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Book review: ‘Kunyari Bozakh’ – Spiritual legacy of Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA)

March 2, 2024
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Tousif Raza

Aatay hain ghaib se yeh mazaameen khayaal mein

Ghalib, sareer-e-khamaa nava-e-sarosh hai

If I may begin my discourse with this verse of Ghalib, I find no hesitation in stating that throughout history, Allah has appointed His chosen servants to guide humanity. From the prophets of old to the saints of today, the lineage of guidance remains unbroken and unending. It is through the grace of Allah that Kashmir, our beloved valley, has been blessed with the luminous presence of Sheikh-ul-Alam, the architect of our cultural and spiritual heritage. Sheikh-ul-Alam, known as the “Alamdaar,” in Kashmir traversed the heights of spirituality, serving as a beacon of wisdom and a poet of unparalleled stature. What’s more, the people of Kashmir honor his verses with the title of “Kashur Quran,” for his words resonate with the divine echoes of the holy scripture. Indeed, the teachings of Sheikh-ul-Alam, imbued with guidance, are a blessing to us all. Yet, equal gratitude is owed to those who interpret and disseminate his words, enlightening us with their insights and making his teachings accessible to all.

I turn my attention to a work rooted in the profound wisdom of Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA) “Kunyari Bozakh.” Authored by the esteemed scholar, critic, Islamic scholar, and Sufism-knowing, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Haleem, this literary tome spans 248 pages, delving into profound subjects that shape our understanding of spirituality. Kunyari Bozakh is not merely a book; but a radiant jewel meticulously crafted by Dr. Haleem’s diligence, wisdom, and scholarly acumen. It serves as a unique gift, unveiling the deep teachings of the esteemed Sheikh al-Alam, a luminary of Kashmir’s spiritual legacy.

This book, akin to a guiding light, beckons future generations to embark on a journey of spiritual enlightenment and contemplation. Dr. Haleem, through “Kunyari Bozakh,” adeptly elucidates the teachings of Sheikh-ul-Alam(RA), aligning them with the demands of our contemporary era. In essence, Kunyari Bozakh serves as a bridge between readers and the spiritual legacy of Sheikh-ul-Alam(RA), inviting readers to explore the timeless connection between ancestral spiritual strength and the exigencies of the present.

Spiritual essence of the title

As we open the book, we read on page five the following verse: “Kunyari Bozakh Kuni nou-IRozakh, Aemi Kuniran dyut kotah Jalaw Aqal te fikr toar kot Sozakh, Kami maali cheyth hiyuk su daryaaw.” Although the title of the book is “Kunyari Bozakh” in alignment with the relevance of this verse, Dr. Haleem has chosen this title for reasons intrinsic to the book itself. In essence, Dr. Haleem presents “Kunyari Bozakh” as an invitation, much like Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA )and all other saints, to proclaim the oneness of Allah, the unity without partner. This title inherently establishes a principle that within the comprehensive framework of Islam lies the amalgamation of beliefs and practices. If actions embody the physical aspect, beliefs exist within it as the essence of the soul.

Among beliefs, the most crucial is understanding, affirming, and acknowledging the unity of the Creator. Survival hinges on this belief. In terms of eloquence, this title signifies a form of discourse, expressing its religious, societal, cultural, educational, and spiritual aspects explicitly. Just as Allah addresses in Surah Al-Ikhlas by saying “Qul Huwallahu Ahad” – declare that Allah is One, in the same manner, the title of this book fulfills the obligations of discourse by proclaiming the essence of Allah’s unity, the beginning of all things essentially being Him, and His manifestation in every hue and light.

Overview of topics covered in the book

Within the book there are fifteen topics, the vastness of each topic has such depth that each could merit its own separate volume. After introducing the title, the first subject addressed is the “self.” Following a definition of the self, the book delves into its various types, states, and treatments, a subject not lacking in scholarly depth. The scientific and spiritual exploration of the self enriches the book and serves as a significant guide for the reader. The profound study into the self reveals the author’s extensive knowledge of Islamic and Sufi studies. Regarding the self, Haleem establishes a bridge between nature and Sharia, striking a balance amidst differences to ensure the reader navigates without falling prey to negative perceptions.

The elucidation of Sheikh’s verses on the self is so beautifully crafted that the reader finds delight in revisiting them repeatedly. Take, for instance, the following verse:

Nafsi kodus aeti aeti

Nafsi korus pashemaan

Nafs chu madhos te hankal chati

Nafs yemi rot wot la makan

In interpreting this verse, the author explains that the self, an Arabic term, grammatically feminine, signifies life, essence, soul, or body—a force that strives for sustenance, strengthening desires to maintain vitality. The author asserts that this force is innate, and Sharia provides a means to control it. Success in mastering this natural force leads to the nectar of identifying Allah.

Sheikh-ul-Alam’s (RA) teachings on love

The second topic of the book is “Love.” Although not directly mentioned in the Quran and Hadith, the term finds its place in Sheikh al-Alam’s discourse, akin to illustrious poets like Rumi, Saadi, and Shirazi. Thus, love becomes a foundational and crucial topic in the book, exploring various linguistic, literal, and conceptual meanings. Additionally, the book discusses degrees of love. Furthermore, it includes the etymology, history, and principles of love’s terminology, occasionally integrating the discourse of Arefah and Sofiya, enriching the book’s literary and intellectual integrity. For the Sufis, love has always been the first step on the path of spiritual journey. Hence, Sheikh articulates:

Ishq chu kun shur maaji marun

Su hi myoth aohur Kari te kehi

Ishq chu kandew zaal wathrun

Su hi zol Kari te kaehi

Truly, love is a journey through an unknown desert that makes the heart tremble at its mere mention. However, the author presents Sheikh’s discourse on love in conjunction with the references of Sofiya, asserting that it is love that dissolves humans into the essence of the Creator, elevating them to the highest degrees of servitude.

Divine recognition and Sheikh-ul-Alam’s (RA) discourse

Divine recognition entails identifying or knowing Allah. Sharia terminologies deem recognizing Allah as divine recognition or divine knowledge. Through the book, Haleem establishes the concept of divine recognition by presenting comprehensive articles bound with historical and research-based evidence, making the reader familiar with divine recognition through linguistic, grammatical, and terminological meanings. This achievement stands as the book’s greatest success. In presenting divine recognition in Sheikh’s unique style, the author explains not only the concept but also various aspects of other subjects, making them clearer. Sheikh states:

Sahib chey bod chu kanh ni

Tagihem karhi chey itaat

Be yud zaan ha duniya keh ni

Na Haq dunyahich barha ne braanth

Regarding this verse, Dr. Haleem is resolute. Through these words, Sheikh conveys his belief in divine recognition while portraying his historical and research-based evidence. Though both views on recitation or remembrance of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are valid, it cannot be denied that the remembrance of the Messenger is indeed a recitation of praise.

The book covers topics like remembrance, life, death, poverty, virtues, Sufism, and the grave, among others. Most of these topics are of a research and creative nature, with each featuring textual and logical evidence, strengthening the book’s scholarly merit. While it’s impossible to discuss each topic, it’s essential to note that by including critical topics, the book lays the foundation for a significant research endeavor, a masterpiece in Kashmiri literature.

Nature of language in the book

In Kashmir, the analysis of their language is a rare endeavor for native speakers. Typically, the task of analyzing language and its foundational structures is initiated by non-Kashmiris, often nationals, while native speakers join this endeavor much later. While this isn’t my primary focus here, it’s crucial to highlight that although Kashmiri is a rich language, there is still much work needed in terms of its linguistic and structural development.

Regarding the linguistic excellence in Dr. Haleem’s book, it is indeed commendable. Through this book, as well as all his other works, he consistently demonstrates eloquence and linguistic mastery. The language used throughout the book is easy, fluid, and engaging, enhancing the beauty of the text manifold. The translation of Quranic verses, Hadiths, golden sayings, and Persian-Urdu poetry in the book is captivating and enchanting. Allow me to say that this book stands as a masterpiece in its own right. Lastly, I would like to address Dr. Haleem directly. While your research on Sheikh ul-Alam and religious teachings is commendable, the anticipation remains for your further exploration of his philosophical dimensions and other aspects.

(Author is an English literature student and can be reached at [email protected])

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