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Bulleh Shah: A Selection

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This book is a collection of poems by the great Sufi poet of Punjab, Bulleh Shah (1680-1758), translated into English by Taufiq Rafat, one of Pakistan's premier English language poets.

Born Abdullah Shah, Bulleh Shah belonged to the oral tradition and his poems are primarily in Punjabi as well as in Siraiki. Bulleh Shah's poetry is in the Kafi style, already established with the Sufis who preceded him, and extensively use the Rubbay (Quatrain) form. Several of his verses are an integral part of the traditional repertoire of Qawwali, the musical genre which represents the devotional music of the Sufis. Following the tradition of Sufi poetry, the poems in this collection refer to love of or for God, or the Mentor, or the desire for absorption in nature, described through symbolic references to local customs pertaining to weddings, funerals, journeys, and harvests

252 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1982

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About the author

Bulleh Shah

15 books88 followers
Bulleh Shah (1680–1757) (Punjabi: بلہے شاہ, ਬੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ ਸ਼ਾਹ) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, humanist and philosopher. His full name was Abdullah Shah.

The verse form Bulleh Shah primarily employed is called the Kafi, a style of Punjabi, Sindhi and Saraiki poetry used not only by the Sufis of Sindh and Punjab, but also by Sikh gurus.
Bulleh Shah’s poetry and philosophy strongly criticizes the Islamic religious orthodoxy of his day.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulleh_Shah

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Faaiz.
221 reviews2 followers
April 9, 2022
A functional translation of selected works of Bulleh Shah aimed to communicate some meaning of Bulleh Shah's verse to a non-Punjabi audience. However, Bulleh's verse is inundated with meaning and cultural and religious themes and signifiers that a simple translation will never be able to articulate. What is particularly useful is the introduction chapter on Bulleh Shah that helps the reader situate Bulleh Shah's poetry within not just the wider cultural and political context of the times he lived in, but also his positioning vis-à-vis the world of sufi literature in which he is often relegated to. As the author notes, simply calling Bulleh Shah just a sufi poet is to miss a whole sleuth of characteristics that set him apart from other poets of the pre-Colonial subcontinent and the wider world of Muslims, and the specificity of his thinking situated in the context of the subcontinent with its kaleidoscope of ethno-religious influences. Wish a proper biography and literary analysis of this great poet emerges one day.
Profile Image for Saima.
249 reviews49 followers
November 30, 2019
I read the poetry in punjabi along with english which is why I felt the english translation( or as the author calls it rendition) was flat and flavourless but I dont blame the author for that the language itself cannot really contain the richness that a punjabi prose otherwise holds.

The beginning forward summaraizng Bulleh Shahs life, inspirations and subcontinents sufi history was new for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lastly I really enjoyed reading some of the poetry and then listening to its musical adaptations.
Profile Image for Sidra.
112 reviews17 followers
January 20, 2020
The Punjabi bits outshone the translation because the essence of Bulleh Shah was lost in translations despite the translator's best effort.
Profile Image for Suzan Amin Khoja.
182 reviews7 followers
November 18, 2021
These poems were so pretty. Each poetry touched my heart a lot and I loved it a lot although some poems were a little confusing and I felt a little lost. I didn't think this was the best poetry that I ever read but a lot of the poems were on the partition of India and Pakistan that were nice and emotional too. Hope to read more books by Bulleh Shah.
Profile Image for Tuba Aisha.
83 reviews46 followers
March 24, 2022
Something I noticed about Bulleh Shah's writing is that it is absolutely timeless. To think that these words were written in 1600s and resonate even today is mind-blowing and refreshing to know for someone like myself. His work has helped me discover this entire world of sufism and poetry that transcends time and is not held back by religion. It is relatable on so many levels and for so many people regardless of whether it was written in order to express love for God or a higher being.

I was very impressed to read his work on spirituality and religion because I had the misunderstanding that it maybe too constrained or limited but that was not the case at all. Bulleh Shah's perspective of spirituality is inviting, it feels safe and non-threatening. As someone who holds so many of the same values about religion, I was really happy to have come across this work of art. It has given me an avenue to dig deeper into his work and Sufism as a school of thought. This book to me felt like a beginning because it transported me into a very welcoming form of poetry that I resonated with deeply.

As someone who had to mostly rely on the english translation, I acknowledge that so much of the essence was lost in translation because Punjabi is a much more expressive language than English but despite the language gap, this translation by Taufiq Rafat was cleverly executed. It flowed really well and did not fail to carry over the essence of the original prose. If you are into poetry and would like to explore sufism through poetry then this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Midnight Sun.
207 reviews
June 18, 2023
Bullen Shah was literally out there spitting facts 300 years ago 💯💯
Also, the rhyming scheme was immaculate 💪🏼 props to the translator, I’m sure it wasn’t easy trying to capture the true essence of the original punjabi poem.
Profile Image for Azhar Ali.
Author 4 books5 followers
March 28, 2017
A brief but wonderful book. Strongest side of book is to explain various terms used by Bulleh Shah with respect to local traditions. Only this makes real sense and understanding of his poetry.
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