How did Islam come to Kashmir?
“It came through the peaceful missionary preaching of the Sufis,” comes the answer.
Sufis have been universally credited with the peaceful propagation of Islam around the world. An Islamic legend tells us that there was a king in Kashmir, at an uncertain point in time, who had no religion. One day, he wished to adopt a religion. Both Muslims and Hindus came to convince him. Their contradictory views left him rather confused, and resolved that, “he would embrace the religion of the first man he would meet in the street after coming out of his house the next morning” [Chapter 2, Baharistan-i-Shahi, an anonymous 17th-century Persian book on the history of Kashmir, translated by Prof. K. N. Pundit]. And it was a dervish [Sufi master], whom he encountered first the next morning. There he became a Muslim, and Kashmir became Islamic.
In many places, one encounters very similar Islamic legends: that a Sufi, through his supernatural power or this and that, converts a king. Thus, the place becomes Islamic peacefully—thanks to Islam’s prophets of peace, the Sufis.
A Kashmiri ex-Muslim friend, who wants eradication of Islam because of its barbaric teachings, nonetheless, told me about how Islam, however abhorrent and barbaric in nature, came to Kashmir through the peaceful preaching of Sufis. And now, how this peaceful valley of Islam has become a land of barbarism, thanks to Wahhabism—which he calls the real Quranic and prophetic Islam!!
And this impression, that Islam was peacefully propagated in Kashmir and around the world by the Sufis, is universally entertained by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and historians alike. Ask Dr. Yoginder Sikant, the prominent scholar and historian of Islam, and an alleged specialist in Sufism. He would tell you the same.
And this paradigm is being successfully and exclusively propagated despite the fact that available historical records give an opposite picture.
It is hard to know when Islamic rule was established in Kashmir. Muhammad bin Qasim was in the preparation for an invasion of Kashmir in 715. Thereafter, Kashmir suffered a number of Islamic invasions; Sultan Mahmud, the master barbarian (although idolized by Muslims), had also led a failed expedition there. Caliph al-Mansur (r. 755–74) had sent an expedition under Hasham bin Amru for waging holy war against Hindu territories. Amongst many places, between Kandahar and Kashmir, he conquered, he “subdued Kashmir and took many prisoners and slave” [Elliot & Dawson, History of India as Told by Its Historians (it contains experts from Islamic chronicles), Vol. I, p. 122–23,203]. In 1033, Sultan Mahmud’s not-so-illustrious son, Sultan Masud I, made up for his illustrious father’s failure by launching “an attack on the fort of Sursuti in Kashmir. The entire garrison was put to the sword, except the women and children, who were carried away as slaves.”
While it is hard to establish which of these invasions established Islamic rule in Kashmir, the Sufis, Islam’s alleged prophets of peace, however had a prominent role in its Islamization, but it was a barbaric one.
About conversion of the masses to Islam in Kashmir, we get an idea of it around 1371 or 1381 CE, when Sayyid Ali Hamdani, a famous Sufi saint, arrived in Kashmir. The first thing he did was to build his khanqah [lodge orashram] on the site of “a small temple which was demolished…” [Baharistan, p. 36]. Before his coming to Kashmir, the reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din paid little attention to enforcing Islamic laws. In the tolerant local culture, Muslims at all levels of the society—including the Sultan, the Qadis [Qazi]—had all tolerantly and comfortably submerged themselves in the Hindu culture and customs of Kashmir [ibid, p. 37].
But Sufi saint Sayyid Hamdani was horrified by the un-Islamic practices of Kashmiri Muslims, and forbade this laxity and tried to revive orthodoxy. The reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din tried to adopt Islamic orthodoxy in his personal life, but “failed to propagate Islam in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamdani” [ibid]. As a result, the Sufi saint left Kashmir because of his reluctance to live in a land dominated by the idolatrous culture, customs and creed.
Later on, his son Amir Sayyid Muhammad, another great Sufi saint, came to Kashmir during the reign of the famous idol-breaker, Sultan Sikander. Sikander was not such a barbarian until the arrival of holy Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad, who prodded the Sultan into enforcing the Islamic code in his domain. Unlike Sultan Qutbud-Din, Sikander agreed to the Sufi saint’s instruction. Sikander and Sayyid Muhammad, thus, formed an alliance to wipe out all signs of idolatry and its professors from Kashmir.
According to Muhammad Farishtah (d. 1614) [History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, Vol. IV, 1997 imprint, p. 268], a historian of Delhi Sultan, Sikandar issued an order:
…proscribing the residence of any other than Mahomedans in Kashmeer; and he required that no man should wear the mark on his forehead… Lastly, he insisted on all golden and silver images being broken and melted down, and the metal coined into money. Many of the bramins [Brahmins], rather than abandon their religion or their country, poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mahomedans. After the emigration of the bramins, Sikundur [Sikandar] ordered all the temples in Kashmeer to be thrown down… Having broken all the images in Kashmeer, he acquired the title of the Iconoclast, Destroyer of Idols.
According to another 17th-century Persian chronicle, HM Chadurah’s Tarikh-i-Kashmir, Sikandar “was constantly busy in annihilating the infidels and destroyed most of the temples…” [trans. Razia Bano, Delhi, 1991, p. 55].
Find it out from the proud author of Baharistan-i-Shahi, who writes: “…the credit of wiping out the vestiges of infidelity and heresy from the mirror of the conscience of the dwellers of these lands,” goes to Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad [p. 37].
Succeeding the Iconoclast, his son Ameer Khan (aka Ally Shah) continued the butchery of the remaining Hindus of Kashmir, as adds Farishtah, he “persecuted the few Brahmins who still remained firm in their religion; and by putting all to death, who refused to embrace Mahomedism. He drove those who still lingered in Kashmeer entirely out of that kingdom” [ibid, p. 269].
Next, the liberal and tolerant Sultan Zainul Abedin (1423–1474) brought relief to the brutalized non-Muslims: he allowed religious freedom, even let the forcibly converted Hindus to revert. This enabled the flourishing of Hinduism, “which had been stamped out in the [earlier] reign of Sultan Sikandar the Iconoclast” [ibid, p. 74]. Under deviant Zainul Abedin, records Sydney Owen, “many Hindus (i.e. Hindus converted to Islam by force) were re-admitted into the Hindu fold” [From Mahmud Ghazni to the Disintegration of Mughal Empire, Delhi, p. 127). The horrified author of Baharistan-i-Shahi notes of the ascendancy of Hinduism and decline of Islam under Sultan Zainul Abedin [p. 74]:
…the infidels and their corrupt and immoral practices attained such popularity that even the ulema, the learned [Sufis], the Sayyids [nobles] and the Qadis [Islamic judges] of this land began to observe them without exhibiting even the slightest repugnance for them. There was none to forbid them to do so. It resulted in a gradual weakening of Islam and a decay in its cannons and postulates; idol-worship and corrupt and immoral practices thrived.
And Zainul pursued his liberal policies, like Akbar, by defying and angering the pious. Persian scholar Mulla Ahmad, for example, wrote to him reminding that,
…the main object of levying the jiziyah on them is their humiliation… God establishedjiziyah for their dishonor. The object is their humiliation and the (establishment) of the prestige and dignity of the Muslims. [Quoted by KS Lal, Theory and Practice of MuslimState in India, p. 113]
But terror befell upon the non-Muslims of Kashmir again in the reigns of Malik Raina and Kaji Chak, who converted the Hindus to Islam by the sword, again instigated by another Sufi saint, Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi, the greatest Sufi saint to arrive in Kashmir.
Iraqi arrived in Kashmir after Malik Musa Raina became the administrator of Kashmir (1501). He formed alliance with Malik Raina, and with his patronage and authority, says Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 93–94]:
Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad undertook wholesale destruction of all those idol-houses as well as total ruination of the very foundation of infidelity and disbelief. On the site of every idol-house he destroyed, he ordered the construction of a mosque for offering prayers after the Islamic manner.
And “on the instance of Shamsud-Din Iraqi, Musa Raina had issued orders that everyday 1,500 to 2,000 infidels be brought to the doorstep of Mir Shamsud-Din by his followers. They would remove their sacred thread (zunnar), administer Kelima [Muslim profession of faith] to them, circumcise them and make them eat beef”; and, thus, “twenty-four thousand Hindu families were converted to Iraqi’s faith by force and compulsion (qahran wa jabran)” [ibid, p. 105–06].
Saintly Iraqi continued his horror acts, when Malik Kaji Chak became the military commander under Sultan Muhammad Shah in 1519. And “one of the major commands of Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi carried out by him [Kaji Chak] was the massacre of the infidels and polytheists of this land,” says Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 116]. What happened is that, many of those, forcibly converted to Islam by Malik Raina, later reverted to “polytheism” [Hinduism]. Muslims spread a rumor that these apostates “had placed a copy of the holy Quran under their haunches to make a seat to sit upon.” Upon hearing this, the enraged Sufi saint protested to Kaji Chak, saying [ibid, p. 117]:
“This community of idolaters has, after embracing and submitting to the Islamic faith, now gone back to defiance and apostasy. If you find yourself unable to inflict punishment upon them in accordance with the provisions of Sharia [which is death for apostasy] and take disciplinary action against them, it will become necessary and incumbent upon me to proceed on a self-imposed exile.”
Note that Iraqi’s complaint does not mention the alleged disrespect of the Quran, but simply emphasize the Hindus’ abandonment of Islam after accepting it—i.e. their apostasy, punishment for which is death in Islam. In order to pacify the enraged Sufi saint, Malik Kaji Chak “decided upon carrying out wholesale massacre of the infidels,” says Baharistan-i-Shahi, which was scheduled to be carried out on the holy festival day of Ahsura[Muharram, 1518 CE; Iraqi was Shiite], and,
…about seven to eight hundred infidels were put to death. Those killed were the leading personalities of the community of infidels at that time. [p. 117]
Thereupon, “the entire community of infidels and polytheists in Kashmir was coerced into conversion to Islam at the point of the sword. This is one of the major achievements of Malik Kaji Chak,” adds the proud author ofBaharistan-i-Shahi [p. 117].
This horrifying action, of course, was ordered by the great Sufi saint.
I need not say anything else to define the nature of the Sufis. Let me, however, emphasize that, Kashmir is flaunted by Muslims as the best example of peaceful penetration of Islam in India—thanks to peaceful Sufis, of course. And this is the story of the most peaceful Sufis that came to India from the Muslim world.
The story of other greatest Sufis of India is no better. They came, with their followers, as vicious Jihadi warriors to slaughter the infidels:
1. Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer came with Muhammad Ghauri’s army, which treacherously defeated the humane and benevolent king Prithviraj Chauhan.
2. Nizamuddin Auliya participated in a Jihad war alongside Nasriruddin Qibacha in Multan.
3. Sheikh Shah Jalal, the great Sufi saint of Bangladesh, fought in a Jihadi war against Hindu king Ghor Govinda of Sylhet.
And all of these Sufi saints have claimed their role as decisive in winning those bloody wars. And such go the stories of most of the great Sufis—from India, to Africa, to the Balkan. (For more on the horrible activities of Sufis, consult my book, Islam Jihad, p. 115–133).