Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1177- Sehwan Sharif 1274), a sufi saint, philosopher, poet, and qalandar, was born as Syed Usman Shah Marwandi.
He belonged to the Suhrawardiyya order of sufis, and was close contemporary to Baha-ud-din Zakariya, Shaikh Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari Surkh-posh of Uchch, and Shah Shams Tabrizi. Some also add the name of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi (Mevlana Rumi).
He travelled around the Muslim world and had settled in Sehwan (Sindh, Pakistan) and was buried there. He preached religious tolerance among Muslims and Hindus. Thousands of pilgrims visit his shrine every year, especially at the occasion of his Urs.
Shahbaz Qalandar (Shaikh Usman Marwandi) was born in Marwand to a dervish, Syed Ibrahim Kabiruddin whose ancestors migrated from Iraq and settled down in Mashhad, a center of learning and civilization, before migrating again to Marwand.
His dedication to the knowledge of various religious disciplines enabled him to eventually become a profound scholar. During his lifetime, he witnessed the Ghaznavid and Ghurids rules in South Asia. He became fluent in many languages including Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Sindhi and Sanskrit. His mysticism attracted people from all religions. He was titled Lal (red) for his usual red attire, Shahbaz due to his noble and divine spirit, and 'Qalandar' for his sufism and saintly attitude. Hindus regarded him as the incarnation of Bhrithari. Qalandar Lal Shahbaz lived a celibate life and, did not marry.
Evidence shows that he was active in Sindh before 1196, when he met Pir Haji Ismail Panhwar of Pat; it is believed he entered Sehwan in 1251.
He established his Khanqah in Sehwan and started teaching in Fuqhai Islam Madarrsah; during this period he wrote his treatises Mizna-e-Sart, Kism-e-Doyum, Aqd and Zubdah.
In poetry and prose
A Qawwali by Abida Parveen and many other singers of sufi songs, 'Lal Meri Pat Rakhiyo ...' is in honour of Shahbaz Qalandar, as is the one sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan named Mast Qalandar.
This famous mystic often quoted the teachings of Maulana Jalal ad-Din Rumi. A book detailing his life is called "Solomon's Ring" by Gul Hasan.
Boo Ali Shah Qalandar's famous Persian verses showing his love and honour for Hazrat Ali are engraved on his shrine:
Haiderium Qalandram Mastam
Banda e Murtaza Ali Hastam
Peshwa e tamam Rindanam
Ke Sag e Koo e Sher e Yazdanam!
I am Haideri (relating to Haider, a second name for Ali ibn Abi Talib), Qalandar and Mast (intoxicated with inspiration)
I am a slave of Ali Murtaza
I am leader of all saints
Because I am a dog of the lane of "Allah's Lion" (referring to Ali)
Legends and Stories
On his way from Baluchistan to Sindh, he also stayed in present day Karachi's Manghopir area for muraqba (meditation), and it is said that Manghopir's natural warm fountain is a miracle of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. That warm fountain started to flow from beneath the hill, on which Lal Shahbaz sat for muraqba (meditation). After passing hundreds of years, that warm fountain is still flowing continuously and is said to have miraculous healing power especially for asthma patients.
In Multan, Lal Shahbaz met Bahauddin Zachariah Multani of the Suhurwardiya order, Baba Farid Ganjshakar of Chishtiya order, and Makhdoom Jahanian Surkh Bukhari. The attachment was so cordial and spiritual that their friendship became legendary. They were known as Chahar Yar (Persian = four friends). According to some historians, the four friends visited various parts of Sindh and Punjab, in present day Pakistan.
Almost all the saints of Sindh including Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Makhdoom Bilawal, Sachal Sarmast and Qadir Bukhsh Bedal were devout followers of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
It is also believed that he turned into a falcon to pick up his friend Shaikh Farid Shakar Ganj from the gallows. The legend goes that the incumbent fakirs in Sewhan sent him a bowl of milk filled to the brim indicating that there was no room for anything more. But surprisingly, he returned the bowl with a beautiful flower floating on the top. This legend spread far and wide by the time of his death in 1274, after living a good span for 97 years.
The shrine around his tomb, built in 1356, gives a dazzling look with its Sindhi kashi tiles, mirror work and two gold-plated doors - one donated by the late Shah of Iran, the other by the late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The inner sanctum is about 100 yards square with the silver canopied grave in the middle. On one side of the marble floor is a row of about 12 inch high folding wooden stands on which are set copies of Quran for devotees to read. On the other side, beside a bundle of burning agarbattis (joss sticks), are rows of diyas (small oil lamps) lighted by Hindu devotees.
His annual Urs (death anniversary celebration) is held on the 18 Sha'aban - the eighth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. Thousands of devotees flock to the tomb while every Thursday their number stands multiplied especially at the time of his 'Urs' being a carnival as well a religious festival and celebrated every year. Sehwan springs to life and becomes the focal point of more than half a million pilgrims from all over Pakistan. On each morning of the three day feast, the narrow lanes of Sewhan are packed to capacity as thousands and thousands of pilgrims, fakirs and devotees make their way to the shrine to commune with the saint, offer their tributes and make a wish. Most of the people present garlands and a green chadar (a cloth used to cover a tomb) with Qur'anic inscriptions in silver or gold threads. Humming of verses, singing and dancing in praise of the saint continues till late at night. A devotional dance known as 'dhamal', being a frenzied and ecstatic swirl of the head and body, is a special ritual that is performed at the rhythmic beat of the [dhol] (a big barrel-shaped drum), some of them being of giant size and placed in the courtyard of the shrine. Bells, gongs, cymbals and horns make a thunderous din, and the dervishes, clad in long robes, beads, bracelets and colored head-bands whirl faster and faster in a hypnotic trance, until with a final deafening scream they run wildly through the doors of the shrine to the courtyard beyond.