Impact of Islam on Kashmir in the Sultanate Period (1339-1586)

Impact of Islam on Kashmir in the Sultanate Period (1339-1586)

SUHAIL AHMAD WANI

The foundation of the sultanate in Kashmir was laid by Sultan Shams-ud-din Shahmir in 1339 A.D. The rulers (Sultans) of the dynasty ruled till 1561 A.D. This is known in the history of Kashmir as the Sultanate period. The propagation of the new creed of Islam by the Sultans was greatly facilitated by the internal feuds and strifes among the powerful landlords in Kashmir. The name associated with the propagation of Islam in Kashmir is that of Bulbul Shah, who is said to have visited Kashmir first in the time of Raja Sahadeva. The influence of Islam resulted in the development of a unique Rishi Philosophy which was an amalgation of Islamic, Hinduistic and Buddhistic thought. Sufism in Kasmir developed a unique indigenous aspect of its own and was primarily spread through poetry.
Flipping through the pages of Kashmir’s history, we get to know that long before “Muslim rule” was established in Kashmir in 1320, Muslims had entered the valley as traders and soldiers of fortune. Pundit Kalhana’s reference to the Turks and Macro-Polo’s evidence regarding the employment of “Saracens” butchers by the Hindus, speak of these early Muslim settlers in Kashmir.
The history of the spread of Islam in Kashmir is largely synonymous with the peaceful efforts of numerous Sufi and Rishi missionaries who first appeared in the area as early as the tenth century. Although we have no definite historical evidence about Sufism in Kashmir in this period, it has been suggested that numerous Sufis had by this time made Kashmir their home. The first Sufi in the region about whom evidence is available was the Suharawardi saint Hazrat Saiyid Sharf-ud-din (Bulbul shah) who was from Turkistan. He converted Rinchana, the ruler of Kashmir, to Islam along with all his followers. This was the epoch when Islamic rule got established in the vale. Later on, the spread of Islam in Kashmir increased when the Saiyids came, mainly Mir Saiyid Ali Hamadani (RA), whose native land was Hamadan (Iran). This man is considered as an apostle in Kashmir who preached the message of Islam. His extraordinary efforts influenced the masses to convert to Islam. Later on, his son Mir Muhammad Hamadani (RA) also visited the vale and preached the same message of Islam. Both preached the message in Persian due to which not only people learned this language, but also Persian art and architecture flourished in Kashmir.
The Sufis in the sultanate period played a significant role in the development of socio-cultural traditions of Kashmir. According to Jonaraja, this change came “as a wind that destroyed the trees, and as the locusts (destroy) the shali (paddy) crop, so did the yavanas destroy the usages of Kashmir.” The impact was not only on socio-cultural traditions but also on the economy of Kashmir, particularly during the 14th -16th century. Many arts and crafts like shawl making, carpet making, kangri and gabba making, etc, which had disappeared during the last days of the Hindu rule, were restored. Other manufactures like silk, paper, bhoj patar or tuz used in place of paper, and arts like calligraphy again flourished. There was a Persian and Central Asian impact on the art and architectural features of Kashmir. The various buildings and monuments, prominent khanqahs, masjids, dargahs reflect this impact. The shrines also became centres of trade and craft. In the 14th century, Mir Saiyid Ali Hamadani (RA) came to Kashmir along with 700 artisans and craftsmen who introduced new techniques, such as Kar-i-qalam-dani or paper mache, Khatum-band or ornamental wooden ceiling, Namdas or felt carpets, and some metal and lather carpets came from Samarqand, Kashgar, Yarkand, Kholtan, Hamadan and Mashasd. In Kashmir, the people already knew the technique of Hamams, but Saiyid Ali Hamadani gave a new shape to this technique. The Sufis, Pirs, Faqirs gave chance to people of far-flung areas to meet in large gatherings. On such occasions people exchanged their commercial commodities which promoted the rural economy.
In later times, Kashmir produced an apostle of Sufism whose name was Noor-ud-Din (RA). During this Sufi epoch, people of the vale started to turn away from the social barriers that diverted them from the basic principles of Islam. Noor-ud-Din’s (RA) preaching was so simple that even a common man was able to understand the message of Islam. This apostle’s barefooted visits were witnessed in every corner of this land, and he was able to make disciples due to his kind and loving nature. Noor-ud-Din’s (RA) preaching became the Nur-nama, in which we find several features of Islam, like belief in one God, universal brotherhood, love for the poor, and social unity. Kashmir also witnessed a female saint, Lalleshwari or Lal Ded. The impact of Islam can be understand by her teachings very easily. She started to preach the monotheism belief through her imaginative poetry.
In studying medieval epoch of Kashmir, the influence of Islam is of great significance. The role played by Sufi saints in this era is very special. The Islam propounded before the Kashmiri people was free from ceremonials, caste, and priesthood. The features of this Islam were submission, dependence on God, obedience, contemplation, repentance, endeavour, dedication, altruism, and fulfilment of the duties of fellowship. Islam gave a jolt to Hindu society due to which not only many Hindus embraced Islam, who those who did not also could not escape from its influence. The introduction of an alien culture not only influenced the medieval epoch but even now we find its impact on our diet and dress, marriage and morals, manners and customs, art and architecture, music and literature. We also witness that the converted Muslim did not completely abstain from the old Hindu practices but still clung to some old beliefs, for example following yogic practices. Nevertheless, we can say that Islam had a profound impact on all spheres of life during the sultanate period.
The author is Ph.D Research Scholar University of Indore [email protected]

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