Rahim Shah: Going Beyond the Frontier

Posted on October 24, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations, Music, People, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Adil Najam

It is both sad and surprising that the NWFP gets such little credit for its cultural and intellectual contributions to contemporary Pakistan despite the immense impact that artists and intellectuals from the NWFP have had.

Of course, the Frontier is not the only part of the country whose contributions get drowned out amidst the (sometimes self-congratulatory) discourse about Lahore, Karachi and (more recently) Islamabad [as someone who grew up in all three of these wonderful cities - enough, in fact, to consider myself a proud native of all three - I hope I can say this without sounding accusatory]. These cities (especially the first two) have always attracted great talent from elsewhere in the country. They have had the generosity of heart to not only welcome but to embrace all comers; so much so that the new comers become natives and are seen as such.

My point is not to undermine the importance of the more visible centers of artistic and intellectual life, but to express a concern that those who live outside of NWFP can sometimes tend to ignore its contributions.

I hope that our readers will add to this list, but let me name just a few luminaries that come immediately to mind:

  • Amongst poets, one of the pre-eminent living Urdu poets – possibly the pre-eminent living Urdu poet – Ahmad Faraz, a Pushto-speaking Pathan, born in Nowshera, studied in Peshawar.
  • Amongst prose writers, the legendary Urdu essayist Syed Ahmed Shah Patras Bokhari — and his brother Zulfiqar Bokhari, an equally legendary broadcaster renowned for his Urdu recitation of verse and prose — were both from Peshawar.
  • Amongst dramatic actors the soil of the frontier has been amazingly rich. Both Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor were born in Peshawar. Qavi and Firdous Jamal - two of the top dramatic actors on Pakistan Television – were also both raised in Peshawar.
  • Amongst comedians, filmstar Rangeela, may have made his name in Punjabi slapstick but was born Saeed Khan in Afghanistan and grew up in Peshawar.

That, of course, is just a sampling. One day I hope we will do proper posts on Peshawar and its intellectual and cultural contributions. Right now, I just wanted to get this point off my chest by way of introducing a wonderful music video from Pushto pop music sensation, Rahim Shah.

Long-time readers would remember that we did a short post on Rahim Shah in early July (here), which features a hilarious video where someone had dubbed a Rahim Shah song onto a Michael Jackson video (here). if you have not seen it, I would recommend doing so. After looking at the video, do listen to the song without looking at the video… it is catchy and you can see why Rahim Shah has become such a Pushto pop phenomenon.

He is, in fact, part of a minor revolution going on in Pakistan in pop-music in regional languages. Rahim Shah is the central figure in Pushto pop music today and also has a number of hits in Urdu, especially including Jhoola. In fact, he has been singing also in Punjabi and Sindhi and his Punjabi song Tairay ishq nay has also done very well.

A colleague working in Kabul tells me that he is an equally big sensation across the border in Afghanistan. This particular video is a good reason why. I have been mesmerized by the music and video for the last many weeks. You do not need to know the exact words to understand the meaning; it is a classical tale of love. I beleive it is in Dari (or is it Farsi?). The words should mostly be familiar not just to Pushto-speakers but also those who understand any Persian. The theme should be familiar to everyone everywhere. Enjoy:

Especially given the headlines of the last many weeks, this song is also politically poignant. It is a love story of a Pakistani man and an Afghan woman. See especially the last scene with the exchange of flags. The Pak-Afghan theme is a common focus in a bunch of Rahim Shah songs. I hope this his people-to-people music diplomacy turns out to be more successful than efforts (or lack thereof) from official channels on the two sides.

26 Comments on “Rahim Shah: Going Beyond the Frontier”

  1. Arif Khan says:
    October 24th, 2006 5:43 pm

    I appreciate the spirit and effort of this article – right in-line with the subject of the article. I would also like to point out that perhaps the most prominent contribution, that is often overlooked, is the influence of Khushal Khan Khattak (b.1613-1690) on Allama Iqbal’s poetry directly and Pakistan movement, indirectly. As we say that the Iqbal’s poetry became a fuel for the moment of Pakistan.
    Khushal Khan Khattak, a great philosopher and poet, first presented the philosophy of “Shaheen” and “murd-e-Momin” during 1660′s. Which was translated into German and Persian and became inspiration for German Philosopher Nietzsche(1844 – 1900) and Allama Iqbal. Some of Iqbal’s poetry seems to be a direct translation from Khushal baba’s Pushto poems into Iqbal Urdu Poems e.g: ,” Muhabbat mujhe un jawano se he, sitaro pe jo dalthe hain kamand,” Khushal Khan Khattak originally said,” “Za da hagha shazalmo zine zaregam Che ranisee da asmaan stoori pa las.” (exact translation) and umerous other examples like that.
    At one point Iqbal also described Khushal Khan Khattak’s poetry and personality was the main inspiration for Allama’s ideology. He called Khan Baba as a versatile genius with poetry, philosophy, ethics, medicine with simplicity and directness of expression with out any wickedness and with love of freedom.
    Needless to say, that Khan Baba’s message was limited to Pushtoon while Iqbal expanded his message to the entire Muslim umma.
    I just wanted to point out Khushal khan Khattak’s contributation to Pakistan movement and its literature though Pakistan came into being almost 300 years after his life.

  2. Daktar says:
    October 24th, 2006 6:56 pm

    This is a really nice song and a very catchy music and a great video. Is his urdu songs equally good? Any reccomendations.

  3. Zak says:
    October 24th, 2006 7:51 pm

    Very true, pashtun culture tends to get looked down in the rest of Pakistan. Pashto as a rule hasn’t been patronised by any government because ethnic culture is considered separatist by establishment people. Recently several groups have tried to set up Pashto TV channels and in most cases PEMRA has blocked them..on the other hand people like Rahim Shah made it big first through non pashto music and then went into pashto (he was trained in urdu ghazals firstly and is karachi based)

  4. MQ says:
    October 24th, 2006 11:22 pm

    Adil, it’s a great picture of Islamia College Peshawar in the header. I wonder if you could zoom out a bit so that the clock tower in the middle can be seen in full.

    And, by the way, other than Dilip Kumar, Raj kapoor and, an earlier famous actor, Prithvi Raj, Peshawar also produced Madhoo Bala, the heartthrob and a leading actress of Indian movies of the 50s and 60s. Her actual name was Mumtaz, which might have changed to Mumtaj in Bombay.

  5. Samdani says:
    October 25th, 2006 1:54 am

    Nice song and nice post. NWFP has a very proud intellectual tradition that goes back in history with Peshawar as a center of intellectual life well before any other existing major city in modern Pakistan. Whatever you may think of their politics, the NWFP has also contributed some of the ablest technocrats to the Pakistan Civil Service. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, for example, did not distinguish himself once he became political in teh later Zia years onwards, but all who served with him talk about his great intellectual prowess. Sartaj Aziz, similarly has not been an impressive politician, but was a very able and intellectually strong technocrat in the Pakistan and then international civil service. The point is that NWFP’s intellectual contributions are long and deep.

  6. Ahsan says:
    October 25th, 2006 2:24 am

    Two prominent present poets Ahmad Faraz and Mohsin Ehsan also come from NWFP (from Islamia College and Peshawar University).

  7. October 25th, 2006 8:41 am

    In Pakistan the latest Peshawari sensations are Sajid and Zeeshan. They have released a a full English album and are quite the sensation amongst Pakistanis who are more at home in English than in rdu and are raving about a band that sounds so realistically foreign.

  8. Rabia Bashir says:
    October 25th, 2006 9:47 am

    The exchange of flags part in the video reflects a warm thought. Rahim Shah’s voice became an instant hit with his song “Phelay Tu Kabhi Kabhi Gham Tha”. Quite a dramatic song that stayed in tube’s limelight for a long period.

    Top Squash players (Roshan Khan, Jhangir Khan, Jansher Khan) and Cricketer Shahid Afridi share the same homeland. Bollywood King ‘Shah Rukh Khan’ is also linked to Peshawar as his family hails from Kissa Kahani Bazaar.

    @Daktar: I remember his Urdu songs did bring quite a sensation to the music charts. Songs like Allah Moula, Chiratla, Kabhi Payal Bajey, Saba Ru, Chum Chum, Channa grabbed top ratings due to their catchy tunes and lyrics. http://www.muziqpakistan.com

  9. falcon says:
    October 25th, 2006 10:36 am

    Are Dari and Farsi really different enough to be called two different languages? Was Pathanay Khan from NWFP, or is his name just ironic :)

  10. Farzana says:
    October 25th, 2006 5:57 pm

    I am glad that this site features topics from all over Pakistan and not just a few places. I just love this song. He has really put life into modern pushto music and now a lot of others are also following. Yes, he got his break in Karachi with Urdu music, but his roots were also Pustun and you can see that in teh music even of his Urdu work.

  11. October 26th, 2006 4:01 pm

    Adil, I should add my great grandfather’s name who was one of the greatest Pushtoo Poet and its really sad that very less Pakistanis know about him. His name was Rahman Baba (1632-1707). He is very popular amomg Afghans though his tomb is in Peshawar and he was from Mohmand Tribe and for Pakistan and its people, he was not from Afghanistan but from Pakistan. In 2005 Pakistan Post Office Foundation Press published his photo on 5 Rs. stamp which was indeed something remarkable but again how many we Pakistanis do know our heritage than calling pathans to Shahrukh Khan and Dilip Kumar. This is the reason I even doubt that his Diwan which is published in english got any popularity in Pakistan. You can find the detail on BBC Link where I also found a popular saying of Saidu Baba (rested in Swat) about Rahman Baba,”Saidu Baba, a revered saint from the Pakistani hill district of Swat, is known to have said that if the Pashtuns were ever asked to pray on a book other than the Koran, they would undoubtedly go for Rahman Baba’s work.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4273915.stm

    I am adding some part of his poem it may interest to some readers,
    “Live not with thy head showing in theclouds,
    Thou art by birth the offspring of this earth,
    The stream that passed the sluice cannot again flow back,
    Nor can again return the misspenttime that sped,
    Consider well the deeds of the good and bad,
    Whether inthis thy profit lieth or in that.”

    (Translated by Qazi Sarwar, Afghanistan, Louis Dupree)

    Wikipedia describes Rahman Baba as,”Known as the Nightingale of Peshawar, Rahman Baba is a legendary Pashto Sufi poet. His poetry places him alongside Khushal Khan Khattak for his contribution to Pashto poetry and literature.”

    If get time then type his name in google and Amazon and you will find alot about him.

  12. Shafie says:
    October 27th, 2006 12:24 pm

    Just to make a small clarification, about Ahamd Faraz, he is from Kohat (also in NWFP) not from Nowshera.

  13. Mast Qalandar says:
    October 27th, 2006 9:12 pm


    I quote from your comment:
    “how many we Pakistanis do know our heritage than calling pathans to Shahrukh Khan and Dilip Kumar. This is the reason I even doubt that his [Rehmand Baba] Diwan which is published in English [ did not] get any popularity in Pakistan.â€

  14. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    October 28th, 2006 2:50 am

    while we re talking about Peshwar or NWFP, I was told that the famous PESHWARI ICECREAM has nothing to do with Peshawar and in peshwar it’s sold as “Karachi k Mashoor Peshwari Icream”, hhehe :>

  15. ANP says:
    November 23rd, 2006 6:15 am

    saadia khan…..please read some books about raman baba if you can read pashto.. you r saying that rahman baba was from pakistan but he was not he was afghan poet not pakistani .its shame people dont know where there grandfather from..

  16. thunder says:
    December 26th, 2006 9:53 am

    [quote comment="5362"]Very true, pashtun culture tends to get looked down in the rest of Pakistan. Pashto as a rule hasn’t been patronised by any government because ethnic culture is considered separatist by establishment people. Recently several groups have tried to set up Pashto TV channels and in most cases PEMRA has blocked them..on the other hand people like Rahim Shah made it big first through non pashto music and then went into pashto (he was trained in urdu ghazals firstly and is karachi based)[/quote]
    I think your wrong, Rahim Shah’s first album was Peera(pashto)

  17. bilquis says:
    January 20th, 2007 12:07 pm

    i really like Rahim Shah’s songs and i email you from America.
    Can you pls give me Rahim SHah’s personal email address to Me Thank YOu.

  18. July 11th, 2007 2:04 am


    Interesting post. I came across this blog by accident, but it was a good accident. I have now bookmarked your blog for future use. Best wishes. Ragheb Alama Website Team….

  19. taha says:
    September 20th, 2007 9:28 pm

    can u please translate rahim shah’s songs or let me know where i can find the translation for ro ro raza,zar sham maida maida and ya qurban

  20. Khan says:
    January 5th, 2008 9:14 am

    Top videos from Shah

  21. Dawezai says:
    July 31st, 2008 8:52 am

    Sadia, with due appology but it’s such a shame that we don’t even the basics of history. You are assuming with a conviction that Rahman Baba (RA) was a Pakistani; can you please tell us in which era did Rahman Baba (RA) live and when was Pakistan “created” (by the British Imperialists)?


  22. Faiqa says:
    March 4th, 2009 10:41 am

    Awesome! I love this post

  23. April 19th, 2009 11:42 pm

    Khushal Khan Khattak was born at Akora Khattak district Nowshera in 1613. He was an intelligent and bold person from childhood. His father Shahbaz Khan was killed in a tribal clash on 4th January, 1641. Mughal Emperor Shahjehan was the ruler of India during that period. Shahjehan had great regard for Khushal Khan Khattak due to the guts that he possessed. Khushal Khan Khattak was the ally of Mughals during many adventures and was awarded a Jagir and Lakhs of rupees.

    The distances between the Aurangzeb Allamgir and Khushal Khan Khattak increased due to some misunderstandings and the latter was not remained a favorable person near the former personality.

    Mahabat Khan who was the governor of Peshawar had tried to keep the relation between Khushal Khan Khattak and Aurangzeb Alamgir and was successful to a great extent. After Mahabat Khan, Syed Amir Khan was appointed as governor Peshawar then the tension increased between Khushal Khan Khattak and Syed Amir Khan, as a result Khushal Khan Khattak was arrested and put behind the bars. Khushal Khan Khattak was later on released and returned to homeland in 1668, but the relations between government and him remained tense. He was a good poet and religious scholar.

    He is also called with the name of Baba-e-Pushto. His poetry consists of more than 45,000 poems. According to some historians the number of books written by him is more than 200. But the books, which enjoyed more fame, are Baz Nama, Fazal Nama, Distar Nama and Farrah Nama. The Mazar of Khushal Khan Khattak is situated near the Railway Station of Akora Khattak in Nowshera district.

  24. haris says:
    January 13th, 2010 7:18 am

    Interesting post. I came across this blog by accident, amazing accident.

    But I will not appreciate each and every thing.
    Here are somethings on which I disagree. Any way best as compare to others…

    english to urdu translation

  25. Abasin says:
    March 20th, 2010 2:33 am


    Saida Khan, if he was really your grandfather, than you most know that Rahman Baba is not a Pakistani. Did you got any information about Rahman Baba in schools in Panjab or Sindh..? I don’t think so. Rahman Baba is a Afghan/Pakhtun/Pashtun/Pathan from Afghania/Pakhtunkhwa/Pakhtunistan.

    Read a little bit about your history, your culture, your ethnicity, your origin, your language, your country etc.

    What have we Pakhuns the same with Panjabis and Sindhis…?
    * Language..? No, we have totally different languages
    * Culture..? No, we have totally different languages
    * Ethnicity..? No, they are Panjabis and Sindhis and we are Afghans/Pakhtuns/Pashtuns/Pathans
    * History…? No, they lived in India and we lived in Historicull land Ariana and Present day Afghanistan.
    * Origin..? No, they are Indic and we are Arians.

    We have nothing the same, Except they are our Muslim brothers.

    The provinces Baloochistan and Pakhtunkhwa are the land of Afghans, which was let for 100 years to Britisch India. This 100 years are finished in 1993, So we Afghans/Pakhtuns/Pashtuns/Pathans want our country back! We are not begging anyone because, It is our right and no one can take our rights from us!

    The border between Afghanistan and Britisch Indian was the Abasin river (also know as Indus river). So the border of Afghanistan and present day Pakistan was Abasin river, it most be the border and it will be the border of Afghanistan and present day Pakistan, Inshallah.

    You and Me, is We, and we are Pakhtuns and like Khushal Baba (Khushal Khan Khattak) saids;
    * Afghani/Pakhto/Pashto,
    Da Afghan pa nang me watarrla tura, nanagyalai da zamane Khushal Khattak yem.
    I have taken up the sword to defend the pride of the Afghan, I am Khushal Khattak, the honorable man of the age.

    His second poet;
    Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pakhtun and Afghan are not one!
    Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans!

    Don’t be foolish with your nonsens of Pakistan, even in Pakistan you are called Afghan. Pakistan means, Which is actually Pakstan means, P=Panjab, A=Afghanistan (Pakhtunkhwa), K=Kasmir, S=Sindh and TAN=Baloochistan.

    I hope you refresh your mind, read a little bit about your identity!

    You can find me on Wikipedia in two languages;
    * English
    * Dutch/Nederlands/Hollands

    On Afghanbuddies
    * http://www.AfghanBuddies.com/AsheQ

    And PP2G
    * http://Abasin.pp2g.com

    Take care, Abasin

  26. Abasin says:
    March 25th, 2010 12:27 am

    He, why have you deleted my messages..?

    This is al what i want to say to this low person, who have deleted my messages!!

    By deletething my messages, it shows that you are affaired from true!!

    You can delete messages but the true will not change!!!

    Afghania/Afghankhwa/Pakhtunkhwa/Pashtunkhwa and Baloochistan = Pakhtunistan


    Afghanistan and Pakhtunistan = Loy Afghanistan

    !!! Zindabad Loy Afghanistan !!!

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