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Shaikh Baha al-din Zakriya (1170-1262)

Shaikh Baha al-Din Zakariya was a Sufi mystic, recognised for establishing the Suhrawardi order in South Asia. Born near Multan in 1170, Zakariya studied under the Shahab al-Din Abu Hafs Umar Suhrawardi in Baghdad. He was recognised by Suhrawardi as his spiritual successor (khalifa), and tasked with spreading Suhrawardi teachings in southern Punjab. The success of Baha al-Din Zakariya’s appeal to the populace resulted in the establishing of the Suhrawardi presence in the region.

The fame of Baha’ al-Din Zakariya’s spiritual powers was such that his support was considered crucial to political and military ventures. The ruler of Multan, Nasir al-Din Qabacha, was a devotee of Zakariya, as vied with the ruler of Delhi, Iltutmish, for the saint’s favour. After the conquest of Multan by Iltutmish in 1227, Zakariya became closely affiliated with the Mamluk rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, and was granted the title of Shaikh ul-Islam by Iltutmish. 

Other spiritual figures whom Zakariya was closely associated with were: Hazrat Syed Usman Marwandi, better known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar of Sehwan; the Chishti saint Baba Farid al-Din Ganj Shakar (who stayed in Uch for a significant period before settling in Pakpattan), and Zakariya’s own khalifa, Jalal al-Din Bukhari “Surkh-posh” (clad in red) of Uch. These associations, as well as Zakariya’s relationship with Shams (the Ismaili da’i in Multan) reflect the coexistence of multiple spiritual ideologies and practices in the region at the time, and the interaction of Suhrawardis, Chishtis and Ismailis.  

References and further reading: 

Asif, Manan Ahmed. A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2016.

Khan, Hasan Ali. Constructing Islam on the Indus: The Material History of the Suhrawardi Sufi Order, 1200-1500 AD. New York: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Cambridge University Press, 2016.


Dr.Zarah Ameer Shah