"What you consider couplets of songs,
Are in-fact verses from the Holy Book,
That guide you to the Beloved's abode."
The compiled verses of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai...click are called Risalo which means "Message." They are recorded from the collection of verses known as Ganj
which is preserved at the mausoleum of the saint poet at Bhitsah, near
Hala, Sindh. It was 114
years after his death, that the German scholar and missionary, Ernest
Trumpp, first published it in 1866 at Leipzig in Germany. He had learnt
Sindhi during his temporary stay at Hyderabad, where he met many Sindhi
scholars, literary figures and poets, and learnt about the richness of
Sindhi culture, music and poetry.
He was amazed and thrilled at the beauty of Shah Latif's poetry. He was
mesmerized by the fakirs, jogis, singers, and the simple common people,
who recited these verses and sang them with breath-taking melody and
rhythm. He was also fascinated by the vast variety of Sindhi instruments...click and surs (the methods of singing).
With the help of two Sindhi scholars, he undertook the work of compilation of the Risalo
and called it "Shah Jo Risalo" (the Message of the Shah). The people of
Sindh are indebted to Trumpp for being the first person to get the
Risalo published, although due to paucity of funds, inspite of the
subsidy from the Bombay government, some of the surs...click could not be included in it.
after this, in 1867, Kazi Ibrahim published his edition at Bombay which
unfortunately, contained many extraneous verses. In its second edition,
known as Bombay Edition, published in 1877, these alien verses were
removed. The Museum Edition, covering 284 pages, has been preserved in
the British Museum, London, since 1844.
1913, the renowned Sindhi scholar, and writer of countless plays,
dramas, stories and literary books, Mirza Kalich Beg, got another
edition of the Risalo published at Shikarpur, Sindh. Due to many
printing mistakes and inclusion of foreign verses, it could not be
1923, Dr Gurbuxani, professor of Persian at Karachi, published his
first volume which is a product of profound scholarship, research and
dedication. It was followed by his second volume in 1924 and the third
in 1931. Dr Gurbuxani's edition was a remarkable improvement on the
earlier editions. He expunged some of the alien verses which were
inadvertantly included in the earlier editions. His work was presented
in an attractive print with a pleasant get-up.
1940, Dr H.T. Sorley, an English scholar, who loved Sindhi language and
culture, especially the poetry of Shah Bhitai. He learnt Sindhi
language and rendered selections from the Risalo in English verse,
which he included in his book entitled, "Shah Abdul Latif Of Bhit - His
Poetry, Life and Times." This book was published by the Oxford
University Press. It is a remarkable work of erudition and research
about Sindh, and an indispensable work for the students of the poetry
of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.
1950, Ghulam Muhammad Shahwani, published an exhaustive edition of
Risalo, with an introduction and footnotes on every page. In 1952,
Maulana Ghulam Mustafa Kasmi brought out his edition of the Risalo in
two volumes, which is not available anymore.
1958, appeared Kalyan Advani's edition, which is even more exhaustive
than Shahwani's. It too contains an introduction and footnotes. In 1976
appeared his slightly abridged edition with explanation of the verses.
1961, Allama Imdad Ali Imam Ali Kazi, popularly known as I.I. Kazi, the
first Vice Chancellor of University of Sindh - a great scholar,
thinker, and philosopher - brought out his edition of the Risalo adding
more verses to it with a commendable effort. He however, eliminated Sur Kedaro...click from it. Thus, his edition contains 29 surs instead of 30. he also re-arranged the order of surs.
1965, appeared Mrs Elsa Kazi's (the wife of Allama I.I. Kazi's)
remarkable translation in verse of the selection from Risalo, with an
introduction by A.K. Brohi, a renowned Sindhi scholar, jurist, and
philosopher. This selection also contained an critical article
entitled, "Shah Abdul Latif - An appreciationto His Art", appearing as
an appendix by Allama I.I. Kazi. It was published by Sindhi Adabi
Board, Hyderabad, Sindh. Although this translation is not a literal
rendering, Mrs. Elsa Kazi, a German lady, has been able to convey its
significance very effectively as it has a tremendous impact on the
reader. Besides editing and re-arranging the Risalo, Allama I.I. Kazi
has done much valuable scholarly and research work on Shah Bhitai.
Akram Ansari's book, "Symbolism in Latif's Poetry", was published in
1983 by the Institute of Sindhology, University of Sindh. Dr. Dure
Shahwar Sayed's book, which, in fact, is her Ph.D. thesis, "Poetry of
Shah Abdul Latif," was published by Sindhi Adabi Board in 1988. Mr
Tirathdas Hotchand's small books on Shah Latif's life and waht he
calls, "Seven Singing Stories" of the Risalo also deserve to be
mentioned in this connection. Abdul Ghafoor of Daro's translation in
verse called, "The Celsetial Sunrise From Sindh",
inspite of its unusual and attractive get-up, its attempt at original
philosophy and the labour of love, has not been rendered effective
because of its incorrect English and lack of mastery over the English
language. However, it is a a welcome contribution.
renowned present-day, progressive and ebullient poet, Shaikh Ayaz, has
translated in Urdu verse the whole of Risalo with an elaborate
Cultural Committee, Hyderabad, has published Mirza Kalich Beg's work,
"Life of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai," which was kept preserved in a
manuscript form for years and which contained much useful material on
the life of Bhitai and also on the Risalo. Mirza Kalich Beg, collected
this information from the mouth of the people whose grandfathers had
seen and even conversed with Bhitai.
should also be made for the monumental work carried out bt Dr Nabi
Baksh Baluch, former Vice Chancelor of Sindh University, a great Sindhi
scholar and academician, whose thirst for research is unquenchable. He
has made a study of 47 manuscripts and 15 printed editions of the
Risalo, involving in-depth study of the source material. He also also
edited the two volumes of the Risalo and is, presently, working on the
remaining three volumes.
last and the most recent work on Shah Bhitai and his poetry is Muhammad
Yakub Agha's "Shah Jo Risalo" alias "Ganje Latif", published in 1985 by
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitshah Cultural Committee. He has not only revised,
re-arranged and annotated the complete Risalo in three volumes, but has
also given its literal translation. For further aid and understanding
the language used in the Risalo, he intends to publish, separately, a
glossary of the terms used in the original Risalo. This edition is a
rare work of its own kind, for not only has Agha Yakub translated the
verses and explained the philosophy underlying them, he has also quoted
parallel lines from Hafiz and Roomi, the Persian poets, saints and
sufis. In addition to this, he has made the surs and verses more clear
by giving references from the Holy Qur'an...click and Sunnah (Hadith) of the Prophet...click.
Whereas, the works of annotation and translation of the previous
scholars, like Dr Gurbuxani and Kalyan Advani, was influenced by the
Vedantic philosophy, Agha Yakub
has done so from a purely Islamic point of view. It has to be placed on
record that, inspite of many printing errors, Muhammad Yakub Agha's
"Shah Jo Risalo", is an exhaustive and commendable work that has been
produced so far, even though one may not agree with him on a few
1994, the Bhitshah Cultural Centre Committee, Hyderabad, published the
English translation, "Risalo of Shah Abdul Latif : Translated in Verse"
by Madam Amena Khamisani...click,
a former professor in English literature at the Sindh University.
I have found Madam Khamisani's translation easy to understand, simple
and straight-forward. Her insight and use of proper words in proper
place are a plus factor to this great work of art. Although retired
from active service, she continues to serve Sindh and Sindhis in her
own way. However, I do not completely agree with some of her translated
verse - interpretation of the philosophy and thought of Shah Bhitai. In
my humble effort to present Shah and his philosophy to the world on
this marvelous medium, the cyberspace, I have used Madam Khamisani's
translation. In some instances, where I have not been able to
completely agree with her interpretations, I have used my own words and
meanings in the English translation to the original Sindhi renderings.