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.
“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.
Tarikh-i-Kashmir, R.P.D.739, f. 5b.
Yule, H., The Book of Marcopolo, ed. tr. by H. Yule, London, 1903, p.167