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Sayyid Ma'sum 'Ali Shah Dakani
14th Qutb of the Nimatullahi Order
(c. 1738–1797)


Other names: Sayyed Mir 'Abd al Hamid Ma'sum 'Alishah Dakani

Biographical

Born into an aristocratic family and probably of Persian origin, he was known as 'the renewer' for the role he played in restoring the Nimatullah order in Persia. As a youth he was a follower of Shah 'Ali Rida Dakani, the qutb of the Nimatullahi Order who gave him the name Ma'sum 'Ali Shah. In 1770 he was sent by 'Ali Rida to Persia to re-establish the order there after a lapse of two centuries. He seems to have become independent of his master and eventually, the entire order itself transferred to Persia, as it declined in India. He is considered the successor of 'Ali Rida Dakani and the master of the Nimatullahi Order, even though he died before him.

He began his endeavours at Shiraz, where his followers soon amounted to more than thirty thousand. The orthodox priests took alarm, and prevailed on the mild Karim Khan to banish the saint from his capital, but his reputation was increased by the act of power which proclaimed him dangerous. After Karim Khan's death Mir Mu'sum, who resided in a small village near Isfahan, deputed his first disciple, Fayaz 'Ali, to teach in that city. That holy person soon died, and was succeeded in his office by his son Nur 'Ali Shah : who, though young in years, was 'old in piety'. Initially welcomed in Isfahan, the number and rank of Mir Ma'sum's followers excited alarm in the priests of Isfahan, who transmitted so exaggerated an account of the vile heresies of the Sufis to 'All Murad Khan, the king, and recommended him so strongly to support the faith, by punishing those whose opinions were alike hostile to true religion and good government, that the monarch, the moment he received their representation, sent orders to cut off the noses and ears (Ma'sum and Nur 'Ali Shah were amongst the victims of this) of some among the most zealous of the obnoxious sect; and as a farther disgrace, to shave the beards of all who had adopted their opinions. The ignorant soldiers entrusted with the execution of this mandate, were not very capable of discriminating between true believers and infidels; and we are assured by a contemporary writer, that many orthodox Muhammadans had their noses and ears cut off and their beards shaved on this memorable occasion.

Eventually, Ma'sum 'Ali and his followers settled in Herat. Ma'sum 'Ali Shah later settled in Karbala and was joined there by Nur 'Ali Shah . Being forced to leave Karbala, Ma'sum 'Ali embarked on a pilgrimage to Mashad, and stopping at Kermansah where the Shi'ite mojtahed Mohammad-'Ali Behbahani, known as 'Sufi killer', was present, he was arrested, put on trial, and soon executed. Other accounts state that he was murdered when at prayers in the midst of his followers.

This sect, however, notwithstanding the efforts of their enemies, continued to increase in numbers, and Nur 'Ai Shah, with all who adhered to him, were banished the kingdom. His avowed disciples were at this period about sixty thousand, but many more were supposed to be secretly devoted to him. He is said to have been poisoned at Mausal. It is related that two inhabitants of Kermansah, who were distinguished by an extraordinary appearance of zeal, dressed his dinner on the day that he was suddenly attacked by violent spasms, which in a few hours terminated his existence. Their flight led all to suspect them of having poisoned him.

Place of birth: Hyderabad
Place of death and burial(?): Kermansah

 

Sources

1. D. Hermann; M. Terrier. Shi'i Islam and Sufism: Classical Views and Modern Perspectives. London; New York: I.B. Tauris in Association of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2020.
2. H. Algar. Dakani, Sayyed Mir 'Abd al Hamid Ma'sum. Encyclopaedia Iranica, 15 December 1993.
3. H.G. Keene. An Oriental Biographical Dictionary Founded on Materials Collected by Thomas William Beale. London: W. H. Allen & Co., Limited, 1894.
4. L. Lewisohn. An Introduction to the History of Modern Persian Sufism, Part I: The Ni'matullahi Order: Persecution, Revival and Schism. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Vol. 61, No. 3, 1998, pp. 437-464.

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