There are many historical mosques and shrines in Shikarpur, a majority of which have now been either renovated or rebuilt. The earliest mosque of Shikarpur is said to be of Haji Latif Shah Jilani formerly known as Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi mosque which is located near Lakhidar (Lakhi gate). This mosque was built in 1026 AH/ 1617 AD (a few scholars dispute the date of foundation of the city, which I will discuss in another article) when the city was founded by a Daudpota noble.
Alexander Burns (d. 1841 AD) was the first British traveller who visited the mosque. He saw the word ‘Gok’ written on the western wall of the mosque. Gok is a Persian word that means a frog. From this word, the date of the construction mosque was derived as 1026AH / 1617 AD, which was used by later scholars in their articles. Nobody knows who the first builder of the mosque was. Later it came to be called Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi.
I have written an article on Saints of Shikarpur which mainly discussed him and appeared on February 1-7, 2019 in The Friday Times.
Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi, an eighteenth-century Naqshbandi Sufi saint of Shikarpur, was born in 1100 AH/1689 AD at Rohtas, Jalalabad in Afghanistan. He got his early education from a celebrated scholar Muhammad Sadiq Dindar of Nangarhar, Afghanistan. Professor Aminullah Alavi (1984) writes in an article “Shikarpur Ja Sufia Karam” which was published in Shikarpur Mazi Ain Haal (Shikarpur: Past and Present) a book complied by Dr. Memon Abdul Majeed Sindhi that at the age of 21, Haji Shah Faqirullah was sent to a madrasah in Peshawar where he studied under the supervision of Muhammad Masood Peshawari (d. 1722). After spending 9 years in Peshawar, he migrated to Lahore, where he became a disciple of Muhammad Saeed Lahori (d.1749) and studied Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and Hadith. Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi spent 13 years with his mentor Muhammad Saeed Banuri Lahori in Lahore, and later in 1150 AH/ 1737 AD, he migrated to Shikarpur. He first established his khanqah near Lakhidar in Shikarpur (now called Sindh Wah Road), where many people became his disciples. It was in this historical mosque where Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi spent his time enrolling many people as his disciples.
After some time, Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani, who was the friend of Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi came to Shikarpur. Haji Abdul Latif Shah Qadiri was known for his piety and religiosity. It is believed that he came from Uch and stayed in the khanqah of Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi. Haji Abdul Latif Shah died in Shikarpur and was buried near the mosque of Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi near Lakhidar, which later came to be known after him as Haji Abdul Latif Shah mosque.
According to Professor Abdul Hayee Moryani (2019), the author of Shikarpur Jun Masjdoon and Edigah, Haji Shah Faqirullah Alavi spent ten years imparting religious education in this mosque. After the death Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani, he built a mosque complex in Hazaridar (Hazari Gate) which comprised a khanqah, mosque, madrasah and library in 1160 in what is known today as Alavi Mohalla.
The shrine complex of Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani is located on Sindh Wah Road near Lakhidar. The mosque is a single domed structure having a high pishtaq. The majority of the historical mosques of Shikarpur are single-domed structures, the prominent ones include the Qubai mosque in Awan Mohalla, Qubai Masjid in Memon Mohalla, Qubey wari Majid at Sindh Wah, Qubai Masjid in Grain Market (Anaj Mandi), etc. However, there are also a few exceptions which I will discuss in the next article. The elevated octagonal drum on which the dome rests is the peculiarity of this mosque. Another distinctive feature of the mosque of Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani is the square pillars that rise from the thickness of the wall. Generally, one notices octagonal corner pillars but in this mosque square corner pillars have been used which again reflect the innovation of the local masons. The majority of the mosques which I have visited in the Shikarpur district have octagonal corner pillars. I have seen similar square corner pillars in the verandah of Jamia mosque in Sardar Abdur Rahim Khoso village in Jacobabad district.
The main arched entrance to the verandah, which is a later addition, bears the date of the construction of the mosque in 1026 AH /1617 AD. The doorway leads to the main chamber of the mosque. As one enters the mosque, one notices the word ‘Gok’ written above the mihrab of the mosque. This is the word from which the date of the mosque’s construction has been derived. Frequent renovation of the mosque has damaged the original beauty. It also appears that the word Gok was rewritten during the renovation.
Adjacent to the mosque is the shrine of Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani. Not much is known about him. There are a few shrines of Jilani saints in Jacobabad district which include Shah Hussain Jilani at Ghouspur town, Daman Ali Shah Jilani in Thull town, etc. I have visited both the shrines and interviewed the Gadi Nashins about the history of the Jilani saints including Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani – but they did not know much about him. Professor Amin Alavi (1984) was probably the first scholar from Shikarpur who briefly mentioned Haji Abdul Latif Shah in his article “Shikarpur Ja Sufia Karam” which was published in Shikarpur Mazi Ain Haal (Shikarpur: Past and Present) a book complied by Dr. Memon Abdul Majeed Sindhi.
The tomb of Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani is noted for its distinctive features, which I have not seen in any other tomb in the Shikarpur district. It is a square building with four slender octagonal pillars. Two slender octagonal pillars also flank the main doorway to the grave of the saint. The shafts of both pillars, which flank the door, are adorned with miniature Jharokha-shaped niches for placing oil lamps which sometimes are used by devotees for therapeutic purposes. Such niches can also be seen in the tomb of Budhal Faqir Unar in the Shikarpur district. Budhal Faqir Unar was an eminent Sufi poet.
One of the distinctive features of the tomb of Haji Abdul Latif Shah Jilani is a miniature Jharokha that rises from the parapet of the building. It is a rare ornamental feature in other tombs and mosques of Shikarpur city but is frequently seen on the mansions of the city. However, one can see miniature jharokhas in a few tombs and mosques in the villages and towns of other districts in Sindh – which were built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.