The Martyrdom of Sahibzada Abdul Latif Shaheed
by Prof. Khalil-ur-Rahman
Family Background and Formative Years
“Those who say, Our Lord is Allah, then continue in the right way, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the Garden which you were promised.” (The Holy Quran, 41:30)
No reliable documentary proof exists of the genealogy of Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif Shaheed because the documents containing his genealogy were burnt, along with other items, when his house in the village of Syedgah, Province Khost, was set ablaze. According to the tradition preserved in the family, his genealogy is traced back to Hazrat Ali Hajweri, better known as Data Gunj Baksh. It can be deduced from this that Hazrat Sahibzada’s ancestors came from Iran to India and settled in the city of Saharanpur. One of his ancestors, Hazrat Syed Ahmad Saeed, was resident in Saharanpur during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. Because of his great knowledge, virtue, and piety, the Emperor Aurangzeb held him in high esteem. An example in this regard is that the Emperor presented him with books for his personal library valued at approximately Rupees 900,000.
Migration to Afghanistan from Saharanpur:
Because of tumultuous conditions in India, Hazrat Syed Ahmad Saeed migrated from Saharanpur and came to Afghanistan and settled in the village of Syedgah in the province of Khost.
The name of Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif’s father was Muhammad Sharif and he had two other sons, Muhammad Hanif and Abdul Aziz. The progeny of Hazrat Sahibzada’s two brothers, each had a son and a daughter, did not survive, but Allah blessed Hazrat Sahibzada with five sons, whose families grew and prospered. This was solely a blessing of Almighty Allah and the consequence of the association with the virtuous personage of the Promised Messiah. The hometown of the entire family was Syedgah.
Hazrat Sahibzada started his education at a young age, and spent his childhood and youth in the vigorous pursuit of religious education. To quench his thirst for knowledge, he undertook long journeys without paying attention to the difficulties and hardships that were entailed. On one such journey, his ardour took him from Afghanistan to Isa Khel, by way of Miran Shah, Bannu and Sarai Naurang. After crossing the River Indus on boat, he finally reached the rail head at Kundian. He then boarded a train and travelled to any locale that he learnt was the residence of a pious, religious scholar so as to benefit from his knowledge. This fervour took him to Saharanpur, Delhi, Peshawar, Deoband and many other places, where he gained knowledge from the famous scholars residing in those cities. His trips to enhance his knowledge kept him away from home for years at a time. The only possessions he had on these journeys were two dresses of cotton and one of leather, which he probably used during the winters.
Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif remained a student in various religious institutions for a period of thirteen years and achieved complete mastery in the knowledge of Quran, Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence, and logic. He also had complete command over Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Pushto. A measure of his intellect and memory can be gauged from the fact that he could recall with complete precision over three hundred thousand Hadith.
Activities on Return to Syedgah:
After the acquisition of this knowledge, Hazrat Sahibzada returned to Afghanistan and started imparting religious education. People flocked from great distances to learn and benefit from the great blessing of his knowledge and spirituality. There issued forth from him a spring of knowledge similar to the one that he had sought, and from which he had drunk deeply. Besides providing for the spiritual sustenance of the people who came to learn from him, he also personally supplied them with board and lodging. He owned about 400,000 Kanals (approximately 50,000 acres) of agricultural land in Khost, the income from which was used primarily to help the indigent, and the religious students of the mosque. He detested superficiality and ostentation and preferred to lead a very frugal life, eating a simple diet and wearing plain clothes. His favourite food was a dish made with lentils and rice. His attire consisted of a white turban, plain dress, thin leather sandals and a muslin scarf, slung over the shoulder. He always carried a staff in his hand. He loved all mankind and was very kind and affectionate in his dealings with everyone.
Discipleship of Pir Sahib Manki:
He disliked the institutionalised practice wherein a number of disciples would pledge their devotion to a Pir (spiritual guide), this being the form that generally prevailed in the area. However, he did become a disciple of Pir Manki at one time, but soon discovered that the Pir had little regard for the Quran, the sunnah (Prophet’s practice) and the rules of shariah (Islamic Law). On one or two occasions, he remained silent on witnessing actions contrary to the Quran and sunnah, but he could not restrain himself for long. He confronted the Pir publicly, and accused him of saying and doing things against the Quran, sunnah, and the shariah. The Pir signalled to him to remain silent, but Sahibzada Sahib continued with his charge, which upset and enraged the Pir greatly. On noticing this condition of the Pir, he said,
“Here is the rosary you gave me, and here is your staff,”
and immediately left the assembly to return to his village, Syedgah in Afghanistan.
The Pir and his disciples considered this confrontation a public humiliation, and made plans to assassinate Hazrat Sahibzada. However, God kept him safe from their nefarious designs. This incident shows the high regard in which Hazrat Sahibzada held the Quran and Hadith and the importance he attached to the fulfilment of the tenets of Islamic Law. It also appears from this incident that, from the beginning, he was in search of a spiritual guide, but was unable to find someone who could fulfil this role. It was this search and striving that finally led him to his ideal.
It was Sahibzada Sahib’s practice to go to the mosque in the early hours of the morning and personally call out the azaan (call to prayer). His brother would wait outside the door of his house and accompany him to the mosque, to ensure that nobody harmed him in any way.
Sahibzada Sahib’s Spiritual and Temporal Status in Afghanistan:
Hazrat Sahibzada was a learned, scholarly and pious person who experienced true visions and spiritual signs. He was recognised in Afghanistan as a Waliullah (saint) for his learning, scholarship, and piety, and this reputation created a large following and many disciples. Ameer Abdur Rahman, the ruler of Afghanistan, also considered him a scholar-saint, and the greatest doctor of law and religion in his realm. Hazrat Sahibzada was the chief judge of Islamic law and all suits based on Islamic law were decided based on his advise. Hazrat Sahibzada was held in such high regard by Ameer Abdur Rahman that after his death, it was considered a blessed act to have the new ruler, Ameer Habibullah, crowned by Hazrat Sahibzada.