Shah-Jalal – The syncreatic saint of Sylhet

In course of civilization comes those moment of centrifugal unrest when ideas, merchandise and men travel from one place to another and ideas germinate and bloosom in seemingly unsual places. Such was Sha Jalal, the sufi mystic of Syhlet was either from Yemen or from Turkestan and entered Syhlet in 1307. It was the time also when the civilization of Persia was illuminating prostrate and senile Europe and and the vigour of the new Dar-Ul-Islam was at its glory. Every civilization at its height is centrifugal and expanding in nature - either in the physical sense or in the spiritual sense or in both.  Coming of Sha Jalal in the far corner of Syhlet from Turkestan or Yemen is a representative event - for India and the concept of India as a whole which kept us in the orbit of civilization although we are finding attempts of all kinds to disengage that very root.

Sha Jalal entered India through the North Western Border in the late thirteenth century. While he was a young man, his uncle gave him a handful of earth and commanded to carry this earth and propagate his Sufi faith in Hindustan. Also was a delightful gift to future historians - he asked Sha Jalal to settle in that place of Hindustan whose soil matches the soil of Yemen in smell and colour. After wandering from the North Western Border to the Eastern India and in this way crossing many saints like Moin-Uddin Chisthi, Sha Jalal entered Syhllet somewhere in 1307. And then the match happened. For a whole  historical perspective of this great coming of the saint in Syhlet

please see  Contemporary Syhlet and Sha Jalal

In its tradition of becoming, almost uncannily,  in all aeons the feminine womb  for all virile, expanding and vigorous civilization, peninsular India came in contact with the Persian civilization which was keeping the light of knowledge burning in the prostrate and senile Europe. The world-view of Persia met the Vedantic monotheism along with the Hindu pantheon of Gods and multiple shades of poly-theism and precipitated Sufism. With the passage of ages, the most lasting, most enduring deposit of that tense, sometimes rough and dizzying interaction seem to be Sufism and Urdu in spite of all political rhetoric.  Coming of Sha Jalal at Syhlet is a representative event in that broad landscape which illuminates that historical fact and earned wisdom.  It was Islam meeting day-to-day with a culture that not only made a dialogue but became intimate and the religion that grew in the deserts of Arabia  bloosmed with new flowers in the tropical Syhlet with rain, blue hills and rivers.

It all started as a new saint coming to a place. But there came 360 awlias  and before even the Sultanate came into full existence, before Akbar was in the womb of history, Dara Sheko will translate Upanishads after four hundred years, a cultural osmosis started. The air of Syhlet heard for the first time that prayer which made impoverished and nomad Bedouins a powerful force in Central Asia, who ventured like desert sands in West Europe and South Asia, whose government  will effectively govern Indian landmass for five centuries, the same civilization will translate Aristotle , Plato and Euclid in Persian at a time when entire Europe is in mediavel fog, when the whole Mongol invasion is threatening ancient civilisations of China and India and they would have surely been different  if not counterpoised by the military might of Islam. Sha Jalal is not only a historic personna only in that sense but for Syhlet he is a historical continum.

The Syhlet needed Sha Jalal as much as he needed it.  Iban Batuta met Sha Jalal while he came to India and was deeply respectful of him. In later period,  the poets and wordsmiths of the place have immortalized him. His dargah  in Syhlet was visited at least once by all Syhlletis, irrespective of religion.

After a hundred years, another historical personality of tremendous force appeared and his ancestry is related to Syhlet again - Mahaprabhu Sree Chaitanya. A deja vu happened. The Bhakti of Chaitanya reconfluenced again with the Sufism and contemporary literature recorded it.

For knowing more about Sree Chaitanya and his inflenece as a spiritual redefiner and a social memory, please see  Sree Chaitanya and the interaction of India and Persia

Sha Jalal came in Syhlet and he was already a mystic. His mystic world view harmonised into the existing world-view of Syhlet and the interaction is representative of Interacting Civilizations.

But  one  mystic power demostrated by the saint during his first coming was

recorded,  faithfully and with a humble submission.


The  miracle he performed enthralled his local audience but as a future generation we are bound to understand the more global, more universal miracle he performed and from a historian's prespective - stiching human hearts across frontiers and time