Rahman Baba

Rahman Baba

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Abdul Rahman Baba is popularly known as Rahman Baba , was a Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 Muslim poet from Peshawar
Peshawar
Peshawar is the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the administrative center and central economic hub for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan....

 in modern-day Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 who remains the most popular poet among the Pashtuns
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

. His poetry expresses a peaceful mystical side of local culture which is becoming increasingly threatened by less tolerant interpretations of Islam.

Rahman's lineage


Rahman was a member of the Khalil Muhmand (Bahader Kalay) sub-tribe of Pukhtuns, a group which originally migrated from Kandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

 to the Peshawar valley, from the 13th to the 16th century. He grew up in a small pocket of Mohmand settlers on the outskirts of Peshawar
Peshawar
Peshawar is the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the administrative center and central economic hub for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan....

. Rahman apparently lived peacefully in the area, and never mentions his involvement in the fierce inter-tribal conflicts of his day.

Opinion is divided about Rahman's family background. Several commentators are convinced that his family were village Malik
Malik
Malik is an Arabic word meaning "king, chieftain".It has been adopted in various other, mainly Islamized or Arabized, Asian languages for their ruling princes and to render kings elsewhere. It is also sometimes used in derived meanings...

s (chieftains). However, Rahman Baba was more likely to have been a simple, though learned man. As he himself claimed: "Though the wealthy drink water from a golden cup, I prefer this clay bowl of mine."

Abdur Rahman Baba died in 1715 AD, and his tomb is housed in a large domed shrine, or mazar
Mazar
A Mazār is a tomb or mausoleum ; the word deriving from the Arabic verb zāra , 'to visit', whence also comes the noun ziyārah , 'a visit', or 'visiting the tomb of a saint for blessings.'. Though the word is Arabic in origin, it has been borrowed by a number of eastern languages, including Persian...

, on the southern outskirts of Peshawar (Ring Road Hazar Khwani). The site of his grave is a popular place for poets and mystics to collect to recite his popular poetry. In April each year, there is a larger gathering to celebrate his anniversary.

Religious background


Rahman Baba was an ascetic but various unfounded theories have been made about who Rahman's guide may have been, and to which order he was attached. Sabir suggests that Rahman had a Naqshbandi
Naqshbandi
Naqshbandi is one of the major Sufi spiritual orders of Sufi Islam. It is considered to be a "Potent" order.The Naqshbandi order is over 1,300 years old, and is active today...

 Sufi tariqa initiation in Kohat
Kohat
Kohat is a medium sized town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It is located at 33°35'13N 71°26'29E with an altitude of 489 metres and is the capital of Kohat District. The town centres around a British-era fort, various bazaars, and a military cantonment. A British-built narrow gauge...

, as well as training from the sons of Pir Baba. Schimmel and Saad Ahmed Baksh casually assign Rahman to the Chishti
Chishti Order
The Chishtī Order is a Sufi order within the mystic branches of Islam which was founded in Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan about 930 CE. The Chishti Order is known for its emphasis on love, tolerance, and openness. The doctrine of the Chishti Order is based on walāya, which is a...

 order. Aqab, himself of the Qadiriyyah order, claims Rahman was a Qadiri.

Published work


A collection of Rahman's poetry, called the Diwan (Anthology) of Rahman Baba, contains 343 poems, most of which are written in his native Pukhto, which is a dialect of the Pashto language found in Afghanistan and parts of Western Pakistan. The Diwan of Rahman Baba was in wide circulation by 1728. There are over 25 original hand-written manuscripts of the Diwan scattered in various libraries worldwide, including ten in the Pukhto Academy in Peshawar, four in the British Library, three in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, as well as copies in the John Rylands Library
John Rylands Library
The John Rylands Library is a Victorian Gothic building on Deansgate in Manchester, England. The library, which opened to the public in 1900, was founded by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her late husband, John Rylands...

 in Manchester, the Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

 in Oxford and the University Library Aligath. The first printed version was collected by the Anglican Missionary T.P. Hughes and printed in Lahore in 1877. It is this version which remains the most commonly used to this day.

Selected verses from Rahman Baba's Dewan translated into English rhyme


About 111 verses were translated into English Rhyme and published by Arbab Hidayatullah, himself a Ghoriakhel Mohmand, in 2009. The original Pashto version has been transliterated into the Roman alphabet in order to make it easier to read for those who can not read the Pashto alphabet. This translation, with a tilt to the romantic side of Rahman Baba's poetry, has been very well received.

Recommended reading


  • H. G. Raverty, The Gulistan-i-Roh: Afghan Poetry and Prose
  • H. G. Raverty, Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans, from the 16th to the 19th Century
  • Rahman Baba, Abdu'l, Robert Sampson, and Momin Khan. The Poetry of Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pukhtuns. Translated by Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Peshawar: University Book Agency, 2005.
  • Robert Sampson. "The Poetry of Rahman Baba: The Gentle Side of Pushtun Consciousness." Central Asia 52 (2003): 213-228.
  • Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Sow Flowers: Selections from Rahman Baba, the Poet of the Afghans. Peshawar: Interlit Foundation, 2008.
  • Robert Sampson. "The War on Poetry: Snuffing out Folk Tradition Along the Pakistan-Afghan Border." The Frontier Post, 7 December 2008.

External links