Hazrat Abdullah al-Ashtar R.A aka Abdullah Shah Ghazi was an eighth-century Muslim mystic and Sufi. His father, Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya was a descendant of the prophet, Muhammad, through his daughter Fatimah. Known for his commanding oratory skills, amiable demeanor, and impressive build, he led the Alid Revolt (762–763) in Medina, a failed rebellion, against the second Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mansur.
Around the year 761 AD, Muhammad Nafs al-Zakiyah and his brother Ibrahim sailed from Aden to Sind where they consulted with the governor, Umar ibn Hafs Hazarmard before returning to Kufah and Medina. His son Abdullah al-Ashtar, also known as Abdullah Shah Ghazi, married a woman from Sindh and had children by her. According to Tabari, Sindh was selected since its governor, Umar ibn Hafs, supported Muhammad's claim to the Imamate. Ibn Khaldun and Ibn al-Athir say that the governor had Shi'ite inclinations.
Once they decided enough support had been amassed to revolt successfully (762 AD), Muhammad went to Medina, and Abdullah al-Ashtar stayed in Sind. Abdullah al-Ashtar was accompanied by a number of troops belonging to the Shi'ite sect of Zaydiyah, who at the time were active supporters of Ahlulbayt, willing to take a militant stance in pursuit of the Imamate. Shortly thereafter, however, Umar received word from his wife in Basrah that Muhammad Nafs Al-Zakiyah had been killed in Medina (14 Ramadan 145/6 December 762). In consequence, Umar felt that their presence in the capital compromised his position as governor. Unwilling to take any definite action either for or against them, he summoned Abdullah al-Ashtar and suggested:
"I have an idea: one of the princes of Sindh has a mighty kingdom with numerous supporters. Despite his polytheism, he greatly honors [the family of] the Prophet. He is a reliable man. I will write him and conclude an agreement between the two of you. You can then go to him, stay there, and you will not desire anything better. Abdullah al-Ashtar went to that area spent Some years there, probably from 762 AD to 769 AD. Eventually hearing of their presence in Sindh, the caliph al-Mansur replaced Umar ibn Hafs with Hisham ibn Amr al-Taghlibi on the understanding that he seize Abdullah al-Ashtar, kill or otherwise disperse the Zaydiyah, and annex the non-Muslim region. When Hisham, after reaching Sind, also proved loath to undertake the task, his brother Sufayh (later a governor of Sindh) did it for him, killing Abdullah along with many of his companions.
There is no one clear version of Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s lineage, but according to the historian Suhail Lari, he was a member of the Ahlul Bayt. Born and raised in Medina, he was about fifteen years younger than Imam Jaffer Sadiq. His arrival in Sindh is attributed to his presence in Muhammad Bin Qasim’s fleet, but after settling in found his own Sufi calling. He is said to have been killed by his enemies in a forest, and so his followers decided to bury him atop a sandy hill near the coast. The folklore surrounding him is due to the belief that his shrine is the reason Karachi never gets hit by tropical cyclones, hence he is often referred to as “the savior saint”. And although the history of Abdullah Shah Ghazi is an amalgam of blurry facts and mystical folklore, he is one of the most prominent Sufi Saints.
The tomb is built on a high platform, though the body is kept in a subterranean crypt. The shrine is made of a high, square chamber and a green-and-white striped dome, decorated with Sindhi tilework, flags and buntings. The shrine attracts a steady stream of devotees who caress the silver railing around the burial place and drape it with garlands of flowers. The shrine is said to be particularly popular with Urdu-speakers and Punjabis. As a sign of cooperation among different faiths, some Christian and Hindu community members are occasionally seen also at the shrine.
Until the early 1950s, the shrine was a small hut on top of a sandy hill in Clifton. The shrine was built, expanded and beautified by the then custodian of the shrine, Murshid Nadir Ali Shah of Sehwan Sharif in the mid-1950s.