Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi (R)

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Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi a famous saint who was born at Tabriz, Iran and came to Bengal during the early period of Muslim rule. He was a disciple of Shaikh Abu Sayyid Tabrizi, but after the latter's death became a disciple of Shaikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi. So he was first a Suhrawardia saint, but later accepted the Chishtya order; at the end, a new order, Jaliliya, was introduced after his name.

The spiritual exploits of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi have come down to us through Sanksrit and Persian sources. Shek Subhodaya (Shaikh Subhodaya or advent of the Shaikh), a Sanskrit work authorship of which is attributed to King laksmanasena's (Laksmanasena) courtier Halayudha Mishra, informs us that Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi came to Bengal in the reign of Laksmanasena, attracted many local Hindus towards him by his miracles and foretold about the impending danger of Turkish invasion.

The Persian sources are the Tazkira literature relating to the life-sketch of early Muslim Sufis, particularly of northern India. These sources give an idea that Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi came to Delhi in the reign of Sultan Shamsuddin iltutmish (1210-1236 AD) by whom he was well received and honoured. Later he moved towards Bengal, where he lived, built khanqah and taught his pupils in esoteric sciences.

The evidence in the Sanskrit and the Persian sources does not differ widely as far as the date of the saints' arrival in Bengal is concerned (according to the Shek Subhodaya not later than 1204-05, the date of the conquest of gaur by bakhtiyar khalji, and according to the Persian sources not earlier than 1210 AD, the date of accession of Iltutmish, but the modern scholars question the authenticity of the Shek Subhodaya. It is claimed that Shek Subhodaya was a composition of Halayudha, who was a great Sanskrit scholar, but the language of the Shek Subhodaya is corrupt Sanskrit, so corrupt that no one can imagine that it was from the pen of a learned courtier of Laksmanasena. It is stated in the book that Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi was born at Etawah (in modern Uttar Pradesh, India), he was the son of Malik Kafur and he received education with the help of a merchant named Ramazan Khan and that he had to leave his birth place at the complicity of that merchant.

All Persian sources call him Tabrizi, all inscriptions found in the buildings erected in Bengal in his memory call him Tabrizi - all proving that the saint came from Tabriz in Persia. His Tabrizi appellation was so strong that Deotala (one of his seats in Bengal) was given the name Tabrizabad after his name. So modern scholars believe that the book Shek Subhodaya is spurious, prepared to establish a right to the property endowed in memory of the saint. They also point out that the spurious book was written during the preparation of Todar Mal's rent-roll in Bengal during the reign of akbar. The Persian sources also show that Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi was a contemporary of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakaria of Multan and Shaikh Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki of Delhi. So it seems almost certain that Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi came to Delhi in the reign of Iltutmish and later moved to Bengal.

In Bengal, two places have been sanctified by the memory of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi-pandua and Deotala. Pandua was for long the capital of the Muslim sultans, and here the famous shrine of the saint is situated. It is called Bari Dargah, where there exist several buildings. They are (i) one Jami mosque, (ii) two chilla khanas (or place of retreat for 40 days), (iii) one tanur khana (kitchen), (iv) one bhandar kahna (store house), (v) salami darwaza or entrance gate. Different devotees built these buildings at different time, none of which is as old as the time of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi. The dargah or shrine is known as Bais Hazari, ie the income from the endowed land was twenty two thousand rupees. The reason of its being called Bari Dargah is to distinguish it from the Chhoti Dargah (the dargah of Shaikh nur qutb alam who flourished at Pandua a century later).

Deotala or Devtala, situated a few miles to the north of Pandua, also contains relics commemorating Jalaluddin Tabrizi. Here, in the chillakhana of the saint, four Arabic inscriptions have been found. These inscriptions were issued by the sultans of Bengal during the period from 1464 to 1571 AD. All the inscriptions record the construction of mosques but the most important information found in the inscriptions is that the place Deotala was renamed Tabrizabad in memory of the saint; in one inscription, the town of Deotala is said to be that of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi. These inscriptions were all issued in the sultanate period, whereas the inscription found in the dargah at Pandua belong to the Mughal period. So it appears that in the sultanate period Deotala was more prominent than Pandua. Relics founded at Deotala suggest that the saint passed a good part of his life in Bengal at Deotala and as will be seen presently, he is also lying buried at Deotala.

The grave of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi is not found at the Bari Dargah of Pandua. His grave could not be located at Deotala, because the saint's association with Deotala was completely forgotten. The word Tabrizabad found in the inscriptions could not be read properly until the 1930s. The earlier epigraphists read the word Tiruabad, which misled the scholars. The correct reading of the word Tabrizabad also helps ascertaining the place of death and burial of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi. In the ain-i-akbari it is stated that the Shaikh died at Dev Mahal, and this confused the modern scholars. There is no place called Dev Mahal in Bengal; on the other hand there is no evidence that the Shaikh left Bengal in his later life. Modern scholars have now come to the conclusion that Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi has been lying in eternal rest at Deotala wurf Tabriazbad.

There is another renowned saint in Bengal with the name of Jalal, ie shah jalal (R) of Sylhet. Both are sometimes confounded to be one and the same person. All evidence, inscriptions and literary records relating to the saint of Sylhet call him Shah Jalal, whereas all inscriptions and other records about the saint of Pandua and Deotala call him Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi. So there is a consensus among modern scholars that the two were not one and the same person.

The date of the death of Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi is also a subject of controversy. Two dates are put forward: 623 AH/ 1226 AD, and 642 AH/1244 AD. Both the dates are probable, considering the names of his contemporaries, Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish of Delhi (died 1236 AD), and Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya of Multan (died 1262 AD). [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography ME Haq, A History of Sufism in Bengal, Dhaka, 1975; Abdul Karim, Social History of the Muslims in Bengal, 2nd edition, Chittagong, 1985.