Waris Shah (1722–1798) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, renowned for his contribution to Punjabi literature. He is best known for his seminal work Heer Ranjha, based on the traditional folk tale of Heer and her lover Ranjha. Heer is considered one of the quintessential works of classical Punjabi literature. The story of Heer was also told by several other writers, including notable versions by Damodar Das, Mukbal, and Ahmed Gujjar, but Waris Shah’s version is by far the most popular today.
Waris Shah is also called Shakespeare of the Punjabi language because of his great poetic love story, Heer Ranjha. Some critics say that through this story of romantic love, he tried to portray the love of man for God (the quintessential subject of Sufi literature).
He was a consummate artiste, deeply learned in Sufi and domestic cultural lore. His verse is a treasure-trove of Punjabi phrases, idioms and sayings. His minute and realistic depiction of each detail of Punjabi life and the political situation in the 18th century, remains unique. Waris Shah sublimated his own unrequited love for a girl (Bhag Bhari) in writing romance.
Many verses of Waris Shah are widely used in Punjab in a moral context.