I recall a remark by a Muslim dervish at the shrine of Miyon Shah Ghazi, whose shrine is located 22 km south-east of Chachro at Tagthio village in Tharparkar district – that he made when I was doing research on the Hindu-Muslim shared shrines. He commented that wherever I go in Sindh I would find a shrine of a Sadhu, Sanyasi, Sant, Udasi, Bairagi and Sufi. The lived experience of a dervish opens a new vista to a novice researcher on religious traditions in Sindh. True to the words of the dervish, the landscape of Sindh is vividly dotted with the shrines of Hindu Sadhus and Muslim Sufis and Faqirs. Like many Sufis saints whose shrines are the site of adoration, the shrine of Qazi Ahmad is the most popular in the town of the same name in the district of Shaheed Benazirabad.
Qazi Ahmad was an eminent Sufi saint of the 18th century. He was born in 1705 in Talti village during the reign of Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro (1700-1718). He got his early Islamic education from his father Muhammad Siddique who was also a well-known scholar and teacher in a madrasa in Sehwan. Later he studied at the madrasa of the eminent religious scholar of the time Makhdoom Abdul Wahid Sewistani and completed his studies under his supervision and guidance. He studied Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and Hadith at the madrasa of Makhdoom Abdul Wahid Sewistani. After completing his education Qazi Ahmad migrated from Sehwan and settled in Dim village, which was located between Moro and Sakrand towns. He built his mosque and madrasa there and began imparting Islamic education to the people of Dim and the nearby villages. Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro, who was the ruler of Sindh at that time, heard about his piety and religiosity and appointed him the Qazi of Lakhat region in 1750 which now comprises the towns of Moro and Daulatpur. Due to his permanent settlement in Dim village, he also became known as Dimmai or Pir Dimmai.
One day on way to Makkah via Surat – as it was the main seaport from where the people of Sindh used go for performing Hajj – Qazi Ahmed Dimmai stayed one night at Luari Sharif where he heard the name and fame of Khwaja Muhammad Zaman Sultan Aulia (1713-1775) and went to meet him in his hermitage. It is believed that when he met him, he was quite impressed by his knowledge and became his disciple instantly. Over a period of time, he came to be called Khalifa (deputy) of Khwaja Muhammad Zaman Sultan Aulia.
Khwaja Muhammad Zaman Sultan Aulia was an eminent Naqshbandi Sufi and he made Luari Sharif (where today his tomb is located) an important centre for that order of mystics. After Thatta, it became most popular Naqshbandi centre in 18th-century Sindh. Many scholars studied at Luari Sharif and spread the Naqshbandi teachings to every part of Sindh. Many of the deputies and disciples of Khwaja Muhammad Zaman Sultan Aulia preached not only in Sindh but also in Balochistan and Punjab. The list of the eminent Khalifas of Khwaja Muhammad Zaman Sultan Aulia included: Abdul Rahim Girhori, Makhdoom Muhammad Yousaf Bugai, Ghulam Muhammad Bugai, Makhdoom Haji Muhammad Saleh Dahri, Shaikh Abu Talib Aghami, Hafiz Hidayatullah, Syed Ahmed Lahori and Qazi Ahmed Dimmai.
Like his other deputies, Qazi Ahmad spent many years with his mentor and frequently travelled between Luari Sharif in Badin and Dim Sharif. Qazi Ahmad left the village of Dim and founded another village which was called after his name: ‘Ahmad Jo Goth’ (the village of Ahmad) where he built a mosque. Over period of time and after his death, the village came to be called Qazi Ahmad.
Qazi Ahmad died in 1808 and was buried in that very village. In terms of modern administrative units, Qazi Ahmad is now a Taluk of Shaheed Benazirabad. Many people became the disciples of Qazi Ahmad. However, four of his Khalifas were particularly important in spreading his teachings around Sindh and Punjab. They were:
1) Syed Noor Muhammad Shah whose shrine is located in Khahi Kundha in Noshero Feroz district.
2) Mian Abdul Karim Khatti whose shrine is located in Penghri in Matiari district.
3) Makhdoom Abdul Wali whose shrine is located in Darbelo in Noshero Feroz district
4) Haji Hussain Shah (1767-1828) of Makan Sharif at Rattar Chhattar in Gurdaspur in Indian Punjab.
A distinguished deputy of Qazi Ahmad, Hussain Shah spread the message of his mentor Qazi Ahmad in Gurdaspur district in what is today Indian Punjab. He taught a number of eminent scholars and mystics who expanded the Naqshbandi silsila to other towns of modern-day Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab. Two of his eminent disciples Syed Imam Ali Shah (1798-1866) and Syed Budhan Shah also converted many people to Islam. All the deputies and their disciples in Indian Punjab were spiritually connected to the dargah of Qazi Ahmad.
The tomb of Qazi Ahmad is believed to have been built by his eminent disciple Muhammad Moosa Khatian who served Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur. The tomb is one of the remarkable structures of Talpur period. Apart from the grave of Qazi Ahmed, the tomb also contains the graves of Gadi Nashins of his shrine. The prominent Gadi Nashins buried in the tomb include Pir Muhammad Saleh (1787-1817) who was son of Qazi Ahmad (1787-1817), Pir Abdul Wahid (the eldest son of Muhammad Saleh), Pir Noorullah (died in 1878), Pir Mian Shafi Muhammad (1850-1899), Pir Muhammad Sadiq (1882-1919), Pir Mian Pir Muhammad (1887-1956) and Haji Faiz Muhammad alias Rahimee Badshah (died in 1995) There are also some graves outside of the tomb of Qazi Ahmad. The grave of Pir Muhammad Ali (died in 1881), who was also Gadi Nashin of Qazi Ahmad’s Dargah, is located in front of the tomb. The other graves include those of close relatives of Qazi Ahmad. The graves of some relatives and disciples are also located in Mian Muhammad graveyard at Dim Sharif – which is taken care of by the people of the Bhatti tribe.
The remnants of Qazi Ahmad’s mosque – only the Thalo (platform) – are also located in Dim Sharif, which is also the most sacred place for the disciples of Qazi Ahmad. All the places connected to Qazi Ahmad are special for his devotees. The mosque and shrine of Qazi Ahmad are decorated with paintings: both within and outside.