Sufism and the creation of a composite culture in Kashmir



In Kashmir, the principle of Wahadat ‘al Wujud prevailed widely as Sufism gave birth to a rich and eclectic culture in the Kashmir valley. Like the old Mughal state which was not a wall-to-wall carpet but a patchwork quilt[1]Kashmir has also always possessed a rich cultural heritage and Sufism as an ideological belief system has further enriched the socio-cultural belief systems of the local Kashmiri people. The convergence of humanism, spirituality, and tolerance within Sufism has drawn ordinary Kashmiris into the Sufi fold as various Sufi orders. (silsilas) flourished in Kashmir as the Naqshbandi, Qadiri, Suhrawardi, Kubrawi Silsilas and the Sufi order of Rishis. With the exception of the Rishi order which had indigenous origins, the other orders had Iranian or Central Asian origins. In fact, Sufism had a double impact in Kashmir. First, he acted as a catalyst in the spread of Islam in Kashmir. Second, Sufism gave birth to a composite culture in Kashmir as different religious communities, whether Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist, came to reside peacefully in Kashmir (EFSAS, 2017). region, it also paved the way for the creation of a composite cultural identity within Kashmir.

Sufism, Islam and the dissemination of composite culture

The spread of Sufism coincided with the rise of Islam in Kashmir. While the Sufi saints have played a role in strengthening Islam as a socio-religious entity in the valley, they have also propagated the assimilation of different cultures and religious identities. For example, Hazrat Bulbul Shah of the Suharawardi Order strengthened the foundation of Sufi Islam in Kashmir when he acted as a catalyst in the conversion of Buddhist Prince Rinchana to Islam after the Buddhist prince was refused. the right to convert to Hinduism after her marriage to the Hindu princess Kota Rani, daughter of the former king Ramachandra. (Ahmed Shah, 2021) He also advocated the synthesis of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism in the valley to bring political stability to the region.

Likewise, Mir Syed Ali Hamadani popularly known as “Shah-i-Hamadan” has enriched Kashmiri society for the better through his various contributions in the field of philosophy, ethics and jurisprudence of on the one hand and art and crafts on the other. (Ahmed Shah, 2021) For example, through his books like Zakhiratul Mulk, Shah-i-Hamadan tenaciously provided his followers with a comprehensive code of conduct that could enable them to lead righteous lives, eventually enabling them to attain eternal salvation. (Sa’adah) As a pious Sufi, he also believed in gaining legal resources (Halal). (Greater Kashmir, 2015) and he had a pervasive influence on the rise of Sufi Islam in Kashmir. Since his teachings were based on the notions of Tawheed (oneness of God) Ikhlas (purity) and oneness, he attracted many followers from all walks of life, including the patrician and plebeian classes (EFSAS, 2017) as he envisioned a society where people of diverse religious backgrounds could live together as a community peacefully. (Singh, 2018)


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