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The Celebrated Ismaili Missionary of the 14th Century
Pir Sayyid Sadruddin Al-Husayni the celebrated Ismaili missionary of the 14th Century, also designated as Bargur, Pir Sadar Din, Sohodev, Vasimuhammad. and Haji Sadar Shah. was born on Monday 2nd Rabiul of the year 700 after Hijra in the village Sabzwar in Persia. Different sources providing information about the saint are not unanimous about the year of his birth - the discrepancy varies from a couple of decades to nearly half a century. For example, Tawarikh-e-Pir mentions the year as 650 A.H. whereas the Shajara from which Prof. W. Ivanow derives his information as published in his paper "The sect of Imam Shah in Gujrat" (1938) places his birth in 689 A.H. or 1 290 of the Christian Era.
Pir Sadar Din who traces his descent from Imam Ja'far-as-Sadiq (d. 148/763) came to India during the period of Imamat of Imam Kasim Shah (bet. 1310 C.E. and 1370 C.E.) and was raised to the dignity of Pirship by Imam Islam Shah - the 30th Imam in the traditional genealogical list of the Nizari branch of the Ismaili persuasion. His name appears in the 26th place amongst the authorised Pirs mentioned in the Holy Du'a. His father's name as given in the "Gulzar-eShams" and corroborated by "Satveni Moti" and "Satveniji Vel" both alleged to have been written by Sayyid Muhammad Shah Bin Imam Shah, was Pir Shihabuddin alias Sahebdin to whom five of the Ginans are attributed and his mother was Noor Fatima bi'nt Ibrahim Sabzawari.
The complete genealogy of the Pir as cited in the
"Gulzar-e-Shams" runs as follows:-
1 . Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq
2. Sayyid lsmail Arizi Akbar
3. Sayyid Muhammad Arizi
4. Sayyid Ismail Sani (Imamuddin)
5. Sayyid Muhammad Mansur Khakani
6. Sayyid Ghalibuddin.
7. Sayyid Abdul Majid.
8. Sayyid Mustansirbiiiah.
9. Sayyid Ahmed Hadi.
10. Sayyid Hashim
11. Sayyid Muhammad
12. Sayyid Muhammad Sabzawari.
13. Sayyid Muhammad Mohibdin
14. Sayyid Khaliqdin alias Sayyid Ali
15. Sayyid Abdui Momin Shah
16. Sayyid Noorbaksh lmamdin
17. Sayyid Salahuddin
18. Sayyid Shamsuddin Iraqi or Sabzawari
19. Sayyid Nasiruddin
20. Sayyid Pir Shihabuddin
21. Sayyid Pir Sadruddin.
Pir Sadruddin, as the tradition maintains, had taken training in the field of preaching under Pir Shams Sabzawari (d. 757 A.H.) and had accompanied the latter during his visit to Sindh, Punjab and Kashmir.
It is true that he was not the pioneer Ismaili Da'i who preached Ismailism in India nevertheless it was chiefly due to his sublime preaching, indefatigable courage and tireless endeavours that the present Khoj'a community has come into existence. Etymological derivation of the appellation "Khoja" is based on the Arabic word "Khawaja" i.e, master which in course of its use by the proselytised and indoctrinated natives unused to this alien language has assumed the present form which has acquired international recognition. The very first "Jamatkhana" - the prayer house for the new converts i.e., Khojas was established by him at "Kotda" - a village in Punjab (West Pakistan). This fact is well reflected in the following translation of the verses from the work "Jannat Nama" or "Jannatpuri" composed by his grandson Sayyid Imamshah bin Pir Hasan Kabiruddin.
Pir Sadruddin organised the community (Faith) and openly established the Khana" (Jamatkhana) in a house.
Having arrived in the village "Kotda" he established the first "Khana." Pir Sadruddin became manifest and changed Hindus into Muslims;
Having converted "Lohanas" into "Khojas" gave them the True faith.
Call Khoja - a bondman of Shah Ali, he is devotee of his Aal (successors).
There (in Kotda) having organised the community
he established the "Khana" and well indoctrinated
Formerly there was the "Khana" of Surjarani but that was secret; know ye, the True Pir Sadruddin recited Ginans (preached) in the village Kotda.
In the village "Kotda" there lived Trikam'
He openly professed faith and adopted the name
Thus spread the "Deen" of the Preceptor and this
was the age of Shri Islamshah'
To day, the place called Uchh - and there lies our abode."
The above verses abound in historical information to a considerable extent and need explanation and information - Historical as well as mythological about some of the terms as well as the names of the personalities to whom allusions are made. But it inconceivable and next to impossible to do justice to such a subject in this paper and condense the matter in the place allotted for this article. Neither it is possible to scrutinize and penetrate into some of the facts pertaining to the origin of Khojas and the references in the Ginans as well as the doctrines, tene and the social structure of the community.
Pir Sadruddin has taken great pains for the promulgation of Islam and through it Ismailism in India. Having acquired a thorough mastery over the literature beliefs and mythology of the Hindus and comparing the tenets and doctrines of Hinduism with those of Islam, he has very vividly shown that the advent of Islam is predicted in the Hindu scriptures like Atharv Veda, Allopanished etc. To express these facts more lively and emphatically he composed several hundred religious hymns and verses in the dialects of different provinces of India which are popularly called "Ginans (Cf. Sanskrit "Jnyanam") meaning knowledge. In one of the Ginans it is found:
We have explained in thirty-six languages an
fouty-two melodies and yet,
The deaf would not listen, oh my brother!
Thus the Ginans are polygiotic and melodious and yet even a layman can find in them all that he needs for spiritual illumination. The Ginans minister to all the spiritual needs of a man. They knock at the inner recesses of his heart and make a direct impact on his mind. The truer and simpler the more interesting they are. It is not seldom that one finds a sincere follower lost in the recitation of melodious Ginans. One often witnesses his heart in assimilating the sublime and
illuminating preaching pushing forth a stream of tears from his eyes.
Pir Sadruddin, like all other Pirs and Sayyids - often included Hindu mythology and religious beliefs in the Ginans in order to spread Islam through love and peace. In this tremendous task of preach Ismailism in an alien country he was assisted by twelve persons who were a so well versed in religious matters.
This great talented saint whose philosophy and preaching has played such an enormous role in saving a multitude of people from sweeping inundation polytheism and who smilingly underwent all the vicissitudes encountered in his tremendous task was man of strong character and self-abnegation. For two thirds of the period of a day he was absorbed in meditation and prayers. During the period of Pirship when he sojourned in India only twice he had the fortune of paying a visit to Persia and seeing - the Deedar of the Imam of his time openly. Description of his second visit to Imam Islamshah residing Persia and the impendiments encountered in seeing his Deedar is vividly narrated in the work "Nav Chhuga" by his son and successor Pir Hasan Kabir-uddin.
Out of his several works and small Ginans on one is the most popular and that is Das Avatar. This work was produced as an exhibit in the First Aga Khan case 1866 and was of tremendous help in falsifying the charges forged by the contending seceders who claimed to be the adherents of Sunnism and intended to prove that Pir Sadruddin was a man of Sunni persuasion and that the Khojas were Sunnis too.
In this connection it would be worthwhile to quote
a couple of paragraphs from the judgement given by Judge Sir Joseph Arnold in 1866:
"On the one hand says the learned judge: "The relators and plaintiffs contend that Pir Sadr-uddin (whom both sides admit to have originally converted the Khojas from Hinduism to some form of Muhammadanism) was a Sunni that the Khoja community has ever since its first conversion been and now is, Sunni and that no persons calling themselves Khojas who are not Sunnis, are entitled to be considered member of the Khoja community, or to have any share or interest in the public property of the Khoja community or to have any share or interest in the public property of the Khoja community or any voice in the management thereof.
On the other side, it is maintained by the first defendant i.e., Aga Khani and by the other defendants who are in the same interest with him, that Pir Sadruddin was not a Sunni but a Shia of the Imami Ismaili persuasion; that he was a "Da'i or missionary of one of the direct lineal ancestors of the first defendant the Imam or spiritual chief for the time then being of the Imamie Ismailis; that from the time of the first conversion till now the Khoja community has been and still is (with the exception of the relators and plaintiffs and those comparatively few families among the Bombay Khojas who adhere to them), of the Shia Imamie Ismaili persuasion; that the said community (except as aforesaid) always has been bound in close ties of spiritual allegiance to the ancestors of first defendants, Aga Khan, the hereditary chiefs Imams of the Ismailis, whom the Khoja community always have regarded and (except as above) still regard as their Murshid or spiritual head."
Further on during the course of his judgement Sir
Arnold emphatically expressed: "That conclusion
is that the preponderating tradition of the Khoja
community is substantially correct. that Pir Sadru-uddin was a Da'i or missionary of the hereditary Imams of the Ismailis (probably of Shah Islamshah) and that he converted the first Khojas to the Shi'a Imami Ismaili form of Muhammadanism."
This work - Das Avatar - was also referred to in the 2nd Aga Khan case (1908) when the plaintiffs left no stone unturned to prove that the Ismaili Imams and the Khojas were the adherents of Ithnaashari faith. (Here we do not intend to deal with the allegations and misrepresentations of the facts regarding the Pir and the Khoja community).
Pir Sadruddin passed away on 12th Rajab 91 8 A.H. at Utchh and was buried at Trinda Gorgej about 15 miles from Utchh in the Bhawalpur State where stands his mausoleum. (Tawarikh-e-Pir gives the date of his death) as 770 A.H. and accorchng to Shajara it is 782/1380). He had five sons - Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, Zaherdin, Sa]ahuddin, Jamaluddin and Pir Tajuddin (some sources give six or seven sons).
Of course, it is left to the future to prove genuineness of some of his works till some old manuscripts are traced with the known works of which the authorship is assigned to Pir Sadruddin (or other Pirs as well as Sayyids) and also to show the gradual evolution of the language - originally old Gujrati (or Prakrit) current in those days - which underwent refinement and changes with the progress of time as necessitated to keep up the spirit of the work and adjust certain matters and words to the changing and ever progressing time. Ismailism has always remained a dynamic force and it is because of its flexibility and adjustment of principles to constantly altering and advancing human progress with its scientific achievements that, in spite of the vicissitudes through which it passed it has remained a living force under the guidance of Holy Imams.
A systematic and thorough investigation in our Khojki literature-which has yet remained a closed book - will not only reveal many an interesting fact and serve as a link to trace back the history of centuries which still rests on semi-mythological bases but also add a new chapter in the annals of Gujrati language as a whole. It is not only our Ginans that have suffered alterations in the course of centuries but there are several Bhajans - religious songs - of Narsi Mehta, Miranbai and other renowned poets of Gujrat which have also had to pass through this phase. The language of the most popular Bhajan of Narsi Mehta viz. "Vishnav jan to tene Kahiya" which occupied a prominent place in the prayer congruations of Mahatma Gandhi, is quite modern and refined - and is certainly not the one current in the days of this devotee of Krishna. It is extremely regretable that the people of our community entertain such an un-believable indifference towards our ancient manuscripts. They are either so negligent as to dispense with them by selling by weight as scrap to realise a couple of annas or rupees or are over enthusiastic to keep them as something sacred which might, by its mere existence, serve as good omen or as souvenir, of ancestral inheritage till it is rendered useless owing to worms or decay. There is still one more group that revere this literature and under the force of religious sentiments and respect for the preachings of the Pirs, but unable to read it, throws this invaluable treasure either in a well or the sea or still to be on the safer side burns it to ashes.
Several manuscripts have been destroyed or lost in this way. Even the 400-year old manuscript used as an exhibit in the Aga Khan case of 1908 is also untraceable. It is high time now - or may it perhaps never come - that whatever few manuscripts still existing in possession of individuals or institutions should be gathered in one collection and preserved with utmost care. It was with the help of some manuscripts in my possession that some incidents pertaining to the life of Pir Abul Hasan, Pir Shihabuddin Shah and Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah could be traced. Such a collection will also open a new field for the student who intends to work on the derivation of Khojki Script which is so rapidly disappearing from our literature.
"In the Ginans which Pir Sadruddin has composed, he has taken the gist of the Holy Quran and explained it in the languages current in India.
Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said:
Do you know which village Pir Sadruddin came from? You will know if you read his life-history. You were Hindus. From the exegesis of the Holy Quran Pir Sadruddin composed Ginan and explained to you.
1. Buj Nirinian: (knowledge or cognition of God). In this work the Pir deals with the ways and means of attaining union with the divine Light.
2.. Aradh: (Worship or Adoration). It is a doxology. . In the later stages it develops into adoration of Hazrat Ali who manifested himself in every age ere the creation of aught.
3. Vinod : (Merriment or bliss). Adoration of God who created the universe and ends in supplication to Hazrat Ali.
4. Gayantri: (The work composed te supplant Gayeetri the sacred prayers of Hindus). It exhorts the followers to give up all the past things of Hinduism and adopt Islam.
5. Athar Ved: It is an interpretation of the Ather Ved - the last of the four Vedas of the Hindus. It is chiefly the adoration of Naklank.
6. Surat Samachar: (Information about appearance). It maintains giving illustration, that two good things are rarely found to co-exist simultaneously. It also gives descriptive comparison and discrimination between good and evil, admonitions to sinners, code of ethics, greatness of a true preceptor, etc.
7. Girbhavali.- (Smaller) : (Secrets). It is an imaginary conversation between Shankar and Parvati about the universe, its contents, etc.
8. Budh Avatar : This deals in detail about the story of the 9th incarnation i.e., Buddha of Vishnu.
9. Das Avatar (Smaller:) Deals with ten incranations of Vishnu and finally comes to Islam.
10. To Munivarbhai Moti or Momin Chitveni (Knitting up of a Momin's mind or indication of the mind of a Momin): Deals with the creation of the world, the reason of Vishnu's taking incarnation, ethics, etc.,
11. Bawan Ghati: (Fifty-two passes): Deals with imaginary fifty- two passes where the angels will question a soul about its different acts in the world. -
12. Girbhavali (bigger): Deals with a number of
esoteric matters. (An enlargement of No. 7).
13. Khat Nirinjan: (Six Nirinjans) deals with the creation of the universe, true way of adoring God, beauties and greatness of Islam and Satpanth etc.
14. Khat Darshan: (Six Darshans) Darshan is a common designation assigned to the six schools of Hindu Philosophy. It touches various matters of Satpanth and can well be termed an encyclopaedia of Satpanth and Khojki literature.
15. Bawan bodth, so Kirya and Sahi Samrani: (52 admonition. 100 rituals and real remembrance). Deals with behaviour, morality, cleanliness etc.
16. Saloko (Smaller) (a Collection of Verses): Gives comparison and discrimination between good and bad. Giving an example prayers, devotion, speaking truth etc. Warns against hypocrisy and idolatry.
17. Du'a: (Prayer). It is the prayer recited by the Khojas. Contains some verses from the Quran, names of Imams, names of Pirs, supplications etc.. etc.
18. Ginan: (Religious hymns containing knowledge) There are more than 250 ginans dealing with a wide range of themes e.g., ethics, morality, devotion, religious rites, religious stories etc., etc.