Pakistan : Shah Daula, a muslim saint

Muslim women praying on the tomb of a religious leader. Punjab province, Pakistan.

Muslim women praying on the tomb of a religious leader. Punjab province, Pakistan.

During the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ( 1627-1658, he is the one who ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal), the town of Sialkot ( Punjab province, Pakistan) became home to the saint Pir Shah Daula, a sufi master hailing from Baghdad ( Irak). Known for his good deeds, especially for the poor, Shah Daula established a home (“khan kah”) for invalids. In particular, he gave food, shelter and clothing to sufferers of microcephaly – a condition where the brain does not fully develop and victims have particularly small heads. Due to their appearance, these people are known locally as “mouse”.
During his lifetime, many childless women would come to pray with Shah Daula in the hope of producing offspring. Following his death, a mythology developed that suggestedthat those praying for children at his shrine entered into a contract in which their first born was to be left at the shrine to serve the community of microcephaly sufferers. For those who reneged on the contract, it was prophesied that their next child would be born with an abnormally sized head.
The descendants of Shah Daula, including those who attend to the shrine today, have done much to dispel ths myth, stating that it is not within the teachings of the Pir ( In Pakistan, “pir” are muslim religious leaders). Most worshippers at the shrine today, however, are women.

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