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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fakir Lalon Shah's Parents: mATIJAAN and Malam

If we are to pause time and get to specifics of the early days of Lalon to have an inkling on the ‘origins’ of his spirituality, we really do not have to look beyond Matijaan and Malam, the ‘humans’ who adopted him – neither out of choice nor by compulsion, but by reaffirmation of fate, faith and mercy – traits we have started to believe are that of ‘gOD’ not Man.

We have concluded earlier that both were devout members of the Muslim faith, and lived at a time, when religious prejudices were at its prime, as much as the spillover from the era gone by, bedevils our existence in this new Millennium - entrapping us into a mental slavery of a kind, where it is really left to us and no ‘gOD’ to free ourselves, and best echoed in Bob Marley’s [1945-1981] ‘Emancipation Song’:

“Emancipate yourself from Mental Slavery
None but ourselves can free our mind”

Imagine Lalon at this juncture: a pre or post-teen, afflicted by a disease which left him blind in one eye, (Shonaton traditions speaks of his face being ‘partially charred’, apparently the first attempt at euthanasia on Lalon was an aborted cremation) traumatized by the ordeal of his biological parents abandonment, in a state of perpetual amnesia, his body in great pain from the sores of smallpox, his enlightened soul weakened, in very frail health with possibility of recovery very slim or slow and a tortuous process.

He had also to be treated in utmost secrecy, meaning for as much as a year or more, the only people who he possibly saw and/or communicated were Matijaan and Malam? Add with that, the financial poverty of his adoptive parents. Everything had a cost implication then in penury stricken rural Bengal – as much as it does today. To feed an extra mouth, compounded with someone who is in throes of death with an ailment which leads to societal ostracization simply cannot be considered an insignificant matter.

Let’s take it from here:

Assuming that the truth about Lalon’s origin is in-between the two extreme claims i.e. a Kayashto Shonaton at birth, now at the mercy, care and tutelage of Muslims – our endeavor, quest and focus of enquiry should take us no more then his adoptive parents.

The appearance or ‘Abirbhab’ of Lalon begins with a fresh slate. His past although never known, was neither relevant nor of any importance. The new ‘pen’ to write Lalon’s life indeed began with Matijaan and Malam.

The Couple – who were they?

It is acknowledged irrefutably that the couple was spiritually inclined and whilst fAKIRANi mATIJAAN mAA (Fakirani, Queen of Fakirs, Female Fakir) was from the ascetic Fakiri Dervish order, she evidently sported natty dread locks – and had a secondary name – Jataani Matijaan Fakirani Maa – or dread locked mother.

Maulana Malam Shah as his name would suggest, was an Islamic prayer leader and a Hafez e Koran or someone who has consigned the kO'RAN into memory. Also he was a herbalist or Hakim and treated people which even to this day is a very common phenomenon in Bangladesh. Aside, we find no instance in the Bengali language of anybody being named ‘Malam’ – which translated would mean ‘ointment’?

To sum up:

MotherMatijaan a.k.a. Jataani Maa - supremely endowed in the intricacies, practice and rooted discipline of the secretive, ascetic and esoteric Fakiri order inculcated in Ilm-e Tusawwuf and definitely knowledgeable in the four ‘stations’ of ‘spiritual’ Islam, Shariat, Tariqat, Haqiqat and Ma’arefot.

Father - Maulana Malam Shah, knowledgeable in Islam and with its script the kO'RAN fully memorized - a prayer leader and herbalist, and a Fakir himself i.e. a cumulative combination of wisdom from both Ilm-e-Shariat at its base and Ilm-e Tusawwuf (commonly Sufism) at its farthest.

Whose contribution to Lalon’s spirituality was more 'significant' is practically impossible to define – but we hope to guide readers to several possible fix as we move on.

Lalon after his Discovery and Rescue:

Lalon had the rare opportunity not only to be in care, custody and personal contact with an academic versed in the written text of Koran and its traditions The Hadith, he had the scope with both his adoptive parents, to immerse himself in the exoteric and esoteric disciplines of a Fakiri and Ma’arefoti practitioners, considered the highest level of ‘enlightenment’ in ‘spiritual’ Islam. Together with Malam's considerable skills as a herbalist - Lalon had the rare opportunity to be nursed back to both physical and spiritual health to overcome the after effects and psychological devastation of smallpox.

The soundscape that Lalon was exposed to for all practical purpose would include Malam’s daily recitation from the kO'RAN and its is quite possible that he also heard his father teach the script to students in an adjoining room, or repeated over and over again in a Mosque close by. A prayer leader never lives too far away from a Mosque. It is impractical.

Some bAUL traditions claim that Lalon was Hafez E kO'RAN ‘by birth’ – but there can simply be no truth to this. The strongest likelihood: it takes just about anybody regardless of faith and/or ‘religion’ to memorize the kO'RAN in two years of rigor at a Hefz (memorizing syllabus) school, with variations in Islamic history suggesting that children as young as four years of age have become Hafez – and one Ibne Shihab Al Zuhri in 742 Hejira, apparently memorized the nearly 300,000 word book before he reached the age of seven in staggering eight days!

Thus in the case of Lalon it is entirely possible that he memorized the kO'RAN - or parts of it - during the times he was convalescing, and while he made no claims to the same – even without ‘claiming’ the title, it is possible that he may have been a Hafez as many of his later day Bahas with the Muslim clergies would exemplify.

There are mentions of Lalon not only quoting verses from the kO'RAN in random, but also selectively as well as flawlessly reciting longer strains, to supplement his argument in challenging the misconstrued beliefs of the time.

These are traits and talents only a Hafez can display, and Lalon may not have only consigned the kO'RAN to memory – he took extra pain to explain them in context of his times, with interpretations that a lot people then, as even today are unwilling to accept. That is where the Fakiri traits and excellence in the Ma’arefoti discourse regime in his upbringing are reestablished solidly.

There was simply nothing new in what Lalon was saying. If there were any ‘miracles’ associated in his words and actions, it was only the continuation of the earliest messages of wisdom known to mankind. It was time for him to fine-tune what he had learnt and pass it on. The messages of the great pROPHETs of our times, to the next in providential line – The pOETs.

We are left to draw our conclusion, that fate had intervened and landed Lalon an infallible opportunity to broaden his horizon and thus place him in a unique position to conjoin humanity not only in Bengal, but all mANKIND.

© Ongoing Documentation:
Maqsoodul Haque - Mac, 1st April 1, 2009

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