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Pir Sadardin or Pir Sadruddin was a fourteenth-century Ismaili Da'i and is regarded as the founder of the Khoja Ismaili sect, also called Satpanth. Born in Persia, Sadardin later travelled to the Indian sub-continent, settled in the Sindh area, founded the Khoja community and developed the Khojki script.
Pir Sayyid Sadruddin Al-Husayni, the Ismaili missionary of the 14th Century, is also designated as Bargur, Pir Sadar Din, Sohodev, Vasimuhammad and Haji Sadar Shah. He was born on Monday 2nd Rabiul of the year 700 after Hijra in the village Sabzwar in Persia. His year of birth is uncertain and sources differ from between twenty and fifty years. For example, Tawarikh-e-Pir gives the year as 650 A.H. whereas the Shajara, from which Professor W. Ivanow derives his information as published in his paper "The sect of Imam Shah in Gujrat" (1938) places his birth in 689 A.H. or 1,290 of the Pir Sadar Din, who traces his descent from Imam Ja'far-as-Sadiq (d. 148/763), arrived in India during the period of Imamat of Imam Kasim Shah (bet. 1310 C.E. and 1370 C.E.) and was raised to the dignity of Pirship by Imam Islam Shah - the 30th Imam in the traditional genealogical list of the Nizari branch of the Ismaili persuasion. His name appears in the 26th place amongst the authorised Pirs mentioned in the Former Holy Gujarati(Khojki) Du'a(Prayer). His father's name, as given in the Gulzar-e-Shams and corroborated by "Satveni Moti" and "Satveniji Vel" both alleged to have been written by Sayyid Muhammad Shah Bin Imam Shah, was Pir Shihabuddin or Sahebdin, to whom five of the Ginans are attributed and his mother was Noor Fatima bi'nt Ibrahim Sabzawari.
Tradition maintains that Pir Sadruddin trained as a preacher under Pir Shams Sabzawari (d. 757 A.H.) and accompanied the latter during his visit to Sindh, Punjab and Kashmir. Pir Sadruddin was not the pioneer Ismaili Da'i, who preached Ismailism in India, but it was mainly because of his preaching, courage and endeavours that the present Khoj'a community exists. The appellation "Khoja" derives from the Arabic word "Khawaja" meaning master which in course of its use by the natives has assumed the present form which has acquired international recognition. The first "Jamatkhana" − the prayer house for the new converts or Khojas was established by Pir Sadruddin at "Kotda" − a village in Punjab, Pakistan. The following translation of the verses from the work "Jannat Nama" or "Jannatpuri", composed by his grandson Sayyid Imamshah bin Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, reflects this fact:
Pir Sadruddin organised the community (Faith) and openly established the Khana" (Jamatkhana) in a house. Having arrived in the village "Kotda" he established the first "Khana." Pir Sadruddin became manifest and changed Hindus into Muslims; Having converted "Lohanas" into "Khojas" gave them the True faith.
Call Khoja - a bondman of Shah Ali, he is devotee of his Aal (successors). There (in Kotda) having organised the community he established the "Khana" and well indoctrinated them.
Formerly there was the "Khana" of Surjarani but that was secret; know ye, the True Pir Sadruddin recited Ginans (preached) in the village Kotda.
In the village "Kotda" there lived Trikam' He openly professed faith and adopted the name "Khoja". Thus spread the "Deen" of the Preceptor and this was the age of Shri Islamshah'. To day, the place called Uchh - and there lies our abode."
Pir Sadruddin worked for the promulgation of Islam and through it Ismailism in India. Having mastered the literature, beliefs and mythology of the Hindus and comparing the tenets and doctrines of Hinduism with those of Islam, he has shown that the advent of Islam is predicted in the Hindu scriptures like Atharv Veda, Allopanishad and others. Pir Sadruddin composed hundreds of hymns and verses in the dialects of different provinces of India which are popularly called "Ginans (Cf. Sanskrit "Jnyanam") meaning knowledge. In one of the Ginans it is found:
"We have explained in thirty-six languages and forty-two melodies and yet, The deaf would not listen, oh my brother!"
The Ginans are polyglottic and melodious. The Ginans minister to all the spiritual needs of a man. Pir Sadruddin, like all other Pirs and Sayyids, often included Hindu mythology and religious beliefs in the Ginans in order to spread Islam through love and peace. In the task of preaching Ismailism in an alien country, Pir Sadruddin was assisted by twelve people who were knowledgeable in religious matters.
Pir Sadruddin was man of strong character and self-abnegation. For sixteen hours a day, he was absorbed in meditation and prayers. During the period of Pirship, when he travelled in India, he visited Persia twice and saw the Deedar, the Imam of his time, openly. The description of his second visit to Imam Islamshah, and the impediments encountered, are narrated in the work Nav Chhuga by his son and successor Pir Hasan Kabir-uddin.
Out of his most popular works and small Ginans is Das Avatar. This work was produced as an exhibit in the First Aga Khan case 1866 and was of tremendous help in falsifying the charges forged by the contending seceders who claimed to be the adherents of Sunnism and intended to prove that Pir Sadruddin was a man of Sunni persuasion and that the Khojas were Sunnis too.
The judgment given by Judge Sir Joseph Arnold in 1866 says:
"On the one hand says the learned judge: "The relators and plaintiffs contend that Pir Sadr-uddin (whom both sides admit to have originally converted the Khojas from Hinduism to some form of Muhammadanism) was a Sunni that the Khoja community has ever since its first conversion been and now is, Sunni and that no persons calling themselves Khojas who are not Sunnis, are entitled to be considered member of the Khoja community, or to have any share or interest in the public property of the Khoja community or any voice in the management thereof. On the other side, it is maintained by the first defendant i.e., Aga Khani and by the other defendants who are in the same interest with him, that Pir Sadruddin was not a Sunni but a Shia of the Imami Ismaili persuasion; that he was a "Da'i or missionary of one of the direct lineal ancestors of the first defendant the Imam or spiritual chief for the time then being of the Imamie Ismailis; that from the time of the first conversion till now the Khoja community has been and still is (with the exception of the relators and plaintiffs and those comparatively few families among the Bombay Khojas who adhere to them), of the Shia Imamie Ismaili persuasion; that the said community (except as aforesaid) always has been bound in close ties of spiritual allegiance to the ancestors of first defendants, Aga Khan, the hereditary chiefs Imams of the Ismailis, whom the Khoja community always have regarded and (except as above) still regard as their Murshid or spiritual head."
Further on, Arnold said: "That conclusion is that the preponderating tradition of the Khoja community is substantially correct. that Pir Sadru-uddin was a Da'i or missionary of the hereditary Imams of the Ismailis (probably of Shah Islamshah) and that he converted the first Khojas to the Shi'a Imami Ismaili form of Muhammadanism."
This work - Das Avatar - was also referred to in the second Aga Khan case (1908). The plaintiffs tried to prove that the Ismaili Imams and the Khojas were the adherents of Ithnaashari faith.
Pir Sadruddin died on 12th Rajab 91 8 A.H. at Utchh and was buried at Trinda Gorgej about 15 miles from Utchh in the Bhawalpur State where his mausoleum stands. Tawarikh-e-Pir gives the date of his death as 770 A.H. and according to Shajara it is 782/1380. He had five sons - Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, Zaherdin, Saahuddin, Jamaluddin and Pir Tajuddin. Some sources give six or seven sons.