Shah Hussain (1538-1599) commonly known as Madho lal Hussain lived during the era of Mughal
emperors Akbar and Jehangir. Shah Hussain belonged to a poor family but was highly educated as
his poetry is full of symbolism. It is said that he adopted the name of his Hindu disciple
Madho Lal to immortalize their friendship.
Shah Hussain’s kafis depict love for God, affection for human beings and the mortality of the
physical world. His kafis have been sung by all leading singers. Singer Hamid Ali Bela devoted
all his life to singing the Sufi saint's kafis.
The kafis of this popular romantic Sufi saint of Lahore added to Sufi poetry its peculiar
element of masti (rapture) and introduced enraptured dancing and passionate singing.
The credit of introducing the element of the popular love-legends of Punjab (Heer Ranjha and
Sohni Mahiwal) to Sufi verse and utilizing their persons, places, motifs and incidents as
images, metaphors and allegories also to him.
The rhythm and the refrain of Shah Hussain's kafis 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.
The poetry of Shah Hussain, characterized with simplicity combined with a rare lyrical
quality, had great appeal for the masses.
Not only common people but a number of rulers also had great devotion for him. Prince Dara
Shikoh, the eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan, records in his work Hasnat al-Arifin that
"Prince Salim (later Jahangir) and the ladies of Emperor Akbar's harem entertained respect for
him (the saint)." The author of Tahqiqat-i-Chishti also writes that Jahangir had great liking
for the saint and that he had appointed a noble named Bahar Khan to record the day-to-day
events of the saint’s life. These records of Bahar Khan were later on compiled in the form of
a book entitled Baharia.
As a saint, number of miracles are attributed to Shah Hussain. One may or may not believe
them. But no one can deny the literary genius of the saint. Even today, his verses find a
great audience. A large number of his compositions have been rendered by top singers from
Pakistan, like Pathana Khan, Hamid Ali Bela, Hussain Buqsh, Gulam Ali, A. Shakoor, Fida
Hussain, Amjad Amant Ali, Mujawar Abbas, Amjad, Parvez, Afshan, Shazia & Suraiya Khanum.
Indian singers like Surinder Kaur, Jagjit Kaur, Ghanshyam Das, Abida Parveen, Hans Raj Hans,
Wadali Brothers and Barkat Sidhu have also lent their voice to his verses.
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