Bullehia, I know not who I am


There is an enduring ritual at the tombs of the Sufis which is known as ‘Langar’ (free meal). Travelers, visitors and itinerant that come to these shrines or tombs relish this free meal where no body looks down on them. Some regard this Langar as a cure to their malady or ailment. One evening a Darwaish (pastor) ordered his young disciple to distribute the LANGAR. Young pupil asked what should be his way of distribution. The Darwaish replied ‘The way Allah dispenses provisions to his men’. The young apprentice paused after hearing the words that just uttered from his mentors mouth and then went on with the orders.


But to everyone’s astonishment he carried out a very odd way of delivery; He gave a different amount of Langer to various people. Some of the visitors got beyond expectations while others got very little. Some even complained of getting nothing at all. There were even those that were happy of what they got but wanted more. So every soul had something to object about. His peers that disliked him the most were un happiest of all and complained to the Darwaish.


They told the Darwaish that ‘Bullah has gone mad!’ The Darwaish asked the reason of his favorite pupil’s behavior. Bulleh Shah replied; didn’t you ask me to give, as the Divine power distributes among his men. What wrong have I done? There was uproar on this answer. Bulleh shah was puzzled on the behavior of the people. But the question that was eating him out was a confusion. Bulleh Shah  wanted to know who is he; is he believer or not? a favorite man of God like Moses or a tyrant like Pharo? He asked himself these question? There was no reply. He dived in the river of puzzlement and produce the greatest piece of art of all times.

I am neither a believer going to the mosque

Nor given to non-believing ways

Neither clean, nor unclean

Neither Moses not Pharaoh

I know not who I am

I am neither among sinners nor among saints

Neither happy, nor unhappy

I belong neither to water not to earth

I am neither fire, not air

I know not who I am

Neither do I know the secret of religion

Nor am I born of Adam and Eve

I have given myself no name

I belong neither to those who squat and pray

Nor to those who have gone astray

I know not who I am

I was in the beginning; I’d be there in the end

I know not any one other than the One

Who could be wiser than Bulleh Shah?

Whose Master is ever there to tend?

I know not who I am/.





Hazrat Ali once said:

Half of the answer is hidden inside a question.


Abdullah Shah aka Baba Bulleh Shah belonged to a religious family that came from Bukhara; Uzbekistan to present day Punjab, Pakistan. Bulleh Shah who is believed to be born in a small village in Bahawalpur was not only a man of God but was very well acquainted with the spiritual world. Considered to be the finest spiritual poet of all times Bulleh Shah preferred Saraiki, Punjabi and Sindhi on Persian and Urdu as a medium of his poems. The verse form Bulleh Shah primarily employed is called the Kafi (Refrain), a traditional style of Punjabi poetry used by Punjabi Sufis and Sikh gurus.


Bulleh Shah started to pass his time in a state of strange ecstasy. In the company of his Master and with the practice of the path he had been shown, Bulleh Shah’s spiritual condition started changing day by day. His kafi, “Whatever color I am dyed in” makes it clear how great the effect of his Master on him was. In it he mentions that his inner eye had been opened, all his doubts had been removed, and he had been blessed with the light of Realization. Through the grace of his Master he had the vision of the Lord within and that for him no difference existed between his Master and the Lord.



His unorthodox way was highly unpopular among the mullah of his times and some historians believe that his family was not allowed to bury him in the community graveyard. This ordeal is also reflected from few of his verses like;



To admonish Bullah came his sisters and sisters-in-law,

“Why have you brought disgrace to the Prophet

And to the progeny of Ali?

Listen to our advice, 0 Bullah, and leave the hem of the Arain’s skirt.

If you talk about me I am quite unfamiliar with the language he used in his verses of poetry but it contains a certain mysterious magnetism that draws my attention and million others that listen to his words in any form or genre of music. What relates us to Baba Bulleh Shah was his unending journey on the path of self discovery. We are the passengers of the same trail and we wander day in day out to find the very purpose of our existence.



12 Responses to “Bullehia, I know not who I am”

  1. August 27, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Rabbi Shergill has sung this very nicely. It is one of my favourite songs ever.

  2. 2 lubz
    August 28, 2007 at 10:30 am

    This one is my favourite too
    Long time ago, a good friend of mine told this story and logic behind the whole poem, unfortunately i’m still not intellegent enough to grasp the entire meaning ofi t but whenever i come across these verses, i discover new meanings….
    Spiritualism is something that at one time i thought is just a figment of a man’s imagination. Just lately i accpeted that its beyond my understanding and what ain”t making sense to me doesn’t mean that ain”t making sense to someone else as well….
    Good post Ammar!

  3. August 28, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    @ Pr3rna

    I like both Junoon’s and Rabbi’s version of this poetry/Kafi.

    @ Lubz

    My teacher told me the history behind this greatest piece of art, and that was ages ago. I am glad that you find the post some what interesting 🙂

    I am not Sufism follower my self but I certainly find the Sufis worth praising.

  4. 4 Ahsan Zawar
    August 29, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    nice post dude

    well i have been trying to get bullah’s work and their meaning and interpretation since the time i heard junoon singing it but the language is too difficult to grasp. I agree to the point that i also magnetized to his work. The song bandeya by khawar riaz also represented some of his finest work

  5. August 30, 2007 at 10:45 am

    The tradition of Langar is a South Asian tradition not just limited to the Sufi Mazaars. The Sikhs have it in Gurudwaras, the Hindu temples have it and the Jains also serve food to all the visitors of their religious places. I could find another common thing in South Asia 🙂

  6. August 31, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    @ Ahsan

    I am glad that you liked the post. I find it really interesting to learn what was going through in the poets mind when he came up with his poetry/work. I think musicians are both lucky and brave that they opt Bullahs work and luckily in many cases it had become a great hit as well.


    Yes i agree with you on the similarities. I guess they call it Parasaad what is served at temples or Gurdwaras?

  7. September 1, 2007 at 3:50 am

    It is called Langar in the Gurudwaras and Temples also Ammar. Too many similarities, we speak the same language.

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