The king has arrived from the West: a preliminary study on the historical origin and structural evolution of Shāh Jā Qadam

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Journal Article

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This paper deals with the historical origin of a sacred space called Shāh Jā Qadam (literally, Lord’s foot). It is located at Amīr Pīr, Sindh, Pakistan, and attracts thousands of Ismāʿīlīs throughout the year. Without even actually knowing the history of Shāh Jā Qadam, many Ismāʿīlīs still continue to visit this sacred space as a part of their family tradition. Owing to the paucity of reliable historical sources, hitherto not even a single systematic attempt has been made in the academia to study this site. Over time, the history of Shāh Jā Qadam has shrouded under a thick layer of myths and legends, creating a serious challenge for the scholars of Ismāʿīlī and Sindhi studies. Therefore, it is with the intention to fill this research gap that this paper has been developed. The research aspect of this paper is informed by both the field work and the examination of relevant archives undertaken by the author. The subject-matter and methodology used to inscribe this paper clearly indicates that in order to construct even a simple version of the history of the Satpanth (literally, true path) Ismāʿīlī tradition—let alone the question of understanding and appreciating its complexity—scholars will have to pay due attention to the local and regional oral Ismāʿīlī narratives, which are quite often ignored in the name of hagiography, mythology and legend. Hence, this paper sheds some light on the historical origin and structural evolution of Shāh Jā Qadam—a place which still holds immense historical, cultural, social, political and religious significance for many Ismāʿīlīs.