At the book launch of Political Thought of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai by Khalil-ur-Rahman Shaikh held at the Arts Council on Friday, the dynamic contributions of popular Sindhi Sufi poet were delved into and his message of tolerance, harmony and peace shared among all present.
Bhitai’s verses are considered to be very socio-political in nature as they shed light on the prevalent instability of Sindhi society during his time, and before.
This thought was shared by many at the book launch which saw literati belonging to the Sindhi written word contributing their opinion regarding the respect and awe Bhitai garners among his devotees.
However, Bhitai’s political thought, according to the author Mr Shaikh, has been largely ignored. “He was a poet who wrote on issues such as sovereignty of the state, rulers and their characteristics, revolution as well as patriotism. These segments require a thorough academic investigation which is lacking in our current publications.”
This was seconded by many speakers who were part of the book launch including Nazir Ahmed Channa and Amanullah Shaikh.
The need to understand the political philosophy behind Bhitai’s work, especially in the times he was writing in, is crucial towards a more holistic understanding of him and one after the other speakers lamented this dearth of academic research.
Bhitai was not a politician but his thought was definitely political. For Mr Channa, “Bhitai was writing in a milieu that saw Sindh in turmoil, with many reactionary movements causing instability.”
This is why he believes that Bhitai’s verses were an amalgamation of patriotism, fighting for the underdog, and especially “protecting the honour of the poor.”
“Bhitai wrote about the declassed and his political thought of a Sufi who wrote for justice, fair play and the right of the common man. This is why Bhitai is a universal poet,” he added.
Bhitai was not an illiterate person, as his letters written in Persian indicate, and had deep insight into the historical narrative of Sindh. His many travels allowed him to interact with a variety of people and helped him inculcate a deep understanding about the conditions of the common man.
Prof Ejaz Qureshi shared such qualities of Bhitai with the audience and questioned why such a great personality was not researched the way he deserved to be.
“We have only a handful of research work on Bhitai and that too in English. Mr Shaikh has done a great service by making Bhitai’s verses and his work more accessible to a larger readership, but the job is not complete. We need more of publications and this work must not stop here.”
Amanullah Shaikh read out an article he had written about the change and reform Bhitai’s verses brought about by championing the cause of the oppressed classes of Sindhi society.
He spoke about the socio-political and economic conditions of Bhitai’s time and how “his poetic sensibility helps us connect to the real world,” a world where resistance is key to survival and hope a weapon.
Political Thought of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai is Mr Shaikh’s fourth English book and outlines a
political system which Bhitai desired to see in Sindh for it to develop and flourish.