An important, but forgotten, Kashmiri text: Tuhfa Ashrafiah

An important, but forgotten, Kashmiri text: Tuhfa Ashrafiah

Dr Sayid Ruqayya, HOD Persian Department, University of Kashmir, translated the Persian book, Tuhfa Ashrafiah, authored by Hafiz Mohammad Hasan bin Hafiz Wali-ul-lah, into Urdu in 2003. She intended to write about the author in the introduction, but she found little mention about him in the history books. When I met her in her office, I provided her the family tree of the author along with some of the author’s books in my possession, for which she has expressed her gratitude in her translator’s note to the book, Tazkira Mashaikhin-i-Kashmir, published in 2003. Recently I translated the book into English and it is available on
Writing about Hafiz Hasan, she states: “Though the arrival of Persians in Kashmir and the history of the influence of the Persian language is very ancient, yet it is an established fact that along with the spread of Islam, the lamp of the Persian language and literature also lit up here. Since most of the preachers of Islam had Persian as their mother tongue, so they took shelter of this very language that brightened the valley of Kashmir with the rays of Islam. This language entered here in the form of Islamic language and because of its sweetness and diverse capabilities, it became not only a popular language but also succeeded to find its place as an official language.” (01)
Consequently, not only the Muslim poets and writers watered the garden of this language and literature with their colourful artistry, but it also being an important language of its time, the non-Muslim poets and writers also embraced it and contributed sufficiently to its literature. History is witness to the fact that the garden of the language and literature of Persian language flourished not only under the Muslim rulers (Shahmiris, Chaks, Mughals, Afghans) but also the lamp of this language and its literature continued to shine under the non-Muslim rulers (Sikhs, Dogras). Though the time of Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras was a period of atrocities, on all sides there were spread the clouds of fear, harassment, pain and restlessness; but in spite of the conditions, the intelligent scholars, writers and honoured Sufis continued to serve the cause of knowledge and literature. On the whole, the condition of Muslims under Sikh and Dogra rule was extremely hopeless. On the social and economic front, the Muslims were victims of downtrodden conditions and poverty, but so far as the literature and poetry is concerned, this period too is not devoid of some good poets, writers and Auliyas and there is the colour of Tasawuf and spiritual knowledge dominant in their works.
Maharaja Pratap Singh was enthroned in 1885 AD. Though the Persian language had the status of court language in his very early period, yet he offered the status of court language to Urdu later on. GMD Sofi writes in his book “Kashir” that Persian was the court language a few years before 1917 (Kashir vol.2 p812).
The author of the book, Tuhfa Ashrafiah, Hafiz Mohammad Hasan bin Hafiz Wali-ul-lah, is the creation of this very period of Dogra regime, but strangely enough, the history books and biographies of this period are silent about him. Instead, it may not be an exaggeration to state that no worthwhile biography has been written about most of the poets, writers and great Mashaikhs of the last part of this period, whereby we could know about their life and their literary contributions.
As stated earlier, we have limited knowledge about the biography of Hafiz Mohammad Hasan and the only sources of it are the superficial statements recorded in his two available published books, namely Tuhfa Akmalyah and Tuhfa Ashrafia. Besides these books, Hafiz Inayatullah (d.1405 AH) the son of Hafiz Mohammad Hasan, has described his family tree in Kashur Chihil Asrar: “Shaikh Ismail Al-Ahmadi was the third descendent of Hazrat Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi Faroqi (Mujaddid Alf Thani d. 1033 AH) and the twenty-ninth descendent of Hazrat Umar Farooq Khalifa Thani (RA). From my maternal lineage, Shaikh Ismail is my ninth ancestor.”
Shaikh Mohammad Ismael was attracted towards spiritual knowledge right from the beginning. He covered the stages of salook under the famous Mashaikh of Peshawur Shah Abbas, the Khalifa of Sadullah Gujrati, and benefitted by remaining in his service for twelve years. In the end he passed away in 1153 AH and was buried in the compound of his house near the mausoleum of Khwaja Habibullah Attar (RA) at Gurgadi Mohalla towards the side of the Qibla along with his family.

Hafiz Mohammad Hasan was born in Mohalla Gankhan of Srinagar. His honoured father was Hafiz Wali-ul-lah. Mohi-ud-din
Miskin has mentioned about him in his book, Tarikh-i-Kabir, that: “He (Hafiz Mohammad Hasan) was his uncle and was one of the trainees of Shaikh Ahmad Yasvi. He spent forty years of his life in the service of his Pir guide. On Fridays he would perform the recitation of Dua-i-Saifi. He fell victim to a widespread disease and passed away on 19th Shawal 1309 AH and was buried in the compound of Khanqah-i-Mualla.” The historian records further that “Hafiz Wali-ul-lah had three sons. Among these, Hafiz Mohammad who was ‘waiz’ and ‘Hafiz-i-Quran’ passed away when he was of the age of thirty-three years only. He was buried in Kant-Mazar. The second son is Hafiz Ghulam Hasan who is the Imam of Gadayar Masjid and his third son Mohammad Ahsan is still living.”
From the above contents it is revealed that at the time of writing of Tarikh-i-Kabir (i.e. 1310 AH), Hafiz Mohammad Hasan was appointed as Imam of Masjid Gadayar (Masjid-i-Zainul Abidin) after the death of his father and continued to discharge the duties of Imam there. Further, it is also revealed that the younger brother of Hafiz Mohammad Hasan Hafiz, Mohammad Ahsan, was alive in 1310 AH but he had passed away at the time of the writing of the Tuhfa Akmalyah. (Tarikh-i-Kabir Vol 1 p 263, action no. 2048 in Manuscript section Department of Research and Publication, University of Kashmir.)
Hafiz Wali-ul-lah was a great spiritual saint of his time. He would spend his time in teaching and writing the Quran. He was unique in the way he delivered sermons and was unparalleled in pleasing discussions. In Tuhfa Akmalyah, Hafiz Mohammad Hasan has mentioned the names of his teachers at different places, like about Shaikh Mohammad Khalil.
No other information about Hafiz Mohammad Hasan is known. Neither the two reliable historians of this (Dogra) period, Hasan Shah Khoihami and Mohi-ud-din Miskin, have mentioned about him in their history books. Perhaps it is due to the fact that even after the death of the stated historians, Hafiz Mohammad Hasan continued to live for a few years more. Most probably, Hafiz must have died between 1353 AH and 1364 AH (03) as he had himself got published the book Sultani authored by Mulla Baha-ud-din Mattoo and his own book Tuhfa Ashrafia during 1351 AH-1352 AH. About this, Hafiz Mohammad Hasan records on the last page of the published book Sultani (1352 AH) some details.
Hafiz Mohammad Hasan is buried in his ancestral graveyard “Mazar Mohammad Shah Kant”. His two sons Hafiz Nematullah Waiz and Hafiz Inayatullah (d.1405 AH) are also buried alongside him.

From the available books of Hafiz Mohammad Hasan it is revealed that he was a great scholar having mastery of Arabic and Persian languages and he wrote many books in both these languages. Among the books, only the Tuhfa Ashrafiah andTuhfa Akmalyah are available to us. But before them the author had authored two books, namely, Charag-i-Lataif and Fatoohat-i-Kubraviah. The author writes in the preface of Tuhfa Akmalyah: “Charag-i-Lataif was completed in 1334 AH and Pir Azizullah Haqqani had composed its chronogram on its completion.” Probably the other books of Hafiz Mohammad Hasan may be existing in the personal libraries of his progeny. So far as the manuscripts at the Department of Research and Publications are concerned, there is no other book available there.
Besides being a great spiritual saint of his time, Hafiz Mohammad Hasan was a great scholar and researcher of Islamic knowledge. He was a good reciter (qari). He had a personal library, wherefrom the seekers of truth used to benefit, but with the passage of time his personal library could not remain safe and except a few books, only the names of his other books have remained as such. The book under consideration, Tuhfa Ashrafiah, was dedicated by the author to a great spiritual saint and religious leader in the time of Sikh rule, namely, Shaikh Mohammad Ashraf Fatehkadli, known as Asha Baba Sahib. (Since in this book there is a mention of another great Mashaikh, so the author has named its Urdu translation as “Tazkira Mashaikhin-i-Kashmir”.) The said Shaikh (RA) had been a Sufi of great status and highly honoured Wali-i-Kamil. Shaikh Ahmad Tarabali (RA) had been his close disciple and student. He wrote a pamphlet, namely, ‘Afzal-ul-Taraiq’, on the biography, intuition, miracles and spiritual knowledge of the said Shaikh. Shaikh Fatehkadli (RA) himself had interest in poetry and had full command over Persian language and literature.
As far as the Tuhfa Ashrafia (named as Tazkira Mashaikhin-i-Kashmir) is concerned, besides being informative it has a literary importance as well. Its language is simple, commonly understood and pleasing, whereby it becomes clear that the author had full mastery over Persian. Besides being a writer of prose and a scholar, Hasan was a poet as well. We come across some of his couplets which add to the beauty of the meaning of the narration.
Hafiz Mohammad Hasan made efforts to convey important information about the great Mashaikh and the honoured Sufis. His prose appears to be easy from outside, but from the point of view of its meaning it is in fact very deep and difficult. Besides being a scholar of Persian, he was a scholar of Arabic as well. Along with the Persian content he mentions at places the aayats of Quran and the sacred Hadith, by which the importance of his books gets multiplied.
Hafiz Mohammad Hasan had written his books after consulting and comparing different authentic and reliable books of history. He presented religious thought and beliefs in extremely plain terms and in pleasing Persian language

(English translation with addition by Er Mohammad Ashraf Fazili)

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