The Sufi enchantment – Lal Shahbaz Qalandar

MYSTIC: The Sufi enchantment
By Rina Saeed Khan, Dawn,

Saints such as Shahbaz Qalandar preached love and tolerance. They had a transforming influence over the lives of the people they touched, which is why his shrine still attracts thousands of devotees each year

There is something magical about Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine located in Sehwan Sharif, around two hours drive from Hyderabad. Legend has it that no prayer offered at the shrine goes unheard.

When you enter the shrine from the main bazaar, you are immediately taken to another world. There are malangs with long hair and beards, beautiful gypsies from the desert, bemused foreigners in jeans and locals wearing ajrak. The rich and the poor, the young and the old rub shoulders at the shrine.

Coming here, one realises that Islam was spread in this part of the world by enlightened saints such as Shahbaz Qalandar, who preached love and tolerance. They had a transforming influence over the lives of the people they came into contact with — that explains why Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine still attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees each year, almost 800 years after his death.

Hindus still flock to his shrine to offer their prayers. They believe he is the incarnation of one of their gods. In fact, his shrine is visited not only by Muslims and Hindus but also Christians, Sikhs and even Parsis!

Sehwan itself is an important town of Sindh — located between the Kirthar Mountains that separate Sindh from Balochistan and the River Indus. Many saints came and settled here following Shahbaz Qalandar, whose shrine was completed in 1356. During Shahbaz Qalandar’s urs (or death anniversary), celebrated every year on the 18th of Shaban, more than a half a million people from all over the country visit Sehwan Sharif.

Shahbaz Qalandar was born into a high-ranking family who were direct descendents of Imam Jaffer Sadiq, the sixth Imam. He travelled from Azarbaijan to Balochistan and then settled down in Sehwan towards the end of his life when he had attained the level of a ‘Qalandar’. This is one of the most evolved states in Sufism, when a person can find unity with God while still alive in this worldly dimension. They say that there were only two other Qalandars in this world — Hazrat Bo Ali of Panipat and Hazrat Rabia of Basra.

The golden domed shrine of Shahbaz Qalandar with its blue tile work is reminiscent of the shrines of the Prophet’s family in Iraq and Iran. The shrine seems to have a palpable energy emitting from its centre, where the saint is buried.

Marble steps take you into a large circular room which has the coffin placed inside a metal cage. The cage is opened on special days and visitors are allowed inside to pray right next to the grave. Outside is a large marble courtyard where the dhammal takes place each evening. The people dance facing the shrine to the beat of the drums and some go into ecstasy. They say that those suffering from any disease or ailment are cured by dancing.

Women also participate in the dhammal. This is indeed a special place where tolerance and love permeate the heady atmosphere of the shrine.



  1. “Legend has it that no prayer offered at the shrine goes unheard.”

    What heresy… what directions are we as Muslims going in? We are flocking to dargahs and urs and what not when Allah has given us complete guidance in the form of Quran and Sunnah. We have lost touch with the true path and guidance of Islam, and are fully responsible for our conditions in all parts of this world. May Allah guide us all Muslims back to the path of our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and his companions. And only then, we can have a revolution and have the world at our feet and come to us for guidance.

  2. Well Shahbaz you just made a judgement (Heresy), and through your comment you try to portrait that you have a definitive knowledge on the subject. This is a Wahabi/Salafi outpouring, if that is so let me attract your attention to a set of scholars who believe in Tasawwuf and Tawassul. If you are an avid Net surfer just search for “Fitnatul Wahabbiya” on google and start your journey. I reiterate it will be just a start, I would encourage you to look further.

  3. hey i jst want to ask manzoor who the hell are u talkng like this about lal lajpal…
    u dont know him go ask ur elders first..
    wht cn i say wht kind of muslim u are

  4. Thank you for this spirited description of an amazing shrine.

    It’s incredibly wonderful to visit. Despite all threats of dacoits at the time I was determined to make a pilgrimage there, I persevered and had a safe and wonderful journey.

    It IS magical!
    I encourage all who are interested to make the trip especially now that it’s much safer, and offer prayers and petitions to the great and universal Saint, Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

    There are several devotional CDs dedicated to him, such as the ones by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri Brothers also have one. Both well worth it.

    Guaranteed to lift your spirits on a bad or blah day! No one could stay depressed while listening to this lively Qawwali imbued with the world-renouncing spirit of the Saint!

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