Shāh Khāmūsh

Shāh Khāmūsh is a legendary figure who appears in many traditions in the Badakhshan region. The earliest attestation of his name occurs in a sixteenth century source, in which he is mentioned as an ancestor to Sulaymān Shāh, the Timurid governor of Badakhshan (Beben 131). Following this, references to this figure do not appear again until the nineteenth century, when his name appears in genealogical accounts of the dynasty of local rulers (mīrs) of Shughnan. A number of oral and written narratives concerning Shāh Khāmūsh appear starting in the late nineteenth century, which demonstrate a range of perspectives on his biography and confessional identity (Beben 131-33; Gross). The earliest and most extensive written narrative tradition concerning him appears in a work composed by Faḍl ʿAlī Bek Surkh-Afsar in 1907 as an appendix to the Tārīkh-i Badakhshān of Sang Muḥammad Badakhshī (Badakhshī and Surkh-Afsar 118a-126b). According to this account, Sayyid Mīr Ḥasan Khāmūsh was born in the Iranian city of Isfahan in 1066 and studied under the renowned Sufi shaykh ʿAbd al-Qādir Jīlānī (d. 1166) and later established a spiritual or uvaysī relationship with the Sufi master Junayd al-Baghdādī (d. 910) as well. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca with Jīlānī, where he received a command from Baghdādī to travel to the region of Khuttalān (Khatlon) of present-day southern Tajikistan and to propagate Islam there. He first traveled to the region of Shughnān in Badakhshan, where he miraculously cured the daughter of the ruler, who was given to him in marriage in reward. He then traveled on to Khatlon, where he likewise intermarried with the families of local rulers. His shrine is located within the village of Mūminobod in Khatlon.

A slightly later narrative concerning Shāh Khāmūsh is found in a work titled Tārīkh-i Shughnān, written in 1912 by Sayyid Ḥaydar Shāh at the request of the Russian scholar Aleksandr Semenov (Ḥaydar Shāh 3-5). According to this narrative, at the time of Shāh Khāmūsh’s arrival Shughnān was under the rule of a dynasty of fire-worshippers who oppressed the local Muslim population and prevented them from observing their religion and who were overthrown by Shāh Khāmūsh, who established a regime of justice. This narrative tradition, entailing Shāh Khāmūsh’s overthrow of an oppressive, infidel regime in Shughnān, is also echoed widely in the oral traditions of the region. More recent oral traditions in the region also claim him as having been an Ismāʿīlī missionary (dāʿī) sent to Badakhshan by the Nizārī Ismāʿīlī Imāms. Shāh Khāmūsh is also commonly depicted in narrative traditions as having traveled to Badakhshan from Iran with three companions, among whom are Shāh Malang and Shāh Kāshān, who also figure prominently in the genealogical tradition of the region (Bobrinskoĭ; Gross). A fourth companion, Shāh Burhān, is said to have not left any descendants and hence does not figure within the genealogical traditions of Badakhshan.


Badakhshī, Sang Muḥammad, and Faḍl ʿAlī Bek Surkh-Afsar. Tārīkh-i Badakhshān. Ed. and trans. A. N. Boldyrev. Moscow: Vostochnoĭ Literatury, 1997.

Beben, Daniel. "Religious Identity in the Pamirs: The Institutionalization of the Ismāʿīlī Daʿwa in Shughnān." In Identity, History and Trans-Nationality in Central Asia: The Mountain Communities of Pamir, ed. Dagikhudo Dagiev and Carole Faucher (London: Routledge, 2018): 123-42.

Bobrinskoĭ, Alekseĭ A. Sekta Ismail’ia v bukharskikh predelakh Sredneĭ Azii. Moscow: 1902.

Gross, Jo-Ann. "Foundational Legends, Shrines, and Ismāʿīlī Identity in Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan." In Muslims and Others in Sacred Space, ed. Margaret Cormack (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013): 164-92.

Ḥaydar Shāh, Sayyid. Tārīkh-i Shughnān. Trans. A. A. Semenov as Istoriia Shugnana. Tashkent: 1916.