Hazrat Sultan Ali Shah Gonabadi
The Master of all Gnostics, pride of all the Sages, head of all jurisprudents, the perfect ascetic and great moralist, His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah Gonabadi.
His noble name was
Hajj Sultan Mohammad son of Mulla Hydar Mohammad an inhabitant of Baydukht
Gonabad. His esteemed father Mulla Hydar Mohammad was taken captive in one
of the raids made by the Turkamens who had come to Gonabad for robbery and
plunder, after sometime in captivity, his relatives paid a ransom and he was
set free and chose to live in Noodeh farm, and during the same time, had the
honor to meet His Holiness Nour Ali Shah the first and be initiated into
dervish hood or Sufism. Then in the year 1254 AHL. with the intension of
visiting the Holy Shrines and the purposes of visiting and being in the
presence of His Holiness Hussain Ali Shah to renew the covenant started the
journey by way of
His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah was born on the 28th Jaumadi-al-ula 1251 AHL and from the age of 3 years was deprived of seeing his father; His Holiness till the age of 6 years grew up in the care of his mother, who was a devoted believer, then, his mother entrusted him to a school, overflowing intelligence and a strong memory made him capable to recite the Koran and read books in less than six months.
His Holiness after reading a few Farsi books had to leave school due to financial reasons and started helping his elder brother Mulla Mohammad Ali, who had taken the responsibility to look after him and his mother, to earn a living he used to help his brother and for a while was engaged in grazing sheep. His Holiness till the age of seven, thus, for a livelihood was a helping hand to his brother, till one day by chance with the intention of seeing his sister he went to the village of Baylond which is about twelve kilometers from Baydukht and passed by the village school and remembered his schooling days, the enthusiasm to study set ablaze within him again, on returning back to Baydukht, he expresses to his mother that he saw all his friends who were of the same age going to school to study and I also wish to go to school to study. His mother accepts his request subject to the permission and consent of his elder brother, when his elder brother comes home at night, his mother informs him of His Holiness’s keenness to study and he says, my dear mother, you know that we do not have the financial ability to hire a Shepard to look after the sheep and we have to do all the work ourselves and I need my brother to help me. After a few days, His Holiness again insists to his mother, and at last, his mother persuades his elder brother and His Holiness starts to go to school in the Baylond village.
On behalf on His Holiness, it has been narrated, that he had said, at the time of schooling he was always careful in executing religious duties and in worship and was always internally at unrest, that, it would be better if my own ideas are looked into and I should merely not stay in the condition of imitating (following a religious teacher). In the presence of one of the teachers started reading a chapter on Hadi Ashar, one day the teacher was in a position to prove the oneness of Almighty God and referred to the noble verse of the Koran.
“If there were in them gods besides Allah, they would have been in disorder. So glory be to Allah, the Lord of the Throne, being above what they describe” (Chapter 21 Al Anbiya, verse 22).
Involuntarily, in this citation, in my opinion there seemed to be a complexity and I said to the teacher, that, we are still in the rank of proving the Oneness of God and after proving this the necessity then to prove our claims should be made, it is that time that we will reach the proof of common and special prophesy, till the truth and fullness of the Koran is known to us, it is only then, we can reason and search for such verses, whereas, we are still in the beginning to prove the Oneness of God. Hence, to deduce from the verses of the Koran is not permissible and logical for us. The teacher remained confounded from the reply, his helplessness shook me up, that these are teachers and the learned and they are baffled like me, then which is the way to arrive at the truth?
This thought created a fear in me, agitated and distressed, I went after the truth searching for it in every science and if I found something extraordinary in science somewhere, I put it in a pot as a reward till maybe the purpose was obtained, but the face of purpose in between the school and scientific books was not manifested, till the blessings of God and I got the assistance of the Saints by pounding at the door of the heart and seized the pond of knowledge and the shining face of purpose. Thanks to God.
Nevertheless, His Holiness acquired mastery in the external science of religious jurisprudence and its principles, logic, rhetoric and theosophy and was made a contemporary peer in that area, but at the same time being engaged in studies his heart was always towards the direction of the Almighty and he had complete attention for the execution of the minutest religious duties, even staying awake and reciting the Koran during the nights and the performance of the supererogatory prayers. For this reason, some people sometimes used to witness signs in him, the school janitor where His Holiness used to study had said to one of the teachers by the name of Sheikh Zia-e-din, that most of the nights he used to see a light from the room of Mulla Sultan Mohammad, but when I used to go behind the door of the room, I could see no light. However, till the time he could gain scientific knowledge from religious authorities of Gonabad he did so, and when their satchel was drained out, he came to his mother to obtain permission to go on a journey, out of Gonabad for further studies.
She said: a journey such as this involves expenses and you know that we do not have the means to afford it, but at last, as a result of his insistence, his mother consented and gave him a sum of seven Kran ( which is equal to 7 rials ) as a present and with blessings and prayers saw him off.
His Holiness departed for Mashad on foot, entered the renowned school called the Mirza Jaffar School and was engaged in studying and learnt the science of jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence, interpretations and traditions as much as he could by the side of esteemed teachers and during the period of his studies he used to subject himself to mortification and be content with little food,
Just as he had said that the 7 rials which was given to him by the kindness of his mother, in the first month I gave one rial and received 80 <<Jandak>> change money of that time, he used to put the Jhandak under the rug and everyday used to spend a few Jhandak from it for food and during the end of the month used to have a few Jhandak remaining. He used to live in this manner and used to continue his studies with the notion that he did not want to burden his brother and did not ask for his help and with contentment and renouncement of his soul used to continue his livelihood. He even refused to receive the customary salary for religious students from the school and never made use of it, till the entire amount he had finished and passed a few days with difficulty and hardship.
During this time, a group of religious students of the school of which His Holiness was among them was invited to a private house in a village nearby the city for lunch. His Holiness started off early in the morning to go to the invited house with his friends, outside the city door, saw a group of people harvesting wheat from the fields and another group behind them was busy engaged in gathering them. He had said: because I saw them I said to myself going to this invitation the intentions of which was not known and from where the money was provided for. What aspect does it have? My heart did not consent to go to this invitation and I slowly kept myself back from my friends and as they passed on, I started gathering the wheat till evening when my friends returned back from the invitation, I hid myself from them and in the night with a quantity of wheat I went to the city and left the wheat with the baker and for sometime in exchange for the wheat used to obtain bread till I received a sum of money from Gonabad.
In short, he completed most of the conventional acquired sciences in Mashad, but for the completion of this formal science, the inner heat and the unrest of the heart did not keep him back and his desired purpose was not visible and did not find the inner light which he was searching for. From this side, the fire of his quest became sharper and his disturbed mind more intense. In this state, he thought of traveling to one of the countrysides of Mashad. And as he had mentioned, since I was in doubt about the distance when prays become curtailed (shortened) or recited complete, I referred to one of the jurisprudents, who was also among the scholars and in this regards asked him a question.
He in reply said: My judgment in this matter is such, although I was acquainted with religious jurisprudence, the answer of this person shocked me severely. It was strange, I was asking him for God’s decree and he is saying my judgment. is such . I desire to hear God’s decree and not to hear others judgment. This matter discouraged and perplexed me completely from the regular and acquired sciences I had gained to that day and increased my anxiety.
In these circumstances, I heard that in Sabzewar, there is a theosophist by the name of Hajj Mulla Hadi and that in the science of theosophy he was a master among his contemporaries and his school is different to other schools of jurisprudence and its principles.
The eagerness to
meet him and to study in his
Then, he made a journey to the Holy Shrines and reached the external sciences to the furtherest degree of perfection and when returning from the Holy Shrines stopped in Teheran and established a studying session.
Most of the religious students, knew him to be more learned and of a strong character than their previous teachers and like a butterfly around a candle used to gather round him to such an extent that caused the envy of contemporary theologian teachers and professors and because he also used to teach theosophy, they made this an excuse and accused him of being a follower of Bahaism, which was a severe charge then. Therefore, His Holiness was forced to leave Teheran and returns back to Hajj Sabzewari and like before started to gain knowledge in his presence.
During this time
which was the year 1280 AHL. His Holiness Hajj Mohammad Kazem Saadat Ali
Shah with a group of disciples and chiefs of the Bakhtiari tribes set out
for Mashad and arrived in Sabzewar at an
A few students of Hajj Sabzewari including His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah decide to go and meet him, and saw a group of people sitting in silence with discipline, submissive and humble in his presence. Naturally, those who had just arrived also sat in discipline and silence. The group of students in a whisper said to each other, it would be good if we ask this gentleman the question we asked Hajj Sabzewari and the answer which was postponed to a later time, till the degree of this gentleman’s perfection is known to us. Then permission was requested for to ask a question, the matter was put forward.
His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah in the beginning said: I am not well versed in the Arabic language and do not have much scientific information, from this reply, they looked at each other and smiled. Then, what was Hajj Sabzewari saying about him? His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah immediately said: but you read the exact passage from the book, till whatever reaches my mind I shall give my views. These words was mostly to their surprise with the confession made as to not having much knowledge about Arabic, now he says, you read the exact passage.
Although in the
same one or two meetings His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah was drawn towards His
Holiness Saadat Ali Shah and attracted by his eloquent speech, but through
the spiritual strength and forbearance and innate self preservation would
not surrender himself in Sabzewar as a seeker, but after His Holiness Saadat
Ali Shah left Sabzewar, the fire of yearning in his heart set ablaze and the
one he longed to see had journeyed, drove him helpless. Then with the
permission of his teacher Hajj Sabzewari left for Mashad and when in Mashad
inquired about his lost wish in every lane and street till he finally found
his wish and declared his submission. By chance at the same time, the envoy
sent by His Holiness’s mother from Gonabad entered Mashad to take him home
and found His Holiness in the presence of Mr. Saadat Ali Shah, who when
informed of this matter and in reply to the request of his declaration to
submission said: presently, to obey your mother’s commands is more
necessary.. Comply to your mother’s orders and go to Gonabad, God willing,
we shall see each other again. His Holiness according to orders, set out for
Gonabad and when in Gonabad his mother insisted that he should get married,
but His Holiness would not agree and the desire to fly to the place of his
true beloved was in his head, till finally, to obey his mother’s orders, he
agreed on condition that before he takes his wife to his home, he would go
on the required journey which he had on mind and then got ready to marry the
dignified daughter of Hajj Mulla Ali Bayduckti, who was the honorable mother
of His Holiness Nour Ali Shah the second. Then in the year 1280 AHL set out
Holiness Sultan Ali Shah, from the road of Tabas and
After having entered Isfahan and finding the residence of His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah, he said to himself that His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah is aware of my condition, I shall not knock on the door and inform of my arrival, till His Holiness comes out himself, this thought was still within him that the door opened and His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah comes out of his house. Involuntarily, he falls at the feet of His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah and starts crying. His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah with a smile said: Gonabadi theologian, what do you want from me? He with severe enthusiasm declared his submission and with ardent desire requested to be initiated into Fagr. His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah says, for the time being, go to one of the schools and lodge there, for the attending of the affairs of the Fugara, I have specified a special time, you also come at that time and put your request forward to be initiated, but His Holiness does not give up and increases his crying, till he is initiated to Fagr. It is said on the third day of His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah’s initiation, His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah says in the gathering of the Fugara. The road which a Faghir (Faithful) goes through in 60 years; this Khorasani has gone through in 3 nights.
However, His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah, used to spend the nights at the school and during the day used to spend in the companionship of his honorable Pir. After seeking for sometime, took leave from the presence of His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah and returned back to Gonabad and settled down in Bayduckt and took his wife to his home and occupied himself in Agriculture, which is considered as one of the best occupations. Till the year 1284, four days after the birth of his son His Holiness Nour Ali Shah the second, with the intension to visit the Holy Shrines and to have the honor to be in the presence of his honorable Pir, he set out from Gonabad and after visiting the Holy Shrines, he went to Isfahan to be in the presence of his honorable Pir.
For sometime, he was under the training of His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah to cultivate with care and effort the purification and brightness of the heart to full capacity and obtained the decree to be the successor of His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah and take up the guidance of people and was given the spiritual title Sultan Ali Shah. His friend and companion traveler His Eminence Mirza Abdulhusssain also in the same decree was appointed as an aid and assistant with His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah as a guide to the seekers. The Caliphate of His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah and the guidance ship of His Eminence Mirza Abdulhussain are written in the same decree. Then His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah commanded His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah to return to Gonabad. His Holiness with up most grief and with a heavy heart left according to the orders of His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah and returned to Gonabad.
His Holiness after returning to Gonabad got occupied and tangled from several directions. From one side , the death of Hajj Mulla Ali, his wife’s father who was the leader of the Friday prayers in that locality and as he did not have a son to succeed him, His Holiness was compelled to accept for sometime to be the leader of Friday prayers. From the other side, on account of the death of his honorable wife, he had to take full responsibility to look after the affairs and care for his two children he had from his esteemed wife. From another side he was over burdened by those who referred to him for asking religious and canonical questions, from another side, the constant flow of the Fugara from various provinces and large cities to be in his presence and to look after their external affairs in a village which was lacking in everything and to pay attention to their spiritual affairs and to lead them was His Holiness’s responsibility over burdened him.
The most difficult and grievous was the allegation and hostility of the infidels and the envy of the jealous traitors towards His Holiness. Although, through his genius in the external science and his perfection in asceticism and self restraint and virtue of intellect was to the attention and affection of all far and near and this was the cause of jealously from the resentful and hostility from the enemy specially from the religious authorities of that locality who openly started opposition and conflict and back biting against His Holiness. Nevertheless, tired from the many entanglements, he postponed his planned journey due to family and domestic affairs, till gradually his intention to journey was substituted to always stay in Gonabad. Seven years had passed since the death of his wife; the author’s mother. His Holiness got married to the daughter of Mirza Abdulhussain Riyabee who was appointed a guide and assistant by His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah. His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah, after appointing His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah as his successor, seldom used to initiate seekers and most of the time he used to send them to Gonabad to His Holiness Sultan Ali Shah, who out of respect used to refrain from initiating them and used to send them back to his honorable Guide (Pir), till in the year 1293 AHL when His Holiness Saadat Ali Shah passed away and vacated the robe of guidance. His Holiness independently sat on the throne of guidance and was engaged in the guidance of worshippers and in the month of Shaban of 1305 AHL with a few of his disciples and sincere followers set out on a journey to the House of God ( Kabah ) and from Hejaz visited the Holy Shrines, at the Holy Shrines he met and discussed with a few important religious authorities, such as the late Haj Sheikh Zeinalabedin Mazandarani and Ayatollah Haj Mirza Hassan Shirazi and other ordinary jurists, and in Jamadi - ul - Sani 1306 AHL returned back to his homeland as usual and in a short time with virtuous morals and extensive knowledge and fatherly compassion with the public and attending to the conditions of the poor, helpless and the needy, and with devotion and self restraint, cheerfulness and firmness in social relations drew people from near and far towards himself in such a way that not only the inhabitants of Gonabad but rather where ever his name was mentioned and said the people used to turn their hearts towards His Holiness and in times of difficulty knew him to be a refuge and asylum and considered his threshold as a place of safety and security.
His Holiness in the year 1308 AHL visited Mashad, the shrine of the eight Imam Hazrat Reza (As) and in that journey with the hands of one of the atheist and the disbelievers pretending to be clergy was poisoned by means of dry bread and suffered with a severe fever in such a way that his companions had become restless and expressed their anxiety, but His Holiness had said, be sure this obstacle will be removed. But as he was not invited to the hour of death, he was treated and cured and returned back to Baydukht.
His Holiness besides being engaged in Agriculture was a resolver of difficulties for those who referred to him, from farmers, peasants etc and to arrange provision for their convenience and outward comfort and to pay attention to the spiritual training of the Fugara that a large number of them were from Baydukht’s villages. His Holiness had two orderly programs everyday. First, in the early mornings at sunrise, he used to start medical practice and attend to the sick people, who used to come from far and near, even from thirty, forty leagues (1 league is 6Kms) to be treated. His Holiness used to spend two hours to examine the patients and to give them prescription and orders, that all the, medicine he prescribed was of a herbal base and home made. If a patient or a traveler or helpless person was from another village and not in a position to call back to his home or locality, he used to take him to his own house and used to give orders to prepare his medicine and food in the house and for a day or two used to be his host till he was in a position to return back to his house or locality. He used to treat the patients with one prescription and that there was no need for a second prescription.
His other program was in the evening nearing two hours to sunset he would go to the school and till sunset teach the Fugara and those present the interpretation of the Holy Koran and from the book the Principles of Kafi. Anyhow, although Baydukht was a village far away from great knowledge and big cities and unknown, nevertheless his external and spiritual fame and attainment, renowned perfect ness in science and the fame of his morals and character and goodness and his sociability and specially his specialization in medicine, made him famous everywhere and his noble name went far and near, even in the near foreign countries and well known countries and his name was mentioned with respect and affection and day by day his fame in excellence and virtues increased.
From the other side, the fire of jealously in the resentful set ablaze and specially enmity in the pretending to be learned and devoid of senses increased and enmity reached its zenith and with the instigation of a group outside of Gonabad and jealously of some persons from Gonabad, who were unaware and ignorant of God, and that a few of them were under the shelter of His Holiness. In the early dawn on Saturday the 26th Rabi al-Awwal 1327 AHL during the time of performing the ablution in the garden connected to his house, His Holiness was attached and with sinful hands, his blessed throat which was a passage of the remembrance of God was so much squeezed that His Holiness was martyred and was united with his beloved. During this time, his blessed age was 76years, out of which 34 years of his life he sat independently on the throne of guidance and was engaged in the guidance of the worshippers and seekers.
His Holiness in the year 1314 AHL according to his own handwriting appointed his son His Eminence Mulla Ali as his Caliphate and successor with the spiritual title Nour Ali Shah.
His Holiness has authored several books:
1) Marginal notes on the book Asfar of Mulla Sadra,
2) Commentary on Tahzib-ul-Mantegh of Mulla Saad Taftazani called Tazhib-ul-Tahzib,
3) Booklet on Arabic Syntax (not published yet),
4) A book Sa’adatnameh on science and its nobleness and what is relevant to it,
5) A book called Velayatnameh a commentary and explanation on the rules of the heart and affairs relating to Velayat,
6) A book Besharat-ul-Mumenin and Tanbih-ul-Naemin,
7) An exegesis of the Holy Koran called Bayan-o-Sa’adeh,
8) An Arabic explanation on Aphorisms (short wise phases) of Baba Taher Oriyan called Izah,
9) A Farsi commentary on Aphorism (Short wise phases) of Baba Taher called Tozeeh,
All above has been published.
Marriage and children of His Holiness:
His Holiness had two wives; his first wife was the daughter of the late Hajj Mulla Ali Baydukhti and from this dignified lady, he had two children, the first was a girl called Khatoon, second His Holiness Mulla Ali Nour Ali Shah, his successor. After the death of his first wife, he married the daughter of His Eminence Mirza Abdulhussain, guide of the Fugara and from this honorable lady till the time of his martyrdom had five children, four daughters with the names Zobaidah, Zahra, Gohar and Kokab and one son who is the author of this book and called Mohammad Baqer.
Authorized Sheikhs and persons on behalf of His Holiness:
1) Mr. Mirza Mohammad Sadeq Namazi endowed with the spiritual title Faiz Ali
2) Hajj Mulla Mohammad Jafar Barzoki endowed with the spiritual title Mahboob Ali
3) Hajj Sheikh Abdullah Haeri ibn Sheikh who was endowed with the spiritual title Rahmat Ali
4) Mr. Mirza Agha Sadr ul Orafa the second son of His Excellency Hajj Mirza Zainulabedin Shirvani, Mr. Mast Ali Shah who was authorized to instruct the litanies and special remembrance of God and did not have the permission to initiate.
Contemporaries of His Holiness:
1) Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabzewari
2) Mr. Hajj Mirza Hassan well known as Mirza Shirazi
3) Mr. Syed Mohammad Hussain Shahrestani
4) Akhond Mulla Mohammad Kazem Khorasani
5) Mr. Syed Mohammad Kazem Yazdi
6) Mr. Syed Mohammad Tabatabaie
7) Mir Syed Abdullah Behbahani
8) Hajj Mirza Habibullah Rashti
9) Hajj Mirza Hussain Hajj Mirza Khalil
10) Mirza Abulhassan Jelveh
Those related to mysticism and the Spiritual path and dignitaries of other Sects:
1) Hajj Agha Mohammad well known as Monawar Ali Shah
2) Hajj Mirza Hassan named as Safi Ali Shah
3) Hajj Mohammad Karim Khan Kermani well known as Sarkar Agha
4) Aghakhan Mahallati head of the Ismailieh sect
5) Mirza Mohammad Hussain Asamme Eshghi Zahabi
From Kings and Chiefs:
2) Muzaffar al din Shah
3) Mohammad Ali Shah
4) Mirza Ali Asghar Khan Atabak
5) Mirza Ali Khan Amin o douleh
6) The late Saraj al Malek
1) Mirza Mohammad Taghi Sepehr
2) Hajj Mahdi Hejab Shirazi
3) Mirza Ahmad Vaghar Shirazi
4) Mohammad Kazem Saburi Kashani
5)Mirza Akhtar Tousi