Volume - 6 : Issue - 1

Published : Jan. - Mar. 2007

Group : Personalities


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Amar Jaleel on Motilal Jotwani

“A soul cannot hope of being one with the Prime Soul unless it has divested itself of the temptation of material things.” This is the essence of mysticism; soul's incessant desire to be one with One Supreme. Motilal Jotwani, at one place in his book on Shah Latif writes, “We may say that the mystic experience usually defies expression. It tends to be enigmatic and incommunicable.”

The factors responsible for the cordial relationship and brotherly ties between the Hindus and the Muslims in Sindh before the partition of Indian have come under serious debate and discussions. Studies too have been undertaken to find the facts. Following extract from the same book explains the enigma:

“Shah Abdul Latif helped generate love and friendship between the two religious communities with all their sects and castes; and the Hindus, who would previously avoid taking the name of Allah or mouthing some such words for fear of being forcible initiated into Islam by the fanatic Muslims, felt so much confident in the new social body of Sindh that they would not hesitate to recite quotations from the Quran and the Hadith in Shah Abdul Latif's baits, for those quotations revealed, along with the unfolding of Vedantic thought therein, his composite view.” While discussing mysticism of Shah Abdul Latif in the same book he writes, “He was a Sufi, la-kufi, non-aligned and sans any religious dogmas.”

I am witness to the mixed gatherings of Hindus and the Muslims at the anniversaries of Shah Abdul Latif and Sachal Sarmast. Visiting the mausoleums of the great Sufis was a daily routine for the two communities for centuries. Of all the factors contributory to the amiable relations between Hindus and the Muslims in Sindh, the most important factor was their strong sense of Sufism. The two communities had become ardent devotees of the Sufis and the saints, and had kept the mullas and the pundits at bay. Common language and Sufism proved an everlasting bond invariably stronger than religion that kept the two communities together, till politics stepped in and separated the two communities in 1947.

Evidently the Hindus were the original inhabitants of Sindh for thousands of years. During the chaotic partition of India in the turbulent year of 1947, Hindus had to leave Sindh. It was the saddest exodus in the history of the subcontinent. Sindh was the only province in India where savage riots had not broken out in the wake of coming into being of Pakistan. The Hindus' departure from Sindh apparently was not without rhyme or reason. They could see the writing on the wall indicating what was to happen to them in the near future. Promulgation of Evacuee Property Act in Pakistan was a fore-warning to them that sooner or later they would be butchered in the name of vengeance, and the survivors in the holocaust would be driven out to India in order to occupy their properties.

Sindhi Hindus were an integral part of the culture of Sindh. Being Sufis, like the rest of the Sindhis, they were non-violent and peaceful people. Had the government of Pakistan, in disarray at that time, protected Sindhi Hindus they would have stayed back and contributed substantially to the prosperity of Pakistan as they have in the field of trade, commerce, industry, arts and education, in India.

On my way back from Jaipur, I stayed in Delhi for three days. It was a tight schedule wedged with lectures and talks. My hosts graciously asked me the places I would like to see. Taj Mahal? Qutub Minar? Lal Quila? Badshahi Masjid? Birla Mandir? They had prepared an inventory of fascinating places. Nothing interested me, for I had one person in my mind to call on and meet - Dr. Motilal Jotwani – Sufi scholar, educationist, author, and an intellectual of eminence, and recipient of Padma Shri Literary Award from the President of India.

Long ago, my very dear friend Hameed Akhund, who keeps me reading and connected with books, had given me a photocopy of a book and said, “Read it.” I was then in Bhitshah attending the urs of Shah Latif. I took it to my room. It was a book by Dr. Motilal Jotwani. The title of the book was Shah Abdul Latif: His Life and Work. A sentence in the epilogue indicated that it was a totally different kind of dissertation on Shah Latif. I quote: “His life was a piece of poetry, and his poetry an unconscious record of his life.”

There are people who, without questioning the teachings of the prophets, apostles and the great teachers, go ahead in their quest for knowing the Unknown! It is not a recent craving of man. From ancient to modern times, man has engaged himself in incessant search for the Ultimate One. He doesn't contradict the teachings of the great teachers, but the inner urge compels him to go beyond what he has learnt from his guides and arrive at his own conclusions. There were times in history when deviation from the revealed guidance resulted in the painful death for the seekers of the Truth. Some of them gave up their ghost at the gallows, and some languished in confinement for the rest of their life. However, harsh punishments did not dispirit the seekers of the Truth from embarking upon journeys into unknown realms. Till this day they remain absorbed in meditations, contemplations and endeavours for understanding the Ultimate.

Dr. Motilal Jotwani is one such person who has devoted his entire life in the quest of unfolding the philosophy and mysticism of Shah Latif. An ardent scholar and devotee of Shah Latif, he resides in Delhi but spiritually travels to Bhitshah frequently. For a spiritual journey a Sufi doesn't require a passport and a visa stamped on it. His soul soars over to his destination. Dr. Motilal's work on Shah Latif is different from the works of Dr. Gurbakhshani, G M Shahani, Kalyan Advani, Dr. Nabi Bukhsh Khan Baloch, Mirza Qalich Beg, Allama I. I. Kazi, Ghulam Mustafa Qasmi, and Shaikh Ayaz. To appreciate Dr. Motilal Jotwani's work one must have a universal frame of mind. With effective arguments and frequent references from religious books, he deduces that Shah Latif is the immortal poet of all people, irrespective of their faith, sect, community and country.

Dr. Motilal Jotwani, then Moti, was eleven years of age when politico-religious upheaval partitioned India. Millions were uprooted and thrown out from their native places. Millions were butchered. Millions of women were dishonoured. Millions of illegitimate children were born to the violated women. Who knows, some of them may be in pivotal role today, running the affairs of the two countries! Such was the horrible holocaust of the partition of India! Moti migrated to India with his parents. He grew up in India, had his education there, but his soul remained in Sindh. An academician by profession, Moti did his MA in English, PhD, taught literature and went on to become Visiting Post-doctoral Fellow, at Harvard University in 1979-80.

I wish controlling authorities of higher education in India and Pakistan enter into liberal agreement for educationists' exchange programme, facilitating eminent professors like Dr. Motilal to present lectures in colleges and universities of the two countries. Dirty political trickeries have polluted our atmosphere. The rulers have their axe to grind. They dig out non-issues to turn them into burning issues. They keep people sick and tense on two sides of the great divide. The rulers of both the countries have turned the subcontinent into a highly volatile warehouse for nuclear arsenal. In the idiosyncratic competition Pakistan has turned out to be the ultimate loser.

Our country boasts of possessing more than enough lethal bombs of mass destruction. But, Pakistan lags miles behind India in trade, commerce, industries, education, science and technology, fine arts and performing arts, theater craft, cinematography, radio and television. Tourism provides bursting business in India, whereas tourists shy away from Pakistan. The politicians have proved detrimental to the common cause of the people. Now, let the Sufis and the saints, educationists, writers, poets, scholars and the artists play a positive role for relaxing the strained relations between the two countries. The politicians partition and divide countries, but, no politician, no matter how clever and cunning he may be, can partition or divide Shah Latif.

It is because of the indivisibility of Shah Latif and Sachal Sarmast that people like Dr. Motilal Jotwani have devoted their life to the study of mystic message of the great Sufis, and for the dissemination of their everlasting philosophy of love.

Writing is like a mirror in which the image of the writer is reflected. No matter in what genre one writes, fiction or nonfiction, his bent of mind is clearly reflected in his writings. Read the following poem:

Understand I never would, and you never could what I do.
Understand you never would and I never could what you do.
But we have to give ourselves an honest trial,
nay, not one, but many of the kind,
until we do the difficult almost impossible task,
we communicate.

It is one of the poems from Dr. Motilal's book – Some Representative Texts. It contains some of his short stories, poetry, extracts from a novelette and essays. He has written 55 books in English, Hindi and Sindhi. When a research scholar gifted with a creative mind teaches literature, he most often composes his own pieces and transforms himself into a creative writer. By the phrase 'creative writer' I mean one who writes short stories and novels. We rarely come across a research scholar like Dr. Motilal who remains emotionally involved with his creative output.

Lecturing and writing for 50 years is a tall order. It takes its toll. When I met Dr. Motilal Jotwani he had undergone an operation for his ailing heart.