Shaykh Shah Jalal

Shah Jalal is one of the most revered legendary Islamic heroes of Bangladesh and one of the key founding fathers of Islam in the country. He was a great saint and a great warrior. Along with his disciples, he made a unique contribution in liberating the people of Sylhet region.

His full full name is Shaykh-ul Mashaek Mokhdum Shaykh Shah Jalal Mozorrodh Bin Muhammed. His father was the contemporary of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. Losing his parents early in his life he was brought up by his maternal uncle who was also a pious saint. After completing his education, his uncle gave him a handful of earth and told him to travel to a land, in Hindustan, where earth of the same colour can be found. There he should settle down and establish the religion of Islam.

In the course of his journey he met Khwaja Gharibnawaz Moinuddin Hasan Chisty and Shaykh Nizam ud din Auliya. After a while he reached Sylhet, Bengal where he found a Shaykh, Burhan ud din was being persecuted by Raja Gaur Govinda, the king of the Sylhet. Shaykh Shah Jalal and his travelling party of 300 plus auliyas joined the army which had been sent by the Sultan of Gaur against the King. Alhumdulillah, they were able to defeat the King despite two previous failed attempts.

After the conquest Shaykh Shah Jalal found a match for the earth his uncle had given him and he settled in Sylhet and remained there until his death. He and his disciples travelled as far as Mymensingh and Dhaka to preach the message of Islam.

Ibn Battutah who met Shaykh Shah Jalal in Sylhet says of him:
‘he was numbered among the principal saints, and was one of the most singular of men. He had done many noteworthy acts, and wrought many celebrated miracles. He used to remain standing (in prayer) all night. The inhabitants of these mountains received Islam from his hands, and it was for this reason that he stayed among them.’
Ibn Battutah also narrates several miracles of the saint, and reports the date of his death as 1347.

May Allah swt accept the efforts of Shaykh Shah Jalal for the cause of Islam, Ameen.

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  1. Early life and education

    Born Makhdum Jalal ad-Deen bin Muhammad, he was later known as Shaikh-ul-Mashaikhhe was also known as Yamani(R) Hazrat Shah Jalal ad-Din al-Mujarrad (the last name could be related to his lifelong celibacy or performing of prayers in solitary milieu). Shah Jalal’s date and place of birth is unclear. Various traditions, folklore and historical documents differ. 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 vast majority of scholars believe he was born in Quni, Hadramout in Yemen. He was the son of a Muslim cleric, who was a contemporary of the Persian poet and Sufi saint, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. He was educated and raised by his maternal uncle, Syed Ahmed Kabir, in Mecca. 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.

    [edit] Travel to IndiaAccording to legend, one day his uncle, Sheikh Kabir gave Shah Jalal a handful of soil and asked him to travel to Hindustan (India) with the instruction that he should settle in whichever place in Hindustan the earth of which matched completely the smell and color of that soil, and that he should devote his life to the propagation and establishment of Islam in that place.[1]

    Shah Jalal journeyed eastward and reached India in c. 1300, where he met with many great scholars and mystics. In Delhi, he met with Nizam Uddin Aulia, another major Sufi mystic and scholar.[1]

    [edit] Conquest of SylhetTradition says that a tribal chieftain named Govinda ruled the Sylhet area, which was called Gaur Kingdom, and then predominantly inhabited by tribal people of Mongoloid origin. Govinda himself was of Tepra tribe of Tripura. Sheikh Burhanuddin, a Muslim who lived in the area under his control once sacrificed a cow to celebrate the birth of his son. A crow snatched a piece of the dead meat and it fell from its beak onto 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. On the orders 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 plea for justice. The Sultan accordingly sent an army under the command of his nephew Sikandar Khan Ghazi. He was, however, stopped by rains and flooding. The Sultan then ordered his Sipah Salar (armed forces chief) Nasiruddin to lead the war. [1]

    At this time, Shah Jalal (R) was requested by Nizam Uddin at the behest of Sultan Firoz Shah to travel to Sylhet along with Sikander Khan Ghazi to rescue Sheikh Burhan Uddin. With 360 followers, including his nephew Shah Paran, he reached Bengal and joined the Muslim army in the Sylhet campaign.

    Knowing 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 Hindus were completely defeated and crushed by the Muslim Army.

    However, an inscription from Sylhet town, dated 1512-13, says that it was Sikandar Khan Ghazi who had actually conquered the town in the year 1303-4.

    According to legend, Shah Jalal found a match for the earth his uncle once gave him, and following 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 traveled 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. An expedition to Chittagong was led by Khwaja Burhanuddin Qattan and Shah Badruddin. An expedition to Sunamganj was led by Shah Kamal Qattani, whose shrine is located in Shaharpara, Sunamganj.

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