Rahman Baba

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For the school in Kabul, Afghanistan, see Rahman Baba High School.
Abdur Rahman Baba
Native name Pashto: عبدالرحمان بابا
Born 1653 CE (1064 AH)
Bahadur Kelay, Hazarkhwani, Peshawar, Mughal Empire (in present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan)
Died 1711 CE (1123 AH) (aged 57–58)
Resting place Peshawar
Ethnicity Pashtun
Known for Pashto poetry, Sufism
Notable work Dīwān
Home town Peshawar
Religion Islam (Hanafi Sunni)
Parent(s) Abdus Sattar Ghoryakhel

Abdur Rahmān Bābā (1653–1711) (Pashto: عبدالرحمان بابا‎), or Rahmān Bābā (Pashto: رحمان بابا‎), was a Pashtun poet from Peshawar in the Mughal Empire (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,(KPK) Pakistan). He, along with his contemporary Khushal Khan Khattak, is considered one of the most popular poets among the Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan.[1] His poetry expresses a peaceful mystical side of local culture which is becoming increasingly threatened by less tolerant interpretations of Islam.[2]

Rahman's lineage[edit]

Rahman was a member of the Ghoryakhel Mohmand sub-tribe of the Pashtuns, a group which migrated from the Hindu Kush mountains to the Peshawar valley, from the 13th to the 16th century. He grew up in a small pocket of Mohmand settlers on the outskirts of Peshawar.[3] Rahman apparently lived peacefully in the area, and never mentions his involvement in the fierce inter-tribal conflicts of his day.

Opinion is divided about Rahman's family background.[4] Several commentators are convinced that his family were village Maliks (chieftains).[4] However, Rahman Baba was more likely to have been a simple, though learned man. As he himself claimed: "Though the wealthy drink water from a golden cup, I prefer this clay bowl of mine."[5]

Abdur Rahman Baba died in 1715 CE, and his tomb is housed in a large domed shrine, or mazar, on the southern outskirts of Peshawar (Ring Road Hazar Khwani). The site of his grave is a popular place for poets and mystics to collect to recite his popular poetry. In April each year, there is a larger gathering to celebrate his anniversary.

Religious background[edit]

Rahman Baba was an ascetic but various unfounded theories have been made about who Rahman's guide may have been, and to which order he was attached. Sabir suggests that Rahman had a Naqshbandi Sufi tariqa initiation in Kohat, as well as training from the sons of Pir Baba. Schimmel and Saad Ahmed Baksh casually assign Rahman to the Chishti order. Aqab, himself of the Qadiriyyah order, claims Rahman was a Qadiri.Some barelvi think that Rahman baba belonged to their Firqa but actually Barelwee firqa came into being in 1856 after several hundreds years. So this claim of BarelWees is considered to be absolutely wrong.

Published work[edit]

A collection of Rahman's poetry, called the Dīwān ("anthology") of Rahman Baba, contains 343 poems, most of which are written in his native Pashto. The Dīwān of Rahman Baba was in wide circulation by 1728. There are over 25 original hand-written manuscripts of the Dīwān scattered in various libraries worldwide, including ten in the Pashto Academy in Peshawar, four in the British Library, three in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, as well as copies in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the University Library Aligath. The first printed version was collected by the Anglican Missionary T.P. Hughes and printed in Lahore in 1877.[3] It is this version which remains the most commonly used to this day.


Rahman Baba has received a large amount of praise. His work is regarded by many Pashtuns to be far more than poetry and next only to the Quran. The Pashtun Sufi master Saidu Baba said "if the Pashtuns were ever asked to pray on a book other than the Quran, they would undoubtedly go for Rahman Baba's work."[6]

Selected verses from Rahman Baba's Diwan translated into English rhyme[edit]

About 111 verses were translated into English Rhyme and published by Arbab Hidayatullah, himself a Ghoryakhel Mohmand, in 2009. The original Pashto version has been transliterated into the Roman alphabet in order to make it easier to read for those who can not read the Pashto alphabet. This translation, with a tilt to the romantic side of Rahman Baba's poetry, has been very well received.[citation needed]


On 8 March 2009, "militants" bombed Rahman Baba's tomb in Peshawar. "The high intensity device almost destroyed the grave ... and the gates of a mosque, canteen and conference hall situated in the ... Rehman Baba Complex. Police said the bombers had tied explosives around the pillars of the tombs, to pull down the mausoleum".[7] The shrine reopened in November 2012 after Rs. 39m reconstruction.[8]

Recommended reading[edit]

  • H. G. Raverty, The Gulistan-i-Roh: Afghan Poetry and Prose
  • H. G. Raverty, Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans, from the 16th to the 19th Century
  • Rahman Baba, Abdu'l, Robert Sampson, and Momin Khan. The Poetry of Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pukhtuns. Translated by Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Peshawar: University Book Agency, 2005.
  • Robert Sampson. "The Poetry of Rahman Baba: The Gentle Side of Pushtun Consciousness." Central Asia 52 (2003): 213–228.
  • Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Sow Flowers: Selections from Rahman Baba, the Poet of the Afghans. Peshawar: Interlit Foundation, 2008.
  • Robert Sampson. "The War on Poetry: Snuffing out Folk Tradition Along the Pakistan-Afghan Border." The Frontier Post, 7 December 2008.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sampson, Robert. "Abdu'l Rahmān Bābā: The Legacy of His Poetry in Expressing Divergent Islamic Theology in Pushtūn Society." M.A. Thesis, University of Nottingham, 2003.
  2. ^ Sampson, Robert. "The Poetry of Rahman Baba: The Gentle Side of Pushtun Consciousness." Central Asia 52 (2003): 213–228.
  3. ^ a b Rahman Baba, Abdu'l, Robert Sampson, and Momin Khan. The Poetry of Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pukhtuns. Translated by Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Peshawar: University Book Agency, 2005.
  4. ^ a b RB-P.
  5. ^ D 135/9.
  6. ^ "Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pashtuns". BBC News. February 21, 2005. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  7. ^ And now Sunni vs Sunni Riaz ul Hassan| circa July 2010
  8. ^ Khan, Javed Aziz (2012-11-21). "Rahman Baba shrine re-opens". Central Asia Online. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 

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