Born into a wealthy Srinagar family in 1873, Khwaja Saad-ud-Din Shawl was the son of Khwaja Sanaullah Shawl, popularly known as Sona Shawl, one of the richest businessmen of his time.
Saad-ud-Din and his brother, Ghulam Hassan, had been offered government jobs by Maharaja Pratap Singh, but they declined and opted to join their family business instead.
Shawl had received his preliminary education at a government school in Maharaj Gunj, and had studied Persian and Arabic under the renowned Azizullah Waiz. A tutor, Behram Ji, had been specially called in from Bombay to teach him English.
Since his early childhood, Saad-ud-Din had wanted to start a movement against Dogra rule in Kashmir. In 1924, when the Viceroy of India, Lord Reading, visited the region, he submitted a memorandum seeking measures to end the woes of Kashmiriis. This incurred him the displeasure of the rulers, and authorities promptly ordered him into exile along with Khwaja Noor Ahmad Shah Naqshbandi, a tehsildar, who was dismissed from service.
But this did not silence Shawl. He continued to work hard for the Kashmir cause, and remained in touch with Allama Iqbal and Mian Amir-ud-Din, whose passion for liberating Kashmir from autocratic rule he shared.
He would address gatherings at Lahore and Peshawar, apprising the world of developments in Kashmir.
As his activities gathered pace, Hari Singh, who had become Maharaja on the death of Pratap Singh, revoked his exile, and Saad-ud-Din and Noor Shah returned to Kashmir in 1927.
Four years later, in 1931, when Dogra troops killed 21 Kashmiris outside the Central Jail in Srinagar onJuly 13, Shawl was among the seven representatives chosen to lead the agitation against the regime. The others were Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, Agha Syed Hussain Jalali, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Mufti Shahab-ud-Din, Khwaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
Shawl and Ashai were arrested soon after, and held at Badami Bagh for several days. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Gilkar, Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas, Mistri Yaqoub and others too were arrested and lodged in the Koh-e-Maran (Hari Parbat) Fort.
All of them, however, were released when authorities reached an agreement with some leaders who had been spared arrest.
Shawl’s health deteriorated rapidly soon afterwards, and he was bedridden for several years.
He passed away in 1955.
He was laid to rest at the family graveyard in Shala Bagh, Khanyar.