Baba Farid Shakar Ganj (r.a.)
"Farid return thou good for evil; In thy heart bear no revenge.
Thus thy body will be free of maladies, And thy life have all blessings
Baba Sheikh Farid had been in the 12th & 13th centuries, a great intellectual, unique renunciat, perfect ascetic and committed devotee of the Timeless Lord who communicated to the common folk the revealed divine message through the medium of sweet, soothing Punjabi language. Farid lived a householder's life marked with contentment and perseverance. One of the greatest virtues of his life was his love and sympathy for entire mankind. His heart felt pain of oppression perpetuated by the Muslim invaders in the name of religion. He tried to put balm on the hurt psyche of the people through the medium of sweet, soothing words so that the adverse impact caused by excesses of the orthodox Muslims to the image of Islam could be neutralized. Such an act on the part of someone was required for the revival of the feeling of fraternity amongst mankind. The unique humanitarian values of compassion, love, sympathy, mutual understanding and appreciation are clothed in the hymns of Farid as fragrance is in flowers. For his sweet words, sweet ideals and sweet behavior, Farid became known as an epitome of Sweetness (Shakarganj); his full name was Sheikh Farid ud-din Maund Ganj-I-Shakar.
Farid occupies a place of pre-eminence among the Punjabi poets. During his lifetime, wherever he went, whomever he conversed with, could not but be influenced by the high, pious and divine ideas of Farid. So much do that Raja Gokul Dev changed the name of his capital town to Faridkot in honor of this great Sufi saint. Faridkot is today one of the important towns of the Punjab state. Sheikh Farid was a disciple of Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki, the disciple & spiritual successor of Hazrat Ali who had received spiritual training from Hasan Basri; a known saint of Chishti tradition. Baba ji was born in 1173AD at Khetwal, now known as Chawli Mashaikh, a village in the Multan district (Pakistan). His mother's name was Mariam, also called Kursum by some. It is said that after birth, he didn't suckle milk for breatfeeding until night because he observed Roza (fast) at the time of his birth. This simplicity and austerity in the manner of his diet was to remain a life-long habit. The writer of 'Life and Times of Sheikh Farid' says that half a tumbler of Sherbat (sweetened water), few raisins and half a loaf of bread, prepared of the millet flour generally comprised his daily meal.
Farid's mother was very wise & noble, and wished for her son to acquire the best education so that he could comprehend the Truth. His father, Sheikh Jala ud-din Suleman, was descendant of the second Caliph of Islam. According to a historian, Farid was related to the Royal family of empire Farakhshal of Kabul, but the family was uprooted due to the invasions by Changez. Farid deeply impressed his spiritual mentor, Kaki, with his varied virtues. Thus, Kaki had a high respect for this disciple whom he used to call the most important bead in the rosary of Dharma.
In an absolutely impressive manner, Sheikh Farid realized this manifest world, the reality of God. He advises us to overcome worldly temptations & remain devoted to God, the creator of the whole universe. He cautions us against the false attractions of the world through his Bani which is deeply sensitive to the feeling of Empathy, Inevitable death & the waste of human life due to man's indifference to God & goodness. He continued preaching his message throughout his life, and at last breathed his last in AD 1266 at Pak Patan, earliar known by the name Ajodhan. He was succeeded on his spiritual throne by his son, Diwan BaDaruud-din Suleman.
The essence of the hymns of Farid can be stated as follows:
- Never forget Death under any circumstances.
- Avoid all quarrelling & polemics.
- Non-violence is the most beautiful ornament of Peaceful life.
Baba Farid ji exhorts mankind to cultivate these & all such virtues. He states that Contentment resides in the heart purified of all traces of Ego & Greed. Talking of a Faqir (hermit) he states that any new cloth is like a coffin for him. According to him, the detached person is also the wisest. He is the greatest who can face both pleasure & pain with Equanimity. The richest person is the one with the most content heart. He who has given up contentment is the worst dependent. Farid ji preached Ideology reflecting the reality of life. That is perhaps why he has been known as the best poet of old age & death.
According to Farid, self-realization or liberation from self is the other name for God-realization.. One who is subject to desires of senses, is the meanest of all because such a man fails to control his mind, and the endless desires emanating from mind make him a tool in the hands of the devil who makes him dance to his tune. Farid not only preached detachment and austerity but also made these the guiding principles of his life. It is said that at the time of Farid's death even a small piece of cloth to serve as coffin for his body could not be found in his house. For the tomb over his grave, the bricks were taken by pulling down a portion of one of the walls of his house.
The hymns of Sheikh Farid are available at 3 different places in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (SGGS):
- 2 hymns under Asa musical measures.
- 2 hymns under Suhi measure
- 112 slokas toward end of Scripture.
Every reader of SGGS looks up to the hymns of Sheikh Farid with due respect & reverence & seeks solace for his restless mind by reciting them.
The fame of Sheikh Farid had crossed the boundaries of Punjab & spread to the regions far & wide because his utterances touch every human heart. There is at a hill town called Girar in the Wardha district in the South, a place sacred to his memory. Similarly, he is revered as 'Shakar Bhai' on the Dawar Mountain at Janagarh, in Kathiawar.
Muslims & Hindus alike made their lives meaningful by following his teachings & the noble and pious spiritual flight achieved by him. Inclusion of Baba Farid ji's Bani immortalised his personality, vision & philosophy eternal and everlasting. As it is, his hymns form an integral part of Gurbani and inspire the mankind to live a life on contentment and austerity. They reiterate the humanitarian values of mutual love and understanding. Every human who has faith in religion or righteousness cannot but respect and revere Sheikh Farid from the core of his heart.