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ABDUS SALAM (880-899/1475-1493), 33RD IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Mahmud Shah, surnamed Abdus Salam or Salam Shah, whose exact date of birth is not known. But the evidence is in favour of his having been born in 859/1456 in Shahr-i Babak, where he mostly passed his early life. He is also called Shah Salamullah. He ascended to the office of Imamate at the age of 21 years. It is related that he was a pragmatic scholar and had gleaned historical informations from his father and the elders of the community, notably the period stretching from the reduction of Alamut to his time.

It seems that Imam Mustansir billah II and his successor, Imam Abdus Salam had strictly advised the Ismailis in Iran, Central Asia and India not to refer or divulge the name of the Imam of the time in presence of the ignorant and adopt taqiya. For instance, it is mentioned in Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi (p. 56) that: "O, truly-faithful believers, Mawlana Shah Mustansir bi'l-lah says: do not mention myself and the name of your Imam, Shah Abdu's-Salam Shah, in the presence of the ignorant and unbelieving people who have an innate hatred of the Prophetship and Imamate. You must, however, appeal to him in your heart and with your tongues. Conceal my whereabouts (sirr'i ma'ra) from the irreligious people of today (ghayr din'i zamana), so that you may for this attain the perfect reward and a righteous life. God the Bountiful will be pleased by you, the people of sincere faith, and your hearts will be enlightened, shinning, and full of joy."

The Ismailis used to visit Kahek, where they were hosted and such facility was also created in Shahr-i Babak. It is said that the Indian Ismailis were granted the titles of Varas and Rai. Some Sufi sounding khanaqahs (cloisters) had been also built in Shahr-i Babak. The Indian and Syrian pilgrims were lodged in different taverns, where they were looked after by some Ismaili guards, who also escorted them during their departure. Some escorts also joined the pilgrims to track them over the safe route.

In Iran, the descendants of Taymur have founded their own petty rules. The Ottoman empire in Turkey became powerful, and sultan Suleman, the Magnificent had captured Istanbul in 1453, making a door open into Europe. The Mamluk kingdom in Egypt was impaired due to internal wars.

It has been heretofore referred that the tradition of the pir for the Indian community had been suspended in the time of Imam Mustansir billah after the death of Pir Tajuddin in 873/1467. The Indian tradition relates that a certain Nizamuddin Kapur, known as Kamadia Kapur or Kapura Lohana, whose tomb is near the Bhambari village, about eleven miles from Tando Muhammad Khan; had visited Iran with an Indian deputation, and humbly urged Imam Abdus Salam to send next hujjat, or pir in India. He insisted that the whole Indian community should not be punished for the misconduct of one jamat of Sind. The Imam is reported to have said: "I cannot revoke the decision of my father." Kamadia Kapur and his team lodged in Shahr-i Babak for some months and craved devotionally to win the heart of the Imam. One day, Imam summoned him at his residence and said: "My father has suspended the tradition of pir for India, which will not be revoked in my period. I, however, appoint a samit (silent) pir instead." The Imam thus gave him a book, namely Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi with an instruction to obey its advices as if a natiq (speaking) pir. The tradition further relates that the Imam had taken a word from Kamadia Kapur that the name of the jamat, who misbehaved with Pir Tajuddin in Sind, would not be divulged in other Ismaili jamats, so as to retain the unity of the Indian communities.

Imam Abdus Salam also wrote Panj Sukhan-i Hazarat-i Shah Abdus Salam, the instructive advices for the believers in 30 pages. It is another small collection of the advices followed most probably by the compilation of Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi, otherwise it would have been most possibly incorporated in it.

It is known that a group of Momin-Shahis adhered Raziuddin, the father of Shah Tahir Hussain Dakkani (d. 956/1549) as their Imam in Badakhshan. Imam Abdus Salam sent his three farmans, instructing the erring group to revert to the fold of the legitimate line. These farmans are found in a Maj'mua in Kirman, bearing the signature of the Imam with a date of 895/1490.

Syed Suhrab Wali Badakhshani flourished in this period. He was hailed from Herat and passed his life in Badakhshan and Kabul as a local missionary. In his writing, he writes the date 856/1452 which suggests that he lived in the time of Imam Muhammad bin Islam Shah (d. 868/1463), Imam Mustansir billah (d. 880/1475) and Imam Abdus Salam (d. 899/1493). It appears from his Nur-nama that he was most possibly influenced with the teachings of the da'is of Pir Shams in Badakhshan to some extent. He however, continued to preach the teachings of Nasir Khusaro. He was followed by Syed Umar Yamghani, whose descendants and followers continued Ismaili mission around Badakhshan, and operated as far as Hunza, Gilgit, Chitral and Ghazar.

After Taymur's death, for some time neither his son Shah Rukh in the east, nor the Ottomans in the west were able to extend their influences in western Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Mesopotamia. Here the Turkomans were the strongest tribe until the rise of the Safavids in 905/1500. These Turkomans had founded their dynasties, known as Kara-Koyunlu (780-874/1378-1469) and Ak-Koyunlu (780-908/1378-1502). The death of Uzun Hasan (872-883/1467-1478), the founder of Ak-Koyunlu dynasty in Azerbaijan had gladdened the wandering Turkomans, and they imagined that Azerbaijan, Iran and Fars were their ancestral kingdom. Aba Bakr Beg Begtash, the son of sultan Abu Sa'id commanded the Turkomans and Chaghatays with a hope to find a new kingdom. So by way of Sistan and Bam, they marched on Kirman in 883/1478. Fazalullah bin Ruzbihan Khunji (925/1520) compiled his Tarikh-i Alam-Ara'yi Amini in 896/1490 (abridged translation made by V. Minorsky, entitled Persia in A.D. 1478-1490, London, 1957, p. 43) that, "The amir-zada Ali Jahan (son of Jahangir) was a respected ruler of Kirman and Sirjan, but he was frightened by this multitude (of the Turkomans and Chaghatays) and, without fighting and in utter terror, retreated to Shahr-i Babak. So the whole of Kirman and Sirjan fell into the hands of the Chaghatays and Turkomans. Under the guise of na'l-baha (an arbitrary levy imposed as a compensation for the horse-shoes which have become worn out) and homage, they looted rich and poor."

On hearing this, Abul Muzaffar Yaqub Khan (883-896/1478-1490), the son of Uzun Hasan sent against the aggressors a numerous army under the command of Sufi Khalil Beg. They were reinforced by Baysunqur Beg. The Chaghatays and Turkomans sent their families and baggages into the stronghold of Sirjan, while they themselves took their stand in Kirman, determining to put up a strong fight. The forces of Sufi Khalil Beg first went to the stronghold of Sirjan and captured it in the first inroad, and their enemies fled to Jurjan and Tabaristan. Having razed to the ground the strongholds of Sirjan and Kirman, the Ak-Koyunlu commander returned to Azerbaijan.

We do not have any detail of the Imam and the Ismailis in the contemporary sources, but it ensues from sparsely traditions that Imam Abdus Salam had most possibly evacuated Shahr-i Babak in early period of 883/1478 with the Ismailis before the roaring march of the Chaghatays and Turkomans, and after their suppression, he returned to Shahr-i Babak.

Imam Abdus Salam died in 899/1493 in Shahr-i Babak, and with his death the Imamate devolved upon his son, Gharib Mirza.


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