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I D Shahbaz

A Great Name in the History of Christianity in Pakistan

Rev. Dr. Immam Din Shahbaz

1885 - 1921


 In Christian history of Pakistan, there are many names those who were very committed and sincere with the work of Lord Jesus Christ. They really spend their lives for the extension of the Kingdom of Lord God in Pakistan. They have died but their tremendous services make them alive forever. One of them is Immam Din Shahbaz, people knows him by the name of I.D. Shahbaz.

Immam Din Shahbaz was born in a village named Zafarwal, district Sialkot , the  eastern Punjab, (Now Pakistan) in 1845. His whole family was Muslim and had very orthodox Islamic religious traditions. They belonged to Shia Muslim sect, who are followers of legacy of their early Muslim forefathers but Lord Jesus Christ choose him at the age of sixteen in 1861. So, he was very interested in the teaching of Christianity. From his child hood, he was desperate to know more about the Jesus Christ. At that time in Subcontinent;( India and Pakistan were the same country) in the city of Sialkot, Mission School was working as a great instrument of Lord God under the supervision of missionaries. This child (Imam Din) had a fertile soil to be seeded of Jesus Christ, he started to visit to local church, at the same time he was also studying in the Hunter Memorial Church (build in the memory of a missionary family: Hunter his wife and their baby son; martyred by a Muslim extremist, who flee from the prisoner during the war of 1857), established by The Scotch Mission. While he was still student of High School, he accepted to Jesus Christ as personal Savior and The HONORABLE BISHOP W.G.YOUNG baptized him. He was the only member of his family who accepted Christianity. After the age of seventeen, he was appointed as a teacher in Hunter Memorial School.

            He had a great interest in the poetry, and he was excellent poet, all the people at that time had already admitted his capabilities of writing poetry. In the meantime other Christian missions also preached in the area and established churches. Because Immam Din was great poet, he wrote many poems on Jesus Christ. Immam Din Shahbaz was appointed as Pastor in 1886. While admitting the capabilities of Immam Din Shabaz, Rev. Andrew Gordon set a committee to translate the Psalms in Urdu language; a language spoken by largest population in the Pakistan. Pastor Immam Din Shabaz was included in the committee and the whole responsibilities were put on his shoulders to carry the objectives of the committee. Along with poetic sense, he also had good knowledge of music and composition. Pastor Immam Din started his work and translated the Psalms in Urdu and made their compositions on western tunes. This translation was made directly from the HEBREW into Urdu. This was the great work done under the guidance and supervision of Pastor Andrew. From 1882 to 1887 only 68 Psalms were translated under the directions of Pastor Andrew and he was assisted by the Pastor Immam Din shabaz. In 1885, Pastor Andrew fell ill and returned to America and died on August 13, 1888.

            After the death of Pastor Andrew, a new Pastor, Dr. Samuel Martin, was made all efforts to complete the remaining work of translations. He reconstituted the committee and in this committee Pastor Immam Din was selected as leading translator of Psalms.

         Because, all the translated Psalms were in URDU and all the tunes were at the patron on western style, so, this translation did not achieved the familiarity and popularity among the illiterate Christian people. So, thinking on the failure of this translation, Pastor Immam Din decided to make the translations of Psalm in folk music. Afterward, from 1887 to 1904, Pastor Immam Din Shahbaz translated to Psalms in Punjabi Language; local language, instead of Urdu, which were liked by the majority of the illiterate Christian congregations, and now-a-days these Psalms are the spirit of worship in Pakistan.

            In 1905, Pastor Immam Din Shabaz went to America, where he received his degree in doctor of divinity from an American university. In 1906, he returned back, and was appointed as Pastor in the First United Presbyterian Church in Sialkot district. Dr. Immam Din Shabaz was member of the two translation committees earlier, so on his return from America, he was appointed the head of the translation committee. In this connection, the Sialkot Mission also helped him. This committee was constituted on facts because earlier translations did not received popularity among the people, so the whole concentration was on translating the Psalms in Punjabi Language. Dr. Immam Din done an excellent work in these years, he not only made translations but he also composed the tunes of translated Psalms in local understandable folk songs. He presented his work in 1908 at Sialkot Convention. On this occasion the people liked so much all the songs. The work of these translated songs breaks the records of popularity.

            In 1916, he was transferred from Sialkot to Bhalwal, as resident pastor and lived with his family in American Mission Compound. Here he did the tremendous work of his life, which made him a legend. While serving here in Bhalwal, he translated 150 Psalms completely in the Punjabi language and further divided them in 408 different parts and classifications. In those songs, purely local accent was adopted. He used the daily spoken words and folk tones. He was not only a great Christian poet but also a great musician too. When a person listen these songs, one has to admit that he was a great composer of music. He also hired a local musician, named Radha Kishan, he had a great knowledge of local tunes and helped Dr. Immam Din Shahbaz. Many other people also assisted him in this regards including Mr. Sadiq Masih, a local clergyman, a teacher Miss Henry Gordon, and Miss Marry Martin. All these personalities made utmost efforts to make all the songs familiar in the masses; especially they worked in the children and women.

         In the last days of his life, Dr. Immam Din Shahbaz, lost his eye sigh,t and this put him in a dilemma but he was not discouraged and he kept working and completed his mission.  He died in 1921, and buried in local cemetery of Bhalwal, District Sargodha.


Rev. Emanuel Khokhar (DoP Church of Pakistan)

Candidate: Ph D in Missiology

Kukje Theological University & Seminary

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Copyright @ 2005, Rev.Emanuel Khokhar.
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