Islam in the Valleys of Kashmir

Author’s Note: The post is not an in-depth analysis but an overview on Islam in Kashmir.

The inhabitants of Kashmir can be conquered only by spiritual power… be conquered only by spiritual force and never by brute force of arms – Kalhana

According to the BBC Website, the overall population of Kashmir (both the divisions) is 16.4 Million. Kashmir is a predominately Muslim country, with  99.5% Muslims in the Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir and is followed by 64% in Indian-Occupied-Kashmir. The Indian Occupied Kashmir is also inhabited by Hindus, Sikhs, Christians etc followers. So overall, the percentage of Muslims in Kashmir is roughly 75% (including the territories under Pakistan and the territory occupied by India).

Long before the Muslim Rule which started in 1320s, Muslims had entered the valley as traders and soldiers of fortune. Pandit Kalhana‟s reference to the Turukshahs (Turks) and Marco-Polo‟s evidence regarding the employment of the “Saracens” as butchers by the Hindus, speak of the Muslim settlements in Kashmir. Recently to prove this claim, a rare manuscript of the Holy Quran believed to be written Fateh Ullah Kashmiri in 1237 AD has been found in Kashmir.

Meanwhile in 1320, Zulju or Dhu ‘l Qadr Khan invaded Kashmir at the head of a large army. The Mongols plundered and enslaved the people, burnt down buildings and destroyed crops. In the words of Jonraja, “Kashmir presented a piti­ful spectacle. Further pitilessly wailed and moaned when father fought his son. Brother separating from his brother lost him for ever…Depopulated, un­cultivated, grainless and gramineous, the country of Kashmir” After a stay of eight months, Zulju left the valley through Banihal pass, where he perished along with his prisoners in a heavy snowfall. Famine was the natural consequence of the wholesale destruction of the stores of grain and of standing crops by Zulju’s army. (Asimov, History of Civilizations of Central Asia)

This invasion was a turning-point in the history of Kashmir. This also led the establishment of Muslim rule in Kashmir, for Rinchana Shah a Buddhist prince from Ladakh rose to power. He sought refuge in Kashmir after fearing an attack on his life. After Zulju left Kashmir, Rinchana treacherously had the his rivals killed who sought the realm of Kashmir.

It is believed that the first missionary to visit Kashmir in the time of Raja Suhadeva was Bulbul Shah; a well travelled Musavi Sayyid from Turkistan. G.M.D.Sufi in his history of Kashmir, “Kashir”, mentions that the original name of Bulbul Shah was Sharaf-ud-Din Syed Abdur Rahman Turkistani. Traditions say that the King of Kashmir who was a Buddhist Rinchan Shah was walking down the Jhelum when he found Bulbul Shah praying by the Jhelum. He was startled by this act of worship and started seeking more information about this new faith. Later on after discussions with Bulbul Shah and his minister Shah Mir, he embraced Islam. Becoming Sultan Saddrudin Shah – the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir.

There are ample proofs which depict that the Sufis from central Asia and Persia played a remarkable role to the conversion of Islam in valley. In year 1384, a well organized Islamic mission under the leader ship of Mir Syed Ali Hmadani arrived in Kashmir. Accompanied by about seven hundred followers a majority of whom were great religious divines, the Kubravi saint launched the vigorous movement of Islamizing Kashmir. The emphasis on the Islamization of royal family and the court as a pre-requisite for Islamizing people was an important modus operandi adopted by Syed Ali and his deciples. In this regard the role played by Shaikh Noor-ud-Din in converting the Kashmir into the Islamic fold is appreciable. He is said to have attempted the reconciliation of Hindu-Muslim practices and actually paved the way for the gradual assimilation of commoners to the Islamic identity. He condemned the caste system of the Hindus which tempted the low caste Hindus to accept Islam so as to be free from the clutches of Brahmans.

Shaikh Noor-ud-Din Wali, the Patron Saint of Kashmir, is credited with the fact that the prominent Hindu ascetics along with their followers came under the fold of Islam. It seems probable that caste system among the Hindus must have prompted the low castes and the weaker sections of Kashmiri society to break off their religious ties with a caste – ridden social structure. The lower caste Hindu was attracted to Islam as a result of dialogue between the Hindu ascetics and Shaikh Noor-u-Din. In this connection the mention may be made that Bhum Sadhu, Tuli Raina, Ladi Raina and Hindu ascetics who entered the fold of Islam along with their followers. Reportedly twelve hundred Hindus under the leadership of Tuli Raina accepted Islam due to the efforts of Shaikh Noor-u-din.

It may be mentioned here that the Muslims of Kashmir who constituted 93% of the population during the 19th century remained backward due to the oppression under the Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras. The rapacious Sikh rulers (1819-1846) succeeded the Afghans in Kashmir. The Sikhs are said to have closed the Jamia Masjid of Srinagar to public prayers and in addition several mosques including the Pather Masjid were declared to be the property of state. The heavy taxation policy was introduced and almost all sections of Muslim population including butchers, bakers, boatman, scavengers and even prostitutes were heavily taxed. Cow slaughter was declared as an offence punishable by death. The Sikh governors posted in Kashmir unleashed a reign of terror. The practice of forced labor (Begar) was continued, even an ordinary solider could command the Muslims to do any work for him. Thus the Kashmiri Muslims were forced to do unpaid labor for their Sikh masters. The system of Ijaradars to extort money from the peasants was a common practice. All these exactions resulted in the impoverishment of the Muslims, and the revenue remitted to Lahore increased from sixty-two lakhs of rupees at the beginning of the Sikh rule and ten lakhs at the end. Begging became common, natural calamities further added to the miseries of the already famished people. Many villages became depopulated as result of migration.

Tyndale Biscoe, quotes “the officials had bullied and squeezed the Mohammadan peasants for years past, and their large houses in the city with all their wealth, were standing witness to their looting powers, for the salary they received from the state was quite insignificant.”

It is no wonder, therefore, that Muslims of Kashmir remained politically inactive until the 1920s, in contrast to their co-religionists in India. Their political inertia may also be attributed to the ban on the formation of societies and even the publication of newspapers in the Valley. As late as 1921 the Dogra government hesitatingly permitted the formation of an association whose object was the teaching of the Koran, but ordered the police to ensure that the Anjuman did not take part in political matters.

Since the occupation of Kashmir by India, has been tragic for the society generally and particularly for the Muslims. One of the great human tragedies was the division of Kashmir into two parts divided by a man-made borders. It resulted in the bloody massacres and also severely dented the Muslims of Kashmir. Also the genocide of Muslims in Jammu and their subsequent ‘forced exile’ to Pakistan done by Hindu extremists supported by the Indian government greatly dented the demographics of Muslim Kashmir. Moreover the killings of Muslim activists and the severe repression they were meted out in the 1970s.

Due to the genocide and massive killing spree going on, a lot of Muslim Imams and Preachers have been killed as well. The delicate social fabric has also been stained with blood. The resistance of Kashmir, takes great inspiration from Islam to fight against injustice to them. This in turn has made Kashmir one of the hot spots of Islamophobia, with Indian media and leadership rabble rousing against Kashmiris.

The fact that the resistance has continued against the tyrannical rule is greatly inspired from Islam. The establishment of Truth over falsehood is a hope that lives in Kashmir. As Kalhana remarked, “The inhabitants of Kashmir can be conquered only by spiritual power… be conquered only by spiritual force and never by brute force of arms.” Rightly so.


Bazaz, P.N.,
“The Shape of Things in Kashmir”, Delhi: Pamposh Publications, 1965.

Biscoe, Tyndale, op.cit., p.268.

Census, 1921, Vol. 1, p. iii; see also The Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore), 1 Nov. 1923, p. 13;
Kashmir Government Records (General),

Foreign Dept., March 1883, No. 86,

Kalhana, op.cit., p. 188. 41

Khan, M.I., History of Srinagar, op.cit., p.62.

Khan, M.I. Kashmir‟s Transition to Islam: The Role of Reshis, op.cit., p. 182.

Lawrence, Walter R., op. cit; p. 25.  

M. S. Asimov
History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The age of achievement: A.D. 750 …

National Archives of India; See also Census 1921, Vol. 1, p. 181.

Shah, Pir Hassan, Tariekh-i-Kashmir (Persian text), Vol. II. Printed by the Directorate of Research and Publications Government of Jammu and Kashmir Srinagar, 1997, pp.58-71. 63 Ibid., p.758. 64 Ibid., pp.758-59.

Syed Ali,
Tarikh-i-Kashmir, R.P.D.739, f. 5b.

Yule, H., The Book of Marcopolo, ed. tr. by H. Yule, London, 1903, p.167

22 thoughts on “Islam in the Valleys of Kashmir

  1. Records Baharistan-i-Shahi:

    Immediately after his (Mir Mohammad’s) arrival, Sultan Sikandar, peace be on him, submitted to his supremacy and proved his loyalty to him by translating his words into deeds. He eradicated aberrant practices and infidelity. He also put an end to the various forbidden and unlawful practices throughout his kingdom. Thus during the entire period of his rule, all traces of wines and intoxicants and instruments of vice and corruption, like the cord of canticle, lyre and tamborin were wiped out. The clamour of the drum and the trumpet, the shrill notes of the fife and the clarion no longer reached people’s ears, except in battles and assaults.

    “Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam and were massacred in case they refused to be converted’,” writes Hasan, a Muslim chronicler. He further observes, “And Sikandarpora (a city laid out by Sultan Sikandar) was laid out on the debris of the destroyed temples of the Hindus. In the neighbourhood of the royal palaces in Sikandarpora, the Sultan destroyed the temples of Maha-Shri built by Praversena and another by Tarapida. The material from these was used for constructing a ‘Jami’ mosque in the middle of the city.”

    “Towards the fag end of his life, he (Sultan Sikandar) was infused with a zeal for demolishing idol-houses, destroying the temples and idols of the infidels. He destroyed the massive temple at Beejbehara. He had designs to destroy all the temples and put an end to the entire community of infidels,” puts Bharistan-i-Shahi.

    In his second Rajtarangini, the historian Jonraj has recorded, “There was no city, no town, no village, no wood, where the temples of the gods were unbroken. When Sureshavari, varaha and others were broken, the world trembled, but not so the mind of the wicked king. He forgot his kingly duties and took delight day and night in breaking images.”

    Writes Ajit Bhatracharjee, “Sikandar (1389-1413) equalled the most blood-thirsty and iconoclastic Muslim conquerors anywhere in his zeal to obliterate all traces of the Hindu religion and convert its followers to Islam on pain of death. Temples were levelled and some of the grandest monuments of old damaged and disfigured. Thousands of Hindus escaped across the borders of Kashmir, others were massacred.” He further records, “Hindu temples were felled to the ground and for one year a large establishment was maintained for the demolition of the grand Martand temple. But when the massive masonry resisted all efforts, fire was applied and the noble buildings cruelly defaced.” According to M.Mujeeb, Sikandar, the iconoclast of Kashmir, made forcible conversions a sustained political policy.

    To quote Firishta, “Many of the Brahmans rather than abandon their religion or their country poisoned them selves, some emigrated from their homes while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mohamadans.”


      1. Please then upload the commends of Yonaraja & other Muslim historians or please upload links to the sources; the above comment was taken from wiki for the benefit of readers. You may also wish to edit wiki then as well.


  2. Given the above comments by presumably pandits, do the modern day pandits hold the actions of Sikander Butshikan (over 700 years ago) against mdoern day Kashmiri Muslims? That view does seem to come out everytime a discussion between a Muslim and a Pandit is held. Whereas Kashmiri Muslims always say that the Pandits are brothers and they would welcome them back after their exodus. Why the difference? Whatever the history, I feel that Pandits and Hindus in general have difficulty in acknowledging that Kashmir became majority Musklim over 700 years ago. People need to move on rather than referring to Pandits as original “sons of the soil”. Many Kashmiri Mulsims of Pandit ancestry find this offensive. Muslims of Pandit ancestry – eg Bhat, Dhar families etc are equally sons of the soil. Only a minority of Muslims came from outside Kashmir – eg those with Pashtun, Persian or Turkic ancestry.


  3. It is absurd to say that only Kashmiri Pandits are true sons of soil. I have heard this non-sense many times. Kashmiri muslims are basically the decendants of converted pandits and equally the true sons of Kashmir. Only a very few Kashmiri muslims have ancestry from outside Kashmir, The classification of Kashmiri muslims according to authentic sources is the Sheikhs, Sayyids, Afghan Origin and few mughal origin. The Sheikhs are the decendants of the Kashmiri hindus are the vast majority of the Kashmiri population. Almost entire Kashmiri indegenous population accepted islam since the arrival of Bulbul Shah to Mir Syed Ali hamadani’s time. The Sayyids (decendants of the sufi saints), Afghan origin and mughal origin were a very small minority among the Kashmiri muslims.
    Lawrence has put it this way ” Of the 883,099 Musalmans of Kashmir 93,575 reside in Srinagar. The rest may roughly be said to form the rural population of Kashmlr, as the Musalman inhabitants of the smaller towns are for the most part engaged in agriculture.The census of 1891 docs do not show the divisions into which the Musalmans of the valley fall, but it may be stated that the great mass of the village people come under the head Shekh, and are descendants of the original Hindus, and that though the Saiyads are a numerous community, both they and the Mughals and Pathans are, when cormpared with the Shekhs, in a great minority”. So, the Kashmiri population is vastly indegenous with a very small minority of other ancestry who are compeletly absorbed into Kashmiri ethnic fabric since centuries. For example those of mughal origin have never really been any seperate community in Kashmir since they mixed with natives from propably their very first generation in Kashmir. Today other than their surname there is nothing to show their mughal origin. Same with the most of afghan origin. Only the Sayyids had kind of their own community in Kashmir in the sense that they used to intermarry among themselves but today they are just as Kashmiri as any other Kashmiri muslim. I would say that around 97% Kashmiris have indegenous lineage and the remaining have mixed with the natives since hundereds of years. Other than their surname there is nothing to show that their ancestor came to kashmir from outside 500-700 years back. We Kashmiri muslims say that both the muslims and padiths are equally Kashmiris and thats a fact.


    1. This does not give real picture. These were not any real calssifications among the Kashmiris. Kashmiri muslims have been mostly as a single entity ethnically, culturally and linguistically, etc. And Kashmiris started converting long before the bulbul shahh’s time. In 1237 was fatah ullah kashmiri who had caligraphed the copy of quran. Islam gained political power around 100 years after kashmiris started converting to islam


    2. This does not give real picture. These were not any real calssifications among the Kashmiris. Kashmiri muslims have been as a single entity ethnically, culturally and linguistically, etc. And Kashmiris started converting long before the bulbul shahh’s time. In 1237 was fatah ullah kashmiri who had caligraphed the copy of quran. Islam gained political power around 100 years after kashmiris started converting to islam


    3. Please be careful while giving analysis. It’s the “musalmans of the valley” mentioned, not “Kashmiri muslims” as you have put it. The afghans were not kashmiri muslims rather they were a few settlers that had settled in kashmir. Musalmans of valley(Kashmir) would mean muslims of all groups living in kashmir at that time- like Kashmiris, Gujjars and also few afghan settlers. It is important to understand these things before coming to conclusions.


    1. Absolutely concocted history….This is how the current muslim generation is brainwashed by telling them how ‘peacefully’ islam became the major religion of the valley. I do not know how kashmiri musalman youth can ignore the destroyed martand sun temple which was a place of grandeur once before Mr Butshikan started to impose his peaceful ideology.


  4. I’m from Pakistan, I’ve heard that a lot of Kashmiri Pandits are actually from Bihar and are not natives? Is that true? That may explain why many Pandits don’t look like proper Kashmiris.

    Btw this title of Pandit was given to Hindus of Kashmir from Mughal Emperor Akbar when they betrayed Kashmiris and supported Mughal occupation; so it’s actually Pandits who are traitors and they got their title from a Muslim Mughal ruler yet they consider Kashmir Muslamans as “traitors” and “foreigners” lol, if the don’t accept foreign origin Kashmirisi then they should stop using the title Pandit which was given to them by the Mughals.


    1. That is wrong, they are not from bihar, i don’t know which KPs you have seen, i don’t think there are any in Pak. I have seen many of them and they look like general kashmiris. There are some kashmiri muslims who don’t look like the typical kashmiri and same could be said for pandits as well. Infact this can be said of any population from what i have observed.


    2. Absolutely concocted history….This is how the current muslim generation is brainwashed by telling them how ‘peacefully’ islam became the major religion of the valley. I do not know how kashmiri musalman youth can ignore the destroyed martand sun temple which was a place of grandeur once before Mr Butshikan started to impose his peaceful ideology.


  5. This article is a watershed movement in the new generation of educated Kashmiris because its supported by the factual evidence, and written with an objective analysis.As Ronald Reagan used to say ”facts are stubborn things” because you can’t get around facts. The kashmiri pandits tried to subvert history treacherously taking advantage of poor,gullible and illiterate Kashmiris(which was result of cruel, and savage rule of invading sikhs and dogras,of which there is no parable in history of sub-continent ) the KPs enjoyed important posts in subsequent Sikh and Dogra regimes and according to a plan tried to appropriate history of Kashmir which was based on myths,lores,legends,dogma and fairy-tales which suited their whims and evil desires. But it must be kept in mind truth will always find its way as Quran mentions : “Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart” 17:81


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