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

3 - The Suhrawardi Order in Uch


Jalal al-din Surkhposh

After difficult times had fallen on Alamut, and in the wake of Shams's successful missionary work in the relative freedom of Multan, the Indus region became home to a large number of foreign Isma'ilis seeking refuge in India from the Mongols. In fact, medieval India in this era probably saw the largest influx of Muslim refugees from Central Asia, Iran and the Middle East, in proportion to its population, ever in its history. In one instance, it is reported that thousands of Iranian refugees had gathered around Jalal al-din Khwarazm Shah's army in 1221 waiting to cross the Indus; when they were cut down by the Mongols in the ensuing battle. This single incident demonstrates the numbers involved in the Mongol era immigration into India.

Jalal al-din Surkhposh was born in 1198 in Bukhara, and migrated to Multan in 1237 with his two brothers, because of the Mongol onslaught on his native Central Asia. This is much after the ground work for the Suhrawardi Order and the Isma'ili da'wa had been completed by Shams and Zakiriyya. After his arrival in Multan from Bukhara, Surkhposh was initiated into the Suhrawardi Order by Zakiriyya, who made him his khalifa or deputy. He was then sent to Bhakkar in upper Sind as Zakiriyya's khalifa, where he settled and preached for a while, marrying the daughter of an eminent local Sufi, Sayyid Badr al-din. At some point in time, due to a sudden antagonism between him and his brothers, he left Bhakkar and migrated to Uch under Zakiriyya's guidance, to preach and practise Suhrawardi doctrines there.

Before Surkhposh's arrival, both Bhakkar and Uch were ruled by their Ghorid governor and later regent, Nasir al-din Qabacha, until his boat capsized in the final battle with the Delhi Sultan Iltutmish, on 30 May 1228. After this, Uch was absorbed into the Sultanate and was governed directly from Delhi, while Zakiriyya became the empire's Shaykh al-Islam. Hence, Surkhposh's appointment as Zakiriyya's khalifa, and his move to Bhakkar and later to Uch, took place under the imperial governor's mandate. It is important to emphasise here the pre-existing Muslim context in Uch, and Zakiriyya's connection to it.

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