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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Pir Shams was born most probably at Sebzewar, a town in Khorasan, lying 64 miles west of Nishapur. His father Syed Salauddin had been deputed in Baltistan by Imam Kassim Shah, who most probably came into the contact of Taj Mughal in Badakhshan. Kamaluddin Mujahri of Sebzewar writes in Malfuz-i Kamalia that Pir Syed Muinuddin Hasan of Sebzewar of Ajmer had a meeting with Syed Salauddin in Sebzewar in 560/1165. It is recounted that Pir Shams had gone to Badakhshan with his father at the age of 19 years, and thence he proceeded to Tibet and returned back to Sebzewar.

It is said that after the death of Syed Salauddin, Imam Kassim Shah commissioned Pir Shams as the hujjat of Sind and Hind at Daylam. He also refers to the Imam that: "Adore sincerely the true guiding light manifested in the person of Kassim Shah, the Lord of the time." (vide Garbi, 5:17).

The earliest description of Pir Shams is found in the treatise of the biographies of Sufis, entitled Nafahat al-Uns (comp. 883/1478) by Nuruddin Abdur Rahman Jami (817-898/1414-1492), the last classic poet of Iran. Nurullah bin Sharif Shushtari (d. 1019/1610) in his Majalis al-Mominin (comp. 1013/1604) traces his ancestry back to the Ismaili root. Some details are also found in Tarikh-i Firishta (comp.1015/1606). The great Sufi saint Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) also referred to Pir Shams in his poetry.

It is indeterminable point in the modern sources, when Pir Shams was born? The extant materials however do not allow one to draw a safe conclusion. His death in 757/1356 however is indisputable, based on the plaque at the mausoleum in Multan. The most confusing and unsolved point is to locate his date of birth. Most of the scholars concur in his age for 115 years, but it however seems that Pir Shams had lived to an advanced age beyond 115 years. Syed Bawa Ahmad Ali Khaki writes in his Dar-i Khuld-i Bari (Ahmadabad, 1905, p. 123) on the basis of an old manuscript that the span of Pir Shams's life was for 171 years. If the date of his demise in 757/1356 may be considered genuine, it means that his birth would have been taken place around 580/1175 during the period of Imam Ala Muhammad (561-607/1166-1210). The genealogy of Pir Shams given in the Shajara, preserved in the shrine at Multan, indicates the birth of Pir Shams in 570/1165, which also corroborative.

Pir Shams arrived from Daylam to Badakhshan, where he is said to have brought many followers of Momin Shahi sect into the Ismaili fold. He visited Gilgit and proceeded to Tibet and as far as the ranges of the Himalayas. He came back to Ghazna, where he deputed the local converted prince to Badakhshan on mission work.

Pir Shams also converted a bulk of the Hindus during their Dasera festival after singing garbis (songs) in a temple for ten consecutive nights. Pir Shams had sung the garbis in a village, called Analvad. W. Ivanow places its location in Gujrat, called Anilvad, not far from Ahmadabad.

He also visited Kashmir in 715/1316 and converted the Chak and Changad tribes, thence he proceeded to Multan in 725/1326 for the first time. Zakaria Qazwini writes in his Asar al-Bilad wa Akhbar al-Ibad (comp. 661/1263) that, "Multan is a large, fortified and impregnable city, with a temple which is to the Hindus a place of worship and pilgrimage as Mecca for the Muslims. The inhabitants are the Muslims and Hindus, but the government is in the hands of the former. The chief mosque is described as being near the temple."

In Multan, many miracles of Pir Shams are reported, but not potential for historical value. It is therefore difficult to penetrate through the mist of legends, which formed even during the lifetime of Pir Shams and thickened rapidly after his death. The most popular miracle was the bringing down of the sun on earth, which earned him an epithet of taparez (burning) in Punjab. The word taparez is so coherence with that of Tabriz that it began to be pronounced as Tabriz, contriving a wrong theory to merge these two into one. Since Pir Shams and Shams-i Tabriz were proximate to each other in time, it is probable that Pir Shams, also known as Shams Taprez was confounded with that of Shams-i Tabriz. Shams-i Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi was died in Koniya in 645/1247, prompting the rise of a false tradition of Koniya to Multan, i.e., Shams-i Tabriz had gone to Multan. In sum, the nut of Koniya and the bolt of Multan had been patched to contrive a new tradition indicating these two characters same and one, which is absolutely untrue.

It however seems that Pir Shams visited lower Sind, and travelled through the riverline belt of the Indus, and reached Uchh Sharif most probably in 727/1328, which was his mission centre. He deputed many da'is in China, Tibet, Badakhshan, Kashmir and Gujrat. His mission was mobile, and is said to have gone as far as Nepal, known among the Indian Buddhists as Chinab-Nagari, designating the northern India as a part of China.

Pir Shams also visited Rajistan, and according to his one ginan (no. 70), he embarked from Uchh with his two disciples, Vimras and Surbhan. He alighted at Gudi Vilod, near Gujrat, and thence proceeded to a forest, and preached a bulk of the untouchables. He identified himself as Satgur Shams and the Light of Pir Satgur to give coherence to his mission, where the name of Pir Satgur was almost familiar. He then arrived in a barren land and reached in the middle of Malwa, where he initiated the servile caste and the Abheras and Bhils. Pir Shams also converted the Hindu Bhambi, and spread his mission as far as Ganges. The oral tradition tells us that a certain Ransi, whose family adhered Pir Satgur, also became a disciple of Pir Shams. His son, Ajmal (or Ajay Singh), the father of Ramdeo, continued to revere Pir Shams. After visiting Junjala, Jaitgarh and Karel, Pir Shams proceeded to Bichun and Sakhun in Jaipur-Ajmer region. After having initiated Khiwan and Ransi, he went back to Multan. The Nyariya (perhaps Nizaria) of Rajasthan still claim that they originated from Multan and regard Pir Shams as their master (guru). In the 15th century, the Sirvi caste of the Jaitaran, Bilara, Pali region, had accepted the teachings of a female saint, known as Jiji Devi, who was also a disciple of Pir Shams. The Prahlad panthi in Jodhpur, Nagaur and Bikaner as well as the Jasnathi in Bishnoi have a devotional literature, showing the Ismaili traits and seal (chha'p) of Pir Shams and Pir Sadruddin etc. The local people call Pir Shams as Samik Rishi, Samas Rishi or Samas Pir.

Among the Sufis, there existed four principal orders in India, viz. Chisti, Qadari, Suharwardi and Naqashbandi. The period of Pir Shams was thus noted for the several skilled exponents of Sufi thought, therefore, he launched his brisk and pervasive mission during the eve of the growing Sufi circles in Punjab. In the villages of Punjab, he mostly converted the Aror or Rohra, a leading caste in south-western part of the Punjab, i.e., of the lower reaches of the five rivers and below their junction, extending through Bahawalpur into Sind. They were mostly cultivators, and their large portion on the lower Chinab were purely agricultures, while in the western Punjab, they were mostly tailors, weavers of mats and baskets, makers of vessels of brass and copper and goldsmiths. Pir Shams appointed musafir (one who travels) in different regions to collect the religious dues, and also built prayer-halls (khana) and appointed their mukhis. He also introduced the daily prayer in Punjabi, which continued to be recited till the period of Pir Sadruddin.

Pir Shams expired in 757/1356 and was buried at Multan. His mausoleum is located about half a mile to the east of the fort site, on the high bank of the old bed of the river Ravi. His shrine was built by his grandson and was rebuilt by one of the Ismailis in 1718. The tomb is square, 300 feet in height surmounted by a hemispherical dome. It is decorated with ornamental glazed tiles.

Pir Shams is acclaimed as a great preacher and composed many ginans in different Indian dialects. It is also possible that his local disciples had received the first hand marrow of his teachings in few places, and transformed them creatively into the ginanic form. These are the rich reservoir of religious teachings and great treasure house of Sufi thought, giving a very comprehensive idea of the prodigality of Sufi symbolism. He used with supreme skill the languages of the country folk and employed them to interpret ideas of natural beauty and of religious philosophy. In fact, Pir Shams was a man steeped in an understanding of the mystical teaching of Islam. The recent diligent research has brought to light that he was the most earliest, rather the first Punjabi poet, and also made rich contribution in the growth of Urdu language during its infancy. He had a faculty of expressing the truth in the local languages with appropriate turn of phrase and picturesque metaphor.

After Pir Shams, his son Pir Nasiruddin (625-764/1228-1362) continued the mission mostly in Punjab and died in Uchh. He was followed by his son Pir Sahib'din (650-775/1212-1373), who lived in the garb of a Hindu saint, and made a large proselytism. He had seven sons, viz. Pir Sadruddin, Syed Ruknuddin, Syed Badruddin, Syed Shamsuddin II, Syed Nasiruddin, Syed Ghiasuddin and Syed Nasiruddin Qalandar Shah.

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