Abdul Rahman Baba (1650–1715) (Pashto: عبدالرحمان بابا; popularly known as Rahman Baba, Pashto: رحمان بابا), was a Momand Pashtun poet, of the Ghoriah khel (tribe), who lived in Peshawar in the provincial area of Momand, in the high hills of the Afghan nation,.
From 1550 A.D. the Yusufzai tribe had come to dominate the area, following the defeat of the Ghoriah Khel in the battle of Sheikh Tapur. Rahman apparently lived peacefully in the area, and never mentions his involvement in these inter-tribal conflicts.
Abdul Rahman would become one of the greatest poet in the history of the Pashto literature. Abdul Rahman was a man of character and great charisma. As a child, he loved to study and always occupied himself in getting a good education, no matter what it took. He spent much time and effort trying to teach himself. At a young age, he started studying and reading poetry and became fond of it. He had a gift, poetry, which he would not realize, until later in his life. As he grew older, he started having doubts upon what he was doing, which was studying and writing poetry. He felt lost and not sure about what he was writing, why he was writing and to whom he was writing. Because of this, he entirely abandoned material needs of this world and gave himself to the mercy of God.
The spiritual aspect of God's presents upon him, made him understand that the true way of life was through his religion, Islam. Living a life in solitude, he did not want anyone bothering him when he prayed to God. He had a unique and creative way of praying to God through the gift he had, poetry. He had a deep passion for God, which resulted in writing numerous poems in His honor. Through the understanding of his religion, he wrote magnificent poems, which made him famous in a short period of time.
People admired his work, from Afghanistan to Central Asia to the Indian Subcontinent. Religious scholars found the real meaning of life in his poems. National and political leaders used his poetry for independent uprisings. Musicians used his poetry in their songs. Soon everyone wanted his books, be it for political, religious or other interests and desires. Due to his popularity, Afghans gave him an honorable name "Baba" (Grand father of the nation).
One of the great religious scholar of Swat, Swat Saib, said; "If any other then, the book of God, was permissible for prayer, I would have defiantly chosen Rahman's book."
Rahman Baba published two books from his collections of poetry, which were distributed all over the Afghan nation. Soon his work became a model for new poets, and as a result, many people started learning his way and his direction. A school of poetry was built in his honor and many people came to study in this schools. The Founding Father of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Baba, was one of the students of his school of poetry.
Shakespeare has mentioned that philosophers, poets and insane people are of one nature. A person cannot become one of these just by trying, but they are born that way and they have no choice other then to live by the nature of their life.
After looking through Rahman Baba's poetry, one comes to the conclusion that this great poet was born a poet and had brought the gift of poetry with him from eternal life. Readers will not understand his poetry unless they feel that what their reading is indeed their own thoughts. This might be hard to comprehend but poetry was never meant to be easy. When one opens Rahman Baba's book, they immediately realize that their heart is speaking to them. A reader might wonder how a book written more then four hundred years ago would have their feeling and thoughts of today. It seem as if Rahman Baba's books were written for today's need of literature and one can be sure, that is the case.
Rahman Baba has written difficult poetry in such a unique way that one can immediately grasp the meaning. He has put comprehensive subject into a very layman term. Rahman Baba wanted to teach Afghans and, through Afghans, the whole world the real meaning of life through the love and magnificence of God. He fought against humans' greediness and mischief and promptly explains this devilish worship in most of his poems.
Louis Dupree, in his book "Afghanistan", pointed out to Rahman Baba's teaching: "Rahman Baba was a mystic then warrior. But his mysticism, born of Sufism, also touches the Pashtun cultural essence. Not so proud and fiercely militant as Khushal Khan Khatak, Rahman Baba continually warned the ambitious and proud of their base earthly origin."
Rahman Baba himself explains here:
Live not with thy head showing in the clouds,
Thou art by birth the offspring of this earth,
The stream that passed the sluice cannot again flow back,
Nor can again return the misspent time that sped,
Consider well the deeds of the good and bad,
Whether in this thy profit lieth or in that.
Rahman Baba loved music and dancing. He specially loved to play the Rabab (an Afghan musical instrument similar to a guitar). By loving beauty of every kind, no matter if it was a human, an animal, or nature, he would describe the eternal beauty of God as a final stage. Considering the beauty here on earth as merely small portion of the beauty to come, he always focused on eternal greatness and beauty which to him was his love, God.
Dr. Abdul Hai Habibi PHD, a great scholar of Afghanistan, described Rahman Baba's poetic structure in these terms. He stated the following:
In this structure a poet accepts eternal believes, which are completely dislodged with this world, and are speaking of a world, great and wonderful, with all its greatness.
"Poets are away from all the misery of this world and are speaking of peace and humanity, and are usually away from all the troubles of this world.
Feelings and presentation of this structure are pure and wonderful, and the words chosen are simple and to the point.
All types of poetry speaks of pure love and morals. Believe in the true love and avoid evil and use fantasy is a common theme.
Poets believe in love being the center of human life,which depends on intellectual wisdom."
Rahman Baba's poetry is still a great value to Pashto literature and still there are numerous student of his structure today. His fans and students of his school come to his grave side in Peshawar to remember him on his birth date each year. Poets from all over come to honor him in this special occasion by reciting poems and speeches on his honor, and this will continue for ages.