SHEIKH ZAHED GILANI
We trace our ancestry to the 13th century Persian mystic, Sheikh Zahed Gilani. Taj-od-din Ebrahim son of Roshan Amir was born in 1216 in Siavarood in the Gilan region of Iran. His ancestors were originally from Khorasan in the northeast of the country, but fleeing the onslought of Seljuk Turks, Persian Speaking people from Khorasan and the Transoxiania regions (between Seer-Darya and Amu-Darya rivers) migrated south and west during the 12th century. Some, like Jalal-ed-din Rumi's father went to Anatolia and settled in Qonya in western Turkey. Taj-od-din's grandfather decided to settle in Gilan, behind the Alborz Mountains, and by the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.
We know that Taj-od-din's father was also born in Siavarood and is buried there.
Taj-od-din Ebrahim was at first a disciple of the local sufi master Sheikh Jamal-od-din. It was this master who bestowed on him the title "Zahed" meaning "ascetic". A title which stayed with him the rest of his life.
Sheikh Zahed lived during the Ilkhanid period. The Ilkhanid were the descendents of Hologu Khan who himself was Genghiz Khan's kin. These were Mongols who had stayed in Iran and were being Persianized. The remnants of the Ilkhanids subsequently moved to India and founded the Mogul Empire in the subcontinent. Sheikh Zahed was contemporaries with the Ilkhanid King Ghazan Khan.
Ghazan Khan. Who had converted to Islam, was a believer in the Sheikh and held him at high esteem. Sheikh Zahed is also reputed to have exerted a great deal of influence with this Mongol king. The softening of the attitude of Ghazan Khan-and subsequently that of his successors- and his patronage of the arts, and his pursuit of the civilized ways of life, as contrasted with the harsh Mongol ways of his predecessors, is credited, to a great extent, to his associations with Sheikh Zahed and the guidance that he took from the Sheikh.
Sheikh Zahed's most noted disciple, however, was Sheikh Safi-ed-din Ardebili. Sheikh Safi, as he was known, is the patriarch and namesake of the mighty Safavid Dynasty. A dynasty that ruled Iran during the 16th, and 17th centuries and which is credited with the post-Mongol restoration of Iranian nationhood. Indeed, the boundaries set by the mighty Safavid king, Shah Abbas I, still define the approximate shape of the nation as it stands today.
Sheikh Safi, in search of a spiritual guide, traversed the nation and finally landed in Shiraz in south central Iran. It was another sufi master in Shiraz, who pointed Sheikh Safi in the direction of Sheikh Zahed Gilani. Safi traveled north and finally met his guru in Gilan. Zahed was sixty and Safi was 25. The two were immediately drawn to each other.
Sheikh Zahed gave his daughter in wedding to Sheikh Safi. Safi's son Sheikh Sadr-ed-din was also Sheikh Zahed's grandson. The Safavids are thus Zahedi from the mother side.
Sheikh Zahed died in 1301 and is buried in Sheikhanvar near Lahijan. His mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage and a gathering place for the Sufis to this day.