By Dr. Sagheer Ahmad
Kabir is one of the most eminent personalities of Indian History. Although he lived in medieval age but his teachings are relevant even today. Shakeelur Rahman rightly says “Har Daur Kabir ka Daur Hai, Har Sadi Kabir ki Sadi hai”(every age is Kabir’s age and every century is Kabir’s century). (1)
Kabir was brought up by Neeru and Nayeema and he spent his most of his life in Kashi (Varansi). It is irony of the history that information about life of one of the most prominent personalities is full of contradictions. The birth of Kabir is a matter of dispute among historians. People are still not sure about his parents and at the same time there are different opinions about his wife and children.
It is believed that Kabir was child of a Brahman widow and the widow gave birth to Kabir as Ramanand has blessed her by saying that she will give birth to a boy, when father of the widow reminded him that she is widow, Ramanand did not take his words back and eventually Kabir was born. The second opinion about his birth is that he was not son of a Barhamn widow but he had appeared in Lahartara Lake as a miracle. The third opinion in this regard is that Kabir was born from the hand of a woman as a miracle while the forth opinion is that he was son of Neeru and Nayeema. Accoding to Ram Kumar Verma in Shere Kabir the third opinion is correct. He denies the story of being son of a Barhaman widow. Kabir declares himself a Julaha (weaver) as he says
“जाति जुलाहा नाम कबीरा”
Caste is Weaver and Name is Kabir
As for as Kabir’s Marriage is concerned some people think Loi was his wife and he has a son Kamal and Daughter, Kamali, but at the same time we find other people who believe that Kabir never married and Loi was his disciple. As for as Kamal and Kamali are concerned, so it is said that Kamal was found dead in a lake and Kabir gave him life and Kamali was daughter of Kabir’s neighbor, when she died, Kabir went to his neighbor’s home and asked him to give his daughter’s body. Kabir brought dead body and gave her life and brought her up.
It is reported that Kabir died in Maghar and there is a story about dispute among Hindus and Muslims because both of them wanted to perform his last ritual according to their religion. But when they removed the sheet they found flowers instead of Kabir’s dead body and they divided flowers among themselves.
However, whether Kabir was Hindu or Muslim, has no effect on importance of his teachings and philosophies.
It will be better if we understand humanism and its major components before discussing on humanism in the poems of Kabir. Humanism is defined by The International Humanist and Ethical Union as “a democratic and ethical lifestance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”(2)
Another definition of Humanism is provided by The Bristol Humanist Group as “an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.”(3)
The main charactaristics of Humanism are as follows
“1. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.
- Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.
- Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.
- Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognises our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.
- Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. The world’s major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process of observation, evaluation and revision.
- Humanism values artistic creativity and imaginationand recognises the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.
- Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilmentthrough the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.
Our primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilising free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, we have confidence that we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We call upon all who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this endeavour.” (4)
Kabir is one of the greatest poets in the history of India. Kabir did not get formal education but his poems reflect that his experience played significant role in understanding this world. Kabir was firm believer in humanism and that is the reason we find his poetry as an inspiring source for followers of different casts, creeds and religions. If we look into the poems of Kabir we will find all aspects of humanism in his poetry. He gives importance to equality, exhorts people to use their minds and firmly believes in universal brotherhood for example he says;
पोथी पढ़ि पढ़ि जग मुआ, पंडित भया न कोय,
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पंडित होय।
Kabir wants to convey the message that it is not important to learn too much without having its effects on the soul of the person. He says only love is enough to become a learned person. Here he emphasizes that love is more important than bookish knowledge.
साधु ऐसा चाहिए, जैसा सूप सुभाय,
सार-सार को गहि रहै, थोथा देई उड़ाय।
Here, Kabir wants to give a very strong message to all noble people and urge them to choose the good things and ignore the bad ones. It is known fact that this world is a combination of good and bad, hence wise is the person who concentrates on good things only.
बुरा जो देखन मैं चला, बुरा न मिलिया कोय,
जो दिल खोजा आपना, मुझसे बुरा न कोय।
It is human psychology to find shortcomings in others. No one pay attention to himself and concentrates on faults of others. Kabir says that he wanted to find out a bad person but he was unable to do so and when he considered himself he found that he is the worst person. So the most important thing for a wise man is to remove his/her shortcomings and purify himself/herself and it is useless to find shortcomings in others and paying attention to our own mistakes.
बोली एक अनमोल है, जो कोई बोलै जानि,
हिये तराजू तौलि के, तब मुख बाहर आनि।
Here, Kabir wants to draw attention of the people to a very sensitive issue that is to how and when to speak. As every one of us knows that a person should not speak without due consideration, the reason behind this caution is that once we speak something will not be able to return back our words.
अति का भला न बोलना, अति की भली न चूप,
अति का भला न बरसना, अति की भली न धूप।
Kabir rejects extremism in all walks of life. Kabir says that too much speaking as well as too much silence is not good. He elaborates his point by giving example of rain and sun as these are important for human being but if cross the limit become harmful. This is case of the man too if he speaks too much it is not good for him and at the same time if he remains too much silent it is harmful for him.
ऐसी बानी बोलिए, मन का आपा खोय,
औरन को शीतल करै, आपहु शीतल होय ।
Kabir urges that we should speak softly and use sweet words that fill the hearts with joy. The words should give good feeling to others and the speaker himself. Kabir wants that people should refrain themselves from using harsh words and should not hurt others.
जाति न पूछो साधू की पूछ लीजिए ज्ञान,
मोल करो तरवार को पडा रहन दो म्यान ।
Kabir did not approve cast system. He was firm believer in equality of all human beings, hence we find that he is saying that cast of a knowledgeable person should not be asked but we should ask about his knowledge. Kabir explains his point by giving example of sword and says the quality of sword matters not the sheath. Buy sword and do not care about sheath.
ऊँचे कुल का जनमिया, करनी ऊँची न होय,
सुवर्ण कलश सुरा भरा, साधू निंदा होय ।
Kabir wants to convey a clear message that a person must not be declared a noble just because he is born in a higher family. The criteria to judge a person must be his/ her deed. He supports his claim by giving example of golden bowel which is full of poison. The bowel is made of golden but it contents poison, hence everyone condemns it. This is true in case of a person too, if a person does not have good qualities and superb virtues, his/ her belonging to higher family will never benefit him.
कबीरा खड़ा बाज़ार में, मांगे सबकी खैर,
ना काहू से दोस्ती,न काहू से बैर।
Kabir did not confine himself to a particular cast, religion or community, every one was equal for him. He was willing wellbeing of all human beings. He was not having friendship nor enmity with anyone. Kabir highlights the fact that a great person should treat all people equally and should not favor or discriminate anyone.
कबीर सोईपीर है, जो जाने पर पीर,
जो पर पीर न जाने, सो काफिर बेपीर।
Here, Kabir conveys very special message that a person who feels sorrows of other persons and shares people’s grief is indeed a noble person. If a person does not understand sorrows and grieves of others he must not be called a human being.
हिन्दू कहूं तो मैं नहीं , मुसलमान भी नाहिं,
पांच तत्व का पूतला , गैबी खेले मांहि।
Kabir emphasize on communal harmony and he says that he is neither Hindu nor Muslim, he is just made of five elements. Kabir firmly believes that unity among Hindus and Muslims is very important.
Kabir’s poems are full of humanism. In his poems we find mockery of so called religious leaders and their teachings. He emphasizes in his poems on the importance of composite culture, communal harmony and equality of all human beings. His poems are based upon moral values, love for all and hatred for none. Kabir Says;
जो तोकूँ कॉटा बुवै, ताहि बोय तू फूल।
तोकूँ फूल के फूल हैं, बाकूँ है तिरशूल
So we can say that Kabir was champion of humanism and universal brotherhood. He spent his entire life in promotion of communal harmony. It is irrelevant whether he was Muslim or Hindu but the most important thing is that his teachings are relevant even today. He was firm believer of Hindu Muslim Unity and nowadays we need to promote his thoughts among Indians who promote religious hatred and have become enemies of themselves in the name of religion.
- Kabir ke Naghmon per Guftagu P7
- https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/definition-of-humanism/dated 28/01/2018
- https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/definition-of-humanism/dated 28/01/2018
- http://iheu.org/humanism/the-amsterdam-declaration/dated 28/01/2018
- Kabir Bani, Ali Sardar Jafri, Jaya Parkashan, New Delhi, year of publication Not mentioned.
- Kabir Dohawali, Uglanand,General Book Depot, Lahore, year of publication Not mentioned.
- Kabir ke Naghmon per Guftagu, Shakeelur RahmanUrfi Publications, Gurgaon, Haryana, 1997.
- Kabir Saheb, Manohar Lal Zutshi, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, 1994.
- Kabir Vachnavali, Hariaudh, Translated by Sarswati Saran Kaif, Sahitya Academy, New Delhi-1990.
- Mahatama Kabir, Mohammad Haneef, Naval Kishor Press, Lucknow, 1939.
- Paighambaran-e- Sukhan Mir, Ghalib, Kabir, Ali Sardar Jafri, Aid Shot Publications, Bombay, 1987.
- Shere Kabir, Ram Kumar Verma, translated by Mohammad Ansarullah, Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy, U.P., 1979.