The original name of ‘Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’ was Syed Muhammad Usman Shah Marwandi who was born in 1177 CE in Marwand, Iran. His father, Syed Ibrahim Kabiruddin, was a righteous and devout dervish, and his mother was a princess. His family migrated from Iraq and settled down in Meshed, from where they again migrated to Marwand. During the Medieval era, Meshed and other cities of that region were prominent centers of knowledge, culture and civilization.
A contemporary of Baha-ud-din Zakariya, Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari Surkh-posh of Uchch, Shams Tabrizi, Mehre Ali Shah Mast and Rumi, he travelled around the Muslim world settled in Sehwan (Sindh, Pakistan) and was buried there.
Shahbaz Qalandar proved strong religious leanings at a very young age. He learned the Holy Quran by heart just at age of seven, and at twenty embraced the Sufism. His dedication to the knowledge of various religious disciplines enabled him to eventually become a profound scholar. During his lifetime, he witnessed the Ghaznavid and Ghurids rules in South Asia.He became fluent in many languages including Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Sindhi and Sanskrit. His mysticism attracted people from all religions. He was called Lal (red) after his usual red attire, Shahbaz (falcon) due to his noble and divine spirit, and Qalandar for his Sufi affiliation. Hindus regarded him as the incarnation of Bhrithari. Lal Shahbaz lived a celibate life.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar roamed throughout Middle East and came to Sind from Baghdad via Dasht-i-Makran. In 1263, he arrived in Multan, which at that time was at the height of beauty and splendour. The people of Multan wanted him to stay but he continued his journey southward and ultimately settled down in Sehwan, then a famous center of learning and popular place of worship for Hindus, in the southern part of Sindh, where he lived in the trunk of a tree on the border of the town. Shahbaz Qalander established his Khanqah in Sehwan and started teaching in Fuqhai Islam Madarrsah; during this period he wrote his treatises Mizna-e-Sart, Kism-e-Doyum, Aqd and Zubdah.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is an tremendously popular patron saint cherished and adored alike by Hindus and Muslims of Sind. He was a great missionary, mystic, scholar, philologist and poet. Several books in Persian and Arabic on philology and poetry are attributed to him. He was called ‘Lal’ (red) because of his red dress, ‘Shahbaz’ (falcon) due to his noble and divine spirit that soared like a falcon higher and higher in the limitless heavens and ‘Qalandar’ since he belonged to Qalandria order of Sufism and was saintly, exalted and intoxicated with love for eternal being of God. The legend goes that the present fakirs in Sewhan sent him a bowl of milk filled to the edge indicating that there was no room for anything more. But surprisingly, he returned the bowl with a beautiful flower floating on the top. This legend spread far and wide by the time of his death in 1274.
The shrine around his tomb, built in 1356, gives a stunning look with its Sindhi kashi tiles, mirror work and two gold-plated doors – one donated by the late Shah of Iran, the other by the late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The inner chamber is about 100 yards square with the silver canopied grave in the middle. On one side of the marble floor is a row of about 12 inch high folding wooden stands on which are set copies of Quran for devotees to read. On the other side, beside a bundle of burning “Agarbattis” (joss sticks), are rows of “Diyas” (small oil lamps) lighted by Hindu devotees. The Hindus regarded him as the personification of Bhartihari, the saintly brother of King Vikramaditya, who is believed to have worshipped Shiva at the venue where Lal Shahbaz’s shrine is situated with all its splendour and beauty.