Shaharpara – Birthplace of the Kamali Tribe

Steeped in history and a tribute to its heritage, the village of Shaharpara is located around twenty-five miles west of Sylhet City on the banks of the River Ratna in the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh. This peaceful, but vibrant, village in the scenic district of Sunamganj takes its name from the Bengali term for ‘King’, Shahar, and ‘inhabitance’, Para, being a reference to Hajrat Shah Kamal, who was influential in the establishment of the village and the Kamali tribe of Bangladesh.

Hajrat Shah Kamal journeyed to Shaharpara upon the direction of Hajrat Jalal of Sylhet back in the 12th century. As one of the descendants of the great leader Quresh Amirul Mumirul Hazrat Abu Bakar, Shah Kamal was born in Karnia in the Jamon area of Arabia. His father was Shah Burhan Uddin, a close and trusted disciple of Hajrat Shah Jalal. Shah Jalal had up to 360 Awlias – the Arabic term for supporter, disciple and protector – under his command, one of which was Shah Kamal.

In the year 1303, Shah Jalal overcame Sylhet with the aid of his Awlias and military support from the Mughals. A decade later, Shah Jalal dispatched an expedition of twelve Sufi disciples, led by Shah Kamal, to Sunamganj. Monsoon season made the journey difficult and Hazrat Shah Kamal, his wife and twelve disciples set up camp and settled on the bank of the River Ratna, and that’s where they remained. The twelve disciples – Pir Kallu Shah; Shah Chand; Dawar Bakhsh Khatib; Dilwar Bakhsh Khatib; Shaikh Shamsuddin Bihari; Shah Faizullah; Shah Jalaluddin; Syed Tajuddin; Syed Bahauddin; Syed Ruknuddin; Syed Shamsuddin; and Shah Manik – were instructed to convert locals to Islam, marry local women and raise families – and today the Kamalis are believed to number around five thousand, many of whom have settled in other parts of the world, but retained their identity. The burial place of Shah Kamal, located in Mukan in the Kamal Shah area of Shaharpara, is a pilgrimage site to this day.

While the history of the village is not commonly known beyond its borders, elders have passed their knowledge down through the generations, and thanks to modern technology, the close-knit community of Shaharpara invites travelers to visit their picturesque part of Bangladesh.