In the lndo-Pak sub-continent, by the propagation of Islam commenced after the demise of Prophet Mohammad and Sindh was first to receive the light of Islam. At about the same time, the followers and wellwishers of Ahle Bait had started propaganda and conversion on behalf of and for Hazrat Ali and his successive Imams, who were the rightful heirs of the Prophet. The sixth Imam, Hazrat lsmail bin Hazrat Imam Jafar-as-Sadiq, and the succeeding Ismaili Imams sent out Da'is (Missionaries) to the far corners of the then known world for propagation of the True Path (Seerat-al-Mustaqim or Sat Panth in Indian language).
Hazrat Shams Sabzwari too occupies a prominent position amongst the famous Ismaili 'Da'is. He was sent by the twenty-ninth Ismaili Imam, Hazrat Kassim Shah, to preach the Ismaili Nizari faith in the subcontinent.
Pir Shams conducted his missionary activities all over the North-western and Western parts of the subcontinent and in the context of vedic scripture vis-a-vis Al-Quran, revived the idea of the necessity of a Living Guide in the minds of his non-Muslim audiences, bringing thousands of them to the beneficial fold of Ismailic Islam.
Friends of Ahle Bait did not-sacrifice their lives for the sake of name, but, in fact they sacrificed their lives for their love for the Imam and their faith. History is replete with such personalities about whom historically very little is known to-day. Pir Shams is one such consequential figure in the annals of Ismailism about whom innumerable legends abound but verifiable authentic historical references, contemprory or subsequent, are rare.
It is given in the Noorm-Mubin that Pir Shams was born at Sabzwar in Iran where he spent his childhood and adolescence in pursuit of education. Probably, in his twenties he spent working under the tilage of his father, Pir Salahuddin, in Sabzwari and perhaps in his early thirties succeeded his father and was assigned the Da'wa of Badakshan and Northern India. Conducting his missionary work with great ardour and zeal, his activities ranged from Badakshan, through Kashmir, and from Punjab, Sindh to Gujerat with Multan as his headquarters. As he spent the better part of his later years at or around Multan he was laid to rest there, hence he is also famous as Pir Shams Sabzwari Multani.
Muslim historians of medieval India have compiled volumes about Muslim rulers of their time, but did not find any time to record any facts about a sufic personage like Pir Sabzwari, who made tremendous contribution towards the spread of Islam in the lndo-Pak sub-continent, with the lamentable result that accounts of his missionary activities and spectacular achievements survive only in his own vernacular religious poetry (Ginans), local folklore or communal legends of the communities he brought to the fold of Islam (Khojas of Sindh, Kutch and Kathiawar, Guptis and Shamsies of Kashmir and Punjab).
In most of the local folklore and communal legends he is confused with Hazrat Shams Tabrezi and the incidents of his life are erroneously presented as those of Pir Shams Sabzwari Multani, even going to the extent of believing the latter's resting place in as that of the former. The most reliable source extent today is the surviving collection of his vernacular religion poetry (ginans), which he had composed as an effective vehicle for preaching the Ismailian faith. His ginans throw ample light on his missionary activities and in some instance give exact dates in savant era.
His genology as narrated by the lineal caretakers of his mausoleum in Multan is as follows:
Syed Shamsuddin Sabzwari Multani bin Syed
Saiahuddin bin Syed lslamuddin bin Syed Muaminshahalias Abdul Muamin bin Syed Klialiquddin bin Syed Muhibuddin alias Mushtaq bin Syed Ahmed bin Syed Hashim bin Syed Mohammed bin Syed Hadi alias Ahmed Hadi bin Syed Galibuddin bin Syed Abdul Jamal bin Syed Mansoor bin Syed Musaffir bin Syed Khaliquddin alis lsmail sani bin Syed Muhammad bin Syedna wa Imamina Ismail bin Hazrat Imam Jafar-asSadiq.
The genealogical table of Pir's which formed a part of our old Du'a too, more or less corroborates this genealogical order. As such it makes confirms that Pir Shams Sabzwari descended from Hazrat Imam Ismail and a lineage of Ismaili Pirs. Similarly, Pir Shams Tabrezi also descended directly from Ismaili Imams being a son of Hazrat Imam Alauddin Muhammad and brother of Hazrat Imam Ruknud-din Khirishah. The disappearance or probable demise of Pir Shams Tabrezi is believed to have occurred in 645 A.H./l 247 C.E.. whereas Pir Shams Sabzwari Multani is said to have been born on 17th Rajab 560 A.H./20th May 1165 C.E., arrived at Multan in 598AH/1201 C.E. and died there in 675 A.H./ 276 C.E. at the age of 115. However, the date of his demise inscribed
on the mausoleum plaque is 757 AH./l356 C.E. which, with his reported life span of 115 years, is taken as authentic, he must have been born in 642 A.H./l241 C. E. However, in his own Ginan "Surbhan Ni Vel" he states:
"Savant agiarso panchoter, Gur Shams aavia gaer;
Gatma aavi Pir Paya, Surbhan gatma aaya."
In 1175 Savant i.e. 1119 C.E. the Oreat Master
graced the house, In the fold of faith he found the Master, and Surbhan embraced the fold.
Again'in another of his ginans "Chandrabhan Ni Vel", he mentions his encounter with Chandrabhan and the latter's conversion as having taken place in 1207 savant (1150 C.E.). Besides, in his twin ginan numbered 13, he narrates the day, month and year of establishment of his preaching centre as follows:
"Eji Savant agiarso athotair, kartak wad amas,
Guruji thanak karyo, tarey hato Budhwar."
(Wednesday the last day of the month Katrik in the year 1178 Savant i.e. 1122 C.E. that the Great Master established the centre for preaching).
The years Pir Shams has indicated in these three ginans may be reconcilable with each other, but they retrograde the period of his mission by 200 years way back to the middle Alamut era. The famous researcher in Ismailism, Dr. lvanow was also of the opinion that Pir Shams Sabzwari Multani arrived in India around the time of the demise of Hazrat Imam Ala Zikrihissafam, (died 1166 C.E.). Even in some of his ginans, references of Delam desh-Alamut, are found, lending strength to the view that he lived during the Alamut era. However, in one of his garbi (Choral dance songs) he states :
"Nar 'Kasim Shah na farman thi,
Gur Shams Pir ramwa nisariya."
(On the command of the Lord Kasim Shah 1370 C.E.), The great Master saint Shams descended to play and preach).
This places his mission in post - Alamut er (14th century C.E.) and not Alamut era (12th century C.E.). The modern history of Ismaili Imams, Noorm Mubin, also gives the year of his passing as indicate on his mausoleum plaque i.e. 1356 C.E. Till further researches unearth some authentic data, we have no alternative but to accept this later date.
Hazrat Pir Shams Sabzwari first reached Gazni on his preaching mission to the Indo-Pak. (sub continent). His disciples, Vimras and Surbhan are said to have accompanied him. In one of his ginan he recounts his meeting with and conversion of Emna Sati a daughter of a Hindu tradesman.
"Pir Shams vanse sadharia, Ramta ramta Gaz
Tinya waniyeki beti-ye bulaya, Emna Sati ooska
(Verse 36 Mansamianrni).
"Pir Shams left that way, Rambling he reached Gazni, where he met tradesman's daughter, name Emna Sati who backoned him."
In Gazni he also met and converted the king's son Sabhaga and sent him to Badakhshan on preaching assignment. He narrates this incident in one of his works "Man-Samajamni (convincing the Mind)".
"Gazni ke betey ki suno bat, unko Pir Shamsh rakhy pas,
Sabhaga dharya unka nam, pir-e bheja Badakshan
(Verse 45 Mansmjani).
"Hear the story of Gazni's (king's) son, whom Pir Shams kept near him, his name was Sabhaga. Pir dispatched him to Badakshan".
Sabhaga is reported to have stayed in Badakshan for quite a long time, carrying out the mission entrusted to him by Pir Shams. How he was called back is narrated in 7th stanza of the said ginan. Sabhag is also mentioned in two other ginans which are in Seraike dialect.
From Gazni Pir Shams is reported to have proceded to Kashmir and then on to Chinab Nagri. It is said that he had sent his disciple Vimaras, ahead to Chinab Nagri to prepare his way. Some authorities place Chinab Nagri in China while Dr. lvanow held the view that Chinab Nagri was situated on the river
Chenab in Punjab and we concure with the latter view. He is said to have wandered through fourteen countries (regions) all the while preaching Ismaili faith and converting groups of non-Muslimst Ismailic Islam. It is also said that he established 84 Jamatkhanas, installed Mukhis and also a Musafir (later Kamdar or Kamadia in Pir Sadruddin's time to collect offerings from their respective jurisdiction and forward them to the Pir for onward transmission to the Imam's headquarter's in Iran. This arrangement is described in his work Mansamjamni (stanzas 252-270). Thereafter he proceeded to Multan where he established his headquarters and main preaching centre. There he breathed his last at Multan at the age of 115 and was laid to rest near it. In his Ginan, this area is called Uchh Multan, which has nothing to do with Uchh-Sharif of Bahawalpur State (Pak).
In one of his ginans posthmously-named "Janaza". the date, day and month of his demise are stated but the year is not mentioned.
"Eji veshakh mahino ne tarikh satarmi. Ane bresh patarwar no din, Te dine pir-e jomo separiyo, Te sifariy Uchch Multan mahe. Eji Satarso pir-na kandhi thaya. te aveya jun-e makame.
"O'hear, the month was vaisakh and date seventeenth, and the day was Thursday, that day the Pir relinquished his life and was burried at Uchh in Multan.
O'Hear seventeen hundred people carried his coffin and he returned to his original abode'.
Pir Shams was an accomplished vernacular prosodist. He has composed numerous short and long poems (ginans) in lyrical scales of folk-tunes popular among the masses of Punjab, Sind and Gujrat in his days and are sung even today in more or less the original style. He appears to have mastered most of the vernacular dialects of Northern and Western areas of Indo-Pak subcontinent, and his ginans are replete with words from Purbi, Hindi, Gujrati, Sindhi, Seraiki, and Punjabi, dialects. Some of his works having been preserved by his devoted proselytes (khojas and guptis) in memory or reduced to handwritten manuscripts and passed from generation to generation, have survived the cruel travails of six centuries. His short and long works extent today and still recited by Ismailis throughout the world are:
1. Brahma Prakash, "Divine Illumination", in verse, 150 slokas.
2. Hans Hansli ni Varta (also called Mulbandh no Achhodo). a parable of gander and goose, in 504 couplets, with refrain.
3. Chandrabhan, with a Vel, in 50 short poems, with an appendix of 12 poems.
4. Surbhan, with a Vel, of the same type as the preceding, 62 verses.
5. Raja Govarchand Tatha Teni Ben ni Katha. Govarchand becomes on ascetic and his sister Nilavanti tries to dissuade him. Two parts. 294 and 96 verses.
6. Mansamjamani (Vadi). Advices to one's mind, a large collection of pious thoughts, full of stories.
7. Sloko Moto, bigger collection of ginans, of the usual pious contents, 240 quatrains.
8. Vaek Moto, with a Vel. Discourse (bigger), with an appendix. 64 plus 31 quatrains.
9. Garbi, 28 poems sung at a festival were translated by Mr. Vali-Bhai Master, and edited by W. lvanow, in "collectanea" (Ism. Sty series "A" no. 2, Cairo, 1948, pp. 55-85).
10. Ginans, 80 in number, containing religious and moral advises in Verses.
In his ginans, Pir Shams has used various noms-de-plume like Shams, Shams Darya, Shams chot, Shams Ghazi, Shams Qalander etc. In these Ginans various moral and religious advices are given. Few quotations of which are given below.-
"Pahela nam allah ka leejey, Duja sat nabika leeje, Allah rasool jeby aankho, dil apna shah-su rakho, Shah vina aur na boojey, satki rah unko soojey. Ali-nam jampta vilamb na keejey, vai kunth ma fal to ja leejey"
(Mansamjani, verse 1)
"Firstly, remember the name of Allah, secondly, accept the truth of Prophet (Muhammed). Believe in Allah and the Prophet, and fill your heart with love of the Lord (Imam-e-Zaman). Those who do not turn to anyone except the Lord, find the way of Truth.
Those who do not hesitate to recite Ati's name, go on to harvest Heaven's fruits".
He has expressed teachings of the profound Quranic Ayats about the creator, creation, etc. in very lucid and lyrical verses:
"Sachcha mera khaliq sirjan har,
Aape upaya Shah dandhukar." -,
"True is my creator, the Lord himself evolved the
The philosophy of soul and body, he has expounded in a beautiful parable in his ginan "Prem Patan raja manasudh", (Parable of King Manshud of Prem patan and his consort) where in he has compared the soul with a ruler and the body with his consort. In another of his Ginans "Ek Shabd suno mere bhai" also he has dwelled upon this theme.
His famous work "Brahma Prakash" (Divine lumination) has few equals. It is a concise compedium, in verse for seekers of spiritual enlightenment. Besides, in another of his long work "Sloka Moto" also lie dwells upon the mystery of soul, its nature, etc. and same accounts of events, Consists of 401
poems of 20 lines each.
One of his ginans, which is famous as Ginan-e-Qudsi (the most sacred Ginan), has the immense and portents of Qiamat (Dooms day/day of judgement)as its central theme related in the form of a dialogue between the Holy. Prophet and the Archangel (Hazral Gibrael).
1 .Tarikhe Jehan Gusha translated by J.A. Boyiel The history of the world conqueror, Vol. II.
2. Tabaqate Nasiri-By Minhaj-us-Siraj-Persian edition.
3. Tarikhe Hind by al Biruni, translated into English by Sachu.
4. Akhbar ul akhyati by Abul Haqq Dihlawi. Persian edition.
5. Majalisul-Muminin by Nuruliah Shustari, Persian edition.
6. Mirate Ahmedi by Ali Mohd Khan. Persian edition.
7. Khojah Vratant by Sachedina Nanjiani. Gujrati edition.
8. 'Khojah Komno Itihas by Jaffer Rahimtuila of Bombay.
9. Noorm-Mubin By Ali Mohd. Chunara-Bombay IVth edition.
10. Tawarikhi-Pir by Sayyid Sadrudin, Vol. I & II.
11. W. Ivanow, Collectania. I.
12. W. Ivanow, article on the Sect of Imam shah in Gujrat.
13. All ginans of Pir Shams.
14. Relevant articles in the encyclopaedia of Islam. new and old editions.
Miss Zawahir Noorally, Karachi (Pakistan)