His real name was Shaykh Sharfuddin but he is famous by the title Bu Ali Shah. His father, Shaykh Fakhar Uddin was a great scholar and saint of his time. He completed his studies at an early age and subsequently taught near the Qutub Minar in Delhi for 20 years. He published a collection of Persian poetry by the name of " Diwan Hazrat Sharafuddeen Bu Ali Qalandar" which was later translated by Khawaja Shahudin in Punjabi. It's a great Sufi work in Persian language.
One account says he was born in early 1400 in Panipat, India. However an epitaph on his tomb in Persian gives his birthplace as Ganja in present-day Azerbaijan; while some scholars opien that in fact, he was born near Ganjah, once a small suburb of Lahore city but now integrated in the main old city complex. He supposedly traced his descent from Numan Ibn Thabit , Abu Hanifa. His father, Sheikh Fakhar Uddin was a famous scholar of his time. His mother was Hafiza Jamal, the daughter of Maulana Nemat Ullah Hamdani. Some people also claim his father actually came from Iraq and settled down in Panipat.
Various legends exist about the saint. One legend says after the ibadah (act of obedience and submission) of 36 years standing in the water in Karnal he was awarded the status of "Bu Ali" (Fragrance of Ali). After achieving this Rutba (rank) he was visited by many other Sufi saints. An alternative legend to explain his name says that Muhammad appeared to him in a dream and offered him a wish. The Qalandar asked for prophethood and was told that all positions have been filled and Muhammad was the last one. He asked to be Ali and was told that position was also filled. He then asked for at least the fragrance of Ali and that wish was granted. A scholarly view of his name is that Bu Ali is simply another form of KuniyyatAbu Ali.
Tomb of Bu Ali Shah Qalandar
One day, after coming back from his school, Bu Ali Shah threw away all of his books, and then went to look for a dervish who had given him a written note. On the third day he found him, the dervish was actually the Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, the spiritual master of Hazrat Shaykh Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar. Bu Ali requested him to accept him as his disciple. Bakhtiyar Kaki declined his request saying that he was not authorized to do so. He then said that all he could do is to take him to his spiritual teacher (murshid). After saying that, Bakhtiyar Kaki took his hand and put it on the hand of Amirul Momineen Ali. Through Ali Murtaza, he received the required spiritual training, and after finishing Bu Ali Shah became a dervish. From then on, he became famous with the title of "Bu Ali", although his real name was Sharfuddin.