Lal Shahbaz Qalandar

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Syed Usman Marwandi
Shrine Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Sehwan Shareef, Sindh, Pakistan.jpg
Other namesLal Shahbaz Qalandar
Died19 February 1274(1274-02-19) (aged 96–97)[1]
ReligionSunni Islam
ParentsIbrahim Kabiruddin (father)[2]
Majida Kabiruddin
Other namesLal Shahbaz Qalandar
Senior posting
Based inSehwan
Period in office12th/13th century

Syed Usman Marwandi popularly known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (Sindhi: لعل شھباز قلندر‎), is a Saint and religious-poet of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan.[1] He is highly regarded and respected by people of all religions. He is called Lal ("ruby-colored") after his usual red attire and "Shahbaz" to denote a noble and divine spirit and "Qalandar" as he was a wandering spiritual man.[1] The spiritual song "Dama Dam Mast Qalandar" glorifies Lal Shahbaz Qalandar's teachings, and the song is widely used in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Originally written in the 13th century, the song has been sung by various singers since then, and is widely popular in the sub-continent.


Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, son of Ibrahim Kabeeruddin,[2] was born in Maiwand, today's Afghanistan.[1] His ancestors had migrated from Baghdad, Iraq and settled in Mashhad, Iran before moving to Maiwand. He lived when the Ghaznavid and Ghurids ruled in the Indus region (today's Punjab, Pakistan).[3]

A contemporary of Rumi, he travelled around the Muslim world and settled in Sehwan, Sindh where he was eventually buried.[4] There is evidence of his presence in Sindh in 1196 when he met Pir Haji Ismail Panhwar of Paat and he is believed to have arrived in Sehwan around 1251. There he established a meeting house (khanqah), taught in the Fuqhai Islam Madarrsah and wrote his treatises Mizan-us-Surf, Kism-e-Doyum, Aqd and Zubdah. Lal Shahbaz lived a celibate life.[1]

In Multan, he met Baha-ud-din Zakariya of the Suhrawardiyya order, Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar of the Chishtiyya and Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari. The friendship of these four became legendary, they were known as the Chahar Yar (In Persian "the four friends").[2] According to some historians, the four friends visited various parts of Sindh, Punjab (in present-day Pakistan) and southern part of India.[2]

Shahbaz became a profound scholar of religions, fluent in many languages including Pashto, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Sindhi and Sanskrit. This was also the time period when Ghiyas ud din Balban (reigned: 1266 – 1287) ruled India.[2]

Following his death, Hindus within Sindh began to identify Lal Shahbaz Qalandar as an incarnation of their patron deity, Jhulelal. This connection was emphasized by the popular spiritual song Dama Dam Mast Qalandar which referred to him by the name Jhulelal. Over time, the Jhulelal has become a nickname for him, among both Hindu and Muslim Sindhis.[1]


Interior of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan

The shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 1356,[5] expanded by Mirza Jani Beg[6] and his son Mirza Ghazi Beg of Tarkhan Dynasty, but was not completed until 1639, when Nawab Dindar Khan paved the courtyard with glazed tiles.[7] The silver work on the gate, the balustrade around the tomb and the top of the dome was gifted by Mir Karam Ali Talpur of Talpur Dynasty.[7] Later on the shrine was decorated with Sindhi 'kashi-tiles', mirror-work and a gold-plated door donated by the Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi and installed by the late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[8] The inner sanctum is about 100 square yards with a silver-canopied grave in the middle, according to Nadeem Wagan, Cutharo silver donated by Sardar Mahboob Ali Khan Wagan (Chief Sardar of Wagan Tribe) on one side of the marble floor is a row of about 12-inch-high (300 mm) folding wooden stands, on which there is a set of copies of the Quran for devotees to read. On the other side, beside a bundle of incense, are rows of oil-lamps lighted by devotees. Thousands of devotees visit the tomb particularly every Thursday.[9][10]

Mela / Urs (Annual Fair)[edit]

Lal Shahbaz's annual Urs (death anniversary), held on the 18 Sha'aban – the eighth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, brings more than two million pilgrims from all over Pakistan and parts of India, Bangladesh. Essentially it is a south Asian affair.[11] On each morning of the three-day feast, the narrow lanes of Sehwan are packed with pilgrims, fakirs and devotees making their way to the shrine to commune with the saint, offer tributes and ask for their wishes. (Sao Sumar) singing from 6am till 8am the next day. They invite bands of folk-singers (mandali) from different regions each year. There have been many women who have claimed to be sexually assaulted during the overnight festivities and there have also been accusations of police indifference and coverups for such crimes.

The 2017 terrorist attack[edit]

On 16 February 2017, a group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the shrine which resulted in the deaths of 88 people.[10] The following morning, the shrine's caretaker continued the daily tradition of ringing the shrine's bell at 3:30 A.M. and defiantly vowed that he would not be intimidated by the terrorists. Pakistani government and security forces have also launched a nationwide security crackdown and have recently killed 37 terrorists.[12] The shrine's dhamaal, or meditative dancing ceremony, was resumed the very next evening following the attack.[9]

In poetry and prose[edit]

A qawwali sung by many Pakistani singers and musicians like Noor Jehan, Nadeem Sarwar, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Sabri Brothers, Runa Laila, Wadali brothers, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Reshman, and Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch. "Lal Meri Pat Rakhiyo ustad Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad..."(See Dama Dam Mast Qalandar). This poem was initially written by Amir Khusrow, then further modified by Baba Bulleh shah. Lal Shabaz Qalandar has also been referred to as "Jhulelal".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Sufi in red". Pakistan Today (newspaper). 9 July 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lohar, Masood (5 October 2004). "Saint revered by people of all religions". DAWN (newspaper). Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  3. ^ N B G Qazi (1971) Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Uthman Marwandi. RCD Cultural Institute.
  4. ^ M Inam (1978) Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar of Sehwan Sharif. Karachi.
  5. ^ Hasan, Masudul (1965). Hand Book of Important Places in West Pakistan. Lahore: Pakistan Social Service Foundation. p. 21.
  6. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Volume 3. B. Quaritch. p. 562.
  7. ^ a b Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume 68. Asia: Bishop's College Press. 1899. p. 32.
  8. ^ N M Mathyani (2002) Lal Shahbaz Qalandar: A great saint.
  9. ^ a b "Pakistan's Sufis defiant after Islamic State attack on shrine kills 83". Reuters News Agency. 17 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Sehwan bombing toll reaches 88, over 250 injured". The News International (newspaper). 17 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  11. ^ "In all its glory, Qalandar's urs culminates in Sehwan". The Express Tribune (newspaper). 18 May 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  12. ^ "37 terrorists killed in security crackdown after Sehwan bombing". The News International (newspaper). 17 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018.

External links[edit]