Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is a famous Sufi poet from Sehwan, Sindh (1177-1274).
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, an early Sufi poet of Sindh, was born Syed Usman Marwandi in Afghanistan in 1177 AD. From a young age he showed signs of a deep spiritual nature and by the age of 20 was initiated into Sufism. He was a contemporary of Bahauddin Zakariya of Multan, Baba Farid Ganj Shakar of Pakpattan and Jalaluddin Bukhari of Uch, Bahawalpur. They were known as the Char Yaar or Four Friends. According to some sources they travelled together through the subcontinent and spread the message of Islam and Sufism.
After his travels Shahbaz Qalandar settled down in Sehwan Sherif, Sindh. According to legend, when he arrived in Sehwan, the faqirs of the town sent him a bowl of milk filled to the brim to indicate that the town was filled with faqirs and there was no place for more. He sent back the bowl with a single flower floating on top indicating that Sehwan could accommodate one more.
Shahbaz Qalandar preached religious tolerance amongst Muslims and Hindus. He was also a poet and was said to be fluent in Persian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Arabic and Sindhi. He was known as Lal (red) after the red robe he wore, Shahbaz (royal falcon) to denote mystical and spiritual heights he attained, and Qalandar for his Sufi affiliation.
Shahbaz Qalander’s humanist message resulted in a large following over the centuries amongst both Muslims as well as Hindus. Many others, such as Shah Abdul Latif and Sachal Sarmast, carried on his tradition in Sindh. The famous qawwali “Dam Dam Mast Qalandar” was modified by Bulleh Shah to honor Shahbaz Qalandar. Each year an urs, death anniversary celebration, is held in Sehwan on 18 Sha’aban, which often attracts over a million pilgrims.