Shah-e-Hamdan’s Teaching & Kashmir

Kashmir Magazine

Rahim Rizwan

Sayyid Ali Hamdani (RA) was one of the prominent thinkers of Islam. He expressed noble thoughts to guide others in right path. He was a great scholar in Arabic and Persian too. He was the author of more than one hundred books. He also established Khanqahs and Kutb Khanas in Kashmir. He not only persuaded the people of Kashmir to come into the fold of Islam, purely on the basis of his spiritual force but also framed a program on the betterment of moral material and religious condition of their lives. Sufi saints have played a very important role in Islam. While the Muslim conquerors ventured to dominate the world with swords in their hands, the Muslim saints understood the woes of the people and gave the teachings of Islam to them as a panacea for their deliverance. A healthy society depends on the development of the individual character and in this direction the services of the mystics were the foremost importance. In the chain of the Sufis of Islam, one notices a great personality of the Muslim world who chose to work for the religious and cultural transformation of the life of the people in Kashmir. Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA) was a Sufi saint, devoted preacher of Islam, great social reformer, scholar and a philosopher. He fully devoted his life to the propagation of Islamic teachings and remained busy till to his death (6th Zil-Hijah, 786 A.H./A.D. 1385)). He was a versatile genius and was one of the most remarkable and luminous personality of the 14th century. His teachings were the essence of religious perfection of faith and basis of good conduct. Uncorrupted by the court life and unspoiled by wealth and power, he influenced the rank of Muslim society, improved its tone and helped in the evolution of Muslim mass culture especially in Kashmir.
Sayyid Ali Hamdani (RA) is called the “Apostle of Kashmir” on account of his contribution and work in the valley. He commanded great influence and respect among the people because of his unique and simple views regarding religion and culture. During his stay in Kashmir he found that the number of Muslims in the valley was very small while the majority of populations were Hindus. Un-Islamic practices were prevalent in the society and Islam had not made any appreciable headway in the valley. In contravention of the Islamic teachings, Sultan Qutb-ud-Din (King of Kashmir) had two wives who were sisters. The Sayyid (RA) disapproved of these un-lslamic practices in Kashmir and in accordance with his advice the Sultan divorced one of his wives and adopted the dress common in the Muslim countries. It was under the influence of the Sayyid that Sultan Sikandar banned all intoxicants Sati and other evil practices. Religion is a light which enlightens the human conscience and helps a human being to drink nectar at the fountain head of spiritual perfection. Islam made its way into Kashmir not by forcible conquest but by gradual conversion for which the influx of foreign adventures from the South and Central Asia had prepared the ground. Bulbul Shah a great Sufi of the Suharwardia order came to Kashmir along with one thousand followers in the time of Suhadeva.
During the early period of the Shahmiri dynasty a caravan of Sayyids arrived in Kashmir who laid their imprints on every concern-able area of human activity; religion, culture, politics and economics. The pride of place can be given to Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA) consequent upon the advice of his mentor, Sheik Sharaf-ud-Din (RA), he undertook extensive travels. Kashmir has inherited a rich cultural and literary legacy which reflects a remarkable union of different cultural and literacy movements.
For a long time Kashmir along with Nalanda and Taxilla shared fame as an important seat of learning and culture in the last here gathered scholars and saints from different parts of Asia to meet and exchange ideas on fundamentals of religions. At the time of the arrival of Shah-e-Hamadan (RA); Lal-Ded, a pious woman had already started a movement against the ritualistic and dogma ridden religion. The fundamentals of her religion were rejection of idolatry, unity of God and practice of yoga. She preached harmony between Hindu Vedantism and Sufism.
The people of Kashmir which have had a rich intellectual heritage respectfully responded to the movement started by Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA). His personal experience and his message not only appealed the mind but it touched the heart of the masses especially those who along with physical appetite suffered from a spiritual hunger. He came as a tempest to quench their unfulfilled desires. His philosophy was based on the material of human value. He had the belief in the divinity of human soul, in the universality of love and in the dynamic power of emotion. The spiritual exquisiteness and the divine dignity which clothed the personality of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA) is explicit by his deeds and thoughts. He was free from all the prejudices and preferences. He reached to such a pinnacle of realness that different religious sects owned and adored him. His message of love was unlimited. Through his religious experience he influenced every conceivable human activity in Kashmir. In order to proliferate his own experience and transform the character of the people, he established the Khankahs in different parts of Kashmir.
This was a unique endeavor which had a great influence on the religious life of the people. People used to gather in these Khankah’s for satiating their spiritual as well as physical hunger. The Khankah was an institution where people came without any discrimination. This free movement of people into the Khankah helped in breaking the class and caste society. The King and the common man were treated by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani (RA) with equal reverence. The book that has had a tremendous influence on the religio-cultural life of Kashmir is Awrad-e-Fathiyah. This piece of superb Islamic literature, is a marvelous legacy which the Amir-e-Kabir (RA) bequeathed to Kashmiri Muslims so that they could cleanse their hearts every now and then by reciting it peacefully, melodiously and with full belief, by understanding its meanings properly and acting upon its each phrase and thereby safeguard themselves against sin, ignorance and innovation.
How extraordinary was Sayyid Ali Hamdani (RA) that he made an individual possibility, a collective one by offering a comprehensive and multipurpose societal in Awrad-e-Fathiyah to the tradition mongers of Kashmir that time and today.Chehl-e-Asrar is yet another exclusive and grand work of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA). It is a store house of mystic experiences and is considered as a compendium of his glorious experiences.
The secret and the spirit that is contained in this grand work is the remedy that was suggested by Sayyid (RA) for the number of ills that had corrupted the society of Jammu and Kashmir. According to the Sayyid (RA), peace, tranquility and progress can be ushered if the man decides to realize himself. The process of self affirmation ultimately ends the quarrels, turmoils, tribulations, oppressions and deprivations. This was true at that time and this is true at this time also.
Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA) possessed vast knowledge, wisdom and understanding. His disciples were practical men, who worked hard to earn their living and at the same time were God-fearing people, who absorbed themselves in prayers after their daily work. There was no caste system and all were equal. Such an economic order of the society greatly influenced the Hindus and they felt attracted towards this social order.
It is evident that Islam became popular in Kashmir as a mystic order. When the number of brotherhood increased, then the Sayyid (RA) deputed his chief disciples along with a batch to different parts of the valley. In this way, a net work of the Sufi brotherhood was spread and these centers became the nucleus of missionary works for spreading Islam. Shah-e-Hamadan (RA) stood for tolerance. He abhorred coercion in matters of religion. If he won over to Islam tens of thousands of converts, it was by peaceful preaching and thoughtful word which was supported by the pleasing deed. This trait of Shah-e-Hamdan (RA), which he exhibited in propagating Islam, was markedly present in his disciples whom he stationed in Kashmir. His legacy of tolerance was upheld by his eminent son and successor, Mir Muhammad Hamadani (RA), who, when Sultan Sikandar’s prime minister, Malik Saif-ud-Din turned hard on his former co-religionists was stopped by him from committing any excesses. He is reported to have referred him to verse 256 of Surah Al-Baqarah which sets forth the principle.
The new face that Kashmir has worn since that time bears a deep impress of Shah-e-Hamdan (RA). Kashmir in fact was reborn to a new life in the world of Islam and the life of Kashmiri people absorbed fully the new spirit of Islam. That was preached by Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA). Kashmiri society got rejuvenated and integrated into the new social order of Islam. For Kashmiris this became the life model and harbinger of a new era, a transformation from an earlier corrupt society to a new tradition of Islamic life. The new social order has sustained, got strengthened and further re-invigorated by several historical trials that the common people of Kashmir have suffered but borne with patience in the sincere hope that their deliverance lies in the true teachings of Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA) who preferred the masses for a real free and disciplined life on the touch-stone of Islam. He made use of the religious tonic for the creation of a new social order. He broke the outer shell of rigidity and dogma instead of creating a fear, created love of the ultimate reality. He made this love manifest for clearing the social system. He not only succeeded in the mission but succeeded gloriously in uplifting the religious conditions of the Kashmiris.