Syed Usman Shah Marwandi aka Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalander
Silsila: Qalanderia Suharwardia
Date of Wisaal: 1274 A.D.
Date of Urs: 18 Sha'aban (Islamic Date)
Sehwen Shareef, Sindh, Pakistan
Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1177- Sehwan Sharif 1274), a sufi saint,
philosopher, poet, and qalandar, was born as Syed Usman Shah Marwandi.
He belonged to the Suhrawardiyya order of sufis, and was close
contemporary to Baha-ud-din Zakariya, Shaikh Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Syed
Jalaluddin Bukhari Surkh-posh of Uchch, and Shah Shams Tabrizi. Some
also add the name of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi (Mevlana Rumi).
He travelled around the Muslim world and had settled in Sehwan (Sindh,
Pakistan) and was buried there. He preached religious tolerance among
Muslims and Hindus. Thousands of pilgrims visit his shrine every year,
especially at the occasion of his Urs.
Shahbaz Qalandar (Shaikh Usman Marwandi) was born in Marwand to a
dervish, Syed Ibrahim Kabiruddin whose ancestors migrated from Iraq and
settled down in Mashhad, a center of learning and civilization, before
migrating again to Marwand.
His dedication to the knowledge of various religious disciplines enabled
him to eventually become a profound scholar. During his lifetime, he
witnessed the Ghaznavid and Ghurids rules in South Asia. He became
fluent in many languages including Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Sindhi and
Sanskrit. His mysticism attracted people from all religions. He was
titled Lal (red) for his usual red attire, Shahbaz due to his noble and
divine spirit, and 'Qalandar' for his sufism and saintly attitude.
Hindus regarded him as the incarnation of Bhrithari. Qalandar Lal
Shahbaz lived a celibate life and, did not marry.
Evidence shows that he was active in Sindh before 1196, when he met Pir
Haji Ismail Panhwar of Pat; it is believed he entered Sehwan in 1251.
He established his Khanqah in Sehwan and started teaching in Fuqhai
Islam Madarrsah; during this period he wrote his treatises Mizna-e-Sart,
Kism-e-Doyum, Aqd and Zubdah.
In poetry and prose
A Qawwali by Abida Parveen and many other singers of sufi songs, 'Lal
Meri Pat Rakhiyo ...' is in honour of Shahbaz Qalandar, as is the one
sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan named Mast Qalandar.
This famous mystic often quoted the teachings of Maulana Jalal ad-Din
Rumi. A book detailing his life is called "Solomon's Ring" by Gul Hasan.
Boo Ali Shah Qalandar's famous Persian verses showing his love and honour for Hazrat Ali are engraved on his shrine:
Haiderium Qalandram Mastam
Banda e Murtaza Ali Hastam
Peshwa e tamam Rindanam
Ke Sag e Koo e Sher e Yazdanam!
I am Haideri (relating to Haider, a second name for Ali ibn Abi Talib), Qalandar and Mast (intoxicated with inspiration)
I am a slave of Ali Murtaza
I am leader of all saints
Because I am a dog of the lane of "Allah's Lion" (referring to Ali)
Legends and Stories
On his way from Baluchistan to Sindh, he also stayed in present day
Karachi's Manghopir area for muraqba (meditation), and it is said that
Manghopir's natural warm fountain is a miracle of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
That warm fountain started to flow from beneath the hill, on which Lal
Shahbaz sat for muraqba (meditation). After passing hundreds of years,
that warm fountain is still flowing continuously and is said to have
miraculous healing power especially for asthma patients.
In Multan, Lal Shahbaz met Bahauddin Zachariah Multani of the
Suhurwardiya order, Baba Farid Ganjshakar of Chishtiya order, and
Makhdoom Jahanian Surkh Bukhari. The attachment was so cordial and
spiritual that their friendship became legendary. They were known as
Chahar Yar (Persian = four friends). According to some historians, the
four friends visited various parts of Sindh and Punjab, in present day
Almost all the saints of Sindh including Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai,
Makhdoom Bilawal, Sachal Sarmast and Qadir Bukhsh Bedal were devout
followers of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
It is also believed that he turned into a falcon to pick up his friend
Shaikh Farid Shakar Ganj from the gallows. The legend goes that the
incumbent fakirs in Sewhan sent him a bowl of milk filled to the brim
indicating that there was no room for anything more. But surprisingly,
he returned the bowl with a beautiful flower floating on the top. This
legend spread far and wide by the time of his death in 1274, after
living a good span for 97 years.
The shrine around his tomb, built in 1356, gives a dazzling look with
its Sindhi kashi tiles, mirror work and two gold-plated doors - one
donated by the late Shah of Iran, the other by the late Prime Minister
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The inner sanctum is about 100 yards square with
the silver canopied grave in the middle. On one side of the marble floor
is a row of about 12 inch high folding wooden stands on which are set
copies of Quran for devotees to read. On the other side, beside a bundle
of burning agarbattis (joss sticks), are rows of diyas (small oil
lamps) lighted by Hindu devotees.
His annual Urs (death anniversary celebration) is held on the 18
Sha'aban - the eighth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. Thousands of
devotees flock to the tomb while every Thursday their number stands
multiplied especially at the time of his 'Urs' being a carnival as well a
religious festival and celebrated every year. Sehwan springs to life
and becomes the focal point of more than half a million pilgrims from
all over Pakistan. On each morning of the three day feast, the narrow
lanes of Sewhan are packed to capacity as thousands and thousands of
pilgrims, fakirs and devotees make their way to the shrine to commune
with the saint, offer their tributes and make a wish. Most of the people
present garlands and a green chadar (a cloth used to cover a tomb) with
Qur'anic inscriptions in silver or gold threads. Humming of verses,
singing and dancing in praise of the saint continues till late at night.
A devotional dance known as 'dhamal', being a frenzied and ecstatic
swirl of the head and body, is a special ritual that is performed at the
rhythmic beat of the [dhol] (a big barrel-shaped drum), some of them
being of giant size and placed in the courtyard of the shrine. Bells,
gongs, cymbals and horns make a thunderous din, and the dervishes, clad
in long robes, beads, bracelets and colored head-bands whirl faster and
faster in a hypnotic trance, until with a final deafening scream they
run wildly through the doors of the shrine to the courtyard beyond.