The most attractive landmark of Sehwan Sharif is undoubtedly the golden dome of Qalandar Lal Shahbaz’s shrine that shines over the horizon of the city. But it is not just in the landscape that Qalandar is so dominant: economic activity picks up whenever it is time for the saint’s urs.
Qalandar chose to settle in Sehwan because of the miseries that had befallen its people. Before his arrival, Sehwan was centre to countless sins, bad practices, and bad governance of King Charbat. He also declined an offer of residence from the ruler of Multan, because he wanted to break the doom and gloom in Sehwan. Due to Qalandar’s spirituality and wisdom, Sehwan changed.
Born 40 miles away from the famous city of Tabraiz in Iranian Azerbaijan in 538 AH, Qalandar belonged to the royal family of Marwand. His father, Syed Ahmed Kabir, was also said to be a possessor of saintly values. According to historical accounts, a group of Qalandars once met with him when he was married. After seeing him, they sang about a boy who would be born in the home of Ahmed Kabir and who would be chief of all Qalandars.
He came to save Sehwan, and even today his urs is the economic lifeline of this town
The prophecy came true , and Qalandar Lal Shahbaz of Sindh proved himself over other Qalandars by becoming a great scholar, poet, and social reformer. Qalandar’s mother was a princess of Marwand, and his maternal grandfather was the ruler of the state. His grandfather, Ibrahim Jawabi, was mujawar (care taker) of the shrine of Imam Hussain (AS) in Karbala and also buried there. Lal Shahbaz recited the Holy Quran at the age of seven.
According to British scholar Richard Burton, Qalandar Lal Shahbaz was a poet, philologist, and expert of grammar. The most famous Arabic grammar books authored by Lal Shahbaz are Meezan al-Sarf and Sarf-i-Sagheer. These books were taught in different madressahs and institutions as part of their curriculum. Today, these books are hard to read or find in libraries.
Devotees believe that when they pray to the Almighty at Qalandar’s shrine, their prayers are heard quicker. When prayers come true , they become beneficiaries of Qalandar Lal Shahbaz. His legend spreads far and wide: shrines which run according to the manifesto of Qalandar Lal Shahbaz include the shrine of Ameer Shah Chhutan Shah Surkh Bukhari, Shahi Bazaar, Hyderabad, where the daily feast is always served to all visitors.
Qalandar’s greatness is limited to one religion or sect: today, people of all religions gather at the shrine, irrespective of differences in opinion, caste, culture, tribe, and colour. In an irony of sorts, today’s pilgrims are guests of the same people who refused to let Qalandar Lal Shahbaz stay in Sehwan when he came from Marwand. Now, Sehwan’s motherly act of serving pilgrims reflects the city’s love with their saint.
Despite Qalandar’s global appeal, the city of Sehwan Sharif needs development in many areas. Libraries, education centres, universities, science parks, and food banks need to be developed, while a better communications system which connects Sehwan Sharif with the rest of the country wouldn’t be amiss either. Thus developed, Qalandar’s teachings — as reflected in his poetry — can become a tool of spreading the virtues of sustainable peace.
After all, Qalandar is the saint of all.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 20th, 2014