Read by Richard Mitchley & Ghizela Rowe (Unabridged: 1hr 1min)
Kabir, meaning Great and one of the 99 names of God in Arabic, was a mystic and poet, born around 1440 in Varanasi to poor Muslim parents. Another account claims he was the child of a Brahmin widow. He himself said he was "at once the child of Allah and Ram."
Kabir grew up learning his father’s craft of weaving and overcame many obstacles to become a disciple of Saint, or Swami, Ramananda, the leading pioneer of the Bhakti movement, which promoted salvation for all.
Kabir did not renounce his worldly life; he married, had children, and was disdainful of professional piety, which led to his later persecution by religious authorities. His progressive philosophy spoke of social equality and his spiritual synthesis combined Hindu tenets of karma and reincarnation with Muslim beliefs of one god and no idolatry or caste system.
We know that Kabir had no formal education and was almost illiterate. He expressed his poems as ‘bāņīs’ meaning utterances in Hindi. His songs and couplets were part of a strong oral tradition in the region and spread across northern India but were also written down by two of his disciples; Bhāgodās and Dharmadās. His inventive and imaginative style captured wide attention and provided a path to spiritual awakening which for Kabir was mainly the path of love and brotherhood and not to be divorced from daily life: “All our actions performed anywhere are our duties, and work is worship”, he said.
His works are still revered today by Muslims, Sufis, Sikhs and Hindus and Kabir remains one of the most quoted mystic poets of all time.
Kabir is thought to have lived an exceptionally long life and probably died in 1518. It is said that his Hindu followers wanted him cremated and his Muslim followers wanted his body buried and a fight therefore ensued. When they finally lifted the cloth that covered his body they found not flesh but flowers.