Mysticism is the pivotal point of Sufi poetry. The Sufi way is direct communion and absorption in the Supreme with sheer love and devotion. They believe that God is present in every human being but He is hidden from us by khudi or ego — aham in Sanskrit. We need to overcome khudi before we can become one with the Supreme.
The path chosen by Sufis for this purpose is ishq majazi to ishq haqqiqi. In ishq majazi lovers have normal earthly feelings of joy, pain, agony and ecstasy. In ishq haqqiqi the lover is a human being and the beloved is God. But Sufis do not ask for worldly comforts. They neither yearn for Heaven nor live in fear of Hell. They seek only the enchanting sight of the Beloved.
This emotion is narrated by Rabia-Al-Basri: “If i love thee for fear of Hell/ Put me in the fires of Hell/ If i love thee for the sake of Heaven/ Deprive me of this bliss for all times/ My love for thee is thine alone/ I yearn for thy communion/ Withhold not thy everlasting beauty from me”.
In the Punjab, many love legends are sung but Sufis adopted the theme of Heer-Ranjha by Waris Shah for illustrating ishq majazi.
Ranjha of Takht Hazara had heard a lot about the enchanting beauty of Heer of Sayals. He went to Heer’s village and met her in her garden. They fell in love at first sight. There were impediments to their meetings but this only made their love more intense. In this love lore, Heer is the human being and Ranjha, the beloved, is God.
Shah Hussain describes their union thus: “Yesterday i was away from my Ranjha/ Today i have become one with my Lord/ He is Heer/ He is Ranjha/ Friends do not call me Heer/ Call me Ranjha”.
Bulleh Shah describes the metaphysical union between Heer (man) and Ranjha (God): “Friends come and congratulate me/ I am wedded to Ranjha/ It was the gracious day/ Which has come today/ Friends come and congratulate me”.
Sultan Bahu attributes a deep and meaningful relationship between the two forms of love: “The plant is the same/ Distinctive leaves are the same/ Ishq majazi is the flower/ And ishq haqqiqi is its fruit”. It implies that ishq majazi leads to ishq haqqiqi.
Sufis often kept the pleasure of communion to themselves but sometimes, like Bulleh Shah, when in wajd or trance, they dressed themselves in ghagra (long skirt) and dupatta and would fall down exhausted and sing: “O physician! come soon and feel my pulse/ I am dying/ My Lord has made me dance to exhaustion/ Ker thayya thayya”. Shah Hussain sang: “I am a devotee (gopi)/ I am a devotee from Vrindaban”.
Sufis lived a life of renunciation. They wore a dress made from coarse wool called suf and thence their name, Sufis. Their motto was Alfaqr Fakhri (poetry is my pride). It is believed that Sufism was brought to India by Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Over time, Sufis here got emotionally integrated with some aspects of Hindu and Sikh thought, strengthening the bond between Hindus and Muslims. Sufi poets of the Punjab wrote poetry in local dialects which were easily understood by the people.