couplets

بادشاهان که اوبه سکي په جام ده زرو
مارحمان له ده خاوروکنډول بس دے

Thought the wealthy drink water from a golden cup
I prefer this clay bowl of mine
Religious link
Baba was an ascetic but many unfounded theories have been presented as to which Sufi order he was attached. Some say that he was from Naqshbandi tariqa and some say he belonged to Christi order. Some say he was Barelvi. No one knows which order he followed. He followed a life of simplicity, living a sober life writing poems.
Baba’s poetry called Diwan contains 343 poems written in native Pashto. It was very popular and widely circulated in 1728.
There are over 25 original manuscripts of Diwan scattered in various libraries worldwide. The first printed version was collected by Anglican Missionary TP Hughes and printed in Lahore in 1877 which is referred to even today. Baba received recognition and praise for his extraordinary work and his work is considered next to Quran. Some of his verses were translated into /English Rhyme.
His poem continues to be the most popular among students in various universities who specialize in religion and philosophy. (Adapted from WP) Baba died in 1715 CE. His tomb is housed in a large domed shrine. His grave was the meeting point of poets and mystics in April every year. His tomb in Peshawar was bombed on March 5, 2009. The shrine was reopened in 2012 after reconstruction.

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