Islam is essentially a missionary religion and the Muslim missionary, be he a Pir (spiritual guide) or a preacher, carries with him the message of Islam to the people of land he enters
Islam was introduced in the Valley of Kashmir not by conquests but by gradual conversions affected by Muslim Missionaries.
The history of Spread of Islam in Kashmir is different from that in other parts of India, as “Islam made its way into Kashmir not by forcible conquests but by gradual conversions, for which the influx of foreign adventurers, both from the south and central Asia, had prepared the ground.”
The spread of Islam in Kashmir is attributed to a number of events and factors. They are as follows:
- ARAB INVASION OF KASHMIR:-Arabs were the first Muslims to invade Kashmir from the South. After establishing themselves securely in Sind and Multan in 713 A.D. under the leadership of Muhammad Bin Qasim.
They are said to have invaded the frontiers of Kashmir. The Arabs made their last attempt to occupy Kashmir during the Caliphate of Hisham (724-53) A.D. but failed. The Arab invasion had no direct effect on Kashmir, but indirectly, they brought Kashmir for the first time in contact with the followers of Islam.
Mahmud of Ghazni mad the futile attempt to subjugate Kashmir by force in 1015 A.D. and 1021 A.D. but failed in both attempts.
However, by the time of Mahmud’s invasions of India, it is presumed that some Muslims had permanently settled in Kashmir. The accounts of Marco Polo indicate that towards the close of 13th century a colony of Muslims had come up in Kashmir.
- PENETRATION OF MUSLIM ADVENTURERS FROM CENTRAL ASIA:-Kashmir faced the threat of Islam from the North Central Asia. The Muhammadanised Turks were seeking now fields for their activities. Earlier during the reign of Harsha (1038-89), we learn about the Turuska (Turkish) captains in his army and enjoying his patronage.
Harsha himself seems to have been influenced by the teachings of Islam which evoked resentment in Kalhana, the author of Rajatrangini. Marco Polo, the Venetian travellers also refers to the presence of Muslims in Kashmir about 1277 A.D.
It can be easily presumed that Islamic influence in the valley was making itself felt long before the country had a Muslim king. Islamic missionaries and adventurers came into valley and preached its doctrines among the people who were thoroughly disguised with the tenets of Brahmanism and Buddhism.
- CONDITIONS FAVOURABLE FOR THE SPREAD OF ISLAM:-Kashmir was in the grip of internal feuds and strife among the rulers and powerful landlords at those hands, the common people had to suffer. A good number of coverts were attracted by Muslim soldiers and adventurers on seeing that Islam offered them freedom from the oppression of the rulers and old religious rituals and practices.
The earliest Muslim preacher to visit Kashmir was Bulbul Shahin in the time of king Sahadev. He was a widely travelled Musavi Saied from Turkistan. Being a devout Sufi, he greatly influenced the people among whom he worked. It was due to him that Kashmir came under the rule of first Muslim king, Rinchina.
Rinchina embraced Islam due to the influence of Bulbul Shah and Shah Min. Islam now secured royal patronage. About 10,000 Hindus embraced Islam. RInchina built a Mosque and a hospice known as Bulbullankar in Kashmir.
- ROLE OF SUFIS AND RISHIS:-The early period of Shah Mir’s dynasty is noted for the arrival of the Sufi Muslim saints who contributed much to the growth of Islam in Kashmir. The most famous saint who preached Islam in Kashmir was Saied Ali Hamdani, popularly known as Shah-I-Hamadan.
It was Shah Hamadan who devoted himself to the task of transforming Kashmir into really an Islamic country. During the rule of Sultan Sikandar, forcible conversions took place.
Sikandar’s successor, Ali Shah continued the policy of forcible conversions. But the rule of Zain-ul-Abidin brought a sigh of relief to Hindus. In his reign, local Muslim Sufis, popularly known as Babas or Rishis now played a prominent role in the conversion of Hindus.
The most notable among the Rishis were Baba Nassir-ud-Din, Sheikh Hamza Makhdum, Saied Baba and Sheikh Nor-ud-Din. Sheikh Shams-ud-Din Iraqi founded the Sufi order of Narbakshiya in Kashmir.
Sheikh Hamza Makhdum persuaded Akbar to invade Kashmir. As a result, Akbar conquered Kashmir and made it a part of his empire. It completed the story of spread of Islam in Kashmir till the end of 16th century.
FACTORS FAVOURABLE FOR SPREAD OF ISLAM
- ROLE OF SUFI SAINTS:-For centuries, the Sufi saints from other parts of the country and Central Asia continued to pour into Kashmir. They greatly impressed the people of Kashmir with their simple monotheistic creed, free from rituals and caste restrictions. By their example, they greatly influenced them and promoted their social and moral welfare.
- ROTTEN HINDU SOCIAL CULTURE:-The evils of the Hindu society greatly facilitated the spread of Islam. The economic inequalities and exploitation of general masses from the hands of Brahmins attracted the commoners towards Islam which preached equality and brotherhood.
- CONSERVATION AND ALOOFNESS OF BRAHMINS:-The Brahmins encouraged the common people to believe in magic and empty rituals and superstitions. On the other hand, Islam did not meet such social oppositions in Kashmir and it became easy to convert.
IMPACT OF ISLAM ON HINDU SOCIETY
The spread of Islam in Kashmir gave a severe jolt to the Hindus who struck to their religion as well as the Hindu converts to Islam. The Hindus began to adopt Muslim manners and dress. The Muslims also did not remain completely uninfluenced by Hinduism. The Hindus who embraced Islam did not make complete break with the past. Thus while they celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Zuha, they also continued participating in the Hindu festivals of Chakra, Chaitra, Sripanchami etc.
The history of conversion or spread of Islam in Kashmir as a mass movement is synonymous with the peaceful efforts of various Sufis in the valley beginning from early 13th century. The spread of Islam in Kashmir was possible due to the efforts of Sufis, Rishis and Muslims rulers. It thus took almost six centuries to spread Islam and establish it on strong footing in Kashmir.