Singing Heer not allowed in Khalsa College!
Singer Idu Sharif of Malerkotla gave a performance at Khalsa College Muktsar in India yesterday evening where someone from the audience requested him to sing Heer but the organisers said that singing Heer can not be allowed in Khalsa College.
Heer Ranjha is the ever-living folk story of the Punjab presented over ages by various writers including Damodar Daas, Mukbaz and Ahmed Gujjar but when a Punjabi just says ‘heer’ it means Heer by Poet Waris Shah. Written in 1766, Heer Waris Shah is perhaps one of the most endearing and enduring literary feats of Punjabi language and culture. It also has its own ‘gaiki’, a specific mode of singing, and Punjabi folk singers ‘test’ each other on singing Heer.
Not just that. The legendary devotion of Heer and Ranjha to each other that cut across class and tradition, is one of the strongest symbols of spiritual transcendental love in the sufi poetry of the Punjab. The Sufi poets, especially Malamti Sufis such as Madhulal Hussain and Bulhe Shah who made extensive use of the story and characters of Heer and Ranjha, were also avid critics of religion/s.
Heer herself challenged the laws of tradition in the local court, and ‘mullahs’ (Muslim priests) were held in contempt by both Heer and Ranjha.
As well, its a love story, the religious frameworks are too harsh for it to unfold.
This incident reminds us again to be mindful of allowing any religion be it Sikh, Muslim, Hindu or Christian to take charge of language development efforts. If Khalsa College is intolerant of Heer-singing in a music concert, we will find even worse examples of what may or may not be allowed in a Muslim college. To begin with, singing itself is not allowed in Islam unless the songs are ‘hamd’, ‘naat’ or ‘qawwali’ the three accepted forms of singing to praise Allah and Prophet Muhammad.
Weary of ‘Sikh’ chairs in North America, i am dreading the ‘Sufi’ chairs that are being formed in the universities in Pakistani Punjab because Sufism’s stronger and influential streaks do not adhere to Malamti sufis but sufis of demagogic religious beliefs.
Our religions, whenever possible, will ‘develop’ a stern Punjabi language bound by a culture of righteous suffocation to promote a form of Punjabi literature and art that may not be much to look forward to.
(Title inspired by stage play ‘No sex please, we’re British‘)