A Pir And His Priceless Possessions
Written by Rupa Abdi ·
July 15, 2008
Amidst the crowded by-lanes of Old Ahmedabad city, in an obscure corner, lies the Pir Mohammad Shah Dargah Trust. You may almost miss its entrance – an ancient stone and mortar arched doorway, partly hidden by the motley shops sprawled around it. Inside the gate lie the dargah, masjid and qutubkhana (library) complex.
Born in 1689, in the Bijapur city of Karnataka, Pir Mohammad Shah was a Hussaini Sayyed and a well-respected sufi who lived in Ahmedabad during the rule of Aurangzeb. His parents emigrated from the holy city of Medina and settled in Bijapur where he was born. His father died before his birth and his uncle, Abd ur-Rehman – a sufi belonging to the lineage of Shaikh Abd ul-Qadri Jilani of Baghdad, trained the young Mohammad Shah in religious scholarship and practical Sufism. The Pir memorized the Quran at the young age of seven and became an accomplished qari, performed Haj at the age of twelve and thereafter stayed in Medina for several years pursuing higher learning. He spent his adolescent years visiting great centers of learning in the Islamic world and paying homage at the dargah of saints. He later returned to his home at Bijapur and from there moved to Ahmedabad. At that time, the Kalupur and Rajpur localities of Ahmedabad were well known for the prosperous trading communities of Sunni Bohras, who became his murids. In Ahmedabad, the Pir took up residence at the historical Jame Masjid. The Pir would regularly visit the dargah of Hazrat Shah Wajiuddin to pay his homage and obtain guidance from Hazrat Shah’s descendent, Hazrat Abdullah Gujarati. On his daily sojourns from the Jame Masjid to Hazrat Wajiuddin’s dargah, the Pir would rest a while on the way at an old widow’s front yard. After his passing away in the year 1750, as per his request, Pir Mohammad Shah was buried near the house of this widow. His dargah stands there today.
The Pir was a great lover of learning and possessed an extraordinary memory powers. During his lifetime, the Pir and his murids had amassed a huge collection of manuscrips and books of great academic and spiritual value. These are housed in the qutubkhana. This library has over 2000 original manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sindhi and Turkish, which are 700 to 800 years old. Many of them contain hand written explainatory notes along the margins by the Pir himself. Among the prized manuscripts is the Mahabharat in Persian written by a Wadanagar Nagar Brahmin who worked in the courts of the Mughals; a copy of the holy Quran hand written by Aurangzeb; Al-Buruni’s ‘Gurt-ul Ziyaat’, and Radha Krishna Geet translated into Persian. The library has a treasure trove of over 10,000 books in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and English covering diverse subjects. The trustees have prepared microfilms and photocopies of some rare books. Pir Mohammad Shah was a bi-lingual poet himself and wrote profusely in Persian and Dakhani. Among his many works, the best known is Nur ush-Shuyukh in Persian which is versified history in the Mutaqarib meter.
The qutubkhana has small museum show casing various belonging of the Pir, some of the ancient manuscripts and a human-size candle brought here from Mecca. The Pir Mohammad Shah library is considered on of its kind in western part of India – a treasure trove waiting to be discovered by lovers of Islamic science, literature and art. Rulers and wise men who came to this land are no more, but the knowledge they left behind still prevails.
In the words of the Pir himself:
Agar gaiti saraasar baad gard
Chirag-e-maqbula hargez namirad…..
(Even if the world were to come to dust
The lamp (spirit) of the faithful will not die….)
The photograph at the top depicts the Persian translation of Radah-Krishna Geet
The second photograph depicts the human-size candle from Mecca
Photo credits : Rupa Abdi