The valley of Kashmir is known as “pir waer”, the abode of saints. The first Sufi Muslim saint from Central Asia who visited Kashmir was Sharif ud din Abdur Rehman. He later became popular as ‘Bulbul Shah’. His shrine is located in downtown Srinagar at a place called ‘Bulbul Langar’ (now Bulbul Lankar). Abdur Rehman, believed to have travelled all the way from Turkistan, settled in Kashmir roughly around 1324 AD. His arrival in Kashmir proved to be a blessing for thousands, particularly the Buddhist king Rinchan Shah who accepted Islam and become Sadar ud Din. The renowned saint always remained absorbed in worship of Allah. It is said that he wouldn’t disturb the songbird nightingale (Bulbul) sitting on his head.
There is another important shrine in Khanqah-i-Moa’lla, Srinagar, which has great historical and spiritual value. It is of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani, who many historians say played a significant role in spreading Islam and spirituality in Kashmir. Historians agree that Mir Ali Hamadani, a Persian Sufi of the Kubrawi order, visited Kashmir on three different occasions between 774-785 A.H (roughly 1373-1384 AD). Also known as Shah-i-Hamadan, he moved to Kashmir along with his 700 followers referred to as Saadat. This prominent Muslim scholar and Sufi was born in Hamadan and buried in Khatlan. The arrival of Shah-i-Hamadan in Kashmir brought a socio-cultural and religious revolution. Shah-i-Hamadan was also an author and a poet par excellence who wrote books like Zakhirat ul Muluk and Muwwadat ul Quraba. Zakhirat ul Muluk dealt with his political ideology, the duties of rulers and the responsibilities of the people. Besides, he also authored several books spanning religious and spiritual aspects. Awrad-e-Fathiya is a major work.
There are also some shrines named after Sufis and Islamic scholars who never visited Kashmir but they influenced tens of thousands of souls spiritually. One such shrine is built in the memory and respect of Hazrat Pir Syed ul Awliya Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani, also known as ‘Dastgeer Sahib’. This shrine is situated in the heart of Srinagar city in Khanyar area. The great saint never visited Kashmir. He lived in Baghdad. On the occasion of his Urs, devotees throng in umpteen numbers to have a glimpse of different relics associated with him that are displayed on the occasion. Another great household name in Kashmir is of esteemed Sufi saint Hazrat Sheikh Noor ud din Wali. The saint had not received any formal education but the knowledge he attained was the result of his meditation and prayers. Once you read his notable works, you realise that he was not only a poet but also a philosopher. His beautiful shrine is situated in Charar-e-Sharif.
Kashmir’s spiritual history would be incomplete unless one remembers the great saint Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom, who was born to Baba Usman Raina in Tujar Shareef, a village in apple town Sopore, in 1494 AD. A great scholar and mystic, Sheikh Hamza immensely contributed in spreading religious and spiritual knowledge. He continued preaching in Srinagar and the city outskirts. Mukhdoom sahib, historians say, did not rest during the night for many years as he remained busy in prayers and meditation. The shrine of Makhdoom Sahib is situated below the attractive Mughal Fort on the Hari Parbat hill (Koh-i-Maran) in Srinagar.