Sufis of Kashmir

by SAHF Team

Sufism in Kashmir can first be traced back to Sayyed Sharfuddin Abdur Rahman, who was one of the earliest known Sufis in Kashmir and is said to have come to Kashmir from Turkistan in the 13th century. Sufism, although generally perceived as completely peaceful and humanist, has a more complex history in Kashmir than in other regions of the world.

Sufism in Kashmir either inspired mutual influence and humanism or militancy and bigotry against the indigenous Hindu population. These starkly different paths reflect the vast differences between the sufis of Kashmir.

Militancy and bigotry were often perpetuated by early Sufis in Kashmir. For instance, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, a Persian Sufi who came to Kashmir in the 14th century, was known for his militancy against Kashmiri Hindus. He encouraged the demolitions of temples and forced conversions to Islam. In his Zakhirat-ul Maluk text, Hamadani prohibited any Kashmir ruler from allowing new constructions of Hindu temples, prohibited repairs to the existing Hindu temples, prevented Hindus from riding horses, and prevented Hindus from conducting their religious practices in peace. This was done to enocurage conversions to Islam.

Another Sufi along these lines was Shamshu’d-Din Araki. The Tohfatu’ l-Ahbab, a historical text, relays how Sufi Araki went to demolish a Hindu temple and took with him other Sufis to fight any resistance to this act of religious violence.

However, there were Sufis that were not like this in Kashmir and instead embraced humanist values and mutual respect. Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, also known as Nund Rishi, strived for Hindu-Muslim unity, and his guru was a female Hindu Mystic named Lalleshwari. His work often called for universal peace.

Another Sufi along these lines, Bamuddin, promoted non-violence, respect for all religions, and vegetarianism. The Hindu concepts of nirvana (state of heavenly bliss) and moksha (liberation) were seen by such Sufis as no different from that of tasawwuf (mystic consciousness) in Islam.

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