Hazrat Madho Lal Hussain was born in A. H. 945 (AD 1539) in Lahore. His ancestors, says the author of Tazkira, were originally Kayashtha Hindus who embraced Islam in the time of Feroz Shah. But Baba Buddh Singh is of the opinion that his great-grandfather or grandfather, who become a Mussalman, belonged to the dhata clan of the Rajputs. At the birth of Hussain, the family was sunk deep in poverty. His father, who was called nau Shaikh “Usman” was a weaver. Hussain never learned this trade.
Shah Hussain was put under the charge of Abu-Bakr at a very tender age and become a “Hafiz” when he was ten year old. Then Shaikh Bahlol of Chiniot (Chiniot, Jhang District), who learnt the doctrine of “fana” from a Sufi of Koh-Panj-Shir came to Lahore and made Hussain his own disciple. After a few years Shaikh Bahlol returned from Lahore and left Hussain to continue his study of the Sufi Practices at the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore. For twelve years he served the ashes of the Pir and followed the strict Quranic discipline. He is said to have spent many a night in a standing posture in the River Ravi, repeating the Quran. At twenty-six he left that Pir and became a student of Maulana Sa’dullah, with whom he read many a book on Sufism. Some time after this, as he was coming out of the house of his teacher with the fellow students, he thought he had found the secret of God. Happy at his success he threw in the well the Quran, which he had in his hand, but his companions were enraged at this act. He thereupon asked the book to come out. It came, and to the surprise of his companions it was dry as before. Hereafter Shah Hussain discarding all rules and regulations began to dance, sing, and drink. He became mystic. The excesses of Shah Hussain became scandalous and reached the ears of Shaikh Bahlol at Chiniot. The Shaikh was so much upset that he journeyed to Lahore to see things for himself.
His talks with his disciple convinced him of his saintliness and he went back satisfied to his native town Shah Hussain wore a red dress and came to be known as Lal Hussain or Hussain the Red. Shah Hussain was very fond of dancing and singing and mixed freely in the company of dancers and musicians. The Qadris, to whose sect Shah Hussain belonged, generally loved nusic and dancing which, they thought helped them in their divine contemplations, but they never went to the extreme which Hussain reached. Hussain clean shaved his moustaches and beard and refused, according to the author of Hasnat-ul-afifin, to accept those persons as disciples who were unwilling to shave their faces. This idea of Shah Hussain and his neglect of the religious duties of a Mussalman aroused suspicion, and some official thought of punishing him; but by pointing out to them their own reglect of religious duties, Shah Hussain escaped punishment. He is essentially taken by the writers as a sufi saint with typical traits. Shah Hussain’s sufism was of a peculiar type and presented a curious medley of Persian and Indian characteristics. In his mystic ideas and deliefs he was more Indian than anything else but in his daily life he followed the style of the Persian sufis. Lal Hussain was fortunate to have been born, to live, and to die during the reign of Emperor Akbar whose fondness for religious men and especially the Sufis was proverbial. Akbar, it appears from the writings of Dara Shikoh, knew Shah Hussain. Prince Dara Shikoh writes: “Prince Salimand the ladies of Emperor Akbar’s harem believed in his supernatural powers and entertained respect for him”.
The Tehqiqat-i-Chishti states that Prince (late Emperor) Salim was greatly attached to the saint and appointed Bahar Khan, an officer, to record his daily doings. These records, which were regularly submitted for the perusal of the Prince, were later on compiled together with the sayings of the saint and were named “Baharia”. The Baharia is sain to be replete with incidents relating to the supernatural power of the saint. Having become a Sufi, Shah Hussain bagan preaching in public. A Brahman boy of Shahdara frequented these religious scenes and showed keen interest in his reaching. This attracted the attention of the saint, who soon became attached to the handsome youth. This attachment developed so much and so repidly that if on any day Madho failed to come, Shah Hussain would walk down to his house. This sort of friendship was not liked by the parents, who tried to dissuade their son from meeting Hussain, but to no effect Desirous of separating their child from the Sufi, they proposed to take him to the Ganges on a certain festival day. When Madho informed the saint of his impending departure, he was much distressed and bagged the boy not to go with his parents. However, he promised Madho a bath in the company of his parents on the appointed day. Madho thereupon refused to accompany his parents, who proceeded alone to Hardver. After a few day the saint asked the boy to close his eyes, and when he did so, Madho found himself on the banks of the Ganges long with his parents who had reached there by that time. After the bath he discovered that he was back in his house at Shahdara.
On their return the parents confirmed their son’s statement that he bathed with them on the appointed day. This miracle, says tradition, so much impressed Madho that he confessed the Muslim faith and became a Mussalman. Another story about Madho’s conversion is that the attachment of Shah Hussain for Madho was disagreeable to the parents andcreated suspicion in the people’s mind. But Shah Hussain unmindful of all would go to the boy’s house when he was prevented from visiting him. Very often the parents would tell him that Madho was absent and Hussain would return disappointed. One day when he had been refused permisssion to see the boy, he walked down to his house for the second time. On reaching the place he saw people weeping and wailing. On inquiry, he was told that Madho was dead. The Faqir laughed aloud and walking to the dead body excaimed: “Get up, Madho, why do you sleep at this hour? Get up and see I am waiting for you. “upon this, continues the story, Madho jumped on his feet and followed Hussain out of his parental house, never to return there again, and became a Mussalman.
The love of Shah Hussain for Madho was unique, and he did Madho Lal’s on was known all that lay in his power to please the boy. Once, seeing his co-religionists celebrating “Holi” and being desirous of doing the same, he bought some gulal (pinkish-red powder) and threw it on Hussain. Shah Hussain at once joined him in the fun. Basant or the spring festival, like Holi, was also celebrated each year by Lal Hussain to please Madho.
Madho Lal Hussain was held in great respect by the people, and the Hindus, though they seem to have turned Madho out of their fold, could not master their credulous beliefs in the supernatural miracle-performing power of the saint and esteemed him just as much as their Muslim brethren. Masho Lal Hussain died at the age of 53, a comparatively early age for a saint. His death occurred in A. H. 1008 (AD 1593) at Shahdara, where he was duly buried. A few years later as predicted by the saint, the grave was swept away by an overflow of the Ravi. Thereupon Madho exhumed the corpse and carried it to Baghbanpura, where it was buried with pompous formalities. After his death Madho was buried by his side. Latif describes the tomb as follows:-
“The tomb is situated north of the village of Baghbanpura. There are signs of two tombs on a high platform. One of Madho and the other of Shah Hussain, the actual tombs being in an underground chamber. A wall surrounds the platform with a gateway to the south. Between the platform and the surrounding wall is a space left for the devotees to go round, – the platform being lined on all sides with lattice-work of red stone. North of the enclosure is a tower in which is reverentially kept the impression of the Prophet’s feet (Qadam-I-Rasul) and to the west is a mosque. This mosque was constructed by Moran, a wife of Ranjit Singh. Lal Hussain appears to have had friendship among the holy men of his time. He was an intimate frien of Chajju Bhagat who, the tradition says, called him Shah Hussain for the first time. He used to meet Guru Arjun whenever he came to Lahore. Hazrat Lal Hussain’s Sufism was of a peculiar type and presented a curious medely of Persian and Indian Sufism. In his mystic ideas and beliefs he was more Indian but in his daily life he followed the style of the Persian Sufis.
Shah Hussain has left no poetic works. His only work is a number of Kafis of a highly mystic type. His verse is written in simple Punjabi, slightly overlaid with Persian and Arabic words. It excels in expression of thought and has a clear flow. In its simplicity and effectiveness it is superior to Ibrahim Farid’s punjabi. It lacks the brilliance of Urdu poetry but is remarkable for its just proportion of words and powerful sense of shyme. His versification is smoother, his similes more relevent, and his words simpler but more effective than those of Ibrahim. His poetry is of a less orthodox type but is not as saturated with Indian thought as would be the poetry of Bulhe Shah. Like his character, his poetry is a curious mixture of Sufi, Indian, and foreign thought. The essential feature of his poetry, which strikes the reader is that it is highly pathetic and, piercing the heart, creates a mystic feeling.
Urdu: حضرت شاہ حسین مادہو لال
Date of Wisaal: 1599 AD
Date of Urs: End of March
Baghbanpura, Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan
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.