E-Pao! Essay - Saint Shah Jalal in Northeast India (1257-1346 AD)

Saint Shah Jalal in Northeast India (1257-1346 AD)
— A hagiographical account —

By: Farooque Ahmed *

R. Brown in 1873 observed that Muslims or Pangals had been in Manipur "from great antiquity" as Manipuris informed him. Luckily the antique history is not entirely lost from redemption as Meiteis have an admirable tradition of noting down past events and legacies - both historical and non-historical in the form of annals (Puyas) like Kangleiron, which, if one carefully peruses, contains valuable information about Muslims. When tallied these with available Muslim and outside accounts, we can evince a fairly accurate hagiographic Pangal history.

Hagiography means the book of description about saints and holy people. By far the most famous Sufi saint in Northeast region especially Barak valley is Shaikh Shah Jalal who preached in Barak valley in 1330s and 1340s AD but he is not known to have come in the Imphal or Central valley of Manipur.

The three most renowned saints in Indian subcontinent were Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti who arrived in India in 1190 and was based at Ajmer where he died in 1234 AD, secondly Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia who was born in Badaun in 1336 and based at Delhi (PN Ojha, 1978: 52, Delhi), and thirdly Shaikh Shah Jalal who came from Tabrizi to Sylhet in 1257 AD where he died in 1346.

Marco Polo who was then in China came by the Silk route to pay a visit to this renowned saint (see for his coming: Amitabha Bhattacharyya:1977:92). Because of saint Jalal's extraordinarily longevity of life, Shah Jalal's name and his activity is confused by many historians with two or three other near contemporary saints with similar prefix or suffix names, and hence their place of origin or birth.

However, all this confusion is put to rest when the famed global trotter historian Ibn Battuta came to Kamrup and Sylhet in 1345 to meet Shaha Jalal, and described in his travel diary "Rehla" back home in Morocco, also translated into French and English, in which he described that he had the opportunity to live with him for three days, addressed him as "Shaykh Jalal al-Din of Tabrizi", he found the saint hoary old and slim of around 150 years (HAR Gibbs: 1929: 268-69: PN Ghosh: 1978:9).

N.N Acharyya (1984:52-53) noted: "Battuta visited Assam in AD 1345 and met saint Shaikh Jalal-ud-din of Tabriz who settled in a mountain in Kamrup… saint Jalal-ud-din died in 1346 AD at the age of nearly 150 years- his birth date being 1199".

BC Allen et al (1979:31) confuses it with another Shah Jalal from Yemen who came to Sylhet in 1384. Similarly RM Eaton (1997: 212) misconstrues him "as a Turk from Turkestan sent to India by a Central Asian Sufi". Gan Chaudhuri (1980:18) and NR Rouchoudhury (1983:11) in their histories on Tripura describe that Muslims led by saint Shah Jalal conquered Sylhet from prince Ishan Deva in 1257 AD.

Sylhet was composed of three important states - Gaur, Laur and Taraf. Some historians attribute the incidents in one of these regions as Sylhet and don't clearly explain the separateness of their historical progression and hence cause big confusion with one another. As Milton S. Sangma (1994:81, Delhi) wrote: "In the rest of old Srihatta (Sylhet), i.e., the Central and Western portions of the Barak valley, there emerged two states viz, Gaur and Laur. There was another state, called Taraf, which was a feudatory state under Gaur. Gaur was conquered by the Sultan of Delhi in 1384 AD".

Taraf was already inhabited by sea-borne Pasha Muslims between 650-680 AD. Cheitharol Khumbaba (1989:5-6) noted that Pong prince Samlungfa forayed into Pasha (i.e Taraf) around 698 AD before turning to Manipur, which Pemberton (1966:113) also said, happened around 777 AD where he identified Basa (Pasha) to be Banga in Cachar.

As to Muslim movement in other regions: "After the first Moslem reached Canton (South China) in 671, considerable numbers settled there and prospered as middlemen between China and the overseas World" (LS Stavrianos,1971: 123). PN Ghosh (p. 9) quotes "Rehla" where Ibn Battuta narrated about Shah Jalal's mission in Barak valley: "He was one of the greatest of saints, and a most unique man.

He performed famous miracles as well as great and memorable deeds. He was a man far advanced in years. He informed me (May God have mercy on him!) that he had seen the Abbasid Caliph Musta'asim-Billah, at Bagdad and that he was in that city at the time of the Caliph's assassination (AD 1258 that should be around 1256/57 AD by proper calculation from original Hijri era).

Subsequently his disciples informed me that the Shaikh died at the age of 150; that he had been observing the fast for about forty years and was not in the habit of breaking it until after the lapse of ten consecutive days. He had a cow with the milk of which he used to break his fast. He would remain standing all night. He was a lean, tall man, with sunken cheeks. Through his efforts, many of the mountaineers became converts to Islamism and this was the motive which led him to dwell in their midst".

PN Ghosh (p. 6/apx) notes that "Ibn Batutah once calls the saint Tabrizi and once Shirazi" which shows that Shah Jalal used to live in Shiraz too before coming to India (Sylhet) in 1257 AD. TW Arnold (1913:281) confuses his place of birth with Bukhara and with another saint who died in 1291 AD when he writes: "Of immense importance in the history of Islam in India was the arrival in that country of Sayyid Jalal-al-Din, who is said to have been born at Bukhara in 1199".

That Shah Jalal was born in 1199 at Tabriz and died at Sylhet in 1346 AD has been confirmed by NN Acharyya (1984:53) quoting Ibn Battuta's own account "Rehla" (1356 AD) and Riyaz-ys-Salatin by GH Salim (1788 AD).

"Ibn Batutah, as we are told by the Berber historian Ibn Khaldun (the Father of History), dictated on his return to Morocco, at the request of the Merindite Prince Abu'Inan faris a description of his travels to Muhammad al Kalbi (1356 AD) who abridged the work called Rehla (My Travels) [PN Ghosh, p. 5; Gibbs, p. 11].

AS LS Stavrianos (Past and Present - A Global history, 1971:135, 150, New Jersey) says: Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) was a "great historian and father of Sociology". So, the only original account of a historian who met Shah Jalal in Barak valley and whose account survives is Ibn Batuta's, which, so is the most legitimate authority on the missionary of Shah Jalal in Northeast India.

Eaton (1997:76) gives his own hagiographical description that "it was a certain Sikander Khan Ghazi and not the Shaikh, who had actually conquered the town (Gaur), and this occurred in the year 1303-4. The second is a contemporary account from the pen of the famous Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta (d.1377) who personally met Shah Jalal in 1345.

The Shaikh was quite an old man by then and sufficiently renowned throughout the Muslim world that the great world traveller made a considerable detour- he had been sailing from South India to China- in order to visit him. Travelling by boat up the Meghna and Surma (Barak) rivers, Ibn Battuata spent three days as Shah Jalal's guest in his mountain cave near Sylhet town".

BC Allen et al and Milton Sangma (1994:74) misconstrue (gaur?) part of Sylhet conquest by Muslim in 1384 as an act of saint Shah. He was another Shah or Jalal.

* Farooque Ahmed wrote this article in The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 25th, 2006

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • CCpur Dance @Keibul Lamjao : Gallery
  • The East Wind from Yunnan
  • Journey into Nature of Human Culture #1
  • Yaoshang Thabal :: Poem
  • North East NSS Festival begins
  • Talking... ending social media introversion
  • Opposing stand on ST demand
  • Kounu Lairembi Haraoba #1 : Gallery
  • Nipalsuba Mapok : Shumang Leela
  • Women's Bill : A passage to nowhere?
  • Challenges in elderly for medical tests
  • All's fair in love in war: Nitza :: Review
  • Why I write ?
  • Looking back to 2012, 2014 elections
  • Mukna Kangjei #2 : Gallery
  • Mova Cave of Hungpung in Ukhrul
  • Catapults, Molotov Cocktails & Music!
  • Appeal for Meitei's demand for ST
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Google News Training for Journalists
  • Of Crimes Against Humanity :: Poem
  • Bedtime beauty hacks to look young
  • Mary Kom to skip Asian championship
  • Thabal chongbagi SenKhaiba : Gallery
  • Zeliangrong women: Role in society #2
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Cry of a Dying River - 69 :: Poem
  • Nationality & Gorkha statehood movement
  • Free Children Heart Surgery Camp
  • Workshop on Python Programing at MU
  • Lining up for BJP, Cong
  • Indian Politics after Pulwama Terror Attack
  • Sory Wahengbam : eRang Actress Profile
  • International River Day @ Nungbrung Village
  • Nongthombam Biren: People's CM
  • Can Jamir Do A Lazarus ?
  • Dr. Shantibala's The Sacred Witch :: Review
  • Rural development process
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Eyeing 22 out of 25 in North East
  • Interfering the media
  • Myanmar army cracks down on NSCN (K)
  • Phayeng Koubru Haraoba #2: Gallery
  • Chirangchaibi, Abenao :: eMing
  • Komorebi - The Longing :: Poem
  • Little love in twilight of life
  • Election code of conduct anytime
  • Surveying India's unemployment numbers
  • DAMMS' statement on Meitei ST Demand
  • Choosing the right candidate
  • Demand for ILP :: Articles/Photos...
  • The Innampei festival of Chothe #2
  • CC Meet: SU vs NACO : Gallery
  • AEbu tuMduna lEKi gad_ra :: Seireng
  • That Hurts :: Poem
  • Workshop on Statistical Data at MU
  • The International Women's Day
  • Politics : A way of life !
  • Celebrate festival of democracy responsibly
  • The truth unfolded
  • Nipalsuba Mapok #1 : Gallery
  • Maisnam Renuka's Painting : Gallery
  • Parental Alienation: Poem 2 : Poem
  • The cost of a vote
  • Motivation & rewards for development
  • Career options in Commerce stream #2
  • Forest rights more than nine-tenths
  • Setting back final deal by 60 days
  • Traffic woes
  • slams Nagaland CM's statement on ILP
  • Symbolism in the Tribal Art #4
  • Laiphrakpam Ashok Kumar: Akademi Award
  • ST Demand Rally [Mar 3] #2: Gallery
  • Mee Manukhang will not be televised
  • Govt should grant prosecution sanction
  • Zeliangrong women: Role in society #1
  • General Strike mapung fana chathari
  • Rolling out Lok Sabha schedule
  • Saroi Khangba @Imphal : Gallery
  • 'Women Health' Workshop : Gallery
  • Manipuri Muslims Conference : Report
  • Meetei ST demand bu lanna uhanbiganu
  • Caveman & Children of (19)70s : Poem
  • Workshop on "Women Health" at Pune
  • Natural facial at home for glowing skin
  • Inauguration of NSS Camp at ADBU
  • Changing Manipur - which direction ?
  • Nongkhrang Ehanba @Lilong #2 : Gallery
  • Cessation of hostilities to POW
  • Magical power of music
  • Intl Women's Day requires regrouping
  • General Strike Mapung Fahanbiyu
  • Pravish's Case disposed by CJM
  • NSS Camp at Assam Don Bosco
  • Former Cong leader welcomed at Dimapur
  • Never asked India for land quip
  • Issues of women's rights
  • Barak Fest @ Senapati #2 : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2019 #1: Gallery
  • Reading Megh-dut in Manipuri #2
  • To be a woman and to be in India
  • Cry of a Dying River - 68 :: Poem
  • Can Meitei/Meetei be a tribe ?
  • Raging debate over ST demand
  • Climate change matters
  • Class X Exam @Johnstone : Gallery
  • ciH Amadi tMgi KeYnaba :: Seireng
  • Yaoshang be observed as 'Sports Week'
  • Hmar Inpui Assembly at Churachandpur
  • Jute bags versus Lenobags
  • ...Work for social justice
  • State of higher education here
  • Creating an education-friendly atmosphere
  • Shopping for Shivaratri #1: Gallery
  • 3rd World Bamboo Workshop #3 : Gallery
  • Reinvigorating the Awl-len festival
  • I am a poet :: Poem
  • Roles of Members of Parliament
  • Don't just age gracefully - Age beautifully
  • SRF/JRF for Mizoram University [Upd]
  • ST status campaign : An overview
  • May be this time it may happen
  • ST Demand Rally [Mar 3] #1: Gallery
  • Sanaroishingee Nunit : Gallery
  • Rejoinder to TNL's Diatribe on the Kukis
  • Schemes of Panchayati Raj #2
  • Career options in Commerce stream
  • 3 Resolutions from ST Demand Rally
  • NPF on Nagaland Budget Session [Feb 25]
  • LS elections :: Key : Choice of candidates
  • Price of development
  • Phayeng Koubru Haraoba #1: Gallery
  • Nagaland Dance @Sangai Fest : Gallery
  • Bad Boy Eats the Yellow Snow
  • Name :: Poem
  • Alcohol prohibition
  • Treading murky waters
  • PM Kisan: Reducing risk..increasing return
  • Rallying around ST demand for Meiteis
  • Myanmar Army takes control of NSCN (K)
  • Henjunaha #3 :: Funga Wari
  • Reading Megh-dut in Manipuri #1
  • Purnima Ngangom's Painting : Gallery
  • Impact of Anglo Manipur War 1891 #2
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Lived across LoC
  • Most Beautiful Woman in World : Poem
  • CAB no more issue
  • Traditional Raas Dance #2: Gallery
  • Cultural @Republic Day #2 : Gallery
  • RS adjourned without CAB: What now? #3
  • Retrospection on Sport person's Day
  • Marriage ceremony : Zeliangrong & Tai #3
  • Thadou Inpi & TSA not under KIM & KSO
  • Bioscope show
  • The haunt continues
  • Positive change in behaviour of cops
  • Maharaj Kumar Priyabarta Singh : Profile
  • March Calendar for Year 2019 :: Tools
  • CV Raman & National Science Day
  • Cry of a Dying River - 67 :: Poem
  • Tour of laboratory by a blood sample
  • MU celebrate National Science Day
  • Science Day at DM Community College
  • Displeasure over attitude of PDA :: NPF
  • The making of a united India
  • Morning air raid at JeM camp
  • Lui-ngai-ni @Senapati #3: Gallery
  • Arunachal PRC Issue: Vis-a-vis Gorkha
  • Literary representation of political violence
  • Understanding distance learning
  • Good governance required in Arunachal
  • Save energy, ecology & humanity
  • Framing of guideline for school transporter
  • Yubi Lakpi #1 : Gallery
  • Holi Pala @Sangai Festival : Gallery
  • Indie films: Loktak Lairembee & Soni #2
  • Workshop on Python Programming at MU
  • They say :: Poem
  • Election manifesto for all & sundry
  • Camellia oil for heavenly beauty
  • Programme on Road Traffic Safety
  • PRC: Appeal to Governor of Arunachal
  • Towards optimistic ideology
  • The task ahead of STDCM
  • The Innampei festival of Chothe #1
  • My encounter with a Japani
  • Korean Seminar of Hangeul Day at MU
  • Total ban on polythene bags need of hour
  • The Masked Painter :: Poem
  • Arunachal Issue : Representation to HM
  • The Consumers' Rights
  • CAB in a new avatar ?
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #2 : Gallery
  • Konthoujam Maikel's Painting : Gallery
  • Impact of Anglo Manipur War 1891 #1
  • RS adjourned without CAB: What now? #2
  • Hole in the bag :: Poem
  • Climate change: Dual perspective
  • Pui Jianna Thangamliu :: eRang
  • March Past: Republic Day: Gallery
  • Dark light and The Wishess' might
  • Manipur on Meitei edge
  • Belshazzar's feast - A failed mission
  • Education in the era of Google
  • Healing is different from cure ....
  • RPL trainees of Garo Hills - II
  • MHA "notification"
  • Nagaland- Feb 26 : Sense of urgency
  • Lui-ngai-ni @Senapati #2: Gallery
  • Police check @Jirimukh, Jiri : Gallery
  • Nongkhrang Ehanba @Lilong #1 : Gallery
  • Traditional Raas Dance #1: Gallery
  • Rajkumar Singhajit : Tagore Award 2014
  • Mukna - Indigenous Games : Gallery
  • Dzukou Valley, Senapati : Gallery
  • Amuktang-Ga Haikho #2 : eRang
  • Thamoise Foidattuna :: e-pao Radio
  • Check Post (ICP) @ Moreh : Gallery
  • Konthoujam Maikel (Painter) :: Profile
  • Onetwo Okram : Singer- Profile :: eRang
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #3 : Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download
  • List of Restricted Holidays for 2019
  • List of Public Holidays for 2019
  • List of General Holidays for 2019