Punjabi Sufi Poet

Archive for the ‘Dedication’ Category

Zohra Begum – Laughter in Tears


Zohra Begum (Lahore 1917-1998) was a woman so full of life that there was laughter even in tears when she was around.


Zohra Begum, with her compassion and sense of humour, taught us many things. Here are two of the most essential: She taught us to respect human beings without regarding religion, status, caste or creed; and, she taught us to love the life happening in and around us.

She lived in a vibrant political environment within a landowning family. Her closest kin, her only brother Sardar Ahmed Ali who she dearly loved, was the founder and leader of a nation-wide association Anjuman-e-Arayaan-e-Pakistan, and he held the ‘family seat’ from Kasur to the national or provincial assemblies. This he had earlier shared with Zohra Begum’s older brother-in-law Sardar Mohammad Hussain who was much loved by his constituencies but was way more interested in his magnificent dogs, and hunting, than in politics. The two people closest to her adhered to ‘tribal’ or ‘clan’ politics where Arayeen brotherhood was held supreme, and was organized to fight for identity, vote and privilege.

On the other hand, Zohra Begum’s first cousin on the maternal side, Sardar Shaukat Ali, was a committed communist leader who remained actively involved in Punjab’s progressive movements. Another first cousin, Sardar Mohammad Shafi was a Unionist who, in a historic meeting, had refused Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s request to provide support for his newly-made Muslim League. In the second generation, Zohra Begum’s brother’s older son Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Benazir Bhutto’s government and has held other portfolios since, her son-in-law Mian Mohammad Farooq is an important mover and shaker in Lahore. Her only son Sardar Salim Haider took after his uncle in that his interest in politics was minimal as compared to hunting, but again, he was the more-loved ‘sardar’ in the area.

Zohra Begum, who had no formal schooling, was consulted by all regarding all major issues. She gave everyone her thoughts about their concerns, her strength and good wishes for them to achieve their goals, and her vote when it was needed, but her own politics developed independent of the mainly ‘male’ currents represented above.

She had lost both her parents in early childhood, and the woman she came to know as her mother, her ‘Baybay’, was her aunt who later became her mother-in-law. Zohra Begum held her Baybay in high regard, and was influenced by her neutral and humanist attitudes. The bond between them was so strong that Baybay not only supported Zohra Begum’s decision to remarry after the death of her son Sardar Mohammad Rafique, but she also showed her preferences by continuing to stay with Zohra Begum instead of moving in with the family of her other son, Sardar Mohammad Hussain, as was expected.

Zohra Begum was keenly aware of women’s pain and suffering, and she showed by her example that boundaries can be broadened. Perhaps she was not the first woman in her family to have re-married because widowed women were often re-married to a brother or a cousin of the husband, but she was the first to have married out of her own choice, outside her family, and outside her clan, to a Syed. In this, she was supported by most women in the family but opposed by all men including her only brother. She carried out her decision, and suffered for it in many ways; most painful for her was when her brother ex-communicated her ‘forever’. The ‘forever’ finished in eight years and she was re-united with her brother. During those eight years, again, she was fully supported by the women, foremost among them, her sister-in-law Asghari Begum, the beautiful wife of her brother Sardar Ahmed Ali, who made sure that she and her six children continue to meet with Zohra Begum and her three children while her husband remained unwilling to see Zohra or to hear about her.

Zohra Begum’s struggle and ensuing politics was deeply rooted in women’s rights, and how best to survive in the present system. She was against dowry but realized that for a majority of young women of underprivileged families, it’s a stigma hard to endure. She asked her followers in Karachi to create an organization to provide dowry help to families. She openly supported marriages outside of traditional families and clans. A poet, she was a great lover of the arts, especially singing and dancing. It was not uncommon for women to sing and dance at her gatherings.

She was a strong woman in every way, spiritual, physical and emotional. She employed her spiritual strength to heal people so that they can take better care of themselves. She had lifelong struggle with diabetes and high blood pressure that she kept under control basically through food and very little medication. She was physically so strong that once when her family had just moved to Lahore, she was the only adult in the house one night, and a thief arrived; She slapped him across the face so hard that he ran back out, leaving some of his teeth on the floor.

She was a staunch believer in the ‘parvardegaar’ the Creator, but her beliefs were not mechanically perceived or implemented. For example, she hardly ever insisted that we pray five times or fast or offer ‘nafal’ or anything like that because she was convinced that it is between an individual and the Creator as to what and how much ‘ibaadat’ (praying) is offered, and that it should not be told/discussed in public. Instead, she emphasized ‘haqooq-al-ibaad’ the Rights of People to each other. She felt that doing well with other peoples and beings was the highest form of ‘ibaadat’ and ‘taqwa’.

Her followers though majority Sunni Muslims include Shia, Ahmadi and members of other Muslim sects. Not just that, they also include Hindus, Sikhs and Christians; and, they are not just Punjabi but Sindhi, Mohajir, Pakhtoon, and others. Mostly middle class women, some men; and many women and men from lower social strata.

She had unlimited appreciation for life in all its forms. Plants, birds, animals, insects. She fed and communicated to them on daily basis. We all heard stories of her brave and wise dog Moti, of an extraordinary mare; stories of crows, pigeons, wolves, peacocks and sparrows. She used to say that it’s the same ‘kiran’ (ray) or ‘ramak’ (spark) of life that runs through all creation.

She chose the path of the Sufi. The path that transcends narrow religious and nationality/ethnicity/class perspectives and leads to awareness, tolerance and love. These themes are in her verses, and in most of her thoughts she left behind.

Zohra Begum taught us to go beyond prejudice in order to love and respect all life. She knew, it’s not possible otherwise.

More is here
Some of her poems
Facebook Page

Fauzia Zohra Rafique
One of Zohra Begum’s many daughters

May 12/13


‘Elder Sea’ by Mariam Zohra Durrani

Search through Ami Jan:

my Elder sea and desert

my Mother of Mothers


Meditate on you:

you are right under my nose

I smell Nina Simone’s rose

that blooms in the snow.


*Ami Jan: grandmother.

Vancouver 2012

‘Don’t Pass Away’ by Mariam Zohra Durrani

Dedicated to Ami Jan*

Don’t pass away
before my eyes
You don’t know what it means
to me, to pay my regards

It isn’t just my regards that matter,
it’s that I didn’t get to say farewell
and that’s what matters

Don’t close your eyes
behind my back
Seeing your eyes closed before
I could kiss your forehead
makes me mad

It makes me cry
for an incredibly long time
This can’t be
it’s hard to believe
that i will no longer see your smile
and your golden eyes, which
always have a shine!

It hits me in my heart
like a bullet, and i no longer want to live either…
But that will happen in time
i think i am feeling a little calmer
but it’s hard to believe
you are gone.
Yours Mariam.

*Maternal Grandmother.
Mariam moved to Canada as a child in 1986 and did not meet her Ami Jan for over three years. This poem was written in 1989 in pain and fear of her passing away. Published in Mariam’s first poetry collection ‘Not to Understand’, Toronto 1990.

Zahra diyaN booTiyaN ظاھرا دیاں ُبوٹیاں

ظاھرا دیاں ُبوٹیاں
امی جان تے اوہناں دیاں ساریاں دھیاں دے ناں۔

ظاھرا دی ُبوٹی آں
مینوں پُھل کیویں نھ لگے
ظاھرا دیے بُوٹیے
توں کیہنجہے پُھل کھڑاے
گلچیں چنبیلی موتیا
سریوں اک گلاب

ظاھرا دیاں بُوٹیاں
تے پُھل ودھیرے آے
پیلے نیلے ساوے کالے
چٹے جموں لال

وا لتھے خشبوواں چاوے
کیڑ مکوڑ وی ول ول آوے
ویلے کویلے آسے پاسے
چرند پرند ھر گھڑیاں

ظاھرا دیاں ُبوٹیاں
نت ھریاں بھریاں کھڑیاں

Zahra diyaN booTiyaN
Dedicated to Ammi Jan and all her daughters.

Zohra de booti aaN
mainun phul kiwaiN na lagae

Zohra deye bootiye
tooN kehnjae phul khRaaye
gulcheeN chambeli motia
saryoN akk gulab

Zohra diyaN bootiyaN
Te phul vdehrae aayae
peelae neelae sawae kalae
chiTae jamuN laal

Wa lathae khushboaN chawae
keeR mkauR ve vul vul aawae
vailae kvalae aasae paasae
chrind prind har ghaRiyaN

Zohra diyaN bootiyaN
nit hariyaN bhariyaN khaRiyaN

Ammi Jan was named ‘zahra’ at birth but it was changed to ‘zohra’ with usage.

This poem was first published in roman script at Uddari Weblog in June 2008


Tu sachi sain jud kehndi sain ‘توں سچی سیں جد کہندی سیں’ by Ayesha Farooq

توں سچی سیں جد کہندی سیں
عائیشہ فاروق

توں سچی سیں جد کہندی سیں
ایتھے سب نوں بھک اے دولت دی
تے دل رکھے کیکر ورگے
سب شرماں لاہ کے سٹیاں نیں
ایہناں پنڈے دے چسکے پچھے
ایہہ دنیا میری، میری دی
کسے کھو لیا کسے سٹ دتا
کسے ویچ لیا
کسے کھا لتا
اج ایہو قدراں رہ گیاں
ایھھ ہور ہی کوئی دیس
جتھے ہر اکھھ وچ نفرت تے ہر اکھھ وچ بھید
ایتھے منڈی پنڈے وکدے نیں
تے روز مرے اک دھی کدرے
گھر دا بوہا اچا سوہنا
اندر بڑا ہنیرا اے
جس جند بیتے اوہی جانے
ایہھ ہنیرا کنا میلا اے
توں سچی سیں جد کہندی سیں
‘دانتری نوں اک پاسے دندے
دنیا نوں دو پاسے نی
دکھڑے اپنے کنہوں دسئیے
ایہناں نہ دینے دلاسے نی’

اخیری چار لائناں امی جان دی کتاب ‘کملی نون رنگ لا گیا’ توں

Tu sachi sain jud kehndi sain
By Ayesha Farooq

Tu sachi sain jud kehndi sain
Aithay sub noo bhuk eh daulat di
Teh dil rookhay kikur warghay
Sub sharman laa kay sutiyaan nay
Ainhaan pinday deh chuskay pichay
Eh dunyia meri,meri di
Kissay kho laya
Kissay sut ditta
Kissay waich laya
Kissay kha litta
Uj aiho qadraan reh gayiaan
Eh hoar hi koi dais
Jitthay hur akh wich nafrat teh hur akh wich bhaid
Aithay mandi pinday wikday nai
Teh roz maray ik dhi kidhray
Ghur da boha uccha sohna
undar dhadha hunaira eh
Jis jind beetay ohi jaanay
Eh hanaira kina maila eh
Tu sachi sain jud kehndi sain
‘Dantri noo ik paasay danday
Duniya noo do paasay ni
Dukhray upnay kinoo dasiyay
Aihnaan na dainay dalassay ni’

Akheeri char linaN Ami Jan de kitab ‘Kamli noo rang la gaya’ tooN

Eh kaiji yaari laai ‘ایھ کیجہی یاری لاٰئ ‘ by Ayesha Farooq

ایھ کیجہی یاری لاٰئ
عائشھ فاروق

توں آکھیا سی میرے نال ایں
ایھ کیجھی یاری لائ
نیندر دی بکل مار لئ
اکھاں میٹیاں چپ سدھائ

اک واری فیر جے لبھ جاون
تیرے ہاسے تیریاں صفتاں
تیری خوشبو تیریاں گلاں
تے ہتھاں دی گرمائ

توں دسدی نہیں پر میں ویکھاں
توں بولدی نہیں میں سننی آں
تیریاں اکھاں راز نے کھولدیاں
اک اک مینوں سمجھاوندیاں

او ہمت ھن کیتھے لبھاں
ہن کیھ کراں جد کلی آں
میں کس نال دل دی گل کراں
ہن کنہوں دیواں دھائ
ایہھ کیجہی یاری لائ

اپنی نانی ماں زھرا بیگم دے ناں


Eh kaiji yaari laai
By Ayesha Farooq

Tou aakhya si meray naal ain
Eh kaiji yaari laai
Neendur di bukkal maar lai
Akhaan meetiyaan chup sadhai

Ik waari faer jai lubh jawann
Teray haasay, teriaan siftaan
Teri khasbo teriyaan gallan
Teh hathaan di garmaai

Tou disdi nai, pur mai waikhaan
Tou boldi nai mai sunni haan
Teri akhaan raaz nay kholdiyaan
Ik ik mainoo samjhaandiyaan

O lAAt mai huN kitthay labhaan
Hun ki karan jud kalli haan
Mai kis naal dil di gul karan
Hun kinoo daiwaan duhaai
Eh kaiji yaari laai

Apni naani maaN Zohra Begum de naa

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