Muhammad Usman Marwandi also famously called as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, was a legendary Sufi philosopher-poet of current day Afghanistan. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar belonged to the divine Suhrawardi order of Sufis.
The true and actual name of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was Syed Muhammad Usman who was born in the time period of 1177 AD in the area of Marwand, Iran. His father, Syed Ibrahim Kabiruddin, was a virtuous and sacred dervish, and his mother was a beloved high-ranking princess. His ancestors moved from Iraq and settled down in the place of Meshed, from where they again shifted to Marwand. During the Medieval era, Meshed and other cities of that sector were famous centers of learning and civilization.
Even as a young boy, Shahbaz Qalandar demonstrated powerful religious leanings. He learnt the Holy Quran by heart only at age of 7, and at 20 accepted the Qalandar order of Sufism. Qalandar is a kind of dervish who is normally dressed in beggars’ clothes,admires poverty and austerity and has no permanent dwelling. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar wandered throughout the whole region of Middle East and came to Sindh from the city of Baghdad through Dasht-i-Makran. In the year 1263, he arrived in the city of Multan, which at that period was at the height of glory and splendor. The individuals of Multan besought him to stay but he sustained his journey southward and instantly settled down in the Sehwan, then a popular center of learning and famous place of worship for the Hindus, in the southern part of Sindh, where he lived in the trunk of a tree on the outskirts of the area. He stayed at the Sehwan for nearly 6 years and during this time, he disseminated and flourished the light of Islam, offering guidance to thousands of persons.
Sehwan is generally the town with the ancient continuous existence in Sindh. It rises on the top of a conical hill, and nearby lie the remnants of a large fort believed to have been discovered by Alexander the Great. Few coins of Alexanders time are reported to have been discovered here. Sehwan was the intended capital of a Buddhist ruler who was brother of Chandragupta II, the 3rd of the Guptan dynasty in the fourth century AD. From the period of Arab invasion in the year 712, Sehwan was very significant in the history of Sindh since it commanded the path from the Upper to the Lower Indus, through which entire invaders from either north or south had to pass. And possession of the fort was necessary to the victory of every campaign.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is an overwhelmingly well-known patron saint cherished and acknowledged like by the people like Hindus and Muslims of Sindh. He was a pious missionary, mystic, scholar, philologist and poet. Various books in the languages of Persian and Arabic on philology and poetry are attributed and referred to him. He was Lal (red) due to his red attire, Shahbaz because of his innocent and divine spirit that soared like a falcon higher and higher in the heavens and Qalandar since he belonged to the Qalandria order of Sufism and was saintly, exalted with love for eternal being of God. The icon goes that the incumbent fakirs in the area of Sewhan sent him a bowl of milk filled to the brim showing that there was no room for anything more. But shockingly, he gave back the bowl with a pretty flower floating on the top. This legend spread far and wide by the period of his death in the year 1274, after living a good span for ninety-seven years.
The shrine around his tomb, constructed in the year 1356, gives an amazing look with its Sindhi kashi tiles, mirror work and 2 gold-plated doors – 1 donated by the late Shah of Iran, the other by the late Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The inner sanctum is over hundred yards square with the silver canopied grave in the middle. On 1 side of the marble floor is a row of over twelve inch high folding wooden stands on which are set copies of Quran for followers to read. On the other side, besides burning agarbattis (joss sticks), are rows of diyas (small oil lamps) enlighted by Hindu followers. The Hindus called him as the incarnation of Bhartihari, the saintly brother of King Vikramaditya, who is considered to have worshipped the Shiva at the place where Lal Shahbaz’s tomb is located with complete glory.
Thousands of followers flock to the tomb while on every Thursday their number stands multiplied. Particularly at the period of his Urs (death anniversary) being a carnival as well a religious event and celebrated annually on the 18th day of Shaban, Sehwan springs to life and becomes the primary point of more than half a million devotees from entire state of Pakistan. On each morning of the 3 day feast, the narrow routes of Sewhan are packed to capacity as thousands and thousands of devotees, fakirs and pilgrims make their path to the shrine to commune with the saint, give their tributes and make a wish. Many people give garlands and a green chadar (a cloth utilized to cover a tomb) with the impressive Quranic inscriptions in silver or gold threads. Humming of verses, singing and dancing in the remembrance and praise of the saint sustains till late at night. A devotional dance called as dhamal, being a frenzied and ecstatic swirl of the head and body is a particular ritual that is conducted at the rhythmic beat of the dhol (a huge barrel-shaped drum), few of them being of enormous size and placed in the courtyard of the tomb. Bells, cymbals, gongs and horns make a thunderous tune, and the dervishes, clad in large robes, beads, bracelets and coloured head-bands whirl faster and faster in a hypnotic way, until with a last deafening scream they run in a hurry through the doors of the tomb to the courtyard beyond.
Not just the persons congregating from entire Pakistan but also the visitors and the foreigners are enthralled at this fascinating scene and aspire to amuse it time and again. Such were the people who actually acquired the lofty mystical experience. Through their holy transcendence, their pious relation to God is like in them the Divine personality appears to depict itself and through them is unveiled to his devotees, and the grace of God is granted to those who invoke God in his name. In Iqbal’s influential poetry we find various verses about who is Qalandar and what the attributes of a Qalandar.
It is fascinating to note that even the legendary philosopher-poet Iqbal predicts that he himself is not less than a Qalandar. Therefore he proclaims:
Shortly, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar whose divine heart was the abode of God dwells in the hearts of the multitudinous persons seems superior and supreme to any emperor with his entire sovereignty, stateliness and splendor.
A famous qawwali sung by various Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi singers and musicians such as Noor Jehan, Abida Parveen, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Sabri Brothers, Wadali brothers, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mika Singh, Reshman and Runa Laila, “Lal Meri Pat Rakhiyo ustad Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad…”(Dama Dam Mast Qalandar). This poem was previously written by Amir Khusrow, then further changed by Baba Bulleh shah. It is intriguing to point out that the similar poem is modified and is sung by Hindu Sindhis.\, “O Lal Meri Pat Rakhiyo Bala Jhule lalan…..” to appreciate mystic Jhulelal of Hindus..
Some Impressive Miracles of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar:
One day king of the castle ordered his soldiers to bring him the man (Boodla Bahaar) who claims “Ali Haq”. Once Boodla Bahaar was arrested he was taken up to the king, he inquired Boodla Bahaar stop claiming “Ali Haq” Boodla Bahaar replied“Ali Haq” and I won’t stop. King got angry and ordered his soldiers to kill and murder Boodla Bahaar and make mince of his meat and then gave it to everyone and throw it away (according to few sayings the soldiers ate the meat).
(there is a saying that when Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar utilized to call Boodla Bahaar he answered “Aya Sarkar” (I am coming my Lord!)). When Boodla Bahaar did not come back for a long period Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar asked and found out what happened he stated “Boodla Bahaar” and where ever the meat of Boodla Bahaar was it answered “Aya Sarkar” (Coming My Lord!) and the meat accumulated and changed back into Boodla Bahaar. Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar sent him again to preach these persons and the similar thing happened again. Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar again performed the similar miracle and after 3rd time Lal Shahbaz Qalandar claimed that these people of castle and their king will not listen and keep ruining lives and independence of innocents, Hence after the 3rd time he provided his “Mutahir” (A powerful baseball bat type stick) to Boodla Bahaar and told him to turn it upside down while looking at the castle and as Boodla Bahaar turned it entire fort was turned upside down (this is clear from the fort remnants). After that on someone inquired Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar why did not he do it himself, Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar answered I was holding on to the earth as if I have not stopped it the entire earth would have gone upside down.
One day a person was wandering and roaming in the desert and he observed another person (Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar) praying in the desert and 2 sticks a short distance apart sticking into land in front of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. That person was dreamt about becoming a king 1 day and he was in these thoughts while he passed in between the 2 sticks buried halfway into the land in front of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
As soon as he passed he analyzed a huge door from which he had stepped into a city, where a big mob was gathered. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was shocked and went on to see what was happening. Someone informed him that their king has been dead without leaving any successor and hence “Huma” (A bird, which was set to fly and on whose ever head it landed was made the King. That is why few times a king was referred, in periodical times as, Zil-e-Huma which meant “Huma’s Shadow”) was being flown to select a king. Huma made its flight and sat on this man’s head and he was made a King.
It is claimed that Lal Shahbaz Qalandar reigned for abut seven years and 1 day he was visiting city when he came across the similar door from which he stepped into all those years ago. He made a decision to check and left the door as soon as he was out of door he again walked back in between from those 2 sticks. Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was yet sitting there and praying. (This miracle indicated, according to my knowledge, 2 things first, Qalandar had an immense control over Dimensions, and secondly Qalandar gave him what that person wished for.)
As the word Qalandar means “Free/Free of Boundaries” it is an usual known fact that Qalandar could let himself free from the force of gravitational pull and hence utilized to fly and that is another reason he was known as Shahbaz “Falcon”.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in his entire life taught the nation about the true and real concept of Islam. Mourning on Prophet’s Family and taught persons on how to mourn. His primary lessons were not to leave Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H.), Imam Ali (A.S.) and Prophet’s Family as, as soon as 1 left prophet and his family one is bound to go on a wrong way or path.
In most of his holy teachings, which is obvious from his inspirational poetry, he compelled on following Imam Ali (A.S.). At the end of this very article, Ii would be an honor to quote one of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s popular Persian verses indicating his devotion, love and honor for religion Islam and Imam Ali (A.S.), and are engraved on Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s tomb:
Banda-e-Murtaza Ali Hastam