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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: September 2016

2 - Shams


Dispelling anecdotes about Uch

In modern times, Uch is famous for its patron saints, Jalal al-din Surkhposh and his descendants, who made it a Suhrawardi centre after the order had literally ceased to exist in Multan due to Tughluqid persecution. Surkhposh was one of Zakiriyya's later initiates, who had been commissioned to set up a Suhrawardi khanqah in Uch. The execution of Rukn-e-'Alam's nephew and successor Hud on sedition charges by Muhammad Tughluq was probably accompanied by a purge of suspected sympathisers in Multan. However, Firuz Shah's snubbing of Zakiriyya's tomb and Multan's Suhrawardi khanqahs during his visit was not accompanied by any (reported) anti-Suhrawardi activity in Uch. Therefore, it can be assumed that even after the axis of imperial favour had shifted entirely towards the Chishti Order in Multan, Uch continued as a Suhrawardi centre under Surkhposh's descendants. This process was most certainly aided by a second religious phenomenon the headquarters of which were based in Uch. The Isma'ili da'wa or religious mission in Multan had survived its progenitor, Pir Shams, and had made Uch its headquarters. Pir Shams was Zakiriyya's contemporary. The da'wa continued at full strength in Uch in the post-Zakiriyya period, during the time of Muhammad Tughluq's military campaigns in Multan and Sind, and Firuz Shah's self-assumed massacres of heretics.

The faulty periodisation of Pir Shams

Pir Shams's biography to date is mostly anecdotal and at times historically inaccurate. Some scholars of Isma'ilism have misplaced his mission by nearly one hundred years, and give the date of his death as 1356. Farishta gives his arrival in Kashmir as being in 1496, which would date him three hundred years after Zakiriyya. An Isma'ili text from the Gujarat, the Satveni-ji Vel, states that Pir Shams was actually the Isma'ili Imam of his time (also called Shams), namely Imam Shams al-din (b.1240s), who was the son of the last Imam of Alamut. The text claims that Imam Shams al-din left the Imamate to his son Qasim Shah in 1310 and came to India in disguise, and states this to be the reason behind Pir Shams's remarkable spiritual powers. Similar exaggerations and misleading dates have also found their way into his connections with the Suhrawardi Sufi Order.