Kashmir is famous for Sufism and it is a place known as “Pirwaer”, the alcove of Saints. A huge number of Sufis travelled to Kashmir with the message of Islam and converted the local population to Islam. The Sufi saints who came to Kashmir from Middle East with the message of Islam are revered in Jammu Kashmir by all the people irrespective of religion. It is this love for the saints that people of the state have built great artistic shrines dedicated to their beloved saints. The shrines have become important religious and festival centre in the entire state.
Sufis settled in many parts of the state, particularly on hills, where they found enough isolation to pray, meditate and worship the Lord. The local population, out of love and reverence for their saints, constructed beautiful shrined dedicated to them. Holy Places are found in almost every part of the state. The Sufi shrines in Kashmir are a great architectural treasure. Some of the Holy Places are centuries old. Kashmiris pour all their love and devotion in maintaining and beautifying these Holy Places. There is a Holy place, big or small, almost in every village and town of the Valley. The Holy places are not restricted to Kashmir valley in particular, but are found in all the three regions of the state. All the Holy Places have a blissful air so much that one feels very close to Almighty inside these Holy Places.
The most popular and revered shrine of Kashmir is, however, not Sufi. It is the mosque of Hazratbal. The Holy place is the most important religious centre in Kashmir, as the sacred hair of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is preserved in the Holy place. The Holy place is a beautiful structure constructed on the left bank of Dal Lake. It is covered with pristine white marbles and is the only domed mosque in Kashmir. The mosque witnesses a huge rush of devotees on Fridays and on the festive occasions of Shab-i-Meraj and eid Mila-un-Nabi.
Many other shrines are popular in the valley. The stretch from Jama Mosque Nowhata to KhanyarChowk in Srinagar, almost a kilometre long is lined with Holy place dedicated to various Sufi Saints. Among these lines is the famous DastageerSahabHoly place dedicated to Syed Abdul QadirJeelani, which recently got burnt in a mysterious fire. The Holy place is 200 years old. Other famous Holy place include
Aishmuqam dedicated to Baba Zain-ud-Din Wal
Chrar-e-shareef dedicated to Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani
Dastageer Sahib Shrine dedicated to Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani
Khanqah Srinagar dedicated to Shah-i-Hamadan
There are a number of other Holy Places in Kashmir that are revered by the people of Kashmir. The cave shrine on Aishmuqam is particularly popular among tourists because of its location and the fact that it falls on Srinagar Pahalgam road. Another popular Holy place among tourists is Baba Reshi near Gulmarg. Shrines are located in each part of the valley and they are usually busy with devotees thronging the Holy places in huge numbers on particular days.
History of Islam in Kashmir
Islam is the major religion which is practiced in Kashmir, with 97.16% of the region’s population identifying as Muslims, as of 2014. The religion – Islam, came to the region with the influx of Muslim Sufis preachers from Central Asia and Persia, beginning in the early 14th century. Kashmiri Muslims are natives to the Kashmir Valley. The majority of Kashmiri Muslims are Sunni. They refer to themselves as “Koshur” in their mother language. Sometime back majority of the Kashmiri Muslims were of the Sunni religious persuasion, but now with rapid business influx makes Kashmiri Shias account for about and rapidly increasing. Non-Kashmiri Muslims in Kashmir include semi-nomadic cowherds and shepherds, belonging to the Gurjar and Bakarwal communities.
Early period of Islamic contact
During the 8th century, the Kingdom of Kashmir was subjected to several attacks aimed at its conquest. Several attempts to conquer Kashmir were made by the Arabs who had established themselves in Sindh (711-13 C.E), under the leadership of Muhammad bin Qasim. But Muhammad bin Qasim was recalled by the Umayyad Caliph to Damascus, thus averting the possible invasion.In the reign of Caliph Hisham (724-43 C.E), the Arabs again marched towards Kashmir under the leadership of ambitious and energetic leadership of the governor Junaid. Lalitaditya Muktapida (724–60 CE), the Raja (ruler) of Kashmir, defeated Junaid and overran his kingdom. However, this victory was not decisive as further attempts to invade were made by the Arabs, but Lalitaditya was able to stem the tide of these advances. A last attempt at the invasion of the Kashmir Kingdom was made by Hisham ibn ‘Amr al-Taghlibi, the Governor of Sindh, appointed by Caliph Mansur (754-75 C.E). Though he reached as far as the southern slopes of the Himalayas, which were a part of the Kashmir Kingdom, he failed to enter and occupy the valley.
After the Arabs, it was the Ghaznavids who attempted to conquer Kashmir. Mahmud of Ghazni, defeated Raja Jaipal (1002 C.E), the ruler of Waihand (near Peshawar, in modern-day Pakistan). Anandpal, the son and successor of Jaipal, also suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Mahmud in 1009 C.E., and died a few years later. Anandpal’s son Trilochanpala, whose power of influence was now confined only to the Salt Range, appealed to Samgramaraja (1003-28 C.E), the king of Kashmir, for help against Mahmud. A large army contingent was sent by Samgramaraja, who joined Trilochanpala’s forces, however their combined forces were defeated by Mahmud in 1014 C.E. Mahmud advanced towards Kashmir and tried entering the kingdom via the Toshamaidan Pass. His progress was checked by the strong Loharkot Fort, which he besieged for a month. Owing to the heavy snowfall, which cut off Mahmud’s communications, he was compelled to retreat. However, the Sultan again set out to invade Kashmir in September–October, 1021 C.E, but was again compelled to retreat due to bad weather conditions.
Establishment of Muslim rule and conversion to Islam
After Sultan Mahmud’s attempted conquests to invade Kashmir, Kashmir remained generally unaffected and unchanged by invasions that were aimed at the plains of India, up until 1320 C.E. The Loharas (1003-1320 C.E.) ruled during this period, and was the last of the Hindu dynasties of Kashmir. In the spring of 1320, a Turkistani chieftain by the name of Zulqadar Khan Turk (Zulcha Khan), invaded Kashmir via the Jhelum Valley route. Suhadeva (1301–20 C.E), last ruler of the Loharas, tried to organize resistance, but failed due to his unpopularity among the masses. The reason for this unpopularity was financial exaction and general misrule that prevailed during the end period of the Lohara Dynasty. Zulcha Khan’s invasion created havoc and Suhadeva fled to Kistwar. Rinchana, son of a Ladakhi chief, who was employed by Ramacandra (Prime Minister of Kashmir) to establish law and order, took advantage of the chaos. He got Ramacandra murdered, occupied the Kashmir throne by the end of the year 1320, and ruled until his death in 1323 C.E. In order to gain acceptance of Kashmiris, he married Kota Rani, the daughter of Ramacandra, and made Rawancandra (Ramacandra’s son) his commander-in-chief. Rinchen was a pseudo- Buddhist and wanted to get initiated into Brahmanism to strengthen his political base in the Kashmir valley. Since Shaivism was the popular religion at the time in the valley, Rinchen approached Devaswami, the religious head of the Shaivas, for initiation into the Hindu religion. Devaswami, after holding a secret meeting on the subject with prominent Kashmiri Pandits of the time, refused to accept Rinchen into Hinduism, because of Rinchen’s low birth. Rinchan converted to Islam after coming into contact with Sayyid Sharfudin, a Sufi preacher commonly known as Bulbul Shah, who had come to Kashmir during the reign of Suhadeva. He changed his name to Sultan Sardarudin Shah after converting to Islam and thus became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Following the conversion of Rinchan, his commander in chief also became Muslim. The royal patronage for Islam won it new converts and according to one source, many Kashmiris embraced the creed of Bulbul Shah.
The period after Sultan Sardarudin’s death was marked by chaos and power tussle. Udayanadeva, the brother of Suhadeva, was made the ruler after an agreement among the nobles. However, he proved to be incompetent, and it was Kota Rani who was the virtual ruler. Soon after Udayanadeva’s accession, a foreign chieftain attacked Kashmir, but the invaders were successfully repelled and defeated. However, the administration again fell into chaos. Udayanadeva had fled the country in sight of the attack, and lost his prestige in the eyes of the nobles. He died in the year 1338 C.E, and Kota Rani ascended the throne. But Shah Mir, a nobleman employed earlier by Suhadeva, who had also kept the custody of the son of Rinchana and Kota Rani, had his own designs for power. Having married off his Muslim daughters to powerful Hindus of the kingdom and having had sons in positions of official power, he was able to put great political pressure under the queen. A period of battle ensued between him and Kota Rani. Fearing his political plots, she employed Bhikshana as her minister disappointing Shah Mir. According to Jonaraja, in his Rajatarangini, Shah Mir feigned being ill with a fatal disease which prompted a sympathy visit by Bhikshana and his associate, both of whom were immediately ambushed and killed during the visit. In 1339 C.E, Shah Mir killed Kota Rani along with her sons and usurped the throne.
The Shahmiri Dynasty (1339- 1561 C.E), founded by Sultan Shah Mir, ruled Kashmir for the next 222 years. Various Sufi saints including Bulbul Shah, Shah e Hamdan, Nund Rishi was prolific to spread Islam in the valley through their moderate Sufi ideologies.
Reign of Sikander Shah
Sikandar is hold to have harbored in the Islamisation of elite politics, which set the path for a largely irreversible change in post-Sikandar Kashmir.
His reign terminated the long-standing syncretic and tolerant culture of Kashmir, and in its rigorous abidance by Sharia, severely oppressed the Kashmiri Hindu population.Music, dance, gambling, intoxicants etc were prohibited and the office of Shaikhu’l-Islam was established to enforce these rules. Brahmans were forcibly converted, Hindu and Buddhist shrines of worship were destroyed, Sanskrit literature were purged, Jizya was imposed for those who objected to the abolition of hereditary varnas, and caste marks were prohibited.
Motivations and Analysis
Upon a literary reading of Rajatarangini, Sikandar’s zeal behind the Islamisation of society is attributable to a Sufi preacher Mir Muhammad Hamadani who arrived in the region from Huttalàn (present-day Tajikistan) and stayed for about 12 years during his term, advocating for the creation of a monolithic society based on Islam as the common denominator. Sikandar’s counsel, a neo-Brahman-convert, Suhabhatta (var. Saifuddin) is held to have played the guiding role in the execution of those exclusionary orthodox policies by “instigating” the Sultan. Baharistan-i-shahi as well as Tohfatu’l-Ahbab deemed Sikandar as the noblest ruler, who cleaned Kashmir of all heretics and infidels on Hamadani’s influence.
Chitralekha Zutshi, Richard G. Salomon and others however reject that there were purely religious motives behind Sikandar’s actions and calls for a nuanced contextual reading of Rajatarangini, in that it was commissioned by his successor, wishing to bring back the Brahminical elite into the royal fold and (simultaneously) strove to establish Sanskrit as an integral part of the vernacularizing world of the cosmopolitan Sultanate. Sikandar’s policies were guided by realpolitik and, like with the previous Hindu rulers, essentially an attempt to secure political legitimacy by asserting state-power over Brahmans and gaining access to wealth controlled by Brahminical institutions. Walter Slaje disagrees, in part, given the differential rituals of destruction undertaken by Hindu and Muslim kings with the latter specifically rendering sites inoperable for long passage of time by massive pollution or outright conversion but he concludes that the fierce opposition of Hindus to Muslim rulers (including Sikandar) primarily stemmed from their aversion to the slow disintegration of caste-society under Islamic influence.
Fringe revisionist scholars reject the narratives of persecution all-together, and allege the “Brahman” chroniclers of wanton bias as well as myth-making, stemming from their personal jealousy at losing socioeconomic dominance.
Note: Part of content has been adapted from Wikipedia so errors are purely mistakes.