Sheikh Farid was an early Sufi who strengthened humanitarian ideals and Sufi traditions in India. 

Sheikh Farid-ud-Din Masud called 'Ganj-i-Shakkar' (storehouse of candy). He holds a significant position  in Punjab and the Punjabi language. He lived in Punjab from 1173 to 1265 AD. He was a scholar and a wise man. He was a devoted Darvesh who spent his life trying to become one with God. He was a respected teacher who established his holy seat at Pakpattan. His disciples included the famous Sufi saint of Delhi, Sheikh Nizam-ud-Din Aulya.

He was a prominent and popular moral and spiritual teacher. The people of Punjab have revered his holy name for almost eight centuries. His birthday is celebrated annually with great pomp and show at Pakpattan in Pakistan and Faridkot in India, even today. His lyrical verses are included in Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Book of the Sikh faith, which was compiled in 1604 AD by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Sheikh Farid belonged to the Chishti Order of the Sufis.

Earliest Sufis

Sheikh Farid was one of the earliest Sufis Sufi who strengthened humanitarian ideals and Sufi traditions in India. Over time, he became a connecting link between Muslim and non-Muslim moral and spiritual thought in the Indian subcontinent. His teachings promoted morality for all people, encouraging devotion to God, humility, contentment, generosity, and compassion. His teachings did not show bias towards any sect or a superior attitude. This made him beloved not just by his followers but also by common people for hundreds of years.

A noble poet 

Sheikh Farid was a great and noble poet. He sang about his love of God, nature, and people with passion. His words were very beautiful. His lyrical writings including four beautiful hymns and 123 couplets called Shabads and Slokas are preserved in Guru Granth Sahib. Some of his verses are well-known and used by common people. This is because they are written in a style similar to folklore. They use simple language and idioms used in Punjab, the Land of Five Rivers.

There are obvious reasons why Farid's lyrical writings are so significant and popular in Punjab. They continue to influence Punjabi language, literature, and culture. The most important reason is that Farid adopted the Punjabi language spoken by common people. He used it to express his thoughts and convey his message directly and effectively. Evidence suggests Farid was the first to do this. He was also the first Punjabi poet of Sufism. He started an original and distinct stream of Sufi poetry in Punjab. This stream has a rich and long literary tradition. It continues to influence modern Punjabi poetry. By doing this, Farid laid the base for the literary tradition of the Punjabi language. He is often called the Patriarch or Father of Punjabi with great pride.

Weaving tradition and art 

The people of Punjab take great pride in their rich literary heritage, which stretches back over eight centuries. This tradition is exemplified by Sheikh Farid and his mystical writings. Farid's message promoted universal humanity and compassion. During an era of theological intolerance and violence, he advocated forgiveness, consideration, and empathy for all people. Farid urged kindness in simple yet profound words from the Punjabi language of his time, saying one should not utter a harsh word to anyone, for the true Master resides in all beings. He declared that no heart should be broken, as every heart is a priceless jewel. Due to this universal message and Farid's noble qualities, Guru Nanak and his successors, who initiated a great movement of human morality and peace, incorporated Farid's compositions into their sacred text. The compiler, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, endorsed Farid's teachings of universal brotherhood of humanity.

Farid's message has been invaluable in fostering understanding across different faiths. When one recites his hymns and couplets, their beauty and profundity gradually become apparent. Farid was the first major Punjabi poet to express love and devotion to God through the lens of human romantic relationships, using symbols like wife and husband or lover and beloved. He became the first voice to express, in the Punjabi language, the deep yearning of the human soul for reunion with the Divine. He poured his own emotions into powerful imagery and metaphor, such as: "O black koel; what has rendered you sable-black?" "The fire of separation from the beloved has done this to me.”

Sheikh Farid’s poetic brilliance allowed the Punjabi language to soar to new spiritual heights.His work transcended religious boundaries, resonating with Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs alike, and his legacy continues to inspire seekers on the path to the Divine.

*Based on an article by Dr. Harnam Singh Shaan, published in on 24th April 2015


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