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Ismaili History 734 - The line of Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah

Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah died on 940/1534 and was buried in the mausoleum of his father in Pirana, the necropolis of the Imam-Shahi sect. He had several sons, the oldest being Jalaluddin and Mustapha. Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah had however appointed one of his younger son as his successor, called Sayed Miran Khan, surnamed Sai'duddin. Several stories are recounted about the cruelty of the brothers of Sayed Miran Khan, who was exiled from Pirana. In sum, the shrine of Sayed Imam Shah remained in the custody of Jalaluddin and his descendants for about a century, while the pirs in the descent of Sayed Miran Khan were moving about the country. Sayed Miran Khan rambled as a successor of his father in Surat, Burhanpur and the towns of the Deccan.
Mention must be made on this juncture about the institution of the kakas in Imam-Shahi sect that had taken root in Pirana. This institution was the headman of the converted Hindus. The kaka was the Imam-Shahi cleric and his duty was to settle the petty disputes and collect religious taxes. This institution had been introduced at an early period in petty village communities, and then gradually penetrated into Pirana. The immediate cause of the final legalisation of the status of the kakas at Pirana was the rivalries and quarrels of the sons of Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah, who is said to have introduced the tradition of the kaka (headman) to collect religious taxes and offerings. The kaka was appointed for life and had to take vow of celibacy and received food and clothing as remuneration. The number of the early prominent kakas was twenty-five, from Kaka Shanna to Kaka Lakhman. The institution of the kaka had a furtive character. For details, vide 'Pirana Satpanth'ni Pol' (Falsehood of the Satpanth of Pirana), by Patel Narayan Ramji Contractor, Rajkot, 1926.

After the exile of Sayed Miran Khan, the kaka began to dominate at Pirana in all affairs and proved to be an inexhaustible source of intrigue and misery to the community, which ultimately brought about the complete ruin of the Imam-Shahi sect. Most of the old literature of the ginans remained in possession of the kakas, who were responsible to interpolate them. It must be noted that the theory of equating Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad with Pir Shams was most probably floated in these interpolations. The word Pir and Imam also began to be added frequently in their ginans for Sayed Imam Shah and Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah. Many other terminologies of the Hindus and their deities were added in the ginans. Henceforward, Pir Satgur Nur was identified in their newly ginans attributed to the authorship of Sayed Imam Shah, with the Brahma, Sayed Imam Shah as the incarnation of Indra and Nur Muhammad Shah was exalted to a station equivalent to Vishnu. One legendary book had been compiled in the name of Sayed Imam Shah, namely 'Dashtari Gayatri', in which the genealogical details are mentioned, but no mention is made of the line of the Ismaili Imams. Another bombastic work was also created, entitled 'Chetamani of Pir Imam Shah' where the descent is however traced to 'Sayed Satgur Patra Brahma Indra Imam Shah' and 'Adi Vishnu Nirinjan Nur Ali Mahomed Shah.' Thus, they enjoyed considerable autonomy to institute a number of fictitious theories and ceremonials

Meanwhile, a deputation arrived to invite Sayed Miran Khan to Pirana, which he accepted and returned to his native place, where he died in 980/1572 and was succeeded by Sayed Abu Ali Hashim, who was hardly 12 to 13 years of age. It must be added that Sayed Saleh (984-1021/1576-1612), another son of Sayed Miran Khan is said to have a strong proclivity towards Ismailism, who also composed few ginans.

The shrine of Sayed Imam Shah was in charge of the descendants of Jalaluddin, therefore, Sayed Abu Ali Hashim had to procure a strong following in Pirana, who, at length took its charge and died in 1021/1612. He was succeeded by his 15 years old son, Abu Muhammad Hashim, who decided to renovate the graves of his father and grandfather and erect a splendid mausoleum for them, near the shrine of Sayed Imam Shah. Nur Shah, the son of Mustapha, the brother of Sayed Miran Khan, was at that time the official keeper of the shrine of Sayed Imam Shah. He and his brother, Walan Shah fiercely opposed the plan. Their opposition rose to armed obstruction and in a pitched battle between the two parties, the supporters of Nur Shah were defeated. The enmity and hatred between them were going on unabated, but the majority remained faithful to Abu Muhammad Hashim, who died in 1045/1636. He was succeeded by his 12 years old son, Muhammad, also known as Muhammad Shah Dula Burhanpur. He left Pirana and went to Burhanpur in Khandesh and left behind his son, Abu Muhammad Shahji Miran in Pirana. He however died in 1067/1657 and was buried in Burhanpur. His successor Abu Muhammad Shahji Miran came to a tragic end due to the intolerance of the Mughal emperor Aurengzeb. According to 'Mirat-i Ahmadi' (comp. 1174/1761), certain officials with an armed escort were sent to Pirana with the express summon of the emperor to arrest Shahji Miran. The sickly old man refused to go. Then, being dragged by force, he poisoned himself on the way to the city and died not far from Pirana, where he was brought back to be interred. This event took place in 1103/1692. His son and successor was 12 years old Sayed Muhammad Shah, who wandered from Burhanpur to Pirana and the towns of the Deccan, and died in Ahmadnagar in 1130/1718. His infant son, Sayed Muhammad Fazal Shah had been brought up for 12 years in Ahmadnagar.

Meanwhile, a deputation of 200 persons from Pirana was sent to Ahmadnagar to invite the young pir to come back. Hence, Sayed Muhammad Fazal Shah was taken to Pirana, where he was met with great pomp. He however gave up all hopes of settling in Pirana owing to the strong influence and foothold of the kakas, who were adamant. He therefore went to Champanir, where he died on 1159/1746. Sayed Sharif then succeeded, who returned to Pirana in 1885/1771, where his father had failed. In Pirana, he discovered that his life was insecure, therefore he tried to settle in Cambay, about 20 miles distant from Pirana. His temporary absence brought about some ugly development in Pirana. The kakas, by bribes, arranged with the local authorities to take hold of the old historical house of the pirs and pulled it down. When the news of sacrilege reached to Sayed Sharif, he rushed back, only to find that it was too late. Curses followed between them and the atmosphere of Pirana remained as tense as ever. The guardian of Sayed Imam Shah's shrine at that time was Karamullah bin Jafar, who gave his daughter to Sayed Sharif in marriage. Sayed Sharif however died in 1209/1795 and was succeeded by his son, Badruddin, also known as Bara Miyan. He continued the policy of his father to reduce the power of the kakas in Pirana. He also died in 1243/1827 and was succeeded by his son, Bakir Shah, the last pir of the Imam-Shahi sect in Pirana. He also died most probably in 1251/1835 without leaving any successor. Thus, the old line of Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah (d. 940/1534) came to an end. The disciples of the Imam-Shahi sect are found in Ahmadabad, Kheda, Cambay, Baroda, Bhavanagar, Surat, Khandesh and Kutchh.

Previously, it is indicated that Humayun (1530-1556), the Mughal emperor, was dethroned by Sher Shah Suri (947-952/1540-1545) on May 17, 1540. Humayun led a life of homeless loitering in Sind for three years, and finally repaired to Iran in 1544 in the time of Shah Tahmasp. Humayun embraced Shiism in Iran, and with the help of the Safavids, he reinstated the Mughal empire in India in 962/1555 after fifteen years. The Indian Ismaili pilgrims, who visited Anjudan by road, seem to have been advised by Nuruddin Ali to travel by sea. It is possible that between 947/1540 and 962/1555, Sher Shah Suri had planted his agents in Sind to search Humayun, resulting the roads insecure between India and Iran for the travellers. Humayun embarked from Sistan with 12,000 horsemen in 952/1545 and seized Kandhar and Kabul. He also conquered Badakhshan in 954/1547, and then entered India and captured Delhi in 962/1555. It is also probable that the routes between Iran and Badakhshan were insecure from 952/1545 to 962/1555, therefore, Nuruddin Ali had also directed his followers in Badakhshan not to travel for Iran for few years.

One unknown manuscript of Iran of 929/1523 is unearthed, containing 24 quatrains in glorification of the Imam of the time, whose few couplets are given below:-

Pesh az man baaisam tuhi mowlana,
bi tu che tasrafum rasd dar du jahan.

'O'Lord! you existed before me, therefore you created
me.
What I may take away in the two worlds except to desire
for you.

Gar kohana wa gar navim ya mowlana,
bi rai'i to marqsada nadaarim digar.

'We may be either young or old, but there is no aim of
our lives without your remembrance.'

Aiy'i rahat baksh'i ruh ya mowlana,
har yad'i to mikunand dar alam'i showk.

'O'Lord! you are peace giver to the mankind. When love
gushes, the lovers remember your name.'

It seems possible that the above unknown poem belonged to the then known Ismaili poet Mahmud Ali, who hailed from Mominabad. Dr. Farhad Daftry has also discovered his poems from the Ismaili leaders in Khorasan, which have not been listed in 'A Guide to Ismaili Literature' (London, 1933) by W. Ivanow and in 'Biobibliography of Ismaili Literature' (California, 1977) by Ismail K. Poonawala. In his one long poem, Mahmud Ali names the Ismaili dais, mu'allims and lesser functionaries in numerous localities in Khorasan, Kohistan, Irak-i Ajam, Kirman, Afghanistan, Badakhshan, Turkistan and the Indian subcontinent, including Multan, Lahore and Gujrat.

Imam Nuruddin Ali consigned the office of Imamate to his son, Khalilullah Ali, and died in 957/1550 in Anjudan. The details of his other five sons are inaccessible.


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