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Shah Hussain

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Shah Hussain
شاہ حسین
Miniature painting of Sufi saint, Madho Lal Hussain (right)

1539 CE (945 AH)
Died1599 CE (1008 AH)
Resting placeDarbar Shah Hussain, Baghbanpura, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
EraEarly Mughal-era
Notable workKāfiyā'n Shah Hussain
Writing career

Shah Hussain (Punjabi: شاہ حسین (Shahmukhi); ਸ਼ਾਹ ਹੁਸੈਨ (Gurmukhi); 1538 – 1599), also known as Madhoo Lal Hussain, was a 16th-century Punjabi Sufi poet who is regarded as a pioneer of the Kafi form of Punjabi poetry. He lived during the ruling periods of Mughal emperors Akbar and his son Jahangir.[1][2]


Shah Hussain is also often known as Shah Hussain Faqir - Faqir meaning Dervish (mendicant) and Shah means King. So due to his extremely humble Sufi personality, people called him The Dervish King, a person who was a King and a Dervish at the same time.[1]


He was born in 945 AH (1538) within the Walled City of Lahore in what is now Punjab, Pakistan.[2] His father was Sheikh Usman,[2] he was a Dhudhi Rajput (a clan of Rajput), and by occupation, he was a weaver (in some of Shah Hussain poetic rhymes he used his pen name as Faqir Hussain Julaha which means "Saint Hussain the weaver").[1] Notable books written on his life include Risala Baharia (by Bahar Khan on the directions of Emperor Jahangir), Hasanat ul Arifin (by Prince Dara Shiko in 1653), Haqiqat ul Fuqra (by Syed Sheikh Mahmood in 1662), Miftahul Arifin (by Abdul Fatah Naqshbandi Mujadad in 1667), along with others.[2]

The Shrine of Shah Hussain in Lahore


His tomb and shrine is located at the Baghbanpura precincts, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens (Lahore), Pakistan. His Urs (annual death anniversary) is celebrated at his shrine every year during the "Mela Chiraghan" ("Festival of Lights").[2][3] Madho's tomb lies next to Hussain's in the shrine.[4][1]

In the 18th century, during Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839) rule of Punjab, the maharaja himself would lead a procession from his palace in Lahore to Shah Hussain's shrine barefoot during Mela Chiraghan (Festival of Lights), accompanied by thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. Shah Hussain's urs and the mela used to happen at two different times but were both combined into one and then called "Mela Chiraghan" (Festival of Lights) by Ranjit Singh. This mela (festival) is considered to be the biggest festival of Punjab.[1][2]

Kafis of Shah Hussain[edit]

Hussain's works of poetry consist entirely of short poems known as Kafis.[5] A typical 'Hussain Kafi' contains a refrain and some rhymed lines. The number of rhymed lines is usually between four and ten. Only occasionally is a longer form adopted. Hussain's Kafis are also composed for, and the singing of them has been set to music based on Punjabi folk music. Many of his Kafis are part of the traditional Qawwali repertoire. His poems have been performed as songs by Kaavish, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Ghulam Ali, Hamid Ali Bela, Amjad Parvez, Junoon and Noor Jehan, among others.[1][6]

"It may be asserted that poetry is often written to be sung. And all poetry carries, through manipulation of sound effects, some suggestion of music".[7]

Here are three examples, which draw on the famous love story of Heer Ranjha:

Another Kafi:

Two Kafis that are addressed to his Hindu disciple Madho Lal Hussain[8] need a special mention:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Sameer Shafi Warraich (24 April 2018). "'Love needs no guidance': How Shah Hussain and Madhu Laal defied social norms past and present". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tania Qureshi (11 March 2019). "Shah Hussain — the pioneer of Punjabi kafi". Daily Times (newspaper). Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  3. ^ Annual Mela Chiraghan (Festival of Lights) in Lahore, Pakistan Dawn (newspaper), Published 4 April 2016, Retrieved 17 March 2021
  4. ^ Lal, Mohan. (2006) Encyclopaedia of Indian literature. Vol. 5, Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, p. 3940. ISBN 81-260-1221-8.
  5. ^ Hussain, Shah (1987). Kafiyan Shah Hussain: Kalaam Aur Urdu Tarjumah.
  6. ^ "Hamid Ali Bela sings Shah Hussain poem". dailymotion.com website. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Najm Hosain Syed. "Profile of 'Shah Hussain'". travel-culture.com website. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  8. ^ Amin Naqshbandy, Sheikh Parvaiz (2001). Hazrat Maadho Laal Hussain. the University of Michigan: Umar Publications. p. 120.

Further reading[edit]

  • Great Sufi Poets of The Punjab, by R. M. Chopra, Iran Society, Kolkata, 1999.
  • Verses of a Lowly Fakir poetry of Madho Lal Hussein translated by Naveed Alam 2016. ISBN 0670088277

External links[edit]