Shaikh Isa Mashwani, a Pashto poet of Sher Shah Suri’s period

The first Pashtun poet, the historicity of whose person and work, we cannot reasonably doubt, is Shaikh Isa Mashwani, though the quantity of his poetic effusion vouchsafed to the potency is very small. He was contemporary of the great Pashtun monarch, Sher Shah Sur, whose short reign (1540-45) is one of the golden periods of the Muslim rule in Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. Shaikh Isa seems to have settled in India. Naimatullah Haravi in his history of the Afghans, variously known as ‘Makhzan-i-Afghani’ and the ‘Tareekh-i-Khan Jahani’, mentions Shaikh Isa among the Afghan saints, and attributes to him the authorship of a “Risalah” (book or treatise) written on the unity of the divine being in three languages i.e Pashto, Persian and Hindavi viz Hindi or Hindustani, and produces a few specimens of his verses in these languages.(Dost Muhammad Khan Kamil, “Pashto literature during the Mughal period”, Daily Fronteir Post, 10 April 1993, Peshawar)

Qazi Abdul Haleem Asar says: “Hazrat Shaikh Ahmad Son differed with theory of “Unity of Being” of Muhiyudin Ibn-Arabi , and wrote against his book, “Fusus-al-hikam”, a rislah, named “Maseeh-ul-Quloob”. He sent the risalah to Mian Shaikh Isa Mashwani and criticized his under-mention Pashto quatrain.

پخپله کارکړېخپله انکارکړې  – کله باداریم کله مې خوارکړې
ته خوقادرئي په صفتونو – کله مې نورکړې کله مې نار کړې
عسی حیران دے په دې شیونو – کله مې یا کړې کله اغیار کړې

[You yourself do the acts and then deny them. Some time you make me the master, and then despise me.
You are omnipotent, some time you make me the light and then the fire.
Essa is surprised over all of these (things). At one time you chose me as your friend, and at other times, make me deserted and unfamiliar]

Qazi Asar referring to the “Solat-i-Afghani”, writes that Shaikh Isa also wrote a risalah in the response to Shaikh Ahmad Son’s risalah and had sent it to Shaikh Ahmad Son. (Qazi Abdul Haleem Asar, “Roohani rabita aw Roohani Taroon” second edition, 1967, pp.454-455)

Afzal Khan (grandson of Khushal Khattak) writes about Shaikh Isa Mashwani: “It is said that King Sher Shah was told that Essa was habitual to drink wine. Sher Shah appointed one of his reliable persons to look into the matter. When he arrived, he saw that the Shaikh was drinking milk from a goblet. It is said that Shaikh Essa Mashwani composed many good verses in Pashto, Persian and Hindi to praise monotheism.” (Afzal Khan Khattak, “Tareekh-i-Murassa”, p-549)


Roshnites and Pashto literature by Yar Muhammad Maghmoom Khattak.

Shaikh Isa Mashwani



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