Discovering the Anbah Sharif shrine complex of Data Faiz Darya in Sindh
nbah Sharif, a small village about a kilometre north of Chak town in the Lakhi Ghulam Shah taluka of Shikarpur district, is renowned for the shrines of sufi adepts belonging to various orders. Among these, the shrine complexes dedicated to Muhammad Shah Mast Jilani and Syed Muhammad Faiz Shah, also known as Data Faiz Darya, hold great prominence.
The shrine complex of Data Faiz Darya in Anbah Sharif is a true reflection of Sindhi society’s tolerant culture. It is visited by both Muslim and Hindu devotees. According to Qalandar Khitab, compiled by Allama Muhammad Hidayat Ali Najfi Tarik (d.1939) in 1934 and published in 2002, Data Faiz Darya was born in 1280 AH(1883 AD) in Anbah, also known as Hanbah. He received his early education from his father’s teacher, Syed Dhanal Shah of Azmat village, who taught him Sindhi, Arabic and Persian. Data Faiz Darya and his father often visited Shah Naseer, his father’s spiritual mentor, whose shrine is in Naushahro Feroze. Shah Naseer (d. 1900) was known for preaching Muslim-Hindu unity. His legacy was carried forward by Pir Muhammad Shah Jilani and his descendants at Anbah Sharif. Shah Naseer was also a celebrated Sindhi poet.
According to Syed Koral Shah, a writer and scholar from Dhodha village in Kandiaro taluka in Naushahro Feroz district, Data Faiz Darya was a Qadiri sufi, as mentioned in one of his Persian poems. However, Anbah Mein Arah Data Vilayat Shah Jo Kalam, compiled by Sufi Shafi Muhammad Soomro in 1990, reveals that Pir Muhammad Shah Jilani and his descendants followed both Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya teachings.
Data Faiz Darya, a renowned sufi adept of Shikarpur, was known for his spiritual teachings and remarkable poetry. He used the pen name of his beloved disciple, Baba Meeral Faqir Jagirani, in his poetry and composed in Sindhi, Seraiki and Persian. Though he had numerous disciples, Baba Meeral Faqir Jagirani was his most beloved follower. Along with Loung Fqir Lashari and Bahawal Faqir Lashari, Baba Meeral Faqir Jagirani used to sing the poetry of Data Faiz Darya. The shrine of Baba Meeral Faqir Jagirani, which I have visited twice, is located near Kandhra town in Rohri taluka in the Sukkur district. It is currently maintained by his descendants.
Data Faiz Darya passed away on Shawal 14, 1325 (November 19, 1907), leaving many followers to continue his legacy of religious tolerance, interfaith harmony, love and peace. Among his notable disciples were Sain Bagan Shah, Mai Sachul Kumbhar, Rakhial Faqir Dayo, Ghulam Faqir Hussain Mahesar, Syed Ali Muhammad Shah, Ghulam Hyder Faqir Rind, Khair Muhammad Faqir Rind, Usman Faqir Buriro, Tawakal Ali Pathan and Sharbat Ali Pathan.
Syed Ali Muhammad Shah Jilani, an eminent disciple of Data Faiz Darya, was also a poet. He wrote in Sindhi and Seraiki languages. His shrine is located at Gagri, near Khairpur city. He passed away on 19 Rabi Al-Awwal 1345 AH (September 26, 1926 AD). Another notable disciple of Data Faiz Darya was Ghulam Hyder Faqir Rind, whose shrine is located at Goondraro village, 4 kilometres west of Shadi Shaheed village in the Khairpur district. Ghulam Hyder Faqir Rind was a descendant of Shadi Khan, son of Mehrab Khan Rind, who served as an advisor to Mir Sohrab Khan Talpur (d. 1830), the founder of Khairpur state. Ghulam Hyder Faqir Rind died in a melee in 1233 AH (1817 AD).
Syed Koral Shah, the compiler of Risalo Tawakal Faqir Jo, suggests that Sardar Samandar Khan and his two sons – who came from the Isozai tribe in Afghanistan – travelled to Hyderabad Deccan and later settled in Sehwan, where they frequently visited the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. Sardar Samandar Khan became a disciple of a certain gaddi nashin of a Kafi shrine connected to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s dargah. He was given the name Tegh Ali Shah. Later, he and his two sons left Sehwan and settled in Ratha Din village in Rohri taluka of Sukkur district. Tegh Ali Shah passed away in Ratha Din, where his shrine is currently located.
After Tegh Shah’s death, two of his sons returned to Sehwan looking for a spiritual mentor and eventually heard about Data Faiz Darya. So they went to Hanbah/ Anbah Sharif to become his disciples. After their initiation, they were given new names. Gul Muhammad Khan became Tawakal Ali, a poet who composed poetry in Sindhi and Seraiki. Hyder Khan became Sharbat Ali. A shrine to the two brothers is located at Hoat Khan Jalbani village, about 16 kilometres south of Halani town in Mehrabpur taluka of Naushahro Feroze.
According to Anbah Mein Arah DataVilayat Shah Jo Kalam, compiled by Sufi Shafi Muhammad Soomro (1990:12), the five-domed tomb of Data Faiz Darya was constructed by Charan Singh from Amritsar, a Sikh follower of Data Vilayat Shah, who was a renowned builder.
In addition to his Muslim followers, Data Faiz Darya had many Hindu disciples, including Hargobind Ram, Bhai Hasa Ram and Bhai Gur Dino. Hargobind Ram, who served under Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur (r. 1843-1894), left his job and became a disciple of Data Faiz Darya. He built a bungalow for his spiritual mentor. The building was called Faiz Mahal. The gaddi nashins of Data Faiz Darya’s dargah later expanded and renovated Faiz Mahal. Bhai Hasa Ram hailed from Larkana and Bhai Gur Dino from Baqirani near Larkana.
Data Faiz Darya never married. He appointed his nephew, Syed Pir Shah II, also known as Bagan Shah I, as a custodian of the shrine. After his death, Bagan Shah became the custodian of his dargah. His son, Data Vilayat Shah, succeeded him, a poet writing in Sindhi and Seraiki languages. Vilayat Shah’s kalam, Anbah Mein Arah, was compiled by Sufi Shafi Muhammad Soomro in 1990. Vilayat Shah died on March 7, 1982. He was succeeded by his son, Syed Bagan Shah II, known for his piety and Sindhi poetry. Bagan Shah II passed away in 2003. The present custodian of the dargah is Syed Jan Muhammad Shah, son of Data Bagan Shah II.
The shrine complex of Data Faiz Darya is a popular destination for people of all faiths in the Shikarpur district. Upon entering the complex through the portico, visitors can see the takhat (throne) or bhethak of Bagan Shah II on the left, known for its beautiful ornamentation. Also close to the takhat is the Data Faiz Darya Mahal, a structure built by Hargobind Ram, a disciple of Data Faiz Darya. Originally, it was a one-chamber building. However, it was later extended and Data Vilayat Shah, the second gaddi nashin of the dargah, added a verandah. Bagan Shah II, the third gaddi nashin, later rebuilt the verandah.
According to Anbah Mein Arah Data Vilayat Shah Jo Kalam, compiled by Sufi Shafi Muhammad Soomro (1990:12), the five-domed tomb of Data Faiz Darya was constructed by Charan Singh from Amritsar, a Sikh follower of Data Vilayat Shah who was a renowned builder. After embracing Islam and being named Muhammad Saleh Shaikh, he built a tomb and painted the domed ceilings of a verandah, depicting several holy places and shrines. The eastern verandah of the tomb contains several graves of disciples of Data Faiz Darya and Data Vilayat Shah. The grave of Mistri Muhammad Saleh Shaikh is located to the east of the shrine of Data Faiz Darya. One enters through the eastern verandah to reach the main shrine of Data Faiz Darya, which is crowned with a dome. It contains two graves under a wooden canopy belonging to Data Faiz Darya, son of Pir Muhammad Shah, on the left, and the right first gadi nashin Pir Sher II alias Bagan Shah I, son of Taj Muhammad Shah. The graves of Data Vilayat Shah and his son Bagan Shah II are situated in the southern verandah of the tomb of Data Faiz Darya.
According to Akhtar Dargai, a writer and grandson of Mai Begam Faqirani, Mai Begam Fagirani (d.1987) was the first female sufi singer of Sindh. She was a devout follower of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (d.1752). She used to sing at various sufi shrines in Sindh and was initiated into the Naqshbandiyya-Qadiriyya order by Data Vilayat Shah. For several years, she sang at the dargah of Data Faiz Darya. Sufi raga involves singing the poetry of Data Faiz Darya, his followers, and his disciples. It is also performed at various ‘maikhanas’ associated with the shrine complex.
These complexes have become places where free accommodation and food are served, and sessions on the spiritual masters’ praiseworthy narrations are held. Mai Begam’s father, Haroon Faqir, followed Bagan Shah I.
The writer is an anthropologist. He has authored 12 books on anthropology, cultural heritage, art and religion in Pakistan. He tweets at @kalhorozulfiqar