Shah Husayan (1538-1599) is commonly known as Madhu Lal Hussain, the story being that he adopted his Hindu friend Madhu Lal's name to immortalise their friendship. He was around during the time of the Mughal emperors Akbar and Jehangir. Though of a poor family, Hussain was highly educated.
His poetry is full of symbolism. Some of his most famous kafis feature the Charkha, as in those days foreign merchants used to sell cotton to Lahore, which the poor later weaved into cloth.
Hadrat Shah Lal Husayn of Lahore, a disciple of Bahlul Shah Daryai. His mother was a Rajput woman of the Dhadha tribe, and his paternal ancestors were known as Kalsarai. Thus Lal Husayn's own name was originally Dhadha Husayn Kalsarai. The first of his ancestors to accept Islam was a man named, Kalsarai who became a Muslim during the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlag, and was appointed by him to be Shaykhul-Islam. The family name, Kalsarai, dates from that time. Lal Husayn showed, even as a child, a marked preference for clothes of saffron and red colour, hence the epithet Lal added to his name. Very early in life it became clear that he possessed a religious disposition, and while still only ten years' old he was initiated into the Qadiri Order by Bahlul Shah Daryai.
For twenty-six years he strictly followed the rites and practices of Islam, and led a life of real austerity. But on reaching the age of thirty-six, it is said that while studying a commentary on the Quran under a certain Shaykh Sa 'du'llah in Lahore, he came one day to the verse; "The life of this world is nothing but a game and sport." (vi. 32). He asked his master to explain this to him, but when the usual meaning was given he refused to accept it, saying that the words must taken literally, and that henceforth he himself would pass his life in sport and dancing. This incident proves to be a turning point in his career and from that time he sought to express in life the extraordinary views he held.
In consequence he abruptly left the madras and went about shouting and dancing in public. He never returned to his student life and religious practices. One of his first acts on leaving his studies was to throw his book. Maddrik, a commentary on the Quran, into a well. His fellow-students, grieved at the loss of so valuable a work began to chide him, whereupon he turned and addressed the well as follows: ""O water, return my book, for my friends are anxious to have it;" on saying this he drew it out unsoiled.
He now gave himself up to the life of a libertine and spent so much of his time in drinking, dancing and music that he became, in the language of the Sufi malamati, blameworthy. It is said that his pir Bahlul Shah Daryai. hearing of the change in his disciple came to see him and, strange to relate, in spite of the freedom from restraint which he himself witnessed in Husayn's manner of life he expressed himself satisfisfied with the hidden sanctity of his disciple, and thereupon confirmed him in his position as his vicegerent in` Lahore.
Hassu Teli, famous as the saint of oilmen, was a contemporary of Lal Husayn. He kept a shop at Chawk Jhhanda near the Mori gate. At first he used to sell corn but later at the direction of his Pir, Shah Jamal ((whose tomb is in Ichhra) he started selling oil.
Lal Husayn, who was in the habit of visiting the tomb of Data Ganj Bakhsh, would stop on his way at the shop and spend some time in dancing and shouting. One day Hassu Teli teasing him said, O, Husayn, why this dancing and shouting? You have no cause for such ecstasy, for I have never seen you in the court of the Prophet." But on the following day, when Muhamad held his court in the spirit world, with all the prophets and saints in attendance including Hassu Tell as one of the representatives of the living saints on earth, a child appeared who first went to the lap of the Prophet, and was then passed from one to the other, finally coming to Hassu Teli. While playing on the latter's knee he plucked out some hairs from his beard. When next Husayn stopped at the oilman's shop Hassu repeated his taunt that the man was not worthy of being admitted into the Prophet's court. For reply Lal Uusayn quietly produced the hairs which he had plucked from Hussu's beard! The oilman was at first thrown into great consternation, but recovering his equilibrium retorted after a moment's silence: "So it was you, was it ? Ah well, it was as a child that you got the better of me!"
Lal Husayn's name is popularly associated with that of another person called Madhu, and in fact, the two are so constantly thought of together that the saint commonly goes by the name of Madhu Lal Husayn as though the master and this disciple of his were one person. Madhu was a young Hindu boy, a Brahmin by caste, to whom Lal Husayn was, one day, irresistibly attracted as he saw him pass by. So strong indeed was the fascination he felt for the boy, that he would rise in the middle of the night and, going to his house, would walk round it. In time Madhu himself felt the attraction of Lal Husayn and, coming under the spell of his fervent love, began to frequent his house, and even joined him in drinking wine. Such intimate connection between a Hindu boy and a Muslim faqir of questionable character very soon become the talk of the place. Madhu's parents feeling it to be a disgrace to their family tried their utmost to dissuade the boy from going to Lal Husayn, but in vain.
So far Madhu, though the bosom friend of Lal Husayn, had not yet renounced Hinduism. It was, we a told, a miracle wrought by LAl Husayn that finally led him and his parents to the conviction of the truth of Islam. The story goes that once when Madhu's parents were going to Hardwar to perform the bathing ceremony they desired to take their son with them. Lal Husayn however, would not let him go, though he promised to send him later. When the parents had reached Hardwar Lal Husayn made Madhu shut his eyes and then, after striking his feet upon the ground, to open them again , Madhu did as he was told and was greatly astonished on looking round to find himself in Hardwar! His surprise was shared by his parents, who marveled at his arrival from such a distance within so short a space of time. Impressed by this miracle, Madhu and his parents on their return to Lahore accepted Islam at the hands of Lal Husayn.
The latter died in 1599 A. D. at the age of 63 and Madhu who survived him for forty-eight years was buried in a tomb next to that of his pir, in Baghanpura, in Lahore. The shrine containing their tombs continues even to this day to attract dense crowds of people of classes. The urs used formerly to be celebrated on 22nd Jamdi 'th-thani, i. e. the anniversary of Lal Husayn's death; but later, in order to avoid any inconvenience through the date for the celebration falling in the heat of summer, it was agreed to make the festival coincide with the advent of spring so now the 14th Baisakh and the last Sunday in March are the recognized dates for its celebration.
Lal Husayn had sixteen Khalifas, four of them were called Khaki, four Gharib, four Diwan, and four Bilawal. After his death four of them, viz. Khaki Shdh, Shdh Gharib, Diwan Madhu, and Shah Bilawal took up their abode at his shrine, and were eventually buried within its precincts.
Poetry / Kafis of Shah Hussain
Hussain's poetry consists entirely of short poems known as "Kafis", usually 4 to ten lines, designed for musical compositions, to be interpreted by the singing voices. The rhythm and the refrain are so balanced as to bring about a varying, evolving musical pattern... folk songs that draw on the emotional experience of the community.... record the reactions to the cycle of birth and the play of desire against the rhythms of hope , despair, exultation and nostalgia.
Today most of these Kafis are sung, by well know singers and some have even been used as songs in the Indian Film Industry.
All translations are from Najam Hosain's book quoted below.
Life's Journey - limits & boundaries
Main wi janan dhok Ranjhan di, naal mare koi challey
Pairan paindi, mintan kardi, jaanan tan peya ukkaley
Neen wi dhoonghi, tilla purana, sheehan ney pattan malley
Ranjhan yaar tabeeb sadhendha, main tan dard awalley
Kahe Husain faqeer namana, sain senhurray ghalley
Travelers, I too have to go; I have to go to the solitary hut of Ranjha. Is there any one who will go with me? I have begged many to accompany me and now I set out alone. Travelers, is there no one who could go with me?
The River is deep and the shaky bridge creaks as people step on it. And the ferry is a known haunt of tigers. Will no one go with me to the lonely hut of Ranjha?
During long nights I have been tortured by my raw wounds. I have heard he in his lonely hut knows the sure remedy. Will no one come with me, travelers?
Sujjen bin raatan hoiyan wadyan
Ranjha jogi, main jogiani, kamli kar kar sadian
Maas jhurey jhur pinjer hoyya, karkan lagiyan hadiyan
Main ayani niyoonh ki janan, birhoon tannawan gadiyan
Kahe Husain faqeer sain da, larr tairay main lagiyaan
Nights swell and merge into each other as I stand a wait for him.
Since the day Ranjha became jogi, I have scarcely been my old self and people every where call me crazy. My young flesh crept into creases leaving my young bones a creaking skeleton. I was too young to know the ways of love; and now as the nights swell and merge into each other, I play host to that unkind guest - separation.
Ni Mai menoon Kherian di gal naa aakh
Ranjhan mera, main Ranjhan di, Kherian noon koori jhak
Lok janey Heer kamli hoi, Heeray da wer chak
Do not talk of the Kheras* to me,
Oh mother do not .
I belong to Ranjha and he belongs to me.
And the Kheras dream idle dreams.
Let the people say, "Heer is crazy; she has given her-self to the cowherd." He alone knows what it all means.
O mother, he alone knows.
Please mother, do not talk to me of Kheras.
*The Kheras were a wealthy family.
Mai ni main kinon akhan
Dard vichoray da haal ni
Dhuan dhukhay mere murshad wala
Jaan pholan taan laal ni
Jungle belle phiran dhondendi
Ajay na payo lal ni
Dukhan di roti, solan da salan
Aahen da balan baal ni
Kahay hussain faqeer nimana
Shoh milay tan thewan nihal ni