By Wamiq (Sagar)
Kashmir, a region, bedecked by majestic mountain ranges, and defined by pristine beauty of almost a magical nature has always been a magnet for mystics, poets of the variety inspired by a quest for the transcendent and the Divine. The mystique of the place is so awesome and great that these mystics and spiritual men and women have left an everlasting ingress and imprimatur on the nature, ethos and culture of Kashmir. So much so, that Kashmir and its people owe an everlasting debt to these spiritual masters. It is and was the ethos of Sufism, a quest for the Eternal, the Divine and spiritual solace that drew these masters to Kashmir. In fact, as is well known, Islam arrived on the scene in Kashmir through Sufism and Sufi masters.
The names of the Sufi masters, who blessed Kashmir with Islam, are on the lips of almost every Kashmiri. Be it Maqdoom Sahib, Lalla Ded, Dastgeer Sahib, or Shaikh Noor Dil Wali, to name just a few of these Sufi stalwarts, all have played a pioneering Islam and its Divine message and thereby creating the ethos of Kashmir and its people. The most desirable traits of Kashmiris, either in social, cultural or other spheres of life accrue from the teachings of these masters and doyen of doyens.
The legacy of these learned and great mystics lives on in Kashmir, in various forms, permutations and combinations and will endure, not only in the “lived reality” of Kashmiris but also in both their collective conscious and unconscious. One example might lie in the tender , hospitable and generous nature of Kashmiris. It could be safely inferred that both nature, in its sublime and pristine form and, nurture through the teachings and practices colluded to imbibe into the consciousness and psyche of Kashmir, Islam through Sufism.
But, it not only in the domain of the abstract and the conscious (or unconscious), and the lived reality of the people of Kashmir that the ethos of Sufism is reflected in. It is also a veritable and verifiable fact that Kashmir continues to produce these great mystics and Sufis. One such eloquent example was the mystic popularly and endearingly known by people as Ahad Bab. This great mystic from Sopore had developed such an aura and mystique around him that he attracted people from all walks of life, across religions and faiths. Most of his admirers came to seek spiritual and /or emotional solace from him but some would also go to the great mystic to seek solace and an end to their worldly miseries. The larger point here is that he did not seek people; people sought him. So potent and powerful was his appeal, that people would yearn for a gaze from Ahad Bab , and if anyone got it, he or she considered himself or herself among the fortunate and the blessed. (It is said that Ahad Bab was inaccessible in his youth but as he physically aged, he was more open to people)
Hardly anyone left Ahad Bab’s presence without getting what he or she desired for but the miracles that are attributed to him by virtue of his spiritual power and potency might be the least of his persona. To illustrate the nature of his power, it is said that once there was a mehfil going on in Ahad Bab’s abode; suddenly the great mystic grabbed the leg of one of the participants and held it for a long time, not releasing it. When the bab, released it, the man whose leg was grasped by him felt cured of an ailment in his leg that had defied medical science.
However, what was the real, defining and everlasting feature and attribute of the great contemporary mystic from Kashmir was his spiritual intensity, depth and power (not in the prosaic sense of the word but in a more profound and mystical manner). For example, the lucky few who actually were blessed by just his gaze (or glance) felt and experienced a transformative impact on them, for the rest of their lives. They felt enriched, empowered and in tune with the transcendent, spiritually, so much so that their entire lives stood transformed. This very fact made people, even foreigners; yearn to have a glimpse of him. Ecstasy of the spiritual kind used to be the defining mood of people who surrounded Ahad Bab.
Even though the great mystic physically passed away a few years ago but he touched and transformed the lives of innumerable people. The great Bab reflected the Sufi ethos and heritage of Kashmir eloquently and poignantly, in a contemporary echo. The great man, when he passed away, left a void in the hearts and lives of his ardent followers but what all find solace is that his legacy, in the form of a deep spirituality and mystic experiences lives on.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org