History is witness to the fact that the light of Islam spread in the beautiful valley of Kashmir not by force or compulsion but by motivation and gradual conversion for which the environment had been made conducive by the foreign adventurers and invaders both from the south and from the central Asia. Historical accounts reveal that the Muslims had shown their existence in Kashmir long before the establishment of the Muslim Sultanate in 1339, A.D. and their presence in Kashmir could be found way back in the eight century A.D. as put forth by Ali bin Hamid Kufi in Chach-Nama, the English translation of which has been done by K.F.Mirza. The spread of Islam in Kashmir was possible due to some permanent settlements of the Muslims in Kashmir, and also due to the consistent movements of people between Kashmir and the Muslim –ruled neighboring countries, particularly for trade purposes. The coming of the Muslims into Kashmir continued till the Muslim Sultanate was finally established in 1339. One among these Muslim immigrants was Shah Mir, who afterwards established the Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir. Shah Mir belonged to a royal family of Swat, and he along with his tribe came into Kashmir around 1313 and here he was bestowed upon with a land grant and an important position in the administration by Suhadeva, the ruler of those times.
The historians state that in Kashmir the Hindu rulers immensely required the help and support of the Muslim army Commanders and Generals of the neighboring countries and therefore Islam did not find any hostile political climate in its spread in Kashmir. This conducive and friendly political climate encouraged and prompted the Preachers, Religious scholars, Saints and Sufi’s to travel to the valley for the mission of the spread of Islam. The valley had a good number of the Muslims with some of them on high positions in the eleventh century and the Saints and Sufi’s began to make their presence in the valley while traveling thousands of miles with the sole mission of preaching Islam. It is stated that the first Saint who entered the valley was the Suhrawadi saint, Syed Abdul Rahman Shariefu’Din Suhrawardi who was later popularly known as Syed Bulbul Shah (RA). He came to Kashmir from Turkistan during the reign of Suhadeva. According to one statement he was the disciple of Sheikh Shihab-u-Din Suhrawardi and according to another, he was disciple of Shah Niamatullah Wali (RA), a Khalifa of Suhrawardi tariq. He was instrumental in making the conversion of the Buddhist ruler of Kashmir Rinchana (1320- 1323) to Islam and this important conversion of a ruler was very significant. The circumstances which motivated Rinchana to accept Islam seem to have been the impression created on him by the simplicity and purity of Bulbul Shah (RA) in comparison to the ostentatious and impure life of his own people around him. After accepting Islam as his religion, he assumed the name of Sultan Sadr-U-Din and at present attracts our attention for being the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. After Rinchana’s conversion, his brother-in-Law and Commander-in-Chief and several other people of his Kingdome accepted the creed of Bulbul Shah (RA). In order to show reverence to the memory of Bulbul Shah (RA), Rinchana (Sadr-U-Din) constructed a Khanaqah after his name, which is known as the first Khanqah and which became so famous that the mohalla (locality), where it existed became to be known as Bulbul Lankar. It is to note that that the conversion of the ruler Rinchana to Islam was a landmark and a turning point in the history of Islam in Kashmir because Islam now received a political patronage and the Muslims now did not remain only the helpers and traders but they got elevated to the position of the monarchs and rulers. After the death of Rinchana, the rule again came into the hands of the Hindus but however this did not last long and ultimately the Muslim Sultanate was established in Kashmir by Shah Mir, who had by then secured a strong position in the establishment of the Government.
The conversion of the people of Kashmir to Islam was further encouraged and activated by the arrival of other Syeds, prominent among them was, Syed Jalal-ud-Din of Bokhara, the disciple of Sheikh Rukn-ud-Din Alam, who arrived in 748 A.H. and stayed here for a brief period. Syed Taj-ud-Din, the cousin of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (RA), came to Kashmir in 760 A.H. in the reign of Sultan Shihab ud-Din and he was accompanied by Syed Masaud and Syed Yusuf,. Syed Hussain Simnani, the younger brother of Syed Taj-ud-Din, came in 773 A.H.It is believed that the two brothers Taj-ud—Din and Syed Hussain were sent to Kashmir by Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (RA), probably to make survey and research whether the climate for the propagation of Islam was conducive or not. It is also believed that Timur had assumed a strong position in Hamdan and the great saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdani was feeling the conditions unfavorable to him there. It is believed that that the great saint send these disciples and murids as advance party for preaching Islam in Kashmir and himself waited at Ghaur Afghanistan for the information. In Kashmir the Syeds were received with love and warmth by the Sultan and were bestowed upon (madad-I ma’ash) grants to ensure their comfortable stay in the valley. These Kubravi Sufi’s with the help of the rulers of those times constructed many mosques and Khankhas and did every thing to spread Islam in the nook and corner of the valley.
The year 1384 is a golden and historical year in the history of Kashmir because it was in this year that the great Saint and Sufi ,religious scholar, prolific and versatile writer and missionary and traveler for the cause of Islam, Mir Syed Ali Hamdani ( RA) popularly known as Amir-i-Kabir and Shah-i-Hamdan, Bani-e-Islam, Bani-e-Musalman and Ali-e- Thani , accompanied by thousands of followers and disciples blessed the land of Kashmir by his presence to spread Allah –o- Akbar every where in Kashmir and put an end to idol worship and inspire the people with the true spirit of Islam. Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (RA) was born on Monday, 12th of Rajjab, 714 A.H. (1314 A.D.) at Hamdan in Persia. His father’s name was Syed Shihab- ud- Din, an Allavi Syed and an important official in Hamdan. He memorized the whole Quran (Hafiz-i-Quran) in his early boyhood and studied Islamic theology and learnt and educated himself with the learning of Tasawuff under the supervision of his maternal uncle Syed Ala-ud-Din. Later, he became the spiritual disciple of Sheikh Sharaf –ud- Din who advised him to complete his education by extensive travels to foreign lands. As a result of this, Mir Syed Ali (RA) undertook many travels which covered a period of twenty one years and remained and enjoyed the company of many mystics and divine personages of the age. He traveled around the world three times and interacted with one thousand and four hundred saints. He authored two books, Zakirat-ul-Maluk and Ghayatul-Makan, which contain an account of his experiences and ideas. The first book emphasizes upon the principles which ought to be the guidelines of a Muslim ruler. In the second book, he stresses that the people absorbed in materialistic and worldly pursuits can not carry the difficult task of being a Sufi.
The great Saint adopted the policy of winning and motivating the ruler and his nobles to accept Islam as their way of life because he was of the firm belief that the common masses followed the conduct and culture of their rulers and he also preferred to convert the people to Islam in the City or Shahr because the cities played a great role for the social change. Mir Syed Ali Hamdani converted a colossal number of people in the Valley. It is found that he did not only bring the Sultan and his nobles like Magrays,Ganaies, and Chandans into frontiers of Islam but he also succeeded in motivating the great Guru of Kali Mandir, Srinagar and his thousands of followers to embrace Islam. His moral and spiritual influence played a great role in changing the demographic character of Kashmir and he was successful in declining the Brahmincal influence and made a large number of Hindus belonging to different castes to embrace Islam and it is revealed that he was able to convert thirty seven thousand people. His influence on the Kashmiri society was due to his accessibility to all and unique qualities which attracted the attention of everybody including the Hindus. He was a symbol of equality, justice and unity and his Khanqah was open for everybody from the King to the poorest in the society. His introducing the tradition of Zikir of Aurad-i-Fathiya had the aim to synthesize the different sections and classes of the society. The Valley of Kashmir is indebted to the great saint for cleaning it from idol worship and blessing it with the gift of Islam.
(The author is Secretary J&K Board of School Education. Author can be reached at [email protected])