KAFI (Arabic Qafi), literally stands for the leader, the enlightener, one who fulfils the need. In poetics it denotes the refrain in a song or hymn, and is also the title given to a poetic form in Arabic as well as in Indian literature. Guru Nanak was the first to use this poetic form in Punjabi literature, and this he was followed by several Sufi poets and others. Kafi has also been called a ragim and a metre (tatank), though opinion differs on this count.In the Sikh Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, Kafis have not been collected under any one raga; they occur under ragas Asa, Tilang, Suhi and Maru.
Similarly, they are assigned to different gharus in different ragas: in Asa, they belong to gharu 8, in Suhi to gharu 10 and in Maru to gharu 2. Except for Guru Angad, all the other five Gurus who have contributed to the Holy Volume have composed ka/is. The main theme of these lia is is the transient nature of this manifest world with the implicit suggestion that one should not get attached to it. Attachment to worldly possessions and relations leads to the soul`s bondage.
In order to break the circuit of birth, death and rebirth and achieve mukti (liberation or union with the Absolute) man must eradicate haumai and submit to His will. Neither material possessions nor any position in this mundane world is going to help him in the Divine Court where only good and noble deeds signifying man`s love for the Divine are valued.
1. Kahn Singh, Bhai, Gurushahad Ratanakar Mahan Kosh. Patiala, 1981
2. Punjabi Sahit Kosh. Patiala, 1971