We've all heard the now-famous song from Rabbi, 'Bulla ki jaana main kaun?' (Bulla, I do not know who I am..."
This seems to be a recurrent sufi theme and here's a true story:
Wali Allah was a mast fakir (which is to say he was eccentric; he often went about naked, and was often chased or beaten or stoned by the villagers.)
One day, he was being chased by a hostile mob; as he ran, he jumped over a wall.
Behind this wall, some little boys were hiding, eating stolen mangoes. Scared by the mast fakir's sudden appearance, the boys called out, "Who? Who is it?"
The scared Wali said, "That's what I don't know... That's just what I don't know!"
I was told this story by one of those little boys who has now grown up, fellow-journalist and author, Kali.
Kali tells me that this was one of the rare occassions when the mast fakir spoke at all. For some reason, years ago, he'd stopped speaking. He would only let out little whoops, and hoarse cries. Yet, those who know him say that he could express everything that he needed to, through his whooping - sorrow, joy, pain, hunger, love...
And Kali has written a short story about this, saying that every one of us needs to have one such Wali Allah in our lives - someone who doesn't need words to communicate.
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The Colonel and the gun
At Machhliwara, there is a small dargah (right next to the police station) which houses the tomb of Baba Bedi Shah. He was once Colonel Bedi, serving in the British army, when he turned to Sufism.
One fine day, a soldier in the British army approached Baba Bedi while he was telling his prayer-beads. Looking at them, he said, "What's that?"
The Baba pointed at the soldier's gun and asked, "What's that?"
The solider asked him, "Why do you go around with these beads?"
The baba said, "Why do you go around with a gun?"
"Because my officer asked me to" said the solider.
"And my master bids me to carry these beads," said the Baba.
"But what can you do with beads?"
"What can you do with a gun?"
The soldier raised his gun and shot down a bird in mid-flight. "That's what I can do with a gun."
The Baba touched his beads to the fallen bird's feathers, healed her and let her up to fly off again. He said, "THIS is what I can do with my beads."
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A lesson in Humility
There was this sufi saint (whose name I wasn't told because the guy who was telling the story had forgotten), who had a favourite disciple called Zayed (or was it Junaid?). The disciple pretty much expected to be named successor to the saint, and this, the saint as aware of.
So, the master called him and asked, "What will you do if you get my 'gaddi' (seat) and what if you don't?"
The disciple, with a touch of arrogance, said, "Well, if I get it, I will thank God. And if I don't... I will bear with it."
And the master said, "Then, what difference is there between you and a stray dog, who thanks God when he finds some food, and bears with his hunger, if he does not?"
I assume the disciple was suitably humbled, but I don't know what became of him, afterwards.