Friday, July 22, 2011

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai Religious Poet and Musician

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (also referred to by the honorifics Lakhino Latif, Latif Ghot, Bhittai, and Bhitt Jo Shah) (1689 – 1752) was a Sindhi Sufi scholar, mystic, saint, poet, and musician. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Sindhi language. His collected poems were assembled in the compilation Shah Jo Risalo, which exists in numerous versions and has been translated to English, Urdu, and other languages. His work frequently has been compared to that of Rūmī: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, described Shah Latif as a "direct emanation Rūmī's spirituality in the Indian world.

He settled in the town of Bhit Shah in Matiari, Pakistan where his shrine is located. The major themes of his poetry include Unity of God, love for Prophet, religious tolerance and humanistic values.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai was born in 1689 in Hala Haveli's village Sui-Qandar located near Hyderabad, Pakistan. Shah Abdul Latif was son of Syed Habibullah and grandson of Syed Abdul Quddus Shah.

According to most scholars, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai's lineage goes back to the Khwarizim Shahs, others claim he was a descendant of Mohammad and grandson of Mohammad. He however used the term "Shah" as a surname.

His ancestors had come from Herat in Afghanistan to Sindh, after it was sacked by Timur and his Mongol forces. Shah Abdul Karim Bulri (1600s), whose mausoleum stands at Bulri, about 40 miles from Hyderabad, a mystic Sufi poet of considerable repute, was his great, great grandfather. His verses in Sindhi are existent and his anniversary is still held at Bulri, in the form of an Urs.

His father Syed Habib Shah, lived in Hala Haveli, a small village, at a distance of about forty miles from Matiari and not far from the village of Bhitshah. Later he left this place and moved to Kotri, where Shah Latif spent some part of his adolescent life.

Most of the information that has come down to us has been collected from oral traditions. A renowned Pakistani scholar, educationist, and a foremost writer of plays, dramas and stories, Mirza Kalich Beg has rendered a yeoman service to Sindhi literature by collecting details about the early life of Shah Bhittai, from the dialogues that he has constantly held with some of the old folks, still living at that time, who knew these facts from their fathers and grandfathers for they had seen Shah Latif in person and had even spoken to him.

"The next day I sat down, and listened to the Story of the 'Vairagis.' Their salmon-coloured clothes were covered with dust. The lonely ones never talk to anyone about their being. They move about unmarked amongst the common folk." ........Shah Latif Bhittai

He was born around 1689 CE (1102 A.H.) to Shah Habib in the village Sui-Qandar a few miles to the east of the present town of Bhit Shah (named after him), on Safar 14, 1102 A.H. i.e. November 18, 1690 CE. He died at Bhit Shah on Safar 14, 1165 A.H., i.e. January 3, 1752 CE. In his memory, every year, on 14th Safar of the Hijri Calendar, an Urs is held at Bhit Shah, where he spent the last years of his life and where his elaborate and elegant mausoleum stands.

Latif got his early education in the school (maktab) of Akhund Noor Muhammad in basic Persian (the government language at that time) and Sindhi (local spoken language). He also learned the Qur'an. His correspondence in Persian with contemporary scholar Makhdoom Moinuddin Thattvi, as contained in the Risala-i-Owaisi, bears witness to his scholastic competence.

"Beloved's separation kills me friends, At His door, many like me, their knees bend. From far and near is heard His beauty's praise, My Beloved's beauty is perfection itself." .....Bhittai [Sur Yaman Kalyan]

Young Shah Abdul was raised during the golden age of sindhi culture. His first teacher was Noor Muhammad Bhatti Waiwal. Mostly, Shah Latif was self-educated. Although he has received scanty formal education, the Risalo gives us an ample proof of the fact that he was well-versed in Arabic and Persian. The Qur'an, the Hadiths, the Masnawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, Shah Inayatullah, along with the collection of Shah Karim's poems, were his constant companions, copious references of which have been made in Shah Jo Risalo. He is also known for his famed Calligraphic, and hand written skills he made several copies of the Qur'an.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, received his higher education in the Maktab of Akhund Noor Muhammad in basic Persian (the official language of the Mughal Empire) and Sindhi. He is also known to have memorized vast passages of the Qur'an. His correspondence in Persian with contemporary scholar Makhdoom Moinuddin Thattavi, as contained in the Risala-i-Owaisi, bears witness to his scholastic competence. In his poems he writes about Sindh and its neighbouring regions, he mentions the distant cities such as Istanbul and Samarqand, he also writes about Sindhi sailors (Samundi) their navigation techniques voyages as far to the Malabar coast, Sri Lanka and the island of Java.Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, mentions his travels in the Risalo.Sindhi historians believe that the Tambura was invented by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.

In appearance, Bhittai was a handsome man, of average height. He was strongly built, had black eyes and an intelligent face, with a broad and high forehead. He grew a beard of the size of Muhammad's beard. He had a serious and thoughtful look about himself and spent much time in contemplation and meditation, since he was concerned about his moral and spiritual evolution with the sole purpose of seeking proximity of the Divine. He would often seek solitude and contemplate on the burning questions running through his mind concerning man's spiritual life:

Why was man created?

What is his purpose on this earth? What is his relationship with his Creator?

What is his ultimate destiny?

Although he was born in favoured conditions, being the son of a well-known and very much respected Sayed family, he never used his position in an unworthy manner, nor did he show any liking for the comforts of life. He was kind, compassionate, generous and gentle in his manner of speech and behaviour which won him the veneration of all those who came across him. He had great respect for woman, which, unfortunately, the present day Vaderas (the landlords) do not have, and he exercised immense reserve in dealing with them, in an age when these qualities were rare. He hated cruelty and could never cause physical pain to any man or even to an animal. He lived a very simple life of self-restraint. His food intake was simple and frugal, so was his dressing which was often deep yellow, the colour of the dress of sufis, jogis, and ascetics, stitched with black thread. To this day, his relics are preserved at Bhitsah (where his mausoleum stands), including a "T"-shaped walking stick, two bowls, one made of sandal-wood and another of transparent stone, which he used for eating and drinking. His long cap and his black turban are also preserved.

In quest of religious truths, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai traveled to many parts of Sindh and also went to the bordering lands as far as Multan. He became well known to the rulers at height of the power and rule of Kalhoras in Sindh. However he independently traveled with Sufi brotherhoods visiting towns and cities, to preach the teachings of Islam. Throughout his travels he went to hills, valleys, riverbanks, fields and mountains where he met the ordinary simple people. He is known to have traveled to the Ganjo Hills in the south of Hyderabad, Sindh.

He also writes about the adventures of Samundis (Sindhi Sailors) and how they voyaged to Lanka and Java, in the Sur Surirag and Sur Samundi, he writes a detailed account on Thatta and the port Debal. He is known to have traveled with Baloch nomads and tribes into the mountains in Las Bela, Balochistan. For three years, he traveled with these jogis and sanyasis, in search of the truth, peace, and harmony. At several places in the Risalo, mention has been made of these jogis and of his visits to these wonderful, holy and peaceful places. He also traveled to such far away places in the Thar desert such as Junagadh, Jaisalmer.

By the time he was a young man of twenty one years, he began to be known for his piety, his ascetic habits and his absorption in prayers. Observation and contemplation were chief traits of his character. A number of people flocked round him adding to the already large number of his disciples. This aroused jealousy of some powerful, ruthless, tyrannical persons - landlords, Pirs, Mirs, and Rulers - who became his enemies for some time. Later, seeing his personal worth, and the peaceful and ascetic nature of his fame, abandoned their rivalry. At this time he was living with his father at Kotri, five miles away from the present site of Bhitshah. It was here that his marriage was solemnised in 1713 CE with Bibi Sayedah Begum, daughter of Mirza Mughul Beg. She was a very virtuous and pious lady, who was a proper companion for him. The disciples had great respect for her. They had no children.

In the true ascetic spirit, Shah Latif was now in search of a place where in solitude, he could devote all his time in prayers and meditation. Such a place he found near Lake Karar, a mere sand hill, but an exotic place of scenic beauty, four miles away from New Hala. This place was covered by thorny bushes surrounded by many pools of water. It was simply and aptly called 'Bhit' (the Sand Hill). On the heaps of its sandstones he decide to settle down and build a village. As it was sandy, he along with his disciples dug out the hard earth from a distance and covered the sand with it to make the ground firm. After months of hard labour, carrying the earth on their heads and shoulders, the place was now fit enough for the construction of an underground room and two other rooms over it, along with a room for his old parents. A mosque was also built and the houses of his disciples properly marked out. In 1742, whilst he was still busy setting up a new village, Bhit, he got the sad news of the death of his dear father.. Soon after this Shah Latif shifted all his family members from Kotri to Bhitsah, as the village now began to be called. His father was buried there, in accordance to his will, where his mausoleum stands only eight paces away, from that of Shah Abdul Latif, towards its north.

For the last eight years of his remarkable life, Shah Latif lived at Bhitshah. A few days before his death, he retired to his underground room and spent all his time in prayers and fasting, eating very little.

"Laggi Laggi wa'a-u wiarra angrra latji, Pa-i khanen pasah-a pasan karran-i pirin-a jay." ......Bhittai "Wind blew! The sand enveloped the body, Whatever little life left, is to see the beloved."

After 21 days in there, he came out and having bathed himself with a large quantity of water, covered himself with a white sheet and asked his disciples to sing and start the mystic music. This went on for three days continuously, when the musicians, concerned about the motionless poet, found that his soul had already left for its heavenly abode to be in the proximity of the Beloved for who he had longed for, all his life, and only the body was there. He suffered from no sickness or pain of any kind. The date was 14th Safar 1165 Hijra corresponding to 1752 CE. He was buried at the place where his mausoleum now stands, which was built by the ruler of Sindh, Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. His name literally means 'the servant of the Shah'. He, along with his mother, had adored and revered Shah Latif and were his devoted disciples. The work of the construction of the mausoleum was entrusted to the well-known mason, Idan from Sukkur. The mausoleum, as well as the mosque adjoining it, were later repaired and renovated by another ruler of Sindh, Mir Nasir Khan Talpur. A pair of kettle drums, that are beaten every morning and evening even till today by the fakirs, jogis and sanyasis, who frequent the mausoleum, were presented by the Raja of Jesalmeer.

"Korren kan-i salam-u achio a'atand-a unn-a jay." "Countless pay homage and sing peace at his abode."

"Tell me the stories, oh thorn-brush, Of the mighty merchants of the Indus, Of the nights and the days of the prosperous times, Are you in pain now, oh thorn-brush? Because they have departed: In protest, cease to flower. Oh thorn-brush, how old were you When the river was in full flood? Have you seen any way-farers Who could be a match of the Banjaras? True, the river has gone dry, And worthless plants have begun to flourish on the brink, The elite merchants are on decline, And the tax collectors have disappeared, The river is littered with mud And the banks grow only straws The river has lost its old strength, You big fish, you did not return When the water had its flow Now it's too late, You will soon be caught For fishermen have blocked up all the ways. The white flake on the water: Its days are on the wane." ......Bhittai [translated by Prof. D. H. Butani (1913-1989) in The Melody and Philosophy of Shah Latif

According to Sindhi historians young scholars such as Abul Hassan Thattvi (author of the Muqadamah as-Salawat, Hanafi Compendium) also wrote and sought advise from the elderly Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and frequently traveled to Bhit Shah.

The women of Shah Abdul Latif's poetry are known as the Seven Queens, heroines of Sindhi folklore who have been given the status of royalty in Shah Jo Risalo. The Seven Queens were celebrated throughout Sindh for their positive qualities: their honesty, integrity, piety and loyalty. They were also valued for their bravery and their willingness to risk their lives in the name of love. The Seven Queens mentioned in Shah Jo Risalo are Marvi, Momal, Sassi, Noori, Sohni, Sorath, and Lila.

These tragic romantic tales are Momal Rano, Umar Marvi, Sohni Mahiwal, LiLa Chanesar, Noori Jam Tamachi, Sassi Punnun and Dhaj, Ror Kumar or Seven Queens (Sindhi: ست مورميون) of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Heer Ranjha and Mirza Sahiba, including Sohni Mahiwal and Sassi Punnun are the four other tales from Punjab, narrated in Punjabi by various other Sufi poets like Waris Shah. Sassi Punnun and Sohni Mahiwal are culturally included in both Punjabi and Sindhi traditions. These nine tragic romances from South Asia (all from now days Pakistan)have become part of the cultural identity of Pakistan.

Perhaps what Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai saw in his tales of these women was an idealized view of womanhood, but the truth remains that the Seven Queens inspired women all over Sindh to have the courage to choose love and freedom over tyranny and oppression. The lines from the Risalo describing their trials are sung at Sufi shrines all over Sindh, and especially at the urs of Shah Abdul Latif every year at Bhit Shah.

Stamp Today: 100th Birth Anniversary Celebration 2011of His Hol...

Stamp Today: 100th Birth Anniversary Celebration 2011of His Hol...: "His Holiness Dr. Syedna Muhammed Burhanuddin Abul-Qaid Johar born Marc h 6, 1915 is the 52nd Dai or Unrestricted Missionary of the..."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

100th Birth Anniversary Celebration 2011of His Holiness Dr. Syedna Muhammad Burhanuddin Saheb (TUS)

His Holiness Dr. Syedna Muhammed Burhanuddin Abul-Qaid Johar born March 6, 1915 is the 52nd Dai or Unrestricted Missionary of the Dawoodi Bohras. The Dawoodi Bohras are a sub group within the Mustaali, Ismaili Shia branch of Islam.

Burhanuddin was born in Surat, Gujarat, India. He was appointed to be the future Dai at the age of 19 by his father, the previous Dai Taher Saifuddin. Burhanuddin succeeded his father, upon the latter's death when he was 53 years of age. He has seven sons and three daughters and all members of his family reside at Saifee Mahal, Mumbai.

Burhanuddin completed recitation of the Quran in 1921. At around the age of 13 he escaped an accident when bridge railing collapsed while on travel in Colombo, where his vehicle got hung on one wheel. He got lakab of Burhanuddin at age of 15 on his occasion of misaq. He received the designation of hadiyath (Sheikh) from 51st Dai at the age of 17 (1931 A.D.) and later designated as mazoon at the age of 20. He became hafiz at age of 21 (1935 A.D.) and married Amatullah Aai two years later.

Much later (1381 AH) he made a trip to Yemen to visit the earlier Dais of Yemen and consequently received the designation of "Mansural-Yaman". At the age of 53 (1965 A.D.) he became 52nd Dai on death of his father Taher Saifuddin.

Burhanuddin organised Ashura (Imam Husain's) function at various locations and addressed the gathering of Dawoodi Bohra (invited from all over world).

community held a ceremony at the Taheri Masjid Complex to mark the occasion. It began with a welcome address by Mullah Hasnain.Shaikh Shabbir Bhai Sadriwala informed the audience about the genesis of the idea of coming up with a postage stamp to commemorate the centennial birth celebrations of the Syedna, and thanked the government and the Pakistan Post for extending their support in this regard.

He also talked about those, including stamp collector M. Arif Balagamwala, who floated the idea of issuing a commemorative stamp at an expo held in January this year and also designed the stamp.

After that Mullah Hasnain gave the background to the design of the stamp. He said it had the image of Baab-i-Hatimi at Aljameatus Saifiya, North Nazimabad, which actually represented the 1000-year-old architectural design from the Fatimid period in Egypt.

Honorary secretary of the Faiz-i-Hakimi Saifuddin Bhai said that Syedna Burhanuddin had many qualities (he’s a teacher, an intellectual, a researcher, a guide, a spiritual leader etc), and had always taught and preached about the welfare of mankind. He said one of the essential teachings of the Syedna to his followers was serve and be loyal to the country where they lived. He also praised the Burhani Guards Trust (BGT) for its extensive and untiring efforts in arranging the programme and undertaking other assignments.

M Arif Balagamwala said that the ceremony was one of its kind because it was taking place on a Sunday. He said 500,000 stamps had been printed since the government didn’t allow more than that number, so it would be good if they were bought as early as possible.

BGT chairman Mr Noorudddin told the audience that the stamps would be showcased in a museum in Mumbai as well.

He said that throughout the history of Pakistan, leaders from the Quaid-i-Azam to the present prime minister had treated the Dawoodi Bohra community with affection.

For any purchase of stamps or FDCs please contact via E.Mail:

(Thanks Dawn News and Wikipedia)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Penny Black 1840

The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year.

All London post offices received official issues of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept postage payments in cash only for a period. Post offices such as those in Bath, began offering the stamp unofficially after 2 May.

The idea of an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage was part of Sir Rowland Hill's 1837 proposals to reform the British postal system; it was normal then for the recipient to pay postage on delivery. A companion idea, which Hill disclosed on 13 February 1837 at a government enquiry, was that of a separate sheet that folded to form an enclosure or envelope for carrying letters. At that time postage was charged by the sheet and on the distance travelled.

Postal delivery systems using what may have been adhesive stamps existed before the Penny Black. Apparently the idea had at least been suggested earlier in Austria, Sweden, and possibly Greece.

Hill was given a two-year contract to run the new system, and together with Henry Cole he ran a competition to identify the best way to pre-pay letters. None of the 2,600 entries were good enough, so Hill launched the service in 1840 with an envelope bearing a reproduction of a design created by the artist William Mulready and a stamp bearing a representation of the profile of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria. There are also references on the record to covers bearing the Mulready design. All British stamps still bear a picture or silhouette of the monarch somewhere on the design, and are the only postage stamps in the world that do not name their country of origin, leaving the monarch's image to symbolise the United Kingdom.

In 1839, the British Treasury announced a competition to design the new stamps, but none of the submissions was considered suitable. The Treasury chose a rough design endorsed by Rowland Hill, featuring an easily recognisable profile of 15-year-old former Princess Victoria. Hill believed this would be difficult to forge. The head was engraved by Charles and Fredrick Heath based on a sketch provided by Henry Corbould. Corbould's sketch was based on the cameo-like head by William Wyon, which had been designed for a medal used to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria to the City of London in 1837.[2][3] The word "POSTAGE" appeared at the top of the stamp (revenue stamps had long been used in the UK) and "ONE PENNY." at the bottom, indicating the amount that had been pre-paid for the transmission of the letter to which it was affixed. The background consisted of finely engraved engine turnings. The two upper corners contained star-like designs and the lower corners contained letters designating the position of the stamp in the printed sheet; "A A" for the stamp at the top left, and "T L" for the bottom right. The sheets, printed by Perkins Bacon, consisted of 240 stamps in 20 rows and 12 columns. As the name suggests, the stamp was printed in black ink.

Although 6 May was the official date that the labels became available, there are covers postmarked 2 May, due to postmasters selling the stamps from 1 May. A single example is known on cover dated 1 May 1840.

The Penny Black was in use for only a little over a year. It was found that a red cancellation was hard to see on a black background and the red ink was easy to remove, making it possible to re-use stamps after they had been cancelled. In 1841, the Treasury switched to the Penny Red and issued cancellation devices with black ink, much more effective as a cancellation and harder to remove. However, the re-use of stamps with the un-cancelled portions of two stamps to form an unused whole impression continued, and in 1864 the stars in the top corners were replaced by the check letters as they appeared in the lower corners, but in reverse order.

When sheets of the Penny Black were first printed various postal and other officials took the liberty of removing various numbers of stamps from their sheets to present as gifts to dignitaries and other important people. These sheet portions are commonly referred to by collectors as "imprimaturs" or "imprimatur sheets". There are approximately 850 of these sheet portions in the British Postal Museum which also include overprints for British Bechuanaland, Oil Rivers, Levant and Zululand and also departmental overprints such as Army and Inland Revenue.

The Penny Black was printed from 11 plates, but as plate 1 was completely overhauled due to excessive wear, it is generally considered to be two separate plates, 1a and 1b. Plate 11 was originally intended solely for the printing of new red stamps, but a small number were printed in black. These are scarce.

The stamps were printed in unperforated sheets, to be cut with scissors for sale and use.

An original printing press for the Penny Black, the D cylinder press invented by Jacob Perkins and patented in 1819, is on display at the British Library in London.

The Penny Black is not a rare stamp. The total print run was 286,700 sheets with 68,808,000 stamps and a substantial number of these have survived, largely because envelopes were not normally used: letters in the form of letter sheets were folded and sealed, with the stamp and the address on the obverse. If the letter was kept, the stamp survived. However, the only known complete sheets of the Penny Black are owned by the British Postal Museum.

The Penny Black is readily available on the collectors' market; a used stamp in poor condition can cost as little as £100 ($200); in 2011, a used stamp in fine condition cost about £1100, an unused example about £1,800, with prices steadily rising. By contrast, a used Penny Red was £0.50.

In addition to the general issue of the Penny Black, a similar stamp was produced with the letters V and R in the top corners replacing the stars, intended for official mail. Following the general public's acceptance of the postage stamps and the ridicule of the Mulready stationery produced at the same time, vast supplies of the letter sheets were given to government departments, such as the tax office, for official use and the idea of introducing an official stamp was abandoned. Only a few postally used examples exist, which probably originated from the Post Office circulars sent out as advance notice that the new stamps would be brought into use. Four are known on covers; all were cut from their envelopes and then replaced. Most of the cancelled examples are from trials which were made of cancellation types, inks, and experiments with their removal. These trials led to the change from black to red stamps, and vice versa for the cancellations.

The VR official is stated to have been made from the original master die. However, this cannot be the case as this die still exists with the original stars intact, in The British Postal Museum & Archive in London. It is believed that the master for this stamp was produced from the transfer roller used for the production of plate 1 with the stars removed from the top corners, as some impressions show traces of these original stars.