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[THREAD] The early history of Islam in #Kashmir
Given the current situation in Kashmir, a lot of commentary has been thrown around. I've seen many comments that are celebrating the full-blown occupation of India's only Muslim-majority as some kind of a correction of history, as a way to justify what is happening.
As reported in @nytimes, for example, Ramesh Shinde of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (a Hindu nationalist group) said that the revoking of #Article370 was “a historic step toward establishing the Hindu Rashtra”, the Hindu nation.
A columnist wrote in the Toronto Sun that by revoking #Article370, “India demonstrated a spinal cord of steel, this coming after 1,000 years of Arab, Turkic, Persian, and Afghan Islamic invasions, followed by [European] colonization, had reduced it to mere spaghetti.” 🤔
In an article on the situation in #Kashmir, he continued: “In fact, India is the only major civilizational country where you are systematically taught to hate your heritage and glorify the invaders who came to destroy it.” Mythistory being used to justify #Article370 scrapping.
How did Islam actually reach #Kashmir? It's a story that reflects the pluralism that the Kashmiri people, having lived at Himalayan crossroads, have always fostered/enjoyed. Kashmir was once a “Hindu nation” b/c the Kashmiris were Hindus. NOT b/c they were terrorizing non-Hindus.
Around 300 BCE, Buddhism arrived in #Kashmir from further south in India and began to flourish. Before this, Hinduism (of some form) was the prevalent in Kashmir. In the mid-600s, the Chinese Buddhist scholar Hiuen Tsang reported seeing 100+ Buddhist temples in Srinagar alone.
For almost a thousand years, the Brahmins (upper-caste Hindus) who ruled #Kashmir tolerated Buddhist efforts to spread their way of life in the region. However, they eventually saw it as a threat to their power, and began to oppress the Buddhists and lower-caste Hindus.
In 711, the Umayyad (Muslim) army reached Sindh (2,000 km south of Kashmir). Raja Dāhir, the local Hindu ruler, was defeated, but his son Jaisiya fled to #Kashmir w/a Syrian general, Hamim b. Sama (probably a prisoner-of-war). So Hamim was the first known Muslim to reach Kashmir.
The ruler of #Kashmir at this time was Durlabhaka-Pratapaditya II (d. 724) of the Karkota dynasty. His kingdom reached as far as today's Peshawar-Jalalabad. He warmly welcomed Hamim at his court and gave him a plot of land to build a home and Kashmir's first mosque.
More interactions followed very early on. In the early 800s, another king of the Karkota dynasty sent a letter to ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-Azīz of Mansura, asking him to send a learned Muslim to #Kashmir to explain Islamic law in the local language.
Also in the 800s, the Persian Muslim traveler Buzurg b. Shahryar recorded in his Ajā'ib al-Hind (“The Wonders of India”) that the Hindu king of Kashmir had ordered for the Qur'an to be translated into a Kashmiri language.
By the 12th century, Muslims (probably local Kashmiris) were serving in the court and army of the Kashmiri Hindu king Hardesheva. And there were certainly Muslim traders following ancient Silk Road routes through Kashmir. There may be much more history waiting to be uncovered.
But if you go to #Kashmir today, there is one person to whom the history of Islam in the region is traced. Was he a bloodthirsty conqueror out to destroy the “Hindu nation”? No, he was a traveling Sufi scholar: Hazrat Bulbul Shah. (This is a picture of his shrine in Srinagar.)
His full name was Sayyid Sharf ad-Dīn ʿAbd ur-Rahmān. He was said to have been such an āshiq-i sunnat-i rasūl (“lover of the example of the Prophet [ﷺ]”) that he was called Bilāl, after the famous sahābi, and over time this was corrupted into Bulbul, meaning “nightingale”.
Bulbul Shah was originally from either Turkistan or Iran. He studied in Baghdad and traveled widely, spreading the message of Islam in Central Asia until he made his way to #Kashmir, where he arrived in 1295 during the reign of Raja Suha Dev. He left, and returned 30 years later.
During Bulbul Shah's first visit to #Kashmir, the Hindu/Brahmin rule of the region was on its last legs. Jonaraja, a 15th-century Hindu historian, wrote that Raja Suha Dev was “a demon of a king” who “devoured Kashmir for 19 years, 3 months and 25 days”.
Lha-chen-rygal-bu-rin-chen was a young man to whom Suha Dev had given refuge after Lha's father, the Buddhist king of nearby Ladakh, was killed in battle. Shah Mīr, an Afghan Hindu, also moved to #Kashmir around the same time. A Buddhist and a Hindu would bring Islam to Kashmir.
In 1319, the Mongol warlord Zulchu (great, great-grandson of Genghis Khan) invaded #Kashmir. He massacred thousands of Kashmiris, enslaved many women and children, razed towns. In this chaos, Raja Suha Dev ran away–*this*, if anything, is how the “Hindu nation” in Kashmir ended.
Many Kashmiris fought bravely against the Mongols, incl. Lha and Shah Mīr. When the smoke cleared, Lha realized that he was in a position to take power—he *was* a prince. In 1320, Lha deposed Raja Suha Dev's general, Rawanchandra, and became the first Buddhist king of #Kashmir.
Lha made his comrade Shah Mīr, the Afghan Hindu, his chief minister of #Kashmir. In the past, Shah Mīr had worked for Raja Suha Dev, and he had disguised himself as a Muslim and sat in the small inn in Srinagar that served as a mosque. He soon embraced Islam.
Shah Mīr put his job on the line and told Raja Suha Dev that he had become Muslim. To his surprise, neither the Hindu king nor anyone of his colleagues thought this would affect Shah Mīr's ability to do his job, which is what they really cared about. He excelled at it.
Lha was an “inquisitive and alert” young man, “fond of the company of learned men”. He spent hours with Hindu and Buddhist teachers trying to find solutions for his ruined kingdom of #Kashmir. He was Buddhist himself, but felt that Buddhism was polluted by foreign influences.
Lha, the Buddhist king of #Kashmir, did a lot of soul-searching in the early part of his rule, reportedly spending sleepless nights praying for guidance. He was troubled by the infighting between his Hindu and Buddhist subjects.
One day, Lha saw from a window in his palace a man praying by the Jhelum River. He went out to meet none other than Bulbul Shah, and began to learn about Islam. Lha was impressed by his teachings, “which were simple, free from useless ceremonies, caste and priesthood”.
In 1323, Lha, who had been the first Buddhist king of #Kashmir, embraced Islam to become the first Muslim king of Kashmir—no bloody conquering necessary. He changed his name to Malik Sadr ad-Dīn (but he is commonly known as Lha or Rinchen Shah).
As a later Persian text on the history of #Kashmir put it, Malik/Lha “subjected himself to the teachings of the religion of Mustafa [the Prophet], and the right principles of the truthful path of Murtaza [ʿAlī], and embraced the Islamic religion with sincerity and conviction.”
Lha's conversion to Islam in 1323 caused a bit of a stir in #Kashmir. Many in his family and in his court, including Rawanchandra, soon embraced Islam. Bulbul Shah found a home beside the Jhelum River, settling in Kashmir for the rest of his life, and passed in Srinagar in 1327.
But before he passed away, Bulbul Shah, with Lha's support, was able to expose many in #Kashmir to Islam. Lha built a khanqah (Sufi lodge) and two mosques in Srinagar, as well as a langar-khana (community kitchen) where the poor of any faith were fed for free, twice a day.
The rule of Lha didn't last long; he faced a political rebellion and died in 1324. Bulbul Shah, meanwhile, taught many students, including Mullah Ahmad, the first known Kashmiri Islamic scholar. Shah Mīr carried on Lha's struggle and became the king of #Kashmir himself in 1339.
Shah Mīr's descendants (the Shahmīri or Swati dynasty) ruled #Kashmir until the mid-1500s, during which Islam continued to spread gradually and peacefully in the region under the tutelage of Sufi scholars such as ʿAlī b. Shahāb ad-Dīn Hamdāni. The Mughals and Durranis then ruled.
Muslim rule over #Kashmir lasted for 500 years (1323-1819), and the Muslim presence in Kashmir dates to the 8th century.
So which heritage is the #Article370 scrap meant to revive? Which “Hindu nation” are these RSS/BJP low-lives trying to achieve? Which “history” are they reading? Which “justice” will they serve to “Islamic invaders” by alienating and terrorizing #Kashmir's innocent Muslims?
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