Shah Jalal (R) was a major sufi saint of Bengal and is the
most celebrated personality of the region of Sylhet, Bangladesh.
Shah Jalal (R) commands great respect of Muslims of the subcontinent
and is regarded as a national hero by Bangladeshis. Shah Jalal's
name is associated with the Muslim conquest of Sylhet, of
which he is considered to be the main figure. He lies buried
at Sylhet, Bangladesh.
Early Life & Education
Shaikh Makhdum Jalal ad-Deen bin Mohammed, he was later affectionately
renamed Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh Hazrat Shah Jalal al-Mujarrad (the
last name meaning "the bachelor", on account of
his celibacy). Shah Jalal's date and place of birth is unclear.
Various traditions, folklore and hostorical documents suggest
different ideas. A number of scholars claim that he was born
in 1271 in Konya, Turkey, and later moved to Yemen, either
as a child or adult, while others contest he was born in Yemen.
He was the son of a Turkish Muslim cleric, who was a contemporary
of the famous Persian poet and Sufi saint, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad
Rumi. He was educated and raised by his maternal uncle, Syed
Ahmed Kabir, in Makkah. He excelled in his studies and became
a Hafiz (one who has committed the Qur'an to memory) and was
proficient in Islamic theology. He achieved Kamaliyat (spiritual
perfection) after 30 years of study and meditation.
to legend, his uncle, Sheikh Kabir, one day gave Shah Jalal
a handful of earth and asked him to travel to Hindustan with
the instruction that he should settle down at whichever place
in Hindustan whose earth matched completely in smell and color
the earth he was given, and he should devote his life for
the propagation and establishment of Islam there.
journeyed eastward and reached India in c. 1300, where he
met with many great scholars and mystics. He arrived at Ajmer,
where he met the great Sufi mystic and scholar, Pir Khawaja
Gharibnawaz Muinuddin Hasan Chisty, who is credited with the
spread of Islam in India. In Delhi, he met with Nizam Uddin
Aulia, another major Sufi mystic and scholar.
goes that a Hindu king named Gaur Govinda ruled the Sylhet
area, then predominantly Hindu. Sheikh Burhanuddin, a Muslim
who lived in the territory under his control once sacrificed
a cow to celebrate the birth of his son. A kite snatched a
piece of flesh of the slaughtered cow and it fell from its
beak on the house of a Brahmin Hindu, for whom cows were sacred.
According to another tradition, the piece of flesh fell on
the temple of the king himself, which he took as a great offence.
At the order of the king, Burhanuddin's hands were said to
have been cut off and his son killed. Burhanuddin went to
the Sultan of Gaur, Shamsuddin Firuz Shah, to whom he submitted
a prayer for justice. The Sultan accordingly sent an army
under the command of his nephew Sikandar Khan Ghazi. He was,
however, defeated twice by Gaur Govinda. The Sultan then ordered
his Sipahsalar (armed forces chief) Nasiruddin to lead the
time, Shah Jalal (R) was requested by Nizam Uddin to travel
to Sylhet to rescue Sheikh Burhan Uddin. With his 360 followers,
some of whom were with him from Yemen and others from Delhi,
including his nephew Hazrat Shah Paran, he reached Bengal
and joined the Muslim army in the Sylhet campaign.
that Shah Jalal was advancing towards Sylhet, Raja Gaur Govinda,
the king, removed all ferry boats from the river Surma, thereby
cutting off any means of crossing into Sylhet. Legend has
it that Shah Jalal crossed the river Surma by sitting on a
Jainamaz (prayer rug). Upon reaching the opposite bank, he
ordered the azan (call to prayer) to be sounded, at which
the magnificent palace of Gaur Govinda shattered. With Shah
Jalal's help, the king was defeated by the Muslim armies after
a fierce battle, and the King subsequently fled.
to legend, Shah Jalal found a match to the earth his uncle
once gave him, and according to his uncle's wishes, he settled
down in Sylhet, near Choukidhiki. It is from here that he
preached Islam and became a celebrated Muslim figure in Bengal.
He and his disciples travelled and settled as far as Mymensingh
and Dhaka to spread the teachings of Islam, such as Shah Paran
in Sylhet, Shah Malek Yemeni in Dhaka, Syed Ahmad Kolla Shahid
in Comilla, Syed Nasiruddin in the region of Pargana Taraf,
Haji Daria and Shaikh Ali Yemeni.
fame extended across the Muslim world. The Persian explorer,
Ibn Battuta, came to Sylhet and met with Shah Jalal. The great
Mughal poet, Hazrat Amir Khusrau gives an account of Shah
Jalal's conquest of Sylhet in his book "Afdalul Hawaade".
Even today in Hadramaut, Yemen, Sheikh Makhdum Jalaluddin's
name is established in folklore.
date of his death is unknown, but he is reported by Ibn Battuta
to have died in 746 AH (1347 A.D). He left behind no descendants,
as he remained a bachelor his entire life, hence the name
"al-Mujarrad" ("the unmarried"). He is
buried in Sylhet in his Dargah (tomb), which is located in
a neighbourhood now known as Dargah Mohalla, named for his
Dargah. His shrine is a siginificant place of interest in
Sylhet, with hundreds of devotees visiting daily. At the Dargah
is also located the largest Masjid in Sylhet and one of the
largest in Bangladesh.