Bhagat Kabir Ji was a great saint and a leader of the Bhagti movement. This movement played a vital role and helped to reform society in India a great deal.
Superstition was common among the masses. The ruling Muslim class and the high-placed Hindus feared the very shadow of the poor people. Kabir’s fearless spirit spoke out in defence of the poor and lowly. He showed them their undue exploitation by the rich. The people were awakened by His Holy Hymns. They were sung in the common language of the masses. That made deep impression and left lasting effect on all. His Theology was meant to unite Hindus and Muslims in the worship of One God. Many of his teachings are congruent with those of Sikhism and his writings can be found in Guru Granth Sahib.
Kabir was born on June 14 1399 in Benares. He was very cheerful and was well loved by many people. He had a sweet voice and never spoke ill of his playmates. He loved and feared God and encouraged other children to meditate on God.
His parents were low caste Muslims. But he was a strange child and did not want to learn from the Muslim priests and teachers. The Hindus, on the other hand did not want to teach a low caste Muslim. So he did not receive any formal literary education, but his interest helped him to learn Hindi. Thus he was self-taught and began composing Holy Hymns at a young age. When he sang them, people loved to listen, and he was never tired of singing the praises of God. This was a forecast of his future greatness.
When Kabir was only 8 years old he was called for the ceremony of circumcision. All the relatives and friends were invited. Nice food was prepared. There was happiness throughout the house. The priest came with the Holy Q’uran and a sharp razor. Kabir asked the priest what the razor was for. He replied that it was for his circumcision. On this Kabir said, “Sir, I am not going to pass through this ceremony, you could eat the nice meal and see your way home”. See the boldness of Kabir, a child of only eight! And he did not undergo the ceremony. He was warned of the consequences and that he would remain a Kafir (infidel) and that he would fall into the pit of Hell, but he was not moved. He instead uttered these words:
“Whence have Hindus and Muslims come?
If God wished me to become a Muslim,
There would be an automatic sunnat (circumcision)
If Sunnat makes a man a Muslim,
What about the woman
who is the other half of the man?
And man cannot do without her.
She then remains a Kafir,
O dear ignorant priest,
leave all these baseless ceremonies,
Just remember God ever and ever
Who is refuge of All”
This made the priest as well as others wonderstruck. He could not contradict Kabir, he was answerless. He just cried, “Kafirs live in this house, I will not even eat the unclean food”. Saying this he rushed out of the house.
There are many stories to show Kabir’s greatness. He was thrown into deep water with his hands and feet bound; he was placed on burning fire; and was also put infront of a drunken elephant, yet he was saved everytime. This stage where God saves his devotees is achieved with firm faith in God.
Great men come into this world to change the course of life. They make the difference of “Mine” and “Thine” disappear. They are always contented with the Will of God, They become One with Him. Only HIS NAAM is their food. As Kabir says:
“O servant, where does thou seek Me (God)?
Lo! I am beside thee
I am neither in the Temple or the Mosque
I am neither in Kaaba, nor in Kailash,
Neither am I in rites and ceremonies,
Nor in Yoga and renunciation
If thou art a true seeker,
thou shalt at once see Me
Thou shalt meet me in a moment of time.
Kabir says, O Sadhu! God is the Breath of all breath
So he condemned the worship of idols. He was against the caste system. Both Hindus and Muslims are among his followers (Kabir Panthies). Many of his thoughts are in consonance with the House of Guru Nanak and so we find 541 of his hymns in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.