Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh was a Sufi saint and a Punjabi poet of great repute. He is especially renowned as the writer of a book of poetry called Saiful Malūk. He was born in a village called khanqa peir-E-shah Gazi Khari Sharif, situated near Mirpur District of Azad Jammu & Kashmir).
He belonged to the Gujjar caste and he was a fourth generation descendant of Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī Qalandar Damriyan Wali Sarkar, who was buried in Khari Sharif. Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī’s khalīfah was Khwājah Dīn Muhammad; and his khalīfah was Mīān Shamsuddīn, who had three sons: Mīān Bahāval Bakhsh, Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh – the subject of this article -, and Mīān ‘Alī Bakhsh. Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh’s ancestors originated in Gujrat, but had later settled in the Mirpur District of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. He was poet of Phari language (widely spoken in different parts of Kashmir.
There is much disagreement about his year of birth. Mahbūb ‘Alī Faqīr Qādirī, in a biography printed as an appendix to the text of Saiful Malūk gives the date as 1246 AH (1826 AD), a date also followed by the Shāhkār Islāmī Encyclopedia; 1830 and 1843 are suggested in other works but are almost cetainly erroneous. Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh himself states in his magnum opus – Saiful Malūk – that he completed the work during the spring in the month of Ramadan, 1279 AH (1863 AD), and that he was then thirty-three years of age- hence he must have been born in 1830.
He was brought up in a very religious environment, and received his early education at home. He was later sent with his elder brother, Mīān Bahāval, to the nearby village of Samwal Sharīf to study religious sciences, especially the science of Hadith in the madrassah of Hāfiz Muhammad ‘Alī. Hāfiz Muhammad ‘Alī had a brother, Hāfiz Nāsir, who was a majzub, and had renounced worldly matters; this dervish resided at that time in the mosque at Samwal Sharīf. From childhood Mīān Muhammad had exhibited a penchant for poetry, and was especially fond of reading Yūsuf ō Zulaikhā by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami. During his time at the madrassah, Hāfiz Nāsir would often beg him to sing some lines from Jami’s poetry, and upon hearing it so expertly rendered would invariably fall into a state of spiritual intoxication.
Mīān Muhammad was still only fifteen years old when his father, falling seriously ill, and realizing that he was on his deathbed, called all his students and local notaries to see him. Mīān Shamsuddīn told his visitors that it was his duty to pass on the spiritual lineage that he had received through his family from Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī Qalandar Damriyan Wali Sarkar; he pointed to his own son, Mīān Muhammad, and told those assembled that he could find nobody more suitable than he to whom he might award this privilege. Everybody agreed, the young man’s reputation had already spread far and wide. Mīān Muhammad, however, spoke up and disagreed, saying that he could not bear to stand by and allow his elder brother Bahāvul to be deprived of the honour. The old man was filled with so much love for his son that he stood up and leaving his bed grasped his son by the arms; he led him to one corner and made him face the approximate direction of Baghdad, and then he addressed the founder of their Sufi Order, Shaikh ‘Abdul-Qādir Jīlānī, presenting his son to him as his spiritual successor. Shortly after this incident his father died. Mīān Muhammad continued to reside in his family home for a further four years, then at the age of nineteen he moved into the khānqāh, where he remained for the rest of his life. Both his brothers combined both religion and worldly affairs in their lives, but he was only interested in spirituality, and never married – unlike them.
His Formal Pledge of Allegiance
Despite the fact that he had essentially been made a khalīfah of his father, he realized that he still needed to make a formal pledge of allegiance or bay’ah to a Sufi master. Having completed his formal education he began to travel, seeking out deserted locations where he would busy himself in prayer and spiritual practices, shunning the company of his fellow-men. He took the Sufi pledge of allegiance or bay’ah with Hazrat Ghulām Muhammad, who was the khalīfah of Bābā Badūh Shāh Abdāl, the khalīfah of Hājī Bagāsher (of Darkālī Mamuri Sharīf, near Kallar Syedan District Rawalpindi), the khalīfah again of Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī Qalandar Dumriyan Wali Sarkar.He is also said to have travelled for a while to Srinagar, where he benefitted greatly from Shaikh Ahmad Valī.
His Poetic Talents and Works
Once he had advanced a little along the Sufi way he became more and more interested in composing poetry, and one of the first things he penned was aqasidah (quatrain) in praise of his spiritual guide. Initially he preferred to writesiharfis and duhras, but then he advanced to composing stories in verse. His poetry is essentially written in the Pothohari dialect of Panjabi, and utilizes a rich vocabulary of Persian and Arabic words.
His works include:
Sakhi Khavass Khan,
Masnavi-e Nīrang-e ‘Ishq,
He also wrote a commentary on the Arabic Qasidat-ul-Burda of al-Busiri,
and his most famous work, entitled Safarul ‘Ishq (Journey of Love), but better known as Saiful Maluk.