Immam Din shabaz was born in Zafarwal, Sialkot district, in eastern Punjab, in 1845.His whole family was Muslim and very orthodox in Islamic religious traditions. They belonged to Shia Muslim sect, who are followers of legacy of their early Muslim forefathers but he accepted JESUS CHRIST, as his savior at the age of sixteen in 1861. He was very interested in the teaching of Christianity. From his early child hood, he was desperate to know more about the JESUS CHRIST. At that time in subcontinent (India and Pakistan), in that area of Sialkot, Mission School was working for JESUS CHRIST to convert people to be Christians. This child (Imam Din) had a fertile soil to be seeded of JESUS CHRIST. He started to visit to church, at the same time he was also studying in the HUNTER MEMORIOL CHURCH, established by The Scotch Mission. While he was still studying in the school, he accepted the Jesus Christ as his savior and become Christian and The HONORABLE BISHOP W.G.YOUNG baptized him. He was the only member of his family who accepted Christianity. After seventeen year, he was appointed as a teacher in Hunter Memorial School.
He had a great interest in the poetry. He was poet of excellence and all the people at that time had already admitted his capabilities of writing poetry. Mean time other Christian missions also preached in the area and established churches. Because Immam Din was great poet, he wrote many poems on JUSUS Christ. Pastor ANDREW GARDON, who was the pastor of American Presbyterian Church in Sialkot city, set a foundation for SIALKOT CONGRAGATION. (Later Immam din shabaz was also appointed as Pastor in the same church in 1886). While admitting the capabilities of pastor Immam Din shabaz, Pastor Andrew Gordon set a committee to translate the psalm in URDU, a language spoken by largest population in the Pakistan. Pastor Immam Din Shabaz was included in the committee and sole responsibility was put on his shoulders to carry the objectives of the committee. Along with poetic sense, he also had knowledge of music and composition. Pastor Immam Din started his work and translated the psalm in Urdu and made their compositions on western tunes. This translation was made directly from the HEBREW in to Urdu. This was also a splendid work done under the guidance and supervision of pastor Andrew young. 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 13 august, 1888;
After the death of Pastor Andrew, a new pastor, DR. SAMUEL MARTIN, was recomended to make all efforts to complete the remaining work of translations. DR. Samuel Martin reconstituted the committee and in this committee Pastor Immam Din shabaz 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 masses. So, thinking on the failure of this translation, Pastor Immam Din Shabaz decided to make the translations of psalm in folk music. Afterward, from 1887 to 1904, Pastor Immam Din shahbaz translated psalm in PUNJABI LANGUAGE, (local language) instead of Urdu, which were liked by the majority of the illiterate Christian congregations in Pakistan.
In 1905, Pastor Immam Din Shabaz went to America, where he received his degree in doctor of divinity from an American university. He returned from America in 1906 and was appointed as Pastor in the FIRST UNITED PRESBYTARIAN CHURCH in Sialkot district. DR Immam Din shabaz was members of the two translation committees earlier, so on his return from America, and he was made 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 masses, so the whole concentration was translating the psalms in PUNJABI LANGUAGE. DR.Immam din shabaz made an excellence work in these years and he not only made translations but he also composed the tunes of translated psalms in locally understandable folk songs. He presented his work in 1908 in SIALKOT CONVENTION. On this occasion the people liked all the songs. The Work of these translated songs break the records of popularity.
In 1916, he was transferred from Sialkot to Bhalwal, as resident pastor and lived with his family in the 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 he 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. But, here we find an astonishing fact that all the tunes were adopted from the original Hebrew songs, which is a remarkable work. He was not only a great 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, whose name was RADHA KISHAN he also had a great knowledge of local tunes and helped DR.Immam Din Shahbaz with his experience in folk music. Many other people also assisted him in this regards which include MR.SADIQ MASIH, a local clergyman and among other include teacher MISS HENRY GARDON, MISS MARRY MARTIN. All these personalities made utmost efforts to make all the songs familiar in the masses. Easpecially they worked in the children's and women's.
In the last days of DR. Immam din shahbaz, he lost his sight and this put him in a dilemma but he was not discouraged and he kept working and completed his mission. While residing in Bhalwal, he was assisted by MR.THAKAR DAS also.
This great Christian died in 1921 and buried in local cemetery of Bhalwal
May the LORD JESUS CHRIST SHOWER HIS BLESSING UPON HIM?
By Daniel khokhar, Bhalwal, Sargodha.