One of the greatest sufi poet and mystic, Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, was born in 1689 in a well-respected family of Sindh. Despite this, he was never attracted to the luxuries of life and, thus, spent a larger part of it in search for a true spiritual connection with God. For this purpose, he spent most of his life in deep and solitary meditation. However, Shah Latif preached love, peace and tolerance, irrespective of caste or creed through his poetry, which is greatly admired the world over.

Love and tolerance turns a man into a human being. People have many desires and ambitions; it seems that they are stuck up in a struggle or race to get ahead of the rest, or achieve their desired objectives, even at the cost of others emotions. Nevertheless, Islam teaches us the way to lead our lives on a day-to-day basis: How to behave with people – both young and old, how to perform good deeds, how to talk, how to discipline ourselves, and so much more. It is a known fact that “Allah loves those who love their fellow beings.” Indeed, why not? Don’t we love those who show love towards our children? But sadly, everything falls apart when it comes to the ongoing race – either for wealth or power - between people!

Consequently, people today are losing faith in one another; trust is broken faster than before! A husband does not have faith in his wife! A brother does not seem to trust his brother! One relation betraying another is becoming a common practice. Backbiting, which is strictly prohibited in Islam, is not considered a big offence anymore; these days, people are often looking for opportunities to humiliate others. Rules are broken with pride, perhaps shamelessly; they do not have the patience to stop even for two minutes at a traffic signal, they throw garbage on the streets, etc. Just look at what we have done to our historical buildings and places!

Against this backdrop, this is what we actually need to understand and value, because love and tolerance, as propagated by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, are the two major tools that we need presently to fix our society. We need to show love and tolerance to co-exist not only in our own, but also the international community.

Besides this, Shah Latif wrote poetry on the womenfolk of Sindh, admiring their courage and loyalty. Indeed, Bhittai’s mesmerising poetry pays rich tributes to women and their abilities.

But I must add that his message was not limited to just one region. Shah Latif’s philosophy of love, peace and tolerance had no boundaries, and he preached about greater harmony. Today, when many countries are aggressively confronting one another; conspiracy theories are popping up every second; terrorists are working on their evil designs; territories are becoming more precious than human lives; blood of innocent people and children is being shed in different wars, we need to spread Bhittai’s message! We need to end these wars, stop these conspiracy theories; stop shedding precious blood. This is what Shah Latif’s philosophy of greater harmony is all about; it is the best solution to resolve conflicts. Bhittai, undoubtedly, thought much ahead of his time and that is why he devoted himself to the greatest cause of spreading the message of love and tolerance amongst all. His poems, collected and compiled, have survived for generations and inspired million across the border. His teachings of humanity, of piety, of respect and emancipation of women, of tolerance between faiths, of moral courage, continue to be our guiding light.

Sindh is known for all its great sufis and we take pride in their message of love, peace and tolerance. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who often visited the shrines of sufis in Sindh, understood the importance of spreading their message of peace and, therefore, initiated the process of reconciliation. Her vision and effort to bring peace and stability in the country and the region is our mission now, and we hope to achieve our goals under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, who too forgave those who never forgave him. They punished him for being on the right path and tortured him to break his silence, but he struggled with dignity. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) continues to promote peace through reconciliation.

Today, we need to remind ourselves of Bhittai’s message of love, peaceful coexistence and tolerance; we need to forget our differences and learn to respect each other’s viewpoints; we need to end disputes and conflicts; we need to value the little things in life; we need to make peace within and outside; we need to reconcile and work together for greater peace and harmony; and we need to work hard to make our world the best place to live in! Long Live Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai!

    The writer is Minister for Information and Electric Power, Government of Sindh.