The beautiful Kashmir region is resplendent with white beauty in winter and the colors of nature in the autumn / fall, spring and summers is popularly known as a ‘Paradise on Earth’’ on earth. In the history it is also known as place of saints. By educating the masses and deepening the spiritual concerns of the Muslims, saints have played an important role in the formation of Muslim society. The valley of Kashmir owning to its central position in Asia enjoys a strategic importance from military as well as economic viewpoint. Kashmir, situated on the Central Asian trade route-the famous silk route has been a stopover for caravans traveling between the expansive plains of India and the great civilization of China and the Central Asia. Consequently many traders, adventures, warriors and missionaries have passed through this beautiful land. The beautiful country of Kashmir was known to ancient Greeks and Romans (Ptolemy’s Geography and Histories of Herodotus). A great contribution to literature on Kashmir, its inhabitants, their culture, religion, arts, crafts, the architecture, living condition, trails and tribulations has been made in various accounts by foreigners. In the field of literature, there was hardly any branch of learning which the people of Kashmir had not studied, and to which they did not make their own original contribution. In philosophy, religion, medicine, astronomy, literature, engineering, sculpture, architecture, painting, music and in many other walks of life the progress of Kashmiries during the ancient times is astonishing and striking. Many saints came to the Valley of Kashmir to preach and to propagate Islam, to name a few were: Bulbul Shah, Syed Jalal Uddin Bukhari, Syed Taj Uddin, Syed Hussain samnani, and Yousuf. But the one who was very influential in spreading Islam in Kashmir and had a major hand in shaping the culture of the Kashmir valley was Ali (RA), popularly known as Shah Hamadhan (king of Hamadhan, Iran), as Amir-e-Kabir (The great commander) etc. Amir-e-Kabir (RA) was born on 12 Rajab-ul-Marjab 714 Hijri (12th October 1314 A.C.) or 12, Rajab 713 Hijri (12th October, 1313 A.C.) in a noble family in Hamadhan (Iran). He traced his patrimony through his father, Syed Shahab Uddin, to Imam Zain-ul-Abedein (RA) and finally to Hazrat Ali (RA). His mother, Syeda Fatimah, with seventeen links, reached the Holy Prophet (S.W). Amir-e-Kabir (RA) came from an educated family. He was very intelligent and quick of mind and read the Holy Quran under the guidance of his maternal uncle, Hazrat Ala-u-ddin for a period of thirteen years. Hazrat Ala-Uddin, then, entrusted him to Sheikh Abul Barakat for spiritual training. After studies, external and internal, he went into seclusion and spent six years in order to train his self. He did not utter a single word relating to material life. After the period, he again went to Hazrat Abul Barakat who attended to the cleaning of heart and physical exercise. Hazrat Abul Barakat then ordered him to go to Mohammad Mizdiqani a renowned saint of the time. After the last rites of Hazrat Abul Barakat he presented himself to Hazrat Mohammad Mizdiqani on the fourth day. Amir-e-Kabir was a prolific traveler in his times as traveling is very essential in mystical life. He traveled 20 – 21 years far and wide to meet the saints in order to draw benefits from them throughout the Muslim world. He was the most remarkable personality of the then Muslim world. Amir-e-Kabir (RA) came to Kashmir valley from his country along with 700 Sadat and colleagues, during the reign of king Shahab-uddin. Amir Taimur who was the ruler of Hamadhan (Iran) at that time having highest regard for the saintly class of people which is clear by the presence of many Sayids, Mashaikh, Sufis and Gnostics in the period of Taimur ruler of Persia. People often say that Islam spread by ‘the sword’ this is not true. There is no mention of the word ‘SWORD’ in the whole Holy Quran. Only a few preachers went to Indonesia. Today it is the largest Muslim country in the world. There is not a single Radio, T.V. station or a national newspaper owned or controlled by the Muslims in the USA. Islam is still fastest growing religion in USA and Europe. Amir Timur has fought several wars in order to release several Sadat from the clutches of many an oppressor rulers. It was due to this fact that many Sadat fought shoulder to shoulder with Amir Timur against his enemies. Shah Hamadhan (RA) had already sent two of his followers, Syed Taj Uddin Samnani and Mir Syed Hasan Samnani Kashmir to take stock of the situation. The king of Kashmir became the follower of Mir Syed Hasan Samnani and because of the kings concurrence he entered Kashmir with a large following. The king Qutub Uddin received him warmly. At that time the Kashmir was on war with Feroz Tughlaq (India) and because of his efforts the parties came to terms. Kashmir has a long tradition of sufi saints who have since ages infused their thoughts into the day-to-day life in this Paradise on Earth. Kashmir’s saints have guided the politics of the state – and even wars. In the history of Kashmir saints always played a significant role in political affairs. In Kashmir, Amir-e-Kabir (RA) started to preach Islam in an organized manner. The reason being, the people, who had initiated the movement, were saintly by nature and carried a deep influence of Hinduism and the Budhism. Inspite of having been turned Muslims they still observed many un-Islamic local rites and practices. Sultan Qutub Uddin had two real sisters as wives. Amir-e-Kabir reprimanded him and asked to divorce one of them. The king obeyed. He made Islamic teaching known to the people in Kashmir, improved their beliefs, made efforts for the building of their character. It is important to note that Amir-e-Kabir (RA) had not left any religion assignment incomplete wherever he visited in the world. Kashmir was the most important and complicated religious assignment of his life. He deputed his colleagues at various places of Kashmir to the villages and towns for religious preaching and himself keep a close watch on their all activities. Amir-e-Kabir spent day and night in Tabligh, establishment of Khanqah, mosques and libraries for books on religion in such times when there was no well knit communication possible. Amir-e-Kabir did not stay in the Kashmir valley permanently but visited on various occasions. First during the reign of Sultan Shahab Uddin in 774 Hijri he came, stayed for six months and left it.
Secondly, he visited in 1781 Hijri when Qutub Uddin was a ruler, stayed for a year and tried to extend the movement to every nook and corner of Kashmir valley, returned to Turkistan via Ladakh in 783 Hijri. Third, he visited in 785 Hijri with the intention to stay for a longer period but had to return owing to illness. In Islam privacy, freedom, dignity and equality are guaranteed. It was due to the teaching of Holy Quran and Sunnah and the character of Amir-e-Kabir (RA) that Kashmiri Hindus reverted into Muslims at mass level. Amir-e-Kabir’s (RA) greatest contribution was the character building of the Kashmiri people to literate them from the fear of the new system and their love for the older one. He imbibed true awakening and taught the Shairah. In fact, Amir-e-Kabir (RA) was a social reformer besides being a preacher. Among seven hundred followers who accompanied him to Kashmir valley, were men of arts and crafts who flourished here. They introduced the Central Asian Architecture in the Kashmir valley and when fused with the Kashmiri architecture, gave rise to a new style. They popularized Shawl-making, cloth-weaving, pottery and calligraphy. It is believed that because of Amir-e-Kabir (RA) the wonderful arts and crafts turned Kashmir into a mini Iran and brought about a revolution in the thinking process of the people of Kashmir. During the life time of Amir-e-Kabir (RA) the place where he stayed for the first time popularly known as Khanqa-e-Mualla (Srinagar), is a great building, beautiful model of wooden architecture of Kashmir. The Khanqah-e-Molla or Shah-e-Hamdan is one of the oldest Muslim shrines located on the banks of the river Jhelum in Srinagar city. An important religious destination in Srinagar, this shrine was originally built in 1395 and later reconstructed in 1732. Believed to contain “the secret of Allah” – the Khanqah-e-Molla is an excellent example of wood architecture that draws inspiration from Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic styles. Khanqah-e-Molla was originally constructed by Sultan Sikander (1389-1413 AD) in memory of Sufi saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdan, who stayed in Kashmir and was instrumental in the spread of Islam in Kashmir. Khanqah-e-Molla was ravaged by fire in 1480, and reconstructed by Sultan Hassan Shah in 1493. Again in 1731, the shrine got damaged, with Abul Barkat Khan reconstructing it in 1731.Khanqah-e-Molla, as it stands today, has a square plan, erected on irregular walled base made of materials from ancient temples. The two-storied, two-tiered structure of the shrine has gently sloping pyramidal roofs demarcating each tier. The roofs are further accentuated by heavy woodwork adorning the cornices under the eaves. The first tier features double-arcaded verandahs that run continuously around the building, and the second tier is in the form of an arcaded balcony protruding on all four sides of the main building. The pyramidal roof of the second tier is topped by an open pavilion for the muezzin, which is further crowned by a pyramidal spire. Parts of the roof have got covered with seasonal vegetation, creating a unique sight of intricate woodwork and terraced flowerbeds. The shrine of the saint at Khanqah-e-Molla lies in a cloister at the northwest corner of the structure. A date -1384 AD, marking the saint’s death, is carved above the doorway. Friday prayers are said in Khanqah-e-Molla where hundreds gather to pray. It is said that Amir-e-Kabir (RA) made the sayings of Holy Prophet (SAW) prevalent and encouraged every person to follow Shariah in letter and spirit and established Islamic norms in Kashmir valley and allowed loud recital of Awrad-i-Fatihiya. The sacred relics of this place include the Holy Prophets (SAW) flag, the pillar of the Holy Prophets (SAW) tent, and Amir-e-Kabir’s walking stick. Amir-e-Kabir (RA), besides being a mystic saint and an effective preacher, was a man of letters and write about a hundred pamphlets in Arabic and Persian. Some of them are: Sharah Nasoos-ul-Hukm Farisi, Asrar-ul-Nuqt, Firdous-ul-Akhbar, Chehl Asrar, Khulasit-Ul-Manaqib etc. Amir-e-Kabir (RA)’s efforts reached far and wide and benefited a large number of people. The number of his followers was large. Some of them were: Noor Uddin Jaffar, Khawaja Ishaq Khatlani, Mir Syed Husain Samnani, Syed Fakhur Uddin etc. Shah Hamadhan (RA) is a highly revered figure in Kashmir valley, parts of Pakistan as well as in Tajkistan where on returning from his third visit to Kashmir he fell ill and died on 786 Hijri. He was buried at Kolab in Khatlani where a large number of people gathered to pay their homage to him. Amir-e-Kabir (RA) had already established a strong base for the propagation of Islam and had simplified all the ways for carrying out reversion in the future. Amir-e-Kabir (RA) illuminated the darkness of the hearts of the Kashmiri people with the torch of the faith. We must be proud of being Kashmiri Muslims who are worldwide known for their religion and hospitality. I conclude my observations with the plea that we ought to adopt and promote his philosophy in our daily life. Islam is our greatest gift. We have to be thankful for this gift to Amir-e-Kabir (RA) that we are a part of the Ummah of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW), a mercy for all nations (Quran 21:107). May Allah guide us all towards true path……Ameen!
(The authors write regularly on “Islamic topic” exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)