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Shakir Shujabadi

Updated: May 26, 2023

Shakir Shujabadi

Our nation tends to care about artists only when they lie in a shabby hospital room, breathing their last, surrounded by the gloom of death. The people singing songs and dancing to a world on fire aren’t cared for. Such was the case for Shakir Shujaabadi, the unsung giant of Seraiki literature.

He was born in the small town of Shujaabad near the city of Saints (Multan), Pakistan, on 25 February 1954. Shakir was born with a childhood disability causing linguistic barriers. He was raised in a poverty-stricken environment, one of the main reasons poverty and inequality are prominent themes in his poetry. He dropped out of school at a very early age after the demise of his grandmother. During his youth, he worked several jobs tirelessly and was barely making ends meet. Sometimes, he had to work two jobs to put food on the table. In Bahawalpur, he worked as a fruit seller, and after he moved to Karachi, a relatively big city, he had to work as a watchman and a fruit seller. Later, he had to stop working because his age didn’t allow him, and his health was neglected. During this phase of his life, poetry came to him or, should we say, descended upon him like a ray of hope during a storm.

He started by reciting his thoughts surrounded by a small audience at a local darbar (shrine). People started to grow with time, and he was recognized as a powerful emerging voice in Seraiki literature. His poetry started to travel, entering people’s hearts and residing there. His first proper mushaira was held in 1986, which gathered large crowds and ended with “uffs” “waahs” and people bowing down to pay their respects to him.

He said in an interview:

“I was at a mushaira with many other renowned and well-respected poets and although I was a newbie at that time, I was told to start the event with my poetry recitation. When I finished, a famous poet stood up and said that there was nothing they could recite after Shakir as everything they’d recite would seem bland.” It was a moment of great honor for him he told."

Shakir’s poetry comes from experience and struggle. He has been the voice of the underprivileged for years. His words are honest, and each verse of his poetry hits you in all the right places.

His ghazal “Tu mehnat kar, tey mehnat da sila janey khuda janey” received acclaim worldwide and is still recited in many literary gatherings. Some of its verses are:

Tu mehnat kar, tey mehnat da sila janey khuda janey. (You keep your hard work up, let the reward and God handle the rest.) Khizaan da khauf taan maali ku buzdil kar nahin sakda, chaman abaad rakh bad-e-saba janey khuda janey, (The fear of fall cannot turn the gardener into a coward, you keep the garden flourishing, Let the wind and God handle the rest.) Ae poori theeve na theeve magar bekaar nai wendi, dua Shakir tu manggi rakh dua janey khuda janey. (Whether it’s accepted or not, it won’t go to waste, You keep praying Shakir, Leave the rest between the prayer and God.)

Where Shakir Shujabadi’s words hold up a mirror to the ugly face of our society, they also give us hope. Some years before, Shakir’s health deteriorated, and he was bedridden. The news of his death started circulating everywhere, but his younger son, Waleed, denied all rumours, and nothing more has been heard since then.

It is said that Shakir is still writing for some newspapers and magazines but has been living badly. I pray that we learn how to appreciate and own our artists and their art.


This blog has been penned by Miss Rida F. Baloch.

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