Heroic Saint of Baghban

on the legacy and monuments for Makhdoom Bilawal

Heroic Saint of Baghban
Makhdoom Bilal, popularly known as Makhdoom Bilawal Samma, was the most popular mystic and scholar of the fifteenth and sixteenth-century Sindh in Baghban pargana in the present district of Dadu. He was the son of Makhdoom Hasan Samma son of Makdoom Idrees Samma, who was the brother of Jam Nizamuddin alias Jam Nindo. And Jam Nindo was a scion of the Samma dynasty that ruled over Sindh for almost 50 years (1461-1508).

Makhdoom Bilawal belonged to the ruling Samma family and he preferred mysticism to the kingdom. His grandfather Makhdoom Idrees Samma was the eminent mystic of his time at Thatta. He left Thatta and settled in Baghban where many people became his disciples. Later his grandson Makhdoom Bilawal Samma became the eminent mystic, scholar, teacher and spiritual master in the Baghban region. Makdoom Bilawal Samma was born in 1451 in the village of Talti in Baghban region in the present district of Dadu and hence was called Mahkdoom Bilal/Bilawal Baghbani.

He was an erudite scholar of Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and Hadith (Prophetic traditions). He also composed poetry in Persian language. Many of his disciples spread his mystic thoughts in every nook and corner of Sindh in 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. From Moulvi Hidayatullah Mustaque Mutalwi, we learn that Makhdoom Bilawal was a Kubrawi Sufi saint. He was a disciple of Shaikh Dost Ali Sistani, who was a disciple of Syed Shamsuddin Ali Hamdani (d. 786 H/1385) -  whose spiritual lineage can be traced back to Shaikh Najumuddin Kubra (1145-1221).

The tomb of Makhdoom Bilawal

If one is to believe the information provided by Mustaque Mutalwi about Kubrawi tariqa of Makhdoom Bilawal, then the Kubrawi was one of the dominant Sufi tariqas after the Suhrawardi and Qadiri tariqas of 16th and 17th century Sindh. All of the disciples of Makhdoom Bilawal spread Kubrawi teachings in Sindh. Later his chief khalifas initiated many people into Kubrawi tariqa which can be termed as Kubrawi-Bilawali tariqa as the majority of his disciples are called “Bilawali Pirs” (saints associated with Bilawali tariqa of Makhdoom Bilawal/Bilal).

Shaikh Hamid bin Fazullah Jamali Dehlavi (d.1536), the author of Siyar ul-Arifin, a book which deals with brief biographies of early Chishti & Suharwardi Sufis of India and Pakistan, was very fond of travelling and he visited the Islamic world to meet the Sufis and scholars. He was known under his nom de plume of Jamali. En route to Delhi from Iran, Jamali also visited Sindh. He mentioned two mystics of Mozah Behri near Sehwan. On pages 174 and 175 of Siyar ul-Arifin, which was translated from Persian by Muhammad Ayub Qadri into Urdu and published by Markazi Urdu Board Lahore in 1975, it is mentioned that Jamali met Maulana (he called Makhdoom as Maulana) Bilal Sindhi in Behri Moza near Sehwan. Moreover, Jamali writes that Maulana Bilal Sindhi was a learned person and he discussed with him some important topics related to Sufism. Jamali also mentions the name of another dervish in the same Behri Moza whose name was Haji Aram Sindhi. According to Jamali, Haji Aram Sindhi was known for his piety in the area. Haji Aram Sindh welcomed him well when Jamali visited his Sufi lodge. Jamali was a leading disciple of eminent Suhrawardi saint Shaikh Samauddin (d.1496), who was a disciple of Shaikh Kabiruddin Ismail.
Makhdoom Bilawal belonged to the ruling Samma family and he preferred mysticism to the kingdom

Some of the prominent deputies (khalifas) of Makhdoom Bilawal included: Makhdoom Sahar Lanjar (d.1572) Syed Hyder Shah Sannai (d.1530), Makhdoom Sa’ad alias Saand (d.1601) Makhdoom Hingoro, Makhdoom Hasan alias Pir Bilawali, Makhdoom Ruknuddin alias Makhdoom Mitho (d.1542) and Qazi Dito Sewistani.

Makhdoom Sahar Lanjar, whose tomb is located in Unarpur in Jamshoro district, spread the message of his mentor Makhdoom Bilawal and converted many people to his faith. One of the chief disciples of Sakhi Syed Ruknuddin Shah of Matiari became the eminent Bilawali Pir who also initiated many scholars and saints into Bilawali tariqa of Makhdoom Bilawal. Miyon Wahyun Chanhyo (d.1593) became a chief disciple of Sakhi Syed Ruknuddin Shah (1506-1567) and he converted many people to Bilawali Tariqa. The tomb of Miyon  Wahyon Chahyun is located in Torki necropolis in Nasarpur.

After the martyrdom of Makdoom Bilawal in 1522, the expansion of Bilawali tariqa became slow and Makhdoom Sahar Lanjar remained associated with Makhdoom Nuh, the founder of Sarwari Tariqa of Suhrawardi-Awaisi Silsila of Sufism. Makhdoom Sahar Lanjar died in 1572 and was buried in Unarpur in Jamshoro district.

Shrine of Makhdoom Bilawal

When Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443-1505) visited Thatta, many prominent Sindhi scholars and mystics including Qazi Qazan (also called Qazi Qadan, d.1531, some scholars believe he died in 1551), Shaikh Sadruddin, Darya Khan, Pir Asat, Qazi Shaikh Muhammad Uchavi and Mian Abu Bakr, Shaikh Jahando Patni and Syed Muhammad Yousaf Shah Rizvi, became his disciples. Bilawali saints opposed him. The prominent deputy of Makhdoom Bilawal who opposed Syed Jaunpuri and his teachings was Syed Hyder Shah Sannai.

Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri stayed for 18 months in Thatta and many people became his disciples over a period of time. However, due to constant opposition of Bilawali saints, Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri had to leave Sindh for Afghanistan which later became challenging for Bilawali pirs when the Samma dynasty was on the decline and Shah Beg Arghun (1465-1524), who was also a follower of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri, became a new ruler of Sindh after defeating Jam Feroz the last ruler of Samma dynasty.

Tilework on facade of Makhdoom Bilawal's tomb

No one but Makhdoom Bilawal Samma opposed and resisted the occupation of Sindh by Shah Beg Arghun. The rising power of Bilawali pirs under the leadership of Makhdoom Bilawal was unacceptable to Shah Beg Arghun and his supporters. One of the chief exponents of Mahdavi creed Qazi Qazan was involved by Shah Beg Arghun to play arbitrator and asked Makhdoom Bilawal to pay him respects and accept his authority when the former was in Baghban/Talti. Shah Beg Arghun was told by his supporters that chiefs of many tribes wanted to pay him respects personally but Makhdoom Bilawal was the main hurdle and he was no allowing them.  Qazi Qazan met Makhdoom Bilawal and asked him to see Shah Beg and accept his authority. Makhdoom Bilawal refused to pay respects to Shah Beg Arghun. This refusal later resulted in the martyrdom of Makhdoom Bilawal. He died defending his land, people and left behind a large number of his deputies and disciples to spread his teachings. After his martyrdom, Bilawali pirs continued to spread the ideology of their mentor.
No one but Makhdoom Bilawal Samma opposed and resisted the occupation of Sindh by Shah Beg Arghun

Tilework in Makhdoom Bilawal Mosque

Today the shrine complex of Makhdoom Bilawal, the saint of Baghban which is located about 12 km northwest of Dadu town, is visited by hundreds of people every day. On special days, thousands of people all over Sindh visit the shrine of Makhdoom Bilawal. The tomb of Makhdoom Bilawal was built in 1990 by his devotee named Muhammad Bakhsh Panhwar son of Allah Bakhsh Panhwar of Kandi village in Dadu district. Later on, in 1995, Muhammad Bakhsh Panhwar had the interior of the tomb decorated with glasswork. It is an octagonal tomb which is decorated with Kashi tiles. The exterior of the tombs is adorned glazed tiles and the interior with classwork. The mosque is also decorated with kashi tiles. According to the inscription, the mosque is believed to have been built by Mehboob Khan Wagan son of Allah Bakhsh Khan Wagan in 1928. He was a disciple of Makhdoom Bilawal. Mehboob Khan Wagan, the chief of Wagan tribe in colonial Sindh, was well known for his generosity and devotion to the Sufi saints of Sindh. He was believed to have built many mosques in Larkana and Dadu districts.

The writer is an anthropologist. He can be contacted at zulfi04@hotmail.com

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar